Patience Pays Off in Poker

20151020_225212-1All of the meaningful action happened in the last 30 minutes of my session. Even though I was already planning on leaving since it was quite late, I stayed around a couple of orbits after all of these hands happened to avoid the hit-and-run etiquette question. How does everyone feel about this etiquette question? Old fashioned? Still relevant? I personally like the custom even though I don’t begrudge anyone that feels over-matched and happens to get lucky and leaves right after a big hand. Anyway, on to the hands.

Hand #1: I start the hand with about $400, and I am in middle position with Qs Jc. This is about 5 hours into my session. I have been down between $100 and $200 most of the night. I have been fairly active, but I believe my best starting hand had been AQ. I definitely had a losing image, and a few people had bluffed me and shown the bluff (thank you for the information!). But I just kept topping my stack up to stay above 100 big blinds. I am trying not to repeat the mistakes from the past that happen when I know I am near the end of my session when this hand comes up.

My opponent is a talkative man from Pittsburgh who was raised in Canada. By the way he talks one can tell that he is a confident man, and by the way he bets you can tell that he is not afraid to put lots of chips in the pot. He has already shown that he can bluff. He starts the hand with about $300 and is in late position; I don’t recall if it was the button or the cutoff. Action gets to me after a caller, and I raise to $10. There are three callers including the man from Pittsburgh. The pot is about $43 and the flop comes Js 4s 8h. Everyone checks to me, and I bet $30. The man from Pittsburgh is the only caller.

The turn is the 3 of diamonds. I bet $50 and the man from Pittsburgh calls very quickly. Now there is about $200 in the pot, and I’m pretty sure my opponent is on a flush draw or on a bluff catcher like a jack. But it is hard to tell how good his kicker might be since he called my bet in position before the flop. My plan going into the river is to check any safe river and let him bet any missed spade draws with the intention to call any bet.

The river is the 2h. I check as planned. My opponent hesitates just slightly, like he’s going to check but then decides to grab chips for about a $120. Now this is a very big bet for the stakes that we are playing, but I go with my plan and call the bet almost instantly. He asks, “Do you have a set?” I think surprised that I called so fast. I’m happy to see him turn over Ks 2s for bottom pair and the missed spade draw. He was very classy about it and said good call, but then mumbled about a weak kicker and how he didn’t think I would call there. I just said, thank you and in my head, “ship it.”

Hand #2: The very next hand I’m feeling very confident by the way I played the last hand, and I raise to $10 from UTG+2 with 8h 9h. I get four callers this time, and we see a flop of Th 6h Kc. It checks to me, and as customary I look to my left. I already have six red chips in my hand, but then I see that there are a couple of short stacks left to act behind me, and I make up my mind that I am not folding if they shove. Sure enough the very next guy shoves. Everyone folds and I call the extra $35. Ace of heart on the turn; I flip up my hand. My opponent keeps his eyes on the board, not showing his hand. The river is a blank, and he mucks and says, good hand. I simply reply, “Just got lucky,” as they get up and make way for a new player.

Hand #3: Now I’m on a roll, and I can’t believe the next hand I get dealt: Kd Qd. Hot streak! I raise to $10. We get 2 callers including the big blind who has a $400ish stack. He doesn’t like to fold (as he has said himself), and he plays a very wide range. The pot is only $31, but the flop comes out Qs Qc 3c. It’s incredible when the cards play out this way, isn’t it? You just keep thinking that variance is going to catch up to you though. In the back of my head, we’ve all been there, we know that bad beat is coming. I kick that monster back under the bed and through the floor, and bet $15. One fold, and then the big blind wakes up with a min raise. $30 is the total bet. I think what this could mean. Could be a pocket pair, could be a queen, could be a flush draw semi-bluff. I decide to test where this goes and make it $60. What do you think about the bet sizing? I think a call is wrong in this spot, especially if he thinks I’m just continuation betting (as I have; a lot).

Now my opponent really takes his time, but in the end decides to make it $200. This is such a large bet, and delivered with such confidence, that I could feel that tentacles starting to creep from under the bed, and then the bed started to shake… and then I snapped out of it. I have KQ for crying out loud! I stomp that creature back to the beyond and announce all-in. Yes, I just got these chips, but basing any decision on that fact would be wrong. Then a slight relief: no snap call. But eventually he does say, “whatever, if you have a boat already good for you,” and he calls. A boat? Does that mean he has AQ? Sorry, but that would suck, and I just don’t see a player as aggressive as he was having AQ in this spot. Board blanks out, and he shows Q8o. Totally what I should have expected to see, and yes, now our stack is over a grand. But we’re not done.

We also get KJo and hit 2 kings on the flop. It was against a nitty player though, and I only got one street of value. That ended the streak of winning hands and that very next hand I get 92o and folded easily to a raise.

One more hand from the session that I thought was interesting. I raise from early middle position with 8c8s, I start the hand with about $350. I make it $10 to go, and I get two callers. There is about $35 in the pot when we see a pot of Ad Kh 3h. We hit! Not really, but our range hits. I c-bet $20, and get a confident 30-something, out-of-towner to call. He has already been up and down, and I noticed that he had made at least a couple of big lay downs, and both times his opponents showed monsters. He has about $200 in his stack, and I can tell he is disappointed that he is stuck (started with $300) because he feels like he has game.

The turn is a Tc bringing a possible straight. I check, pretty much giving up, but then my opponent checks too. The river is the interesting Jd. Now, we’ve talked on the podcast in the past about how 4 to a straight or 4 to a flush is a good card to bluff when first to act, because it is so hard for your opponent to call or raise without having it. I start to think about my story and what I could represent here, but in the game I’m not fast enough to do that on the spot. Instead, I just act out of instinct to appear as confident as possible. I still act deliberately, not rushing, and I bet $65, pretty much polarizing my range to air or a naked queen. Two things are in my favor: one, he hasn’t seen me show down any bluffs, and two, in his mind, he’s running bad. But he doesn’t fold. He actually counts out chips for a call. I don’t realize that I’m holding my breath, and now a physical challenge occurs. How do I draw in breath without seeming too nervous or giving some tell? I decide to start by exhaling slowly and silently. I feel the release of tension, but he still won’t fold. Then slowly, I take another breath. My heart is beating so fast. It’s not about the money of course. It’s only $65. It’s about pulling off the bluff. I find myself scratching the side of my neck. No! That’s the typical weakness tell. I try to stop myself without calling too much attention to it. He still won’t fold. He grabs his cards, and I almost jump out of my seat. Instead I just look away, like I don’t care what he does. Just trying to look calm. Then out of the corner of my eyes, I see him pushing the cards to the dealer. I must not have convinced the guy to my right, because he asked if I had good old big slick. I just shook my head and smiled as I raked the pot in.

Posted in Hand History, Trip Report | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Long Summer Session


I played at Greektown Casino on a warm summer night last week. It was my longest session in a long time, but not because I wanted to spend 8 hours in a poker room, but because I was stuck most of that time. It was a night when storms were looming and the Tigers lost a 3-1 lead in the 9th. I can still see the look on Verlander’s face after Salvador Perez hit that home run off of Alex Wilson over the left field fence.

Toni, the dealer at our table at the time that fateful hit happened predicted, “It’ll go to the 14th inning now.” She wouldn’t predict who would win, but she seemed certain in her prognostication. That was close to four hours into my session, and I had little inkling that it would only be the half way point. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

One of the most challenging aspect of trying to play winning poker, is having the patience it requires to sludge through long periods of time where you don’t make any value hands. Yes, we stay in the game and we differentiate ourselves from the typical random player by playing each situation better than them, but it’s very difficult to earn a consistent profit from just bluffing and continuation betting. Some shorter sessions do go that way, where you execute a well-timed bluff and you take down several small pots on the flop for a nice little profit.  But about a third the time your opponents hit the flop, sometimes hard, and you can lose a chunk of your stack just with a couple of raises pre-flop followed by c-bets that get action.

My first two hours were fairly card dead, and my opponents were making some pretty big hands: sets left and right, flushes, boats, quads against a full house.  Meanwhile, I was gathering a nice collection of nine deuce offsuit.  Typically in this situation, you wait for late position, see who’s in the hand and you raise pre-flop and take some small pots on the flop. These first one hundred and twenty minutes though saw many of those hands get raised before they got to me, and I had to relinquish position almost every orbit. Again, people were getting big starting hands and making big hands on the flop.

One fellow who played tight was getting paid off handsomely by drawing pocket kings and hitting sets. Twice he hit with kings, and once with jacks (and actually ended with quads that hand). He was pretty smart about his situation, because he stacked up to about a grand and walked out. Another player to my left got himself in a hand with pocket nines against a short stacker with pocket queens. Flop goes Q 9 x, turn 9 and drum roll… king on the river.  So close to the bad beat jackpot.  Instead, the fellow with Queens left the table, and the guy with quad nines left to the 3/6 limit game, presumably to have a better chance to hit the bad beat.

My first interesting hand came well after dinner. Earlier I had managed to turn a flush with Jc8c, but other than AQ from early position, I had not managed to draw any playable hands that whole time. I had a bluffy, losing image, and my stack was hovering around $450. I was in for $700.  I had been mostly trying to keep a positive mind set. Telling myself to stay patient, but mostly, reminding myself that past hands had nothing to do with future hands. I wasn’t about to get lucky or hit my draws, I wasn’t about to go on a rash of big starting hands that would be winners, I didn’t need to go all-in just to get in the black on a marginal spot.  I was a getting a bit tired from dinner and the long droning hours sitting at the table, but the Tigers had just won the game in walk-off fashion, and my spirits were lifted by that fact.

The one competent player at the table raised to $10 from UTG+1 and got three callers. Now, the competent player had a sound game, but he was not an expert wizard by any stretch. For one thing, he had been talking strategy with his side of the table, showing off what little knowledge he had about poker when he sensed the other players he was talking to didn’t really know much about the game.  But he was talking about Super System and SS2 as books to read to improve.  Later he said that those books were not up to date with the current game, I think realizing he might be giving people bad advice.

So there’s already $43 in the pot, and I look down at two black jacks.  I cut out some chips and made it $50 to go.  The player to my left seemed interested, and made a call.  He was a loose/passive player, so his range was mostly two face cards or pocket pairs.  There was one more call from a young player with scared money and about $150, and then a call by the original raiser, who looked at me quizzically, as if to ask, you know I’m in early position with a raise, right?  Not only had I noticed that, but I also noticed that he had been holding 7c 9c and A J offsuit the last two times he raised from that position.

There was already $233 in the pot when a player with just $103 decided to just call. This always surprises me. Why not shove? You’re never folding on the flop… right? That’s the thing, some players do think that maybe they might fold here.  So we go to the flop with $283 in the pot and five players. The tension was thick like the night summer air, and the competent player across the table had his eyes locked on me. I looked up from my chips and looked right back at him. Flop was 9s 7s 4s. At first I thought there was a straight flush possible, but on a second look I saw there was only the flush.

Everyone checked cautiously to me.  I checked my cards to make sure I have the jack of spades, and then I counted out $150 from my $400 stack.  I pushed it quietly past the betting line.  Everyone started breathing again and then the folds started to fall, making me feel like I just won a huge pot with only a pair of jacks and a flush draw. But then after the competent player folded, the player with the $53 left reluctantly pushed in his remaining chips as if reading everyone’s thoughts at the table, “you can’t fold for $53, right?”  Fifty three dollars to win $336: no brainer.

I usually show my cards on an all-in hand right away, but I actually held my cards protectively expecting the worst. King of spades on the turn gave me the third nuts. 4 of clubs on the river made me puke a little in my mouth.  Still, I flipped over my hand with confidence and topped it with a $5 chip when I don’t see my opponent jumping with joy or slamming his hand face up on the felt.  In fact, he shaked his head and mucked, got up and walked away. Ship it!

After that I felt a big weight lifted from my shoulders. Maybe this night wouldn’t end in a cold deck nightmare like it started.  I actually managed to hit a set near the end of my session with pocket threes on an ace high flop, and was happy to hear that my opponent only had top pair for an easy sweat since the flop was Ad 2h 3d. The Tigers’ game crowd that had flooded the room after the game started to ebb, and I felt it was time to call it a night.

It was a great feeling knowing that many times before I would have pushed the action thinking, “my luck has to change, I have to hit something soon”, etc. Instead I waited, I paid attention, and I focused on making the best decision for only the hand in play. Like the Tigers that night it took me extra innings, but I retreated into the summer night victorious.

Posted in Trip Report | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wintergarden East Wild West


Remember the old Westerns where card players leaned back on their wooden chairs so they could extract aces from their boots, and they didn’t play table stakes so eventually somebody’s horse or farm would be in the pot? Well that’s not what I mean by Wild West. I mean more in the spirit of things: do whatever you want, only the tough survive, shoot first and ask questions later kind of thing.

I played in a wild west type game yesterday at Wintergarden East on Gratiot just south of 21 Mile Road. Most people think that because the address is Chesterfield that it is closer to 23 Mile Road, but no. You will end up roaming the prairie without luck if you get off I-94 at 23 Mile Road looking for this room. Head south to the 21 Mile Road exit and take a left on Gratiot, second building on the right with the big sign outside. Poker room is to the right of the entrance and restaurant is to the left.

The last few times I have played there it has been one table running, and this time wasn’t any different.  I have seen two tables of cash $1/$2 NLHE running there, but only once. There is also fairly constant blackjack action going on in the room. There were some players trying to hit 21 yesterday when I walked in, and lucky me there was an open seat at the poker table. I bought in for the maximum $200, and sat between a couple of younger fellows who were very pleasant. For certain the action was on the other end of the table. From what he was sharing with the table, he was a sports bettor who had been running good at baseball, and he had some money to push us donkeys around on the felt.

He was primarily the action at the table at first, but later on he busted out and was replaced by another tall, bearded desperado who wasn’t scared of any pre-flop raise, and never met a flop he didn’t like. The action took a wild turn when the sports bettor returned to the felt with more bullets. These heroes of the west were supported by a couple of tough opponents who were not going to be intimidated by their shenanigans. There was seat 5, a regular at Wintergarden who had been at the table at every session I had played there. He busted at one time and came back after hitting the ATM. Who can blame him? The game was that juicy.  Then later in the session there was the southern gentleman with wire-frame glasses on my left, who also was not afraid to get it in against these ruffians, as he went all in on the very first hand he played, and won a huge pot without a showdown. He claimed to have a very good hand, and I believed him.

Not to be left out of these cast of characters was a young gunslinger, a former guest on the podcast, who I was very happy to see was still playing the circuit. He sat next to me and told me about living with Joe Cada and going on a poker cruise with him a group of friends, and playing a $2/$5 game on the cruise that was even more crazy than the one we were playing in. He recounted how he couldn’t believe the rich business men who went on these cruises and would keep going back to their cabin for more cash, and how he won as much as $25K during his one-week cruise. He had also made some deep runs in Vegas during WSOP, but no wins, and he kept lamenting not hitting a top 5 score where the real money is. Such is the life of the tournament players where the riches lie at the very top of the summit. This fellow is actually more of cash game specialist, but I could tell by his stories that the tournament bug had bit him, and we may still be hearing of better exploits from him in the future.

I essentially was involved in two meaningful hands during this crazy  session. But before sharing the hand histories I have to set the stage for what was going on. Everyone was straddling at least $5-$10 on the button, but the action guy, let’s call him Dave, was straddling from UTG or from the button for either $17 or $30 depending on his whim. If he saw any cards that he liked, it was all-in pre-flop.  The amazing thing to me was how no one else at the table seemed to be adjusting to this. They would still call the straddle thinking the option would be checked, and then invariably have to tank/fold when Dave made it $200 or $250 all-in.  Dave had a tendency to miscall his hand before showdown too, so you had to be careful not to muck.  While I was there he never got anyone to fold the winning hand, but once he claimed to have AQ for top pair top kicker and then showed AJ to lose a huge pot. That player almost mucked throwing his hand face down on the felt, but flipped them over at the last moment. Another time Dave claimed to have two pair and the bearded guy, let’s call him Jim, had already noticed his ways and made Dave show his complete air and then saying, “this guy never tells the truth.” But he chuckled afterwards, as if he somehow enjoyed Dave’s bravado.

Later on in the session when the southern gentleman joined the table, let’s call him Beau, things got even crazier. Dave went on a little bit of tilt and was straddling for $50, and shoving pre-flop on his option for as much as $500, then he would show a hand like 8c 4c. He did fold from time to time, but it must have been really no draws, no overs and no pairs for him to do so because it was a rare occurrence. One of those times was Beau’s first hand, where Beau called the $60 raise on the straddle and then went all-in on the flop and everyone including Dave folded.

So what do you do if you’re playing in this kind of game where you might be forced to go all-in pre-flop for 100 big blinds without aces or kings? First of all, you have to make a few assumptions. The two hands every orbit where Dave is straddling, you have to have a big pair, I’d say jacks or better to play. Typically I’ve seen suggested that if someone is three betting you light, you can defend/four-bet with pocket eights or better, but when you might be the three-bet and the four-bet is an all-in for 100 big blinds or more, you want something that dominates his range, like a big pair against smaller pair (80% to win) or a big pair against two smaller cards (76% to 88% to win). So you might not ever play a hand when Dave is straddling in this scenario. And I didn’t.

But Beau did. He called a $30 straddle in the cutoff, I assume because there were a couple of calls ahead of him, but who knows; maybe he just felt lucky. Dave predictably went all-in for over $400. He got a call from Jim, and now Beau looked down on his K6o thinking, what do I do now? Well, he called, and hit a king on the river to beat Dave’s pocket fours. Dave still won a huge side pot from Jim, but Beau got lucky in a situation where he had to win a race for all his chips. This is called high variance play of course, and you can make a lot of money quickly if you have the bankroll for it, or lose a lot of money quickly too. But to each his own.

Now what about the hands where it was only a $5 or $10 straddle by other players at the table? You still have to watch the action and your position closely, because if betting gets re-opened by someone three-betting or four-betting and it gets back to Dave or Jim, it’s all-in or nothing. So you pick your spots. Learn who are the passive players who will only raise with real hands, so even if you’re not closing the action, you can play a hand when you know the players behind you are just going to call.

So there was a lot of folding for me at this game, but in the first hand I played, the player two to my left had straddled for $5, and Dave raised it to $15 and there had been three other callers before me. I knew the button was probably just going to call the bet, so I also called with 9h Th and about $210 behind.  Six players to the flop and the pot is already $90.  Flop comes 4h 7h 9s. Again, please forgive me if I don’t get all the details right in these hands, but the general themes should be correct. Surprisingly, Dave checked, but the regular I had mentioned before, let’s call him Tony, he bets $20. $20? Jim calls, and it gets to me. Now, there is $130 in the pot, so if I make a pot sized bet I will have $90 behind. Logical conclusion is shove $210. But that just didn’t seem like it would follow a logical progression to the other players at the table. Player bets $20, I raise $200? The thing is, I’m never folding this hand to any raise. So should I have shoved in this spot? What do you guys think?  I decided to raise to $60, less than half the pot, but three times the original bet and leaves me a nice $150 bet on the turn.  Everyone folded to Dave who insta-called. Tony, who had played a fair amount with me in the past, decided to fold.  Jim insta-called as well.

Now, I’m not surprised these two players are still in the hand, but I am surprised that neither of them shoved.  They are certainly not afraid of getting stacks in with draws, but like I said they do sometimes fold, and I was hoping that they were both on draws and that I didn’t hit my ten-high flush. The turn is 5c. Dave and Jim both check, and I jam my $150 without hesitation. Again, I’m never folding on the flop, so I have no reason to slow down here. Now something scary happens, Dave insta-calls my shove. It must not have been only scary to me, because Jim also tanks and decides to fold. So I’m heads up with Dave for all my chips, and I don’t know what I’m hoping for. Do I want my flush to come? Do I want a blank? Do I want a nine? Probably a ten is safest, but it might still not be good enough to win.

River is a 7, and I flip over my pair of nines with ten kicker for two pair, Dave mucks and Jim loses his mind. “That’s all you had?” Obviously a classic case where I got the worst hand to call and the best hand to fold. Priceless. Well, actually it cost me about $225, but I got it all back with a nice pot on top.

I played one more hand where I turned 5s 4s into trips with a questionable call on my part that got me paid off handsomely on the river. But it was all about playing in position and implied odds. Beau asked after the hand derisively, “You called a $20 bet with a pair of fives on that flop?” I just nodded and gave him the good old, “I just got lucky.”

So I hope you can see that you don’t have to play only premium hands in these wild west games to be a winner, but you do have to pick your spots carefully. There is a lot of folding if you’re not gambling with the action players, so be prepared for a long ride through the canyons. Hopefully it will end with you cashing out a monster stack and riding off into the sunset.



Posted in Hand History | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Greektown Heater


Hello. It’s been a while since I have posted on this blog, mostly because there has been no podcast. It was strange not being part of the Michigan poker community after having the Michigan Poker Monster podcast for three years. To answer those of you who have wondered whatever happened to the podcast, a combination of lack of sponsorship opportunities and work and family demands led to the decision of not continuing with the shows. I appreciate everyone who continues to request and ask for new podcasts, and Gambit and I miss doing them as well, but there are no current plans to revive it although now and then we do wonder what it would be like to start it again. The time required to line up guests, research discussion topics, travel to interviews, cover events and edit and publish the show was just too much of an investment monetarily and time-wise to do without some form of remuneration. We did have a few laughs doing the show! We hope you enjoy the past episodes and continue to follow our Facebook page and this blog. On to the hand histories…

I hope to share some of my adventures on the felt and intersperse some of my own thoughts about poker strategy and player tendencies along the way to hopefully inspire discussion and insights from readers.  These hands I am about to share are from a session at Greektown Casino, where the action always seems to be less nitty than some charity rooms and Motor City Casino, but the player pool is sometimes rather shallow (referring to the number of players, not their intellect.)

I started with a $300 buy-in in a $1/$2 NLHE game and right away I knew that it was going to be an action table from the table talk when I sat down. One player greeted me as Frank and referred to the “poker lizard;” the look on his face seem to indicate that he clearly knew it was Poker Monster and was making a jest.  Another player picked up on my name being Frank and introduced himself as Lewis; I noticed that Lewis had the most chips at the table at the time. There were quite a few $300 an $400 stacks which is somewhat unusual for Greektown but for sure a pleasant sight to see.  The dealer then introduced seat one as Jose, but a quick glance from my perch on seat 10 down on the Bravo display showed a different name for seat 1.  Jose didn’t suit him either, but I liked the sound of it.

In my older age I’ve become quite terrible at remembering specifics of hands, especially suits and bricks, so I’ll offer a disclaimer right now for those of you who might witness some of these hands in person, that I will do the best I can to recall the details without changing the important nuances of the strategy behind each move, but I might get a card or amount wrong here and there.  As opposed to the times I post a specific hand on Facebook about how to play a hand, this blog will be more for trip reports, and I will try to cover key hands of a session and intersperse opinions for your debate or commentary.

The first hand that I was involved with I opened from middle position with 7s8s for $10. I actually think this hand plays better when limped from this position with the type of action at this table, but it was early in the session and I tend to assume a table will be loose/passive until shown otherwise. I got two callers, and we go to the flop with a $30 pot. I am first to act, and I continuation bet a Q high dry board with two other small cards for $20 and get Jose to call. The turn brings a possible straight on the board, but for a gut shot draw.  I double barrel $40, and now Jose thinks better of it and folds.  I set a mental note that he will be sticky. As I drag the pot, I also notice the faces on a few of the other thinking players at the table that they probably didn’t believe my story. Often that means they folded a queen or the straight, but it’s important to note these perceptions for when you’re heads up against these players.

And it actually plays into my next hand when I raise QQ under the gun plus one (UTG+1).  I still make it 5 big blinds as I open my entire range with this size bet against a random table only adjusting for limpers. What do you think about this philosophy? Do you “open” for the same amount no matter what?  Of course, the idea is that it masks the strength of your hand as you are raising the same amount regardless if you have AA or 78 suited.  I think you should only do this if you’re raising for 5 BB or more since you are risking more with the lower end of your range, but if you raise the same for less you might not be getting enough value pre-flop from your premium hands

I get two callers again, and one of them is the player who made the joke about the Poker Lizard. Let’s call him Josh.  Both the other players are in position, and I am first to act. The flop is J 9 4 rainbow, and I continuation bet $20. Only Josh calls.  Now, I rate Josh as competent, which means that he might have a jack here or a monster and that call means he’s letting me bluff out of position with a weaker hand. On the turn I make a mistake and check when and 8h comes.  This gives me an inside straight draw in addition to my over pair. I should have realized that his combination of hands that were open ended on the flop are limited by me holding two queens. I should have bet/folded this turn, but after my check Josh bet $40.  I call pretty quickly, trying to represent a state of mind that I am going to call down no matter what and trying to use that false tell to help my read on the river. The river is a 3, I believe, or some type of blank, and I check again; Josh quickly goes all-in for about $150, a pot size bet.

Now, I think having just one pair makes this an easy fold, but I did have to consider that Josh was steaming from losing his stack on a bad beat a couple of hands earlier, and that he was one of the players that watch me take down my first pot with disbelief on his face. This made me consider that this might be a bluff, and that a hero call was in order. But in my opinion I checked my way into this situation. I should have bet this the whole way, and folded for any raise with a confidence that one pair was beat, but instead I am questioning whether I am folding the best hand after misplaying the turn. Mental note: bet/fold for the win. Also folks, don’t hero call at these stakes. It is a losing play. We can discuss some other time what calls would be considered hero calls. Calling a pot size bet all-in would qualify in my book.

After a few hands, a short stacker sat to my direct right, and bought in for $60, was put all-in, gambled and lost. Re-bought for $40, won a small hand and now was in this hand against me. I don’t recall the pre-flop action, but I remember I squeezed with AK to get everyone else out and flip or dominate the short-stacker for about $50, but Jose would have none of it and called in position. Short stack did call all-in, and we went to the flop with $150 already in he pot.  We check it down to the river when a king hits. I bet $75, Jose says he hopes I lose and folds, and I scoop the pot. The short stack laments his luck, and everyone nods their understanding that I was probably behind until the river. He says he’s coming back but never returns. If you have to play, you have to play, but if you’re trying to give yourself the best chance a winning, don’t try to play post flop with under 100 big blinds. I’ve probably said this on the podcast many times, but if you have 100 big blinds with you, play 100 bigs. Don’t keep buying short, calling bets pre-flop and folding on the flop. I don’t buy in short stack, but perhaps I can discuss short stack cash strategy on one of my future posts.

Now the hand of the session. I’m sitting with about $600 and cover the table, but both Jose and Lewis have large stacks. I am UTG+1 and raise to $10 with 77. This is a borderline raise this early position. I was adjusting to the number of limped pots I had just witnessed, and I thought there was a good chance this bet would not be raised. After all, the only hands I had at showdown so far were QQ and AK. I felt I would get some respect pre-flop; and I did. We had four callers, and we went to the flop with $50 in the pot.

The flop is 7d 2s Kd. Bingo! I am first to act and c-bet $30. Jose and Lewis insta-call. Everyone else folds. Turn is the 4c. I bet $100 into the $140 pot. Again, Jose and Lewis insta-call. Everyone seems to be holding their breath as the river is revealed. The 3 of clubs. Now, no diamond comes so there is no flush. Did either opponent think I was bluffing with a $100 turn bet? In other words, is anyone calling with just a king here? What is the right bet size? What if someone has exactly Ad 5d? Honestly, I didn’t think deeply enough about it in game, and I bet $200. This would put Jose all in and would leave Lewis with less than $100. Jose tanked. It made me feel like I bet too much. Did he have AK and was considering a call? What’s our plan if Lewis jams?  After the tank, Jose folds and Lewis folds right away too making me think that he had the diamond draw, and we rake in the huge pot. Most of the comments from the other players at the table were about how they couldn’t believe someone would cold-call $100 on the turn and then fold the river. It’s a testament that most players are not thinking about number of big blinds and stack to pot ratios. They’re just thinking that $100 is a lot of money in $1/$2 NLHE.

Maybe I could have bet less and got a call. For example, if I bet $100 instead of $200, do I get a crying call from Jose? I don’t think Lewis is calling regardless, but what hand that we beat could be calling a pre-flop raise and then call a $200 bet on the river? Maybe only exactly AK and 22. I think $200 is super strong, and we probably only get called by 22. Lesson learned: don’t bet so much on the river when you have the field crushed.

I would love to hear your thoughts on my hand histories and your opinions about the topics I raised. Until my next session: don’t forget to feed the monster.


Posted in Hand History | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

HPT Soaring Eagle Show Notes

Post your comments about the latest episode at the Heartland Poker Tour at Soaring Eagle Casino in Mt. Pleasant. With the announcement of the Tour returning in November, will you be going to play in it or the cash games?

What did you think about either the hand where Frank had quads or where Gambit hit a straight flush?

Do you have any news to share about the charity rooms in your neighborhood? Are you surprised so many rooms have closed?

Posted in Show Notes | Leave a comment

Charity Poker and Hand of the Week

Post your comments about Caveman’s interview on charity poker here! Also, if you have thoughts about the casinos he visited in Pennsylvania and Florida, feel free to share.

What did you think of the points by Steeser on the Hand of Week? Would you have played it any different than our t-shirt winner, Bob Craft? Post your responses here.

Thanks for listening!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Biloxi Trip Show Notes

Sorry these are so late, but I know I heard from a few of you that wanted to comment on the hands from Biloxi and from Gambit’s session.  Post your comments on those hands here.

Also, have you ever been to Biloxi? What did you think of it? Would you go back? Was there anything I missed worth seeing the next time I am there.  Thanks for listening, everyone.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Flytrap PLO Strategy Episode Show Notes

What did you think of the PLO strategy from flytrap? if you have any PLO hands that you would like discussed or if you have questions about any of the concepts from the show post then here. What did you think of the Q6 hand played by Frank? Would you have played it any differently?

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

icufish and 1game Strategy Episode Show Notes

Please post your comments and questions about the latest episode here. What did you think about the advice to Gambit from Jason ‘icufish’ and Derek ‘1game’?  Did you enjoy the stories from John ‘Rumrunner’? We want to know.

Feel free to add any recommendations for future guests or Michigan artists that you would like to see featured on the show.

Posted in Game Theory, Show Notes | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First $2/$5 Session of the Year

First a warning: this is a long post but with several interesting hands.

As some of you know, I have been primarily playing the $1/$2 NLHE games in Michigan, but I do enjoy playing all the major poker variants: HORSE, Omaha, Stud, even 7-2 triple draw and Chinese Poker. I have a full time job, so my poker is recreational, but as many aspiring players, I take my play seriously and try to study and improve.  Last year was my year to prove to myself that I could play at a winning level, and after achieving my goals and amassing a small poker bankroll separate from my life roll, I felt comfortable starting this month taking shots at the $2/$5 NLHE games.

Unfortunately, there are not that many of these to go around, and certainly not near my home. The only games at the 2/5 stakes that I know run regularly within my geographic area are the games at Motor City Casino. This was then to be the venue for my first shot at those stakes this year.

I arrived after five PM at the casino, parked on level 2 and walked in without issue. I didn’t feel too emotional one way or the other, and I thought this was a good sign. I wasn’t anxious at all, and I wasn’t overly excited either. It was just like any other day going to play cards, and being conscious of this calmness made me even more confident. At the desk, I had a nice surprise. The floor was from Paraguay and after commenting on my Panamanian origins, we exchanged a few words in Spanish, and it made me feel right at home.

Granted I have been at Motor City many times before, but I am not a regular by any stretch, so this little familiarity shown to me by the floor made me feel even more at ease.  I got called by the floor very shortly to go play 1/2 while I waited for 2/5 to open, and he asked me in Spanish to get chips, and I was only happy to comply.

My 1/2 game was nothing like any other 1/2 MCC game I had ever played.  Usually all the players are super nitty and playing only pocket pairs for the bad beat. You’re lucky if you get one bad gambler at the table. There was not just one bad gambling player at the table, there were three.  And they had the table spinning with their loose play and hitting big hands and playing for huge pots every orbit. It almost made me want to stay and not go to 2/5, but I was on a mission, and I wasn’t going to change my plans now.

Coincidentally, I sat down at the table to the left of one of the qualifiers that I had met in Battle Creek last week at the Mid-States Poker Tour. He is a friendly sort of fellow, and reminds me a lot of fellow player, Steeser (although Steeser’s game is way stronger). I also got a hello from one of my recent guests on the Michigan Poker Monster, 1game. He was grinding away at the 1/2 table next to mine, and I could see that he had a stack of about $300 in front of him. He shook my hand and made some friendly jokes. Very cool guy. Look for him to do some strategy in our next podcast.

Although my table was very good, I could not find any good spots to value bet, and got called down light on continuation bets multiple times, and before I knew it an hour had passed, and I was down $113 (I kept topping up because of all the huge stacks at the table) and was finally called to the 2/5 game. I had not won a hand since I sat down, so the night was not starting off too well. I knew I had to run good early, because I had only planned to play till about nine o’clock. I live about an hour from the casino and had plans for the next day and didn’t want to stay out late.

To my delight, I got seated two to the left of my friend and strategy contributor to the show, Pay4MySchool. He acknowledged me as I sat down, and we exchanged pleasantries over text messages. He seemed to have close to a starting stack, and was up maybe 8 big blinds if he was on his first buy-in. I had decided that I would have a two buy-in stop loss that night, so I was pretty comfortable topping up at any point. I started my shot at 2/5 with the max $500 buy-in.

I was immediately informed that this was a must move table for the other two 2/5 tables running. I could tell the table was not as good as the one I had been at earlier. There was tighter play, a lot more bluffs, especially by short stacks that kept getting snapped off by made hands.  Just a couple of hands come my way while Pay4MySchool is at the table.

The first one it folded to me in middle position, and I raise to $20 with QTdd. The player to my left that had me covered and was wearing headphones raises me to $50. Everyone folds, and I quickly fold as well. He doesn’t show, but he seems really comfortable, and I wonder if he was testing me to see what I would do against a 3-bet. That’s what we always think, but most of the time, they have a big hand there. Question is, does he ever do that with AK or AQ? Does he only do it with QQ, KK and AA? How about JJ? That’s the type of information you have to try to observe, especially from the players that seem fairly competent.  Until they show me otherwise though, I usually give them credit.

The next hand, I am under the gun with AQhh, and I raise to $15. It must have been too small a bet, because three players called before a short stack with $150 shoves all-in. I fold with action behind me, and the player all-in gets called. He loses to A6ss and mucks without showing. At least now I know some people are willing to call my raises light.

A few people have been busting out, and Pay4MySchool gets moved to one of the main games. The replacement players were great for the game. One of them was a drunk guy who kept slowing down the game by talking on his cell phone during hands. To my delight, one of the crazy gamblers from the 1/2 table I was at gets moved to my table. Unfortunately he is two to my left, and this proved to be a pain during the session.

Once this new table composition was set, chips started flying. There were several huge pots between the gambling guy and the drunk guy, where they traded stacks a couple of times. The drunk guy was not only drunk, he was terrible, calling off huge bets with weak pairs and weak kickers. He was obviously too drunk or too bad to hand read very well.

The table is so fascinated by all this loose play that they are hardly paying attention to anyone else. I know this because after losing those two hands earlier, I have been card dead and have just been folding orbit after orbit. I set mine once with a small pocket pair and miss, but otherwise, everyone could have noticed that I was playing super tight. Just like in 1/2, however, no one is paying attention.

Then there is a raise to $20 by the drunk guy, the guy to my right, who turns out to be a loose player, calls the bet. I look down at two black kings, and decide to make it $120. This is why I think no one has been paying attention to me. Guy to my left is short, and he shoves for less. Gambling guy calls the $120 and so do three more guys. There is a side pot, and about $500 in the main pot. Flop is Qx 4c 2c. It checks to me, and I shove my remaining $375. Everyone else folds so I win the side pot. Guy to my left and I flip up our hands, and he has AA. I can’t believe it. Board bricks out, and I am down about $25 now.

I keep folding hands and watching gambling guy and drunk guy go back and forth.  Also guy to my left flops a straight when he squeezes a straddled pot with 35cc, turns a flush draw and lose a big pot to the guy on my right who ends up with a bigger flush on the river.  Then I get AA in early position. I raise to $15, I get 6 callers, and flop is QQ5. Drunk guy bets about 2/3 pot from small blind, and I have to fold with a ton of action behind me left to play. Everyone folds to drunk guy. The play seemed so weak by me, but I am not sure what else I could have done with four people behind me. I probably should raise more pre-flop. What do you guys think?

Eventually, drunk guy starts to get frustrated and gets felted by gambling guy. Drunk guy re-buys for the third time for $200 now. He raises from MP to $30 (standard for him). Guy to my right thinks and calls. I look down at KK in the cut off this time.  I want to thin the field a little more this time, so I make it $150. Guy to my left folds, and gambling guy in SB tanks. I am guessing he has something good. Maybe JJ or TT? He decides to just call. Everyone folds, but drunk guy just calls (???) with $50 behind. Guy to my right also tanks but decides to fold.

Flop is something like J 7 3 rainbow, super dry and very good for me. Gambling guy checks, drunk guy checks, I think for a second and shove. Gambling guy asks for a count, then calls pretty quickly. Drunk guy looks at the board, looks at the pot and finally throws in his last $50. Guy to my right says he folded JT, which makes me feel a lot better. I thought gambling guy might have JJ in his range. Board runs out T, T and I get shipped the pot. Guy to my right is losing his mind, as he would have boated up. Gambling guy shows QJhh (he actually picked up heart draw on the turn), and drunk guy just mucks and leaves.

I am now sitting with over $1,150, and I’m loving 2/5.  Would have been a lot more if I could have avoided the earlier cooler. 2/5 turns out to be not much different from bad 1/2 play, but more aggressive and more bluffing. I only really play one more hand before leaving at 9 PM when I lose about $90 with AK on a TT88K board.  I cash out with $1,058, up $358 for the night counting my 1/2 losses.

It was an encouraging start at 2/5. I am definitely going to keep playing these stakes until I hit a down swing, or I am ready to move up again. I have to say some of the the 5/10 regs that night sounded like just a bunch of whiners (their table was next to ours), so I’m not sure I’m going to enjoy that jump up.

Let me know if you’re also taking any shots at higher stakes recently, or if you play 2/5 and find my hand histories standard or out of the ordinary. Would be interested to hear others’ perspective on this level of play.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments