Thursday, January 04, 2007

Very Brief Poker Hiatus

ONCE AGAIN TAKING A break from the usual Thursday poker game, this time due to recovery from my cold. I did go to work today, but following that up with a 2:30 a.m. bedtime is not the way to get the old immune system up and humming. I also would hate to pass this cold along to the 9 or 10 folks who would be crunched in around the table with me. It's actually more of a courtesy that some of the younger, more shortsighted players extend. Some of them would play with seeping surgical wounds rather than miss the action.

Breaks in the game have their virtue. It gives one the chance to review recent performance, good or bad, and eliminate what's not working in favor of what is. You have to take some down time to study strategy guides or posts on such forums as the one on Two Plus Two. It's the only way to stay current; you'd be surprised sometimes, upon rereading a text you thought you might have absorbed, how much you may have been neglecting or taking for granted. Or you might discover that one of your guiding reference works is no longer suited to the style of the home game or poker room in which you play. Alternately, the refresher course might prod you to change games when you realize how slim the pickings have become.

It may be some time before they get slim in my current game. A typical full table offers a range of player types, each with their potential for profit, each with pitfalls to avoid when necessary. Each week, I look at the lineup of players in the host's email, and try to imagine what the night will be like. It's always a little different. Recently, we have had two maniacs at the same table: two rich, reckless gamblers who will raise preflop without looking at their cards and will go all in at the slightest sense of weakness in an opponent, regardless of whether their own hand has a chance of winning. One of these guys at a table can make for some nice wins if you get a well-concealed good hand at the right time. Two of them playing at the same game . . . well, bring a few extra buy-ins. It can get wild.

Another guy has been going on fairly serious tilt recently. He will get desperate, make a large, irrational-seeming raise at some point, often for all of his chips, and rely on superstition about his reputation for making crappy starting cards hit big to push out opponents. The problem is that he often fails to take into account the folks who almost never get past the flop without premium cards, or who are willing to bet strong with powerful drawing hands (e.g., two pair with four flush cards). Opponents like this are getting their money in there with the best odds, and someone playing 9 5 offsuit because it's "his hand" is not going to shit miracles forever.

Add to this the many players we have in our group with a firm grasp of poker math and good reads on what hands other players might be holding, and it makes for a very stimulating intellectual evening. Winning never hurts. What I consider almost more of a reward, though, is when an opponent needs several minutes to call one of my all-in bets. I'd hate to think I have become predictable or transparent in terms of the range of hands I play. If someone actually has to break down the consequences of multiple potential holdings of mine before calling such a bet, then I can go home satisfied, with the pot or not.

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