I’m in California for a few days to do a little business and see Sarah’s 90+ year old grandmother. Fortuitously, Sarah’s grandmother lives about 15 minutes from legendary California Casino Bay 101. Bay 101 runs lots of low limit Hold’em games, an Omaha and a stud game, and a ‘spread limit’ Hold’em game. I guess there’s a regulatory reason they can’t do no limit hold’em, because they have huge spread limit games, where the bet is $5-$200. This game has a $200 maximum buyin.
When I sat down I quickly realized that these players were loose, aggressive, and had major starting hand selection problems. I quickly went around the table mentally assembling my player profile on each person. Pretty quickly I identified the smart players who were playing tight, making small, pot-sized bets. I also identified the high variance players who were making huge, all-in bets with weak hands. I vowed to get into a hand with them.
The strategy for this game with these players became clear after an orbit or two. You need to consider carefully before you get into a pot. You can’t call a $20 with a pair of 8’s hoping to hit your set on the flop. With three or four people in, one of them is going to hit an overcard, and then you’re going to need to rebuy to bring your stack back up to $200.
Nor do you want to call raises like that and fold after the flop. At $20 per hand, that eats up 10% of your stack on what is basically a long shot. It’s not that the $20 is expensive, in the ‘How many burgers can I buy with that at McDonalds’ sense. It’s that once your stack drops to $180, you can only win $180 until you rebuy which can take 20 minutes.
So you play tight, and hope your player profiles are effective. At this game, mine were deadly. I drew a table with several easy to read players. Starting on my immediate left was an Asian guy who was very volatile, very loose, very aggressive, and liked to bet out of turn. This was awesome, as I could play position on him when I was out of position. Whenever we got into a hand together he would declare his action before I had a chance to act. In the beginning this was because I was taking time to think about my action. After I realized he did this consistently, I never failed to stop and think for 10 seconds while he checked or bet out of turn.
I then considered the strength of my hand based upon his future action, and then did the appropriate thing. When I had a pair of 8’s and the flop came A-6-2 and he checked out of turn, I bet and he folded. When he bet out of turn and I missed the flop, I checked and then folded to any large bet from him. He was a dream player.
Another notable player was Jeff, sitting in the #1 seat three to my left. My player profile concluded that he only raised JJ-AA, and AK and AQ. Knowing what he wouldn’t raise was helpful when he would make a bet out on a flop that had hit me and I had to consider what he had.
My dream read though was an Indian player two to my right in the #5 seat. Guppy was a volatile loose player who loved to make the $200 bet. He made that bet when he had the nuts, when he was on a draw, and when he was trying to steal the pot with nothing.
But here’s the best part: Guppy liked to stare you down when he had the nuts, but would look away from you when he didn’t have a very strong hand. It was this exact read, combined with my neighbor checking out of turn, that let me take control of a $600 pot from the two of them, when I realized they had at best flush draws or high card Ace hands.
After about two hours a dealer pushed in that was easily rattled by the louder players at the table. She kept making mistakes and slowing down the game. I looked down at my $350+ profit an decided that $175 / hour is a pretty good session, and called it a day.