Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Frustrating Day of Poker

I'm still in Vegas, and so far, I've been too busy working and playing poker to write any fresh blog posts.  It's kinda frustrating because, as usual, there's already been much to report about this current trip, and it's only half over.  Fortunately, as I indicated previously, I still have a few posts in the pipeline that I wrote up before leaving L.A. This entry was actually written a while ago, right after the last session I had at the Bike before heading to Vegas.

That session left me feeling quite frustrated.  Second straight losing session there (see here) and the time before that, when I did win (see here), I had a rather meager profit considering I had a rather nice string of luck.  Two sessions is not a trend, but based on the circumstances I left feeling I really should have taken home some money with me, instead of leaving a buy-in behind.

The thing is, for most of the time I was there, I didn’t really feel that there was a better player at the table than me.  Maybe one or two were more or less at my level, but no one was better.  And there were plenty of weak players.  Of course, if I’m starting to question my game, maybe I need to question my ability to judge the other players.  Maybe they were better than I thought.
One thing for sure was that, of all the times I’ve played the $2/$3 game at the Bike, this was the tightest table I’d ever seen.  That being the case, I knew I should loosen up and be more aggressive.  The trouble with that is, because the rake is so high, and because they take the rake right off the top, stealing the blinds isn’t really very profitable.  You still have to split with the house.  Maybe I should try it more often anyway, but I preferred to wait for there to be some limpers money to steal, and didn’t find that many opportunities.  Although I was able to win hands preflop raising on the button with King-9 and 9-7 (both were soooooted, tho).
A couple of other times I tried similar moves, got a few callers, made some continuation bets, was raised, and because the flop missed me, I had to let it go.  Maybe I just have to do that more times for it to be profitable.  But again, even when it works, because of the rake, you don’t get much.
The session got off to a bad start very early.  My second hand, I was the small blind and had 10-4 offsuit.  There were a number of limpers.  Since the small blind is $2, and the big blind is $3, in that situation, I almost always call with just about anything….it’s only a buck, right?  In a 1/2 game or a 1/3 game, I wouldn’t call.  Maybe I need to rethink this.  Especially at this point, having just sat down, not knowing any of the players.  I always say I prefer not getting a hand to play too early in the session, before I have a clue as to how anyone plays. 

The flop came 10-10-5.  Good for me, you would think.  I led out for $15, one caller.  King on the turn, I bet $25, he calls.  Damn.  I was wondering if I was outkicked.  Would have love to have seen a 4 on the river, but it came out a 6.  I thought about checking, but then thought, that’s too cowardly.  I’ve got trips, I should value bet.  I bet $35 and he called.
He had Jack/10, and of course, the Jack played.  Off to a great freaking start.
Didn’t play another hand until the big blind came to me.  The guy to my left straddled for $6.  I looked down at pocket Queens.  It folded to me.  Yeah, the under-the-gun straddle is a great pot builder, isn’t it?
I made it $20.  A bit of an overbet, but I thought if the guy was a straddler he was probably going to call that big a bet.  I was right.  The flop comes 9-8-6, two diamonds.   I bet $30, and he called.  Grrr.
Another 6 on the turn, I bet again, $50 this time.  He called again.  Damn.  I was thinking I’d already put too much money in the pot for a stinking overpair.  Then the river paired the 9, and also put a third diamond on the board.  So it was a double paired board with flush draw to boot.
I checked and the guy announces all in.  He had me covered, but not by much.  I thought I was through with the hand, but that did make me think he might be bluffing, making such a big bet there.  Or he thought I’d pay him for his full house.  I thought about calling but decided, again, I had already invested too much for an overpair.  I didn’t want to lose my stack if that’s all I had.  I folded.
So the guy shows his hand as he is pushed the pot.  He had King-10 of hearts.  In other words, he had zilch.  It was a total bluff, and I was rather displeased, to put it mildly.
Now I was short stacked and I decided I would wait for the button to buy some more chips.  But before the button got to me, I was dealt pocket Jacks.  I raised and the guy who had just bluffed me was the only caller.  The flop was 9 high, so I bet almost the size of the pot.  He called. 
When the turn card was low, I just decided to shove.  The turn card had put both straight draws and flush draws out there, and I kind of thought he had called me on the flop with nothing or next to nothing and might have picked up a draw on the turn.  If I was wrong, ok, I’d rebuy and start over.
He thought a long, long time and then folded.  He told me he had top pair (9’s) but didn’t think it was good enough.
He left a little later to move to a table with more action, so I didn’t have to worry about him any more. 
For the rest of the day, I was pretty card dead.  I got pocket Aces twice, won both times (once on the flop, once on the turn, neither time improving on them).  So, small pots.  Never caught a set with the few other pocket pairs I received.  Never was dealt the dreaded pocket Kings. Second week in a row I didn’t get them, after winning three straight times with them the week before.  So I don’t know whether the curse is over or not.
I was never dealt Ace-Queen, or Ace-Jack or even Ace-10.  I did get Ace-King three times.  Once, no one called my preflop raise.  Once, no one called my continuation bet.  The third time was more interesting.
I was dealt Ace-King under the gun and raised to $12. Only the small blind called.  He had a big stack, at least compared to mine.  The flop was Queen high, and all hearts.  Yeah.  He checked and I made a continuation bet of $20, which he called.
Well, that was it for me.  I had done my due diligence, making the c-bet on a flop that totally missed me and had three freaking hearts on it.  Did I mention that my Ace and my King, although not suited, were both black?
The small blind then checked in the dark on the turn, which I found interesting, I don’t remember him having done that before.  The turn was a low black card, a three, I think, and I checked behind him.  I was not about to fire any more barrels with that board.
The river was yet another heart.  This time he led out with a $40 or $50 bet.  Didn’t matter, he could have put out a quarter and I wouldn’t have called.  For laughs, I said, as I was about to fold, “Gee, I don’t suppose you have a heart, do you?“
He too showed his hand when he didn’t have to.  It was Ace-King of hearts!  He had flopped the nut flush and slowplayed it.  Also interesting that he didn’t re-raise preflop.  Maybe he doesn’t three-bet  AK.  And he’d played with me long enough to know that I wasn’t raising under-the-gun without a pretty good hand. 
I laughed at his hand and said, “Gee, that wasn’t too good a flop for you, was it?  I guess a bluff wouldn’t have worked for me there?”
This guy had an interesting day of poker, perhaps more frustrating than mine.  When I got to the table he was very short stacked.  In fact, one of the first hands after I got there, he went all in preflop for $21.  Now that’s short-stacked.
He won that hand and a few more, all with shoves and double-ups.  He had a really nice run for about 45 minutes or so and had run that $21 up to over $300!  At first, every time he won a shove, he’d say, “Well, I guess the poker gods don’t want me to leave yet.” 
Once he had a decent stack, he just started playing normal, solid poker.  I noticed his stack fluctuating between about $225 and $350 for several hours.  His short stackedness earlier was seemingly forgotten, and by now, I was one of the few players left at the table that knew he had pulled off that miracle comeback.
And then…..with his stack down a bit under $300, he called an all-in to a new player who had just come to the table on a board of 9-8-8.  The turn was a 9 and I think that’s when the both got it all in.  I don’t know what the former short-stacker had, he mucked when he saw that the other guy had 9-8.  So he flopped a boat and turned a bigger boat.  He took everyone of the guy’s chips, and he left without saying a word.  All that hard work—and luck too, of course—to build up a stack from $21 to over $300….and now he had nothing to show for it.  I felt bad for him, but he got a lot of play out of that $21.  I had no idea how much he initially bought in for.  Poker is a cruel game.
I did win two or three small pots playing the mighty deuce-four.  One time I bet with bottom pair and took it down, another time I bluffed with nothing on the turn (nobody had bet the flop) and took it down, and then one time I hit my straight on the turn, and no one called my bet (there, I would have liked a call).
But the most interesting hand involving the deuce-four didn’t involve me.  At one point, the guy next to me folded his hand preflop and somehow his cards were turned face up by accident.  Everyone saw that he folded deuce-four (offsuit).  I refrained from explaining to him that he had just folded the most powerful hand in poker.  I’m not giving free lessons to my opponents.
Anyway, there were other people in the hand that saw the flop come out A-5-3.  The dealer of course was only too happy to point the flop out to the guy, and that if he had played the most powerful hand in poker, he’d have flopped a wheel.
My last hand of the day was pocket Jacks, under the gun.  My raise was met with two callers, including the guy who had just had the double up with the 9-8.  The flop was pretty horrific for my two black jacks.  King high, all hearts.  This time I checked, the next guy checked and 9-8 guy put out a pot sized bet.  Tell me if this is too timid, but I folded.  The other guy called.  I started gathering my things (this was going to be my last hand no matter what) but I did stay to see the hand play out.  There was a 9 on the turn and some more betting, but I don’t think they got it all in until the river, which was a second King.  The other guy showed pocket 9’s for a boat.  The 9-8 guy had King Queen for trip Kings. 
Which means the guy who won the pot and doubled up called the flop bet with a worse hand than I had and yet he somehow won the pot.  I try not to be results-oriented in my thinking, so I think he made a bad call and got extremely lucky.  The guy who lost even commented on the call on the flop, and the other guy said nothing as he stacked his chips.   Of course, my calling the flop wouldn’t have caused me to win it….I was behind one player at the time and behind both players at the end.  But I wonder if I played that hand too tight?
And I wonder if by now if I should be good enough to win at a table under the conditions I faced there, even without getting much in the way of cards.  What do you think?

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