My post back in February detailed a rough downswing but promised that after a couple months I’d have some money put aside again and I’d be back at the tables. Well, it’s been a couple months. Obviously the WSOP goal can’t happen this year because the event is already over, but it’s never too early to start practicing for next year, and I still love this game. Our setting this time is not the classic Borgata of Atlantic City but instead the newly built and booming Maryland Live!(yes the exclamation mark is part of the name). It is located in a spot that draws many of the players from DC, Baltimore, and Annapolis.
In my previous two posts I played 10/20, but for the purposes of rebuilding a bankroll, starting that high would be impulsive at best and suicidal at average. Yesterday I sat a 4/8 game. My general guidelines are to buy in to a game for 20 big bets(the second number of the game) but 200 is a more round number than 160, so that was my starting point. My expectation, as usual, is to make somewhere between two and three big bets per hour at the table, so in this case my goal should be 16-20 per hour. To remind everyone of the score after the two previous sessions I posted about on this blog I was down $287 over 8 hours of play.
I arrived at 10am and was seated immediately which is always nice. No one at the table really stood out. There were no monster stacks of chips, no piles of empty beer bottles and red bull cans, no rumpled business suits with ties undone. One of the better reasons to arrive early is to try to catch the night crowd from the previous day when they’re exhausted and playing their worst, but everyone here looked like they’d slept the night before.
It only took one hand for the fish to show their colors. One gentleman in particular, wearing a CIA windbreaker, drew my attention as he passively checked and called with a terrible hand for the rest of his money. Instead of leaving he bought back in for 50(a buy in which is way too small for this table) and it was clear he had a lot more left in his wallet. He repeated the process of going broke through passive play and pairing it with a small buy in twice more in the next half hour. People who continuously make small buy instead of just putting their money on the table are often trying to delude themselves into exactly how much they are risking. “I only bought in for 50 a couple times, that’s much less risky than buying in for 200 all at once,” is the thought process when truthfully they end up losing more because they rarely keep an accurate count of exactly what they’re down.
I won’t recount any hands with him because they were all straightforward and dull. If I got a hand I knew I could bet every single card and he would pay me off with whatever he had. He rarely raised and virtually never folded. This style of poker is what you should play if you want to guarantee a loss. Loose and aggressive at least has the advantages of getting other people to fold and building big pots for you to win if you get lucky. Loose and passive will allow everyone to hit their draws on you and even if you win it will be for a small amount. Loose passive players are also known as ‘calling stations’ and before this guy left I had gone up around $80 at his expense. Not a bad start at all, and I was sorry to see him finally leave the table.
His replacement was one of the sort who gives a running commentary on everything that happens. Dealer change, better tell everyone. Waitress hasn’t come by often enough, better tell everyone. Waitress has come by and is attractive, better tell everyone and hit on her in an incredibly awkward way despite being old enough to be her grandfather. I had my headphones turned up before he even played a hand so I didn’t have to pay attention.
After his second hand he started yelling at the dealer over a minor mistake. Was the loudmouth right? Yes, but he needed to narrate his own correctness with the maximum amount of asshattery thrown in. Thankfully he didn’t stay for more than 30 minutes before getting called for a different game, during that time a dry run of cards started for me and I never was in the same hand with him.
This dry run of cards was distinctly different from the dry run that hit me back in February. That dry run included a bunch of second place hands. Second place hands cost a lot of money. What I got yesterday was a run of last place hands. People don’t lose much money on hands like 7♦4♠ and 10♣3♣ because there’s little reason to get in the pot in the first place. Folding before the flop costs little and that’s what I did for the next two hours or so. This has the effects of draining my stack back down to around $20 of profit and getting me to repeat, “Just don’t do anything stupid,” over and over in my head. The right cards will come, just don’t do anything rash to lose your stack beforehand.
While my cold streak is going, we have Red Shirt come sit at the table. I labeled him this because he was wearing a red shit and like the star trek trope, he would be the one to take the fall so that the rest of us could make it out safely. Before he sat down he was complaining about getting beaten up at a no limit game. This is great because people who are already down tend to make poor decisions, and there’s a view among some no limit players that fixed limit is poker in easy mode and they can simply switch games to make up what they lost. I’ve made a lot of money off of people with that attitude. Sure enough he starts playing wild and tries to run over people with bets, which is something that’s much easier to do at no limit as opposed to fixed limit.
I’ve been at the table for four hours and I’m up a bit, but less than where my hourly rate goal would put me. Red Shirt is getting close to all in and I’m in the big blind with 10♥9♦. Two people limp and Red Shirt bets, the small blind calls, and since I’m pretty sure the two early limpers will also call, I decide it’s worth me putting two more dollars into the $18 pot. The flop comes Q♦J♦4♠. I have an open ended straight draw which I will make roughly 25% of the time. It gets checked to Red Shirt who bets $4. I call(4 is less than 25% of 22 so it’s mathematically correct), and two other players call. The turn is the K♠, I have made my straight. I would have preferred the 8 because the K means an A10 has a better straight than I do, but it’s still pretty likely I have the best hand here. I am absolutely certain Red Shirt will bet, so I should just check and then raise him when he does so.
He behaves just like I want him to, betting $8. I raise to $16, one other player calls and Red Shirt calls which puts him all in. The call from the other player makes me pretty certain they have a flush draw, so I’m hoping no diamonds or spades hit. The river is a 6♥, pretty much the ideal card for me, no flush and no paired board so no full house. I bet and the one other player thinks a while and calls. I turn over my straight, the other player turns over Q♣2♣(I have no idea what they were doing), and Red Shirt turns over J♣J♠ for three of a kind. I’m happy to scoop the 86$ pot and Red Shirt starts cussing up a storm as he reaches for money to rebuy.
They’d been pretty vocal throughout the session and nothing drowns out a player complaining quite like the sound of stacking up their chips in front of you. The dealer calls the floor supervisor over and I look up because the hand is done, there’s nothing to really discuss. The dealer tells the supervisor the player was swearing at her. I honestly don’t know, the player was certainly cussing but I wasn’t paying much attention. The floor supervisor pulled Red Shirt to the side and chatted with them. I bring this up because a place that protects their dealers is absolutely a place that has earned my respect and repeat business.
When Red Shirt sits back down it is clear he’s absolutely fuming and starts playing any two cards as aggressively as he can. At the same time CIA jacket comes back after being gone several hours and buys back in. As long as I get some playable cards I know I can make a killing with the current table dynamic. I get AA twice, 99 four times(I don’t win them all but it was still statistically weird) and some great ace high flushes. These were cards I probably would have won with even if Red Shirt and CIA jacket weren’t making every pot about twice as big as it ordinarily should have been.
I’m up over$200 after some great exploitative play and feeling great about the table. One of the other major differences between no limit and fixed limit is the value in bluffing, there isn’t much in fixed limit. It still can be done, but you have to pick your spot carefully, and the final hand I’m going to run down here was a place I picked to try to make a move.
I’m dealt A♥K♦ in the big blind. It’s a complete coincidence both hands I’m talking about come from me in the big blind, it isn’t generally a position I like much. A pretty aggressive player in an Orioles hat raises to $4 and the small blind raises to $6. A raise from the small blind means he has a great hand, a solid pocket pair or a strong ace. In the big blind I really could have anything, so to disguise the strength of my hand I just call, and so does the Oriole. The flop comes 7♣5♣2♦, not an exciting board at all. The small blind checks. If a player three bets preflop and then checks on the flop it means they completely missed or absolutely nailed the flop. It is unlikely he his strong since he would need to have 77, 55, or 22 and I don’t think he would have raised to $6 with any of those so it makes much more sense that he has a strong ace, missed the flop, and doesn’t want to bluff with two people still to act behind him.
I decide this would be a great time for me to make a play, so I raise. I’m only kind of bluffing here because although I don’t have much, there is a good chance I have the best hand. Oriole thinks for a moment and hesitantly calls, this confirms my thought that I’m probably in the lead, or at least that I can pick up this hand. Small blind also calls. I’m not thrilled with both of them sticking around, but neither seem happy. The turn is the 8♥. Small blind checks again. I bet $8 making certain to take the exact same amount of time I took after the flop. Oriole gives me and the small blind a questioning look. My position is helping me here because Oriole has to worry about what small blind might do, eventually both players call.
The river is a 3♦. Only a really awkward straight could have made anything out of this board. Small blind checks and picks up his cards in a way he has done in several other hands when he’s ready to fold. I’m certain even if he calls I have him beat and all that remains is getting Oriole out. I bet $8 a little more quickly this time and Oriole takes maybe a minute to look back and forth between small blind and I. I think if it was just Oriole and I then he would call, but the danger of that third player is nagging at him in a way it certainly isn’t with me. Oriole lays it down and small blind folds immediately afterward. I do not show the bluff, I rarely show my cards when I don’t have to and I certainly wasn’t ruining the tight table image I had crafted.
Afterwards, Oriole claims he had 99. I don’t believe him, if he had a pair that was higher than anything on the board I’m almost certain he makes that call. If he was telling the truth then my analysis of the situation is even better in using my read of the small blind as extra strength against Oriole. I think he may have had AQ or possibly another AK though. Either way it was a hand that felt truly fantastic to win.
It was 7.5 hours into the session but I didn’t want to leave because Red Shirt was still there and paying me handsomely for the pleasure of my company. Eventually he busted again and CIA jacket had already left. With the two biggest fish of the table gone it seemed like a good time for me to make for the exit as well. I left up with $526(+$326), an obscene amount of profit for that stake. My expected winnings for 7.5 hours of 4/8 should be 125-175 and I made double that. What should be 2-3 BB/hour was instead over 8 which I know is not a sustainable win rate. Over the session my cards were roughly average, that dry spell certainly seemed long though, but the win was largely because of several players who truly had a hatred for money.
I think I played better than average, but I know I played way better than the majority of that table and I was thrilled to leave with what is suddenly a poker bankroll again. The current score for the year is +$39 over 15.5 hours. Now that I have a bankroll again I’m going to try to turn this into a weekly session and if Maryland Live! has these kind of players every Tuesday and since they demonstrated they treat their dealers with respect they’ll almost certainly see me again on the 22nd.
As always, questions, comments, and concerns are welcome. Answers are guaranteed.