Stud Poker Strategy - Lucky in Louisville
I have always had a fondness in the special poker section of my heart for the Greater Louisville area. I have family in the area — just over the river in the small town of DuPauw, Indiana. They are principally farmers. Wonderful people all, they get up with the sun and go to sleep early. When I visit I am often bored out of my mind after 8:00 PM. So when Caesar's Indiana was built on the Ohio River, with a large poker room just fifteen minutes or so away from where my relatives live, well I was in heaven. I've been visiting Louisville and the nearby casino ever since. I made such a pilgrimage this past weekend.
I'm happy to report that one of very few mid-limit stud games outside of Foxwoods is still alive and well in the large and beautiful poker room at Caesar's Indiana. It is $30/60. The game starts on Friday night and continues until the early hours of Monday morning — sometimes later if Monday is a holiday or if there are some particularly stuck or otherwise eager players in the game.
I arrived late on Sunday night — around 11:15 PM. The game was short-handed. That normally is not my specialty. But this game had a deeply stacked Asian woman who was angry and on tilt, a deep pocketed older regular player with a loose-passive style, and an ABC player from Oregon. I joined the group and made it four-handed.
The typical $6/half hour time that the house collected (hey, they have to make money somehow) was cut to $3.00 because of the shortness of the game. I was pleased with that and with one eventful hand that I'll share with you.
We each anted $5.00 I was dealt Jd. The 7s on my immediate left brought it in for $10.00. The out-of-town player with a Qh called. The Asian woman folded, saying "@#$%#!!" as she did so, tossing her cards angrily to the dealer. "Why you give me SHIT?" she asked. The dealer didn't respond. It was a rhetorical question I guess.
I raised with my pair of Jacks and Ace kicker — concerned that I might lose the other two players. Even so, with $40 in the pot, I didn't mind winning it uncontested. I sure wasn't going to slow play by just calling the bring-in in this situation.
The bring-in tossed in another $20. The Qh did as well. We three saw Fourth Street.
I hit an Ace. Aces up right off the bat! I bet $30. The 7s caught a Js He called. The Qh caught the 9h. He called as well. $240 in the three-way pot.
The next card didn't help me. But the guy with the two spades caught a third spade. The guy with the two hearts hit a low club. I was faced with one of those situations when some players might slow down. They're no longer sure they're leading, seeing three of a suit, so they timidly check.
This is surely a mistake under nearly all circumstances. It is usually far more important not to run the risk that you might give your opponent a free card than it is to worry about getting raised if he made his flush. The cost of that additional bet is far outweighed by the cost of losing the pot through passivity.
So I bet. And then I saw one of the most glorious sites you can behold at the 7-Card Stud table. My opponent checked his down cards. He did it casually and relatively quickly — considering the fact that he had been playing for two days straight. Though he might have been acting, I sure didn't think so. It meant one thing to me — he didn't have the flush and was checking to see if the third spade gave him a flush draw. He called me. The the third opponent folded.
He didn't catch a fourth Spade on Sixth; nor did I improve. I bet. He called. I didn't improve on the River. I bet out, however, looking to extract as much money from this hand as I could. I figured there was a good chance he'd call me even if he didn't hit his flush. He picked up all three downcards, shoving them together and then slowly squeezed them apart, staring intently. He then glanced at his up cards and back at his down cards. He called, slowly.
I faced my Aces up. He did the same, with Jacks Up. "He nodded politely and said "I was on a flush draw and hit the two pair on the River" as the dealer pushed me the pot. I was very glad I made him pay to play on Fifth Street.
I left soon thereafter — for reasons I'll explain in my next column. As I was leaving one of the players explained that the game goes off every week, with a full table, for two days straight. I was invited to return. I look forward to it.
Ed note: Look forward to returning to the tables of Doyle's Room. Again, and again.