Many of the better players will tell you that half the battle in winning at poker is to know your opponents and their methods, apart from the cards you are playing yourself. Online, this is necessarily limited to identifying regular betting patterns and any clues that you might pick up from the chat boxes. Some players are so fixated by the "sport" of getting into the heads of their opponents that they give themselves away, via the chat box, as excitable players - therefore invariably careless ones.
I played a short-handed Omaha cash table online this week. I have been on a good roll of playing these low limit tables and coming away with 50%, 100% and more returns, in recent weeks. I thought I would drop by and see if I could take another chunk away.
I knew one of the players from a recent 10-handed game. His name stuck out like a sore thumb because on that previous occasion, he had bet like a maniac. My conclusion was that, in poker terms, he is a maniac! During that previous session, I was fortunate enough to take a good deal of his chips after waiting for a very strong starting hand and tanking the chips in by way of an over-the-top re-raise when he inevitably had raised pre-flop. He also inevitably took my bet as a challenge and committed what chips he had left.
Now here he was again on my short-handed table but the first clues to my players came from observing rather than participating. My maniacal friend played a hand heads up with another player and was found out when betting with a 2-pair. Overall, I didn't think the play was all that bad and I thought the opponent had been loose in calling with his own hand which only made a winning hand at the river card.
However, a fourth player then introduced some fruity opinions of the maniac via the chat box, belittling his play unjustifiably, and using CAPLOCKS, to boot! This went on for a little while, and seemed highly unnecessary.
So, in the space of one hand, I had an initial measure of all three of my opponents. One I knew to be a maniac, a player with a tendency to commit all his chips in a gamble; a second who takes pleasure from insulting fellow players using caplocks for effect, which could yield clues to his game - I would have to keep an eye on his play - and, third; a player who is capable of chasing a weak drawing hand to the river - another gambler.
Overall then, three players who might, to various degrees, be inclined to pay me off when I have a nut hand or strong drawing hand.
I didn't have to wait long to see action. First off, Mr Maniac soon started to shed chips to one of the other players due to an inability to fold to strength. The loose caller in contrast was picking up nicely, partly due to good cards falling when he was drawing and partly because Mr Maniac was contributing generously to his cause. The third opponent, the lippy one on caplocks, was actually playing tightly but had things to get off his chest verbally.
Soon, Mr Maniac was down to about 30% of his starting stack. I expected to see him put it all-in soon. Sure enough, he raised the pot (a small bet but about a third of his remainder). I decided I would re-raise with Kd Ks Js 9d, the idea being to commit Mr Maniac all-in and hopefully cause the other two to fold. It didn't go as planned because the gambling river man called my pot re-raise. Mr Verbals folded.
Mr Maniac's stack was in fact a little more than my pot raise so he shovelled in the remaining few dollars and cents to go all-in.
At this point, the software of my poker room fails to do what it should and prevent a further raise since Mr Maniac's raise was well below the "minimum raise" - ie, less than double the previous bet. This is common to many poker rooms online, but not all.
The upshot is that I had the option of re-raising the pot once more pre-flop. I took that option because I figured that my KK double-suited was beating my river-chasing opponent and that a big pot-raise should cause him to fold or else call with an inferior hand. I did not put him on AAxx because I would have expected a re-raise last time round if he had those. It is not a guarantee but most players of a chasing variety at low stakes online do have these predictable patterns.
He called most of my bet which put him all-in and would cost me a significant proportion of my stack should I lose. The cards came down fairly safe looking for me, no straights or flushes and the highest a 10. In fact 10, 9, rag, rag, rag.
My opponent revealed he had called off all his chips pre-flop with Q 9 9 6. This was a wholly reckless manoeuvre and a total gamble. Did he even consider what I might be betting the maximum with each round? I have no idea but what I do know is that the case 9 was sufficient to give him trips and take me to the cleaners!
I then weakened and suggested via the chat box, in lower case, that he was a crazy gambler who must be smoking a strong weed. Along piped up Mr Verbals to suggest I quit whining. Coming from a player who had been whining about other players' poor play, that was a bit rich!
Well, with my equilibrium out of kilter, I decided to back away from the table. The worse thing I could do is stick around with a bad beat and a bad experience to affect my judgement. Sure I could say to myself that these players are carrying dead money and are sure to give it back, but I didn't need it just at that moment.
Better to retreat, take a break and return afresh. It was after all only one loss.
Until next time!