GAMING – Thinking About Poker: Whatcha gonna do?

PokerTalkGraphicAs I write this I’m sitting in San Diego having visited family and friends over Christmas and am contemplating what my 2017 bucket list will hold. I don’t make New Years’ resolutions as those are too easily broken and/or forgotten and by a large margin are unrealistic and unattainable. I try to keep my future goals at the simple and basic level; I don’t need to provide examples as we all know what ‘simple and basic’ means. In the realm of poker, all I wish to attain is a consistent pattern of playing my best no matter what. Poker is a game of highs and lows, profitable sessions and losing sessions; there is much to be said for having skill in the game but then there’s the element of luck. Sometimes you catch the card(s) you need, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes the ‘long run’ turns out a lot longer than one would like.

When I venture to Southern California the closest cardroom to where I stay is Ocean’s 11 in Oceanside. It’s in north San Diego County just south of Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base. Clean, bright and a non-smoking facility (the Indian casinos such as Sichuan allow smoking), they spread a wide range of limit and no-limit hold-em and Omaha games – quite literally something for everyone’s’ tastes and budget. Since the Omaha games were filled with longer waiting lists, I joined a $2 – $5 no-limit game and in a few minutes moved over to an $8 – $16 limit game. Since I had been doing well at the $30 – $60 limit hold-em game in Black Hawk I figured this might work out well. I was hoping the $20 – $40 game would get enough players but that never happened; probably a good thing, too.

The headline of this article is “Whatcha gonna do?” So I pose to you, faithful reader, the question posed in the title when on average seven or eight players see a flop – even with a raise and even (!) the occasional three-bet before the flop – and again on average three to four stay to the river! All the ‘normal’ strategies and tactics in essence went right out the window. Bets, raises and re-raises, bluffs and check-raises did not have the ‘normal’ and expected/hoped for results; players just threw in another $8 and in many cases $16, $24 and $32 like it meant nothing. They were calling capped pots with draws and the displays of ‘wish poker’ funded by their calls of bets and multiple bets ‘wishing’ their hand would come in; for example…

In late position with K – 9 suited the flop came J – 9 – 7 rainbow; strong betting convinced me to fold and ultimately a pair of sevens won. Pocket 4’s a half hour later found me again folding when my blind was raised and capped before getting back to me. In that situation, do you think that maybe, just maybe someone has a bigger pair or better starting hand? Of course! Are you going to throw $32 into the pot with that low pair? Of course not! Didn’t help my mood when a four flopped and the board paired on the river for a potential win had I stayed, especially when the winning hand showed pocket queens. For the next hour or more, no flush or straight draws came in and the old chip stack began to look depleted – which it was.

One bright moment was when I had pocket 3’s in late position and so to see a flop I called a raise with four other players. Nothing higher than a nine on the flop and when the hand ended my threes had won. What could these guys be calling with – nothing but drawing hands? Evidently so – but the entire night went like that: raises and re-raises meant nothing to these players. What the heck, it’s only four more chips (we were playing with $2 chips) or eight or 12. It would be a great game if I was catching some cards with any level or regularity, which I was not. And the hands that were shown and which did win I could only shake my head in wonderment that players would expend that number of bets on so slim a draw. And of course, they would either get there on the river or by pure attrition drive out the winner.

So, whatcha gonna do when encountering a table full of – not necessarily maniacs per se but – extremely loose calling stations who wouldn’t get out of a hand even if the casino was on fire? I surely couldn’t tell you because quite frankly I don’t know. I’m going to have to give this scenario a lot of thought. But that’s what makes – or breaks – this game; whether or not you’re thinking about poker.

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