I’ve got all of one reader with patience enough to read poker stories and he doesn’t come around so much any more, but here it is anyway:
I found a nice table for my ongoing quest to find uncomfortable situations last night, and the perfect seat at it. The player who was to my right is one who’s nailed the aggressive play technique but is otherwise a lousy poker player. To his right was a similar player, but not quite so frisky or so bad. The challenge: Sometimes they’re going to have the goods, and though it’s important to keep an eye on them there would soon enough be other players at the table, some known, some unknown, and some of them might be quite good. It’s a huge leak in poker play to allow one’s focus on the dominant (and/or the fishiest) player to exclude the rest whose presence is no less important — a hand that beats the two to my right also has to beat everyone else who’s active in the hand in order to be good.
The guy to my right was clearly dominating the table, with four times the maximum buy-in in his stack. It’s amazing how well that stupid aggression can work. But he’s already learned to tighten up if I’m in the hand, making his chips not so easy as they once were. What works best right now is to price everyone else out of the hand, isolate the guy, and value bet the hell out of him. He might have caught wise to that as I wasn’t nearly so deep into his stack as I wanted to be when he decided it was time to be somewhere else. That left the frisky player two seats right as my favored target. He’s not learning. It could be he’s maxed out his ability. I got his number a while back and he’s not yet adapted.
I caught a pair of tens as my pocket cards, and though they might hold up in heads-up play that’s not a hand that really wants lots of callers to a pre-flop raise. I had position, being on the button, so when it limped around to me I made it seven big blinds to go. It folded around to my frisky friend, who called. Long story short, he’d called with Six-Nine off-suit, paired the Six on the flop, the Nine of the turn, and filled the boat with a Six on the river. How a guy could call a big pre-flop raise with Six-Nine off-suit is beyond me, and to follow it up with calling a pot-sized bet on the flop with a small pair… inconceivable! (Yes, that’s a reference to The Princess Bride.)
That stuff happens. I’m not immune to tilt, but that’s not nearly enough to do it. My next hand was trash, Seven-Deuce off-suit, so I folded. The next hand, though, was Queen-Queen. The perfect hand to overplay in this situation because I would be seen as tilted. But all I got was the blinds because no one was inclined to bite. My next hand was also paired paint (face cards, I don’t remember which) so I led out strong again, and again just snagged the blinds. Dammit! The third big hand in succession was Aces. What luck! I’d taken a beating by Six-Nine off-suit, folded one, overplayed the next two, and so surely appeared tilted. The Universe just doesn’t present these opportunities often but when they knock you invite them in and bring out the good liquor. 🙂
I pushed all-in pre-flop, and my frisky friend whose stack was smaller than mine and contained way too many of my chips called with King-Queen. He paired the Queen on the turn but that was as far as he got, and his stack came to me.
He bought back in for the minimum, which is his habit, and typed into the chat box, “nice hand”. I replied, “Thanks. The timing couldn’t have been better”. I hoped that if he were not quite fully tilted my comment would push him over. He might have already been over the edge, but it couldn’t hurt to push a little. His play afterward showed that he was clearly tilted, relying on raw aggression and any-two-will-do. A few hands later I took his new stack, and a little while later another. The poor guy was so focused on me that all I had to do was get into the hand to induce him to make huge overbets — so the other players, a couple of whom I’d estimated to be not as good as he, picked him off over and over again and more importantly, most were so focused on him that they’d stay in the hands when I had the best of it.
It proved to be not a challenge after all. I didn’t find myself feeling discomfort at any point in the session, and just scooped up pots like no one was defending them. I had to think to do it, but it wasn’t challenging. I’m calling that scenario solved, for now. I’m just going to be happy with the knowledge that my poker head is coming back.
Next time around I’m going to challenge myself, not for the first time, by putting the frisky players to my left. The challenge in that is that you almost always must act ahead of them, so they’re not so fully committed when you act aggressively and so are more willing to fold. I know I can beat that scenario, so the goal is to extract maximum profit without making mistakes.