Not being a poker pro, having a bankroll, or backers to play poker can be tough, but not impossible. OK, it is impossible, but there are ways to get your poker on that don’t cost you much at all. Like your local bar poker league, for example. Briefly, in a bar poker league you play for points and a seat to an X-amount-of-money-guaranteed tournament at X poker room in the future. It basically only costs you food & alcohol to play. Stir the booze in with a splash of social atmosphere then garnish with rookie poker players and pub poker is ready, willing, and waiting for you to come down and tilt yourself.
I kid! Kind of…2015 was a year of poker purgatory for me, mainly because I don’t have a poker bankroll and was seesawing between playing OK structured brick and mortar poker tournaments and pub poker. I was studying and watching deepstacked, high stakes poker and then trying to apply a Vanessa Selbst’s style of play to no buy-in, shallow-stacked turbo tournaments whilst drinking a pint of beer (or 3), and instead of success I hit a wall of frustration and moments where I wanted to spontaneously combust.
After many attempts at playing an aggressive style that doesn’t work at fish n’ chips poker, I’m trying something new in 2016. And this is it: when in Rome, do as the Romans do. I go to the league tournies and remember the context of the game — we’re in a bar with beers, so I’m having fun. You’re playing a game, for the love! I make a mental note of new players and play against them accordingly. That means no fancy stuff, I like to call it Seasame Street Poker. What I won’t change — I still pay attention to all the things I look out for in regular tournaments — bet sizing, physical & timing tells, board textures, and stack sizes to name a few — most importantly I adjust my play to coordinate with my stack size.
Pub poker is not a “play the player” scenario where people are thinking about fold equity or any equity — like, what is that? Now I’m not saying I’m A Beautiful Mind when it comes to math, but it’s pretty Seasame Street:
So I account for that, too.
And have to say I think my new “do as the Romans do” style of play has given me good results. How do I know? Well, it just so happens that I decided to conduct a week-long experiment, a probing pub expokeriment, to put my strategies to the test while my wife was away on a Zumba cruise. Here are some of my written notes and hands from the week…
Expokeriment #1: 10th-ish Place
So I made final table, but got knocked out in 10th or 9th (doesn’t matter). I stuck to my new playing strategy and had a blast (and no tilting moments yes!!). Even w/ the alcohol induced chip incentive I played smart poker. I got it in w/ pocket deuces in a 3-way pot with 7BBs in the small blind:
Girl with tats (with less than me) limps in middle position. Square-looking dude w/ 1.5BBs shoves on the button. I shove (for various reasons which in hindsight I think were incorrect, you had a Count Dracula moment), tat chick calls.
Tat chick (KTo) v Square Dude (AKo) v me (22). Flop comes K-x-x (NO!!), turn and river are blah blah so the main pot goes to Computer Guy, side pot goes to KTo (my nickname for her now) which equals what I have left, so I’m out. Still happy with my play…equity calculator had my pocket deuces at 40% v KT (23%) & AK (35%).
Post Gemini Assessment: I wanted to isolate Geek Squad with the 1.5BBs who I thought might have a big ace. I know the girl is def weak, I have her covered, and think she might fold. But the chick thinks about it too long and makes a “fuck it” call. If I’m in that chick’s spot I’m closer to a fold only because I have a weak K (and offsuit) and I know the guy has me beat, although not covered, and when Janice shoves from the small blind for more I have to think I’m behind. AND with everyone so short-stacked at the final table it’s worth it to keep my chips and wait for a better spot. But I think I’m being a little results oriented here, really.
Now, trying to not be results oriented, it’s not a bad call for KTo because the geeky guy could be shoving with anything, and because I have him covered I could be shoving with toilet paper from the small blind, although doubtful and foolish (because I’m talking to myself in run on sentences and I know I wouldn’t do craziness like that and blog with run on sentences). Is this making any sense to you? Sometimes being a Gemini is a good thing. Needless to say I’m a little peeved, but at the same time fueled to come back the next day to do better.
Expokeriment #2: 4th Place
One of my mentors– short stack ninja Cory Waaland — advocates recording voice memos on your phone. I use this tactic and I did during this week, but my phone crashed on me and I lost all those memos (thanks Sprint for the refurbished POS iPhone and thanks to myself for not backing it up UGH!!). So here are my recollections of this night…
Missed Value on the River:
Having not played very many hands I limp on the button with Q8o. A decent player calls from the big blind.
Flop comes Q-9-8. He bets (don’t remember size), I call.
Turn X, he bets (?), I call.
River is another Q, he bets, I just call (ARGH!).
Angry Assessment: No, just shoot me in the head, please. A full house…didn’t even realize I had it. My assessment here is that I need to realize things like — OH, RIVERING A FULL FREAKIN’ HOUSE!!! No wonder he looked at me surprised when I showed my hand. Missing value in this game can be the difference between winning and losing. Big FAIL, Mrs. Garcia. There, I’ve beat myself up…mistakes will be made. It’s not the first or the last time, moving on…
Expokeriment #3: 3rd Place
After this tourney I had a dream, a conversation with Variance (that’s for another blog), but I’ll just go on record and say that my getting KO’d in 3rd place was a combo of variance and my stupidity. The perfect ingredients for LOSING AT POKER — a recipe to FAIL!! Here’s my mental recollection of that night…
Aces, Let’s Not Get them Cracked, K?
I’m under the gun at 100/200 and I look down at ACES…
I make it 3x (600). An old man 2 to my left calls and starts a calling train…
So 5 people see a flop of Q-8-x rainbow. The guy in the big blind donk bets 600ish, I make it 2K. The old man 2 to my left calls again, everyone else folds. Turn is an Ace, I shove the rest of my 3K chips, he calls with Jacks…big pot for me.
My Assessment: When the old man in early position calls I know he’s probably strong, but I also know now others are gonna want to see a flop so a part of me is happy and the other part is appropriately expressed above by John Cena. When the guy in front of me donks for such a small amount I raise to protect my hand and eliminate folks behind. That works, and I’m happy with just the old man calling, but I’m confused. When the Ace comes I’m thinking I need to bet, not check, because I have so little left and in this game it looks spewy. I’m very surprised to see he called all the way to the end with Jacks, but hey, this is what I’m talking about…
Foxwoods Foe KO.
Two to my right is a young Asian looking aggro dude who I hear plays (and has tournament cashes) at Foxwoods. Problem — good player that’s on the button every time I’m in the big blind. And he’s raise happy, raising like 80% of his hijack, cutoffs, and buttons. I watch him every time he’s about to play a hand, he goes into beady-eyed mode looking for spots to win chips. Ohhhhh, but I’ve got a mode, too. Serious turbo short-stacked ninja mode, and because I know he’s a strong player (with a stack bigger than mine), I wait. Because he’s lacking a secret ingredient. Something else that I picked up along the way…listening to one of James Altucher‘s podcast recently, he said that Yoga is a practice in improving. Well, poker is a practice in patience. Maturity, readiness, steadfastness…these are the bricks that build PATIENCE. As the blinds went up his patience was waning. So I waited…and knocked him out with a 1-2 punch:
KO #1 – We’re both about even in stacks around the 400/800 level. He 3.5x raises from the cut off, I’m on the button w/ ATo. He’s been using that bet size a lot and I just think why so much (when everyone is so short stacked)? So I shove my 13BBs, he calls w/ JThh and WHEW — no coolers, we take that pot down.
KO #2 – He shoves from the button, now I have him covered and am in the big blind with Aces, easy call. BOOM! Drop the mic…(he had 7-To by the way).
With that I eliminate my toughest competition. I make a few mistakes when it gets three-handed in blind vs. blind hands against the chip leader — one where I limp with Ax out of position and then another where I just played it horribly. Variance seals the deal when I end up on the losing side of a flip with 33s v JK.
OK guys I’m gonna stop here. Please come back for Part 2 of my pub expokeriment! And give me feedback below, I welcome it and thank you for reading!