Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Actress Pimps Herself at NLHE

Iggy told me he missed the days when my journal was all about trip and tournament reports. I guess it was probably at it's peak during those days, before it became a true, daily diary and I began ranting and raving.

I was known for long, drawn out reports. No one, however, ever said they were boring, just long. Not much has changed, eh, except now I have long posts discussing other topics? Some readers like my theory and psychology posts best. I am in that camp. I don't really post strategy, so to speak, but I talk a lot about what is behind the hand, behind the cards, and that helps some players who are in a transition stage, working their way up from recreational players to serious players.

At any rate, since I have been running so well lately, I figured a few trip/tournament reports wouldn't be too far off topic of my recent psych series regarding loosening up. It certainly is what sparked my interest in the topic, and I hope it gives you some insight into why I have tweaked my own game, and how you might be able to do the same.

When I played in my first WSOP event, a $1500 Stud event that I freerolled into (won a NLHE sat at Binions), I played late into the evening, and was about 20 outside of the money when I finally busted. Ted went on to win the event, and to become one of my best friends in the circuit world. Another player at our table told me later, "You are the tightest Stud player I have ever seen."

Little did I know at the time, this was NOT a compliment. All this did was enable me to go around bubbling or barely cashing in event after event on the pro circuit for the next year. 15th in the 2k Stud event at Foxwoods (bubble). 5th at the HORSE event at Plaza (bubble but made a save). 17th in Stud at Four Queens (a table from bubble). 35th and 37th in the two O8 events at Orleans (bubble). 3rd in Stud 8 at Four Queens (ITM but not a big pay-out). 6th in Stud at Bucky's (first in the money). 11th in Razz at Four Queens (bubble).

So what has changed? Well, something finally snapped inside of me (more on that in the next few posts). After a year of mostly returning to non-HE cash games and playing very few tourneys, I have a new, huge appreciation for cash games. I rarely played Hold'em, being bored out of my skull, but I have always succeeded at HE. It is a huge catch-22 for me.

I'm not really very good (my apathy holding me back more than anything else), so I can hang in limit games up to about 20/40, or NLHE up to about a $500 max buy-in (if there is no max, let's say where the average player is bringing about $500 to the table).

In limit I tend to either play like a rock, or try to get creative if the table is passive and quiet. I will joke around, and tell superstitious stories that I absolutely don't believe. I will expose a card, or tell a player what I have if we are HU. I will play a blind hand blind, lol. If the stakes aren't important, and the table seems to need a clown, I will be that clown for them. This doesn't happen very often anymore, btw, although I just played it up to the hilt last night at Riverside and won a ton of money for a 4/8 full kill game (more on that later, if my fingers don't start to bleed).

In NLHE cash games, I tend to play tight unless the blinds are very small and I can limp into a lot of hands without much fear of being raised every time. Once again, if I feel I can get away with it, I play around a little bit. Loosey-goosey and passive-aggressive, sometimes rope-a-dope, sometimes lying, sometimes telling the truth. Just playing the goofball.

Most of the time, like I said before, I'm usually the tightest person at the table. Say the blinds are 2/5. I stop being a clown and play seriously. I go back to my old spread limit Stud strategy and start trying to trap. Get a second best hand to put all of his chips in the center with virtually no chance of winning (I have AA, he has AK, flops a king and thinks he's outdrawn me).

This is not "advanced" strategy, by any means. It is just tight, predictable, grinder poker. Which is why I got so sick of Hold'em, in almost any form. Three years of playing virtually nothing but HE and I just wanted to vomit.

Lately, however, as you have seen by the tone of my posts, I have decided to change my game somewhat. Loosen up, play more hands. Return to the clown who ruled the low-limit tables before the poker boom. With today's serious wannabe's, who call time and ponder over a $2 raise for five minutes, while asking the dealer over and over again how much it is to them, or how much they can raise, agonizing over their hand and a $2 raise in front of them, while finally folding with a grimace of disgust, an experienced clown is sometimes what is needed.

I've always been a good actress. All of those years of acting and voice lessons my Mom paid for insured that I'd have a heightened sense of self-importance, but wouldn't be able to make a dime at it. In poker, it can have huge advantages.

After we got home from Orleans, Glenn and I went to play a low buy-in, MTT at Palms. They used to have a good structure. I say "used to" because Dan was the CRM and made it so. But no more. Now Billy has taken over most of the management, while Dan runs both the gaming pit and the poker room as a mostly absentee manager. So Billy made sure everything went back to the quasi crapshoot quality it was before Dan arrived, while still charging the same juice to the clueless players there.

Two cash games were running when we got there, which was about an hour before the tourney. A $2-6 spread limit HE game (ugh), and a $1/2 blind NLHE game with a capped $40 buy-in (LOL). This seems incredibly stupid, and what can I say, it's Laughlin. But at the same time, an instant strategy came into my head, knowing almost all of the players in the game, and knowing how much I could manipulate them.

I usually don't sit down and play HE anymore. I don't play tourneys, especially NLHE tourneys anymore either. But Glenn needs some practice playing tourneys, for the main event, so we have been going all around, giving him the opportunity. He has played in two NLHE events at Orleans, several NLHE satellites and now three MTT's in Laughlin, as well.

But today I'm talking about the Palms, which happened on Wednesday, and the two cash games they had, as well as the tournament that night.

Glenn said he wanted to play in the spread limit. I'd rather cut off my right hand. He figured I'd just sit on their couch and wait until the tournament. But I saw the line-up, and I know how they play, so I figured I could make my tourney buy-in just sitting in the NLHE for an hour. Very little risk, really. So I bought in for the whole $40 (LOL) and took my seat. I believe we were eight-handed.

Very little to say about this game, except that I just simply let them bet into me, and took their money. I played the little girl, unsure of herself and where she is in the hand. Just became a meek little calling station. This is an act I can succeed at greatly if I'm getting the cards, and the players are slightly aggressive. With a $40 cap, the money is going in anyway, almost every hand, so there is no need for me to put all of my chips at risk pre-flop or on the flop, when I can safely just be that timid, calling station woman who isn't quite sure if she is beat or not. Playing with no kicker only reinforces my reluctance to put the chips in early. I was limping into a lot of pots, and most pots were either unraised or someone did a min-raise ($4 or $5).

This is a trick of mine that usually helps me double up at certain tables, while putting the least of my chips at risk early on with marginal hands. It comes across to the table that I don't really know what I'm doing, but the fact is, I have a marginal holding, at best. I have no kicker, I'm not sure if he has middle pair, top pair with a better kicker, worse kicker, or whatever. So by playing passively I can lose less, or win the same amount that I'd have won by being aggressive early, if I do get the call, that is. In this case, I won more.

So by the time the tourney started, my best hand had been KJs and I'd still more than doubled my buy-in.

Acting lessons have worked in ways that my Mom probably never predicted ;)

Next: The NLHE crapshoot tournament at Palms!

Felicia :)