If the table is full of dim opponents, you take the initiative and light them up.
Such was the case a few nights ago when I dropped by a $1-5 table at Foxwoods Resort Casino. Unlike other players who play higher most of the time, I find nothing wrong with playing lower whenever the spirit moves me. Maybe it was balancing out the great session I had had earlier in the day at $75/150 Omaha8 (winning $800 in less than half an hour). For whatever reason, the spirit moved me to play some low stakes spread limit.
The game was populated with six veteran low stakes stud players. I had seen these guys and woman dozens of time at this table - usually on my way to my $20/40 game. They were there at the table at all hours. Perhaps it was their one source of amusement in otherwise dull lives. Perhaps they eked out some small addition to their pension or social security. But I had never played with them. This was my chance.
Frankly, there was hardly any action at all. The bring-in always brought it in for $1.00. Nearly everyone else called. If anyone raised everyone else would usually fold. Most raises were for $1.00 or $2.00 more. If someone called, the hand would usually be checked down to the River. Sometimes someone would bet on the River and sometimes someone would call. But this was unusual. Most of the time, after the $1.00 bring-in, the hand was pretty much checked down to the River and the hands exposed.
Pots averaged about $10-$15 after the rake.
There's some talk about how this type of poker cuts down on the tension and helps people actually live longer. I don't know whether that's true. But I can tell you with certainty, games like this certainly make you feel that you're living longer!
But I digress.
So this was the environment that greeted me.
It's not unique to $1-5 games. This somber, perhaps earnest, death-fest is not uncommon at the Stud tables. Players get very conservative and become stuck in their habits. The game becomes a dull bore.
My plan was to shake them up and get them to start spending their money - short though their stacks may have been. Let me tell you what I did. Perhaps you can profitably apply to it your game - if it ever gets this bad. If nothing else you'll probably end up with some interesting stories to tell - if not some extra money in your coffers for your efforts.
First of all, though no one greeted me at the table, I smiled broadly and energetically said hello to each player, shaking his or her hand. This woke some of them up - and I even got a couple of smiles. It was a start.
Then I started babbling. It didn't matter that what I said was irrelevant to the world and to them. It was just an excuse to get them to look up for a while longer than usual - and engage them in something other than their thoughts about how bad their cards were or how much they were down. I think I talked about the impending move downstairs and how my bad knees might not be able to take the stairs. That elicited some response. I think one guy said that he could hardly move his respirator across the hall - let alone up and down stairs. We talked about the advantages of elevators over escalators.
Then I started to do crazy things at the table - things to make them think I was a little nuts and also to get them to laugh. I raised to $2.00 without looking. I felt the back of the cards on Fourth Street and then checked or raised or folded based on my feel and my prediction of what the cards were. I said it all with a laugh. One or two players took notice of it and asked me what I was "on". "Love" I said. "I am infected with a deep and abiding love for my wife that gives me special powers!" The one woman at the table looked up at that. She didn't smile until I laughed loudly and added "I mean it!"
This general silliness didn't cost me much. A couple of bucks here or there that I wouldn't normally have spent. And even blind bets have value sometimes - the times you actually have a good hand. I saw it as an investment in the future value of the game - planning to stay a while with these players who rarely left and had little to smile about.
I talked a lot. Some people found it annoying I'm sure and were determined to beat the obnoxious guy in the three seat. Others were amused. But all of them were curious. And that curiosity, added to the frenzy I had intentionally created, got them out of their rut of passivity. It gave the game some much-needed life!
About 30 minutes into this I actually got some powerful hands. My work at shaking up the table had started to pay off. When I raised to $6.00 on Third Street with split Aces - I did it knowing they had seen me do it a couple of times with nothing. I had shown off my bluff with a crazy laugh - so they'd remember it. I got called to the River, even after I hit an open pair. I won a nice sized pot for this game.
It's important to mention that throughout this display of weird and wildness, I remained playful, not hurtful or dangerous. I mocked myself, not others. I said self deprecating things - and never put anyone else down or berated their play. This engendered in them a sense that I was fun to play with. So they played with me - almost on cue. They didn't get pissed and leave the game. They were having fun...which was something they had forgotten they could do at the poker table. Win or lose, I was a jester, not a tormenter. The fact that there was a method to my madness was not noticed.
I left after a couple of hours of this fun, up about $30. It wasn't a huge haul compared to how much I might have won playing $20/40. But I also had a great time in the process - and helped lighten up what might have been a dull few hours for these folks. In that sense I gave something back to the game - even while profiting from it myself.
Ed note: Good Stud action at Ultimate Bet