While online poker is more convenient of course, every time I make the trek to our local casinos for a few hours I think to myself “why don’t I do this more often?”
A few days ago I made the 40 minute drive to the casino (no biggie really), signed up for a 7pm tournament and played in a cash game for about 45 minutes while I waited for the tournament to start. While I finished down a bit playing the cash game, I gained a nice advantage over some of the players once the tournament started.
In the cash game, aside from two hands, I really didn’t pick up anything else to play. Playing a $2/5 spread limit hold’em game, playing too loose isn’t a good strategy against skilled players. The game is small, but second to a $5/5 game, it’s the biggest game offered in our state. So, lots of good players hang out in either game, depending on whichever is busier. During the daytime on a weekday, the $2/5 games build full tables while $5/5 games generally have 4-5 players with opponents playing very short sessions. So, the result is that a lot of good players are siting at $2/5…much better than you’ll typically find in casinos with higher limits available.
So, I played two hands and won them both. Other than that, I saw a couple of flops, and otherwise did some internal dancing to the eclectic range of music on my iPod. Attempting to see a few flops with suited connectors and marginal hands in late position cost me a few bucks and I finished down about $20.
When the tournament started I was seated with 2 guys that were at my $2/5 table. One of them was very loose and aggressive. The other was clearly a quality player who made plays based on his reads, rather than by simply throwing chips into the pot ‘hoping’ opponents would fold. I also knew that he was paying attention to me at the cash table, and thought of me as a very tight player.
Early in the tournament the good player made a raise of 3 1/2 times the big blind in early position. Another player that I had read as fairly tight but with a few tricks up his sleeve called in middle position. I was seated in the #7 seat and called with KQ os. The flop came down 7,8, rag. The initial raiser opened with a solid bet of about 2/3’rds the pot. The player to his left folded and I looked at my chips for a few seconds before making a scary looking raise, a little more than twice the size of his bet. I knew he would give me credit for a big hand since he was reading me as tighter than I really am. So, that bet looked very scary to him, like I was begging for a call. He sat thinking for a solid 2 minutes before he declared that I had to have a set to make that bet. The fun part was that I knew he was ‘sure’ of his read, and that later I would be able to get away with a similar type of play against him.
For the next 45 minutes or so, I couldn’t find a starting hand, or the right time to enter with a marginal hand either. Evey time I picked up something like 8, 10 suited in late position, someone would come out with a huge raise preflop. With the blinds going up every 20 minutes, I knew I needed to start picking up chips.
Finally I picked up pocket jacks, which at this point looked like three aces to me. In early position I raised 3 times the big blind. My cash game opponent (the one I bluffed earlier) was the only caller. The flop came A, K, rag and for some reason I knew he didn’t have the ace. I think it was the fact that he flat called me preflop instead of raising like he normally did with top hands, I had him on a hand like K, J, or something in that range. Knowing he’d bet if I checked the flop, I decided to check raise him and see if I could pick up a decent pot. Well, he bet out a little more than the pot….which surprised me a bit. My first thought was that he was trying to keep me from stealing the pot from him by check raising. Again, I read this as weak, a chance to make my move, so I did by moving all-in. This was a risky play for sure, but I never had him read for the ace, so I stuck with it. He didn’t wait more than 3 seconds before flipping over his K, 10 of spades.
Now, I’m not writing about this in order to say how wonderful I am. My point is that on my way home I thought about those two plays I made against the guy, and how I wouldn’t have done the same thing if I’d been playing online. Reading opponents online is so much harder than it is live, so why don’t I play more live poker? When I play live, every time the dealer starts to flip the cards around the table feels like an opportunity, and it’s exciting to pick up the cards and see what you’ve got. Playing online is fun, practical, and convenient, but there is something missing when it comes to reading opponents (at least for me there is). WhileI love playing online, I’m a better live player for sure.
The next time I’m playing online I think I’m going to start paying more attention to picking up betting patterns and note taking. In fact, I have a reload bonus at Full Tilt I need to take advantage of anyway…maybe I’ll go try it now;)
Good luck to everyone!