This didn’t occur to me until Sarah observed it, but my guess that Friday night would be a good day at the Big Game was dead wrong. They could barely field two tables, and at midnight were down to just five players at one table of $1/$2 NL Hold’em. I was ahead over $400 so I cashed out and went home. Her theory is that single guys and people with families have other plans on Friday. When I go back on a Thursday I’ll find out for sure, but this is the exact reverse of a casino.
As I headed into the game, I made a very purposeful decision to hold my aggression in check for the first hour or so. I needed to see which players were bluffable and which ones had good hand selection. But more than that, I’ve started to notice how much my image at the table changes the dynamic. If I sit down and play 6 pots in the first 30 minutes and win half of them, people have a pretty good read on me and start calling me when I bluff. But if I play in ‘rock’ mode and then start to come out of my shell with hands that easily warrant the aggression, I can get away with more bluffs later on because they think I play only good hands. It seems like a simple strategy, but it really does work. I stole many a pot later in the night when I missed the flop because of my stone cold table image.
One good example is when I was dealt red aces in late position. I made it $12 to go and two people acted before me, the big blind and a loose aggressive player I’ll call Scruffy who was very, very dangerous. Scruffy isn’t afraid of the big bet, and plays cash games like a tournament, with very little regard for the money. The flop came Eight-Six-Five rainbow and they all checked to me. I bet $35 and they all thought for a second and then folded. "You flop a set?" "You flop Seven-Six for the straight?" They were all giving me credit for a strong hand because they had no track record to pin me on. In fact I had a pretty good hand, but it could have easily been drawn out on. This set me up perfectly for my largest and most volatile hand of the night. (Remember, I’m not a big fan of volatility)
My most volatile hand, and the one I’m least proud of was when our table was six handed. I had about $280 in chips sitting in the cut off seat, meaning I was almost the last person to act in each round. I was dealt Jack-Ten hearts and we all limped into the hand for $2 when the flop came Ah Qh 8d. It checked around to a player who liked to bluff way too much, and he bet $25. Scruffy is a guy who is dangerously both loose and very aggressive with excellent reading abilities. He had $600 in front of him raised it to $100. I looked down at my hand, considered my twelve outs: any heart plus the the three non-heart kings. I figured out I could actually win the pot right there by pushing in a really big bet so I shoved my $278 in chips into the pot. Mr. Bluffs Too Much folded right away.
Scruffy stared at me for a long time, and said, "If I fold, will you show me?" I said, "I’d really rather you call." Actually I didn’t, but I couldn’t tell if lying or telling the truth would work better here, so I lied. It really perplexed him, and he said, "Good answer."
He said, "I don’t think I can lay this down. I hope you’re not on the flush draw" and turned over Ace-six. I was frankly shocked. I don’t know how you can call this with only a paired Ace and a crappy kicker, or how you consider yourself pot committed when only 1/6th of your chips are in the middle, but I guess he did. He shoved his chips in and I showed him my flush/straight draw.
A black six hit the turn and then the two of hearts hit the river and I raked in almost $600 in chips.
It’s true that I was a 5-6% favorite in that hand, but I’m not really one to flip a coin for $300. That’s more a tournament move than a cash game move. I was betting to get two folds, and frankly, while it turned out okay, I don’t think that move coincides well with my goals of reducing variance. I think I was just frustrated and decided to try and push him around a little.
Scruffy plays cash games like a tournament, but my hand really tilted him. He played badly for a few minutes and then regained his form. When I looked over an hour later, he had built himself up to $800 again.
The best hand I played was when I was in the big blind with Queen-Five clubs. Everyone saw the flop for $2 which came Jack-Five-Five. The player to my right, a chaser, bet $12 and I and one other guy called. Then the turn came an Ace and he bet $20 and I called and the other player folded. The final card came a Ten (no flush possibilities) and he bet $30. I raised it to $100 and he called. When he turned over Nine Five and saw my own Five with a Queen kicker he grumbled. His greatest flaw is that he plays any two cards and the weak kicker bit him in the ass. What I love most about this hand is how quickly I played it. Every call and the raise was made fast enough that I think he really thought he was in charge of the hand at every moment, and that I was just drawing to something.
The dealer stopped the game because his match of my $100 raise was short $10, and she made sure he put it in. The host of the Big Game came around to collect time, and so I asked for a rack to leave. Scruffy threw $10 at me to try and convince me to stay. "You think I’m so bad that if you give me $10 I’ll stay another hour and lose my stack?" I asked. "No, I just can’t stand to see $700 leave the table," he replied. It was an economical proposition for him, but a bad one for me. I cut a cigar and waited on the plush sofas in the lounge while the host counted up my money.
A profit once again, but it’s certainly not a living.