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.

About Frank Panama

Frank Panama is the host of the Michigan Poker Monster podcast, a podcast about Michigan poker. He lives in Saint Clair County, Michigan, and loves to play and talk about poker.
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