Friday, September 21, 2007

The Way of The Safe and The Weak

All day Thursday I kept intending to play poker but I guess I'm a pretty slow mover because I didn't make it down to the strip till 11:30 PM.

When I showed up at the Bellagio there were 13 people waiting to play 2/5.

I was #14. Just like Anthony Mason.

As I waited to get my seat I stood by the rail near a 5/10 no limit game. I couldn't help but notice that many of the players at 5/10 were the exact same players I see at 2/5 . Players that I actually like to sit with.

This begs the question: When is it time to move up in levels?

I've been having a good run at 2/5. I'm not sure when it happened but the game feels like 1/2 to me. Oh wait I remember. It's when I got that leaked fixed.

I want to jump up to 5/10. I'm definitely curious. Especially if those same players are there.

I presently buy in for 500 at 2/5 so it's not that big of a deal to take 1000 over to 5/10 and see what happens. That first buy in seems like a great investment. Cause if I start winning at 5/10 hopefully I can stay there and earn more. The risk is to avoid any kind of initial bad run. Because my money would disappear twice as fast.

When I first moved here 9 months ago I had a larger bankroll but not enough live playing experience to play 5/10 no limit. And the way life works, now that I'm more concerned about money, I'm finally ready to try 5/10.

While I was waiting I watched a guy play a pot for 2000 dollars at 5/10 raising the whole way with queen jack off. Makes me hungry.

I was seated at a poker table at 12:30 AM.

The night before I only won 3 hands in 4 hours.

Tonight I won 3 hands my first freaking orbit.

Some nights hours go by without seeing a playable hand.

Check out these first 10 hands:

1- Pocket Aces
2- Pocket Jacks
3- 4,5 suited
4- Pocket 10's
5- 10, Jack suited
6- Ace King suited
7- King jack suited
8- Pocket 2's
9- King queen suited
10-Pocket 7's.

It was crazy to see that. I've played alot of poker these past 4 years. I've seen alot of hands. But not ten hands in a row like that. Let alone the first ten hands of the night.

From a psychological standpoint it was fun to assume the identity of a guy who played too many hands. But it didn't necessarily pay off. The hard thing about a game called poker is that getting these cards didn't mean I was going to win alot of money. In fact when the dust cleared on these first ten hands I was up exactly 6 dollars.

I guess I could have been up more than 6 dollars. Some might say I should have been up more than 6 dollars. But I got myself involved in a straddled hand. I flopped top pair with my king jack suited. A guy and his middle pair kept betting. And I kept calling. I really didn't think he had me. And I was right. Initially. But then he hit trips and took a $250 pot.

When this happens it's hard not to think: "Damn. I should have 756 in front of me. Not 506."

An hour passed and I took a bathroom break at 1:50 AM.

At that moment I was at 440. Down 60 bucks.

I was playing more hands than usual because the table was way too tight.

At 2 AM I was at 400, down 100.

I limp with 5, 7 suited under the gun. This table had been letting people get away with limping. The only thing standing in my way was an aggressive player who had just sat down and raised his first 3 hands. This time he popped it up to 30 bucks.

I called. I figure he probably puts me on a hand better than 5,7. Lets put on our disguise and see what happens.

Flop is 9,10, jack rainbow. And he checks.

Hmmmm. He led out with flop bets on his previous hands.

Okay. I check too.

Turn is an 8. I've made the dummy end of the straight.

He checks. I check too.

I want more information. I'm not scared of getting outdrawn here. I don't mind giving up this pot. I was playing 5,7 suited to win a huge pot. Not to take a chance on the dummy end of the straight. I don't want to bet the turn and get reraised.

I'm also giving him a chance to bluff the river if he doesn't have a queen. I won't call an all in here but I'd certainly call a pot sized bet from this guy.

River is a blank and he checks one more time. Now I bet 45. He thinks for a minute. If he raises me here then I might fold. I really think he's going to fold but he eventually calls the 45.

I show my 7 for the straight. He mucks.

The best part about this hand was anyone paying attention could see that I made a 30 dollar call preflop with 5,7.

Usually in life advertising costs money but in this case it was nice to advertise and make money.

A few hands later this same aggressive player raises to 30 on the button. I call with pocket 4's in the big blind. A guy who had limped in the cut off seat calls the 30 too.

Flop is 4, 5, queen. The 4 and 5 are diamonds.

I check my set. Cut off seat bets 30. Wild man raises to 100.

What do I do?

Last night I chose to smooth call in a similar spot with 2 pair. When I play passively I'm giving my opponents a chance to pass me but there are benefits as well. I can get away from my hand if a flush comes. And if no scary cards come I can also make way more later in the hand by having earlier hidden my strength.

In this spot I actually have even more of a safety net to slow play my set. If someone hits their flush or a straight draw I can still beat them if the board pairs. With two pair I'd only have 4 outs. But with my set of 4's I'd still have 10 outs going into the river if the board brings a flush on the turn.

I think I could stomach giving a flush draw a chance. Or a straight draw a chance. But something about the 4,5 being both straight and flush draws makes me decide to push my chips in here. These guys may outdraw me but I ain't gonna give them a cheap price to do it.

The other issue here was having two opponents. Against one opponent I might just mini raise to 200 to keep them in the hand. Take my chances. Build a pot.

But against two opponents if I make a smaller raise all I might be doing is giving someone chasing their draw some real juicy pot odds.

So I push all in. They both fold. I take down a 220 pot. And wonder why I didn't make more.

Yet if I just call or mini raise on the flop and they come along for the ride and then suck out on me, I'm sitting here writing to you about how I didn't force them to pay to come along for the ride.

So yes the raise is correct. But maybe a raise to 300 is better. Not all in. But still charge them to come along.

When the cut off guy folded here he said he had ace queen. If that was true then I do wish I bet smaller. But it's also fair to acknowledge that since he limped preflop, him holding 6,7 or two diamonds could have been just as likely. (He played the hand like 6,7 or suited cards. Limping and calling preflop. An ace queen would seem more likely for the button who raised preflop).

But most of all you can see how easy it is to get greedy at poker and do some Monday Morning Quarterbacking.

A few minutes later I got into it again with the cut off seat guy. This time I had King 4 and after the river came the board was King, Jack, 8, 4, 4. I hit a runner runner full house.

The final 4 was also the third club and thus also completed any flush draws.

My opponent bets 40 on the end. He had also bet flop and turn.

I raise to 140 and hope he's hit a flush. I'm 95% sure I want him to call. If he's gonna reraise with the flush even better.

But as he's sitting there playing with his chips and thinking about it I suddenly think "Oh my goodness. If he reraises me it possible he could have limped with pocket jacks?"

Do I just call? What if he goes all in? It was an interesting moment for me. He was a fellow big stack. I guess an all in bet could be a bad player with an ace high flush thinking it's good. But that would be one tough call for all my chips. Cause he could have limped preflop with and hit a set of jacks. He did bet every street after seeing the flop. Funny how none of this occurred to me before I bet.

This flurry was followed by an hour of unplayable hands. It got bad enough for me to start limping a couple of times with any two suited. Which also tells me it might be time to leave soon.

It's 3am and I pick up ace king and raise it to 20. Button, who only has 200 in front of him, makes it 50. Because he only has 200 a reraise all in here isn't unreasonable but this time I talk myself out of it. I believe him. I think he has a pair. I don't need to go all in and flip a coin for 200. I don't need to go all in every time I get good cards.

I don't raise. But I do call.

If I can hit an ace or king on the flop I'm guessing he'll continue bet and we can play for the rest of his chips. That's the best case scenario.

The worst case scenario is I call $30 here and fold when I miss on the flop.

And that's what happened. But at least I only lost an additional 30 and not 170.

It felt weak but safe. Most of the time I don't need to gamble with these players. They're usually willing to gamble with me when I have the best of it. So there's no great need to watch an ace king race pocket 9's for 200 bucks. Well other than the entertainment value.

A few hands later I saw a 2,5,8 flop with pocket 10's. A woman who hadn't played many hands fired out 25 from the blinds and I called. Everyone else folds.

A 9 comes on the turn. She checks. I put her on ace 8. I bet 35. She calls.

River is a 3. She checks.

I've noticed that one of the leaks in my game is sometimes I leave money on the table by not value betting the river often enough when I'm ahead.

The "way of the safe and the weak" is to bet the flop and the turn and if someone sticks around you check the river in position and just showdown.

The main benefit for those who follow the "way of the safe and the weak" is that you never get check raised on the river. This works well if you have a hand that might be the best at showdown but not strong enough to call a reraise at the end with.

But I've been noticing lately that my cards are often ahead at showdown. So I'm trying to get more value out of them. Bet more often without holding the nuts. And if I get checkraised, I'll just have to figure out whether I'm beat or not.

So on this particular hand rather than being completely safe and checking the river, I trust my read and go ahead and bet a healthy 60.

Heck I put her on ace 8. Why not bet it like that?

She thought about it for awhile. And then she called.

I showed my overpair. She mucked.

I dug this hand because I won 120 post flop despite not making any big moves. No huge bets. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just 25+35+60. But somehow this pot snuck up on us and got big. Normally to get someone to put 120 dollars into the middle at 2/5 they need to be holding big cards or have a big draw. But here the money was slowly extracted.

For me to even write about this hand just shows how much money I've been leaving out there on the river. My focus has been on winning the big pots. That's how I make my money. I haven't been as curious to see how much I can make off of my top pair.

Until now.


Check Raise Chin said...

Great post Rob. I'm glad that you're seeing new angles in your game and it's just a matter of time before you put it all together and start kicking ass at the higher levels. It's just a matter of time bro.

PJS JR. said...

I just wanted to say that I found this blog a couple of weeks ago and have thoroughly enjoyed reading. I wish you all the best in your poker endeavours. One comment in your post mentionned, when you were talking about moving to 5/10 that you had a bigger bankroll when you came to Vegas. In reading your blog, I would guesstimate that you are a winning player. I'm I mis-reading something here? Good luck. Ryan

Robert said...

I am a winning player but my 2007 expenses have exceeded my 2007 income. That's how my bankroll got smaller. (Much of this money was spent on the necessary start up costs of doing business like moving out here and buying a car.)

Check Raise Chin said...

Just curious Rob, are you still playing tournaments or just waiting on the big ones to play?

Also are you sticking with 2/5 despite bankroll fluctuations (for example if you run bad you're going to go back down to 1/2) or you planning to stick to 2/5 no matter what and and work your way up once your bankroll gets to a certain point?

Robert said...

No tournaments for me. I'm focused on the cash games right now.

As for your second question - If I didn't have enough to play 2/5 then I wouldn't play 2/5. I sure wouldn't force it. I'd either go to 1/2 or take a break till I had enough to play 2/5. Poker is so wonderfully humbling. I respect the game too much to play with scared money.

ckbluffer said...

I've found that the relative difference in level of play between $1/$2 and $2/$5 in Vegas isn't that significant. $5/$10 is a different animal, but I think you'll see less of the donkmania at a $5/$10 than you do at a $2/$5.