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07/26/2005: "nickels and dimes"

i realize that i have abused this blog, treating it to mere hit-and-runs, highlighting the highs, lowlighting the lows, but generally not serving the purpose of telling a good tale (or at least an entry worthy of actual reading.)

but today i shall attempt to overcome past faults and foibles and present something worthy of interest, to wit: nickels and dimes.

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in the last ten days or so i have played several levels of hold'em: $1/$2 pot-limit, $1/$2 no-limit, $5/$5 no-limit, $6/$6 no-limit, and $10/$20/$40 limit. i am up $1500 in profit. please don't take that as bragging - $1500 is not that much, and in truth, you can plow through a dime in any one of these games during the course of an evening. i am becoming somewhat matter-of-fact about the value of money, or at least the value of it when it is below a dime or so; i still gotta learn how to throw 2 or 3 dimes away and not flinch.

anyway, all these games have a single thread in common: the loose-aggressive player. LAGs are an interesting bunch, tough to get a read on, difficult if not impossible to blow out of a pot, and even tougher to bluff off. the LAGs i play with make my head hurt with the hands that they play, and even more so, win with. i've watched 6-2 chase down and flush pocket aces on the river, with the LAG pulling over a dime of the poor tight-aggressive's money in to his filthy hands (thankfully, wasn't my money.)

the common winning hands in pots played with LAGs are ace-high, straights, and flushes (i know you are thinking ace-high? there is a lot of pride in showing your hand when you have bluffed your opponent out of a nickel pot. tilt factor is added drama). every so often you will see trips or a full house, but remember, to pull those the LAG would have had to have entered the pot with a pocket pair - a dubious fact for sure.

last week i sat down at two games full of LAGs: a $5/$5 no-limit and the $6/$6 no-limit. the $5/$5 was a home game, stocked with three pro football players, one NFL trainer, a energy trader, a luxury car salesman, and a few other guys whose occupations i missed. the $5/$5 is a warm-up game, letting players denude themselves of unwanted hundreds, while preparing to drop the hammer playing one of those hokey home games, where five-of-a-kind often sweeps the pot. i seriously overheard NFL player #1 explain to energy trader, "just remember, straights and flushes often lose in these pots." whaaa?! why anyone would play those games is lost to me. (said energy trader lost almost a dime that evening. heh.) playing with these LAGs often makes my stomach go into knots, specifically when i have a good wired pair and my bet/raise has reduced the field to 1 or 2 opponents. nothing worse than having pocket kings and watching the board flop a rainbow 4-6-9 and having to wonder, "did my opponent just make two pair? is he holding 5-7 and now drawing to several more cards?" that knot goes celtic when you bet 60-75% of the pot and at least one guy smooth calls. ugh! such was the case when i was dealt red rockets in one of my first hands at the table. NFL trainer, a guy who makes LAGs look republican, called my $40 bet. yeah, in a $5/$5 i bet $40 (which was the pot) with aces. think i am signaling too much? NFL trainer calls and an innocuous card turns. i am certain i am facing at least two pair. my stomach does the Triple Lindy. rather than dumping another full pot bet into the growing abyss, i float a 75% bet out there, to which he barely bats an eye and calls. when the river dinks a fourth small card, my colon goes all-in for me. i started this hand with about $185 of my initial $200 buy-in. it's all in the pot. NFL trainer's stack is about half in the pot. we roll 'em: i sheepishly show my aces; NFL trainer shows black tens. black tens!?! sure, sure they were overcards to this lousy board, but black tens?! nice way for me to double up. after two hours of play, i am up a nickel - not much in this game - and two of the NFLers have dropped over a dime each. wowsers. gotta play with these guys more!

the $6/$6 is the new game being spread at Northside on wednesdays. they even have an unpokerlike start time of 2PM for all us degenerate gamblers who are also rise-and-shine worker bees. last wednesday's game seated two piliots (one for SWA), a golf pro who also plays the amateur circuit, a tree farm owner, short-haul truck driver, and several guys who i can only guess are students, programmers, and such. in the first ten minutes i turned my $500 buy-in into almost $900. the hand? my pocket kings showed superhuman strength and outlasted what was announced as ace-high; we'll never know what the LAG really had, but whatever it was, he was chasing till the end. this session saw both pilots go teets-up, the SWA pilot dropping north of a nickel-and-dime. a young student and/or programmer exited around 5PM with two full racks of nicklels ($500 per rack) and a side rack with a sleeve of quarters (another $500.) my hand of the game: i routinely make a few showdowns where my tight play is exhibited for all to see. should i win several pots without a showdown, i show my cards anyway, letting the table know i am not "buying" any pots. after several hours of play, i am up almost a dime, having colored up a nickel in pretty green $25 chips. in EP i get dealt A9 and i raise it up, wanting to see how my table image is going. i stroke the pot with $30 (5xBB) and it is folded around to the button. he calls. board comes out A-x-x, two diamonds. i am first to act, so i bet out about 75% of the pot, hoping to see if my ace and poor kicker are good. the button is a short-haul truck driver, about my age, plays a lot and i have seen him at several games away from Northside. he thinks for a minute and then calls. i have some concern about my kicker and i am making plans to check and dump this hand on the next card. the turn is a meaningless card, except it is another diamond, making the flush possibility out there. instead of checking, i decided to act as if i am playing the flush and put $100 into the pot. roughly $275 in the pot and it's to the BB for another $100. he immediately goes into the tank. he's moaning that he can't believe i have flushed and just twisting for letting this hand escape him. he asks, "are you going to show if i fold?" now, i don't have any diamonds, but i have an ace. i certainly don't want to show both cards, but if i could show the ace, he might feel he didn't get bluffed out. i reply that i will show him one. "i get to pick?," he asks. well, now i am flipping coins, but sure, you can pick. i gotta hope he picks the ace. he folds and shows A-K offsuit (no diamonds) and i lay my two cards out for his perusal. he flips up my 9 and about has a conniption. i quickly rake in the pot.

common wisdom says that you play the style opposite your opponents: they play loose-aggressive, you tighten up and wait for the score. but reality often kicks Mr. CW in the balls. waiting for top pairs means waiting on your aces to get cracked. hands that play strong are nut-flush draws, double gut-shot straights, trips waiting to becoming crackwhore hotels, etc. and never underestimate a good bluff!

all that talk of drawing, sucking and resucking out leads me to the $10/$20/$40 limit game at Northside. although min. buy-in is foolishly set at $200, a dime is about the average minimum and after two hours of play, seeing stacks of 3 or 4 dimes are not uncommon. i've sat in this game twice - losing $900 the first time and $600 the second. Northside does the dirty by sitting two dealers, thus making the rake beatable, but also making your stack susceptible to rapid, rapid swings (it's almost like playing online.) my first time out i played like a rock, waiting for optimum starting cards, watching out for drawing boards with straights and flushes...and i lost $900. every wired pair i had was cracked by wicked two pair combos or evil trips. second time i loosened up considerably, aping the "can't beat 'em, join 'em" school of thought. i actually pulled a few pots but lost my nerve when i lost half my buy-in of a dime. the swings are what get to me. it's hard to kiss all that money goodbye, esp. when i can kill the $1/$2 PL game running just across the room. dropping out of the $10/$20/$40 a mere $600 poorer, i make back almost $400 of that in the pot-limit game. gotta learn to respect your limits.

tonight is $1/$2 no-limit and tomorrow is the $6/$6 no-limit. wish me luck!


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