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.