Doug’s game has been the most consistently difficult game I’ve played in. I don’t feel outmatched talentwise, but there are a few factors that make this game tougher than most. Doug, for one, used to be a semi-pro. In the early-80s, he was out of a job, had a mortgage and a newborn and played poker for a little over a year to pay the bills. He said his goal was to make $100 a night, and I think he played four nights a week. Doug didn’t have any cardrooms or casinos to frequent, so he had to grind it out in home games and country clubs. The biggest credit to his play is that no one knew he was doing it. So Doug is about the most solid player I’ve ever played against. I modeled my low-limit play after him.
My friend Joel plays in this and he’s very good, an excellent numbers man, one of only two people, besides my wife, that I would share a bankroll with. Like most good players, Joel plays even better in this game than others.
My friend Larry plays in this, and he plays for the most money of anyone in our group. He has had more big wins for bigger money than anyone in the game. He also has the same credits with losses. Larry’s not afraid, and he’s not afraid to play reckless.
There are another two guys who don’t know what they are doing: Rick and Mike. Mike will be the star of the first hand I discuss, and I’ll let his play be the description for both Mike and Rick’s play.
The other players in the game are pretty solid. They have read poker books and know what hands have good appeal and what hands don’t. They play a little too tight in that they may have the best hand, Aces full or something, but won’t raise you in fear of you having quads. These guys are up money for their lives but not much, and they nearly cry at every one of these games at the aggression and their stupidity for laying down the winner.
The real reason anyone comes to Doug’s game is Kenny. Kenny is a multi-millionaire. He owns the biggest contracting company in Wyoming and he makes around 40 million a year. Kenny loves to raise the pot with nothing, without looking and continue to raise it until all your chips are in the middle or your cards are. He will bet the flop, flip over his cards and you’ll see you have him beat, and you’ll still be scared to call. Kenny has played pots from the bathroom and won. Once he left to go to piss and told the table to raise the pot every time. A guy actually had Aces on this hand. Kenny had 6-3 offsuit, and he didn’t even know it. He also asked us to flip his hand over so the other guy would know what he had. Two sixes hit the flop. There are parts of Kenny’s game that could not be worse, and parts of it that couldn’t be better. Typically, I bring 200 in there, though I have brought 400 when I thought 4 100 shots at it were worth the risk. Others have been in for 500 and the table quiets down as we are all feeling a little sorry for our friend trying to dig himself out of a 500 hole. Kenny regularly has 1200 in and has put 3300 in without batting an eyelash. He typically writes a 1000 check every time there.
This sounds like an ideal game to be in. But with all the combining factors, having a pro, a maniac, two idiots and solid players in the pot, it’s hard to know what to do. The good thing is I can just wait for hands. The bad thing is, everyone at the table but me has a job that pays at least 50,000.
The last hand I played on this night was with Larry and he broke me. I raised the pot out of position with KQ and Larry smooth called. Flop comes K-9-3. I check raised Larry and he put me all-in. He had 9-3. That was my first hundred. I wasn’t pissed or tilting, but I wasn’t happy. But Larry can do this to people, and I know that if I’m at the table long enough, I’ll be in the hand when he doesn’t hit his miracles.
On the hand in question I was in middle position and there were several limpers, which is what I’m looking for in this game. I am known as a tight player in this game, I have lost only once there and am up almost a grand in my career there. In other games with Larry, Joel and some of the guys who are there, I’m known as just the opposite. Anyhow, because of the limpers I can put in a good-sized raise. I have 8s-8h. Because of my reputation, I run off almost everyone, I think Joel stays in and so does Mike. Mike is late and Joel is early. Now Mike is a real idiot, he makes a lot of money doing something, but he’s not very fond of it at the poker table. I put Mike on something solid because I don’t know how else to go about my pre-flop mind. I forget about Joel. Flop comes Q-8-3, all clubs. Joel checks and he is not afraid to check-raise.
I want to pause here to talk about a good play that I made and didn’t actually make at the same time. Usually after a hand is over guys will tell you exactly what they were thinking and why they are so smart. They are full of shit. In hindsight, I think my move with my reputation was solid. The problem it has is that anyone who calls you is going to have you beat. So the only thing to hope for is a 9-high flop with an eight. Check into the overpair or bet at them and you will get twice the amount of chips you started the hand with. Typically you are going to get called by a pair, maybe AK if it’s suited or even AQ, but every other non-paired holding will wait for a better situation and if they don’t and don’t flop to their hand, all their action is over. So this is a dangerous play, but in a game where tight players will call you with Aces instead of raise because they have seen A-A get beat too many times, and then they flop a 9-high and you raise them, they will fold half the time because they have talked themselves into seeing a better hand and folding. Try this play when you are up, proceed gamble.
Back to the action, I think for a minute and maybe I’m tilting and maybe I’m not, but I’m going to make a run at it anyway. I don’t figure I can run out a made flush because they called a raise with it, so if it’s not the nuts then it’s big anyway, but if someone only has one club, they are going to have to pay to draw. I’m still not sure If I thought anyone had a flush or I didn’t care, but I made the hand I was looking to make with 8-8, and so what if it was a flush flop.
The pot had a little over 100 and I had 97 so I get it all in the middle. Mike calls and so I figure I’m going to have to pair the board to win, and I think Joel laid down a big club. I flip over the set, Mike flips over Q-5h. He doesn’t even have a club! Of course I’m happy that he’s an idiot. Joel whispered to me that he was surprised that I would do that with 8-8. So there was added bonus in that I got some street credit. Of course the lesser players just saw my set, my winning hand, and the savvier players realized I made a big move with a vulnerable hand. I got back all I lost to Larry on my original buy-in and then some, and cashed 220 that night.
The other hand was at Doug’s a few times before the Mike hand. Only 5 people showed up to this one: Doug, Larry, Joel, Me and my friend Brice. Brice is pretty good at home games and does well, but he’s pretty scared over at Doug’s and doesn’t usually do so well. But everyone there is solid. There is no dead money, which sucks, but there is also no live money. I figure this will be good practice but I don’t stand to win much at such a tight game without much money in it.
Brice raises the pot from the gun to I think 13. Because of being short-handed, I had come not to respect the opening raise. Maybe I was the only one. I had K-K and reraised the pot to I think 36. As I was raising, Brice said “Really” or something that let me know, he thought he was beat, but I was concentrating on my hand because Larry who was after me cold called before I could get my money in. Brice goes ahead and calls but he’s not happy. Flop comes K-J-10, two spades. Brice checks and I think I would have given my hand away to anyone paying attention because I felt like I was smiling pretty big with my top set. I bet 100. I could have bet more but I hate counting the pot and 100 was big enough. Larry calls as soon as I say it. Brice is frustrated, but calls off his last 54 (I had busted him earlier that night).
With Larry’s call, I have to figure him for AA or AQ. I’m hoping they are not spades. If he tripped up with Jacks or Tens then I’m in good shape as long as it’s not runner-runner spades, which I have none. The next card off is a 6 of spades, so if someone was drawing to it, they got there. I figure I’m not dead, but really I’m thinking I made the best hand I can make with this and I’m going to see it through. I think I had 46 or something in front of me and Larry has to call, and will call since the board hasn’t improved.
Larry flips over AK, no spade and Brice Q-Q no spade. We have talked about this hand a lot and figured that Larry made the worst call. Whatever hand he put me on, I had him bested except for Q-Q, and that was open-ended and also had half his outs to improve to Broadway. A-A had him dominated to a gutsot, Kings, Jacks and Tens outflopped him. But that’s Larry. He plays so many shit hands that he doesn’t know when good ones are beat.
Brice didn’t make a bad play. If I were him, I might have tossed Queens before the flop to a 36 reraise and a cold call, but we were 5-handed, how could he not think he was good. On the flop when he was getting 2:1 on the rest of his money to draw, well what can you do. If he had more money, maybe he would have laid it down.
This last hand is the example of paying people off. You hear a lot about it in Super System about just having to pay guys off. It seems stupid to put money into the pot when you feel you are beat, but have the hand you wanted to make from the time you entered the pot. There is no real percentage of chips per bet or whatever. In low limits, I only pay guys off on the end for one bet and the pot had to be enormous with half of my money in there. If for one second during the hand I thought I lost the lead, I can make it cheap to go the rest of the way. So I try to spot the payoff before it starts raising me.
But in Pot Limit and No limit, the chance that someone is bluffing is greater, and since the pots are bigger, people want to get them any way they can. The fact is, sometimes I have to put money in the pot when I’m a loser because of the size of the pot and the chance that someone is tilting, knows he’s beat and just wants to get all his chips in. The only way to avoid paying people off occasionally is to always have fewer chips than everyone at the table or never play a hand. Both hard ways to get ahead. Payoffs happen. I say nice hand and move on to the next investment.