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A Warm Welcome

I had some incredibly restless sleep last night. Why? Was it that my youngest was up all night screaming? No, that's not it - at least no more than usual. Was my bedroom too hot? Too cold? Nope - neither one. Was it perhaps that I'd just finished playing my first session at PokerStars' $1/$2 NLHE tables? Bingo!

Moving up in stakes can take quite a bit of mental adjustment and preparation. There's new stack sizes to contend with. Bet sizing is new and unfamiliar. Opponents are scary. And monster hands are lurking in every shadow just waiting to crack your TPTK.

I sat down to play my first session of $200 NLHE at 9:50 PM last night. I was excited and more than a little nervous. My typically warm and dry hands had turned ice cold and slick with sweat as soon as I fired up the laptop. My wife also claims that I started breathing hard and my face turned flush. Yep - no sharks here!

My immediate concern was this: would I be able to push my entire stack into the pot when I thought I was ahead in a hand? If not, this would be the shortest move to $200 NLHE in the history of online poker.

I found myself sitting at a table within ten minutes of firing up PokerStars. I bought in for $100 and found myself up against five unknown players. Professionals? Quite unlikely. Solid players? Quite probably. This was, afterall, $200 NLHE and no one in their right mind would play at these stakes without knowing the ins and outs of Texas hold'em poker, right?

It didn't take me very long to test my resolve at these new and higher stakes. After making one button steal and folding everything else for a few orbits, I finally found a hand that I liked...

PokerStars, $1/$2 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 6 Players

LeggoPoker.com - Hand History Converter

SB: $548.60
BB: $232.20
UTG: $195.75
Hero (MP): $99.70
CO: $1,200.55
Villain (BTN): $199.80

Pre-Flop: A K dealt to Hero (MP)
UTG folds, Hero raises to $8, CO folds, Villain raises to $22, 2 folds, Hero raises to $99.70 and is All-In, Villain calls $77.70

(With only 50 BB in my stack, I can't afford to get tricky with many hands. And Big Slick is not a hand to get tricky with at the best of times. When the Villain re-raised me, I hoped that he wasn't holding AA and 3-bet all-in. The Villain insta-called which led me to believe that I was probably up against {AA-JJ, AK}. I was pretty sure that an Ace on either the flop, turn, or river would see the pot slide my way - so long as the Villain wasn't holding rockets.)

Flop: ($202.40) 7 6 8 (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

(Ok. I missed the flop. It's only a $100, right?)

Turn: ($202.40) 2 (2 Players - 1 is All-In)


River: ($202.40) 4 (2 Players - 1 is All-In)


Results: $202.40 Pot ($3 Rake)
Hero showed A K (high card Ace) and WON $199.40 (+$99.70 NET)
Villain mucked K J and LOST (-$99.70 NET)


I'm really surprised (and entirely pleased) at how little respect the Villain gave my all-in 3-bet in that last hand. Perhaps he felt that getting 3:2 on his money was good enough to make the call. Generally I'd have folded my Kojak in a heartbeat in his spot due to the likelihood of being dominated. I'd also rather push all-in with KJ than call all-in but we're talking Poker 101 here.

After that last hand, my confidence started to flood back in. Instead of viewing the other players as scary monsters, I started eyeing stacks as potential targets. If I could find more opponents like the button in the last hand, I'd have a good session as long as my luck held out.

A little later, I found myself tangling with a loose and fairly aggressive player sitting two spots to my right. Playing out of position against a maniac is typically a bad spot for many no-limit hold'em players. However, playing the short-stack is a great way of negating any positional advantage that your opponents might otherwise use to crush your stack.

After clashing with the LAG over the course of four or five orbits, I'm sure that he saw me as a weak-tight player on the verge of breaking. I went on a streak of a few hands where I'd pick up a nice hand pre-flop and completely miss the flop. I make my standard c-bet and the LAG would push me off the hand with a big bet, laughing maniacally all the while (or so I imagined in my mind's eye).

The LAG was doing a great job of picking up on my weakness. In one pot, I picked up a flush draw on the flop and bet the pot. We both checked the turn and the river brought me a third diamond. When the Villain checked to me, I bet $10 into the $12 pot and the LAG called me instantly. Unfortunately, I was just pretending that I'd made my flush on the river. I'd played the hand exactly as one would a flush draw but I made the mistake of thinking that my LAG friend would recognize my betting pattern and fold on the river. In the end, his King-high beat my Queen-high and I was a little shocked at how quickly he'd made the river call.

I got my revenge a few orbits later...

PokerStars, $1/$2 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 6 Players
LeggoPoker.com - Hand History Converter

BTN: $481.50
SB: $221.55
Hero (BB): $108.05
LAG (UTG): $408.95
MP: $208.20
CO: $234.95

Pre-Flop: A A dealt to Hero (BB)
LAG calls $2, 3 folds, SB calls $1, Hero raises to $12, LAG raises to $30, SB folds, Hero raises to $108.05 and is All-In, LAG calls $78.05

(I hate picking up AA in the blinds: typically, everyone folds to you and you end up winning an insignificant pot. I was happy that two limpers had decided to see the flop. I was pleased that the LAG, sitting under-the-gun, had decided to play. When I made a standard raise, the LAG instantly raised to $30.

I had a choice: slowplay by flat-calling the re-raise or jam the pot to represent AK, AQ, or a mid-pocket pair. With my opponent probably thinking that I was a nobody-donk, I decided on the latter course of action. I figured the LAG for a hand like KK-77 with a few crappier hands thrown in for good measure.)

Flop: ($218.10) K 2 T (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

(Oops. If the LAG was holding KK, I was dead to two outs.)

Turn: ($218.10) 7 (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

(If the LAG was holding 77, I was dead to two outs.)

River: ($218.10) 7 (2 Players - 1 is All-In)


Results: $218.10 Pot ($3 Rake)
Hero showed A A (two pair, Aces and Sevens) and WON $215.10 (+$107.05 NET)
LAG mucked Q Q and LOST (-$108.05 NET)

(Nice! Nothing like a little big pair vs. big pair to make my night.)

In then end, I finished my one-hour session at the tables in the black. In fact, I did much better than I could have possibly anticipated and doubled my previous record (set just this past Sunday) for my best day at the tables.

And that's why I couldn't sleep.


Anonymous said...

Nice work at the $200nl.Look forward to reading more on your adventures at that level.

Klopzi said...