Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Winning Your Local Pub Tourney

Poker player drunk at the table and staring at the ceiling.
"Can you put another rebuy on my tab, please?"

At the Golden Nugget Saloon, we hold a tourney every two weeks.  It lasts for ten sessions, with the winner of each week qualifying for a season-end final table.  The winner of the final round goes on to a grand first-level bust out in a  medium buy in live tourney at the Horseshoe Indiana casino.  These types of pub tourneys are very common in Louisville, and from what I understand, the rest of the nation as well.  The local rules may vary a lot, but if the event is sponsored by a liquor vendor, typically there will be rebuy chips handed out to those imbibing a specific drink.  As we have unlimited rebuys until there are six players remaining, the stacks get deeper and the play gets sloppier the further into the night we go.

I actually had trouble with these for a long time.  I didn't drink a whole lot and therefore wasn't likely to rebuy more than once or twice, especially given the fact that the chip you draw from the magic bag might just be green, which guarantees that you will get to see lots of hands, but if you choose to play any of them that you will be praying for a tiny pot while eight other players are duking it out for the side pot.  This was especially aggravating, being that my dopey friend Travis seemed like he was playing every pot, limping every hand, calling every bet, raking all the chips and winning or placing at least third virtually every single session.  All this while hooting and acting like a drunken asshole, with his finest moment coming when his top pair of 8's ran out a four flush and lost to a pocket pair of 4's that spiked the lucky river card. The holders of the long-shot hand were young female patrons who were so inexperienced that they were sharing a hand because they could barely read the board, let alone bluff out Sheriff Travis Rose.

That is, until Travis looked down and noticed that he was holding the 9 of hearts.  He shoved his hole cards right in their faces, slapped them down on the table, and then did a cross-armed double chop over his junk and cried out above noise of the bar, "SUCK IT!!!"  Then he turned over to their boyfriends (who are friends, mind you) and said, "Hey Eric and Chris: your girlfriends won't be home tonight because they are going to be busy at the bar, SUCKIN' IT!!!"  Everyone's draw dropped.  Though the Nugget is Ground Zero for this kind of harassment, this was the wartime equivalent of bombing a civilian village.  It's not that Travis isn't normally super-offensive or that we hold him to any kind of standard, but this was a new breed of asshole-low, even for the guy who used to regularly "salt" the rims of margaritas with the rim of his sweaty nutsack.  

Yep.....this is the hallowed loser who was taking all the virtual money off the crusty, bourbon-stained Nugget tabletop felt.

But I digress.  The point was that I should have been taking notes.  Even though he was violating all poker dogma since the publication of Hold'Em Poker, we were playing in a game that simply doesn't exist when douchebags with sunglasses and earbuds come together and start clutching a full rack of $1 chips with white knuckles.  We were playing in game where 80-proof douchebags are calling river bluffs with 4 high and folding nut straights for min-bets on the river.  Winning this battle requires not being critical of said douchebags, but rather, just being slightly less-douchey.

Here are some tips:

1) Limp...a lot

This is disgusting, I know.  But then again, why is that?  Isn't the purpose of raising so that we can win the pot multiple ways through fold equity or making the best hand?  The former ingredient doesn't exist.  If a guy thinks second pair is the nuts, blasting him with all your chips when all you have is a straight draw isn't going to change his mind.  

But there are better reasons.

First and foremost, you AREN'T stealing the blinds.  If you limp on the button and the blinds consider this to be weak, they still won't pounce on it.  Why would they try to raise you off it if they still have a chance of flopping two pair at a cheap price?  Most of these players wouldn't even try to bluff if they KNEW you likely had nothing.  And they also don't see the value in winning the small pots.  They want to win BIG pots, and you can't do that without at least flopping a draw.

Furthermore, in a normal setting, a blind steal at least allows you to narrow down their range somewhat, but these players will flat and play passively with hands you never even considered, like AK for top pair, top two pair, and even sets.  When they lead out for the minimum on the river, this isn't an invitation for you to take the pot away with a raise.  Read it for what it is- the time to squeeze out thin value with a weak top pair.

The value in the steal comes AFTER the flop.  This is when you should be picking up the pot with min-bets or taking free cards with draws and betting them off it on a later street when you miss.  

Lastly, even late in the game, you can do it with 10 big blinds or even less.  After all- shoving only allows you to get snapped off with a wide range, whereas you can win this pot with just 2 big blinds, so why the risk?  

2) Don't 3-bet unless it puts you all in or you want action

3-betting a hand like AK only works if you can hit post-flop, bet them off it post-flop, or get some info on their holding.  In a nutshell, this is a dumb move.  In fact, I think that few competitive players these days even question whether or not this should be done.  They just do it out of habit.  If 3-betting here won't put you all in, you just should call.  This will net you the most money and put you at the least risk.  The blinds tend to rise quickly in games like this, so blowing off 1/3 of your stack with no hand isn't a good idea.  

If you are still in the rebuy period, feel free to do whatever you want with it (besides fold), but realize that you will often have the ability to just check it down when you miss.  And don't get carried away with one pair hands on slippery boards.  You can just min-bet your top pair if you are up against the kind of guy who won't fold a flush draw to any bet, but will also call down anything if the price is right.  If the flush hits and they shove on you, this isn't a level.  They have it.

3) Bring lots of cash and have fun

Don't be the table dick.  No one cares how good you are away from the bar, and in fact, if they are aware of your online exploits then this is even more incentive for them to go out of their way to bust you.  Realize that being quiet and straight-faced when you win a pot just makes you look like an arrogant asshole who's shit doesn't stink.  You should be whooping it up and acting like a jolly arrogant asshole- provided that you draw the line at "suck it".  If you came out to drink, then you are just freerolling on those extra chips.  So make sure that you draw to every gutshot and that when you hit it, you properly rub in their faces that you would have "folded to a bigger bet".  Cheers!

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