Monday, January 14, 2008

Turning Into Travis Bickle

Travis Bickle from 'Taxi Driver' (1976)Played some more H.O.R.S.E. over the weekend and did well. Will try to compile a reasonable number of hands and report back. Still putting in short sessions of PLO here and there, too. I imagine I won’t be leaving Omaha anytime soon.

During my most recent session of PLO25 (on Stars) I had one of those chronic minimum-bettors at one of my tables. One seems to encounter these fairly often at PLO -- probably more often than at NLHE (I’d imagine). With this guy, it wasn’t just a now-and-then thing. Every time he chose to bet or raise, he’d bet or raise the minimum. Or so it seemed, anyhow. Still haven’t gotten PokerTracker for Omaha, so I don’t have stats handy to quote at you. I did, however, look back through this particular session to see just how often MiniMouse did his thing.

I didn’t spend very long at this table -- just 41 hands. Looking back through the hand history, I see MiniMouse sat out five of the hands, so I’ve only got 36 in which he took part. Out of those 36 hands, he took a lot of flops -- 29 altogether -- and in those hands put out a minimum bet on the flop or afterwards no less than 13 times. Very often he’d open bet a quarter if a hand got checked to him -- usually on the flop, but sometimes on later streets as well. And he’d also min. raise bets, too (e.g., responding to the $0.75 bet on the flop with a raise to $1.50). He did end up getting involved in a couple of larger pots along the way, but by the time I left the table he was exactly $1.55 ahead. So I guess it was working out for him.

I actually ended up doubling up (from $13 to $27) early on in this session, then toward the end found myself wanting more and more to mix it up with MiniMouse. Called down his wimpy bets a couple of times -- won once, lost once. Then bet him out of another pot. Didn’t deter him, though. The quarters kept popping out of his avatar-less circle. One at a time.

Early in the second volume of Harrington on Hold ’em there’s a discussion of probe bets. After defining what he considers a probe bet to be (a smallish bet of 1/4 to 1/3 the pot), Harrington tells how he likes to handle others’ probe bets:

“When confronted with a probe bet, I like to employ the Travis Bickel [sic] Defense. ‘You wanna know somethin’ about my hand? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to ME?!!,’ and then toss in a big raise. This usually takes the pot, and when it doesn’t, I’m gone. (I don’t actually start screaming, it’s just a metaphor.)”

I like the metaphor. For one, it’s funny. Just imagine mild-mannered Harrington suddenly erupt, Taxi Driver-style. The metaphor is also quite apt. Sometimes it’s hard not to let those tiny, annoying bets turn you into a nihilistic psycho. I found myself edging over into Travis Bickle territory, becoming increasingly desirous to smash MiniMouse into rodent ragout. One hand in particular woke me up to the unsettling transformation that was happening to me . . . .

I had chipped up to $34.10 -- nearly twenty bucks ahead of where I had started at the table -- when I limped from the button with 8hAsQdKc. MiniMouse was in the hand, as was one other limper. So the pot was just 75 cents when the flop came 2dKs8d. Checked around to me and with top two I went ahead and bet pot. MiniMouse called and the other player folded. Pot now $2.25. The turn brought the Tc and MiniMouse checked. I bet $2 and he quickly bet $4.

Turning Into Travis BickleAnother friggin’ minimum bet. And a check-raise! Ahhh . . . .

That’s when I felt myself slowly turnin’ into Travis B. Wanting to say “Hey, Sport . . . ! SUCK ON THIS!” And maybe shoot him in the stomach or something.

“I got some bad ideas in my head.” (As Bickle confides to Wizard.)

Somehow I resisted losing it altogether, able to see clearly enough I had to be beat. I did stubbornly call the check-raise, though, telling myself I still had a couple of outs hidden in there somewhere. The 9c came on the river, and MiniMouse bet a quarter.

Noooo, sir. No, thanks. No. I called.

MiniMouse showed 7sJdThKh. He’d turned a better two pair, and rivered the less-than-nut straight. I left the table shortly thereafter.

I’d lost a couple more bucks than I needed to on that hand. But I did manage to get the hell outta there before I made a real mess of things.

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