I got right into a game (there were two 1/2 NLHE games running, along with a 3/6 LHE, and two tables of the 5/5 PL big game), which had an interesting mix of a couple of aggro regulars, and several passive newbies. I got off to a good start when one of the aggros went on tilt and decided to stack off to me by semi-bluffing his middle-pair and gutterball draw into my altos dos pairs to the tune of about $275 profit. I then had to endure the bad kind of Yak—the loud Yakker next to me who couldn't stop chatting with me with a base volume level equivalent to a Metallica concert. My left ear was seriously aching when I finally busted him, flopping a pair and the nut flush draw and calling his all-in semi-bluff (he had a naked non-nut flush draw). Sometimes, this game is easy! But I have a new appreciation for dealers who are forced to sit next to chatty players, and simply grin and bear it.
There was one amusing moment early on, when a nice lady moved to our table. She had $320 in chips, and the dealer politely told her that she could only bring on $300 because of the table change. The lady said, "I'm so sorry! I didn't know that rule. I've never had this much money before!" Another of the regular gals commented, "I didn't sleep very well last night" while another of the regulars was walking by; right on cue he said, "Well, you were sleeping like a baby when I left!" Everyone cracked up; there's just something fun about playing with friendly folks.
I had an incredibly fun and profitable session (up four buy-ins in roughly five hours!). But I never had any true monsterpotten after that initial near double-up. Instead, I pretty much went to Value Town, getting paid off time and again by players who are unconcerned with kickers or are overly concerned about being bluffed, resulting in a steady stream of small to medium-sized pots. I've been running well the past month or so, in part because of some timely good cards, but largely because I have adapted my game fairly well to the KISS concept—Keep It Simple, Stupid.
After several losing sessions a few months back, I decided I was facing far too many tough decisions, and those tough decisions were usually in big pots, which is not a profitable situation. So, I've made a few adjustments:
- Bluff and continuation bet less—In many cases, players in the games I play simply aren't going to lay down top pair. So, I've dialed the two and three barrel bluffs way back. Also, if there are more than two other players to the flop with me and I miss the flop, I just don't c-bet. There are so many better places to put that $25-$50 to use, usually in value-betting or stealing an orphan pot.
- Use more squeeze plays—This play has gotten a lot more lucrative recently, in part because of the trend by many players to limp-reraise with Aces and Kings in early position. It's usually fairly easy to get a table trained to consider $12 a standard preflop raise, and to get 3-5 callers of a $12 raise. Then, a healthy raise to $50-$60 usually can steal a nice pot without a flop. I like to have a good hand the first time I make this move, so I can roll over something like AA-JJ, just to reinforce that I'm doing that trendy limp-reraise move. Then, every now and again I'm able to make that exact play with literally any two cards. I've found this to be a much lower risk-higher success rate play than c-betting on the flop, for roughly the same return on investment.
- Observing the "big pot-big hand" rule—Frankly, this might have been my biggest leak earlier this year. It's easy to get caught up in an aggro war where second pair might be good enough to win a $300 pot. But over time, it can be expensive betting and calling light. So, generally speaking, if it looks like a big pot is brewing, I get the heck out of Dodge unless I have a real hand. I may let the occasional nice pot slip out of my hands by folding, but this adjustment has been a definite profit saver.
Speaking of running well, I didn't have any crAAKKer hands, but I did have one statistical variance box (SVB) hand. I was on the button and it limped to me, so I raised to $12 with 88. I got four callers, and we saw a flop of Q-5-5 rainbow. Checks to the guy on my right, who bets $15. Now, the guy in the 10 seat—the big blind this hand—was very tight and had folded to my raise. But he was also a Chatty Kathy, and couldn't resist talking to his buddy in the 9 seat, even during hands. As the flop hit, I saw him lean over and whisper to his buddy and shake his head, so I was pretty sure he had folded a 5. I also didn't put the bettor on a 5, as he was a trappy player. So I called, figuring he had a pocket pair or a queen, and I might be able to take the pot away on the turn. But we got one other caller as well, so I figured he likely had a queen, and I would need to catch an 8 or bluff an Ace or King. The turn came another 5! Chatty Kathy positively radiated that he had folded the case 5, so I was pretty sure I was up against assorted queens and pocket pairs in my two opponents. Same guy bet $15 again, and again we both called. River was an 8! Donkey Kong! Same guy bets $15, I raise to $65, both guys call, both guys show 5s full of Queens, both guys mutter in disgust as I torpedo their U-boats.
Like wine, sometimes a hand needs to mature.