First off, I’m really beyond tired of this snow b.s. that’s plagued this never-ending winter for us east coasters. Supposedly we’re getting another 6-10 inches tonight, and it’s freaking March. If it weren’t for my family, friends, Maryland Live!, and hesitance to tackle things that require a shitload of moving and hassle, I would probably opt to live in California. Maybe in another life.
Anyways, as usual in January and February my interest in poker is sort of in a lukewarm phase as it is every year. I can’t really explain it, it’s just sort of carried over from December usually when I’m decreasing my hours and trying to take some time out to enjoy other things in life more. However, it’s not to say that I stopped thinking about the game or trying to learn more about it. I think in the past couple of months with playing much more short handed on Bovada I’ve definitely gained something from playing against all sorts of opponents, some much looser and more aggressive than others, and perhaps started figuring out ways to not only counter their strategy, but to take parts of theirs and weave it into my own. The nerdy kid in me that grew up loving Transformers automatically associates tweaking parts of my game with the Construticons, the Decepticon group of engineers and builders who form together to make a powerful juggernaut of a machine, Devastator.
^that’s a metaphorical representation of my poker game, accumulated through millions of hands against players more skilled than I, but not without me at least trying to learn something from them and try to apply it to my own. It’s important to remind myself that I can learn from bad players, too, as in how they think, and more importantly, why their play in various spots is incorrect.
Now that it’s March, it means the WSOP is just around the corner again, and suddenly the insatiable desire for more knowledge, more advanced strategy, higher levels of thinking and focus, and the urge to compete and succeed is like a raging furnace. Not that I’m looking to be playing in many tournaments, if any at all, besides the Main Event, but just something about summer and Vegas and poker always brings back some of the best memories of my life. I secretly love that grinders and zillas alike gather from all corners of the world in one city to play poker, and that as for cash games, I get to challenge myself and play against other pros and see if I can destroy them. Maybe it sounds kind of twisted now that I put it on paper but it’s always been that competitive drive in me that forces me to be better and get better as a player, same as it was before with basketball or music. Historically I also have a very solid record at the Bellagio (knock on fucking wood), so I guess that helps the confidence a bit as well.
This is several months overdue and comes at a shock even to myself, but for the first time in a while I’m going to reveal some hand histories that I thought were interesting spots, and my thought process during that time. Luckily I remember these like they were yesterday still so I can still transcript them accurately. These are during last summer at the Bellagio:
I’m well into my session and doing extremely well, which certainly wasn’t the case for me the first week or so of my trip. I was locked in and comfortable, and finally attained the ever-elusive “zone” where every action seems to happen in slow motion and the right decisions find their way into my thoughts, and all my creative energy reserve is pumping. I’m in UTG+3 and open to $140 with:
My cards: 6c-5c
Folds to some assy British dude, 40s, thin, looks like he has played some before, probably a tournament background mostly, and he 3bs to $400 on the button. Action is folded back to me, and I peer over at his array of stacks and cash somewhat haphazardly piled in front of him and ask him about how much he’s playing.
“About eight thousand and change,” was his reply in a distinct English accent, while subtly giving a nonchalant shrug of the shoulders that was supposed to indirectly imply strength to me, which I of course read as slightly weak. Though this isn’t always a defend for me, and of course sometimes I would consider a 4b bluff, I decided to call out of position as I felt I could make better decisions than my opponent post-flop.
7-5-2 rainbow, one club
I check and call his continuation bet of $440. So far, pretty standard stuff as I would be doing this with pretty much my entire range of hands that continues.
I check, (obviously this is a less than ideal card for us and our perceived range) and observe my opponent slide out $920. When I’m honed in I think I can sort of sense when someone has it or not, and when I’m out of focus I really don’t know what’s going on, but luckily, at this time, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he wasn’t particularly strong. It’s hard to explain, but I guess in the moment it makes sense. Something about the way he counted out the bills and how he put them across the felt just told me he wasn’t even happy about making this bet, it was more of something of an obligation because he read somewhere that when you 3b and cbet and an A comes on the turn, you should bet again. I also thought back to my initial read of him holding less than premiums preflop, and how he wasn’t the kind of player who was capable of value betting TT-KK in this spot when the A peels, so when you put it all together he’s really capped at Ax mostly. I decided if indeed he had a naked A, I would need to rep better and put him to a decision for his stack with an implicating turn raise (with an impending river bet clouding his mind obv), and check-raised to $2340. He deliberated for a little bit, shot me a look, and threw his cards in the muck. Not the most interesting or most complex hand, but definitely a confidence boost at the time that my reads were on.
I had just sat down about an hour ago, and picked up some small pots here and there when this hand came up. Action folded to me in the cutoff, and I raised it to $120 with
My cards: Qd-Jd
A middle aged Vietnamese grinder, who played fairly solid and erred on the side of nitty/cautious, 3b to $400 on the button. Action folded back to me and I made the call, both of us around $10k effective.
(by the way I just noticed the first two hands I am defending a 3b out of position vs a button raise)
J-5-4 rainbow, one spade, one diamond
I checked and called his bet of $600, though I did take note that with his image and fairly tight preflop range there was a decent chance my hand was no good.
Turn: 6s ($2070)
I checked, and he continued with a bet of $1400. At this point I actually didn’t think my hand was good, nor did I necessarily want to turn it into a bluff since it would be quite expensive and would require some pretty big ammunition. Besides, nits tend to get extremely stubborn with their overpairs in my experience, directly correlating to how much money they’ve already invested into the pot. Something inside me clicked while I was studying the board and realized a new alternative to winning the hand: call and lead the multitude of shitty river cards for him. This way it’s more credible I completed my hand, and he’ll have less money invested and therefore less incentive to call again. I’m definitely no math wizard, but I do know there are a lot of cards on the river that he’s going to puke on.
River: ($4870) 8s
Beautiful runout. Now the board has run out J-5-4-6-8 with 3 spades. To dissuade any sort of curious calling I hit him with a large barrel of ass to the tune of $4k, realizing this is how I would play all my hands that got to the river in this manner that are greater than one pair (his perceived range), and realizing that he knew that I knew he was never betting this river. He groaned and agonized for a good two minutes, but finally rechecked his cards a few more times before pitching them in.
This particular hand was probably my favorite of the trip, perhaps one of my best personal best hands I’ve ever played. It occurred during a somewhat assy session where it had been several hours in and nothing much was going on for me, and the game wasn’t very good. It was short as some people were up from the table, and folded to the button, a young white guy grinder who opens to $120. I look down in the SB and find:
My cards: Ks-Js
I don’t always 3b here, but when I do, I drink Dos Equis. Sike. I 3b to $420, and as soon as I did, I noticed the bb, a similarly young white guy grinder looking type, not fold immediately and was shuffling his chips. All three of us were $10k effective, and I began to detect some re-thievery was on his agenda. He cold 4bs to $960, and the button folded. I considered 5b as a bluff, but again, decided to keep my flatting range wide and the pot smaller before the flop and not get into as many of the pre-flop monkey wars that are so prevalent nowadays. It would be painful to have him send it in on me with an Ax blocker or whatever assy shit he had, thereby nullifying any postflop edge I may have on him. Heads up we saw:
3-4-6 with two diamonds, one club
This being a 4b pot with a BTN/SB/BB dynamic makes for a far more perplexing set of ranges. I studied the flop a bit before I came up with the following plan: if I went with my original read preflop that there was a decent chance he was just cold 4bing with a Ax or Kx blocker and therefore wasn’t that strong, I would hit him with some ass and induce some mistakes. If he had a pair, he’s far more likely to call, and if he has a pair, it’s probably going to be 99+, which means on a 5, diamond, 7, 2, overcards, or any combination of other whacky runouts I can run a multi-barrel bluff to force him to fold one pair.
I led small, $700, and really tried to focus now on his reaction. My initial sense was that he hated that I led into him, and now he was trying to figure out what to do about it since it clearly had taken him out of his comfort zone. He deliberated for a while and finally raised to $2400. I thought and clicked it back on him to $4100, to which he immediately folded in disgust. Uncharacteristically (I pretty much never show bluffs since I think it’s poor sportsmanship usually) I turned up my hand without saying a word and dragged the pot. His face turned beet red, and some people across the table looked shocked and started chuckling. I guess at this point I started to feel bad since I didn’t want the attention and definitely didn’t want to embarrass him necessarily, but in the moment I felt like since I had been such a non-factor all day I had to let him know he wasn’t playing with a scrub, and his assiness would not be tolerated.
So this entry turned out to be a lot longer than I expected, and it’s getting late so I’m going to have to retreat to bed. Stay tuned for more updates soon (and possibly more hand histories?)