Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Indian" Jay

Perhaps the biggest donator in the Bike's $500 NL game is "Indian" Jay. According to Jay, he is actually Pakistani (which is probably true, but he also claims he gets his money from being a pimp, which I suspect is untrue). In any case, he's in his early 50's and gets his kicks by asserting verbal dominance over the table by insulting everyone, making vulgar jokes, and making ridiculous overbets to give people difficult decisions.

Many players like to sit to Jay's left, following the conventional wisdom that you should sit to the left of weak, loose players, because you will get to act after them on every street in every hand, giving you the best chance to win their chips. While this is probably true in moderate cases, especially if the weak player is passive, I think this logic is far too simplistic in extreme cases such as Jay, who is aggressive. With some types of loose players, especially in full-ring no-limit games, I think it is much better to sit to the player's right.

Let me explain what I mean. The logic behind the conventional wisdom goes like this: sitting to the left of a player allows you to see what he does before you have to make a decision, and this will give you an idea of what he might be holding. If that player is playing every hand, you maximize the number of times you can use this advantage. This logic breaks down, however, if the player is crazy or doesn't know what he's doing, because his actions are nearly random and will actually give you very little information about his cards. If this player often raises instead of merely calling, you are in even more trouble because you are now at a disadvantage against everyone else at the table; you have to respond to the maniac's raise before you get to see what everyone else does. By sitting to the maniac's right, you can observe how everyone responds to his raises before you decide what to do. This can save you a lot of money, and sometimes suck in a few extra bets when you have a big hand. In the Bike's $500NL game, the advantage of sitting to the right of a maniac is increased even further because you are allowed to straddle from any position. Maniacs tend to take "advantage" of this, so sitting to his right means you act after everyone else before every flop.

Jay fits this definition of a maniac far better than anyone else in this game. He goes through long stretches where he straddles and raises 90% of his hands, sometimes without even looking at his cards. Then he makes terrible decisions after the flop. For example, I once saw him in a three-way hand with one player all-in. The flop came 567, and the pot was about $500. Jay checked, and the other player still in thought for a few second. Jay showed the 2c. The other player went all-in for $500, and Jay called. What could the other card be? A 7 or an 8 maybe? Nope, he had a J2.

Needless to say, I like to sit to Jay's right and just let him do the betting for me. Admittedly, betting into him will also work just fine most of the time, but why bother when he will bet it himself and I can watch how the rest of the players react? When he is in one of these moods (which is at least half the time), I will limp with a wide range of hands and fold the rest. I simply will not raise before the flop. Let me give you four examples from Thursday and Friday (incidentally, I lost all four). To be fair, I want to point out that these are picked from several hours of play, but Jay had plenty of other similar hands that I was not involved in.

Hand 1: Jay straddles for $20 in late position. I am to his right and limp with AKs after several limpers. Jay raises to about $100 and gets two callers. I raise to $500. Jay raises all-in to about $600. Everyone folds. I call. Jay shows 76o.

Hand 2: Jay straddles. A few limpers. I limp with A5s. The player to my left limps. Jay recklessly tosses in about $100 of yellow $5 chips. All fold. I raise all-in to about $600. The player to my left folds. Jay calls and shows T3o.

Hand 3: Jay straddles, I limp with A4s after a couple of limpers, Jay raises to $200. All fold to me, I raise all-in to $800. Jay calls and shows ATo. (Whoops!)

Hand 4: Jay straddles. A couple of limpers. I limp with ATo. Jay raises, all fold to me, I go all-in for about $500. Jay calls with AQo. (Oops again!)

Hmmm, looking at that progression it seems like Jay may have set me up a bit for those last two hands, but I still don't think I should play those hands any differently.


Dave said...

I gotta ask, "What's the rush?" I completely agree with your conclusion that it's much better to sit to a total maniac's right. Not only do you get to use his action to trap the calls in between, you get to avoid the trapping and sandbagging that other players start doing once they recognize the maniac's behavior.

But it seems like you're in too much of a rush to get it in with maybe a 60/40 advantage at best, and a 70/30 disadvantage when he turns over a monster like....A9o.

Since he seems to get in his "moods" on the regular, and his wild play will last for long stretches, I would sit to his right just like you do, and wait for decent to great opportunities to get it all in pre. I don't need AA or AK, but it seems like 9s or better would crush his range, A10 might be good enough but I probably just call and try to flop a pair.

It sounds like he's going to get all his chips in every time, so I don't need to race for every time I would see a mediocre hand. I'd let him keep pickup up the limps with his big raises and hopefully I'd get a hand once per hour or so that would let me take a stab at his whole stack.

I hope I'm explaining myself right. Basically I'm saying if a guy is going in weak every other hand, I can wait 20-30 hands to call him because odds are he's going to get it in with me when I have him crushed. If the maniac was only making his crazy move once per hour I'd have to take more chances because I wouldn't be able to predict the next time he'd get it in. But Jay seems to get it in more reliably than Old Faithful.

btw, is it a good idea to expose your strategy against a well known, ,easily identifiable player in your game, AND call him out as a sucker in your blog? Most of your other stories are benign, just telling events that happen to players, but this one is more pointed. Plus now if I was in the game I would adjust to your Indian Jay strategy with a deep limp and back raise to take advantage of both of you. That actually works gangbusters in some of the actiony $500+ buyin games at HPC.

Keith said...

First, the rush is to get the money before someone else does. Jay will often stop and play blackjack or something after he loses a few thousand.

Second, there's no reason I can't take my 60/40 advantage now AND my 80/20 advantage later. Jay has a whole table to contend with, he's not going to change his whole strategy to combat something I do once an hour. I'm not going to pass up on a clear +EV situation just because I know there will be a better one soon. The future opportunity isn't less likely to be there. This isn't a tournament. I can rebuy if I lose the first time around.

Third, are you saying I'm being too harsh towards Jay personally? Maybe you're right, but I think he would agree to everything I said.

Fourth, you're right that it's not to my financial advantage to identify my strategy in any situation. In this case, I'm not sure I'm revealing something that is very exploitable, since one of the advantages of my strategy is I can abort it after calling the first $20. If someone else calls after Jay raises to $100, I will not be re-raising with ATo when it gets back to me. In that situation my range is much smaller. I guess another danger is that more people might try to take the seat to his right after reading this. Still, do you really think that many people I play with read my blog?

Dave said...

Well, if he stops after a few buy ins that explains the rush I guess.

My personal preference is to get the money in better than 60/40 (at best) but that's just a preference based on both my tolerance for risk and my severely limited bankroll. I take some ribbing for my style and at times I want to push the edges more but as long as I'm hitting my number every week I can live with it. YMMV.

I don't think you're being too harsh. You're describing him fairly. I just try not to say things like that out loud. But I agree, Jay would definitely agree with your assessment of him. Hell, he'd say it himself. But he's not there to play good, he's there for the action, so it's fine for him. Plus he's probably very successful in whatever it is he really does and much smarter at it than I would be at it.

Lastly, I guess you're right. If you're directly to Jay's right, it would be impossible for someone to pull of the back raise with your warning bells going off first.

Keith said...

Dave, I think you have the wrong mindset about poker if you want to be a serious player. There should not be a "number" that you are trying to reach each week, unless perhaps you are a losing player trying to limit your losses or decide if you should be quitting. Your targets should not be results-based but, rather, performance-based. For example, not "Did I win at least $500 this week?" but "Did I make better decisions than I did last week?"

The goal of poker for a serious player is to maximize EV without going broke. Generally, I ignore the "without going broke" aspect and just look at EV. However, you are right that if you have bankroll concerns, you may have to pass up on +EV opportunities if the risk is too high.

I agree that there is something unsavory about describing people in detail on a public forum. It makes me uncomfortable when I do it. However, I also think it makes for a more fun blog post, which might be more important to me.