Yesterday I played poker for a few hours at Tampa Hard Rock and found the games soft and delightful. I came away with $265 with about five hours of play and felt totally comfortable the entire time.
I played 1-2 no limit in the morning and 2-4 limit in the afternoon. Most of the players were predictable and some were just plain bad. None were aggressive. In the no limit I won hands with river cards that someone should have pushed me off. In the limit I was one of the few who raised, was the only one who check raised, and only twice was my button raise to build a pot and get a free card re-raised and one of those times it was because players were going all-in with the few chips they had left. Never when I check raised the turn with a huge hand did anyone not call the raise or fold with my river bet.
Not that I always played good poker.
There did not seem to be too many regulars. I met one at the 2-4 table. This time at the no limit no one called the players by name. Last time I played one aggressive but very good woman player gave me lots of trouble. The good woman player this time was predictable and rarely even stayed with second best. She caught some great cards.
I seemed to catch full houses, but did not have a flush all day.
I guess I played my best poker in folding hands that were doomed. I got in some chases and just got lucky. And in the no limit I know the river helped push second best hands into winners because even when my opponent did not show s/he groaned about the river. Two pair became full and I got paid by better hands at least twice.
Also, I made mistakes. The funniest was when I held A-Q and was worried after the flop that my opponent had Ace with a low flopped card to make two pair. The turn was nothing and she bet eight, but just at that moment the drink girl came with my coffee and I did not see the bet and thought the dealer said 18. I tossed in four reds and said "call." So two mistakes, one being distracted and the other announcing a bet after my chips crossed the line. The dealer was puzzled as was the woman, but I just said, "Well,I guess I'm stuck with the chips in there." So the woman called, thinking I had over bet something small or perhaps a draw. We checked the useless river and she showed her A-10 and my two mistakes added $12 to my winnings.
I never was behind at the no limit and after a while I was second in chips and had $235 in front of me. One player had me covered, but he was not shy of me after losing two pots and I felt he would only put it all in if he had the nuts. Most of the table now stayed clear of me when I bet, but I did not want to bluff a bunch of small hands only to get caught for $235. Beyond that I have noticed that in my no limit game I may double my chips in an hour or so of play and then something happens. The table has too much information. I lose it back. Or perhaps I tire of the intense competition to read opponents. I know also that I am just uncomfortable thinking of losing $235 in one hand. Although I understand the advantage of being the chip leader and having everyone covered, I don't seem to benefit in my play. So this time I just left, took a walk, and came back for a 2-4 table where I know the ropes and can relax.
I do like these no limit games, however. Even with the max buy in of $100, there were no maniacs. $20 was a large bet. All in bets were few and not by people with $100, usually they were under $50. Bluffing was as rare as it was on the 2-4 so I really did not have to read a bluffing opponent.
It is a fine place for me to learn this game.
Finally, I was pleased with my betting patterns. In no limit with what I knew was a winning full house, I bet just $20 on the river and after hemming and hawing and studying my face, my opponent called when he would not have called $35 let alone an all in bet.
In limit when my K-Q flopped Q-Q-K I checked and waited for someone to bet into me twice, raised at just the right turn time and managed to get called on the river.
At the no limit, luck determined more of the winners. I played tight and did very well, going up $60 and then finding it grind slowly away with bad flops and turns.
Still, I felt I knew what people had.
There were weak and soft players. There was really only one good player, but she bet what she had and was paid by passive callers.
That is what I wanted.
I built pots with my button raises on draw cards. Once she reraised me to six dollars preflop and that was the only reraise I saw all afternoon. She beat me that hand too.
Still, it was luck that made my winnings. My good play just kept my losings down. I did not fold my busted pocket aces when I knew I should. Other than that I could pretty much see what people held and get out when I was beat.
Here was my biggest hand, one played poorly with a good lucky win.
I held A-2 offsuit on the button. I had been throwing away aces all afternoon if they had low kickers, but I just felt like playing one. When the betting got to me everyone was in for $2, so I button raised and expected a circle of passive callers.
I did not expect a reraise, but there was a player who was all in for $6.
The turn paired my deuce.
However, I did not get a free turn card because another player bet into me with his last $4. Almost everyone was in at this point.
So I expected I was beat, but there was too much money in the pot to let it go.
The river is a deuce and I have caught trips. A fellow bets into me, but I don't put him or anyone on the only straight possible because no one showed strength, so I raise and everyone folds, even the bettor.
Because there are three pots, I still have to show and my trips take all of them, so I go from below even to about $65 ahead on just plain, dumb river luck.
Another time I am on the button with 9-6 offsuit and decide to play son Peter's favorite hand. I won't just call on the button, so I raise to build the pot and get the free card.
The flop is rags and rainbows and no one bets.
I check with little hope.
The turn is a 6 and of no value. Everone checks to me, so I just decide I might steal this one and bet $4.
But I get callers.
The river is a 9. Again it checks round to me and my two pair look good, so I bet, get one caller and win that pot with Peter's favorite crap cards.
Of course, I won hands playing good cards well and saved money playing bad cards well, but luck gave me my money too.
I did not go into my speel about 6-9 being my favorite hand and always winning and worth a good bet, because not enough of these folks were listening or would be worried and fold to me. They did not fold.
In the limit game, soon after I started, I beat a guy with trip three's when my two pair caught the Full House on the river. He was not happy, but very, very grumpy. His wife was good to look at and more personable. He was quiet and not a whiner, but sour. Neither of them knew the game. They were puzzled when the board king beat both kickers in a hand I played with the pro and I explained it is the best five of the seven that count, but he was very sullen at this information too.
So what do I learn from this for Vegas in April?
Probably not much.
These games are more like our own local games of five people than the Vegas games.
Still, I like the hit and run idea for a comfortable strategy especially when there is so much to do besides play poker. It also keeps me out of an emotional loop I call craps poker. In craps, when you are winning you press the bets.
I tend to begin to think I am invincible in poker if I am winning and loosen up. This works if my table image is "rock," but it is dangerous if I have won on a couple lucky river cards pushing my two pair into full houses. Better to leave as a "rock" and play a new game, especially if my weaker opponents have left the game, leaving me with better players who now have me pegged.
Also, I know I can do well in a limit games that are like these if I can find them. I can't win or lose a great deal of money, but I can play without much thought. And I can relax and enjoy the randomness in a way I can't yet at no limit.
In Tampa there is no free alcohol and no bonus awards except a very tight bad beat of quad 10's beat.
In Tampa there are a lot of old guys like me who might make a joke once in a while, but are not entertaining.
In Vegas there is good free alcohol and quad bonus awards and people from all around the world in party mode.
I cannot drink or talk at a no limit table, but I can drink and talk at a limit table.
So I have to decide what I want.
Finally, I really like playing with this bone fish that spins on a chip or on my cards. It gives me something to do between hands and keeps me focused in some psychological way I don't understand. However, in no limit I need to be doing less spinning and more concentrated study of my opponents even when I am not in the hand.
So, if I feel the need to spin often, I should find a limit poker game and relax with a bit of free rum. If I am already relaxed and focused and interested in each nuance, then I can play no limit for a while. However, unless there is some great donating fish at the table, I need to leave once I have take down a few nice pots or if it seems no one will call me without the nut.
I was home again before Bill called. He is in Tampa, but we have company coming tomorrow so I can't hook up and play with him. Too bad. He and his boys are having a good time golfing and gambling. Gook luck Wild Bill.
And there are two local games this week, one at Gregg's and one at Peter's. Good luck Peter. Take them down.