Starving Crazed Weasels poker

I have not done one of these for a while. We decided more or less at the last minute to have a poker tournament Saturday. Actually, for some of us (read "me") it was last minute. Others had thought it was planned, so...well...

Going in my plan was to play pretty tight. Play top ten hands from early position, play a wider range from later. Pretty standard. I also planned a lot of raise-or-fold play. In other words, disciplined poker. 

Folded the first couple hands and then picked up pocket 7s from middle position. I will sometimes take a flyer on these hands and did on this one, planning to raise but Robin beat me to it. Cris and Tracy called, I called, Pete called. Flop was 10/something/10. Tracy raised. I almost called. This would test how I was playing.

When I am playing poorly, I will call here trying to get lucky and planning to simply tighten up if I lose the hand and win with solid poker. But getting lucky is not playing skillfully. It is deliberately playing in situations where you should not and trying to, instead of win by skillfully getting your chips in good, trying to win from behind. 

I folded. Turn was another 10. D'oh! I would have had a full house. But there was heavy betting with Robin leading out, Cris and Tracy calling. At the showdown, Robin had pocket 6s for a full house. Cris had pocket 7s (my hand was dead...) and Tracy holding the case 10. She had quads. Nice.

Folded a few hands, then came one of the key hands of the night.

 2/4 of diamonds on the button. About 5 people had limped so the circumstances were perfect to play this hand; get out cheap if I miss the flop, if I hit it I should pick up a nice chunk. But then something happened. Pete raised to 250 from the small blind.

Pete is a good player but struggles with this League because he relies a lot on 2 things: 1, people understanding what bets mean and 2) bluffing to pick up pots. 

Problem is, many of the players in this league don't understand what raises mean. They have no idea about relating raise sizes to the blinds and/or other people in the pot, when a raise means something and when it doesn't. But that is a minor problem. Actually, it means when you have a good hand you should rake a nice pot because people are not scared away by the bets. It is not uncommon for people to call over pot-sized bets (or, for that matter, to make those bets in the first place) nor to see people fold to minimum bets with dozens of blinds in the pots after the river.

In this league, bluffing is French for "giving away your chips to anyone with even a weak pair or two high cards". With that element removed from his game it is much tougher for him. This is not a knock, simply a recognition that his style of play and this league's style of play do not mesh well.  When he learns to mix up his play he will do very well.

You can, if not outright win, at the very least finish top 2 or 3 every month simply by playing A-B-C poker. Fancy plays, check-raises, value bets...these nuances are too advanced for most of the players in the League at this point, though there has been incredible and vast improvement.

Anyway, when he raised, that SHOULD have driven out almost everyone. A big raise from late is supposed to indicate a strong hand

Instead all but one called so I was priced in. In position with a weak drawing hand, true...but I could get out after the flop easily. Besides, I know Pete will often raise like that trying to steal small pots like this one where lots of people limped.

Except there was no need for me to get out, it was a dream flop. 2/2/j rainbow. How to get the chips in the pot? Pete bet 500 , Cris and Tracy called. I wanted to keep people in so I did not re-raise and just smooth called. 

Turn was a 6 of one of the suits, I think hearts. Now with possible straight and flushes on the board, checked to me, I raised. I wanted to charge people for staying with horrific back-door draws. It is not unusual to see people needing runner-runner stick around. Pete, Cris and Tracy all called. River was a blank. I raised it to 1000 or so. Pete called with a look on his face that let me know he was irritated and knew he was beat but had a hand he could not lay down.  Cris called all-in and Tracy called. I showed the trips. Pete showed pocket Kings and Cris showed top two pair.

Now I was sitting pretty. We start with just 3000 and I already had almost 11K. 

Hit a ht streak, won 2 or 3 consecutive small pots. Had no hand for one hand and someone went out. Boo, I needed points and needed to take people out. *sigh*

Folded (!) to me about 1 to the right of the button. I had 2/7 of Hearts, lots of chips. I thought it would be funny to raise. At this point the blinds were 50/100 so I raised to 300. Pete was down to 650 and went all-in. Folded back to me.

I had been raising frequently, though every other time I raised I legitimately had good hands. I did not want people to think I was raising with junk. How to either call or fold without destroying the table image I had been working to develop?

Aha! "I was just raising to be funny that time," I said. "I am thinking about calling because I think it is funny."

Actually, I was planning calling because I knew Pete had a super-wide range of hands he would make that move with. With only 650, he wanted a heads-up pot and there were only the blinds and I to force out. I had been raising a lot so he knew my raising range was wide. That meant any pair, any Ace, any two face cards, and maybe even something like J/10. 

I know I am all but dead to any pair but against the rest of his hands I am 60-40 and something about his raise did not feel like a pair. It felt like a desperation, lower-end of his range, somewhat on tilt all-in.  So I was actually figuring it for a coin flip and I will take that kind of chance to put a dangerous player out. And at worst, he would double up and be having fun which is something I want everyone to do at these things.

He made it easy. "With the blinds, you are priced in."

He was right. His 650 , the blinds, and my initial raise meant I now needed to call 350 to win 1100, more than 3-1 and I believed I was only a 3-2 dog. I called. 

He was right where I thought he might be, at the low end of his range of all-in hands, A/9. He was still the favorite, but I had two live cards. 

And I hit the 7. 

To this point I had been red-hot, picking up hand after hand. Now I went card dead and just at the wrong time. I needed points to catch Kevin and Josh in the standings. To get points I needed to finish well and take out lots of people.

Instead I had to sit there folding as Phillip, Tracy, and Rick went out. Then Joe went out. Then Emily and Robin in the same hand. My stack was blinding down and I was getting no cards. We were down to the final 9. Eric had a huge stack, Kevin had almost as much, and I was way behind them in third.

Bad part is, I was tilting and I knew it. Every hand was taking forever. I could tell certain people were going to fold before the action ever got to them, but they would sit there and ponder their move for 3 or 4 minutes every time. And with 3 people at the table doing that, it got real boring real fast. This is not a super serious league as a general rule. We like to keep it fast-paced. Instead it was sooooooooooo slooooooooooooow. I was trying to get myself out. But I wanted to do it on a good hand.

Picked up Jacks. Raised, everyone but Josh folded. Flop was ragged, 10/6/2 rainbow. I bet the pot. He looked like he was going to fold, then called. I should have gotten suspicious as that is a pretty reliable tell but I missed it.

Turn was a King, I checked, he checked. 
River was a blank, I bet enough to put him all in, he called. He had a 6/10.

yes, Josh, the guy I think is usually a real good player called a healthy raise with 6/10. He later admitted he only did it because he had not played a hand for a while and it was his big blind.

Anyway, that hurt. 

A few hands later I had j/9 on the button. About 4 people limped, I limped, big blind checked. Flop was Q/J/4, all Hearts. My 9 was a heart. I had middle pair, enough chips left to be dangerous, and a mediocre flush draw. I went all in. 

And promptly got called by Kevin, Eric, and Josh. Uh-oh, I was dead. No way was middle pair any good against three callers, especially with Eric being one of them. He is a very conservative player. Josh will take a flyer trying to get me out and Kevin will call with a wide range of hands when he has a lot of chips, but Eric? No, one of them for sure, probably two of them already had me beat.

Turn was a blank. River was a blank. I reluctantly showed my measly pair of jacks...and it was the winning hand. What? Well, one had A/K, one had a King high flush draw, the other had I think a straight draw? Anyway, it never hit any of them and Jacks were the best hand. 

Ironically, I now had over 13K, more than at any other point in the game. 

Josh was crippled and soon taken out. Down to Amy, Kevin, Eric and I. I really needed to outlast Kevin as I was pretty sure I now had enough points to overtake Josh as I was only 100 points behind him when the night started and with 17 people, that meant I was scoring well. 

Poor Amy was pretty out-classed. It was her first time ever playing the game and she was hitting a lot of hands that she might not have been in had she known the game better. I was excited for her to have done so well, but now that it was just some of the tougher players left, she was intimidated and ended up going out when her pocket Aces got beaten by Erics' two pair.

And then something funny happened. I got a J/10, raised, flopped a straight. Kevin and Eric stayed with me right to the river and I tripled up. I was now sitting on over 25K.

And then Kevin went all-in on a gut-shot straight draw when I had trips. I took him out.

Eric is a solid, A-B-C player. He also is super easy to read if you pay attention. Example:earlier, Rick had limped in. Eric looked at his chips. Blinds were 50/100. He had no 100s, so he just tossed a 500 out there which we allowed as a raise. Rick reluctantly showed me his hand, K/J Hearts as he folded. 

"Should have called, you have a better hand than he does." Sure enough, flop came Jack high and Eric now made change and bet 200.

"Told you," I said to Rick. "You had him right there." After the river betting I told Rick, "He was afraid of the Jack. He had some pair lower than that and wanted to bet but was afraid of that."

Sure enough, later Eric told me he had tens on that hand.

It was a good hand to raise, but not to raise to 500 with blinds at 50/100. He made that raise not because he had a good hand but because he had a hand he wanted to play and did not want to make change. After the flop, he wanted to make a continuation bet but when he made change he might as well have flipped his cards up. 

Now that it was he and I, I went to town. Three times I did not even bother to look at my cards, just watched him. If he hesitated I knew he had a weak hand and bet. Once, ironically, I did not look at my cards and limped in. He checked. Flop came A/K/something. I bet, he folded. Looked at my cards...A/K. Awesome. Not that it mattered, I was playing him not the cards.

But the patter was set. Any time I had a pair I bet. He folded. Any time he checked, I bet. If he bet....well, he didn't. Soon I had the chip lead. Soon I had the game. 

I played really well at first. I made good reads, made the correct play, maximized my winnings and minimized my losses. When I went on tilt, I still played well. I only played hands that had a chance of winning...other than the one semi-bluff that inexplicably won.

Once I got down to three people I knew I had a real good shot at winning. I picked my spots, built my stack, and ended up winning for the first time this year after a 3rd, an 11th, a 2nd, and I think a 4th. 

Oh, and for the record? Because Kevin had been in first place, I got 20 for taking him out instead of 10...and in the current standings I am ahead by 10 points. Awesome.