Here in the preliminary stages of my return to cash poker I’m being as disciplined as I know how to be despite it being a real drag at times. For my immediate purposes the play-monkey tables are the best place for me, and not because there’s no real money at stake. They’re the best for me right now because the play-monkey games are essentially unbeatable, and through beating them I can suss out my most formidable opponent: Me.
I sat down today in the worst of all positions at a challenging table. The table was challenging because not one player there had the first clue about how to really play poker. The player to my immediate left was the most skilled of them, and I’ve played the guy several times before. He’s a typical loose, aggressive player and easily enough exploited — and he knows that I can outplay him so will leave the table if I sit to his left. He’ll hang around for a while if I’m to his right, so I was happy to see him having a nice stack of chips, about 150 Big Blinds (1500 chips on a 5/10 table).
Two to my left was an unknown who was the chip leader when I sat down with just over 500 Big Blinds. I made a mental note to pay attention to that guy because I was either going to have to stay out of his way or just attack the shit out of him. To his left was a player whose stack was about mid-way between the two, also worthy of note. He had to be mixing it up with the big stacker, so he was either pretty good or pretty bad but not average. Next to him was another, with a few more chips. The next seat, to my right, was empty. Here fishy fishy fishy!
Sure enough, before the blinds came around to me, the seat to my right was filled by a guy bringing a minimum buy-in to the table. I love those guys. They’re either just about to play insanely aggressively with any two cards that land, so my good hands can take their entire stacks in one go, or they’re playing scared money and any two cards I get can take their stacks in several good sized swats. Scared money is stupid money, and it’s my calling to educate money.
My plan was to just lay low and get a good read on the big stack two to my left. He was dominating the table, and there had to be a reason for it. With half of the table being above max buy-in, there had to have been some real trout gasping around the table before I got there, but that knowledge alone is of no practical value. My assumption was that this was a play-monkey table full of play-monkeys, but it’s a horrible leak to assume you know more than you possibly could know and I’m trying to pretend I’m a thinking, disciplined player so I don’t want to make assumptions. If it is really and truly nothing but play-monkeys I’m up against, I can only win by educating them in the fine art of folding so they can’t all take turns catching lucky longshots to take my stack. That guy two to my left was the biggest stack, so he’d make the best monkey training stick if I could snap him off.
My plan to lay low until I had the big stack figured was foiled, though, when I caught some hands that just had to be played. The guy to my right quickly proved to be one of my favorite kind, a weak player who knows he’s weak and despises his own timidity.
I don’t remember what my hole cards were, but they were good enough to make me open into that crazy loose, insanely aggressive monkey pen with a big pre-flop bet that was raised, and which I re-raised. The bluegill to my right, being just like every other human being on the planet, assumed that I must be very much like himself, so he figured my strong move after folding every hand for two full orbits was just stupid overcompensating aggression and he came along for the ride. Oh hell yes. This is the shit that lures my heathen ass to the poker table.
If the bluegill were an eighth of a poker player he’d have recognized that calling my re-raise took him past the commitment threshold, but the chances of him being so sophisticated were somewhere in the vicinity of are you fucking kidding me. I knew my line before the flop even landed and knew what my commitment criteria were, so when the flop came up low and uncoordinated I fired again, throwing out a pot-sized bet just as fast as I could so it was obvious that I wasn’t hesitating. I expected to end up heads-up or close to it, and my only callers were the bluegill and the guy to his left. The turn came a brick and I fired again, and the player to the bluegill’s left folded. The bluegill could call but he’d be all-in. Was he hooked? I hoped so, because I never show my cards when I don’t have to and his fold would put my hole cards into the muck unseen. I could play off of the perception either way, but I wanted it to be seen that I had the goods and wasn’t just on an audacious bluff.
The bluegill was hooked, and when his cards were turned up after the call that put him all-in he proved once again that bluegills cannot resist cheese. He made a re-buy and came back for more punishment. Oh how I love those guys!
A couple or three hands later the big stacker two to my left folded pre-flop, the first time I’d seen him do it. With the threat of that loosest cannon out of the way I figured it was time to run a naked bluff. There was another fold, the rest limped… I pulled the trigger, making it 90 to go, and as I’d hoped, isolating the bluegill who could not resist an opportunity to show that he, for one, would not be pushed around. The flop came, whatever it was, bluegill bet some ridiculously low amount, and I raised. He called. The turn came, he checked, and while a pot sized bet would have put him all-in I went for the psychological effect and pushed all-in. He folded. I had nuthin’, literally no hand. Not a pair, not a face card, not an overcard (a card higher than was on the board).
There’s a saying in Hold ‘Em: Third time’s the adjustment. If I went at it again relatively soon, it would be assumed that I’d had two good hands and was now playing aggressively with something weak or nothing at all in an attempt to exploit perception and fear. I’d seen that the big stack two to my left was not above outrageously overplaying weak hands when the board was threatening straights and flushes, so I figured him for easy when just two hands after the naked bluff I caught cowboys (two Kings as hole cards). My goal was to isolate him and punish him for grotesque stupidity, so I bet outrageously and made it something like 300 to go. He didn’t rise to the bait. He jumped into the boat. He raised, making it 600 to go. It folded around to me, I shoved all-in, and he called. The cards were turned up, and he was holding Jack-Nine off-suit. Who’s the big stack now, bitch? 😀
After that, the aggrotard stayed out of my way and the others got careful when I was involved in the hand. I fold most hands, so they had a grand old time just monkeying it up and I continued making notes about their exploitable traits. The aggrotard had a large time rebuilding his stack, and either gave in or graciously lost when I leaned on him but was very careful not to put his stack in jeopardy again. I figured I had time, and soon enough would get my opportunity to take his stack away.
I found the aggrotard’s most exploitable tell: When he really had the goods he’d make oversized pre-flop bets, but when he went all-in pre-flop he was holding something like A-J or a pair of nines or tens. Oh hell yes. I like that a lot. His stack was a bit larger than my own when the opportunity came…
I was on the button holding JJ, and the thought flashed through my mind: “There are three ways to play pocket Jacks, all of them wrong”. I wasn’t too worried about it, though, as by now the monkeys had learned to be careful when I had position and I could trust that bold moves meant something most of the time. It limped around to me, I min-raised it to 20, the small blind folded, and the aggrotard went all-in. Opportunity knocked, and if it folded around to me I had to call. It folded around to me, I called, and sure enough he was holding Ace of Diamonds, Queen of Clubs. I’d picked off his tell and though I was playing my Jacks in one of the three wrong ways I guesstimated that I was about 55% favored to win. (I just ran the numbers. I was 56.72% favored. Good guess, I guess.)
Sure enough, the river put the fourth club on the board and the aggrotard sucked out on me. Nearly three hours of play it took me to build that stack, and now a guy I’d been outplaying the whole time had them all.
I’d allotted three hours to the exercise and was about six minutes shy of it, so I left the table and chalked that one into the win column. “A win?”, you ask. Yes, a big fat hairy legged win.
I was laughing when I left the table.