Chris and Hank’s Excellent (No-Limit) Adventure: Part II

“Only passions, great passions, can elevate the soul to great things.”
–Denis Diderot
A No Limit Virgin Gets Some
When we left off yesterday, I’d just left fellow poker blogger Chris Halverson to fend for himself at an unusually passive table at Hollywood Park Casino. It was late Friday night, and nobody at the table wanted to raise, and I had to pinch myself to make sure we hadn’t somehow ended up at Paradise Poker. Meanwhile, the chips at the $6-12 and No-Limit tables made mountainous pyramids in the center of the table, calling out to me “come sit here!”. The $200 buy-in NL game looked especially soft, with a group of older players that I had never seen in the casino before. I’d never even seen this game spread before at HP, and I don’t know why, but my fish radar was showing lots of bright green dots. As much as I enjoyed playing with Chris, I’d already burned 50 chips on bad beats and missed draws, and this NL game was just too good to pass up.
Unfortunately I was denied by the floorman, who said that the table was full and I’d have to wait. But they soon announced a new NL $100 buy in, located right next to the $200 game. I grabbed a seat and sat down, trying to get a read on the table. I’d never played a live NL ring game before, and have limited experience on the Party NL tables. My NL game has a lot of room for improvement, and my experience is minimal… but looking at the dreary faces of the players, I was pretty confident that I wasn’t out of my league. Without any other information, I tend to assume that the younger players are better than the older guys, since I recognize most of the strong older players from previous trips to HP. This table was about half young guys, and half old guys I didn’t recognize, so I figured there was money to be made here, despite my lack of experience.
I folded a couple junk hands, and the table was pretty loose– 2 or 3 players calling $20 preflop raises (the blinds were $2 and $3). But none of the first few hands saw a showdown, so it was tough to get a read on what hands people were playing. The button came around, and I looked down at big slick offsuit, and my heart picked up the pace as I anticipated my first NL hand. A player in middle position raised it up to $15, and 2 players called, so I figured I’d flip the coin and see the flop with my position, putting the raiser on a middle pair. The flop came all rags, and the raiser bet the pot, and I sadly folded my AK, lamenting the fact that I didn’t win my first NL hand.
No time for lamentation, as I looked down at my lucky hand, 88 (my football number) one off the button. A couple players limped, and I raised it up 4 chips ($20) in an attempt to get it heads up. Normally this would be overbetting, but people had been calling $20 raises, so I was hoping for a single caller. A young, loose player to my immediate left called, and the limpers all folded– everything according to plan. But the flop came A Q 6 with 2 clubs, and I figured I was beat. I checked to him, and he surprised me by also checking. The turn was a rag, and I took a $20 shot at the pot… but he called, and we checked the river through. He surprised me by turning over Q8o, and I mucked my hand amazed at his call.
So two hands, and I was down to $40. Not a great start to my no limit career. But I knew that it only takes a few hands to make for a great night in no-limit, and I waited for my loose opponents to make a big mistake. I mucked for a while, and the table took shape as a bunch of NL calling stations with a few aggressive players mixed in. I finally saw a cheap flop with my suited Ace, and I picked up a nice draw– a four flush with bottom pair. I bet out, hoping to pick up the pot right there, but two players called. The Ace came on the turn, and I had Aces up with the flush draw, so I put out a small bet which both players called. The turn was a rag, and I pushed the rest of my stack in. Both players called, and my 2 pair were good, tripling me up to $120.
Monster in my pocket
The table began tightening up as players started to lose their money, and I picked up the mighty 93o in the Small Blind. With a baby raise up to $5, and everybody folding around to me, I threw in my dollar and hoped to flop big. When the flop came 9 3 3, bells were going off in my head… I pictured myself rolling in $5 chips like Demi Moore in Indecent proposal as the preflop raiser threw out a $5 bet. The loose player on my left called, and the turn was a King. “Please have AK, Please have AK”, but the raiser checked, and I threw out 2 chips hoping for someone to come over the top. But they both folded, and I mucked my improbable monster hand sadly as I raked in a few chips. I guess I should have waited until the river.
Living up to the Name
2 players busted out after throwing away their chips (I missed a flush draw and won a $50 pot with A2 suited somehow), and the game was in danger of breaking. The young guy to my left looked at the $200 game, which now had two open seats. I quickly grabbed one, and he took the other, and we were greeted by fishy faces and stacks of yellow chips. After a half an hour at the $100 table, I’d run my stack up to $150, and felt pretty good about my chances of doubling up to $400. I bought in, and saw some terrible overaggressive plays, and I sat tight, waiting for a hand to double up with. After a strong finish on the $100 table, I was feeling it, and my neurons were dancing with the opportunity to double up. I pick up AQ in the BB, an overaggressive player in early position throws out a $20 raise. 3 callers, and I throw in $15 more as I hear TJ’s voice: “AQ is toilet paper to a raise!”, and I resolve to throw my hand away if an Ace hits. But the flop is picture perfect, A Q rag, with no flush or straight draws. I check it, and early position bets out $50, which makes me think he’s on AK. Everyone else folds, and I call, ready to pop it on the turn. The turn is another Ace, and my heart starts pounding out the drumbeat. Slow. Slow. I check it again, and he bets out another $50, which I call. The river is a rag, and I try to figure out my best play. The guy has been playing loose, and I figure he can’t fold now, so I push all in and try to look nervous. He makes my day by calling, turning over AK as sounds of the cash register are ringing in my ears. I could get used to this no-limit stuff…
My poor opponent leaves the table mumbling, but there are still plenty of fish left. I win another monster pot with KK, dragging the young player from the $100 table along for the ride. I call a bluffer to the river with second pair, and I hit broadway on the river. He calls a big river bet, and after 45 minutes, I’ve got a rack of $5 chips and a big smile on my face. I can’t believe some of the terrible plays being made, and I realize that the reason the NL game always breaks after an hour is because everybody goes bust so quickly.
Another fish busts out, and the game is 5 handed. It’s around 1:30 AM at this point, and I’m getting tired, so I cash out– up $450. I misplayed a couple hands (getting my slowplayed AA cracked by 2 pair, and overbetting with KK preflop), but still ended way up. Since it was my first live NL ring game, I guess I can forgive myself a couple of bad plays.
Jackpot winners make the best maniacs
I checked back on Chris, whose stack seemed to have dwindled while I was getting lucky on the NL tables. I was pretty tired, and wouldn’t have minded taking off at this point, but Chris was determined to keep his perfect record of winning B&M sessions intact. Fine with me, as the $6-12 game next door was collapsing under the weight of the chips on it. I couldn’t recall seeing so many chips on a single table, and after some investigation I discovered that they’d hit the bad beat jackpot a few hours ago. For those of you that don’t play in these jackpot games, the casino offers a huge payout to the entire table if any player loses with Aces full or better. Jackpots make for some terrible poker, but they also make for extremely loose play if you happen to catch jackpot winners after they hit. I mustered my energy, courage, and remaining sobriety as I finally landed a seat in this wild game.
I hung tough there, playing tight and taking the usual amount of bad beats. But just when I thought I was going to throw away most of the nights winnings, I picked up A9s in late position. There was a raise and a bunch of calls, and I cold called, wondering if I’d end up getting proper odds to play the hand. Of course, everyone called, and the jackpot winner ended up capping it preflop, so I suppose my odds weren’t terrible (although I didn’t like paying $24 to see the flop) in the huge family pot. The flop came 9 J rag, with a single club. The maniac and the original preflop raiser ended up trapping the rest of the table for 4 bets, and I was forced to call with my second pair. The turn was another J, and miraculously, we checked it through to the river. And there it was, a bullet to finish off the night for me. The maniac bet, and I got in a raise, raking in a $300 pot with Aces and Jacks. It turned out the maniac had QQ (so he said) and the raiser had KK. Better lucky than good…
The adrenaline left my body after mucking a few hands, and I could barely make out the 4:00 on my cell phone. Chris was ready to hit the road, and saved me from losing some sleepy bets. Mr. Halverson had managed to claw his way up to a small win, staying undefeated in his B&M sessions. When the house is raking a small bet preflop every hand, and dealer tips are included, breaking even is hard to do at the $2-4 Hollywood Park tables. All was good in the poker world. I cashed out up $150, putting me at $600 for the night. The ride home in the rented PT Cruiser was tired and happy, and I slept peacefully, as Aces, Queens, and Nines danced gracefully through my dreams.
Thanks to Chris for the Scotch and a great night of poker.

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