Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Vegas Poker Report: II

I know: you're all desperate to hear more poker stories. The response to the last post has been overwhelming. The letters, the phone calls, the emails. The telegraphs. It's almost too much. Thank you! Thank you all! I'm just glad I could make so many of you happy.

Anyway, because I promised I would, here's more of the Vegas trip.

* * *

Sunday night I won again, mostly because I was fortunate enough to make a set of Queens on a board of AKQ against an opponent who had AQ. She folded her hand on the river after deciding her two pair was beat, but at that point she had already put several hundred dollars into the pot.

The next day, Monday, started at Caesar's. I was fortunate (sort of) to be seated at a huge action table. A Middle Eastern gentleman was raising nearly every pot preflop, running over the table with a super-aggressive style and a lot of bravado. He fit a certain kind of stereotype; he had his shirt unbuttoned almost to his navel; he wore a number of gold chains, he threw around a lot of cash (at one point in the session he had thirty hundred-dollar bills in his stack) and he had a temper. He was also not afraid to call, bet, or raise with any two cards. His whole game, in fact, was about proving that he wasn't afraid. It's a common trait with men of certain cultural backgrounds. What they care about most at a table is not winning money, or playing 'smart', it's proving to themselves and everyone else that they aren't afraid. Sammy Farha is a variation of this type player.

And when they're getting hands, they are very hard to play against, because you never know what cards they're holding. An example: early on in this session I found myself in middle position with 88. Two players had already limped in ahead of me and I decided to do the same. Angry Middle Eastern Man had yet to act--he was in the small blind--and I felt fairly certain he would raise it (as he did 4/5 of the time) when the action got around to him. I was planning to call a medium size raise if enough people were in the pot and hopw to flop a set.

Of course that's not what happened. Five people called and when it got to Angry Middle Eastern Man he raised All-in. (!?) He had around 900$ in front of him, and he was betting that into a pot that held about 30$. Everyone folded, and it got back to me. Now, this seems like an obvious fold. Even if he has AK, I'm not a big favorite. Typically, in a cash game, optimum strategy dictates you avoid playing coin flips for large amounts of cash. The thing is, against this guy--and this guy only--88 was likely to be a pretty large favorite. He could have literally any two cards--he'd made a similar move a few hands earlier and shown J2. Still, I didn't want to risk it. What if this was the time he had Kings? (Well, he didn't have Kings. He'd try to get more value out of kings). I folded, thinking I'd wait for a better spot. A late-position player called; he only had 200$ in chips and he held AQ; I thought it was a good call. It turned out to be a great call when AMEM tabled A7. Of course you know what happened: a seven peeled off on the flop, and late-position player went bust. Had I called, I would have doubled up.

About an hour later I played the biggest hand of my day--hell, of my week. UTG, I found myself looking at KK. Oh joyous day, calloo, callay. Counting on AMEM to raise for me (he was on the button) I limped in. A few players also limped until it got to AMEM who, true to form, raised the pot to 45.00$. Thinking I'd take the pot down right there, I reraised to 120.00$. Everyone folded to AMEM who, naturally, called. (When you fear no one, you never fold. Folding is for the weak--those who lack machismo).

The flop came: A 9 4. And I was sore afraid. Of COURSE there was an Ace--the card every player holding KK dreads. At this point I had about 450.00$ in front of me, certainly too much to just shove it all in there and hope that AMEM missed. I checked. Without even thinking about it, AMEM says he's all-in.

Well, damn. What does that mean? Simple: either he has an Ace, or he knows I don't have an Ace.

I sat back, considering. Was it possible he had an Ace? Of course. Hell, he could have 9-4 and have just made two pair. The more important question is if he'd had an Ace, would he really bet so much? There's only about 250.00$ in the pot. He's just bet his entire stack (really my entire stack) into that pot (about 450.00$). That's a significant overbet. Wouldn't he try to get some value out of his hand if he had an Ace?

The MOST important question: what does he think I have? Based on my preflop actions (the limp reraise), he has to put me on one of about three hands: AA, KK, or QQ. If I have AA, he knows an all-in bet like this is idiotic, but if I have either of the other two, it's probably going to scare me. (And it has). He's seen how tightly I've played for the last two hours. I've folded almost every hand I've had. And look at me! A quiet, pale, white guy with glasses and headphones. I may as well have a pocket protector. I sure look like the kind of player who's going to fold to a big bet unless I hold the stone-cold nuts.

The thing is, I know he knows that. I know my image so far, and I know that any decent player (and though crazy, AMEM is not stupid) is going to try to exploit what he perceives to be my weaknesses. This kind of bet would never work on HIM, but it might work on me.

It might, it might. ("But time will not relent.") But after I think about it for a minute (while the table sits in expectant silence) I decide it's much more likely he's on a steal than holding an Ace. Somewhat ruefully, like a man taking off his pants in a crowded station ( I call. Before I even show my hand, he says "good call." Huzzah! Blood rushes through my head. I sing and dance (quietly, palely, whitely). I never get to see his hand (he tells me he has a small pocket pair), but when I show my kings I say "it was a good bet; I almost folded." He says "it was a better call."

And you know what? He's right: it WAS a good call. (It was also a HUGE rush. For the next hour I feel like I'd just parachuted off of a bridge). Yes, it's an obvious bluffing opportunity. Yes, every piece of evidence did point to AMEM being on a steal. But you know what--it's still a hard call (at least, at this point in my poker career). Even if I fold to his bet, I'm ahead for the session. That kind of reasoning SHOULDN'T enter into one's calculations, but it usually does.

The thing is, if bitches want to play me, they're gonna get got. I look meek, I don't talk a lot, and I usually fold. That whole image sets me up as someone who's easy to bluff out of pots, and probably I usually am. But that doesn't mean I'm some kind of punk, you know. Hell no. HELLS NO.

Cue: Wu-Tang Clan, pistol shots, the smashing of empty St. Ives' bottles on the pavement. Mayhem.


Seb said...

I have to wait for everyone else to comment on the poker stuff because I am such a weak player. I sure do enjoy your posts on the subject, though.

Bryan Guilliams said...

I enjoyed the posts very much, as well. Had I not the memory of an impotent goldfish, I would draw insightful parallels to my own hands at Foxwoods last week, but I can barely recall the name of the state I was in (New Vermontachusetts).

Anonymous said...

Foxwoods, eh? I have never played poker there--seems odd given that I lived in Boston for a number of years, back in the Cleveland Era. I hope it went well.

Glad to hear someone's reading these posts. I feel like I'm talking to the tumbleweeds, mostly. And my imaginary computerized parrot, Andy.-

Cartooniste said...

I think next time you should wear your pocket protector...

Anonymous said...

Great call, TL. With that flop, and that bet, my balls shrivel up and I fold with a nasal sigh within about 5 seconds (TJ).