Just One of Those Days…

Posted by in Poker

Tuesday, 3am: (couldn’t sleep)

AKs (mine) vs. Ac9d. Flop Ad 9h 4d. Turn Kd. River 5d. IGHN

1:13 pm:

JJ (mine) vs. AsKd (all-in). Flop 9s 3d Ad. Turn Ah. River 7d.

10:21 pm:

AsTc (mine) vs. K9c. Flop Ts 4d 9h. I bet 3/4 pot, get called. Turn Js. I push all in, get called. River Ks. IGHN

Are we not even allowed to think to ourselves about how we’ve been running well at the tables before the Gods slap us around? After a great weekend at the ring plus a near-money finish in a 180-person SnG, my mind had been on what was going right, what was needing some fine tuning, and what my goals were for the coming months. But I kept it all to myself! Alright, I admit, there was that one point at Christmas dinner where I informed my parents that while mom had been preparing dinner, I made $100. That wasn’t boasting though, more of a justification for my “little hobby”.

Mom: Is that real money that you can put in a bank??
Me: Yes.
Mom: Can you cash it out right now?
Me: I could. But no.
Mom: *Sigh*. You are just like your father…

Yes, while relaxing over the holidays I finally got in some quality time at the tables. Stumbling into the IRC chat room one night I found resident geek Alan, who said he was playing 100NL over at Stars. I decided to join him, and found that Alan’s drug of choice was 6-max.

I’ve never played 6-max NL. I’ve always enjoyed playing short-handed, but usually would get a taste of it by starting a new table somewhere, and getting in a few short-handed games before the table filled up. I’d normally do quite well in them, because they tend to reward agression, and as Alan can tell you, I gots me lots of that.

Still, I was a little hesitant at commiting myself to a 6-max game. Long ago I was told that 6-max was the true test of a poker player. I knew the variance was likely to be higher, and also expected a higher caliber of player, since yes, the decisions tend to be a little harder. I decided to give it a try though, and if things got too tough, I could always go back to the more familar waters of a full ring.

Long story short? In addition to the Christmas dinner conversation, there was a Christmas Eve triple-up, along with a few other hit-and-run mini sessions where I managed to leave up. Alan had a great run as well, which is remarkable given that he wasn’t playing poker.

For sure, part of it was the holiday crowd. Pretty cards don’t hurt either (but they really aren’t a neccessity). These 6-max games are a gold-mine really, provided you put in a little effort with table selection and can handle some swings. Because I love you, here then are a few tips for taking on these games.

1. When it comes to starting hand requirements, the tendency most people have is to lower them. Greatly. I can’t say I fully understand this. Oh sure, there are at most 6 people seeing a flop, so your chances of turning a marginal hand into a winner are a little better. But in these games, it can be a lot harder to determine where you actually stand in a hand. Players tend to fall into one of two categories – donkfish (credit for that term goes to Alan) or the super-agressive. Donkfish will call you all the way down to the river hoping they’ll catch their Ace, while the super-agressive will check-raise you with nothing more than bottom pair. Because you will find yourself in these situations, you want hands that will hold up against Mr. Any Two and that will also allow you to push back on Ms. Lets See What Ya Got. Personally, I relax my requirements only a small degree. I’ll ocasionally raise now with something like 89s, but I’m still avoiding those middle Aces. I don’t want to be questioning my hand too much once the flop falls. Also, I’m not calling big raises with connectors like I might in a full ring. In 6-max, there just aren’t going to be enough people playing along to pay me off if I hit my hand.

2. Agression is key in these games. Of course we all know that agression is a winning component in poker, but in a 6-max game it makes a huge difference. Because so many people are playing far inferior cards, a raise serves multiple purposes. It makes them question the strength of their hand, possibly dropping it to your show of strength. It also helps prevent you getting outdrawn when a weaker hand hits two pair on the turn or river. For sure, it’ll happen from time to time, as it does in any game. But at least you’ve made the drawer pay for the privelage. That’s no consolation to you when you’ve just been rivered, but rest assured those chips will come back to you. Being agressive with your bottom pairs, draws, etc. means you will get “caught” from time to time. But that just guarantees you action when you have a real monster. I’d like to thank Natl Hero28 for calling my all-in with JT on a T high flop. Sometimes even the LAG gets Aces.

You can’t teach someone how to be agressive. Some of us have it in us naturally, others have to work really hard. And some of us have a tendency to get far too agressive, and it bites us in the butt. Hence the “things that need fine tuning” list for myself. As a warning to you and a reminder to myself – just because you’ve managed to push people off the winning hand ten times in a row doesn’t mean that it’s going to work every time. Sometimes even the donkfish get a set.

3. And in a 6-max game, even a donkfish can pay attention. They’ll notice your agression and eventually decide to stand up to you. Here’s where #1 comes in handy, along with the tip here – change your game up frequently. Limp in with AK, check your top pair off the flop, become a calling station for a while. Again, we know to do this. But it is far more important in a 6-max than a full ring. With the action coming around faster, there is less of a tendency for players to turn their attention elsewhere when they’re not involved in a hand. Without even trying, they’re playing good poker by taking note of what’s going on at the table.

On the same token, you have no excuse for not getting a decent read on each player. Find out who is going to fold to your raises and who is likely to push back at you. Then choose your hands accordingly.

4. Just a brief note on betting. I know all of you know this already, but for those new to the game who might stumble upon this attempt at a lesson, here goes. Pre-flop raises must be at least 3xBB. No one folds for a dollar. Few fold for $2 even, but you will manage to get some out. I can’t think of anything more horrible than making Baby Jesus cry on Christmas Eve, but nearly every hand someone was passively clicking the raise button. It takes more than $1 to try and steal my blinds, especially when I know I can out-play you post-flop. Unless you have Aces and have divined that you’ll be flopping quads, there is no good case for a minimum raise.

Continuation bets, while possibly becoming sucker bets in tourney play, will work for you the majority of the time. Assuming you’re raising with something solid, a 1/2 pot bet on the flop will usually take it down for you. The assumption is that anyone who held a real monster would have re-raised you pre-flop, so in most cases you can limit a pre-flop caller to high cards like yours or a middle to low pair. If you meet resistance on the flop, there’s no shame in walking away. Someone who has tagged you as agressive has no problem letting you bet their set for them. (I might know about this from experience. At least it was Alan…)

I plan on making my home at these tables, at least for a while. I’m still in search of that big tourney win as well. There is easy money to be made at the 6-max games, and it’s nice to be able to drop in and earn a tourney buyin or three. This does not mean I am in any way publicly declaring any form of poker success. Not at all…