Saturday, August 30, 2008

The $456 T-Shirt

Well, we made it there and back. Mountaineer Casino and Racetrack in West Virginia, only 108 or so odd miles from home. 3 hours poker on Thursday night (just the whet the appetite) – 15 hours on Friday, then 3 more on Saturday to wrap it up. A thousand things happened on and off the tables – and I learned quite a bit about live poker in the process. Unfortunately, I paid a pretty high price for this education - $456 bucks at the tables to be exact. But hell, I got a free T-Shirt for my troubles, so we’re even, right?

My first problem – I was severely under-bankrolled. I don’t know what I was thinking. I showed up with $300 and hoped that was going to get me through the weekend. The lowest no-limit tables offered at Mountaineer are $1-$2, so I had shown up for 20 or so hours of poker with a buy-in and a half. Nice. I have no excuse for this – I simply didn’t think it through.

I decided I was going to buy in short for $100 and play similarly to the way I played at Wiley’s house – wait for my premium cards and push them hard, and hopefully I would build up my bankroll up to an amount where I could loosen up and play a wider range of hands. The first hand of the night, I got K9 in middle position, and folded it just as easily as you please. No thought to open-raising, no thought to making moves the first hand at the table, no thought of anything but my super-tight style and being patient, waiting for my cards.

I didn’t have to wait long. Hand number two, here we go – pocket rockets. A red one and a black one, looking up at me so nicely. Someone in front of me raised to 12. That’s twelve, as in 6 times the big blind. Then someone right before me called. Ok, there’s $27 in the pot, and I need to re-bump it. To what? Should I shove? Nah, that’s a big overbet, won’t get any value for that – so I raise it up to $40. As I’m doing it, I’m thinking to myself “ok, we’re on the second hand of the night, and you’ve got 40% of your stack in the pot preflop. Great. Fortunately, both people folded and I was ahead!

I stayed ahead for a couple hours, but then I lost a small pot and a few blinds and was down to just under my $100. During this time, I found out quite a few things about my table. Firstly, the standard raise at the table was $12, just like I saw with my Aces. Why the standard raise was 6x the blind, I have no idea, but this was a common theme throughout the weekend. $12 would get you callers, $15-$18 was “serious” and would usually take the pot down. Basically, the $1-$2 table was playing like a $2-$4 table. All this made my $100 buy in almost laughable – I had only 25 “effective blinds”.

My demise in the first night came early in hour 3. I got JJ in the big blind. I was hoping for a lone, late raiser that I could re-bump all-in, but instead the raise came early, $12 like always, and then 4 people called the raise. This threw me for a loop, and when it was my turn to act, I decided to switch gears at the last second and play the Jacks for set value and just call. Maybe I’d hit my set and take down a monster. There were 6 to the flop, which came a glorious 8-2-2.

The small blind bet $10 into an $87 dollar pot. He was constantly taking stabs at pots of every type, and this move didn’t mean anything to me at all as far as what cards he held. I looked at his bet, then the board, and then the 4 people left to call, and then finally thought about my shortstack strategy – “hit a hand and push it hard”. I shoved my $60-odd bucks into the pot with my overpair.

The original raiser, who was under the gun, thought a long time about calling me, which wasn’t a good sign. I figured he had either Tens (good) or Queens (bad). Kings or Aces would have been a snap call. Then he folded. Nice! Then a second fold, and then a third. But the last guy to act called and my heart sank. The small blind stabber went away, and we turned over – he had A2 suited and had trips. I was dead.

After the hand, the original raiser told me he actually did have KK, but he also had a short stack and didn’t want to just call and then have other callers come in and crack him, too (he also thought it was reasonable that I had aces). This means that I think I was dead no matter what – if I had shoved preflop, he probably would have called and I would have went down that way (although it’s possible he would have laid the Kings down for the same reasons he laid them postflop).

I decided not to play anymore that night – my laughable bankroll had to be preserved for a huge day of poker tomorrow, and I was stinging trying to figure out if I had made a bonehead play or if I was just destined to go broke on this hand. The concept turned over and over as I sat at the bar waiting for Tony to finish up. He decided to call it a night around 1 and we went to our hotel.

I spoke with Tony about the hand. He said he would have played them differently. His idea would have been to reraise the $10 to $25 or so – and then if the Kings came over the top, or you got callers, you would just shut it down. It sounded like a reasonable way to play the hand, except for one thing – I asked him “aren’t I pot committed if I put $25 + my original $14 (raise and big blind) out of my original $80-$90? He explained that I was thinking like a tournament player. You don’t worry about pot commitment in a cash game. If you bet off half your stack and then decide to lay it down, you reach into your pocket and reload. The light went on in my head. Ding! Of course, chips aren’t precious in a cash game – it’s just money. If you’re sufficiently bankrolled like you’re supposed to be (not like me), you can donk yourself all the way down to $1 if you want and then fold – then just reload for more. Duh. Consider this lesson number 1.

Soon afterward, I learned lesson #2 of a live poker trip - bring Tylenol PM with you. I was hopped up on poker-drenaline (I just made up that word, don’t steal it), laying in bed thinking about the night, and couldn’t fall asleep. I knew that sleep deprivation would not serve me well for the marathon tomorrow, but I could not get into a deep sleep.

To be continued…

1 comment:

bastinptc said...

Found you.

Matt, while Tony is correct, playing for set value is not a bad idea, and from what I understand, a viable short-stack strategy. The problem is, of course, that you forgot about that on the flop. But you knew that already.

Welcome to the hell that is a cash game.