Don't Try This at Home
I spent this passed week-end at Turning Stone playing live poker. Friday night I played their "300 Max" game which is a 2-5 NL Holdem game with a max buy-in of 300$ (hence the name). I did quite well and managed to cash out 685$. Nothing too spectacular happened in that game, I just played straightforward poker and let people pay me off. I made money but it was boring.

On Saturday morning, I sat at their "200 Max" game (1-2 blinds, NL Holdem) and after losing half my stack making a bluff on the first hand, I managed to exploit my image and make a bit of money. It was a very, very easy game, but again, boring. I got hungry and left after being up only 70$.

After lunch on Saturday I found myself at the 300 Max and after dumping about 270$ (and re-buying), I gained some momentum and started running over the table. Built my way up to 900$ and then I got reckless and made some foolish plays to bring myself down to 465$.

At this point on Saturday I was down 35$ for the day. I went to dinner and when I came back, I decided to try one of their automated 60$ Sit-n-Go's for a change of pace. I also put my name on the "300 Max" and "500 Max" list. I busted from the SnG when I misread the board on screen. I thought the board was paired and it wasn't. It was embarrassing and annoying but hey, it's 60 bucks.

After the Sit-n-Go, I was feeling really blazée about the whole poker experience so far. I don't know why exactly, but I couldn't seem to get into a good rhythm or really enjoy myself. Looking at the board in the poker room, I noticed there was an "interest" list for a "1000 Max" (5-10 NL Holdem) game and when they did a "roll call" where they called out all the players on the list to see if they were still in the room and still interested, I noticed that most (if not all) of the players on this list were players with whom I had played 5-5 NL in the past. I had done reasonably well against them, but I had to really fight for every chip in my session against this particular group. For the first time on this trip I found myself excited about playing poker. Without much thought I put my name on the list and soon after, they opened the table.

Suddenly, I was sitting in my biggest live game ever. I was nervous and excited and ready to play some "real" poker. In the very first hand, one guy hit quad eights and lost to a straight flush. The sick thing is the pot was really small and the even sicker thing was that Turning Stone has no "bad beat jackpot". I thought for a split second that the whole table was about to win a nice wad of cash. Sadly, this was not the case. I played relatively tight at the beginning and maybe a little too passively at first. Eventually though, I got comfortable and started really getting into the game. Unfortunately, just as I was getting into it, players started dropping out of the game and with no real list, the game got short handed rather quickly. The player to my immediate right sprung into a hyper-aggressive mode and started trying to run over the table. I re-raised him on the button twice, once with A9o and the second time with AJo ... this slowed him down a bit and stopped some of the bleeding from my stack. Then I got a mini-rush and built my stack up to about 1500$, sadly the table was 4 handed now, and it was time for me to get out of there.

I went for a late night snack and I reflected on the experience. I concluded that there were some spots where I played too timidly and I felt like, at the top of my game, even against some very good players, I could hold my own at those stakes.

Having said that, let me digress a little and talk about bankroll management. From a bankroll management standpoint it is absolutely ludicrous for me to sit at a 5-10 game. If I depended on poker money in any way, then sitting at that game would have been an extremely stupid decision. Luckily, I've been fortunate enough in my life that risking a few thousand once in a blue moon is not the end of the world. Still though, I probably won't be playing at that level again for quite a while.

Okay, back to our story...

At about 1:30am on Sunday morning, I came back down to the poker room and saw the 1000 max game in full swing, with one seat open. So, I sat down to take another crack at it. About 45 minutes into the session the following hand came up.

I had roughly 1000$ in front of me and I was on the button in Seat 8. Five players limped in front of me and I looked down at 56. Some might argue that this would be a good spot to raise and pick up the dead money. In this particular game though, a button raise would get very little respect, especially following so many limpers. So, if I raised I would be creating a big pot with a speculative hand. Also, the blinds were tight players who were unlikely to make a move. So I flat called hoping to see a cheap flop with a speculative hand getting good pot odds. When it got to the big blind, he looked at his cards and immediately raised to 40$. He was probably the tightest player in the game and a raise from him out of the BB really signified a monster hand. The girl in seat 4 called, she was on tilt from having her Aces cracked earlier and she was by far the weakest player in the game. Everyone else folded and I called from the button. I knew my hand was way behind pre-flop, but the stacks were deep enough (BB had me slightly covered) and there was a lot of dead money in the pot. Plus, knowing the BB is on a pretty tight range (AK, AA, KK, and maybe QQ) it would be possible to outplay him under the right circumstances. The flop came down J♠ 4♣ 7♠. The BB bet 75$ and seat 4 called. I had an open ended straight draw, there was 310$ in the pot and it cost me 75$ to see a card in position. The woman in the 4 seat would easily flat call here with a hand like TJ, 88, TT, or any big draw. The fact that she was a weak player and that I had position on her made me confident that if I hit my straight with a flushing card, I could still get away from it pretty cheaply. The turn came a 6♠ pairing one of my whole cards and putting a 3 card flush on board. The BB lead for 300$ and the woman in the 4 seat folded. This was a pretty big bet on the turn and my read was that the BB was attempting to take the play away from anyone wanting to represent the flush. I've played with him enough to know that if he had a made flush there with a hand like A♠K♠ he would probably lead weak hoping to induce a bluff. The only set he could possibly have is a set of Jacks and again from playing with him I felt sure that he would have raised more with JJ preflop in an attempt to take down the pot right there. I was pretty sure he had an over pair and I knew he could lay it down if he had too, plus with the way the board was I had a lot of outs on the river against an over-pair (any 6, any 5, any 3, and any 8). I made a bold move and pushed my stack in for a 500$ raise to about 800$ total. He tanked it and after a long while decided to call. The river was the A. I said, "you're definitely good". He asked if I had the flush and I said, "no". He said, "then for sure I'm good" and showed me two black Aces. I mucked and a player in the 2 seat asked for my hand to be exposed. The dealer flipped my cards immediately and before I could complain, the best player at the table said, "Wow.... that's a good play". A discussion about the hand quickly ensued and the BB admitted that he only called because he held the A♠ and that allowed him to talk himself into it. He said, "I would have had to muck two red Aces there for sure". So yeah, I lost the hand but I am really happy about the play. Call me crazy but I play poker for the mental stimulation and when I can see and seize an opportunity like that, it makes me feel good about my game. It's hard to find games where you can make those kind of moves. Generally, those kinds of plays would be suicide at my regular stakes (not that that has ever stopped me from trying them).

I bought back in for another 800$ and lost it soon after when I found myself in the SB with pocket Aces. With an initial raise to 35$ and two callers in front of me, I bumped it to 135$. Unfortunately, I got all 3 opponents already in the pot to call. The flop came 789 I only had 600$ behind at this point and there was already 550$ in the pot, I didn't really see any way I could bet at the pot and subsequently fold, so I simply moved in. The original raiser called with pocket 8s and I was done. In talking to some people about that last hand it's been suggested I could have raised more preflop, and I have to agree. The stacks were pretty deep and the pot had already gotten pretty big. I think a 5 unit raise to somewhere around 200$ would have been more appropriate. On the flop, I suppose I could have lead for 300$, and folded to a raise, but knowing I wasn't gonna rebuy into the game, I think the all-in move was acceptable. So after that session I was down around 1400$ US in poker for the trip.

I only played one more game on Sunday, a 36$ computerized Sit-N-Go. My QQ lost to AJ in a big pot and I busted when my AJ lost to A6. Oh well, what's an extra 36$ at that point, eh?

Sunday night, back in Ottawa, I attended a local 5-5 NL game and managed to bust out by misplaying AK first hand, losing with a smallish pot with a straight against a rivered flush and then getting unlucky (and a little out of line) with pocket jacks.

Cash-wise this has been a pretty bad poker run for me. I am still happy I got to play in that 5-10 game though. It was a good experience. I just hope I will find the discipline to make it back to the table on the merits of my poker roll alone one day.

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