Tuesday, March 12, 2019

I'm Not a Bad Enough Player to Beat This Game

Car saga is finally over!  You mean I have to get back to talking about poker again?  Let's see if I can still do this.

This is a recent session out in Ventura.  Remember the game is 1/2 with a $50-$100 buy-in.  I always buy-in for the max of course. 

This game was an action table, a lot more so than the 1/2 usually is here.  And there were plenty of big stacks.  I saw a few of those big stacks get made, but a lot of them were there when I arrived.

I had dropped close to $60 without winning a pot.  I topped off my stack to get right back around $100.  I guess I had close to that when this hand happened.  I called $5 with pocket 5's.  As I've mentioned before, a raise to $4 or $5 is pretty common in this game.  Then a guy made it $15.  He was a fairly active player and rather aggro.  Then the guy who initially made it $5, an older gentleman with a big stack, made it $45. Well, of course I'm not gonna call off half my stack with just a lousy pair of fives preflop.  So I folded.  The guy who made it $15 called.

The flop was Jack-5-3.  Damn.  That sure was annoying.  I don't remember the exact action but they got it all-in on that flop.  The aggro had a stack similar to mine, maybe a little bigger, and the older guy had him easily covered.  The aggro flipped over his hand.  It was pocket Jacks. 

Suddenly I felt a whole better.  I had just dodged a bullet, right?  Set-over-set is pretty awful when you're on the wrong side of it, as I would have been.  I was silently thanking the guy who made it $45 for saving my stack.

But then the dealer put out the turn card.  It was the case 5.  I had basically thrown away quads.  I throw up in my mouth a little.  The river was meaningless and the older guy did show his hand, Ace-King suited.  He had a flush draw on the flop.  I don't recall if he hit his flush because he was drawing dead to a boat on the turn.  Of course, all I could think about was, he should have been drawing dead to my quad 5's.

Ugh.  That would have been the first time I'd made a hand too.  For a second I thought that we had missed out on the bad beat jackpot.  But no, I reminded myself that Jack's full losing to quad 5's wouldn't have qualified.  The minimum losing hand is Ace's full of Jacks.  So at least there was that.

My stack was dwindling and then I got pocket 3's. A new guy to the table made it $23.  He had less than $80 to start.  So it certainly was not worth calling.  Somebody else did.  Of course there was a 3 on the flop.  Jeez.  I don't remember the details but I would have won that pot and it would have been more nearly a triple up for me (based on the fact that it was all-in again and neither player could have beaten a set).

I actually managed to win a couple of hands, both when I had Ace-10 and a 10 hit the board.  So I built my stack up to over $120.

Then I got pocket 6's.  I was in middle position and no one had bet.  I knew if I just limped, it was possible nobody else would come in and we'd end up chopping the blinds.  Yeah, it's weird if you're used to Vegas rules, but if only one player has entered a pot, and it was only a limp, that player and the blinds can agree to chop and everyone takes their money back.  I guess that's because in this game, if it is just three-way to flop, and both blinds are in, the entire pot goes to rake and the jackpot drop.  So why bother?

Therefore, I made it $4.  Sometimes that actually gets you the blinds, but if someone calls at least they'll be a few bucks in the pot to play for. A player called.  Remember the guy with the set of Jacks before?  Well as I said, he was aggro and he had managed to piss away most of the chips he'd won.  This time, he raised to $49.  It was an odd bet to say the least.  He had a few more chips behind him, looked like $8 or $9.  A different older guy, who had been hit with the deck like you wouldn't believe, called the $49. He had tons of chips. It folded back to me.  Sure I remembered the pocket 5's that turned into quads and the pocket 3's that flopped a set.  But, there was just no way it made any sense at all to call a $49 bet with pocket 6's.  So I folded.

The caller hadn't realized that the first guy hadn't shoved.  But then he saw those 8 or 9 chips and said something, "Why did you leave those behind?"  And the dealer said, "That's to bluff with."  I thought that was really funny.  Although you could argue that the dealer shouldn't be making comments (suggestions?) like that.  I think because it was such a small amount, it was ok.

Do I have to tell you that there was a 6 on the flop?  The aggro put his remaining 8 or 9 chips in the pot and the other player called (the dealer actually almost jumped the gun on the turn card, because he just assumed the guy wasn't folding—no matter what he had—for such a relatively small bet).

Here's the really sick part.  The guy with the $49 bet turned over Queen-4!  The guy who called had Ace-rag.  I guess his excuse was that this might have been the first flop in 20-minutes that hadn't hit him.  His call was perhaps a heat-check.  And his Ace-high would have won except the first idiot caught a 4 on the river.

So in other words, that set I would have hit if I'd have kept my cards wouldn't even have been necessary!  An unimproved pair of 6's would have been good enough to take down that three-way pot.

Regardless, that was the third set of the session I had missed out on.  What a day.

But I I know I played those hands right, didn't I?  I recall when I first starting reading about no-limit poker, they used to say that for small pocket pairs, you needed to have the potential to win 10-12 times the size of the bet you were calling preflop for calling to be the correct move.  But more recently, I've seen the books saying that it should be closer to 20-25x the bet.  That's because, I think, that players have gotten better and they are much less likely to stack off with top pair than they were in the good old days.

Regardless, I didn't have the potential to win 10x what I would have called in any of those hands, let alone 20-25x.

Now I'm far from a great poker player, but I'm just not bad enough to have called those raises.  So you see, I would have had to have been a much worse player than I am to have made money on this particular day.

I ended up with a $30 loss for the day.  But it's hard not to think about all that money that I would have made if only I had been bad enough to make those horrible calls.


  1. Alright, that can be frustrating but it is not the real point. Basically your overall strategy is a losing one and can only be addressed working from the game structure up.

    This is because you are fighting two structural components, never mind even the players: the rake and the cap. In fact, as you will see, the players matter the least in this scenario given their strategies will be roughly symmetrical.

    The first component, the rake, will eat nearly all of the EV of a flat call in a single raised pot, so you actually can't flat long term at maybe 95% of 1/2 games, even with a straddle. It will be in nearly all cases NEGATIVE EV to vpip passively, even with standard ranges which were designed for imaginary conditions by poker "strategists". This is because the strategy of bluffcatching and coolering someone involves too many reciprocal pots where the house wins too much of % of the available EV.

    Unfortunately, while on the surface intuitively better to to abc players, limping is even worse, because now the equity is likely to be distributed even further, yet it is unlikely that the top end of the speculative range can get paid in a cooler situation non-reciprocally. In other words, by keeping the SPR high at the cost of no isolation, the advantages of limping are diminished in a high rake, low cap, game.

    So speaking of the cap, the second problem. The cap means nearly all speculative calls are unprofitable because there is no maneuvering in the low spr pot the structure creates to "protect" weak and novice players.

    Ideally one must move out of this game, and no player once educated would support its existence save those actually interested in losing money, but let's imagine you can't for whatever reason. Both problems are somewhat solved or mitigated through 1) big pots featuring the top end of a linear range 2) preflop aggression which threatens the first condition. Basically this game, for those wishing to win, would be a one street game in general where the pot needs to be as big as possible on the flop (or folded pre) while still leaving a leveraging bet.

    If you are not all in or threatening all in on a frequent basis it is literally, not figuratively, inevitable that a player will lose money merely by sitting down and taking hands at games like this because of the above points.

    Poker strategy as imagined by abc and novice players and poker "educators" actually feeds the house, in other words.
    We can see confirmation of this last point, even if it is surprising to some, in the plethora "tips and tricks" articles, website fluff by freelancers, and other strat detritus which is actively encouraged by those who really benefit from it.


    1. Wow, that's some heavy duty analysis, persuadeo. I really appreciate the input. I am going to have to review this over and over again to make sure I truly get it.

      I have been recently thinking this game is unbeatable in the long run. What drew me to it in the first place was that it seemed like the level of play by my opponents was so bad, it was really +EV. This was "validated" by the early results I had playing it. However, it now appearsI was just catching the upside of variance initially and that variance has caught up with me.

      Thanks again. Great food for thought.

  2. Yes one of those days sucks when you keeping getting baby pairs and have to fold them at an aggressive table. It's shame those baby pairs could not be JJ or better so they can be played preflop.

  3. Hi Rob Just glad you and your car made it back safely from Las Vegas. Unless you get in cheaply to hit those small sets it just makes it unprofitable to play in games like this. You almost have to move up to 1/3 no limit with a 300 hundred buy-in cap. Its like play big or go home poker. Maybe you should find a new casino that will take your action. Or not. Keep grinding.

    1. Well, this 1/2 game is better than at Bike or Commerce, where the max buy-in is $40-$50. Those games are god-awful.

      I could play 2/3 with a $300 cap in Ventura, but I was trying to play the 1/2 because I noticed how bad the players in that game were. But i'm thinking between the cap and the rake, it might be unbeatable. Have to re-think.

      Wish I could just play a normal, Vegas-style 1/2 game with $200 or $300 max buy-in, but they don't exist in L.A. area. Crazy.

  4. What? No more automobile posts? You are ripping us off!