Thursday, May 11, 2006

Two Hands at Caesars

With visitors and travel I haven't really been able to settle back into a routine recently. I've been playing mostly at the Mirage, with their lower rake and $15 food comps, but I haven't really settled in there, either. I've been going to different casinos a few times each week. In the past year and a half, a lot of new rooms have opened up: MGM, Caesars, Venetian, and Red Rock, for example. Almost every room in town now runs 2-5 NL holdem, which is probably the most popular game now, along with the low limits from 2-4 to 4-8. There are so many games in town now that each casino rarely uses even half their poker tables during the week. This makes me worry slightly about the health of the poker boom, but at least it means I usually get seated very quickly after I arrive in the poker room.

Anyway, as I've mentioned before, I had some issues with the way Caesars' poker room was run when it first opened. I decided to give it another shot last night. Things seem to be running much more smoothly there now (except the restrooms are still inadequate). Since this is supposed to be my poker blog, I figured I'd describe a couple hands, which I haven't done in a while.

I sat down in the $2-5 NL game with $200. Caesars has no maximum buy-in, so the $200 was a very small stack compared to most of the others. Most people will tell you that it's a disadvantage to play with a short stack, but I actually think it's an advantage. For one thing, it's a mathematical fact that it is advantageous to be all-in on an early round when you have more than one opponent, because it's possible that one of your opponents will fold what would have been the winning hand. Having a small stack increases the chances of this situation arising. Having the smallest stack also means that, on every hand, I know exactly how much I'm playing for. This can effect strategy considerably. When all the other players have large stacks, they need to be concerned with each other and try to play optimal big-stack strategy. By definition, these big-stack strategies are not as effective against a smaller stack; as the small stack, I can take advantage of these discrepancies. Some people (like the guy in the first hand I describe below) may argue that buying short is a devious strategy to be frowned upon. These players must be in the minority, though. If many people agreed with this, then more casinos would have a large minimum buyin, which would eliminate the problem. As it stands, I'm quite comfortable buying in for whatever the rules allow me. Besides, I like to get a feel for the table without risking too much when I first sit down; sometimes I will pull out more cash to increase my stack after half an hour or so. Enough about short stacks... on to the first hand.

This was about the 5th hand I played, and I was down to $193 I think. An experienced player in early-middle position with over $500 raised to $15. Two to his left, I called with KJ of diamonds. This is a marginal holding, but I like to mix it up early in my session because it gives my opponents a false impression of me, which I can sometimes use to my advantage later. Besides, KJs isn't a bad hand. The player in the cutoff, two to my left, raised to $50. He had about $5K. The original raiser called, and I was left with a decision. Should I call another $35 here? There was $118 in the pot already ($122 - $4 rake), so I was being offered about 3.3-1 odds. I knew I might be up against a big pair or AK, but my hand had straight and flush-draw possibilities, and 3.3-1 is pretty attractive, so I called. My stack was now down to $143, and there was $157 in the pot. The flop came Kc Js 4d, clearly an excellent flop for my hand. The first player checked, and I decided to check as well. Unless the last player had specifically AQ, I think this was a good place to slow-play. The last player bet $60, less than half the pot. The first player folded, and I figured I might as well put the rest in now, in case he had some sort of draw. He called and turned over AK. My two pair held up. Now, this is where things got interesting. After counting down the last $83, the guy with AK tossed the money into the air and across the table, chips going all over, including into other players stacks.

"What the Hell are you doing?" I asked him. "I don't throw your chips around."
"They're not your chips until I put them into the pot," he replied.
Then (and this was the most inappropriate action in the whole ordeal, I think), the other player who had been involved in the hand decided to stick up for the guy who had thrown the chips everywhere! "Sometimes good players who lose to bad players get frustrated," he said.

"That means he should throw chips across the room? I've seen much worse beats than that and nobody threw anything. You can get frustrated without having to throw things."

Then he decided to explain to me how it's bad for the game to come in and sit down with only $200. "It's not real poker. You clearly didn't come here to play poker. You called a $50 raise, a quarter of your stack, and you didn't have enough left for him to get you out."

Anyway, the rest of the table took my side and the chip-thrower kept quiet after that.

Here's a hand I think I didn't play so well. I had KQs under-the-gun and limped. There were a couple more limpers, and then an asian girl on the button, a pretty good player, raised to $20. (She was friends with the chip-thrower, but she hadn't seen the incident, and he had moved to another table at this point. I don't think she knew about it.) One of the blinds called, I called, and the two limpers called. There was about $100 in the pot. I had very close to $500 left after the call.

Flop: Kc Td 3h. My suit was spades, so no help there, but I did have top pair. The blind checked, and I think I should have bet $60-$80 here. Instead, I checked and decided to see how the hand developed. My thinking was that if there was much action behind me, I could get away from the hand, and if not, maybe I could get another bet out of the asian girl who raised pre-flop. The next two players checked, the girl bet $75 and the blind folded. This was was pretty much what I had hoped would happen when I checked, but my situation was actually very precarious. I had no idea where I stood with respect to the asian girl's hand, and I had two players behind me that were still in the hand. They could be planning to check raise, or maybe one has a straight draw. They were loose enough that I couldn't rule our KT or QJ. The girl could have me beat with AA, AK, TT, or even KK, or she could have me tied with KQ. Continuation bets here are very risky with 4 opponents, so that is actually not that likely (which I should have considered when I checked before). I decided to play it safe again and just call the $75. The next two players folded.

Turn: 7c (or something). With the two players behind me having folded, I now felt like I should be my hand. With the pot at $250, I bet $150 of my remaining $425. In retrospect, I think this was a mistake. It was very likely that she would either fold or raise here. If she raises, I have to figure she has me beat (or at least tied), and I'd have to fold. That's exactly what happened. Instead, I think perhaps I should have checked. Then if she checked behind me, I might be able to get something out of her on the river. The way I played it, I might as well have had nothing, because there was no way the hand was going to reach a showdown - generally a bad way to play medium-strong hands like top pair. Still, the biggest mistake was probably check-calling the flop (or maybe I should have folded pre-flop?). I needed to define my hand for them, so that they could react accordingly. By showing weakness when I checked the flop, I was unable to get any sense for where I stood in the hand.


cc said...

I agree with your second hand (although I'm not good enough of a NLHE player to have much of an opinion). I would probably bet that flop to see what was up. A strong hand (for you) I assume would have check/shoved on the turn, so she had to put you on a marginal hand. And regarding your first hand, heck that's poker. Bellagio has a $200max NLHE buy-in game, and I've never seen anyone complain when a new person sits down next to the guy with $3500 in chips. You can either stomach losing three buy-in's or you can't, so I think those guys were arrogant donks. But don't play at Caesar's--go to the Bellagio

Ben said...

Hey - been a while. The first guy was an idiot. The guy who supported the first guy was an idiot. Not worth remembering - there are too many idiots out there to bother.

Also, I tend to agree with your opinion about it being advantageous to be the short stack at a table with large stacks. However, I do think it's all about risk/reward. As you know, I'm willing to risk a lot to win a lot...That's why I tend to buy in more than the minimum. It's all in one's thinking - if you think it's better for you to buy in for as little as possible, and you have a reason for doing so, go for it. Maybe I'm not thinking rationally by not buying in for the minimum, but that's my risk-taking side there. =P Hope things have picked up for you buddy! Can't wait till July rolls around and I get to see you out there.