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Capture the Flag: Jorge Limon

by Brian Pempus |  Published: Mar 05, 2014


Jorge LimonJorge “Baalim” Limon is one of poker’s up-and-coming online cash-game pros. He has been grinding $5-$10 and $10-$20 no-limit hold’em for years on PokerStars, while taking occasional shots at $25-$50. He wants to break into the nosebleeds sometime in the near future.
The former professional race car driver found poker after he realized his career behind the wheel wasn’t going to amount to what he had originally hoped for. The 30-year-old Limon explained:

“Before dabbling in poker, I was studying mechanical engineering, but I was quite unhappy with it and in general with the education system — the way my life was turning out to be some predetermined dull path. So I decided to quit and pursue my silly dreams. At the time it was racing rally for a living. So I put a roll-cage on my street car, a Dodge Neon, tuned it a bit and started racing. However, it didn’t take me very long to figure out it wasn’t going to work out. It was a sport for rich people, and I was competing against people who had been racing cars since they were 10 years old, with a whole family heritage of car racing. All the experience I had was some illegal drag racing and some track days.”

Fortunately for Limon, who was born in Mexico and still resides there, he has made a go out of poker.

Brian Pempus: Talk about how you found poker.

Jorge Limon: Back in 2005, I was in touch with the Starcraft community, a game I used to play somewhat competitively, and we started to hear rumors how [Bertrand Grospellier] and others were making thousands playing online poker. At first I was in total denial and I thought it was some kind of hoax, but a Dutch friend was playing too and he offered me $10 on PokerStars and some minor coaching in exchange for Skype Spanish lessons. So I joined, where all the ex-Starcraft players discussed poker, took my $10 and started playing .01-.02. I never looked back.

I always used pretty solid bankroll management, starting with a 20 buy-in rule up to .25-.50 no-limit hold’em. It went quite smoothly from .01-.02-to.10-.25, so every time my bankroll reached the $1,000 mark I took a shot at .25-.50. I bounced back about five times and had to regrind. This happened for months, and I remember being at the brink of tears the fifth consecutive time. It was pretty rough. Looking back, I realize how far I’ve come about tilt control.

So I finally got past $50 buy-ins and kept moving up, with a more conservative 50 buy-in rule up to $2-$4. However, I was again crushed. I still had a solid bankroll, but didn’t want to move back down again, so I took a stake that somewhat guaranteed that I kept playing $400 buy-ins. I finally beat it. I made good money for my backer, and finally started to play on my own.

That was probably around 2008 or 2009, so I moved to $3-$6 where I absolutely destroyed everyone and had a 16 big blind per 100 hand win rate for 250,000 hands. I felt like I was a super poker monster, but then $5-$10 humbled me. I had a sick minus 120 buy-ins below expected value (EV) run at one point at $5-$10, but I had a big bankroll by then and kept at it, and that’s pretty much where I’ve been the past three years.

My $25-$50 shots went alright, but I just felt uncomfortable at those stakes and didn’t have an ambition to keep moving up anymore, a thing I somewhat regret a bit. I think I should be playing with Isaac Haxton and Viktor Blom right now, but I guess I chose the safe path.

BP: Does being staked make some players play differently?

JL: It does when you are deep in makeup, in tournaments or cash. In tournaments, there’s a point of makeup where making it even to a final table won’t get you out of makeup, so there’s no incentive for you to be cautious. You will gamble it and go for first or broke and will probably play poorly because of that. Same thing goes for cash. You want all the variance in the world to either win a lot of money or maybe even force your backer to drop you and cancel the debt. I think a lot of poker players get in a lot of bad deals, or just buy action, but I guess we are gamblers, and as such we like to gamble even if it’s negative EV sometimes.

BP: Talk about some specific leaks you had early on in your career and how you managed to plug them.

JL: Well in terms of the game itself I had many, but I guess it’s something you slowly improve upon. However, in terms of mentality, I had many. Despite being quite stoic in general, I let results fool me, thinking I was better or worse than I actually was. Also, I robotically played too much. I should have gone way more into actually thinking [through] every step of the hand and questioning everything.

BP: Can you go into the game play itself and talk about the mistakes you made on the felt early on?

JL: I started playing full-ring and at the $100 buy-in level, changed to short-handed. I was definitely playing too tight. When I used to play micros they were softer than today, but I remember playing something below 10 percent of the hands, and that’s just ridiculous. Also a big mistake was not thinking in terms of overall EV. What I mean is that when I was thinking about making a thin call, or making a big bluff, what went through my mind was, “I’m calling or bluffing $60 here,” rather than thinking this is maybe at worst a bluff that costs me $2 with his calling frequency. So I was thinking more in absolutes when in reality it’s all more kind of an approximation of relatives in cloudy information. I also didn’t truly think in terms of ranges. I thought about, he either has this or that, but not really about combinations, how many combinations of suited hands or unsuited hands, and how that range would respond to my actions.

BP: Can you expound on the idea of that bet “costing you $2 with his calling frequency”?

JL: Well let’s just say that when we miss our draw on the river and we are either thinking of bluffing $50 or giving up. Usually that $50 is what goes in our minds, but what we really should be thinking is that since he is folding and calling a percentage of the time, our bluff long term isn’t about $50. It will be about a few dollars. If it’s a bad bluff he won’t fold often, and it might cost us $15 long term or vice versa. So it’s not about big bets or big calls. Most decisions are separated by just a few blinds one from another. It’s a game of small edges here and there.

BP: Related to that idea, can you talk generally about some of the considerations you make when figuring whether to fire that river bluff?

JL: Well, first of all, I have to credibly represent a hand. Bluffing just because you think the opponent is weak will get you a lot of hero calls, especially from good hand readers, so in order to bluff the river you would need to be in a spot where you would often have a good hand. If you wouldn’t, then it’s probably best to give up.

BP: Some newcomers might think that when bluffing on the end it’s good to bet the size of the pot, but can you talk about the advantages of having smaller bluff sizes?

JL: Well, very often people are either going to call or fold the river regardless of the size of the bet, so a smaller bet as a bluff is way better, even if it’s called slightly more often. The fact that you’re investing less to take down the pot is very important. Also, if you bet big on the river, you would usually need to have a very strong hand to do that with or you are bluffing (polarization), so they might feel better about their weak middle pair. But if you bet smaller you give the perception that you have a wider range of value hands, like top pair with a weak kicker or something, and villains won’t feel as good about hero calling.

BP: Can you provide some theory on defending your blinds at a cash game table?

JL: The position of the raise and the size of the raise are crucial to define a range to defend the blinds with. Most people don’t realize how important size is, and that’s why in the past years the game evolved to where people were stealing with a min-raise preflop and the blinds were simply folding too much with the pot odds. With a min-raise and the weak range of those in late positions, the blinds, especially the big blind, have to call with a very wide range, most suited cards, hands with one face card, and so on. It’s also important to not go crazy with resteals because it’s easy to exploit that in position, and if you never have two face cards when you flat call from the blinds, it’s also to easy to play against you on many flops. You have to be somewhat unpredictable. ♠