Friday, December 21, 2007

Choosing My Relgion

Throughout the Vegas Year I often find it helpful to ask myself questions at the poker table.

Questions like What would Jesus do?

Yet more and more I'm realizing that this question needs to be rephrased.

It's not good enough to ask myself what Jesus would do.

No. I need to go further and ask "What would Jesus do with my bankroll?"

I'm referring here to Chris Jesus Ferguson. We all know the more famous Jesus doesn't need to worry about playing short. That guy is always hitting flops.

But often the decisions the rest of us have to make at the poker table are just as much about bankroll, as the cards we are holding.

Case in point. Thursday night at the Bellagio. Guy limps early. A few callers behind him. I raise to 35 with pocket queens. Early limper is an extremely tight player. When the action gets back to him I can see he's not sure whether to call or raise. I don't think he's acting. He eventually calls. Everyone else folds.

Something about this early limper worries me. Even with my pocket queens. I'm just feeling like he has aces. So much so that when when the flop comes out jack high and he bets the pot, I FOLD.

It's completely absurd. But it's a true story.

Who else on this planet throws away an overpair on the flop after they've raised preflop?

But I felt aces. Watching him bet the flop only confirmed it. So I trusted this really strong feeling and decided that my giving away the initial 35 bucks on the hand was fine.

I don't need to play a big pot against a very tight player and hope I'm good. And the bigger issue is definitely related to bankroll. With less money at risk I'd definitely reraise here and either win or lose a buy in. But for me to lose a full buy in, money that matters to me, when I've already put my opponent on a hand that beats me, is just plain unacceptable. I'm taking responsibility for my read. I can't call here and call myself a professional.

My fold is also based on the belief that I am better than most of the players at this table. If I'm sitting with intimidating players at some point I gotta take a stand. But not here. Not against these people. I know I will find better spots.

Thus it's better for me to have chips and continue to play, than it is for me to cross my fingers, raise and hope I'm ahead. If I raise him on the flop I will either win a medium pot (he folds) or lose a big pot (he calls with better holdings).

So I fold. And deep down I trust this was right. For me. At this moment in time.
Here's the other thing. I got Vinny Vinh sitting to my left and raising every other hand. He's creating plenty of nice size pots. There's plenty of action. My time will come.

And what having Vinh to my left means to me is that I can limp with strong hands knowing that Vinny is going to bet them for me. There were a few occasions where Vinny would raise to 30, get a few callers and then when the action got back to me I was able to reraise and take down some decent preflop money.

In fact this exact scenario is why it's nice to have aggressive players to your left rather than the right. And every time I make this move and win chips preflop I remind myself that if I had pushed with the queens before when I thought I was beat, I may not still be sitting here with chips to make this move.

I gotta keep myself in the game to make positive expected value decisions over and over again. For the next few hours. Days. Weeks. Months. Whatever it may be.

One long game.

Of course having Vinh to my left can also make it one short game. We were all in 3 or 4 times against each other. The guy will fire 3 bullets at a pot and I wasn't afraid to call him down with bottom pair.

Of course when Vinh hits, I'm happy to pay him.

On the first all in I called his preflop raise with pocket 7's. Flop came jack, 9,9 and Vinh pushed all in for his last 100. The bet was too small to fold. And I also thought he makes this continuation bet regardless of whether he hits or misses the flop. Turns out his ace jack hit and I doubled him up.

A few hands later I picked up pocket queens and flopped a set but Vinh was away from the table. Timing is everything.

On the hand he returns I pick up pocket queens for the 3rd time tonight. I limp to give him the chance to raise but this time he doesn't. Flop comes Ace,4,5. Vinh checks. I bet 30. Vinh calls. Everyone else folds. Turn is a 9. Vinh checks. I check behind him so that he'll bluff at the river. River comes and he bets 60. I call and he shows pocket deuces.

One tough hand I had was sitting on the button with ten jack suited. I called a raise to 25 to see a flop against the cutoff seat. But then the tight big blind raises it up to 105. 80 more. He has a big pair.

I wanna fold but the initial raiser calls. It's 80 dollars for me to win 235 in position. Even without implied odds I'm getting 3 to 1. But I'm also drooling at playing this hand in position. If I hit the flop I could win alot of money from the big blind. So I call the 80 and gamble.

But then get this madness: The big blind bets $500 in the dark before seeing the flop! Come on jack ten suited! Come on flop! Give me two pair. Show me a draw. Make me some trips. Lets crack some aces baby. One time.

I don't connect with the flop and the hand costs me $105. I can stomach that.

Later on I manage to get away from king queen on king 4 4 flop. My opponent bet the pot and his bet seemed real. After the hand he showed the 4. It was a good fold although I did lose a bad beat story.

This hand brings up an important point. Taking responsibility. In other words I could have gotten all my chips in there, lost and then been bitter that someone had trip 4's. I could have said stuff like "This is unbelievable" and basked in the glory of bad luck. But I didn't. I folded. I could have folded the best hand when I laid down king queen. However losing the pot would hurt me way more financially on this evening than winning it. I can fold top pair.

The other interesting part about his showing me the trips is that he's exactly the kind of player I expect to have trips there. So his showing his cards isn't gaining him credibility to bluff later on. He already has that. If anything he'd be better off showing me that he doesn't have it once in awhile. It's not like he's running over the table.

Here's another Vinh moment for you. Come see what I see. On a straddled hand Vinh raises it up to 50 on the button. Straddler calls. Flop comes 5 6 7. Straddler who acts like a pro but has bought in twice already checks.

Vinh bets 60. Other guy pushes all in for a few hundred trying to outplay Vinh.

Vinh calls with 10, 7 for top pair. It's good and he and doubles up. This is the kind of action Vinh gives and gets. It's why his stack will either double up or disappear as soon as possible.

The tourists sitting at my table at the Bellagio who have arrived early for this weekend look on in absolute horror. They don't understand how he could have played 10,7 like that. Let alone won with it. And what did the other guy have? (Middle pair). But it makes perfect sense over here in seat 2.

Vinh then announces he's playing "no look poker" and starts raising pots preflop without any knowledge of his cards.

On one of these hands I get in there against him with queen, nine suited and flop a straight flush draw. This time I take the betting lead and Vinh gives me action by calling my all in with what he says is a pair. I get there. He doesn't show. I double up.

Vinh eventually leaves the table. And then the only player who I feared at this table, an older white guy gets up and leaves too. I guess he was only here for a reason.

Without Vinh, the table soon breaks and I get moved to a new one next to a guy wearing a Party Poker shirt. Party Poker raises the first hand to 10. I call with king 9 spades. Guy behind me puts in an awful mini raise to 20. Why?

Party Poker reraises all in and I gotta fold. And then dude who mini raised folds too! Why sir? Why won't you let us see a flop? Why won't you let us crack Party Poker's aces? Terrible terrible mini raise. Maybe he had pocket jacks and wanted to find out if he was up against aces?

Tonight I played for around 6 hours. One of the most fun moments came near the end of the session. I limped under the gun with 3,6 suited. No one raised and I flopped straight flush draw. I bet flop and got 2 callers.

I hit straight on turn. I bet 100. This is pure joy. It's so unlikely anyone can put me on this hand. And I have flush draw too. Someone else could have a higher flush draw so I don't need it to get there.

The action gets folded around to the Party Poker guy. He's about to fold, so I start talking. It can't hurt. I have nothing to lose and possibly all of his chips to gain.

At the 2006 World Series of Poker I played 2/5 no limit with Paul Phillips. One thing that impressed me about Paul was his ability to talk novice players into doing whatever he wanted. It didn't matter whether he needed a call or fold. He could convince them to take action. There is such an art to this table banter.

So as I sit here and watch my opponent shaking his head and about to fold his losing hand, I take a stab.

"What do you need?" I ask.

"Huh?" he says.

"What do you need to come out on the river?"

"Nothing. I'm already there" he says.

And then I look over at him and smile and say "Straight is no good here."

"Yeah I figured you were on a flush draw" he says.

Wow this fun. I don't think he has a straight. But how often do I get to look across the table and tell someone that the nut hand is no good?

He folds. Oh well. I tried.

He's still insisting that he's laying down a straight. I don't believe him but my ego sure likes the credit he's giving me.

I decide to call it a night.

Pulling out of the Bellagio at 3 in the morning I accidentally make an illegal right on red onto Flamingo. A Nevada Police officer on a motorcycle pulls out from across the street and pulls up behind me. Damn.

But then he speeds by and passes me on the right.

Whew. That was a relief. I guess I sucked out and got lucky!

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