After we finished playing casino poker and went back to the room, I was still wired and spend an hour or two analyzing “correct” betting strategy for the game. Our approach of betting any pair or any Ace was costing me some EV. An underpair to the board is usually not good enough to bet and some Aces should not be bet. Additionally, there were situations when King or even Queen high was good for a bet (paired boards, mostly). Not only did I pick up some good insight into the casino game, I think I learned some important lessons about actual heads-up play as well. There are a remarkable number of situations in heads-up play where you are close to 50/50. Good results at the casino game require you to increase your wager on those 51% situations and stand pat on the 49% situations.
After some internal examination and some discussions with Suited, I decided to play the $3,000 limit even the next day. I don’t know if she thought I was +EV, wanted some time to hit the spa or just didn’t want to hear me whine, but I’m glad I played it. I felt extremely comfortable at the table the entire time in a way that I am not at NL events. I have a good grasp of NL MTT play, but I just understand Limit on a much deeper level. The problem with Limit is that your edge is relatively small against other decent players and although many players in the field were making mistakes, they tended to be the miss a bet here and there kind of mistakes that kill you in the long run as a ring game grinder, but probably donâ??t alter your MTT expectation that much.
I was initially quite pleased with my starting table. It was located at the very back of the room and along the main center aisle, so my legions of fans would be able to watch from two sides. I also didn’t recognize anyone at the table, which is probably a good thing too. Unfortunately, Johnny “World” Hennigan soon sat down two to my right and Alan Geohring sat to his right. Admittedly, I thought he was actually Darrell Dicken (a/k/a Gigabet), but I knew he was trouble. It was nice to have position on them, but it was very quickly apparent that they intended to get involved in a lot of pots and I was determined to make them understand that my blinds were not theirs for the taking. On the second orbit, there were two limpers and Hennigan raised from the button. I called with 86s. The flop came Q86 and I check-raised the flop. Ordinarily, I like to lead at a flop like this in a ring game and I reserve the check-raise for weaker hands and bluffs. But I was planning to need to check-raise with nothing later on, so I wanted to establish in Hennigan’s mind that my flop check-raise meant a big hand. He had shown a tendency to look people up, especially the first hand he played with them. I filled up by the river and he just called me there and on the turn. I announced my boat and flipped the cards over. He tapped the table and quietly mucked. I was planning to check-raise him with air the next time he tried to blind steal.
However, the complexion of the table changed and I never got in another pure blind defense situation. There was a player to Geohring’s right who was getting involved in a ton of pots and seemed willing to call down with marginal hands. Some of them were good, but a number got there by miracle on the river and I had pegged him as someone that would pay off a lot of bets. He rarely folded. He took to raising pretty often and very soon thereafter, Alan was three-betting him pretty light. On one hand, he showed down 42o that he had three bet to isolate. At that point, Hennigan started making it four bets and preventing Geohring’s isolation plays from working. For most of the first few rounds, one of the three of us 3 bet behind the loose player a majority of the hands. I hit some hands, missed some big draws and executed a nice turn check-raise bluff to take down a decent pot. I was up marginally in the first couple of levels and I felt very confident and comfortable. Hennigan and Geohring were very active, but I felt like I had a decent understanding of what they were trying to do and how I wanted to counter them. I did have one moment of self-doubt. They played a number of hands against each other, since they were the most active players at the table and three times Hennigan showed his hand to Geohring after a fold. He did not show his cards to the rest of the table. I know that I could demand to see them by rule, but I elected not to. I didn’t do it for two reasons. One was that I didn’t really want to annoy them and have them try to target me for aggressive action later on and the other was that Geohring twice made a little nod when he was shown the cards and the third time he grimaced slightly. I decided that was enough information for me, although I suspect I would have made the dealer show the hand if they were two unknowns.
The dealer was pretty bad. He miscalled the board, even pulling the wrong cards up, identifying a players hand as a straight when it was a flush. I made a sarcastic remark like “its a flush too” and Geohring grinned at me from behind his shades, so I knew that he noticed that I could read the damn board and paid attention to stuff that didn’t involve me. He tried to push a pot to the wrong player and several players corrected him. Later, he miscalled another hand, but it didn’t affect the outcome, so I didn’t say anything, but I noticed Alan watching me and grinning again.
I took the first pink $500 chip of the table from Geohring, but he made a few bucks back on two suckouts against me. Once I held AQ on a Queen high board and another time he spiked an Ace on the river to beat TT. I’m pretty sure I took more chips off either of them than they took from me, so I’d call it a victory. I left that table in good shape when it broke and I got moved to table full of unknowns. The very next table was Ivey, Sebok and two or three other name pros, so I got a bit lucky. The unfortunate aspect was that I had an uber-calling station to my left, so I couldn’t steal at all. I had to hit hands. I felt in pretty good command of the situation and I managed to stay above average, despite having little in the way of playable hands. I did flop two pair with KJ when the calling station paired an Ace and got paid off nicely, but mostly I just had to wait and try to catch some cards. After the KJ hand put me way above average, I missed a straight flush draw and fell back to just slightly above average stack. He had a funny habit of raising flops and then checking down even with very strong holdings, so he really encouraged people to suckout on him.
I then ran into the crucial hand of the event for me. I was against a good player whose only weakness was a tendency to get too aggressive if he thought he could bully. He probably thought about the same of me. I held ATs and flopped middle pair and a flush draw. I turned Aces up with the flush draw and blanked the river. Multiple bets went in on ever street and he had a better two pair than me. If I won that hand, I would be among the chip leaders. Since I lost the hand, I was below average and looking to find a spot to make a move when I returned from the dinner break. The structure of a limit event like this is such that you can’t afford to lose two pots in a row or you will go broke. It is odd, there are some periods where everyone seems to be short-stacked and dropping like flies and some periods where there is some breathing room again. This was an action window. I got extremely lucky to double up with A5s twice, but lost a pot in between and wound up getting bounced in 249th. I felt happy with my play once again, but was dissapointed to fall short. I really think if I could have accumulated the dominant stack at that table, I would have rolled over them.
After I recovered from my brief gloomy reaction, Suited and I walked around the casino and played “spot the hooker” for a while. It is harder than you might think. She seemed exhausted from the long day of spectating and arranging meals and playing poker and wound up crashing around midnight. On the other hand, I was so wired from the intensity of playing that I couldn’t sleep. I wandered down to the casino and goofed around playing Pai Gow poker and casino hold’em for hours. I actually booked a $150 profit by the time I went to bed.
The next day was a bit slower-paced. Matthew invited the ITH gang for a cookout at his place and we didn’t get up and about until nearly noon. I had a good excuse, since I didn’t get to sleep until 5:00. I coached Suited for an hour or two on what I had learned about optimal strategy for casino hold’em and we decided to try our luck one last time at the game. We absolutely crushed it. I think I cashed about $1,300 in profit on a $200 stake and Suited cashed another $600 or so in profit. We were playing better, we were catching better and the dealer would have posted in the Vent, Rant and Rave section if they were an ITHer. I flopped a straight with 53o and jammed the whole way down. I knew it would be good when it was dealt. I think we attracted the attention of the eye in the sky, because they did a setup change on us in the middle of the game. Winning is a lot of fun.
The cookout at Matthew’s was a great time. We explained our new casino hold’em strategies, talked about stupid things casinos do, played with Matthew’s son and ate steaks the size of Texas. It was a really nice time and it was cool of Matthew to host it. His wife was as charming as ever and it was great to see the ITHers outside of the casino.
When we got back to the casino, we planned to try out our new casino hold’em knowledge, but the tables were packed to the rafters. Niin taught me how to play 3 card poker and I immediately hit a straight flush and got paid a bunch of money. He only pointed out that he would have been dealt that hand if I hadn’t sat in three or four times. At one point, the dealer was talking to us and dealing and Niin forgot to put down his standard bet. He had bet the same way on every single hand and asked if he could put his bet out (the usual rule would be that you have to bet before the dealer starts to lay out cards). The dealer called for the pit boss, but by the time he got over there, we had all looked at our cards and the boss refused to let him play that hand. Despite a reasonable argument from Niin about what good customer service would dictate, the boss wouldn’t budge. Niin was annoyed and decided to cash out, so we cashed in too to show our solidarity. For a ten dollar bet, it really was a dumb decision by the pit boss.
I played a bit more and won another few hundred, but was facing a flight that left at 6:30 the next morning. I got back to the room well after midnight and had to pack everything up. I wound up falling asleep at 2:30 and was powerfully unhappy when the alarm rousted me at 4:45. I somehow managed to gas up the rental car and check in at the airport. It was a bit ugly when they denied having a reservation for me, but we eventually determined that we were connecting in Philly instead of Charlotte. I took full advantage of the extra room up front and slept for hours on the plane. Philly was the usual summer thunderstorm disaster and we sat on the runway for 90 minutes there, but eventually made it home safe and sound and only a little poorer. Unlike my usual tale, we lost big at poker (thanks to a $5,000 loss on MTTs) and won at the casino. This is actually my first net loss trip to a casino ever. 🙁