Day Three: Raking the pink pots
Tropicana $7.50/$15 "pink chip" game
Our game of choice on this trip was the pink chip game at the Trop. The Tropicana poker room has printed up special pink chips that are worth $2.50 each. The game is limit hold’em, stakes are $7.50/$15. Because $7.50 is a mere three pink chips, people tend to bet without regard for how much the chips are worth.
It’s a really, really, loose game. On the average 4 or 5 people see every flop, and if you raise from early position with a big hand like QQ, you’re likely to see 3 or 4 people call your raise cold behind you. I saw people win pots for upwards of $200 with a pair of twos. Or Ace high. I thought it was an unusual occurence, but I saw it often enough that it became a good measure of how foolishly people toss their money in.
It was truly an exercise in learning to adjust one’s play to the situation. Things like poker books tell you to play certain hands a certain way, but the pink chip game’s dynamics were crucial and everything was situational. If you always play Aces a certain way, well pay attention because they’re gonna get cracked if you don’t do this right from the get-go in the pink chip game. Simply raising is not good enough to force people out to improve your chances of winning, you need to three-bet, which means you’ve got to eyeball the people at the table and figure out if one of them is going to raise anyway, and then plan on re-raising behind them. If you’re not careful, people will limp for two bets into a big pot and then draw to anything. Sometimes it even happens with three bets.
For example, when five people call three bets, the dealer rolls out the flop and there’s $112.50 in the pot. When a player bets $7.50 to you, if you have any kind of hand at all, you call the bet, because you’re getting 16 to 1 odds, and that’s probably enough for you if you’re drawing to a hand that has a reasonable chance of winning.
In that situation, a player ahead of me with Ace-King raised it and by the time it rounded to me, four players were in. I realized I had Eight-Seven suited, a hand with lots of potential, and so I made it three bets. The flop came Ace-Six-Nine (all different suits), giving the original player his magic pair of Aces with a King kicker. It gave me an open ended straight draw with little chance of a flush. He bet, everyone folded to me. I raised, and he raised again, when I finally called. The fourth card came a Ten, and he bet, I smooth called, hiding my straight. Although there was a flush draw on the board, it was unlikely he was holding the Ace-King of the flush, and so I confidently slow-played my made straight.
The river came a Two (not of the flush suit) and I was golden. He bet, I raised, and he became puzzled. He knew the Two didn’t help me, but he couldn’t put me on a hand that would have resulted in all that aggression so early except a set. Nevertheless he called my raise and threw his Ace-King down in disgust. I dragged the $247.50 pot (minus the casino’s $4 rake and a $2.50 tip for the dealer) and spent the next ten minutes stacking my (his) chips.
We played well on Saturday, taking pots from the regulars and picking up lots of decent hands until after midnight.
Around 1am a new player, "Jack from Brooklyn" showed up and took the seat between Chris and I. He bought in for $100 in chips and proceeded to run over the table. His ability to read everyone else’s hand from their betting patterns and body language was uncanny. He always knew exactly where he was in a hand, exactly what everyone else had, and how to extract from them the kinds of behavior he wanted. If he saw the flop where I hit top pair and he hit second pair, he’d raise and re-raise me until I was afraid to bet into him. Then he’d try and steal it or check it to the river.
I personally gave him $100 of my chips as he proceeded to extract large sums of money from every player that dared to play a pot with him. He wasn’t crazy, and though he was drinking gin and tonics, he was stone cold in his play. After I realized I’d lost $100 purely to his presence, I got up and said, "I don’t need to willingly give you my money, I’m taking my profit to bed."
Apart from stealing some pots and then showing my bluffs (really kind of a jerk thing to do), I had one great $250+ hand on Sunday that defined my improved game. A smart player under the gun raised, got three callers before it got to me. I looked down at a pair of sixes and called, hoping for a statistically improbable Six on the flop.
Aghast that four people called his raise given what he thought was a tight table image, the smart player turned to a passing waitress and asked, "Would you like to call my raise too?"
The flop came Nine-Six-Four (all different suits). The smart player bet, a calling station next in turn raised, and I re-raised. The smart player, facing two bets and knowing the player in-between us played any two cards, called. The predictable player called, and we saw the turn (a Jack).
At this moment I had an excellent read of the table. The smart player bet out, but acting like the turn had missed him as well. The calling station to his left called, acting like the turn had missed him as well. I had the smart player read for a big pair he couldn’t lay down (I was right), and I put the calling station on two pair such as Jack-Nine or Jack-Four. I’d seen him behave this way with two pair before, and I was thrilled at the fact that I had almost nothing to worry about, as several of the cards to come that improved the other players’ hands also improved mine.
I smooth-called, intending to trap them on the river. The river came a blank rag, not completing a flush, and the smart player checked. The calling station bet his two pair, and I raised. The smart player agonized and knew he was beat, but couldn’t lay down his hand. I raised and got both to call another big bet.
Indeed the original raiser turned over Queens and the calling station turned over two pair. I showed my baby set and dragged the $292.50 pot (minus $6.50 for rake and tip).
I love this game.
Tomorrow I’ll post some of Chris’ stories as well. Stay tuned.