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Play a Night of Poker With Me -- Part I

by Rolf Slotboom |  Published: May 17, 2005

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It is a busy Tuesday night in my regular cardroom. Because the weekly tournament is sold out, the cash game that I want to play cannot start until 9:30 p.m. Taking into account the closing time of the casino (3 a.m.), there will be only limited time to play what has become my favorite game: pot-limit Omaha, high only.



Despite the fact that my girlfriend and I will be leaving on a poker cruise the next morning, and I therefore will get very little sleep, I decide that the game is well worth it. Usually, Tuesdays are the best days for playing this big game because all the gamblers are here, and giving up a little sleep seems like a small sacrifice to me. What I don't know is that this night will turn into a memorable one. Even though I am known for my consistency and for the fact that I hardly ever win big or lose big, on this evening, I am going to experience a lot more chip movement than I'm accustomed to. In this column, and also in its second part, I will guide you through this night and share with you the hands I played, the things that happened, and the thoughts that guided the decisions I made.



THE ACE GETS OFF TO A BAD START

While sometimes I will buy into this game for quite a bit of money, I decide to buy in for the minimum (which is $500, with blinds of $10-$10), because there are quite a few loose-aggressive players on my immediate left. My reasoning is that by letting the action men on my left do the betting and raising, I might well be able to win a very big pot, either by limping and reraising before the flop or by check-raising on the flop. While this strategy has been tremendously successful for me over the past few years, on this evening I am in for some rough weather – but I don't know it yet.



After 15 minutes of play, I catch aces single-suited in the big blind. The player to my immediate left raises to $40 and gets called in a couple of places. I raise the maximum and get two callers. Because I have invested well over 50 percent of my stack already, I decide to bet the remainder of it blind. Even though the ragged Q-7-3 rainbow flop doesn't seem that bad to me, when the player to my left moves in immediately, I know that I will need help. I don't get it, and my opponent's set of sevens scoops the pot.



Twenty minutes later, I play my second hand of the night. Under the gun with aces single-suited again, I make a minimum raise to $20, something that I do quite often. Three people call, and the player on the button raises to $60. The big blind calls, and I once again raise the maximum with my aces – and once again get two callers. As before, I put the remainder of my stack in without looking at the flop, and once again get raised by a set: This time it is the button's K-K-7-4 that has improved over my hand. So, well within one hour, I am down two buy-ins, having moved in with aces twice – but little did I know what was yet to come.



SOME MORE LOSSES

Another 20 minutes later, I play my third hand of the night. Under the gun, I once again raise to $20 with K-Q-J-9 double-suited in hearts and spades. I get five callers and the flop comes 10-8-4 with two hearts. I check, the person to my left bets $100, the button calls, and I check-raise all in to $460 with my wraparound-straight draw and king-high flush draw. The initial bettor now reraises all in and succeeds in trying to shout out the button, and he also succeeds in beating me; his 10-8-X-X holds up against my monster draw.



Then, on the very next hand, I get aces in the big blind again. The player to my left raises to $40 again. He gets reraised to $120, and with one caller in the middle, I am able to get my entire stack in before the flop by reraising all in. While the initial raiser folds, the reraiser does not, and he actually holds a great snap-off hand against my aces: 8-7-6-5 double-suited. He flops the nut straight to beat me once more. The game has barely begun and I am down four buy-ins already, with the players around me holding the chips, most notably the action men on my left. I will have to fight hard to come back, but it will be pretty hard to do because these action men tend to give considerably less action whenever they are ahead. All in all, I don't like my position much, having four premium hands already – way more than can normally be expected in just one hour of play – and losing them all. This is bad not just from a financial point of view, but also because I have a lucky image that I just love to maintain. On this evening, however, it is clear that my opponents are starting to think that this might be the time to break me – that "Ace" may now be more vulnerable than ever before.



TWO MORE HANDS, DOWN $3,000
And vulnerable I am! Some 30 minutes later, I raise to $20 with the rather marginal J-9-9-8 double-suited. An opponent to my left makes it $40 to go and three people call, as do I. Having played with this player for many years, I know that in this situation (with him being ahead quite a lot), he's got aces – and on top of that, probably good aces. The flop comes J-10-7 rainbow, giving me the nut straight, and the small blind comes out betting $120, slightly less than the size of the pot. Now, while a lot of people might think this is a great flop for my hand, it is not that good, actually. Even though I have the nuts, I have no redraws in case someone holds the same straight as me. What's more, I am not much of a favorite against the A-A-K-Q that the opponent on my left may well have, and against a set, I am not a big favorite by any means. If two or three people put their money in the pot, I will have to hope for not just one, but two blanks – and even then I still might have to split. So, in quite a few cases with my hand and this flop, one would simply flat-call on the flop and wait for a safe turn card to make a move. But because I have a pretty good read on the bettor (I read him for having lots of hands, but not a straight), and taking into account the person behind me who is marked with aces plus some other big cards, and because my stack is just a little too small to make the play suggested here, I decide to commit fully and raise all in to $440. An additional reason for raising now is that the original bettor has a $2,200 stack, so the player on my left will need a very strong hand to call, because of the danger of getting popped again. Anyway, to make a long story short, my two opponents are blocking each other quite a lot (the bettor holds K-Q-J-7 and the player on my left has A-A-K-Q), but an ace comes on the river to make it a split pot – with me getting nothing once again.



And then, I lose my sixth buy-in. I am on the button with K-K-7-6 double-suited. An early-position player raises to $30 and gets called in three places, and because it looks like my hand may well be the best, I raise the maximum to $200 total. Two people call, and then to my dismay, the third caller pops it again. Now I know I am up against aces for sure, and even though I hold quality kings, I am a big dog – but am too committed to fold now. When an ace flops, I know it's all over for me, and in less than three hours of play, I have lost an unparalleled number (for me) of six buy-ins.



Down six buy-ins with the players around me in total control, I am thinking about the best way to try to recover. There is something to be said for trying to cover the table, meaning I would buy in for so much that I would be able to break any player on one single hand. But seated to the immediate right of two highly aggressive and very experienced large stacks, I am still convinced that my small stack/move-in-early strategy is the right approach to tackle this game. But being down no less than $3,000, having had more good hands in one single session than I normally do in an entire week, and with the action men on my left in total control, I am not too confident that I can turn things around. After all, this certainly looks like a very bad session for me – and with the next day's cruise ahead of me, I can think of better ways to start a holiday.



SOME FINAL WORDS

In the second part of this column, I will describe the miracle turnaround that I was able to make, one of the biggest Houdini acts I have ever pulled. Fortunately, lady luck favored me after all. ♠