Licked in Latvia
Wednesday, 6 January 2010
After winning a package on Betsafe Poker, I was off to Latvia for my first ever tournament in that part of the world, and I have to say the organisation of the event was superb, as was the hotel and the tournament venue, Casino Royale.
From the outside the casino looked like a modern office block, but inside it was as plush as its name might suggest – like a grand old Russian mansion. The cardroom had been extended into what I thought must normally function as a lap-dancing club, judging by the secluded alcove seating and padded velvet walls (I have had this “read” confirmed by experts Marc Goodwin and Jeff Kimber).
I had my suspicions that many of the club’s “regular employees” were still working during the tournament. Even the tournament director. Or at least, I was sure that if she turned her hand, as it were, to the sensuous arts, she would certainly not go hungry.
The women were remarkably beautiful – and dark, despite the freezing cold climate. Had I been 20 years younger, more athletic, much better looking and able to talk crap to women, I would have filled my boots.
On the morning of the tournament, I awoke, and, as if a portent for how I would run in the tournament, I opened my curtains in the nude, only to be faced by some young Scandinavian lad doing the same from the room opposite and looking straight at me. I immediately ducked in case he noticed who I was – as previously advised, it was very cold!
So, off to the tournament, and early on I have 10-10 on the button. The player in the small blind, who looks a bit like a Russian gangster, has just sat down and this is the first hand he has encountered in the game. The blinds are 25/25, it is folded round to me and I raise to 100. He goes to make a call and throws in chips to add to the 25 chip he already has out, but inadvertently adds a 1,000 chip to his “call”.
The dealer, realising this is an innocent mistake, looks shocked and tries to advise him of his error, giving him his chips back to make the call he intended to make (maybe frightened of sleeping with the fishes if he tries to act as a rule enforcer). Another player (maybe a rival trafficker) observes this and explains that he can’t take the 1,000 back. A very heated discussion in Russian ensues. I did not involve myself in this as I could not understand a word, although I could have guessed some, and I did not fancy being tied to a chair in a dark room while having my fingers removed one by one. The upshot of the discussion, however, was that they gave him one 25 chip back, leaving the 1,000 and two 25 chips in the pot.
So it was back to me to call his unintentional re-raise. This seemed like an opportune moment to move my 15,000 stack into the pot, and so I did. My shady opponent mumbled something in Russian and threw the 1,050 in chips to me. I actually should have been entitled to the other 25 chip which they gave back to him, but I thought that I would let that one go as I was not wearing a bulletproof vest.
There was one very aggro, flairy player who float-folded his cards into the air, not as professionally as James Akenhead or “The Daddy” Praz Bansi, but it was a stylish effort of it, nevertheless. He had bluffed off 8,000 of his stack to various players while the blinds were still 25/25. In one hand I limped early with A-Q and he limped after me. The flop was A-T-5, I bet 125 and he called. The turn was king and I now checked, hoping he would bet, but he checked also. The river was a nice, safe deuce. I checked and called his bet of 275 only to be shown a very creative 2-5 off-suit.
Later on, with blinds at 25/50, I limp with 9-10 and the flop is A-J-8. It’s checked to the button, who bets 250. I call, as does the player in the cut-off. The turn is a queen, giving me a straight. I check again and it’s checked around. The river is a four making an unlikely back door flush. I bet 500 and the player in the cut off min-raises to 1,000. The button player folds, I call (he was the type of player who only re-raised when he was very sure he had the best hand) and get shown K-T for a nice inside straight, beating my lower straight. I suppose, in terms of chips lost, it could have been worse, but it definitely could have been better as well.
The most amusing hand I was aware of involved two Scandinavian players. With an average stack of about 17K and blinds at 125/250, one player with 42k raises and is called by another huge stack of 37K, holding 5-5. The flop is A-3-5 rainbow and the player now with a set of fives checks. The pre-flop raiser makes about a pot sized bet which is called. The turn is a seven (putting up a back door flush draw) and the player with a set again checks. The pre-flop raiser bets 3k, which is check-raised to 7k, and he instantly moves all-in for the full 42K stack. The player with the set of fives calls and proudly shows his set, waiting for the pot to be shipped over to him after the river card is dealt. The aggro raiser tables a hopeful J-2 off suit and hits a four on the river to make a nice straight.
As is usual in these circumstances, I plodded along waiting for the opportunity to use an aggressive player’s aggression against him and eventually the following hand took place.
The blinds are 150/300 and the average stack about 19k. I have a plodding 14k. I raise to 900 and the player in the small blind (who in the 30 minutes I have been at the table has re-raised several times and called raises out of position, before leading in to the pre-flop raiser on the flop three times) re-raises to 2,700.
Now, if he has me beat I am almost certainly going out of the tournament in this spot against this player, but I am going to proceed with the assumption that I almost certainly have the best hand pre-flop. I am also prepared, given today’s apparent psychotic desire among many players to avoid a difficult decision at any cost, to allow him more leeway than might seem sensible post-flop to allow him to hang himself.
I call the re-raise and the flop is 7-5-2 rainbow. He now leads out for 5k (about half my stack). Now, against an intelligent, thinking player, if I just call this bet for half my stack I would expect them to put me on K-K at worst, and so just calling would be a very poor attempt to disguise anything. I doubt this player thinks with sufficient sophistication to analyse that deeply, and so I just called (with zero intention of folding on any turn), expecting him to set me in on the turn with anything from no hand no draw upwards. The turn is a safe looking 2 and he instantly sets me all-in. I call and show J-J. He shows 9-9 and the river is another nine. Happy days.
After my exit I sit down at a small (1/2 lats) Omaha cash game. As with most online players, my fellow combatants were not even aware that Omaha could be played with more than four cards, but after a while I managed to convince them to play with five. I tried for six but had no chance, as five was more than enough to mess up their understanding of post-flop hand values.
At one point one of the players said he could not cope with the maths of the game. On the basis that the principals of pot odds, probability and risk/reward remain the same, regardless of the number of cards you have, I found this quite strange, and I observed that the maths was exactly the same. He then went to explain that, in terms of personal pot equity, he could not compute the optimal plays holding five cards. After losing 300 lats, about £400, his maths was good enough to calculate that five-card Omaha was not the game for him.
I got the impression that this method of decision making allowed for players of very limited reading ability to justify most random acts of aggression, whether appropriate or otherwise.
I was advised shortly afterwards by another player that using personal pot-equity as a factor for determining optimal play results in a pre-flop position that, with five even only marginally playable cards in your hand, it was “theoretically correct” to never fold pre-flop.
Enough said, I thought!!