Thursday, August 25, 2016

It Only Takes One Maniac to Ruin a Nice Poker Game

Sadly, the streak is over.

After two great sessions in a row here in Southern California (see here and here), I was unable to come up with a third big win in a row on Saturday.  Or any kind of a win.  Or a break-even session.

Nope, all good things must end and I had a pretty good-sized loss.

Furthermore, remember what I said in the post here, about how much I was getting to like Player’s Casino in Ventura, that it was a really enjoyable place to play poker?  Well, Saturday, not so much.  And not because of the loss I took.  It was because of the players, or one player in particular who, as far as I’m concerned, totally ruined the game.

But I’ll start at the beginning.  There was a good sized list when I arrived and it didn’t take very long for them to start a new 2/3 game.  I recognized a few players but couldn’t recall anything particularly valuable about the players who looked familiar.  I bought in for $300 as usual.

I drew the short straw and was the big blind on the very first hand. With Ace-Queen, I called a raise to $10 and it was three-way. I called $22 on a Queen-10-x flop and then $25 on an 8 turn, which made it two hearts and two diamonds on the board. We were heads up after the flop.  A black 9 hit the river and this time he checked behind me and showed his hand, saying, “I have Ace-high.”  Except that his other card was a Jack so he had a straight that he hadn’t even noticed.  Bad enough to lose a pot, but losing it to someone who didn’t even realize he had a good hand was more than mildly annoying.

The very next hand, in the small blind, I call $10 with Jack-10 off.  The flop was Ace-King-King.  I called $10 just to see if I could catch a Queen for Broadway.  But I missed and then on the turn I folded to a guy who shoved for $87.  But someone else called him.  The guy who shoved had an Ace, the winner had a King.  The guy with the Ace was a newbie who didn’t last at our table very long. He was pretty old and it looked like he had a lived a long, hellish life.  It appeared to me that if this was his first time trying poker, it was pretty much the last thing on his bucket list to try. 

I guess I lost a few more chips and hadn’t won a hand when this next hand happened. I called $12 with King-10 of spades and six of us saw the flop, which was 10-7-x, rainbow, one spade. I called $15 or $20.  There were a bunch of callers, I think it was still five of us left.  The turn was another 10, and I called $20 and then saw a guy check raise from early position to $40.  Everyone else had called the $20 so we all called another $20.  But I smelled a boat.  I suppose with all those calls I should have just gotten out.

The river was an 8, no flush possible, and would have filled a gut-shot if someone had Jack-9.  I saw that but was honestly more worried about a boat.  The guy who had checked raised on the turn shoved his remaining $75.  It folded to me.  There was only one person left behind me. The size of the pot was quite large and although I feared the boat, I just felt I had to make the crying call there, so I did.  I did think there was a reasonable chance he just had a 10 and a worse kicker than a King.

And then the guy behind me announced “all-in.”  Damn.  His shove was a bit over $100 and I realized that was more than I had left after calling the $75..  The pot was now really, really big and even though I didn’t really like it, I felt I just couldn’t fold there.  Not for just another $70-$80 or so.  So I called and the guy who had shoved behind me flipped over Jack-9 for the straight.  The other guy didn’t even show!  He claimed to have a 10.  I asked him how big his kicker was and he said, “not big.”  I hadn’t shown but I said I had a King.  He said that was definitely good against his kicker.

Ugh.  I was busted.  I actually said to the guy who won, “If you had shoved in front of me, I could have folded…I would have folded.”  But once I put that $75 to call the first bet, it didn’t make sense to me to fold.  I briefly wondered if I had shoved first, would the guy with the straight have folded thinking I had a boat?  Almost definitely not.  I didn’t have enough to get him to fold and I’m not sure he had enough to ever fold his straight.—although in the face of two all-ins of front of him he might have thought his straight wasn’t any good.

Well, I bought in for another $300 while trying to figure out exactly how badly I had misplayed that one.

Soon after, I called a small raise with Ace-4 suited and then folded to a raise to $88 from an older Asian man.  No one called and he showed pocket 8’s. So he raised to $88 with 8-8.  That was the first time all day he’d done something at all unusual but it wouldn’t be his last time.

The seat to my left—where the newbie had been—had been vacant for awhile.  Finally it was taken by a youngish guy.  He bought in for the minimum, $100.  He raised big on his first hand and then shoved the flop.  There were two Kings on the flop and he was called by someone with a King.  The young guy showed Jack-10 for….absolutely nothing.  It was a total bluff.

He re-bought for another $100.  He raised big pre again and got it all-in on the flop again.  This time he had a hand: King-10 on a 10-high board.  But the guy who called him had Ace-10. 

And so he bought in again, this time for $200.  And the fellow next to him said, “Just leave your wallet out.”

Somewhere along the way I heard him say that he had been there since 3AM.  But he might have meant 3AM the day before, not that very morning.  He said he didn’t know how he was still awake.

The very next hand, he raised big again (his opening raises were like $25-$30).  This time, the Asian man I mentioned earlier shoved in response.  He had about $150 maybe.  Another player (the guy who didn’t know he had a straight in the very first hand) also shoved.  He had slightly less than the Asian man.  The young fellow, who from this point forward we will refer to as “The Maniac” snap called and flipped his cards over.  They were two Aces.  Even maniacs get Aces, you see.  The other two players didn’t show.

Well the flop came Queen-Jack-9.  The turn was a King.  The river didn’t matter.  The Asian fellow showed Jack-10 for a straight.  The other guy showed King-10 for a flopped straight.  The Maniac had his Aces cracked by both of them.  The thing was, the other two players made terrible plays, getting all their chips in with marginal hands. No doubt they were encouraged to do so by the early play of the Maniac.  They assumed he was betting with nothing.  So the Maniac’s maniac act almost paid off.  I mean, you want guys with hands like Jack-10 and King-10 to go all-in against your Aces, right?  But they had both gotten very lucky.

Very next hand, the Maniac open shoved his remaining stack.  He was called by another player (not either of the two players in the previous hand).  Guess what?  The Maniac had pocket Aces again—yes, back-to-back.  And they were cracked again.  By King-10 again!  This time the King-10 had two pair.  Aces back-to-back cracked by King-10 both times.  What are the odds of that?

Well I didn’t know what to make of this, other than those four hands in a row made for a good blog story.  The Maniac got up but asked for to have his seat held.  Frankly, I was assuming—and also praying—he wouldn’t come back.  It was nice of him to distribute his money like that (but none of it to me).  But it made it difficult for me to do anything with this clown on my left.  I had to wait for a hand it made sense to play knowing he was likely getting it all in either on the flop or before.

But it appeared I wouldn’t have to worry.  He was gone for quite awhile.  Someone said he went to play blackjack.  They should have stopped holding the seat open for him—except there was no board, and other 2/3 games had empty seats. I figured I was well rid of him.

But no….he did indeed return.  Apparently he won enough at blackjack to buy in again.  And he immediately went back to raising big and/or shoving and if not shoving pre, usually shoving on the flop.  The only difference was he did occasionally limp or even fold pre.  But he was still earning the “Maniac” name I gave him.

But the game had totally changed because of his presence.  People were playing differently because of him, calling light, raising light, shoving light.

In particular, the Asian man I mentioned was playing against the Maniac every chance he could.  He would never fold to a Maniac raise, and more often than not, he would raise himself—or shove.  He shoved preflop multiple times against the Maniac’s raise, and from what we could tell, sometimes with pretty crappy hands (that he would hit a lot of the times if it went to the flop).  And by this time, The Asian man’s stack was huge, you couldn’t call one of his moves without committing your entire stack, he had everyone covered.  But if the Maniac folded, he would play normal.

As he said once when the Maniac asked him why he shoved when he had nothing, “Because I knew you had nothing.”

I called $10 with 9-8 of clubs and folded on a whiffed flop.  Very next hand I got the same two cards.  There was a raise to $20, a call, and I called as well.  The Maniac was away from the table for this one.  As I called, I kind of felt like it was a tilty move, especially with the Maniac out of the hand.  I mean, if I could see almost any flop that cheap with him in there, it’d likely be worth it with a hand that could pay off like that one.  But against two normal players, it was probably too much to pay.  But I found myself thinking I had to take some shots to get my money back. 

The flop was Queen-7-5, two hearts.  It checked around.  The turn was a 6 of hearts which gave me the straight on a board where two hearts would beat me.  But no one had bet the flop, so I put out $15.  The peflop raiser folded, but the last guy, who happened to be the older Asian gentleman I mentioned earlier, raised to $30.  Damn, did he have the flush?  I couldn’t fold for $15, so I called.

The river was a black King which didn’t change anything.  I checked wondering how big a bet I would call.  But he checked behind me.  I showed my straight and he just mucked.  It was my first pot of the day, at long last.

I called a $6 straddle with pocket 10’s.  Why anyone was stupid enough to straddle in this game with the Maniac around is inexplicable to me.  But I just called hoping the Maniac’s raise would be something reasonable I could call to try to make a big hand.  The Maniac made it $45.  That was large even for him.  Yikes.  I had to see what happened before it got back to me.  So….the Asian man announced “all in.”  Yeah, as I said, he’d done that a few times before, but it wasn’t automatic. The previous time he’d done that, the Maniac folded and the Asian showed pocket Kings. I couldn’t call.  The Maniac hesitated for a long time and then finally did call.

The flop came King-King-5.  Then a Queen.  Then a 10.  So I would have had a boat, in case you missed that.  The Maniac showed….pocket deuces.  The Asian showed Ace-Queen and stacked the Maniac.  Of course, I just shook my head knowing that I would have won a huge pot if I had called the Asian’s shove, but that would not have made sense to me.  And had the hand been played “normally” I would have been out of the hand before the river card hit me.

I had to fight off the tilt.  I was losing patience with the game.  I was debating internally if maybe given the circumstances calling the shove preflop would have been a good play.  With 20-20 hindsight, of course.  And the Asian’s shoving range facing a Maniac raise was damn wide.  Maybe it was the right play.  Shove, get a triple-up or go home.  But damn, whenever that Asian made a play like that with bad cards he always seemed to hit it  The debate in my mind was now edging me closer to tilt than the action at the table was.

Again, the Maniac left for a bit—but somehow came back with more money to buy-in.  They allowed a short-buy and the Asian doubled him up, making him dangerous again.

While he was away I had Queen-10 of clubs in the big blind and no one raised.  The flop was Queen high and I check/called $20 from the Asian. It was three-way.  I should have led out, but I was kind of shell-shocked at this point. I called another $20 on the turn when I picked up a gutshot—I needed a Jack.  It was now heads up.  I missed the straight and again called $20.  He showed Ace-Queen. Damn.

I got Ace-Queen myself under-the-gun.  For the last orbit or two, the Maniac had been a bit more subdued.  So I decided to take a chance and raise. I made it $12.  The Maniac just called.  Phew!  There was another caller or two, but the Asian folded.  Last person to act was the guy who had been sitting on my right all day.  He too was Asian, a perfectly reasonable player.  Until this very moment when he announced all-n!  He had like $400, at least as twice as much either the maniac or I had.

What the f***?  I mean, seriously, what the f***?  I folded.  Maniac tanked and then called.  The flop was Ace-high. It ran out dry. Before showing, both players, almost simultaneously, said they had nothing.  Are you freaking kidding me?  No.  The Asian on my right showed King-10. He shoved with King-10.  Unsuited.  He remembered the back-to-back hands earlier when the Maniac’s Aces were taken down with King-10.  Brilliant, just brilliant.

And what did the Maniac risk his entire stack with?  Why King-Queen offsuit, of course.  Who wouldn’t?  And he got his double up.  Because he had King high with a Queen kicker vs. King high with a 10 kicker! And again, I had thrown away the winning hand because of some absurd move in response to the Maniac.

The Maniac had clearly changed the game, changed the way everyone was playing, and it was not exactly to my liking.  As far as I was concerned, he had totally ruined what had been a pleasant game (and I thought it was pleasant even after I lost my first stack).

For a long time now, I had been considering asking for a table change.  It was a big debate in my mind.  On the one hand, with the action at this table, my best shot at getting my money back was staying there and trying to make a hand.  On the other hand, I needed to get some cards I would be willing to risk the rest of my diminishing stack with.  And I sure wasn’t getting them.    Or maybe I was and was just too wimpy to pull the trigger?

I felt constrained by the fact that I had already lost my first buy-in before the Maniac showed up and changed the game.  I think I might have been more willing to gamble a bit if I had another buy-in in my pocket.  But my stop-loss is two buy-ins.  It was extra annoying because I knew this was my last poker session for awhile.  I’m definitely not playing next weekend and my poker sabbatical may extend longer.

Also, I was short-stacked now, not planning to buy-in for one penny more as I indicated, and I didn’t like the idea of taking the short-stack to a new table where I’d be starting over. If I’m starting over I would definitely prefer a full stack.

Besides….our table was actually short-handed and I likely wouldn’t be able to move tables for quite some time.  And by this time, with the way everyone was playing, a seat change to get away from the Maniac didn’t feel like it would make much of a difference.

So I decided to hang in there.

But then, somehow, the Maniac got even more annoying than he had been.  Suddenly I started hearing music.  Tinny, loud music.  The Maniac had taken to playing music on his cell phone. Without using any head phones or ear buds.  Just loudly blasting music out of his phone for all of us to “enjoy.”

I did not enjoy.

So is this a thing now?  People playing their music at the poker table (or anywhere in public, for that matter) right through the speaker?

I hope it’s not a thing.

It bothered the piss out of me.  I recognized some of the tunes, they were kind of old, but they all sounded terrible.  In fact, I was surprised they didn’t sound better.  He appeared to have a modern phone that looked very much like mine.  And when I play music out of my phone’s speaker it sounds really good.  I dunno, maybe I was just the perfect distance for it to sound bad.  Maybe I was just appalled that I could hear it and he didn’t have the courtesy to use ear buds or headphones.  Although he did tell the guy on his left that it was just Youtube music, not from his own collection.  Maybe that made a difference.

To me it was just noise.  Very loud, very annoying noise.  Did I mention loud?  Although you might not have been able to recognize the song, I bet you could have heard it at The Bike.

I thought about saying something but I didn’t want to come across like a dick.  Or have the guy think I was just being a grumpy old man.  Especially since the older guy on the Maniac’s immediate left was not only enjoying the music himself, but actually encouraging him and doing a running commentary of music from his vast musical knowledge. I would have been spoiling it for two idiots if I asked him to turn down his “music.” So I just keep quiet and stewed.

I limped in with Queen-Jack of hearts, then called the Maniac’s raise to $20. It was three or four of us to see the flop, which was Queen-8-6.  I checked, and surprisingly, so did The Maniac.  The last action was on the Asian fellow to my immediate right—the guy who shoved preflop with King-10 off because he thought King-10 was the hot hand at the table.  I figured if he bet I could call, I likely had the best hand (I checked because I wanted to see how much the Maniac wanted to put in play).  So of course, this Asian fellow announced all-in.  WTF?  Again, he had us both covered.

That was it, I was done.  I had reached Popeye state—as in, “That’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more.”  Only instead of wolfing down a can of spinach and beating the shit out of everyone at the table—the Maniac first, followed by this joker on my right—I just mucked and got up to get a rack.  Before I could leave the table, I saw the Maniac fold and the guy on my right show his hand.  It was Queen-6 for a flopped two pair.

I suppose I should have thanked him for saving me some money.  I could have lost more there if he had made a reasonable bet.  But to me, all I could think of was how ridiculous this game had become, thanks to the Maniac—the Musical Maniac, that is.

I beat a hasty retreat, leaving with a bad taste in my mouth for Player’s Casino, poker, and yes, life in general.  That hand where I caught a straight was the only hand I’d won all day.  I dropped a buy-in and a half, give or take.

It just takes one maniac to ruin a nice poker game.


  1. Sorry you had such an unpleasant experience .... I agree the music would be really annoying but that does sound like a profitable game and one that could put me a little on edge but also one I tend to enjoy.

    I think in the long run going through a process of being a little bit uncomfortable while playing (due to others play not music) can really help your game.

    So I guess it's a learning experience for better or worse.

    1. Thanks. I've played in Maniac games before and even adapted to them and done well. Or done poorly because it is so high variance. Somehow this was different to me....and as I pointed out in the post, I think the the big issue for me was that I had already lost one of my two buy-ins before the game changed. I think i would have been able to deal with it better if I still had the second buy-in in my pocket when the craziness started.

    2. Absolutely correct! You were way too short on cash to be in that game. PERIOD.

    3. Thanks, Dianne. Would have been so much better if that maniac was there from the get-go.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. First, you played the KT hand horribly. Top pair is quite vulnerable on that flop. If you raise you drive out the crap draws and also narrow the ranges of any callers. Oh, and you greatly increase your odds of winning.

      More generally, I don't get your aversion to maniacs. Maniacs are like printing money. Pick some good spots to get involved and stack the chippies. Maniacs are the most profitable opportunity in low-stakes poker. Cash in!

    2. Yup, yop. yup on the KT hand.

      Again, see my comment to Zoourah..I have certainly reacted better, enjoyed and even profited from maniac games. In this case tho it was both the extreme to which the other players reacted and the fact that I was at my stop-loss point when it started. Maybe I ought to rethink my stop-loss strategy.

      Sorry about somehow accidentally deleting your comment. This is the second time recently I have somehow deleted a comment by touching the wrong button on my tablet (or maybe my cell phone). Blogger should give you a "Do you really want to delete this comment" warning.

    3. I think you deleted my Tweet because on a subliminal level you hate me. :-)

      Re maniac games, I get your point about playing suboptimally after losing a couple of buy-ins; heck, it affects me, too. I usually find, however, that a maniac or two dusting off multiple buy-ins usually makes me feel much better.

    4. Maybe cuz it's you're so damn tall?

      Well, my original plan was to get that maniac money....I hung on as long as I could but that damn tinny music coming out of his cell phone was too much to take.

    5. For next time you encounter an annoying poker player, practice this phrase: "Yer honor, he needed killin'."

    6. Sounds good...but sounds like a legal term. I wouldn't want to get in trouble for practicing law without a license.

  3. I agree with Grange. In general, the big difference between your two winning sessions and this session is the fact that you did not once 3 bet with hands that were way ahead of their range. Aggression killed you, and you didn't adjust. It is OK to 3bet pre-flop sometimes without AA-QQ/AK. You can't sit and wait for premium hands all day.

    1. Thanks. I tend to agree, and I've already explained why. May be a bad excuse but its true.

  4. Rob, from what you wrote above, you played like a rock with your 2nd buy-in. It's hard to win in a loose game playing like a rock unless you smash the flop.

    1. Actually, I did make at least two or three very loose calls of preflop raises in an attempt to adjust my game to try and take advantage of the craziness. I thought I had included that info in the post but I guess not. Anyway, I totally whiffed and had to let them go, all that did was bring me closer to crippled status and make it tougher for me to maneuver

      But your right, that was the way to adjust and I did try.

  5. If you want to work on your skills playing with maniacs you should go to Hawaii Gardens. Another way is to play online in the play money rooms. I think patience and trying to trap is effective. However, I have seen guys who just go all when they have a decent hand frequently. My method usually wins without the big variance. The second method can really lead to a big score if you can afford to lose your stack. You don't like to gamble but prefer to win with skill. This goes out the window when you have no clue what your opponents cards are.

    1. Thanks, Darryl.

      I usually try to play smart, widen my range w/o getting crazy myself. It can work, but this was unusual in that this time the maniac mad a couple of other people play even more maniacally than the original maniac. Made it hard to play against all that insanity.

  6. You can complain about the music, definitely.

    1. Yeah thanks. Was worried about being on the receiving end of open hostility. But next time I'll do it or just leave sooner.

  7. I was introduced to the Tunity app while playing at the MGM last January. If you aren't familiar, it will play the audio of just about any 'muted' television. The screen I wanted to hear was talking about the then upcoming Super Bowl 50 where my beloved Broncos put a whoopin' on the Panthers. Given that it was a table full of poker players, I just assumed that they would want to hear it too. I didn't have earbuds with me and admittedly, I never really gave it a second thought. Finally, someone asked that I turn it off and I was embarrassed that I never really considered anyone else. I prefer to be the kind of guy that everyone wants to play with...and give their money to. Now I will always try to keep earbuds with me at the table.

    1. Weird coincidence...I heard of the Tunity app at the very same poker room where this story of the Music Maniac took place. Never got it to work in Vegas.

      I guess I should start carrying ear buds in self defense now.

      I think there are some people who just don't want to hear any outside noise when we are playing. I'm one of them. I would never listen to music or anything when I'm playing, I want to hear the conversations to get information about how the players are playing. And also...get stories for the blog.

  8. First of all, way too much "call" and not enough bet or raise in your post. I do understand limping more in a game like this, but the purpose of that should be to trap and attack their weaker hand range flipping coins that are in your favor.

    Secondly, hands like TT and AQ are more than good enough to play all-in pots in this game. You are playing much too passively in my opinion, and from previous posts much too aggressively when you have a stranglehold on the hand.

    Just my two cents.

    1. Thanks for the feedback. I think limping when you are pretty damn sure the maniac on your IMMEDIATE LEFT is going to raise makes a lot of sense. I mean, I would have gladly limped in with Aces or Kings, knowing it would be raised and then I could do the limp/raise (or more likely, the limp/shove).

  9. Rob, I really enjoy your blog - but I cannot understand your mindset for this session. While I also (perhaps illogically) prefer a more quiet game where I can control the action more myself, this game sounds like a goldmine. AQ and TT should have been instant all-ins for you given the dynamic you described.

    It seems you always are afraid of the nutted hands that people can have, but instead you should focus on giving them a range of hands, assess the potodds, and then make up your mind. Obviously easier as a armchair Quarterback than when sitting at the table, but still something to strive for.

    That being said, keep up the good work and the frequent updates; they are greatly appreciated even from another side of the world!

    1. Thanks, Ole. I also do put people on a range of hands, honest.

      As I've said, this game just got too too crazy after I was down a buy-in, which had an affect on me. And knowing I might be out of commission for awhile after this session, I wanted to try to hang in there longer, rather than go for a quick all or nothing strategy.

      It was bad timing for me...I was in the wrong game at the wrong time. I think on another day I might have had a different reaction.

      But on NO day would the music not have driven me nuts.