I played about 5 hours of no limit last night at the Casino San Pablo. There are a few good players at the table and a lot of monkeys. I’m somewhere in between. I’m not sure what I’m doing yet in the game. I tend to play my big pairs very aggressively preflop and post-flop. With AK, I wait and see. There are a lot of limpers in this game. There are three $2 blinds from first, second and button position. To enter a pot a player must put $4 in. Everyone must begin with $100 at the table. When I arrived, two people had over $500 or so at the table. There are lots of suckouts and horrible plays that I noticed. I’m a very conservative player compared to many of the players there. Here are a few hands from last night.
Limit Hold’em: I had Q6 when the flop came QQK, two diamonds. I was small blind. I checked. Big blind bet, button called, I called. Turn was a diamond. I checked. Small blind bet out, button called, I folded. So why did I fold? I felt someone had a diamond flush or my kicker was no good. That’s what losing these past few months has done to me. I fold good hands because I’ve been losing so much lately. River was a blank, and the hand was checked down. Someone had AJ, and someone else had even less. It’s true that I’ve been running badly, but I still need to show up and play this game, at least stick around on the turn for something. This was a very conservative play, and I tend to make very conservative plays. Remember, the very best players don’t fear losing.
Now here’s a hand I played strong. I’m on the button with K7. At the San Pablo, the button also has a big blind of 2 so there’s always lots of action on these tables ($7 in blinds every round...wow!). Flop is King high. Someone bets and I raise. I then bet on the turn. Everyone folds except one person. I bet out again on the river and the pot’s folded to me. My one big win in limit last night!
I then moved tables and played at the same 3/6 table as my friend Dorian. I was dealt AQs and an Ace came on the flop. I bet out (Dorian preflop raised) and he called. I bet the turn and the river and Dorian called both (Dorian will defer to the raiser many times unless he has a monster hand. I don’t think Dorian ever bluffs, but he’ll call a hand just to see what someone has). Anyway, Dorian had AK and I lost a little on that hand.
1. In one of my early hands I was dealt QQ. A crazy, loose player raised to $10, another player called ($26 in pot), and I raised it to $35 total. Each are getting about 3-to-1 to call. The original raiser folds and the caller calls my 25. The flop is K9x. I looked at the caller when the flop came down and he did something very unusual. He frowned as if he was unhappy with the flop. He checked. I checked. I sensed he had a king. The turn was a nothing and he bet $20. I called. The river was a 10 and he checked. I also checked. He flipped over K3 of hearts and that was that. I lost $55 that hand.
2. A few hands later (an hour later or so), playing with the short stack, I limped in with 99. There were 4 or 5 callers I think so about $16 in the pot. The flop came 852, and a loose player on my right bet 15. I had about 35 or so left, so I moved all in. Everyone else folded but the bettor who called after thinking for a few minutes. He had 87. An 8 came on the river and I rebought.
3. I was dealt 69 in an unraised pot with four or five callers. The flop came 587 two diamonds. I check raised to 30 and the loose player who calls lots of bets called me. There was about $70 in the pot and a 9 came on the turn. I bet all my chips (about 60 left) and he folded, so that was a nice pot to pick up.
4. I had QQ again and raised to $20 preflop. I was called. Flop was 252. I bet $40 on the flop and the caller folded. Made $34 here.
5. I had 88 with lots of players in the pot (around 7 or so) and the flop was 7 high. 235 or something like that. Someone bet 8 and I called, along with about four others. It was checked down and I won it. Sweet! My biggest pot of the night! (+45)
6. I had Q5 in the small blind and the flop was Q56, two hearts. I check-raised and won a nice little $20 pot. I’m hitting some good hands occasionally, but no monsters and rarely if ever the nuts. I’m never sure how to play hands like this. How do I build the pot without losing all my chips in the process. I’m not much of an optimist when it comes to the turn and river cards, perhaps because it’s seems I’m a 2-to-1 dog against my opponents.
That was about it as far as exciting plays go. My last hand was TT on a board of 236Q. I folded, fearing I had lost even before the turn.
Analysis of play: I have a lot to learn about this game. I’m not that experienced in thinking on the third and fourth level. And I’m so focused on how much is in the pot and what the odds are and the body language of my players that it’s difficult to put them on hands. It’s a skill that does not come naturally to me.
I feel I’m relaxed at the table and have a good image. People don’t want to mess with me. I can look right through someone. My tilt control is good at the table. But I sure hate getting no cards.
I need more experience at the table.
The Players: There are a lot of weak players at the NL game at Casino San Pablo who are thinking only in terms of their own cards. I can see why it’s so important to distinguish who’s thinking beyond their own cards and who has tunnel vision. This will be something I work on throughout the year.
As for poker tells, wow, they work. Looking at the guy with the K3, it was so clear to me that he hit his flop when he shrugged and looked sad. I knew I was beat, but I paid the guy an extra $20 just to prove it. The pros are terrific at reading how comfortable people are.
There was one guy at our table who had a lot of chips, doesn’t play a lot of hands, but likes to mix it up a bit and is aggressive. He likes to showboat a bit, take his time and dwell on his hands. He did this with a set of Jacks against the K3 guy who eventually lost all his chips and called it a night (why don’t I ever get these guys' chips?).
The guy who called my all in with 87 is a reckless player who bets immediately when he hits a good flop. He’d make so much more money if he didn’t blow people off the hand. I notice that when bad players hit their flop, they bet big. I think they’re afraid of sucking out. I tend to do this, too. My betting will improve throughout the year. NL is the game I will be studying this year. There is so much more opportunity to make serious money. But I may have to take some bad nights for a while. There’s so much to the game, and a lot of information is spinning in my head.
NL is also great experience for tournament play. The two are different, but there are also lots of similarities.
Last night was not a great start to the new year, but I’m confident the year as a whole will be my best poker year yet!