Monday, December 03, 2007

Take It to the Limit

The Bellagio was an absolute madhouse this weekend. It's the December offering of their Five Diamond Classic Tournaments.

Their main event is $15,400 to enter but most of the preliminary events are in that $1500 to $2500 range.

Temptation (or is it greed?) whispers in my ear: "Go enter one of their satellites and win your way in." There are one table sit and go's as well.

Of course what the voice inside my head doesn't mention is that winning my way into a larger tournament wouldn't be enough. I'd still have to go on and actually cash in the bigger tournament. There's no disputing that this path would be the quickest way for me to make alot of money. But that's only if it went well.

It's also the path that most likely earns me NO money for my day. That's just being realistic.

So I forgo the risk/reward fluctuations of tournament poker, and choose the solid conservative route. Good old cash tables. They tend to be real good around big tournament poker.

What does this mean? Well skipping the tournaments means I absolutely positively won't win 6 figures and buy a new Mercedes this week. That just ain't gonna happen at 15/30 or 2/5 no limit.

But on the bright side, it's more likely that my wife and I can eat sushi "for free" tonight.

Which odds do I prefer?

An 80% chance we'll eat sushi vs a 1% chance I buy a new car.

"And how is your rainbow roll?"

As for how I pay the sushi check, most of my decisions at limit poker are simply "Am I going to get check raised if I bet my top pair after that scary card just came out?"

Here is one hand that sums up the limit experience.

I raise preflop in early position with ace king suited (diamonds) and get 8 callers.

Yes. 8 callers. (Let the record state that one guy did fold).

Flop comes 9 high with a flush draw. Unfortunately it's two hearts. There is one diamond out there.

I don't think I can be ahead right now but for entertainment purposes I bet. 7 of the players call.

Turn brings another diamond. Two of my suit. I suddenly have a real live genuine flush draw. Thank you very much. Here I was betting with no credibility and now I have some credibility.

I bet again and this time I am more than happy to see 3 players call. The last player to act raises. I reraise him and make it 3 bets. Two of sandwiched players fold. One calls. The reraiser calls as well. (Normally at the Bellagio you might see the reraiser raise again here to punish the sandwiched caller).

The river doesn't deliver me the flush. It does however fill up anyone chasing the alternative heart flush. What could be good news for me is that the river card was the ace of hearts. So although I missed my flush, I do have a pair of aces.

I have to act first. I'm concerned that one of the players behind me has hearts.
I check. They both check behind me. I take it down with my aces.

If I had bet I may have been able to win another bet from someone holding a medium pair. But I'm sure not going to win any more bets from missed draws.

I didn't want to bet 30 on the end and lose 60 (or fold) if I got check raised. I don't play enough limit poker to know if this is "correct" or not, but my read (or lack of) certainly gave me enough impetus to check. I also didn't mind check calling here.

An alternative scenario to consider would have been if I checked, player 2 bet and player 3 raised. At this table, against these weak players I would probably fold top pair here.

These decisions aren't that huge in that it's only 30 bucks if I'm wrong. But these bets sure do add up over the course of an evening. Not to mention a lifetime.

A few hands later I give back 6 big bets when I flopped a set of queens but a dude rivered the flush. However this evened out an orbit or two later when I flopped another set but this time rivered the full house to take down an opponent's flush.

What I eventually figure out is most of these players are satisfied to just limp and call. No one here is raising which is very surprising for the Bellagio.

Basically whenever I have a decent hand I can raise and get more money in there. And whenever I have a speculative hand (suited connectors or small pair) I can get in cheap and see a flop.

If this style of play continues, this table should be a goldmine for me. It's hard to lose money to opponents who don't raise but will call you down when you have the best of it. I am able to take over the betting lead any time I'm in position. I'm able to control pot size and get free cards when I need them.

I have identified three specific players at this table who never raise, but will also never fold when I bet! I can't bluff them off of their hands. But it also costs me close to nothing play against them post flop.

An actual hand history against one of these weak players is:
1- I raise preflop with ace queen. Opponent calls in late position.
2- I flop nothing. Opponent checks. I bet. Opponent calls.
3- I turn nothing. Opponent checks. I bet. Opponent calls.
4- I river nothing. Opponent checks. I have no clue where I'm at. I check.
5- I turn over my ace queen. Opponent stares at the board, shakes his head, and then shows me ace 7 off.

This is NOT how limit poker is played at the Bellagio. Usually at limit I'm dealing with overly aggressive players who keep the pressure on with reraises on every street.

But at this table, on this evening, there were some pretty weak players.

And that can only mean one thing.

"How is your Toro tonight?"

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