Sunday, October 30, 2011

I'm an Asshole??? Really?

Although it says in the “about me” section of this blog that I love playing low limit poker and I love Vegas, this story involves neither subject directly.  In fact it involves playing No Limit poker right here in the Southern California area.  Lately I have been expanding my poker repertoire to include both No Limit tournaments and No Limit cash games.  And from both personal observation and things I’ve heard online, mostly at the great website,, I thought that the relatively low buy-in No Limit games at the local card rooms here might be profitable.

So yesterday I found myself at the Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens, CA.  After busting out of the nooner forty buck tournament fairly quickly (totally card dead), I looked over at one of the $1/$3 games and after debating with myself for some time, decided to give it a try.  I’ve already played in what passes for a $1/$2 No Limit game at these local clubs.  They limit the buy in to $40, both minimum and maximum (except at The Bike, where you can buy in for all of $60 if you’re feeling particularly adventurous).  These games actually play “smaller” than the 2/4 Limit games I play in Vegas.  And between the rake and the fact that no one has any real money on the table, you can’t possibly make any money at this level.  Even though the players at these games are truly donkeys (i.e., really bad players) it doesn’t matter, you can’t possible win any money, even if you’re the best player at the table, which it is almost impossible not to be.    

So I was hoping at the slightly bigger game, the players would still be weak but there might be enough money out there to make it worthwhile playing.  They actually call the game “$80/$120” because the minimum buy-in is $80 and the maximum is $120.  So even though the blinds are one and three dollars, as opposed to one and two dollars at the typical 1/2 No Limit game in Vegas, it still plays smaller than those Vegas games where the minimum buy-in is typically $100 (though sometimes less) and the maximum buy-in is usually $200 or $300.  And players almost always buy-in for the maximum, not the minimum.  Now here at The Bike, I saw that most people bought in for the minimum, as did I.

The table I was sent to was wild and crazy, to say the least.  Never at any of the LA poker clubs have I played at a table that so much reminded me of a Vegas poker game….but like one at LC1 or LC2, not BSC or any strip room.  Everyone seemed to know everyone, and it seemed like they were all friends.  Whether they knew each other from regularly playing together (as at LC1 and LC2) or had just met at the table hours before I arrived, I could not tell.  But they were all having a good time joking around, teasing each other, and playing “what the hell” poker. 

“What the hell” poker is a phrase I just made up, although I would be surprised if it doesn’t already exist—or if there isn’t some other existing term for the same thing.  “What the hell” poker means you raise with absolute crap or without even looking at cards, you call or re-raise with the same thing….or even worse. You call if you have virtually no chance of making a winning a hand.  If you have half a chance, you make an outrageously big bet, not because you will bluff anyone out, but because it just seems like the thing to do and if you lose, you shrug and say, “What the hell.”

So the good folks at this table were raising pre-flop with very weak hands, and sometimes without even looking at their hands first.  Half of the table was frequently straddling and often the live straddle was raised blindly before any cards were dealt!  And the raises were usually quite large.  At a 1/3 game, you would expect the average pre-flop raise to be between $10 and $15.  Here anything less than $20 was unusual; $25, $30 and $40 was quite common.  And some of those big raises definitely came from folks who hadn’t looked at their cards.

As soon as I figured out what was going on, I knew I had a good chance to take home some cash. I’ve played enough poker to know that this is a prime opportunity for me.  All I had to do was play extremely tight (which comes naturally to me anyway), be extremely patient and just throw away hand after hand until a really premium hand was finally dealt to me.  When I had the overwhelming advantage, someone, or multiple someones, would be only too happy to part with their chips.  Calling or raising with garbage was what they were there to do.  All I needed was a good hand or two. 

Of course, maniacs like these folks do get good cards on occasion, and also sometimes make nearly impossible draws.  So I wasn’t too upset when I lost my first $80 buy-in.  I re-bought and was able to get both buy-ins back and then some.  Plus the banter at the table was highly entertaining.  It was all I could do to concentrate on the play, but it wasn’t hard to figure out who the maniacs were and who the players were who were actually trying to play decent poker (yeah, there were actually a few of us there, and we stood out like sore thumbs).

Now there was this one particular guy at the table, let’s call him Young Guy because I have no idea what the hell his name was.   He was, I believe, the youngest person at the table and one of the craziest ones, but probably not the absolute craziest.  As this story unfolds, he had just gotten a very attractive young woman to join him at the table.  She had come from another game of the same level.  She had an accent which I guessed was Russian and later I found out I was right.  She wore a short, fairly low cut dress and that made me think she might be going for the “Jennifer Tilly Effect.”  (That’s when an attractive woman with a nice body shows a lot of skin at the poker table in order to distract the male players with cleavage.)  Now, she wasn’t as well-endowed as Jennifer Tilly is (few woman are) but she certainly had enough going on to get a man’s attention, to say the least.  And since she was so much more attractive than pretty much any female I’d ever seen inside The Bike, she could have been wearing a burlap sack and been a distraction to any straight male. 

Young Guy was flirting with the Russian girl, who was actually a serious player trying to play quality poker.  She joked that Young Guy was her ex-husband and was devastated that he failed at their marriage,  She claimed she had re-married and was very happy with her current husband, which made Young Guy upset and jealous.  I started to take this seriously at first but as I kept overhearing more and more conversation it became seriously that although Russian Girl was indeed married, she had never been married to Young Guy; I gathered that they had met at The Bike previously, possibly more than once, but that was the extent of their relationship. 

In the midst of this frivolity, the Big Blind came to me and I looked down to see pocket Jacks in my hand.  I knew this was possibly the chance I had been looking for but I had to be careful because Jacks are so tricky.  I figured I had to make a big move pre-flop to have my best chance of winning the pot.  As I was trying to figure out how much to bet when it was my turn, Young Guy, in early position, opened the pot with a $25 raise.  Sadly, I had not noticed whether or not he had even looked at his cards; based on his play previously he could have easily made that bet without having looked.  If he had looked, I thought the chances were good he had a much inferior hand to my pair of Jacks.  I was sure I was ahead.  But I had kind of gotten the impression he might have been starting to clean up his game, cut down on the wild moves, in order to not piss off the Russian Girl who was new to our game.  I couldn’t dismiss the possibility he had something good; even a total maniac is dealt Aces on occasion, but I had a strong feeling I had the best hand.

Everyone folded to me.  I knew I had only two possible moves.  I could either fold the first decent hand I’d been dealt in a long time, or I could raise.  Calling would get me nothing, I’d have to fold on the flop if I didn’t hit my set of Jacks and he made a big bet, which I assumed he would whether the flop hit him or not. 

So I raised.  I had to raise at least to $50 (rules of the game); instead I made it $60 to make him really think.  I thought there was a chance he’d fold….if he’d been paying attention (doubtful), he would have known I’d played almost no hands until then and that I must have something.  If he raised blind or with a weak holding, maybe he’d just lay it down.  But since he was playing “What the hell” poker up until then, that seemed like a long shot.  I expected a call and I expected that I was ahead by a lot and that I would have to sweat out him possibly sucking out on me.

What I didn’t expect was that the guy would be so upset with my raise.  He and all his buddies at the table were making all kinds of stupid, silly, ridiculously raises all day and he was fine with it.  Now a player who’d only played a few hands comes along and raises for maybe the second time of day (the first raise was a modest $12 raise when I had AK) and he is mad at me?  WTF?

He said, “No, you were supposed to call.”  I said nothing of course.  He very reluctantly called and then stood up from the table.  “I don’t want to look.”  He made it pretty clear he wasn’t going to bet any more on the further rounds.  I had put more than half my chips into the pot pre-flop, he had me covered, and so since I am naturally I low limit player, I wasn’t uncomfortable checking it down to the river.  I suppose I would have bet if I’d hit my set, but I didn’t.

I should have bet anyway, The highest card on the flop was a 10 and there was no flush out there.  A straight was possible but if he had looked at his hand I had to doubt even a maniac like him would have raised to $25 with a low enough holding to have made a straight draw out of this board.  The last two cards were also low and didn’t pair the board or put out three to a flush.  Only a baby straight, or a flukey two pair could beat me, I thought.  And since I still wasn’t sure he’d ever looked at his cards, I couldn’t dismiss the possibility he lucked into some kind of miracle suck out. 

But basically, considering he could have been playing anything and have actually hit something, I was happy with getting his $60 if I could, and not risking the rest of my funds (the only bet I could have made, with the pot already at $120, was to go all in).  After we both checked the river, I showed my pocket Jacks.  He didn’t show, but as he mucked his cards he said, “I had Ace King suited.  You were supposed to call.  I was looking for a jackpot.  We could have had a jackpot hand.”  As I started stacking my chips, I heard him say, if not to me, surely about me, “Asshole.”

Wow.  I’m an asshole?   He’s been playing like an asshole all day, I make one move (the right one, as it turned out) and I’m the asshole?  Now, by “jackpot hand” he meant that if he hit a Royal Flush with his AK suited (assuming he even had that) and someone lost with Aces full of 10’s or better, there would have been a jackpot for the two players (and, I think, everyone at the table) worth tens of thousands of dollars.   But then I would ask, “If you were thinking about a jackpot, why make such a big bet in the first place?  He got everyone but me out of the hand, at a normal table someone with a low pocket pair (that could have made quads) would likely fold to his $25 pre-flop bet.  I wasn’t playing for some incredibly long-shot jackpot; I was trying to win a damn pot.

Anyway, I said nothing to him.  No point.  The fact that this clown thinks I’m asshole will not cost me one second of sleep.  Ever.  But it made the $60 bucks I took off him even sweeter than it  would have been anyway!

BTW, in retrospect, I don’t think I missed any bets.  If he was serious that he was playing his AK suited for a jackpot, when he saw the flop, he would have been very unlikely to have called my all-in.  Although it’s possible he might have down so for spite, because he was pissed at me.  In this case it would have been a case of cutting off his nose to spite his face. 

Oh well.  That table broke and I moved to a game where there were mostly serious players and the game got a lot tougher.  I went up and down and still left the game a slight winner.  Not bad for an “asshole."


So I posted a shorter version of this story on that great website, that I mentioned at the beginning of this post. You can see the thread here. It was the unanimous opinion of all the respondents there what the Young Guy was saying about playing for a jackpot was total bull. I was right; you don't play that way if you have a jackpot in mind. It also turns out that I played the hand wrong pretty much the whole way! I knew I played incorrectly after the flop, but I should have shoved all-in before the flop instead of just betting sixty bucks. A good learning experience for me and if you are at all interested in poker, you should check out the comments I got on the thread, very good stuff.

No comments:

Post a Comment