The lady to the right of me is muttering that the guy to my left is "brilliant, just brilliant. Just keep playing those cards."
He consistently plays junk and beats her top pair because she doesn’t know how to play post-flop and can’t smell two pair. When she starts, he starts talking to himself, calling her a "pro". They’re not actually speaking directly to each other, because they’re pissed, but they want the other one to hear, so they mutter louder and louder until they’re actually shouting in my ear. It’s like a married couple fighting passive aggressively.
That’s how I spent my evening, but that’s not how it started thank god, let me elaborate.
I sat down secure in the knowledge that I’d learned something about this environment, "Nobody will fold to your bets until they see you win a pot." It’s something I had noticed with Katie sitting at this table this week. I don’t think for every player that it’s a conscious factor, but it’s definitely at work. I can’t make anyone fold without having shown down some strong hands first. Everyone draws on you if you have no table image. People start to fold if you do, but you’ll still have people with you to the end, albeit fewer of them.
So I resolved to win a few real solid hands before I started having to make tough decisions, because the opposite is true. If you lose a few hands, it encourages people to call you with junk, and who wants that?
I had a second change to my game as well. I had been practicing $5/$10 Limit Hold’em with Poker Academy and had spent a lot of time with the odds tables and my notes from this game. I realized that straight draws are too often not worth chasing with these pots when you play with people who play any two suited cards in the hopes of hitting a flush. The pot odds have to be a lot better than I was seeing, so I resolved to drop most straight draws from my repertoire. I also had broken myself of the habit of playing all unsuited Aces with medium or weak kickers as well.
I knew I’d be folding a lot, but I also knew I’d have way less variance that I usually did, and that I’d stop the leaking problem in my stack. I was ready.
I sat down, posted my $6 as my penalty for coming in right after the dealer button, and saw Ten-Eight unsuited. Exactly the kind of junk I wasn’t going to play. Of course it came back to me raised, and I broke all my rules and called and saw a flop of Jack-Nine-Seven, all different suits. I had flopped a straight, and likely I was going to get paid.
Of course one of my opponents had Jack Nine and I got paid big. Then I hit another big hand. When it was over I looked down to a stack of $450. (I started with $240).
Ok, two hands after sitting down, now I had table image. I spent the next few hours taking photos and making notes. Noting who always draws and the occasional player who’s actually talented enough to fold Queens, Kings, or Aces, I formulated a strategy for each one and memorized it through the act of writing it down.
My left hand neighbor had run his $200 up to $650 while I was taking notes and not playing, and he’d done it at the expense of the lady on my right. I knew he was going to give that back if he stayed, and so I was counting on his degenerate gambler nature. Little did I know that he was such a gambler that when he ran low on money he’d leave the table, go win some money at blackjack, and then bring it back to buy in at the poker table. He also had a bad habit of blind raising (before he saw his cards) every time it was my turn to have the big blind. This scared the rest of the table who didn’t want to pay $12 to see a flop, but when it came around to me I’d look down and if I saw two cards over Ten, I’d re-raise and we’d fight out the hand. The first time I three-bet it when it got to me and when I hit the flop hard, I won a $100 pot. I did that twice more and probably made $250 alone from this move.
And yet he still did the blind raise. After a while I would nudge him every time it was my big blind, and he did it five more times. Unfortunately the whole table had figured out my technique and I never saw good cards again. I folded every time, but they all called and someone always caught something, and then took $75 or $100 off him. On the whole it worked out great for me, but I was disappointed that they actually learned from my technique.
At 10pm I’d been there a little over four hours and was looking at about $400 profit. I had the second biggest stack at the table, and I decided I was done and got up. Once again the other good player at the table said, "Well the fish are leaving, I’ll go too."
What is it about my play that I keep getting called a fish?