I want to mention a few things before I get to the meat of this post. First, I just got back from Vegas two days ago, so I have plenty of material to blog about. I just need time to get to it all. Of course, two of the better stories from the recent trip have already been posted, here (for those of you like the salacious) and here (for those of you like poker). And while I didn’t chauffeur any bloggers around on this trip (here and here), I did chauffeur a very pretty, rather well-inebriated female poker dealer to her desired destination late one night (or was it early morning?). Details will be forthcoming.
Second, today I passed 50,000 total pageviews on the blog. That’s a meaningful milestone for me and I really want to do a special post to celebrate. But this won’t be it; it has been too long since my last post and I thus I want to get a new entry up quickly, the celebration post, if I do one, will take more time.
But this is actually a fairly appropriate tale to tell for such an occasion, as it relates to my development as a poker player. Long time readers will recall that when I started this blog, I was pretty much strictly a low limit player, 2/4 mostly. But as I’ve been blogging, I have now transitioned from limit to No Limit, both tournaments and cash games. To a large degree, this blog has chronicled that transition.
I’m still quite new at the No Limit form of Hold ‘Em. And still have quite a lot to learn to continue my growth as a player. So whenever I do something that I know I was incapable of doing just a few months earlier, I feel quite proud of myself. Unfortunately, the pride only lasts until I make my next dumb mistake, which is never far away. But still, I do celebrate the little things I do that add to my success, however short-lived.
This leads me to the subject of bluffing. In a 2/4 limit game, bluffing is really not part of the game. Seldom is it even tried, even less seldom does it work when tried. For $4, or $8, no one who has any kind of hand is going to fold if the pot has anything significant in it.
But in No Limit, even the lowly 1/2 variety, bluffing comes into play, and perhaps, just as importantly, bluff-catching comes into play.
Which brings us to a hand from early last week at the 1/2 game. I had just moved to this table fairly recently. Sitting nearby were the two ladies referenced in this post here, Ginger and her friend. I guess I need to give her name, so let’s call Ginger’s friend “Faith.”
Almost immediately after I sat down, I witnessed a hand where Faith was up against a guy with a foreign accent. A few nights later, this same foreign guy got quite friendly with Prudence and revealed himself to be a Palestinian, but I didn’t know his background at this time. (Edited to add: You can read about how he got friendly with Prudence right here.) It appeared that at least Ginger and possibly Faith knew this guy; in fact, they had just invited him to move his seat to the one next to Ginger. I’m sure that Ginger had either played with this guy before, or dealt to him right there at BSC before, or both.
The hand I witnessed had a board of A/K/K/10/9. Faith made a large bet, and then the Palestinian shoved. Faith was not happy. But the guy said to her, as a friend would, he had her beat, so she should just fold and he’d show his hand. Faith thought about this for awhile. She didn’t want to fold. But she believed that the guy had her beat, so reluctantly, she folded.
Having played with Faith before, I was surprised she folded there, even not knowing her hand. She is a very loose player and will usually call down with anything. She clearly believed the guy had her beat, and I think it was probably due to having played with him before and having some kind of relationship with him.
He was good to his word and showed his hand—Ace Queen! Yes, all he had was an Ace for two pair (including the Kings on the board). Faith was livid. She said, loudly enough to heard at the poker room down the street, “F*** you! I had a King. I had a f***ing King, and you made me fold with just Aces? F*** you!” I think she fished her hand out of the muck to show her King. I dunno what the other card was, probably a low card because she plays anything. She clearly believed he had at least the straight if not a full house. The guy just shrugged, and tried to sell the story that he was sure his Aces were better than what she had, that he didn’t think she had a King.
A little while later the floor did a “board check” to see if there were enough people on the interest list still there for the 2/5 game. This guy was on that list and indicated he wanted to play 2/5 when available.
So I was remembering both the hand with Faith and the fact that this guy wanted to play 2/5 when I looked down at AK offsuit under the gun. I put out a bet of $8. Faith now was short-stacked so she went all in, but it was only for $15-$18, something like that. Ginger folded and then the Palestinian re-raised. He made it $30. By this time I had seen him play most hands since I was at the table and he had raised a lot more often than not. So I didn’t think he necessarily had to have any kind of a hand to make this move.
Folded around to me and I called. He had me covered and I had most if not all of my $200 buy-in so I didn’t really want the pot to get too big by re-raising, even though I thought I likely had a much better hand than he did.
The flop was all low cards, maybe a 10 or 9 was the highest. Rainbow. But of course, that completely missed me, I had zilch. I checked. Faith was already all in, so the guy puts out a $15 bet.
Here’s where I’ve changed as a player. Three months ago, I’ve already folded as soon as the guy reaches for chips. After all, the flop totally missed me, right? I have nothing.
But now…..now I think a bit. Fifteen bucks for pot that’s over $70? That ain’t much. True I have nothing, but what does he have? He could have made that move with any two cards so it’s possible that this crappy flop did hit him, true, but how hard? Was he lucky enough to get a straight or straight draw? Maybe. But likely not.
I figured he may have a pair and if so, I still had six outs to beat him. Why not gamble a little here for only $15? Let’s see the turn.
So I called and the turn is another blank. No help. I checked figuring I’m going to have to fold to any reasonable bet. But he surprises me by checking behind me. Ok, a free card. Let’s see that Ace or King.
Nope, the river is a blank too. I check again and this time he counts out $45 and pushes it in front of him.
So it’s $45 to call and I’m sitting there with Ace high. The “old” Rob folds there without a second thought. The “new” Rob is giving it a second thought.
Based on the hand I saw with Faith, based on his being a 2/5 player playing down to 1/2, and based on the fact that he had played a high percentage of hands he’d been dealt and raised pre-flop with most of those, I thought there was an excellent chance my Ace high was good. Not sure, of course. I knew even the crummiest pair would beat me. But I just had a really strong feeling he was betting with air—and less air (or would it be more air), than I was holding.
So indeed, the “new” Rob takes over and decides, for “only” $45 more, to call. And so I did.
I had barely gotten my chips out in front of me when he slid his hand into the muck faster than you can say, “good call.” Heh heh. I was right. I caught him making a move. It felt good, even better than the feeling of just winning the pot.
That was just for the side pot however. I still had to show my hand to contest the main pot, with Faith. So I had to show my Ace high hand. Which I did. Faith flipped over Queen/Jack! The flop had missed her too! I won all the chips.
But the Palestinian was not amused. He said “You had Ace high? That’s it? You called me with Ace high? Why did you do that?” I just smiled as I stacked my chips. Then he said, “I had a pair of 8’s. I mucked a pair of 8’s. I was sure you had something. You kept calling. How could you only have Ace high?” I said nothing. “I mucked a pair of 8’s.”
Heh heh. Did he really muck the winning hand? I’ll never know. He was quite upset and insisted that he did. A couple of the players near me who had said, “good call” to me thought he was lying. Why would he muck a pair there, even if he thought my call indicated I had him beat? Doesn’t make sense that he wouldn’t table his hand there, just in case. Maybe I had a lower pair?
Others thought he was telling the truth because he was so upset. But he could have just been upset because he was caught in a bluff and his read on me was that he could easily bluff me.
As I said, I’ll never know, but that was one of the most satisfying pots I’d ever won. Because, for that one moment at least, I really felt like a poker player.