Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Warning: Poker Post Will Follow...

Thanks to my wife’s newfound interest in Texas Hold’em, I’ve been playing low limit poker at Casino Arizona practically every weekend for the past several months. Having logged nearly 100 hours at the tables since New Year’s, both locally and in Vegas, I’ve come to discover a few things about my hobby du jour:

- Limit Hold’em is maddeningly frustrating at the lowest limits. Too many people play the game too loosely, calling too many hands, sucking out too many miracle cards on the turn and river to make improbable straights and flushes at the expense of my bankroll. Geezers are especially bad, as most of them play like they are sitting at a bingo table. They’ll call raises and re-raises pre-flop with almost any two cards just in case they flop a shot at a bad beat jackpot. To fight these sorts of players, leading experts call for tight, aggressive play to take down the loose fish at the table. However, I have found many of the experts’ recommended starting hands for tight, aggressive play at the low limits a bit too tight. I have adjusted my play to allow for more suited and connecting hands in later position to outdraw the fish (thanks to suggestions at LowLimitHoldem.com), and the results have been encouraging thus far.

- The higher the limit, the better I do, at least according my results spreadsheet. I’ve played at 2/4, 3/6, and 4/8 limits this year, and so far my analysis says my per hour loss rate is highest on the 2/4 tables. It’s only about half as bad on the 3/6 tables, and on the 4/8’s I’m actually profitable, having no losing sessions at that limit yet this year. Unfortunately, since most of my playing time has been on 3/6, I’ve chocked up a small net loss overall. I’ll be playing more 4/8 from now on. It tends to be a slightly tighter game than the 3/6, and the competition in general is a bit better. The dumb-luck suckout artists (i.e. Geezers) don’t like to leave the 3/6 pool.

- Other players, and even some dealers, find it curiously odd that I play with a cheat-sheet, specifically a 2 inch x 1 inch card I printed with a tiny starting hand matrix on it. Honestly, I don’t know how occasional players even think of sitting at the tables without one. Anyone who has read a decent poker book knows that proper starting hands are critical to becoming a winning player. The problem is that memorizing the myriad hand/position scenarios is a big task, so why not use a cheat-sheet to jog one’s memory? They aren’t illegal in any poker room that I know of, and they can help you apply consistent rules that will keep you out of tough situations later in the hand, and hence, save you money. It’s just common sense to me.

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