Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Levels of Difficulty

The Difficulty MeterWas listening the other day to the latest episode of Bart Hanson’s Cash Plays (8/20/08) -- a consistently smart & interesting podcast, in my opinion -- which includes a good interview with cash game pro Gabe Thaler. Among other topics covered in the show, Hanson asks Thaler a question about playing deep-stacked no-limit hold’em.

The question actually follows up on something discussed in an earlier episode of Cash Plays and concerns the relatively rare situation of having to fold a set in no-limit hold’em. I won’t go through the entire question, but essentially Hanson asks Thaler how he feels about the argument that in order to play deep-stacked, high-stakes NLHE, one has to be able to fold a set if the circumstances warrant doing so.

I love Thaler’s response: “My feeling is that I don’t like to play in any poker game where people fold sets. I try and find other poker games, ’cos that’s just too f*cking good.”

Thaler brings up the same point a couple of other times in the interview -- that basically it is silly to play in games against tough opponents if there are other, less difficult games available.

Like most of us, I’m miles and miles away from the stakes of the games Hanson usually discusses on his show, but I still think I get something from the discussions. And that advice from Thaler -- that one really should seek out weaker opponents and avoid tougher ones whenever possible -- makes sense no matter what the stakes. Had a short little session of pot-limit Omaha on Bodog yesterday that confirmed the idea, in a way.

I’ve been wanting to play PLO on Bodog more often, but haven’t all that much of late for a couple of reasons. One is that I have some sort of firewall issue happening on my laptop which prevents me from being able to log on to Bodog.

Shamus at BodogI’ve uninstalled and reinstalled and still get the same error message. I phoned their support -- who I have to say, was very, very supportive, taking an inordinately long time with me trying to figure out what my problem was -- but we couldn’t resolve the issue. Most other programs work fine (including other online poker sites), but there are a couple which are behaving similarly, so I’m sure it is something on my end. I’ll figure it out one day, perhaps with the help of my tech-savvy brother.

The other reason I haven’t played that much on Bodog is that usually there aren’t too many PLO tables running at my preferred limits ($25 and $50 max. buy-in). I don’t play in the evening that often, so it’s usually daytime when I log in to find at best two and often just one table of PLO25 running -- six-handed, no less, and usually full.

So often I’ll just log in, take a look around, then log out and head elsewhere.

Yesterday I had just a short while to play -- a half-hour, max. -- and so took a peek over on Bodog to see what was happening. Again, just two tables of 6-max. PLO25 (both full), and a single table of 6-max. PLO50 (also full). Meanwhile, there were four tables of PLO10 running: three 6-max. & one full ring, all mostly full. So I took a seat really just out of a vague desire to play a hand or two on Bodog.

Stepping down a notch stakes-wise is often difficult for most of us. In fact, it might be one of the many paradoxes of poker that good players step down in stakes all the time, while poor players don’t (and/or move up when they shouldn’t).

As a part-time, recreational player, I’m tend not to be possessed by ambition to move up in stakes (although being human, I do contemplate the idea now and again). I know, however, I don’t want to move down -- at least not to the PLO10 tables -- and so as I took the first few hands was considering the exercise a strictly temporary, “special occasion”-type event. I was also preparing myself mentally to be frustrated. Not that the tables at PLO25 and PLO50 are necessarily dominated by brainiacs (doubt I’d be there, if they were), but I did figure to encounter a slightly higher-than-average amount of less tutored play at the lower level.

A windy preamble to what is essentially the story of a single opponent and two hands. In both hands, I’m playing from the blinds and manage to luck into hitting the nuts. So both presented me with the challenge of trying to get paid from early position with a big hand.

In the first hand, three others had limped, and I had 9c3cQdAh in the big blind. I checked, and the flop came ThKsJc. The small blind checked, and I went ahead and bet the pot (a measly forty cents). Now what I’m expecting here is for the player with the set -- or in some cases, two pair -- to call (or, maybe, raise), and the guy who also has Broadway to raise it up. Or, perhaps, everyone to fold -- which would not be bad at all. As nice a flop as that is, it is not the most comfortable spot to be in when acting from early position.

Anyhow, I get two callers (the small blind went away). The turn was the 4s. I was still good, but now there’s the spade flush to worry about as well. I went ahead and pumped $1.60 (a pot-sized bet) in the middle. I’ll admit I’m influenced here by the relatively small stacks. I only had $12.45 when the hand began, so there was not much reason to be cute. Again, both of my opponents just called. One could also have Broadway here, but I’d have expected a raise if so. Pot up to $6.40.

The river was a good one -- the 7c. Worst I can do is chop. In these Bodog hand histories, there’s a timestamp for every single action, so I can tell you with confidence that I waited exactly ten seconds before acting on that river card. That was deliberate. I then bet one dollar.

Now I’m thinking this is the most transparent sort of value bet imaginable. No one is gonna buy this, are they? But to my delight, the player to my left called my bet two seconds later. Then the other guy -- ShowMeMoe -- waited twelve seconds before raising the pot with a bet of $10.40.

Oh, well. So I will be chopping. I called, of course, and the player to my left folded. I showed my nut straight, and ShowMeMoe turned over As9h8c6s. Wha? He’d flopped a pair of aces (and a pretty hopeless straight draw), turned a flush draw, then rivered a jack-high straight. I won the $28.05 pot -- a nice one by my standards, never mind the stakes.

About ten hands later I was in the small blind with a pretty good holding -- QcJcTd8s. Three limped, I completed, and the big blind checked. The flop came Ah5sQs. I wasn’t too interested in this one, but when ShowMeMoe bet a quarter into the fifty-cent pot and no one else came along, I decided to take one off. The turn brought the Kd. How do you do? Broadway. Nice to meet you again.

I paused just a bit (six seconds this time), then bet the pot. ShowMeMoe took two seconds to call. Pot $3.00. The river was the 3d and again I had the good fortune of ending the hand with the nuts. I took four seconds to bet the pot, and ShowMeMoe took half that long to call me. His hand? JsAcKs5c. Top two and another busted flush. $8.95 to Shamus.

Up over $20, I folded a few more hands then took off, wondering how much less I’d have made if I’d played those exact same hands at a higher limit. In both hands, the only “subtle” play I made was the dollar value bet on the end of the first one, and to my way of thinking, that was almost pathetic in its blatancy. Even making the nuts in both, I really shouldn’t have made more than a pittance given the other hands’ having come up short (not to mention my being out of position).

Of course, I’d planned going in to keep it simple. Which frankly ain’t that bad of an approach in PLO25 and PLO50, either.

In the end, the stakes you play don’t matter nearly as much as the ability of yr opponents (relative to yr own, that is). So find those ShowMeMoe shmoes -- or PLO games in which players try to bluff you off yr obvious nuts -- wherever you can. And if they’re folding sets in yr NLHE game, do like Thaler and find another table.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Drizztdj said...

Just an FYI about Bodog...

http://www.gambling911.com/gambling-news/bodog-lays-hundreds-employees-claims-not-be-leaving-us-082208.html

Might want to consider a different room. Stars low limit PLO actually is fairly soft (not Bodog soft) but good games are there.

8/26/2008 11:59 AM  

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