In the province I live in, the lottery corporation still has a stranglehold on poker. The same people in charge of scratch-and-win and the lottery are the people who decide how we are allowed to play poker.
Because of this, we're still not legally allowed to play certain variations of poker (unless playing a private game).
This group of pencil pushers originally put a cap on the maximum single bet allowable at a poker table at $500, regardless of the table structure or stakes. With much effort and lobbying this limit was raised to $1,000. It took years, but the limit is now at $2,500 per single bet.
This is high enough to allow play in No-Limit games up to $2/$5 to be unaffected. The rule does affect limits such as $5/$10 NL and $10/$25 NL, which play as some sort of hybrid cap game (unless the game is classified as a private game, in which the rule is sometimes loopholed).
Today's anecdote took place when the $1,000 cap was in effect. This means the $3/$6 No-Limit game (changed to $2/$5 since then) was filled with a broader range of players than you would find at the average game in the same limit.
With a $1,000 cap, a $1,000 max buy-in $3/$6 No-Limit game was the highest limit they could spread without having the cap make a considerable impact on the play of the game. All the players ready and willing to play high stakes had no choice but to play this game.
That left the table with a range of rounders, from low-limit players taking shots to high-limit players just fooling around. It usually ended in an action-crazed game, with sparks of brilliant play occasionally burning through the gamble.
Who Am I?
A good question to ask yourself when you sit down, and occasionally throughout the session, is who am I? What is my reason for being at the table, what is my style, what is my plan, and what is my image? Your image (how the rest of the table perceives you) is every bit as important as who you are.
I was a regular $1/$2 player at the time. The table had seven regular $3/$6 players, one unknown, another $1/$2 player and me. Although these players held moderate amount of respect for my game, they assumed my skill was surmountable.
To them, I was an under-rolled kid taking a shot on scared money - capable, but easy to roll over.
To help reinforce this impression that I was playing over my head, I bought in short for $600. Having taken down a few pots over the first two hours of play, my stack was sitting marginally over $1,000.
Who Am I Against?
The man I'm up against in this pot is a regular. He's in the poker room every day, all day and all night. He likes big action and is an all-around strong player. Every time he moves his chips all-in in a big pot, he says "Gamble-gamble!"
I know Gamble-Gamble believes I'm just a kid playing on scared money. He will look for any opportunity to flex his bluff muscle and push me out of a big pot.
I'm aware of this, and am willing to make the big call against him while keeping in mind that just because he's going to bluff me, it doesn't mean he can't actually have the hand this time.
He's relatively fresh to the table, his stack equal to my own at right around $1,000.
I'm in the cut-off; Gamble-Gamble is sitting directly on my right. Someone opens the pot for a raise ahead of me for $35, as was to be expected.
Gamble-Gamble calls, and I look down at K♣ K♠. I choose to play the hand ABC and pop it up to $150. Everyone folds to Gamble-Gamble, who takes half a second and makes a quick call, sending us heads-up to the flop.
From knowing how Gamble-Gamble plays, I know he doesn't have aces, and most likely doesn't have queens. The most probable hand to put him on is A-K, while QQ, JJ and maybe A-Q are still slight possibilities.
This flop plays very well into my hand versus the range I put Gamble-Gamble on. The only real threat here is the flush draw, the board hitting an ace or a three to make any ace a straight.
Gamble-Gamble checks and I bet $200 into the pot. He thinks for a few seconds and calls.
Now I can only put him on A-K with the flush draw or a lower pocket pair. I'm feeling good about this hand and am almost certain that I'm well ahead.
The hand I gave the most weight pre-flop just hit against me. Because of his call on the flop, the only reasonable A-K he could hold would be A♥ K♥.
If he does have this, I'm now in a lot of trouble, but I'm still far ahead of a lower pocket pair. Gamble-Gamble checks again. I decide I need more information going to the river and make another $200 bet.
I'm no longer worried about the flush draw, as the only flush draw I can put him on is the nut, therefore I've already lost to the ace. My bet is strictly for information. Gamble-Gamble just calls.
At this point I've become convinced he has A-K with the flush draw. He's a good enough player to have folded any lower pocket pair after the turn, as my entire range now has him crushed.
He, thinking I wouldn't be playing hard without AA or KK, is worried about me having a set. He's not willing to fold, but is waiting to see if he can nut up his hand before committing the bottom half of his stack.
There are only two cards left in the deck that can save me. I've almost signed off on the hand, ready to fold without a miracle card on the river.
Gamble-Gamble instantly moves all-in.
I'm not worried about the backdoor flush and was certain that he had A-K on the turn. If that's true, we're now chopping this pot with the straight on board. In retrospect, this should have been an easy read, but it put me into the tank.
Is it possible that he has a six in his hand? The only hand I lose to is a six, since I'm absolutely sure he didn't backdoor the flush. I have half of my stack left. I'm looking at a $500 call to chop.
If I call, and I'm right, I net $0 on the hand. If I call and am wrong, I net -$1,000. If I fold, I net -$500. This is seeming like a -EV situation.
Money saved is money earned, so making the right call is worth $500 to my roll compared to folding. In this situation, you cannot afford to make any mistakes.
You're only capable of breaking even when you're correct, but if you're wrong, you'll lose your stack. This makes these scenarios some of the most important to play mistake-free.
It was at about this point I had the clock called on me.
Ninety Seconds Left to Decide
Could he have a six in his hand? Realistically, the only hands he could be playing with a six to the flop would be 66, 5-6 or 6-7. All of those are doing well on the flop: overpair, top pair with a gut-shot, open-ended.
Gamble-Gamble, being the smart player he is, would have to know none of those hands were good against me unless I had A-K or drew to a monster on later streets.
Sixty Seconds to Go
On the turn, with the ace falling, he would have to know he needed to hit his hand to beat me, looking for a straight or a set. His calls would be very weak, and hopeful, unless he had the flush draw with his straight draw. Is it possible?
On the river, why would he push? He is either trying to steal my half of the chop, or he wants me to think that he's trying that, having made a six straight.
Does he want me to call or fold?
This is where I went back to my original question - what does he think about me? He thinks I'm a player who can be steamrolled and is looking to bluff me off a hand. He believes I will fold, so if he has the big hand, he's more likely to make a smaller bet, afraid to scare me off.
He pushed instantly. If you want to catch a scared deer, you don't go crashing through the brush, waving your arms. He must want me to run away.
This marathon of thought ended in a quick, dull moment. Gamble-Gamble simply turned over his hand, showing A♥ K♥ and saying "Chop-chop" to the dealer, long before I turned over my hand - as if he was surprised it took me that long to make up my mind.
After all, he knew what he held and he knew what I held; the choice seemed easy.
For Gamble-Gamble the hand was easy. He knew I didn't have a six or a flush, so what I did have was irrelevant on the river. He knew the only way he could win was if I folded.
A straightforward hand to him was a mind-burner for me. The longest hand of the night made the winners a few bucks in blinds and limps, minus the rake.
I don't advocate wasting time. Use all the time you need, but never go into the tank and run the clock simply for effect.
Online poker rooms give you a time bank for these tough situations, and it's always better to take your time than to rush into a mistake.
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