Thursday, September 07, 2006

Money Gathers Deepest in Patient Hands

AS I SUSPECTED YESTERDAY, I received a call from the Maywood host, Danny, asking if I was entirely sure I wasn't going to play tonight. From having put this game together originally, I suspect I could show up at random and a place at the table would open up. But I'd never impose like that. Danny's had to fend off drop-ins in the past, and because he is a tremendously giving guy, he finds it tough to say no. Plus I know how tough it can be to fill a table up, above and beyond the erosion of dropouts. So I told him I would be there, which made him very happy.

It turns out that a seat opened up tonight because just such a drop-in actually dropped out this time. S. is a young guy who got into the game through one of the current players. Apart from a job waiting tables at a south Bergen sushi buffet, he seems to have only one other source of income: poker. The problem is that his play is wildly inconsistent, to the point where his initials might as well be ATM.

S. is what we call a maniac in poker. He bets wildly with marginal hands, bluffs with nothing, and on occasion hits big hands in huge pots with this crap. This slows some folks down from calling his bets when the board cards suggest an unlikely, yet massive hand. He knows he has this rep and tries to push it as much as he can.

People took a while to realize this about S., and he put a number of our steadier players on bad tilt when they had solid hands go down in flames to S.'s unlikely inside straights or rivered flushes. When S. gets away with a bluff, he has a tendency to rub it in by showing it, which drove these solid players nuts. Some of them then bet heavily against S. with a vulnerable hand like top pair with an Ace kicker, and get their asses sliced and diced when S. shows down a legitimately good hand and pulls in a huge pot. This led one guy to threaten S. and another to storm out of the game in a fury.

This is wrong. Never antagonize a poor player. Any losses to a fish like S. have to be perceived as loans, temporary displacements of money that diligence may win back. If you continually allow shitty players to force you to play anything less than your top game, you will keep losing not only to them, but to other, more perceptive players who see you going on tilt. I have four 3 × 5s on my wall, above my computer, where I could see them while playing on Full Tilt Poker. The one most pertinent to my point here said, "Shitty opponents do not justify shitty play on your part!" You might widen your range of starting hands, you might play draws differently, but you must still do both optimally and dump hands with no future when your odds of success disappear.

One of my greatest virtues is patience. I have lost two large pots to S. because he had poor hands hit on the river. It;s frustrating. I didn't waste my time or breath yelling at him. I gritted my teeth, rebought, and sat back to look for an opportunity to take a big hand up against him. My records show me that this worked. In one instance, I was dealt 22 in the hole. I was in early position, so I merely called. S., who was to my left, raised it, as he often was doing, and he got a couple of calls, including mine. The flop had a 2 on it. I checked, he bet at least half the pot, and everyone folded except me. I flat-called with the expectation of betting the size off the pot with any non-coordinated turn card.

Well, the turn was in fact coordinated, being the fourth 2. Figuring I was going to get a bluff bet either here or on the river, I checked. S. instead went all in for a significant amount. I called and smiled as I turned up the quad 2s. With the mortal nuts, I took a $235 profit home that night, a record for me in that game and a massive win on a single $50 buy-in. An extreme example, perhaps, of what patience can get you, but long term I will lose less from my discipline than S. will from what he probably still thinks is a winning strategy of recklessness and legendary suckouts.

So I have to admit, though I'm happy to play tonight, I do hope Danny will get an 11th-hour call from S. asking to sit in as well. As Danny puts it, "Your money is always good here!" Good in the game; better in my bankroll.

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