March 21, 2011

The Cuckoo Gambit

Note:  The Ironman of Poker wrapped up last Sunday, and the official trip report is being compiled by cruise director Santa Claus. In the meantime, I'll share a few random posts that I'm certain won't make the final report.

"The hours of folly are measured by the clock; but of wisdom, no clock can measure."

—William Blake

After a tasty lunch at Holsteins in the swanky new Cosmopolitan resort, I headed off to Planet Hollywood for some casual afternoon poker. Over the past year or so, Planet Hollywood has become my new "go to" poker fishing hole, with a fairly reliable offering of drunks and bad players. I've had several big scores in the room, and there is a seemingly infinite supply of strange and entertaining characters to add some fun to the profit.

I was buying chips when a commotion erupted at the game in progress right by the podium. It appeared this middle-aged guy with a decent stack—let's call him "Chunk"—had called the clock on a young player in full internet poker uniform—hoodie, sunglasses, and vodka-Red Bull. From the heated discussion, it sounded as if the clock call had come a bit quickly in the youngster's view, a sentiment shared by several other players at the table. Nonetheless, the countdown began, and after a little more chatter, the youngster made the call. Chunk rolled over AK for a rivered top pair top kicker, and the youngster mucked his pocket Queens face up.

I initially didn't think a lot of the clock-calling folderol. I quickly made a couple hundred during the first orbit, flopping a wheel with 53 sooooted against one of the two college kids who had girlfriends sweating them, then bluffed the other college kid off a nice pot by floating the flop and representing the flopped Ace with a stiff bet when the kid checked the turn. All pretty basic ABC stuff.

Then I ran into Chunk. Chunk loved to call any preflop raise, then float the flop and bet or raise any turn. He was stealing a lot of pots by doing this, and it was clear most of his bets were on the light side. But, nobody would play back at him or even call him down with anything less than a monster, so Chunk was working up a decent stack. But Chunk's favorite move was to make a big raise, then call a quick clock. Based on the cards he showed after the maneuver, he was making the move when he wanted a call, apparently thinking that calling the clock would induce a call by his opponent. In our first big encounter, I laid down KQ on a Queen-high board when Chunk pulled the clock move with a $200 raise on the turn; he tabled QJ for top two pair as he raked the pot.

Now, I'm generally not much of a believer in most supposed physical tells. In my experience, there is too much variance in player personalities and reactions to get a reliable read on a player, particularly a stranger whom you have only observed for a short duration. Sure, there are some helpful rules of thumb—notably a major change in demeanor during a hand, strong means weak, shaking hands, and the quick chipstack glance followed by a check—but for the most part, I find betting patterns to be the best indicator of an opponent's holdings.

In Chunk's case, however, I was fairly certain that the clock-calling maneuver was his pet play, and I figured Chunk, like any mediocre player, would go to his signature pitch once too often. I just had to sit tight, wait for that pitch, and smoke it for a home run.

Sure enough, opportunity knocked in short order. I picked up Yaks in the big blind. There were several limpers, and I popped it to $25 total. Chunk called in middle position, and we saw the flop heads up.

A-J-5. Yahtzee!

The pot was about $65, so I bet out for $50, hoping to look weak with my "overbet". Chunk immediately raised to $100 straight. At this point, I was pretty sure Chunk had an Ace, so I decided to see if Chunk would help me sell him the idea I held a pocket pair under the Ace. Sure enough, as I "pondered" my play, Chunk started chattering, telling me I was beat. I responded, "Queen-Jack again? I can beat Queen-Jack." Chunk immediately called for the clock, less than a minute after his raise. I let the floor start the count, and asked Chunk if he had a flush draw, while I tried to suppress my inner Snoopy dance. Once the floor announced ten seconds, I made the oh-so-reluctant call. The trap snapped close on Chunk, though he could not yet see it. The turn was a blank. I thought, then checked. Chunk insta-pushed while puffing himself up and glaring at me, and I snap-called looking like the Cheshire cat. I rolled over my Yaks, and Chunk looked like someone had stolen his dessert. Chunk showed A9 offsuit, drawing deader than Elvis, netting me a nice double up.

Sometimes, poker is easy.

(Image source).

1 comment:

  1. Repeatedly calling the clock like that is incredibly bad form. Glad you made him pay for it, Grange.

    Also, I need to get back to Vegas. Sometimes I forget how soft the play can be out there. I've never tried Planet Hollywood. That might make the "to do" list next trip.