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Of Rocks and a Rolling Stone

November 14, 2010

After my nice Thursday afternoon session, I decided to head back to the Venetian for a little Saturday evening fun. And, I’m glad I did, as I booked another solid win after taking some much needed time off from the live tables.

While I played very few notable hands, there were some notable player dynamics going on in my game. When I arrived, the table was very much to my liking – active, but not crazy. The guy on my left was the big stack, and he quickly took almost $100 of my starting stack on the first hand I played when he bluffed me off top pair, top kicker when the board four-flushed on the river.

I hate losing that much that early, but I couldn’t complain. I got out-played in the hand and the table was loose enough that I knew I good chance of recovering the money I’d lost. And I did. On the very next orbit, I pushed another solid player off of her top pair when I check-raised my nut-flush draw on the turn.

The night went like that for a couple of hours. A few pots won. A few pots lost, and my stack moving up and down within about $100 of my original buy in. And then, at about 8 pm, things changed. I don’t know if people had dinner reservations or were heading out to watch the fight, but suddenly, about half the table left and was replaced with a new crop of players.

Of the five players who rotated into the game, three of them were complete rocks. In fact, two of them were so tight that, combined, I watched them play a total of three hands in about as many hours. There was one player, however, who stood apart from the crowd. This kid was a young Canadian with a bankroll and absolutely no fear. Thankfully, he also had no clue about how to change up his game.

I had seen this kid playing in a PLO game with Katie earlier in the night, so I knew he had a certain amount of gamble in him. And he didn’t prove me wrong. With him at the table, our nice sane game quickly took a turn as he raised or three-bet practically every pot before the flop. And these weren’t small raises.

If he opened a pot, you could expect a bet of anything between $10 and $30. And, if a pot had been raised before the action got to him, you could expect a re-raise of anything between $40 and $70. What’s more, he quickly fell into a discussion with the kid on his left – who was a very solid player – and started complaining about how he hadn’t won a single session all week.

As his style became more and more apparent, a few of us began to exploit his aggressiveness. I was the first to take a stand against him in a hand where I had called his preflop raise with Qs-Js. The flop wasn’t great, but I did hit top pair on a Jack high board that also brought two hearts. I bet $30 and the kid insta-raised the pot to $120. I had expected the raise and figured the best he could be holding here was a flush draw, so I shipped the rest of my stack to put the pressure back on him.

When he insta-called, I got a little worried, but when the board bricked out, my top pair held against his King high flush draw. He quickly reloaded and, if anything, ramped up his aggressiveness in an effort to recoup what he just lost. Again, he won a number of small and mid-size pots when his huge bets pushed opponents off their hands, but it didn’t take long for him to get tagged again, this time by the guy on my left.

He topped up his stack one more time and again began trying to bully the table. He was up and down for a while, and it was easily more than an hour before he and I tangled again. In this hand, I limped from middle position with pocket 6s before he raised the pot to $24 from the small blind. I made the call and saw a flop that was about as good as I could ask for – 4-5-8 rainbow.

The kid led for $50 and I made the call. The turn brought the Qd and we both checked as the board now held a diamond draw. The river was the Ac and the kid bet $165, which put me deep into the tank. I had a hard time buying that the Ace had actually improved his hand, but it was a very strong bet. After running through the action, I’d like to say had some profound revelation that led me to make the call, but I really can’t. Instead my decision came down to four factors:

  1. My opponent’s range was literally any two cards
  2. He was stuck and somewhat tilted
  3. He was hyper-aggressive and I figured my pair could actually be good in this spot
  4. Even if I was wrong, I could afford the call and the information was worth the money

As it turns out, I made the right decision and took down a nice size pot that I would have given up to almost any other player at the table.

While the kid from Canada was providing all of the action – and the value – at the table, the players in the 7, 8, 9, and 10 seats were as tight as you’ve ever seen. Of these four players, two of them played a combined total of three hands in about two hours time.

In one of these hands, the player in the 10 seat actually called a raised from the big blind – a sure sign he held a monster. When the entire table checked the flop of Jh-Js-3h, the 10 seat led out for $20 when the 10s hit the turn. He got one caller, and he bet another $50 when the Ad hit the river. He got called again almost smiled as he flipped over pocket Jacks for flopped quads.

The player in the 7 seat was just as tight and lost the one hand he played. To me.

Four people had limped into the pot when I looked down and found pocket Kings in the small blind. Not wanting to slow play against multiple opponents, I raised to $15 and was a little surprised when the 7 seat made the call. The flop was beautiful, coming K-10-7 rainbow, and I felt very comfortable as I put $30 more into the pot. Again, the 7 seat called. The turn was the 5h, which changed very little besides putting a flush draw on the board, and I bet another $70.

My opponent thought for a few seconds and then shoved over the top of my bet for about $100 more. At this point, I had limited his range to one very specific hand – Aces – and made the call while hoping not to get two-outered on the river. When the 2c fell, I decided not to punish the guy by making him show, so I flipped over my set and just watched him shake his head in disgust before he mucked his cards and walked away from the table.

While I undoubtedly got lucky to out-flop my opponent in this hand, the fact is, his incredibly tight play would have made it easy for me to get away from my Kings if I hadn’t connected with the boards. By playing only one hand in an hour or so at the table – and by limp calling a sizable raise with that hand when he did play – he made it very obvious that he was holding a monster.

If the flop had come Ace high, I would have checked my Kings and probably folded to any bet he made. (OK, I may have called a small flop bet to try and set mine one more time, but other than that….) And, again, without a huge hand of my own, there’s no way I would have ever bet into this particular opponent or thought about calling his shove on the turn.

While I’d like to credit my outstanding skills for my profitable session (and trust me, I do), the players who gave me the most money all night generally made it pretty easy for me to take advantage of them. By playing very distinct styles – either hyper-aggressive or ultra-tight – my opponents either polarized their hands or put themselves in situations where their bets weren’t likely to be believed.

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 19, 2010 3:53 am

    Nice post. You have to be careful when playing against people trying to give you money, it often makes you feel like a better play than you are. Well it does for me anyway. I agree with the bit about polarising their ranges. Keep up the great work.

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