Friday, August 21, 2015

Project 10K Session #11 - A Journey to the Vile and Unpredictable South Bay

On Tuesday I made my way down to Bay 101 coming off 7 winning sessions in a row. I'd played no limit there a couple of times and played limit poker there a dozen times in the past few years, but I hadn't put in any time since I really started focusing on no limit and playing twice a week. I was really curios to see how the players there play through my current eyes.

Bay 101 is the biggest card room in Northern California and there are a few things that are different about the no limit games there. They have two flavors of $2/$3/$5 - one that has a $200 minimum and $500 max buy in and another called "Deep Stack" that has a $500 minimum buy in and a $2,000 max buy in. The Oaks in comparison has a $100-$500 buy in for all of it's tables. Another difference is they had 5 games going instead of the one, two or maybe three that the Oaks generally has. Also the games are 9 handed instead of 10 and observationally the players tend to lobby a lot more (i.e. their chips are there, but they are not and aren't being dealt in.) so more hands are played 6 or 7 handed.

The players are different as well. They've had this game and this stakes for a few years as opposed to 8 months and the players are maybe a little more experienced and aggressive. More significant is the differing nature of the players. The Oaks is a working class joint with a lot of truck drivers, dock workers, shady characters, and other working class folks mixed in with some professionals. At Bay 101 it feels like the silicon valley tech crowd mixed in with a bunch of hard core asian gamblers. Many of them don't give a flying fuck about the money either because they have plenty of money to lose or they are just total degenerates who let it fly.

It might seems like a wild game would be more profitable, but that's not always the case. The game at the Oaks that I'm crushing (even while drunk it seems) is a game where a standard pot is one person raises to $25 and gets one or two callers or 5-6 people just call $5 preflop. Most players have 10-15X what's in the the pot when they make it to the flop. It's much different if 5-6 people come along for $30 preflop and everyone has 2X-4X what's in the pot on the flop. Also with one or two opponents you can often sort out hand ranges cleanly, while with 4-5 opponents there is major guess work. If you make big hands you can make a fortune. If you don't you're hopelessly fucked.

I didn't make any big hands on Tuesday.

I started out playing $1/$2/$2 while waiting for $2/$3/$5. In addition to the small blind being $2 instead of $1 like it is at the Oaks, you can't just call the $2 big blind, you have to open for $4. So if 5 people call preflop there is $20 in the pot before the rake instead of $10. This makes the game play much bigger, but the max buy in is $200 which I think is too low.

I got stacked twice in short order.

On the first I got dealt JJ and came in for a raise to $11. I got 4 callers and the flop came down 7 5 3 with two clubs. I bet out $40, got one caller, and then there was a raise to $100. The guy who made it $100 had played literally every hand since I got there including a 72 off suit in the field. He'd also stacked off on the flop with second pair a couple of times in the 15-20 minutes I'd been in the game. He was as loose as they come and I was not folding here. I shoved for about $180 total, he called with 75 for two pair and I didn't get any help.

On the second, 6 of us saw a flop for $4, I had 67 suited on the button and the flop came down 5 6 7. The small blind bet out $20 and got one caller. Not fucking around I made it $70 to, and the small blind shoved for $250. I figured that he wouldn't bet out the pot, first to act on the flop with a nut hand, but I was wrong. He had 98 and I didn't improve. That was another $200 down the drain.

All told I dropped $460 in an hour at that game before moving the $2/$3/$5.

When I sat down I didn't recognize anyone at the table and may have never played a single hand against any of them. I bought in for $500 as per usual.

The first hand of significance came up when after a ton of limps, the small blind made it $30 to go. I called with K9 of diamonds out of the big blind and everyone else folded. This is a thin call and thinking back it should have been a fold. I was hoping a few others would call and we'd get a big multiway pot. The flop came down T 4 2 with two diamonds and my opponent bet out $40. He had about $240 left which felt like the right amount that I could maybe take him off the hand and have the back up plan of just getting it in there and hoping to improve if I failed with plan A. I made it $120 to go, he shoved for another $120 and plan A was out the window. He turned over QQ, I bricked out and plan B was a fail as well. I don't like my preflop call here, but still love my flop play.

Shortly after I raised on the button to $20 with J8 suited and got called by the big blind. The flop came down J T T with two hearts. My opponent checked, I bet $35 and he moved all in for $110. This was a really tough spot. There are some players against which this is a slam dunk call and others against which it's a slam dunk fold. But I didn't know this guy at all and hadn't had time to learn anything about him. Probably given that, I should have just dumped the J8 preflop. I think that's the error here. But given that I only needed to call another $75 to potentially win $185 and I didn't want these nutballs to think they could run me over, I called. I lost to QJ. Can't say I feel good about that one as I could have done things differently at a few decision points.

I did have two bright spots.

On the first I had AA and got one caller of my preflop $25 raise. On a 665 flop he bet $35 into me and I just called. The turn was another 6 and he checked. I checked back and the river was a Q. He checked again, I put him all in for $65 and he called with what I presume was a 5. I think I made a mistake not putting him all in on the turn here, but that didn't change anything. I did lament that this was the one hand where only one other player came along instead of the usual 4-5.

The second bright spot came against the same guy who reloaded for $200. 6 of us saw a flop for $5 and I bet out $25 with A4 of diamonds on a 8 2 3 with two diamonds board. One player called and the villain from the last hand made it $75 to go. I called figuring that it wouldn't be the worst thing to keep the other player in the pot when I had a 12-15 out draw. The turn was an A and I check called an all in for $125. My pair of aces was good.

Then things turned ugly again with more tough decisions. I raised 88 to $25 and got reraised to $70 by a guy I'll call Mr. Start Up because he had the look and feel of a start up type guy. I had about $800 in front of me and Mr. Start Up had me covered. I called and the flop came down A 6 3. I checked and he checked behind. At this point I figured he either had a set of aces or a big pocket pair below ace. Since the latter was more likely, I bet out $120 when the turn came out small. He called. The river was another small, I checked and he showed JJ.

This is a pot I would normally win, but there are a couple of reasons I didn't here. First of all my table image was all fucked. At the Oaks, not only do I know the players, but they know me and I'm intimidating to many of them. If you've been reading all of my posts you'll know that I'm regularly getting people off of overpairs with big bets, let alone underpairs and have won pots just like this one a few times in recent memory. On top of that I was dressed like a chump. A clean shaven, 35 year old white guy with gel in his hair in a collared shirt is usually fresh meat. Normally I like to wear a black baseball cap a long sleeved T shirt and be rocking a few days of stubble so I at least look like kind of a dirt bag. Secondly, I was losing a good number of pots which isn't intimidating. And lastly I was not feeling cool, calm and confident. If I had been I would have bet $250 on the river which I think would have done the job. This guy it turns out did call down lite, but it was worth it to make that river bet.

A little later Mr. Start Up straddled under the gun. I raised to $30 from the cutoff with 66 (which is not enough - $40-45 is better) and got called by both blinds and Mr. Start Up. The flop came down AK9. We all checked it down and Mr. Start Up won with 9 7. Would I recommend continuation betting into 3 loose opponents on that board? Usually no. But that didn't stop me from questioning if I should have since it would have worked.

On the very next hand when I got dealt AJ, raised to $35 and got 3 callers, the previous hand was still fresh in my mind. This time it was the perfect continuation bet flop - K 8 2 with no flush draws. Does it make sense to fire total air into 3 loose opponents even on the perfect board? Probably not, but in the moment I got stuck on the "This is the perfect board to C bet" and not the "These are the worst opponents to C-bet into." There was $140 out there and I bet $120 to try to pick it up. Only Mr. Start Up called. The turn was a 4 and he was first to act. He shoved all in on me! GAH! Of couse I folded.

At that point I was done. It's one thing to get it all in and take a bad beat and loose or make a strong bluff and get called and lose, but it's another to get involved in 3 or 4 hands where you're really questioning your play and lose. If you're questioning yourself on a lot of hands, you won't be able to make the strong confident moves that are required.

In the end I lost $1,253 on the night over 3.5 hours. My $10,000 bankroll is now at $12,568 after 53.5 hours of play.

I'm back at the Oaks tonight (Friday) and despite my struggles I'm going to head back to Bay 101 Monday or Tuesday. Thinking about my long term prospects I want to get in that deep stack game and see how it plays. My plan is to play a little tighter than normal to start and remind myself to really focus hard on what everyone is going for the first hour or so. That should help me build up a tight image that I like and hopefully give me time to get to know the players a little before I run into tough spots.

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