Monday, April 04, 2011

Mixing it up

Last night I spent 5 hours playing the Imperial Palace Sunday night mixed game with Mrs. Lederer. I have found her to be an unusually pleasant person with whom to share time at a poker table, and I like her more every time she visits town. It's been over a year since I tried a mixed cash game, so the itch for doing something different combined with the chance to chat with Mrs. L. made for good incentive to sign up for the mixer.

They play a rotation of ten games, all $3/$6 limit, only three of which I play fairly regularly as part of the standard HORSE mix (Omaha/8, stud/8, and razz). There are several weird and baffling variants thrown in. As it turned out, those were the ones in which I made the most money. I don't mind admitting that it was pure luckboxing; I had no skill edge.

My biggest pot of the night came in what they call 3-2-1 Omaha. It's a high-only game in which you get three simultaneous flops, then two turns, then one river. You can mix and match any flop and turn, plus the river, to make your five-card board (but you have to take one of the flops as it is; you can't just pick any three cards from the nine), then combine that with your hole cards in the usual Omaha fashion, i.e., two from your hand and three from the board. I find this game extremely confusing, because you have to examine six different combinations of board cards in order to figure out what the best possible hands would be, then judge that list against your own holdings.

Well, on the second hand of this rotation, I started with QQxx, flopped a set, and made quads on the turn, which was the nuts. The river, however, put a possible straight flush out there; somebody holding the Ad-3d would have a steel wheel. I wasn't too worried about it. My lone opponent remaining at the river bet, I raised, she reraised. Still not worried. I raised again. (There is no cap when heads-up on the river, so we could keep going until we were all in if we chose to.) She rechecked her cards, reexamined the board, and raised me back. I figured she had a strong full house. She was the least experienced player at the table, and usually timid in her betting unless she had the stone cold nuts. So I was slightly worried, but not enough to stop me. I raised yet again. Again she looked at her hole cards and again she spent some time examining the board, before announcing "Raise." Holy crap. If I have quads beaten by a straight flush, I'm going to be seriously annoyed. But I just can't believe that this particular player would turn this aggressive with anything else, so this time I end the raising war with just a call, while simultaneously asking, with some incredulity in my voice, "Did you make the straight flush?" I was stunned when she said, "No, but I have the nut flush."

Whew! I showed my four queens and took in what may have been the biggest pot of the night. As she repeatedly explained, she just didn't see the two queens out there. When she was rechecking the board, it was specifically to see if there were any pairs that somebody could use to make a full house. Not seeing any, she concluded that her nut flush must be good. She was the only player at the table inexperienced enough to make that mistake after checking the board as many times as she did. But hey, poker is all about profiting from other people's mistakes, so I'm not feeling bad about it.

In the same game, I played a hand only for the amusement of Mrs. L. and myself (she folded, so I showed her my cards and let her sweat the hand with me), since I started with a 2-2-4-x on the button. (Top poker mathematicians at MIT are still working out whether the deuce-four combinations are always winners in 3-2-1 Omaha.) The bottom flop came 6-6-2, giving me a tiny full house. The only other player in this hand was Mark, on my left, a regular in this mixer, and by far the most experienced and aggressive mixed-game player at the table. I just check-called the flop and turn, fearing that he had a better full house. But when he checked the river, I figured I was good. I bet, he called with trips.

Only once did I screw up because of forgetting the rules or format of a game. It was the first hand of 4-Card Ocean Crazy Pineapple. You get four hole cards, betting round. Flop, betting round, discard one. Turn, betting round, discard one. River, betting round. Then finally an "ocean" (6th card on the board--the river flows into the ocean, you know), and another betting round. They said that somebody always forgets that an ocean is coming and exposes his hand after the river. Well, last night it was me. I announced that I had a full house. Mrs. L. called anyway, presumably hoping to improve to her own boat on the ocean. She didn't. At worst, I cost myself only one big bet with that gaffe.

Considering the complexity and unfamiliarity of most of the games, to play for 5 hours and make only that one technical error was something of a triumph. I never lost track of what game we were playing, whether the ace played for high or low, which of three draws we were on, or whether we were on a betting round versus a discard round, never misread my hand, never tried going for a low when no low scored, etc. (Pats self on back.)

I bluffed only once. The game was badugi. Mark and I both had strong 3-card starters, and were drawing one. It was just a contest to see who got there first. I had been playing it passively, letting him bet (as was his wont), and just check-calling. I knew that he knew that I tended to do that with him, and get aggressive only when I made something. I decided to use that knowledge against him. When the final draw didn't give me the suit I needed, I led out betting. I didn't think he would raise as a bluff, so the worst that would happen is he would raise and I'd fold, or he'd call and I'd lose. That is, at most I would lose one bet. But if he had missed, too, he might give me credit for having made it, fold the best three-card hand, and I'd win the whole pot. I thought (and still think) it was a smart play.

To my surprise, he thought long and hard about what to do. The longer he thought, the more it became clear that he did not have a badugi. With a strong badugi he would raise. With a weak one he would call instantly. I realized that he must have a pretty good three-card hand, or he wouldn't take so long to think it out. When he finally called, I said, "Well, I was bluffing, but now I think I might have been bluffing with the best hand." I showed my three-card 6. He winced and showed his three-card 7. Yes!

Late in the evening, there was one remarkable hand of badugi. Playing four-handed, three of us made strong badugis. I made an 8-7, Mrs. L. made a 7-6, and Mark made the nuts, a 4. I'll wait here while you go figure out the odds of that happening.

I twice made a #1 (the nuts) in 2-7 triple draw. I haz mad drawing skillz.

A little after midnight, I was finally too tired to continue, and cashed out with $66 more than I had bought in for. I'm not sure, but I think that is the first time I have ended winner in a mixed game. On top of that, I had a great time. The other players were friendly, smart, funny people that were just plain enjoyable to be with. All of us except Mark, I think it's fair to say, had to struggle to keep straight all the rules and mechanics of each game. It's not like we were playing deep, third-level, mind-game poker. I mean, go ahead--just try triple-range-merging your Double-Flop Omaha hands while everybody else at the table is just trying to remember how many cards from their hands they have to use and whether low gets half the pot. Fat lotta good it'll do ya.

I don't think I'll exactly become a weekly fixture in that game, but I do think that I should pay it a visit more often than I have been doing.


Mrs. L said...

Really happy to play alongside you! I wish the game went later, but broke about 12:30. I didn't fare as well as you but fun all the same. Some interesting hands for sure!

Ryan said...

Damn, low limit mixed games never go in LA. Such a bummer. Guess there are just more card rooms in Vegas.

Ryan said...

Low limit mixed games never go in LA. Ever. Bummer. Guess having way more poker rooms in Vegas has its benefits,

Ryan said...

Oops sorry about the double post. Didn't think the first one went through because of the sign-in procedure.