Saturday, February 23, 2008

Residual Tilt

I had a blast this afternoon playing 1/2 no limit like a maniac at the MGM Grand. On a couple of occasions I've dared to play this aggressively at 2/5 no limit. However I haven't had the courage to take this style up to 5/10 no limit. I'd love the challenge but the swings associated to sitting with the aggressive players at that level is just too disturbing for my bankroll.

If I were visiting Vegas for the weekend I think I'd play 5/10. Yet as a resident, playing lower stakes serves me just fine. My ego doesn't care what game I'm playing. If you told me I could make a grand a day playing nickel and dime poker, lets get out the change! All I care is that I'm making money.

And an added benefit of playing smaller is that I can practice playing real aggressive poker without necessarily hurting my ability to shop for groceries later in the week.

I want to have a solid loose aggressive game in my arsenal so that I can pull it out when needed. My game is mostly tight aggressive.

I've got the tight passive thing down. I think everyone is born with that gene.

Loose passive poker is also pretty easy to simulate. Not that you'd want to.

For me the final piece of the puzzle is picking spots to play loose aggressive poker without giving my stack away.

I wasn't going to the MGM knowing that I'd play like this. Truth be told I was prepared to fold and wait for the right hand. But after one orbit I could see how tight these players were. So I adjusted by playing more hands and putting lots of pressure on the table. Much more than I would normally apply.

I genuinely give all the credit here to my playing small enough stakes to genuinely not care about the buy in. I want to win but if I lose my stack that's okay too. It's only hundreds. Not thousands.

These days at the MGM they give you an "all in" card when you go all in. I had that thing in my hands 3 times in the second orbit. I was pushing around chips, looking to win a big pot or take down a smaller one. If I had a playable hand I was going to raise with it.

And boy did I overplay hands. But I kept getting away with not having to show my cards. So I kept on betting and letting them wonder.

Some hands of interest:

-Guy raises to 7 in early position. Three callers in front of me. I push all in from the blinds. It's win win. If anyone calls, I'm happy to race. If everyone folds I'm happy to increase my stack by 30 bucks. Even though it's only $30, it's still 15 big blinds at a 1/2 table. That's the same as winning a 75 dollar pot at 2/5. 150 bucks at 5/10. Not bad.

Making moves like this (the preflop all in) on multiple occasions will not make you popular. Solid players don't consider it to be poker. Pushing all in preflop from the blinds is the kind of move you see people make in a tournament when the blinds are rising. Not in cash game poker.

Yet I'm not there for approval. I'm not trying to convince anyone I can play poker well. I'm just trying to make money. And this kind of aggressive play is an extension of my embracing the gambling element of poker. I'm not fearing having the second best hand. I just want to get myself into as many good situations as I can. Over and over again. My main concern when I play like this is that I get my money in FIRST. I'm not looking to call all ins. But I don't mind starting them. As long as I have some folding equity I've learned that I can afford to play like this.

- I did play a few hands passively. Although this was usually based on my being in early position more than my cards. For example I limped with ace jack suited from under the gun. Since I'm not planning on winning this hand with top pair, I don't mind a big field of callers. I also like to limp in early position with my big pairs, so it's real good for me to limp with some other holdings too.
The guy to my immediate left makes it 7 dollars. A few of us call and we see a jack high flop with two hearts. I check and he bets 10. The other players fold.

10 bucks? Even if I think he has an overpair I gotta call 10 bucks.

Turn is a third heart. I have the ace of hearts. I check and this time he bets 20. Against some players I'd raise here, but against this guy I'm still not too sure I'm ahead. So me and my nut flush draw smooth call.

No heart comes on the river but I do get another jack for trips. Since I called his turn bet after the 3rd heart came, I'm not so positive he'll fire another bullet. I take the initiative and lead out for 40. He calls and I take down the pot, beating his pocket kings. He handled it well and said he probably should have bet more on the flop.

I agree.

- Another hand with the same guy to my left. I'm under the gun again and this time I limp with ace queen. Once again the guy to my left raises. Makes it 12 bucks. I call and we see an ace on the flop. I check and he bets 20. I call. I'm concerned about ace king but I feel much better when a rag comes on the turn and he checks behind me. I lead out for 25 after the board pairs 5's on the river and the freaking guy raises me to 75.

Damn it.

I don't think he has a 5. I don't think he raised preflop to 12 with any hand that has a 5 in it. The hand that scares me is ace king. We'd both have two pair but his king kicker would take it down.

I look back out at the board. I review the betting sequence and think it's highly unlikely that he'd have checked the turn if he had ace king.

And then one final thing clinches it for me. After he raises it to 75 I ask him "How much would you have bet if I checked the river? How much did I just cost myself by betting first?"

And I meant it. If I had checked the river and he held ace king, maybe he bets 40 or 50. I could have check called here and saved myself money. But after I ask him this question he remains silent. He seems to tighten up.

Huh. Maybe that means he wouldn't have bet behind me. Maybe he has nothing.

I call and throw 50 dollars out there and he turns over king high.

- The next orbit a guy raises to 15 in middle position. Everyone folds. I have pocket 8's in big blind and around $400 in front of me. I look at his stack. He only has around 70 bucks left. Not only am I out of position but he doesn't have a big enough stack to make it worth it to me to call and hope I flop a set.

Based on our stacks, I think my best move is to put him all in. Race his big ace. If he has a big pair then I'm just going to have to donate some money to him. But if I'm gonna play the hand, I want to put some pressure on him. I don't want to give myself a tough decision to make if/when there are overcards on the flop.

I only need to bet 70ish to put him all in. But I'm in love with that darn "all in" card. So rather than bet 70, I go all in.

Much to my surprise it works. He folds. I win another small pot without showing my cards. Winning pots like these makes poker so much easier. It gives me ammunition for whenever it is that I will eventually get called.

My confidence was increasing. Players did not want to get involved with me because I kept making them play for their entire stack.

- Guy raises to 15. I call in late position with ace queen suited. A third guy calls from the blinds as well. Flop comes ace, king 8. Two diamonds. Not my suit.

Big blind bets out 20. Preflop raiser folds. Whew. If the preflop raiser was the one betting I'd have a big problem here. He could certainly have the ace king. But with the bet coming from the big blind, I'm not nearly as fearful. I don't think he has ace king. He also doesn't have that many more chips in front of him. Looks like something in the 60 to 80 range.

I mini raise his 20 to 40 to see how committed he is to this pot. I think I'm ahead of him. I could have just pushed all in but I think I want him to call. An all in might scare him away. And by raising to 40 I also get to see how quickly he calls, mucks or raises.

He takes a moment and then calls. He doesn't have ace king.

I decide that I don't want to over think this hand if another diamond comes on the turn. There's too much money out there to fold. So I grab a red stack of maybe 60 or 70 dollars and and stick it out there to bet the turn before the dealer shows us the card.

Regardless of what comes I'm not folding. I'm betting.

I'm not sure if the universe thought this move by me was a little too cocky, because it turns out that I was WAY ahead of this gentleman on the flop with my ace queen.

He held a measly ace 7. But somehow, someway another 7 came out on the turn to give my opponent two pair. Yuck. He obviously calls my turn bet and immediately asks me if I have ace king.

The good news is I still have outs. There are 2 queens, 3 kings, and 3 eights in the deck. Any of these cards gives me two pair as well. I'd either win or chop. But none of them came on the river and I lost a decent sized pot.

Perhaps my big mistake in betting the turn before the card was revealed was that I didn't get the chance to say I was "all in" and thus get that magical MGM all in card.

Meanwhile, how I lost this pot shouldn't matter to me, but somehow it felt worse to lose this way. To be ahead and get passed by a long shot on the turn.

Logically, the opposite is true. It's SO much better to get my money in this way than if he had outflopped me.

Lets play Monday morning quarterback for a moment. If he turns over ace king, I'm the fish. Yet if he turns over ace 7, he's the fish.

He turned over ace 7. I did my job. Yet this hand was hard for me to forget.

I stayed and kept playing for over an hour. I kept thinking how I couldn't leave this table. I absolutely want to be playing with a guy who is willing to call a flop raise with top pair and 7 kicker.

And a couple of hands with other players at this table only reaffirmed this belief. Twice I managed to lose to gutshot straight draws! Twice! This was a great table to be at!

Yet despite all the poor play around me, there came a point when I suddenly realized that I was no longer playing my best poker. I was still up a few hundred bucks and decided that the negative effects of my losing more money would be way more detrimental to me than any positive effects of winning more money.

So I quit.

I look forward to returning to the MGM. I hadn't been there in a long time. It's a fun change of pace from Wynn. The MGM's $40 minimum, $200 max buy in game is so different from the the Wynn's 1/3 no limit game with no max. Yes they're both low stakes no limit poker. But the max/no max part makes them such distinct experiences.

I can't push people around at the Wynn. For better or for worse I will get called, and actually have to show down and hope my hand holds up.

But over here at the MGM, a dollar still means something.


BWoP said...

I love that MGM 1/2 action.

Check Raise Chin said...

Always good to know that you can leave a table up money and not playing your best Rob.

Keep up the good work bro!