Hello there fellow poker-playing Michiganders! My name is Justin, and I decided to start one of these blogs to chronicle my poker playing experiences.
A little bit about me – I’m a 22 year old who just graduated college with a Bachelors degree from the University of Toledo in math & philosophy (strange combination, I know, but it works). Currently I’m employed as a substitute teacher in Wayne County, and I’m also going to be taking a summer internship in Kentucky working for a public policy institute. I hope one day to be a teacher.
Poker is one of my favorite hobbies and I do dedicate quite a bit of time playing it. I was averaging about 25 hours/week, but then I decided I needed to save up some money for a new car so I did take a bit of a hiatus. Anyways, now that that is all paid off (God bless poker – you can pay for a car in cash and not have to take out a loan!) and I built my bankroll back up a bit, I’m back in the game and I’ve started to play regularly again. I play both tournaments and cash, but I’m a far better cash player than I am tournament. I tend to frequent Motor City Casino for cash games, and I tend to play at tournaments at the Electric Stick. Occasionally I’ll switch it up and play at tournaments at Momo’s or Woodhaven Lanes. I also enjoy to play cash games at the Electric Stick after I’m done with the tournament. I’m the younger, quiet guy with a big red birthmark and a large beard usually drinking a Blue Moon or Summer Shandy, in case you’ve seen me around.
I take the game pretty darn seriously. I don’t view it as a career, but more as a profitable side-investment that also happens to be a fun hobby. I always log each session using a poker tracking app on my phone (Poker Income Bankroll Tracker Pro, TOTALLY worth the $10 you pay for it. I can’t recommend it enough if you want to know precisely how much money you make, your hourly rate, most profitable locations, etc. GREAT app!!!) Although I do take my poker seriously I never lose track of the fact that it’s a game and I try to have fun with it.
Anyways, that’s my introduction and enough about me. I suppose since it’s a first blog post, I should post about something else other than myself. So I’ll do just that – instead of talking about me, I’ll talk about YOU – the other dude sitting at the table!
I’m sure anyone whose played poker for more than an hour has heard the classic phrase “Man, this dealer sucks! I’m just not getting any cards from them! How the hell am I supposed to win when you aren’t giving me any cards?!” or something to that extent. Ignoring the fact that when said player wins a pot, it’s all skill and the dealer had nothing to do with the fact that they managed to hit their gutshot straight, if you are a poker player who thinks like this then you are a losing poker player, and it’s no surprise you just never seem to be able to win a hand.
Poker is a game of chance; it’s a gamble, and of course there will always be an element of luck to it. We’ve all had those hands where we thought we had it made, but then the river pops up and your opponent draw that one card in the deck that could possibly beat you. Classic example that happened to me the other night – I was playing a tournament at the Electric Stick. Blinds were 1000/2000 and I had about 50k in front of me. I get dealt pocket kings. I’m in 2nd late position. UTG+2 limps in, everyone else folds, then 3rd middle position also calls. I’ve been playing real tight, and the table respects my image. So with about $6k in the pot I raise to $12k. Folds all around until MP3. He sits there for a minute fiddles with his chips, thinks, then heistantly calls me. Flop comes up 2-2-K. I’m set. Villain is first to act, and he shoves all-in for just a little more than I have in chips. I couldn’t ask for a more perfect thing! So I snap call him. Ends up he was holding pocket deuces, and his quad beats my boat. Needless to say, I walked away from the table pretty pissed off. Thankfully that knocked me out of the tournament, so I had no opportunity to go on tilt. (I then walked over to the cash table after venting and won $400, but that’s another story for another day).
Anyways, the point of that story was that we all get unlucky from time to time. It happens to the best of us. Even Daniel Negreanu gets sucked out on from time to time. But despite that fact, the pros and these good players still make money in hte long run. In the case of Negraneau this is readily apparent. This has to tell you something – that the game of poker is more than just luck, and that in the long run a good player who makes the right decisions is going to show a profit regardless of those occasional times, or even streaks, when Lady Luck just isn’t giving them their blessing.
I’m sure there are some less-than-honest dealers out there, but at all of the Michigan card rooms I’ve played in, I’ve never once encountered one who actively cheated players out of cards. 99.9% of dealers are honest folks just trying to make a living by dishing you out the cards. They don’t control which cards they give you. Just like in real life, you have to make the best of what you’ve got and sometimes that means making the best of 20 or 30 hands in a row where the only cards you’re dealt is crap like 4-10 or 2-7.
Even if you are dealt crap like that, sometimes it can be right call anyways. For example, if you’re at a 10-man table on the button at a $1/2 game, and the entire table limps in for $2, I’d surely call with even the lowly 2-7. Why? Think about it – you’re paying $2 to potentially win $19. That’s 1 to 9.5 odds – only the tightest of tight players would fold an opportunity like that. That means you need less than a 10% chance of winning the hand to justify that call (after you convert odds to probabilities). 2-7 might be the worst possible hand you can be dealt pre-flop, but even it is capable of winning some pots. In fact, if my memory serves me correctly, 2-7 has about a 30% chance of winning a hand if it goes all the way down to the river. So if your chances of winning are 30% and it costs you only 10% of the pot to make that gamble, you’d have to be an absolute fool not to call! And even if the flop comes up and you didn’t make a hand, depending on your table and the players at it, you could easily bluff your way to victory. I nkow I’ve done it plenty of times in the past.
My point here is that a mistake I notice a lot of novice players make is that they think poker is only about what’s in their hand. They fail to think on that “next level”, and because of that, they lose money they could very easily win. It doesn’t matter if you win a pot with a Royal Flush or a 4 high. What matters is that you win the pot. That’s one of the most important things that you, as a poker player, need to remember. Therefore, although the hand you have made does matter a lot, sometimes it is more important what hand your opponent thinks you have made. In other words, sometimes the only thing you need to win is a bluff.
Another example from the Electric Stick. Last night I was playing in a $1/2 cash game. My table was moderately loose, and extremely passive. One or two of the players were good, but pretty much everyone at the table I was able to read like an open book. I’m on the button and I get dealt J7 spades. I limp in for $2 and there are about 5 people in the pot. Flop comes up J-5-2 rainbow. Table checks all around, and the action comes to me. I bet $7 with $10 in the pot. One guy folds, who I know to be a tight player who wouldn’t call me with anything less than top pair with a good kicker, and everyone else folds. At this point I know I’m beat, but by betting I showed aggression and I think maybe I can steal the pot from this guy because I know he buckles under pressure a lot. So anyways, theturn comes up another heart – I forget which one, but it was irrelevant as there were no striaght possibilities and my hand didn’t improve. Villain checks, and I bet $16. he thinks for a minute, and then calls. Flop comes up another heart – once again, the particular heart is irrelevant. I get a little nervous because three hearts opens the possibility for a flush, but I know this guy isn’t the type of player hwo’d chase down a flush. But maybe he had suited jacks and caught his flush. He checks again. I think for a minute, trying to analyze if he’s slow-playing his suited jacks setting me up for a check raise, or if he is the scared one. I decide to take a gamble, and bet out $30 with $54 in the pot. This makes the guy think a lot. After thinking for a few minutes, and analyzing out loud all the possibilities, he concludes that I have a two-pair and folds a JK. I breathe a sigh of relief (in my head, anyways) and rake in the pot.
That example proves the power of a bluff. The whole way down, I knew that guy had me beat. But the fact that he had a made hand was irrelevant. What’s relevant is that my particular series of decisions told the villain a story – it told him a story that lead him to conclude I had a two-pair, when in reality all I had was top-pair with a weak kicker. So because I was able to trick my opponents into thinking I had a better hand than I really did, I was able to win a fairly good pot. Maybe I’ll write an entry in the future about how exactly you tell that story, but I dont’ want to give away all my secrets too soon . Anyways, I’ve said enough for this one entry.
In closing, don’t blame the dealers because of your sloppy play. Luck comes and goes, and as a poker player you have to roll with the punches. As the saying goes, only you can make your own luck.