Saturday, November 26, 2011

Poker Paranoia

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.
-- Kurt Cobain

It's 4pm on Friday at the South Point Casino in Las Vegas and I am playing $1/$2 NL Holdem. The table is mainly full of locals who are over the age of 50 and clearly know each other and likely have played thousands of hands together. At the table is this one out-of town kid who really sticks out. He has long curly hair and the word fish written on his forehead. I expected him to be hyper-aggressive and to my surprise he was extremely tight and spent most of his time observing and writing down notes on the action unfolding.

Wearing my over sized bose headset, a green cap and a green angry bird "King Pig" shirt I sat down and bought in for $300.

To be honest, I can't play no limit cash games anymore. I am a losing player statistically. Why? They bore me incredibly. I look back at the days that I was grinding $1/$2 at the MGM on Saturdays and cant imagine where I got the patience from. I made a decent profit playing a tight aggressive action Dan style. Maybe the novelty of being able to make a regular profit from a game kept me content. Maybe it was because I never tasted the thrill and excitement of climbing into the depths of a tournament as a force to be reckoned with.

Tournament poker forced me to evolve from tight play. In low limit cash games you win money by waiting. It's really quite easy. In tournaments you do not have the luxury to wait. You have to get those chips. You have to be good at small ball poker, understanding your opponent and most importantly being aware of how you are perceived.

So at this table I just can't sit. Pre-flop pots are averaging $8. My plan? Give up a lot of pre-flop equity in exchange for post-flop equity. I did this by raising 5x approximately 50% of the hands. It doesn't take long until everyone opens their range up and we start seeing 5 way flops with $50 pots. Post-flop I played more cautiously, trying to take down 1/4 pots with air, and getting some serious equity from people who had marginal holdings when I had a decent hand.

Within 90 minutes I made over $500,but the only friend I made was the fish dude that sat to my right. I was not rude or even chatty, always tipped the dealer but I was despised. It twists peoples hearts to see you turn up a 53 when the board is Q33 and they flat called you pre with AQ, thinking that your big loose aggressive bets are just going to jump in their stacks...I really don't get joy out of upsetting people. I do not enjoy the fact that I am disliked, but I am not there to make friends. I am there to win every body's chips because that is the goal of the game. Or at least that is the game in a tournament! A lot of these guys are there hoping to limp in to a few hundred flops hoping to hit a house jackpot. They don't like seeing the flop for $10. They don't like me for making it $10 with a huge range of hands.

It was about time things were working out for me. Since my last blog I had been on a real bad run. Earlier that day within 4 hands I had busted out of the opening event of the World Poker Tour 5-Diamond Classic held at the Bellagio. How did that happen? Small pre-flop war, I flop a set of Queens and villain flops a set of Kings. Thank you for playing.

I headed down to the South Point and bought in for a $60 turbo. I ran up a great stack, and got it all in with Aces up against another big stack who called with his Ace. The board paired and I got cripplefitted.

But now I am at profit, my game is on, people are calling my made hands and folding to my bluffs and semi-bluffs.

I'm seated #8 and seat #3 across from me has the next biggest stack with about $650. He looks like a biker but has been playing even tighter than the rest of the table. When the #9 seat left he quickly took it. I should have taken that move as a compliment, that he wanted to get out of my way after I acted, instead I took it as a threat, that he wanted to have position on me to teach me a lesson. My suspicion was reinforced after a few hands went by and he 3-bet my $10 raise. I folded.

The very next hand is when it happened. This is where I become a serious donkey.

Notable Hand:

I have 66 in the cut-off and I have 2 limpers before me.

I raise to $12.

Why? Because I'm raising everything. They have no idea what the hell I have and if I hit a set its gonna hopefully be payday.

Biker dude 3-bets me again to $30! Everyone folds and I decide to flat call and see the flop and see what I can work with, especially since I suspect he has opened his range up to fight me. The flop comes Q92 rainbow. I check and he lays out a pot sized bet. It didn't make sense to me. If he had AQ or better why would he bet so big after I have shown so much weakness, flat calling and checking. Why wouldn't he have made it a thinner bet to get some value possibly? What do I do when things don't make sense to me. I raise... to $150. He calls. Shit. Would he call a check-raise with AQ or worse? Could he have Kings? The turn is an Ace, and I convinced myself he has KK or is bluffing. I feel the way I have played my hand could easily be interpreted as AQ and a shove here would reinforce that.

I shove all-in.

He tanks for like 5 minutes and at one point I really think he is going to fold. He asks me if I have AQ and I think to myself ...Yes! The Jedi mind trick worked!... He then calls and promptly turns over pocket 9s.

Yeah right, he was bluffing me. The dude played super tight all day. He probably moved to my left because he was afraid of me. I swear I almost got him to fold a set of 9s. I don't know why I thought he had it out for me. I guess I did a good job representing AQ. Ha! It sucks when the hand you are trying to pretend you have is beat!

The look on the faces of the old dudes after I turned up my 6's was priceless.

So the run of bad cards gets complemented by stupid. And so what is my lesson to learn? Feel free to post...


  1. I guess my reaction is: why are you playing in that 1/2 nl game at all? If you were playing to win money as a goal, I think the best approach in such a game would be to just wait for people to make mistakes and then to straightforwardly exploit them. Since my guess is that you are playing for fun or to test yourself and your cleverness, why not play in a higher limit game where some of the players will no doubt be better and will think on different levels and thus you can enjoy yourself by matching wits with them?

  2. You need to blog more often- love the poker posts and as a fellow professional (just not a doctor, I'm in Software) poker 'hobbyist', it's great to hear how you are doing and what's up in Vegas.