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$1/$3 PLO Session @ Palace

October 12, 2017

I always have blog ideas running through my head and I don’t always execute them, but my poker blogs are almost always my most popular ones and I’ve been thinking of ways to write about poker that is interesting to read and isn’t too time-consuming for myself. Sometimes I will write about a whole tournament series I play and it takes me like a week to write it and I imagine it can be exhausting to read. So I had the idea of writing about my day-to-day sessions and just noting the biggest and most interesting pots I played. I don’t know if this will be a continuing trend or not – or if it’s even going to be entertaining – but I’m curious to see what kind of response it gets.

So yesterday I went to the Palace in Lakewood without much of a plan of what I was going to play. When I got in the shower around 3:30 PM there was a full $6/$12 Omaha 8 or better game with 6 people on the list and that looked promising enough. This a new game to the Palace spread and I hadn’t played it yet, so I was pretty happy to see that it was going strong and that I was going to be able to get some playing time in.

When I arrived at the Palace around 4:15 however, the $6/$12 O8 game was 5-handed and within seven minutes of me sitting down two players busted and another one left and then the game broke when one of the three remaining players took a $4/$8 hold em seat. I don’t know if the earlier list was misleading or not – or if my timeline is a bit off – but the game went from 9 seated players with 6 waiting to dead in roughly an hour. I played about two short-handed orbits and lost $2 before having to move on to other things.

When I arrived I had put my name up for the $1/$3 PLO game starting at 6 PM and for $8/$16 hold em, which is my main game. I got a seat in the second $8/$16 game around 4:50 PM and kept my name up for PLO, not really sure if I was going to play or not. There were like 20 players on the list and I wasn’t one of the first 9, so I would be making my decision based on who was playing and how long I had to wait to get in.

I’ve been reading Tommy Angelo’s Painless Poker the last few days and in an effort to refocus myself at the table, I set some new goals for my session. First off, I set a timer to take a break every hour. It’s seriously important to get up from the table at least once every two hours or so and walk around a little bit and take your mind off the game – even if it’s just for a few minutes. I chose 60 minutes because of my second goal for the night: to not be distracted by my phone while I was playing. Set timer, put phone away, and don’t look at it again until the timer went off. It was obviously easier to remember hands for one hour than it would be to remember them for two hours. And my last goal for the session was to look left for playing and folding tells on the opponents with immediate position on me. This is such an underrated observation and I can admit I don’t use it often enough. Last night I got crystal clear tells on the two players to my left and I always knew if they were going to play or not based on what they did after they looked at their cards. This is pretty important when you’re thinking about limping behind with a marginal hand from the hi jack or cut off or isolating a weak limper by raising when you’re not the button. For instance, a weak player with a wide limping range called from middle position and I was in the hi jack seat. I saw that the button was planning to play his hand and I looked down at AJ offsuit. This is a clear raise, regardless, but had I looked down at sometime like QT off, I would have elected to just fold. The button ended up 3-betting me and I check-folded when I bricked the flop.

I only played $8/$16 for about 90 minutes, so I didn’t have a lot of interesting hands, but these were my key pots for the session:

-Several limpers, I raise A9 of clubs from the small blind. Flop comes King high with two clubs and I have a clear lead for value with my nut flush draw and I get three callers. The turn bricks me and I elect to check-call now since I feel I don’t think I’m getting many folds and there is not enough players to bet my draw for value. The river is a 4 of clubs and I lead out, the turn bettor calls, and last position raises. I make it three bets and get paid off by the last player and win my first sizable pot of the night.

-I complete 95dd from the SB after a few limpers and check-raise the 975 flop. Heads up to the 2 on the turn, I bet and he calls. The river is an 8, which isn’t ideal, but I feel confident that he has a 9 with a decent kicker and while he could have 98, he will never raise the river with it. It’s possible that he could have 76 suited or JT, but this is a player that I can snap-fold the river to if I get raised and his body language and timing is in total pay off mode, so this is an easy value bet and my hand is good.

-After taking a break, I post in late position and get the 93 offsuit, a player limps, a good player raises, and I’m never folding for one more bet after posting in the cutoff, so I call and four or five of us see the 954 flop. The player from the previous hand donks out, the good player just flats (which is never a made hand), and I call. The flop bettor is very straight forward, so I feel my hand is never good here, but the pot is too big to fold just yet. The turn card is a 7, which may give me additional straight outs and I call a bet after the preflop raiser folds. The river is a 3, giving me two pair, and he bets again. This is kind of an interesting spot and I took some time thinking about it. This player doesn’t strike me as the kind that will bet the river when the one card straight gets there, if he doesn’t have it, so I didn’t think I could raise. At the same time, I couldn’t really come up with any hands he would take this line with that have a six in them. Confused, I decided to just call and I won the pot after he showed 54 suited. And of course, I look like a maniac because by the time the hand ends no one remembers that I posted, but they will remember that I called a raise with 93 offsuit and I’m okay with that.

I finished my $8/$16 session up $261 and moved on to PLO around 6:10 PM after a number of people didn’t show and I got a spot in the starting lineup, which looked irresistibly juicy to me.

I actually created this game. Well, sort of. I really felt like the entire Seattle and Tacoma area was missing out by not spreading a PLO game anywhere. I think they spread it in Tulalip and maybe at Snoqualmie, but those are two casinos that I never go to and I think the PLO games there play big. So an entry level PLO game was entirely missing from the greater Seattle area. My idea was to spread a $1/$2 game with a $300 max buy in. It seemed like it would be very popular and stakes people could stomach while trying to learn the game. Well, I got the Palace to spread PLO, but they made it a $1/$3 blind game with a $5 bring in and $500 max buy in. So the blinds were in the realm of what I was going for, but because of the $5 bring in, the game was going to play about 2.5x bigger than what I had in mind. In other words, this is no entry level game and it probably wasn’t going to attract any $4/$8 hold em players. And honestly, it’s bigger than I’m comfortable playing. If it attracted mostly solid players with more experience than me, I probably would never play it, but fortunately it tends to be pretty soft and even some of the more experienced players seem to make what appear to me to be clear, massive errors.

As I’ve said, I’m no PLO expert. I have less than 15 sessions of live play lifetime, so I will make mistakes in the hands I share. I’m still in the early stages of learning and I tend to play a very passive, low variance game. For instance, I’m not apt to 3-bet many hands, especially when I’m out of position, because the players in this game just don’t fold. That may seem like a good argument for 3-betting very good hands, but since I lack experience, I’d rather navigate smaller pots with a bigger edge after the flop than bloating them preflop when I’m not a huge favorite against a wide range of holdings.

-My first key pot was entirely exploitive. A very loose and active player opened to $10, there were some callers, and I called with 9764 single suited on the button – a very marginal holding, but my goal is to play as many pots in position against this player as I can. I got a very sexy 532 rainbow flop and I ended up stacking the preflop raiser for about $400 when he slow played his flopped wheel and check-raised me on the turn.

-My next interesting hand came up when I limped the small blind in a 6-way pot with AKT6 with the AK of hearts. The flop was QTT with two clubs and a heart and I led out for $15, which was about half pot. One player called and the button made it $40 to go. I don’t love this spot because he should have QT a lot, but it’s way too early to consider a fold yet and I have nut kickers with my ten, so I call. The turn brought the Jack of hearts, giving me a straight and a Royal Flush draw and I check-called a bet of $100. The river was a K and I decided to lead out for $175 fearing he might check back and got snap-called by… AT42, no clubs! Yes, this game is pretty soft, folks!

-I got another cheap flop from the blinds with K754 and led out for $15 on the K77 with two hearts flop. I got called in a couple spots and decided to turn my hand into a bluff catcher when the Ah hit the turn. I check-called $75 on the turn – heads up now – and then $100 on a blank river and lost to AK7X. Pretty unfortunate situation, but I felt like I lost the minimum, especially with his river sizing.

-Here’s a bad play that worked out well. I decided to limp in with the ATss62dd, which is not only a weak hand, but doubly bad considering I had two active and aggressive players to my left. Of course I got punished by a $20 raise and ended up seeing the flop 6-handed. The board came out K72 with two spades and I decided this was a good board to lead out on with my pair plus nut flush draw. With the King of spades on board I didn’t think I was likely to get popped unless someone had a set of Kings or sevens and I suspected I had plenty of fold equity. In an effort to keep my opponents’ ranges wider, I have been making smaller bets than everyone else in the game and led out for $65 into $120 here. I picked up one caller and had position for the 7 on the turn, which felt like a good card to barrel for $110 and I picked up the pot.

-I open to $15 from late position with AKQ2 with a nut suit. Both blinds call and I bet $20 on the JTX with two clubs flop. The big blind check-raises to $60 and while I like my wrap, I don’t have a flush draw, so I just flat his raise. The turn is a 9 and he leads out and seems flabbergasted when I jam on him for about $320 effective. He calls and my straight holds up.

-I raise a series of limpers to $20 with QJ98 with two clubs on the button. Five players call and we see a very sexy flop of T92 with two clubs, giving me a pair with a 17-card straight draw and a flush draw – an absolute monster. I bet $75 when it is checked to me and I’m willing to get all the chips in if I have to, but instead I just get three callers. The turn is an ugly 6 of diamonds and one of the callers leads out for $300 (which is a max bet). A player in between folds and now it is on me. The turn bettor has about $225 behind and the other player in the hand looks like he’s going to fold. It’s pretty obvious that my opponent has 87 and since it seems like the other player is going to fold, it doesn’t make sense to put in the remaining $225 before hitting my hand, so I just call and then fold when the river comes a 2. He ended up showing the 87 and while I don’t know what his other two cards were, the chances of me losing this pot to an 87 are insanely small!

-I make another loose call with the KTT7 with two spades on the button when the LAG (loose-aggressive) player opens to $15. The flop comes K72 with one spade and I raise his flop bet of $40 with a caller in between to $130. He calls, the other player folds, and I bet $300 on the 3 of spades turn. He calls again and then folds when the river bricks out and I bet $200. I actually didn’t think he had much of a hand to call with, which is why I sized down, but maybe this would have been a good spot to experiment with a funky bet size like, say, $50 and see if I could get the LAG to spazz out.

-I raise one limper to $20 with AKJJ with a nut suit and get multiple callers to see the J62 rainbow flop. There was either $100 or $120 in the pot and this board was super dry, so I sized very small at $30 hoping to sell a weak hand and possibly induce some unwarranted aggression. I got my wish when the most experienced (and who I think is the best) player in the game popped me to $90. Everyone else folded and with my only concern being the gut shots around the 62, I felt like protecting my hand wasn’t a priority and instead decided to sell a weak made hand like AA that he could push me off later by simply calling his raise. I also felt like this player would know I was nutted if I 3-bet the flop and would fold a lot of his range. The turn card was a ten of clubs, opening up straight draws and a back door flush draw, and I checked again and then put him all in after he bet $200. He unhappily called and I stacked him when the river paired the board.

-I open the button with KK42 double suited to $15, the small blind calls, and the big blind reraises to $50. I just call and so does the small blind. The flop comes down AKX with two hearts, giving me middle set and the nut flush draw. I actually saw a player at the final table of one of the WSOP PLO tourneys fold KK in this spot earlier this year, but the big blind is overly aggressive and doesn’t necessarily have to have AA when he 3-bets here. However, when he leads out for $40 on the flop, the only reasonable play for me is to simply call. I don’t want to get all in against a set of aces here and if he doesn’t have AA, then I have him annihilated and might as well let him continue spewing money into the pot. In real time, however, I didn’t think this through and decided to raise to $130 and ended up getting two folds, immediately realizing my mistake.

-As I said, I don’t always play good when I play PLO, so I’ll include my absolute worst hand of the night and one of the worst hands I’ve ever played in live PLO. I limp in early position with J976 single suited, which would be marginal even on the button, but is specifically terrible here as I have two active and aggressive players on my direct left. Fortunately they both limp along, but the big blind punishes everyone by making it $30. Seeing as how I’ve already made a mistake by playing in the first place, it would be smart to just give up the $5 and let this go, knowing I’ll be playing out of position against three players with a bad hand, but… I call? The flop comes K75 giving me a pair, a gut shot, and a backdoor flush draw and the PFR (preflop raiser) leads out for $120. We are both super deep here and I should be in decentb shape against his range, so I call, which would be fine if this were a heads up pot… but it’s not. One of the players behind me goes all in for $390, another short stack goes all in for ~$120, and the PFR folds. So now I’m looking at a pot of ~$900 and it’s $270 for me to call. Considering my hand, this is an easy fold… but I’m not done making huge mistakes yet! I’m not sure what I’m hoping my two opponents have, but I somehow talk myself into thinking I have some sort of reasonable equity here and make an atrocious call. The board bricks out for me and the bigger all in player wins with his 55. Just an all around horrifyingly bad hand by me and I got exactly what I deserved – a hand I should have folded turned into a $400+ loss.

-My final big pot of the night ended up being one of the craziest PLO hands I’ve ever played. I raised to $20 after a limper with As8sKcQc and bet $20 after seeing a flop of K94 with a club and a spade heads up in position. My opponent check-raised me to $75 and since 99 was the only hand I was in terrible shape against, I decided to see a turn with a good amount of back door equity. The turn brought the Ten of clubs and my opponent checked to me. I could see K9 checking this turn, or even a set of 9s, and maybe I should frequently represent the nut straight here, especially since I have a king high flush draw and a couple of gut shots to the nuts. It’s unlikely I will get check-raised very often, so I think betting has plenty of merit, but I decided to take my free card and got a very pleasant Jack of clubs on the river, giving me a King high straight flush. My opponent led out for $90 in what was a $190 pot. I made it $325 and due to some miracle from the poker gods, he decided to reraise me to $525. After going into the tank for a little bit and thinking about his bet sizing, I realized he didn’t even make a legal raise (he raised me $200 after I raised his initial bet $235) and made him put in another $35 before I made it $860 total. At this point, he started berating himself for misreading the situation. He had the A of clubs and the 8 of clubs in his hand and thought that he was blocking the 87 of clubs and Q8 of clubs for the only straight flushes and now realized that KQ of clubs also made a straight flush and that it was the only thing I could possibly have. He was right. I could never have anything else. I would never turn the naked Q of clubs into a bluff here when my opponent had already put $560 in on the river with at least an Ace high flush (he could have 87 of clubs himself) when I can only make it $300 more. It seemed like he wanted some mercy and really took a lot of time to call that last $300 to the point where multiple people at the table were complaining about it. But he did call and I won a sick $1800+ heads up pot.

I ended up finishing the PLO session up $1900 even though I made plenty of mistakes. I thought this blog idea would be fun, but here I am sitting at 3500+ words and a couple hours wasted and thinking maybe this isn’t a great concept. My goal was to spend 10-15 minutes writing about my session and I have far exceeded that. So… enjoy this post! It will probably be the last of its kind!

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