Bringing Down the Thunderbolt
About two weeks ago I cashed out my online accounts (why I did such a daft thing must wait for another post) but I did leave myself a tiny lifeline. I wanted to cash out nice even amounts and so I left three bucks and change at PokerStars. I didn't plan on playing with it, but last Friday I was home and comfy in my sweats and I felt like playing some poker before I nodded off. I took my little all to a NL table with blinds that fit my budget. Like, two- and five-cents. As my readers know by now, pride is not one of my faults.
Or is it? I played Friday night, played a little on Sunday, a little tonight. And I've turned those three dollars into...let's see...nearly forty-five bucks. A fifteen-fold increase. Just think, if only I'd started with fifty grand instead of three singles...
I'm just playing for fun, to while away an hour before bedtime. Which is bad--one reason I cashed out was to spend more time doing more productive things. But after I've done my good deeds for the day, playing a little poker soothes me, gets me ready for bed. As I am right now--I worked out for the first time in about a year tonight and I'm bushed.
But back to my big poker insight. I've been playing these micro NL tables for, oh, three days now, and while the sample size might not pass muster so far as statistical significance goes, I've come to the conclusion that it is well-nigh impossible for me to lose in these games. I mean, maybe I'll lose the odd hand. I even lost a whole FIVE DOLLAR BUY-IN on a single hand (I had A-5, he had A-Q, we both flopped two pair, ehh).
What's the secret? God knows, I possess no unique skills or anything like that. No, the reason it's impossible to lose is that these folks don't know how to bet. Or, they know how to bet, but not how much. The betting patterns I've seen are pretty much inexplicable. It's a poker maxim that you can't think about the money when you play. It's just a chip, whether that chip is worth five cents or five grand. Well, playing micro people REALLY don't think about the money. Because they don't bet enough of it.
The blinds are two cents and five cents. Check under the cushions in your couch--go ahead, I'll wait--and see if you could rustle up a reasonable buy-in. Thing is, that really doesn't excuse horrible play. Why, if you're raising pre-flop, would you only bump it to a dime? That's the standard raise. When there are raises. These tables are so passive they should come with defibrulators.
So the raise is a nickel. Five whole cents. Yeah, I can fade that, especially with five callers. Thing is, after the flop, the betting remains the same. There's fifty cents in the pot, guy leads out for a nickel. Call, call, call, zzzzzz. Forget about calculating pot odds--you got 'em. Hell, so long as you can hit runner-runner trips you got pot odds.
All you gotta do is bet appropriately and you can't lose. If you bet enough to screw the other guys' pot odds, you'll make the money. And when they don't bet enough to shoo your draws away, you win pots you would've abandoned otherwise. When you win, you win A LOT more than when you lose. Like, tenfold. I had a king-high flush up against an ace-high flush. I bet, the other guy raises me. He raised me two dimes. Literally. I smelled a rat and brilliantly flat-called. I would've flat-called two bucks. I had a guy flop set over set on me and it only cost me a quarter (a flush and straight draw gave me pause). Meanwhile I make sure I got paid off properly when I hit my monsters.
Now, it stands to reason that these players aren't the best. If they were brilliant poker minds they wouldn't be playing goddam penny poker. I know this, I am not a fool. But I cannot BELIEVE some of the table talk. I have seen more verbal abuse at these tables than anywhere else I've played. The chat I saw tonight...I have to pull it from the hand history and post it, the way this guy melted down...he made Phil Hellmuth look like the Dalai Lama. Over a few eighty-cent pots, he went loco. I'll post what he wrote, he was totally bonkers. Here's a mid-tirade quote: "I've won some FIVE DOLLAR TOURNAMNTS, you ****!". That's...really pathetic.
I had a guy call me a series of expletives because I hit a gutshot on the river to beat his top pair. When I explained that maybe he should be mad at himself because he'd checked AFTER THE FLOP AND THE TURN he dismissed me with a "whatever" and "what's the point, donk?". I let it slide and the Poker Gods smiled and let me bust him good. I was called a fish by a guy because I called with pocket fours on a board that was a minefield of overcards and possible draws. I called because the guy bet a nickel into a pot with over a buck in it. Everyone folded, I gambled with my 25-1 odds and came through. The way the guy reacted you would've thought I'd knocked up his daugher. And his wife. And his mom.
It's all a bit absurd. I'm having a lot of fun playing at these limits, I'm quite literally "playing", I don't have it in my brain to really focus on poker right now. Poker is a very, very difficult game to play well, the gap between "good" and "great" is a vast chasm indeed. But it's not that hard to play the game better than a gorilla. For awhile I thought about writing a book, on how to avoid making a complete ass of yourself while playing poker. God knows no sane person would come to me for advice on poker strategy (which doesn't explain why I have a poker column...ah, who cares) but I think I could write a funny book about the nonsense we all see and that I particularly see at the low-limits I inhabit. But then there are so many poker books out there...seriously, who out there HASN'T written a poker book by now? Let me see your hands...
Ah, what a pathetic post. Bragging on myself for beating players without a clue. Risking the wrath of the Poker Gods for declaring my invincibility. Pride indeed, foolish category. Actually, this post was nearly never written. Last Friday I was down to around two bucks after an hour and I was honestly looking for a hand to push so I could go busto and hit the sack. I was dealt the Hammer. There was a raise, I re-raised big and he called. Ugh. The flop came 7-2-9, with two spades. Ahh. I decided to bet out, he called. Another deuce on the turn, and I check-raised him all-in. I revealed the Hammerboat. He wasn't pleased. Oh, the nasty things he called me for re-raising with the Hammer, the aspersions against my mother and the questions about my sexual preference, oh my. He just didn't understand Hammer power, nor the power of Fate. Which, for a change, was on my side.