Everyone in a while, I have to do something that is not related to poker. Albeit it briefly. This time it was a trip to Chicago to pitch our latest board game designs to the publisher. Glenn, who owns Eagle Games, suggested that we meet at Trump’s on Friday on the outskirts of Chicago. Another boring business trip saved by poker. Not surprisingly, I agreed.
Now Trump’s is not actually in Chicago, but just over the border into Gary Indiana. For those of you not as familiar, Indiana is a state, at least from the waste down. This was never more evident than when we arrived in the very northern Gary and their welcome sign which read, “Welcome to Gary, home of that sulphur smell”. We headed over to the pier, where permanently docked river boats, designed to skirt the letter of the law, allowed gambling. Trumps from the outside looked like nothing special. This in itself should have been a warning, as Trump is not known for his properties being nothing special. In this case, it was actually foreshadowing.
We found the poker room and got a seat pretty quickly as it was 5:15 on a Friday. It was $200 max buy in, $2/$5. Now believe it or not, the $5 through me a bit. It technically would be the biggest game I played at now and I began a little concerned. This thought quickly faded as I started playing hands. As always, I waited for the BB in order to get a bearing on my players. To my left would sit down the “regular” that played average, uninspired poker. He, of course, knew everyone. I would play my Columbo image to the hilt with him, acting the rube and asking him about how time was paid and what a straddle bet was. The player to his left wore a burnt orange hat and would push all in on the turn if he was ahead. He got beat on the river numerous times, each he declared a bad beat and reach for another $200. To his left was the rotating seat. Every player who sat there was a crackpot player. One guy got pissed that he lost a hand on middle pair and stormed away from the table. To his left was Glenn. I tried to stay away from him because he likes to raise big chunks like $100 and if you only have a pair it’s a hard call. With such bad players at the must move table, I never want to have to play marginal decision hands for large stacks of chips. To his left was a poker jerk. Glenn told me he would make fun of the players under his breathe. He was tight, but non-threatening. The player to his left, all three of them in fact, were rocks.
We are a few hands in and I get As6s in late position. Now, I call this hand the “prisoner” after the old Patrick McGoohan series from the sixties (“Who is number 1?” ; “You are number 6”) http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/cinema/features/the-prisoner.shtml
I have a rule to never play this hand unsuited, and only suited for a flush draw. This time, I get to call the min raise and there are 3 players for a pot of $32. The flop is Ace spade spade and our villain bets 10. This is a wimpy bet, and he probably has an Ace. Now it seems to me with this bet that he is playing weak. I can not call here though, this is a clear raise. Why? Well, 1 I am probably behind, BUT he does not know that. His kicker may be marginal at best. 2: If I raise here, he should throw his Ace weak kicker away as he knows he is beat. 3: I have the flush draw to fall back on and this could pay off handsomely if he continues. 4: He might have second pair. So, I raise it to 60. I figure this is very intimidating to someone who bet 10 twice and sees a pot of only 50 out there. He re-raises all in for $60 more. Now a call here is mandatory as even if he has two pair, I am getting 3 to 1 on the call and am only 2.2 to 1 to hit the flush. I call and he flips over AJo. He put his entire stack on TP Jack kicker. Surprised? I know I was. Two non spades come and I am down 130 of my 200. This would be the last hand I lose for a while though.
It’s important to note something here. Players watching this hand made a major error which would cost them about $500 in the next hour. They pegged me as a chaser. This, of course, is VERY incorrect here. I was not chasing the flush, I was putting my player on a decision that was the correct move to make.
Later on I have J8 in the blind and eventually a board reads 9765A and I double up against two pair. How many times do I have to say it? If you play connectors and hit 2 pair, you are in dangerous territory. The natives are digging the pit and covering them with leaves. I also win some less climactic hands, never having to show my cards. .
A brief aside (digression/rant) now about “Trumps”. This place was a pit. Does The Donald know what you are doing to his good name? The chips where so dirty, that they would stick together like children’s half finished lollipops. Literally!!! This is NOT an exaggeration. In order to bet, you could not put chips in your hand and count them out, no, you had to handle them like KGB opening an Oreo. During one hand, I am using one hand to SCRAPE off this graying goo off another chip. Is it so hard to throw the chips in some soap once a year? And the table. Part of it no longer hand felt. It had worn off to where it looked like one of those overhead topography maps of a pond in a field. How much effort is it to re-felt when the felt is gone? The room was run well enough, but jez. This isn’t “Bubba Gumps” poker room, its TRUMPS. TRUMPS. One does not expect this type of lameness after watching the Apprentice for 3 seasons.
Dear Mr. Trump,
I am a 40 year old technology executive that has enjoyed a successful career. I own three companies and I am obsessive about being successful when I take something on. I am interested in the job posting of “Quality Assurance Manager for Trump Properties”, a job which I just invented for you. I will travel to all you properties and correct the things that tarnish the Trump brand in a professional manner, while inspiring higher standard and teamwork at every location I visit. My first order of business would be a brief stop in Gary Indiana and the Trump casino there. I think we can save it without a fire.
Ok, enough schilling. Now its time to play everyone’s favorite poker game show, “What would you do genius?”
Our first hand is one that seems simple to play. In MP you are dealt JJ and the pot has not been entered yet. I raise to 3xBB as is my standard to disguise my hands. I only get one caller from late position as the blinds fold. The flop is J72 rainbow. What do you bet here?
Me, I made an incorrect decision. I made a weak, ½ pot bet. Stoopid. Why? There is no way he can be ahead on this hand. NO WAY. I have top set with no draws. This is one of those RARE times where it is correct to give a free card and I did not do it. If he had a set, he was going to lose his chips later on anyways. If he had nothing, I give him a chance to catch something… anything. Disappointed myself there. Saved him some money.
Next hand: You are in the BB with 99. There are 4 players in the pot who limped. Option is to you. What do you do?
This was the hardest question of the night for me. In this type of bottom end cash game, my raise was either going to create the wrong number of callers or simple build a pot. Neither of which was my desired result. I decided that I would check the 99 and play a non-set very cautiously. Did I do the right thing?
The flop is J95 rainbow. Hey!
Ok, now here again is where I prefer to play my Columbo image. I check. The player to my left, who obviously hit the flop, bets $40 (into a $60 pot). Everyone folds to me. Option number two, what do you do here?
Wanna know what I did? Huh? Do you? I smooth called. Am dinning my own grave here?
The turn is an 8. Action is to you, What do you do?
Me, I started the hand with the intent of letting him hang himself and I was going to continue it. This is the thing about behavior. It needs to be consistent. If I do anything other than check, he is going to figure out something. So, I check. Without even looking at me, he says all-in. He has me covered, and I take a few seconds to think. (I am beat here by QT remember.) What do you do?
Well, it’s an easier call than you think. Why did he put me all in? Think about that. If he made the QT straight, his hand is a since and he is in no hurry. No, he made one pair, maybe two and because I was checking down, he puts ME on the draw. This was a huge error on his part. Not from misreading me mind you, I definitely projected draw. No, for putting me on a hand I can’t possibly have!!! In order to call his flop bet, I would have had to have a perfect fit on that flop of J9. Would I call with QT? Sure, but then he bet all-in into a hand where he is already beat. That would be very dumb. If I had a drawing hand and did not make it with the 8, that means I called a pot size bet with nothing looking to get lucky. This is not how decent players play. He did not give me credit for knowing what I was doing? Why, because I checked twice. Mistake.
I took my time, stretched my hands and said “well, unless he has QT I am ahead” all the time looking at him. He was very stiff and not moving, trying not to give anything away. I made the call and he turned over KT for a semi-bluff. The river was a blank and he paid me off. He was polite, he did not make any comments, and he showed no signs to the table. But between the two of us, I could see he was seething. He still thinks today that some total rube got a lucky hand and did not play it right. But when you are at these small limit NL tables, trapping is the norm. You need to be VERY weary of them.
This is one of those hands where everyone is thinking you are going to tell them a sob story about how you lost a hand and they finish reading it and low and behold you won it. They can’t all be sob stories!
Many players do not even dig traps. Why? Because they have been taught by every poker book that only a fool plays around with traps. Don’t believe it.
And now, the fun was over. The must move kicked in and I got moved to the new table with about $450. This table was much harder, but it did have one player that was weak and I had the privilege of running into him not once but twice.
Another interesting hand.
Jd5d in the big blind. Flop is AdTd4d. I bet ½ pot and HE CALLS. Worried? Hmmm, a bit. The flop is a non diamond that does not pair the board. What do you do?
Me, I bet again. He called again. I was worried that he had a pair with a diamond.
The river was an Ace of hearts and I felt good about my hand. But I still checked down on the river because I got afraid of him having QdXd. In order to understand that fear, you had to have been me this year. One 3 occasions in tournaments I have flopped a flush and in ALL THREE I ended up behind to a higher flush. Oh, and I never had it worse than the Ten in my hand. So, I actually played scared on that river. Lame. Wife agrees. Lame. I should take my punches and forget them. Forget your scars.
This second table had two VERY large stacks. The bigger one sported a guy behind it with a WPT hat and a fake loose image. He would pretend to be loose, occasionally straddle and do other things to looks loose. I only had one run in with him…
I am dealt 88 and call the 2xBB raise from late position. 3 players. Flop is 223.. UTG checks, he checks, I bet $40 (2/3 pot). They BOTH call. The turn is a 4. They both check. What do you do?
Me, I took this opportunity to SCREW UP. I underbet the pot. FATAL. I bet $40 and they both called again.
The river is an ACE and the first guy (who it turns out has TT) checks, and the second guy goes all-in while yelling, “give me the money”. He was always trying to look loose when he hit a hand, so it was an easy fold. The TT folded too. That hand cost me chips and it did not need to. But, what would you have done? Especially on the turn.
Just before I left, I watched the other big stack betray his true poker behavior. On almost back to back hands, he pushed a guy all in on the turn with only TP and got the worst of it BOTH times (a SET and a made two pair). HE lost $500 on two hands on TP. Lame.
So, I left up about $100 bucks. Considering I paid $7/30 minutes for a total of $49 bucks to the house for Time, I can hardly call it a great session. But I learned more. Mostly, I am not replaying the sequences in my head DURING the hand to make the best decision possible and I must work on this or suffer the consequences. I feel especially lame as I have been practicing that for the last 2-3 weeks.
Ok, one more thing. What is the point of a straddle bet? WHY would I WANT to put in EXTRA money in EARLY position blind? What is the point here? What why I want to introduce more volatility into a hand? Answer: Either because I am a gambler (And a good player is going to take his chips), or you’re a good player trying to loosen up the table. I don’t agree with either.
Glenn likes micro raises. Those 2xBB raises that build a pot before the flop. I always challenge him on this logic, asking him how he can justify this in a non-limit game. There is never a reason to build a pot in NL. It’s always one bet away. Plus, you don’t want to give people reasons to stay in and suck out on you. But he does it all the time with a suited connector and I think he is crazy. Am I wrong here?