The titles of my blog entries were getting a bit long, so I’ve shortened “A Journey Into Poker” into “AJIP”. I wonder how long it will take before googling for “AJIP” has my blog on the first page
Last night, I played a session of about 140 hands on PokerStars. I had noticed that the low stakes games on Full Tilt Poker that I had played were generally filled with multitables, who play rather tight. It’s pretty boring to play at such tables, and the money doesn’t change hands that much. So, I decided to go for a 6-handed table on PokerStars with $0.02 / $0.05 blinds. I was surprised that I could buy in for $12.50 (250 times the big blind) – on Full Tilt, you can buy in for 100 times the big blind, or $5.00.
On PokerStars, you can hide yourself from the “Find Player” feature, and all players at my table had done that, so I couldn’t find out whether any were multitabling. That’s annoying, because it makes it harder to know whether a player who takes some time before betting is thinking about the hand, or just busy at some other table.
After some hands, I noticed that the players to my left and right were playing very tight. 2 seats to my right was a player who was very agressive, and to his right, a player who liked to limp in. Let’s call this player Limpy. Limping in is generally considered a bad play. In most of the cases, it’s better to either raise the bet, or fold your hand. Limpy was limping in at least half of the pots.
Last week, on Full Tilt, I had been playing very, very aggressively, hoping to bluff out the multitabling players. This often worked in the smaller pots, but I lost a few bigger pots that way when they actually had good cards. Afterwards, I realised that this is exactly how these players make their money: they just wait until they have a good hand, and try to win a big pot. I had played along nicely, being a fish they could take money from. I was determined to play less aggressively, by re-raising fewer pre-flop raises, folding more crappy hands, and trying to bluff less often.
I got a bit confused initially though, trying to win money from the player who limped in often. He tended to call my pre-flop raises. So I decided to experiment a bit with limping in as well. That didn’t produce great results.
Additionally, these players to my right were calling a lot of bets. I found it hard to bluff them away. For example, on hand 13, holding 94 in the big blind, I checked after Limpy limped in. On the flop, turn and river, we both checked each time. I was afraid to bet anything. He turned out to have K7 of spades, so he won the $0.12 pot on the river. Since he did not have an Ace, maybe I could’ve bluffed him out by betting on the flop and river, but why take the risk? It was a tiny pot anyway.
On hand 30, I had my first real hand: pocket queens, under the gun. I raised to my usual $0.17. Limpy called, and everyone else folded. The flop came 732 rainbow, and I bet $0.30 into the $0.41 pot. Limpy called. The turn was a 5, and I bet $0.80 into the $1.01 pot. Limpy re-raised me to $1.60. I guess I should have folded then, but I called the extra $0.80. On the river, another 5, I checked, and he went all-in for $1.49. A week ago, I would probably have called that river bet, but I had noticed that Limpy played rather honestly, so I believed that he had something. I decided to fold, and he showed pocket fives.
I wasn’t sure how to play hands like this, against opponents that limp and call a lot. On hand 40, I was on the cutoff, and since I had been quiet for a while, I raised it to $0.17. The small blind, a player who limped occasionally and called many bets, called, and the rest folded. On the AK5 flop, my opponent checked, and so did I. The same happened on the turn and river. Do you agree with my play here? What do you think the opponent had? What would you have done differently?
Play went on. I decided to fold hands like Q2 suited and A4 offsuit in early positions, because I knew it was likely that at least one of the calling stations would call my raise, and I didn’t want to play these hands out of position. When the flop came AA8 after I folded A4, my first thought was “damn!”, but when I thought about it a bit more, I wasn’t unhappy about the fold. You see, I would probably not have won a big pot there. Who is going to bet with two Aces on the flop? And if I do bet out big and get called, it’s probably a hand like an Ace with a higher kicker, or a full house, so I lose a big pot. I think that fold was fine.
Another strange hand was 59. I had 76 in the small blind. All players except for the cutoff limped in. I decided to see a flop and hope to win a big pot if I flopped something big, so I completed the blind. The flop was K72 rainbow. I had to act first, so I checked, as did everyone else. The turn was a 5. I estimated that my hand was probably best or second-best, and decided to bet $0.15 into the $0.25 pot. One of the calling stations called, and the river was a 10. We showed it down, and my opponent showed 96. I find that a bit of a strange call, but I guess he was hoping for an 8. An expensive 8 that is, costing him 60% of the pot.
On hand 72, I had QT on the button. As usual, Limpy limped in, this time from under the gun. I raised to $0.20, the small blind called, and the big blind (the same opponent as in hand 59) re-raised to $0.35, with only a $1.84 stack remaining! I was unsure what exactly that means, and since I was getting pretty good pot odds, I decided to call. I also called to find out what this person had. The flop was Q75, and my opponent went all-in. I guess that means my opponent had AA, KK, QQ, or AQ. I hadn’t seen any bluffs from this player yet. Lesson learned: if a calling station re-raises you, they have a good hand. A really good hand.
By hand 100, I had figured out how to punish Limpy’s limping. About half of the time, when he limped in, I would raise him, and hope to get heads-up with him. If that happened, I would bet on the flop, hoping that he didn’t hit it. I had seen that he played honestly, so he usually folded to a flop bet if he hadn’t hit his flop. This worked whenever he didn’t have a hand, or when he did, but I also had a hand. It only failed if he hit the flop, and I didn’t. In that case, I lost a pre-flop raise, and a flop bet of 2/3rd of the pot. Since you only hit the flop about 1/3rd of the time with 2 non-paired cards in your hand, this strategy gave me positive results.
When I started doing this, I started understanding the importance of position. On hand 99, I had AT in the small blind. Limpy limped in, and I raised to $0.20. Limpy called, and the rest folded. The flop was 592, and I was first to act. He probably missed this flop, and betting here will probably get him to lay down his hand. I bet $0.30, and he folded. I knew that he rarely bluff re-raised, so if he re-raised here, I would have had an easy fold.
But what if I had been on the button? He would have had to act first, and if he had had a good hand that beat mine (for example, QQ, JJ, 95, 99, 55), he would have bet. I could have folded without putting more money in the pot. Compare this to the sitation where I had to act first, bet $0.30, and folded to a re-raise, and you see that for situations like this, having position means that you lose less money in losing situations.
Now, this isn’t exactly brain surgery, and I had already read and heard lots about position, but reading about it, and experiencing plus understanding it, are two different things. I played around with this a bit more, and managed to win more of Limpy’s money. Very valuable, this session!
I wonder if I took the position thing too far, occasionally. On hand 100, I had pocket sevens on the button. One player limped in, I raised to $0.25, Limpy called in the big blind, and the player who limped also called. The flop was KJ9, and after 2 checks, I bet $0.60 into the $0.77 pot. Too risky? Excellent play? I’m not sure, but fortunately they both folded. I would have gone out to a raise or a call plus a bet on a later street. What do you think about this play?
Hand 107 was one that I’m not too happy about. I was under the gun, and since I had not raised for a while, I decided to go for a $0.20 raise. Limpy called (he sure does that a lot!). The flop was 4AT and I bet $0.35 in a $0.47 pot, called by Limpy. The turn brought the third club. Now, I was afraid of the flush, and of Limpy having an Ace and a 3, 4, or 9 or higher, so I checked on the turn. Limpy checked as well. On the river, I checked, Limpy bet $0.75, and I thought that there were not many hands of him that I could beat. So I folded. Unsatisfactory. How was my play here?
After 110 hands, my stack was still around $12.50, the maximum buy-in. So, I had not earned any money yet, but I had learned some useful things. I found it curious that all the other players had stacks between $2 and $8. I wonder what they’re thinking, sitting down at a $0.02/$0.05 table, with only 40 times the big blind, while there is a guy with 250 times the big blind there.
Hand 115 was strange. A new player had just sat down to my right a few hands before, currently with a $2.92 stack. I picked up AKs on the button. Limpy limped, of course, and the new player raised to $0.15. I re-raised to $0.60, which was called by both Limpy and the new player. After the 9JQ flop, Limpy checked, and the new player went all-in. What does he have? QQ? JJ? KT? I couldn’t call here, so I folded. Limpy quickly called. Turns out that the new player had AT and Limpy Q7. The board ended up 9JQ8Q and Limpy won a big pot.
On hand 122 I got lucky. I had Q8s in second position, and the inexperienced player on my right (who had folded a hand just before that, when he could have checked) limped in. I bet an agressive raise to $0.20. The tight player behind me called, as did Limpy and the player to my right. The flop was 884. Great! Two players before me checked, and so did I, hoping that the player behind me would bet. He did not, unfortunately. The turn was the ten of clubs. I was planning on betting here, when the new player to my right bet $0.50 into the $0.85 pot. I raised to $1.40, Limpy called (!) and the new player folded. That left Limpy with just $0.69 so I put him all-in on the river, which he called. He had KT offsuit.
There, big(ish) pot won. The rest of the hands weren’t that special. I ended up with a couple of dollars “profit” for my session. This was a fun session, much less boring than playing between a bunch of multi-tables, with more action, bigger pots, and more chances of winning money. I’ll try this again, and see if I can win more by being a bit more agressive against players like Limpy, like I was in the last quarter of this session.