Friday, January 20, 2006

Learning the Hard Way
Poker Blog by Frank Niro (ChessSafari)
Monday, January 16, 2006

To commemorate my last night in Tunica I played nearly seven hours at a $1/$2 NLHE cash game. I did all right, I thought, until... I got AQ on the button, made it $7 to go after all folded in front of me, and was called by the two blinds. $21 in the pot. Flop came AJ4 rainbow and, with position, I was pleased. Check, check and I bet $10. sb folded. bb called. $41 now in the pot. Turn was another A in the 4th suit. Check to me. I bet $20. He raised to $40. I raised to $60. He called the raise. $161 in the pot. River was an 8. He moved all in. He had about $2,000 in front of him and had been bullying the table. I called my last $200. He showed A8o. I walked away broke.

I played well for 6 hrs and 59 minutes (I tried to convince myself) but gave it all up in an instant. Big Sigh. About an hour earlier I saw him put somebody all-in when a scare card hit on the river causing the player to fold his top pair with top kicker. Then he showed his hand: he had 7-high! I didn’t give him credit for another ace, let alone a full house (very bad read on my part). But, to give him credit, he set it up nicely with some loose aggressive play earlier. He was a special player...sat down with $400...when I left he had $ a $1/$2 game!!! He was the shark. Apparently, I was just one of the gold fish.My poker mentor, Aaron Hendrix, may be right when he refers to AQ as ‘the devil’. I played a tourney a few months ago and died on the bubble when I moved all-in with big slick and was called by AQ. Then two queens hit the board and I busted out. I received the same (zero) prize that the maniac who busted on the first hand received. These things are supposed to even out, right? I should live so long. Damn, I love this game. Now I'm broke but happy...story of my life!

OK, so I took advantage of the opportunity to chat with some of the touring poker pros about my hand. They said three things that I need to process... First, raising 2.5 or 3 times the big blind first-to-act in a no limit hold’em cash game tells the good players at the table that I am primarily a no limit TOURNAMENT player, and not a cash gamer. The proper standard raise, they tell me, is 5xBB FTA, 6xBB with one limper, and as much as 10xBB with multiple limpers. Good players, I'm told, salivate when someone makes it 3.5xBB ($7) to go because (a) they are comfortable that they can outplay a tournament oriented player after the flop and (b) their implied odds are terrific ($5 vs. your whole stack from the BB). This information is consistent with the betting action I observed for the seven hours I was there.

Secondly, a half pot bet on the flop is too small in this particular situation. I need to find out if someone really has the case ace and drive out any draws (KQ, KT, backdoor flushes). They recommend $60-$100 up to half my remaining stack. Then if he plays back I can be pretty certain that he has the other ace and that his kicker may play. Of course, he probably would've moved me all-in right there with the same outcome.

Thirdly, when someone moved me all-in with a paired board it was very bad to call off the rest of my chips without a full house, UNLESS I was sure the opponent was trying to move me off the pot without the goods. That's the problem. In my mind I was convinced I had the best hand. He could've just as easily had JJ, 44, 88, AJ or A4. I was too stubborn to accept the fact and, as a result, paid the price.

The trip to Tunica was not a total loss. I have my final table jacket from the media event. I learned some new tricks courtesy of Poker Pages. (Special thanks to Amy Calistri, Tim Lavalli, Kaelaine Minton, and Mark Napolitano.) I met many new friends and saw some old friends including Arlene Simms and Ronnie Yarborough and, of course, my favorite blackjack dealer Lori. The high point of the trip was watching Ronnie win $90,000+ in the $1,000 buy-in NLHE event at the Grand. That story deserves it’s own blog.

Kaelaine Minton, Frank Niro & Amy Calistri, Tunica, MS, January 2006

Kaelaine was kind enough to drive me to the train station in Memphis. On the way she gave me what was probably the best advice of all. She said, "If I find myself at a no limit cash game and look around at a bunch of chip stacks much bigger than mine, I find another table. You should do the same." Thanks Kae. Better late than never.

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