Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My Biggest Pot Ever (So Far)

If I haven't spelled it out in here before, while I've been playing poker for several years it's only been within the last year that I've started playing no-limit.  Before then I was all limit hold em.  It's no big secret that the two games are very different.  One clear difference is that mistakes are highly magnified in no-limit.  When I first started playing no-limit then, I blew through several buyins pretty quickly.  After a while, I decided that tournaments, with their capped exposure, were a much better way for me to get experience with big bet poker.

It's been close to a year that I have been playing mostly tournaments, and being more comfortable with the game, I've started to stick my toe in the cash game pool.  The results have been mixed to this point, usually small wins or small losses, with the occasional donktastic blow-off of a buy in.  The worst of those was when I sat down in a session and my very first hand I flopped two pair from the big blind in a limped pot.  Unfortunately for me, I flopped bottom two pair and my opponent flopped top and bottom pair (the board was 8 4 2 and he limped in from early position with 82 offsuit).  I was smart enough to get right up from teh table and walk away - my first one hand session.  But that's really a story for another day.

One difference between limit and no-limit in my opinion is that in limit you really need to get in and push small edges.  It's not that I think always pushing small edges in no-limit is bad, but it can certainly lead to some huge swings and I need a lower variance style at the moment.  So recently, I sat down to a cash game at the Mirage.  I started out very tight, mostly watching and observing players.  There was one highly aggressive player who played in many many pots.  I watched him show down some pretty marginal hands after betting them very aggressively.  I knew that if I could pick up a premium hand against him, he'd pay me off.  While I was waiting, another player sat town, he also bet pretty aggressively, but didn't seem as wild as the first villain.

On to the hand in question.  My stack was sitting at around $220, and both villains had me covered.  Villain 1 (the wilder player) was under the gun and limped.  Villain 2 raised to $17 which was pretty standard and something he'd do with a wide range of hands.  I looked down at a couple of pocket jacks.  Now I know that Jacks get a bad wrap sometimes, but I've always been a fan.  Besides that, I knew that I was ahead of V1 and more than likely ahead of V2 with position and a tight table image.  I three bet to $45 and only the two villains called.  The flop came a beautiful J 7 4 with the 7 and 4 of clubs - bingo!  Not a lot of strategy from this point forward, both Villains checked to me, I bet 2/3 the pot and then Villain 1 check-raises me all-in.  Villain 2 calls all in for less, and for me, I believe the expression is "fist pump, snap call".  The look on V1s face when I called was priceless.  He'd used his big stack (which fluctuated up and down quite a bit) to move people off hands since I sat down and the fact that he got called by two players clearly didn't sit well with him.  I mentioned to the dealer that I'd like some red cards please and flipped over my jacks.  The dealer obligingly put up the 7 of hearts on the turn giving me the second nuts.  The river club was entirely inconsequential although Villain 2 did hit the nut flush for the side pot.  Villain 1 called for a reload and I spent the next hand stacking chips.

So patience is always important in poker, but one thing I've definitely come to appreciate is that it is a premium in the big bet game, especially when your opponents will go too far with marginal holdings.  That one hand made my entire session, just the way that the hand from the other session broke my entire session.  It's just not necessary to jump hard on a small edge, not when you can wait for a big one and get paid.

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