Thursday, January 12, 2006

15-30 holdem at the Wynn

On the strength of my strong showing at the limit tournament earlier this week and the suggestion of FJDelgado when he was here a few weeks ago, I decided to play some limit holdem at the Wynn. I'd played the 15-30 game there a few times before (while waiting for a no-limit seat to open up), and done pretty well. I decided to watch the game while waiting for my seat to open up. One guy in his late twenties was talking about how he comes to the poker room to drink, not really to play cards. Supposedly, he drinks every day, and he said that he had taken two days off and he couldn't digest his food and that he basically needs to drink just to get through the day. He was the flashy, talkative type of drunkard, and among the wildest players I've ever seen, and that includes many hours of 2-4, 3-6, 4-8 and 8-16 games. He was playing more than 50% of his hands and winning a lot of pots on miracle turn and river cards.

Things got even more ridiculous once I got my seat. The flashy drunkard started putting in his $30 for a raise every hand before the cards were even dealt. While he was not required to leave the money out there (he could have taken it back before the action got around to him), he was quite faithful in leaving it there, except sometimes putting in another $15 if someone had raised in front of him. Obviously, this made for a strange but profitable game for the rest of the players. It also meant that the game demanded an unorthodox approach. Playing "by the book" in this situation was clearly not the optimal strategy. This made it all the more interesting that Mason Malmuth, one of the well known authors of "the book" was sitting at the table at the time.

Malmuth, author of Gambling Theory and Other Topics, Hold'Em Poker for Advanced Players, and many other books on gambling and poker, is notorious for being a very tight and inflexible player. He sat down just a minute after I did. A somewhat tall and chubby guy, he, like his collaborator David Sklansky, looks like a computer scientist from the 1970's, the type who only went outside 2 or 3 times a month to buy more chocolate bars so they wouldn't starve to death. When I looked at him I thought "hey, that guy looks a lot like Mason Mulmuth." Then I saw that his shirt said "Two plus Two Publishing," which is the company he owns with Sklansky. A minute later "Mason" was called for the 5-10 NL game, and he looked around for a few seconds, so at that point I was pretty certain it was him. I thought it was kind of cool to be playing with him, as this was the first time I'd ever actually played with a well-known poker player. Because of his reputation of "playing by the book," I was very curious to see how he would react to the unusual circumstances caused by the maniac at the table. For instance, if he had AA or KK, would he raise, as the book suggests, or would he just limp in and then reraise when the bet came around to him again?

Well, Malmuth basically just folded every hand, looking somewhat perturbed. I couldn't tell if he was annoyed about the maniac at the table, but I got the sense that he was just normally nervous and fidgety, and it probably had nothing to do with the maniac (who, by the way, caught an incredible run of cards and won several hundred dollars while I was there). Malmuth got into a discussion with me and some of the players around me about how badly run some of the cardrooms in Vegas were, especially criticizing the new Caesars room for being put completely out of the way (I'll give my own opinion of Caesars in a future post). Then he abruptly stopped himself, saying, "I used to care about this stuff, but not any more. I actually used to do some consulting on poker room management, but nobody ever listened to me."

Malmuth only played one hand that I can remember, and his straightforward style made his hand extremely readable. I hesitate to describe the hand because I didn't play it well myself, but this is what happened... An early position player raised and I cold-called from middle position with 77 (probably should fold here, right?). Malmuth, two to my left, reraised in late position. The only hands I think he would do this with are AA, KK, QQ and AK, maybe AQs. Folds to the EP raiser, who reraised again. I coldcalled again (probably should have folded again here due to the high likelihood Malmuth has AA or KK and will re-raise), and Malmuth just called. This call pretty much eliminated the chance Malmuth has AA, as he would reraise with that hand. Probably also KK. Now the most likely hands he can have are QQ, AK, JJ, KK, or maybe AQs or AA. The flop came KK4. EP player checked, I checked, Malmuth bet, EP raised, I folded, and Malmuth just called. At this point, it's still tough to say which hand Malmuth is holding, but I would still guess QQ. Turn was a blank, EP bet and Malmuth just called. At this point, he almost certainly had QQ. He would have raised with any hand that had a K. He might have AA or JJ, but those hands were unlikely to begin with. The river was another blank, EP bet again, and Malmuth called again. Sure enough, Malmuth turned over QQ, while EP had only JJ. My guess is that EP had no idea who he was going up against, as there was almost no way he had the best hand on the river.

Incidentally, the maniac drunkard caught two huge hands against me and I lost several hundred dollars. Limit poker isn't as easy as I was led to believe.


WK said...

yeah crazy variance ..
good post i was just reading poker essays by malmuth on the bus.

rock on

adspar said...

i think mason might be a wee bit craftier than you give him credit for, although not much. he occassionally posts hands on 2+2 forums, and i think he'd know how to adjust to the kind of maniac you described.

the loose games section of the newer edition of hold'em for advanced players is excellent, if you havent checked it out.

i agree that you played the hand poorly but 77 is tempting there. mason played his hand well.

Keith said...

You're right, I was probably too harsh with my comments on Malmuth. I actually respect the guy for his ability to think about the game and communicate his insights. However, he has a lot of critics for some reason, and some of them accuse him of lacking creativity in his play. Also, he does look a bit like those early computer guys... who I also have a cerain degree of admiration for.