Sunday, February 22, 2009

Mountaineer Trip Report, Part I - Watching paint dry

Tony, his 20-something year old nephew Nathanial, and I made our way 110 miles Southeast to Mountaineer, West Virginia for 18 hours of poker, interrupted by 4 hours of sleep, and maybe a sandwich or two in between. We checked into our hotel at 9pm and were in the poker room before 9:30.

The place was packed - almost every table filled. Tony and Nate got a seat on the same $1-$2 no limit table within 15 minutes. I was sticking to my game plan to play $2/$4 limit, but the waiting list was about 6 or 7 deep and the customers seemed glued to their seats. 30 minutes went by, then 45, then 60.

While waiting, I watched Tony and Nate's table from the rail. Ton did something he told me he almost never does in a cash game - he went all in. There was an early raise, and 4 callers, Tony looked up from the blinds and announced "I'm all in". It was a shocking statement, akin to him calmly announcing "I'm a mob informant in the witness protection program" or "my pants are on fire".

After one second of thought I suspected what Tony was doing - he had Aces and wasn't playing them against 5 players. He did manage to get two folds, but had to take on 3 opponents, who were also all-in. Tony revealed his bullets. Caller number one turned over two nines. Caller number two (who was really short-stacked) flipped over the powerhouse 5-7 suited, and then caller number three flipped over... the other two nines! Could you hope for a better situation in a no limit game - all-in with aces against 3 players, two of them drawing nearly dead, and the third a 4-1 dog to you? Nope, that's pretty good. Pokerstove says Tony was a 76% favorite to beat all 3, and he did so to basically triple up.

At the 90 minute mark, I got the call for my seat and settled in. I was well-practiced from my week of online limit play, well-rested by skipping my Thursday night game and getting a full night's sleep the night before, and ready to play...

Second hand of the night, I get ATs. One person limps before me, I raise it up. One caller, then another. A nice, older woman puts in 2 chips until the dealer corrects her and tells her it's 4. "Who raised it up?" she asks surprisingly. The dealer points me out and she remarks jokingly "oh, the new guy. Ok, I call". We're 5 handed to the flop...

We see a 9QK flop. A whiff for me - I've got a gutshot and an overcard. Someone bets their $2 into the $20 pot, and I call along with some others, with plenty of odds to spare for my 6 outs.

The turn hits my gutshot - the J. I bet and get callers. This game is easy, no?

The river pairs the Queen. A small flag goes up but what the hell. I bet and get raised. I call the extra 4 and pay off the 99 full house. Oopsie.

Next orbit around the table, hit another straight on the turn but the same card gives someone a diamond flush. I pay it off again.

Third orbit around the table, I raise up QQ and get two callers. The board looks pretty nice for me - AAQ for the underboat, plus I know anyone with that Ace will pay me off. Nice. I bet and get a caller. The turn comes a Ten. I bet and before I can get my chips in the middle, the nice older lady announces "Raise.... for 3 more" (she's all in). I know exactly what this means, but I obviously put 3 more chips into the pot. She shows me her Ace ten and overboats me.

Time to take stock. I've played an hour and I'm down $45. I am mildly irritated, but I don't think I've done anything wrong. The second straight with an obvious flush on the board might have been a laydown, but in my short time at the table, I've already seen people playing top pair and two pair two far - so there was no guarantee I was up against a flush there. I compose myself and resolve to keep hammering away and stick with the plan - stay tight, play better cards than the fish, value bet relentlessly when you hit your hand.

I tighten up in early position. I fold KJo and A9o from up front. When late, I add in some suited connectors and cards that can hit hard in multiway pots. I play KQ and hit the queen, and get paid off by second pair. I limp with 8cTc, then call a raise, and then win a nice pot on an 883 flop. The raiser (to my immediate left) had queens, and was not happy with this result. He said he was getting his big hands cracked all night by "idiots". This was the second time he used that word, only this time I was the idiot. I knew he was frustrated and probably didn't mean it personally, but I also turned away from him and didn't chat much the rest of the evening. Let him steam.

I made a nice read late in the evening. I had 7Ts from the big blind and hit two pair on a 78T board. I bet and got called. The turn was an overcard so I bet again, this time I got raised. I reraised. The bettor, a new player at the table on my immediate right, said "oh, I think we have the same hand". He capped. I looked the board over one more time and saw the hand we both "shared" -J9 for the nut straight. I called the capped turn bet hoping to hit my boat, but it didn't come so I check-folded. He showed his J9 and said "hmm, I was sure we had the same hand". I revealed I had two pair and took my shot at boating up.

We got to 2am - the plan was to stop now, get 4-5 hours of sleep, and then hit the cardroom early for a full day tomorrow. Of course, we didn't fall asleep right away - we had to share stories of hands both great and small. Tony and Nate both did well - Tony revealed that he had pocket aces 5 times, in 4.5 hours. Amazing. I joked that he would be punished with bad cards tomorrow (sadly, my joke proved prophetic - stay tuned for part 2). Tony was up $390, Nate was up $200. I was up a solid $7 and just as happy - I had survived my first day, bankroll intact.

I went over a few of my hands with Nate and Tony, especially my early misfortune. Tony remarks that playing limit hold'em must be like watching paint dry - no pressure, no bluffing people off hands, no extra large value bets to the players that you know will pay you off. I can't totally disagree with him, but it also keeps you from donking off your bankroll, and furthermore helps you focus on some other aspects of your game, like handreading. Both good and bad players are chasing all sorts of draws in limit - it's a challenge to figure out which players are chasing which draws. The fundamental math aspects of pot odds still comes into play in limit - keep track of the pot size, follow your draws when the numbers say to - fold when the pot is small and they don't. Don't overvalue big cards and big pairs, don't undervalue strong draws. Make money.

1 comment:

Memphis MOJO said...

Nice report. Can't wait for Part 2.