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Licked in Latvia


Licked in Latvia Following the winning of a package on Betsafe Poker I was off to Latvia for my first ever tournament in this part of the world.

The organisation of the event was superb. The hotel was superb and the tournament venue, Casino Royale was remarkable.

From the outside it looked like a fairly modern office block, but inside it was as plush and grand as its name might suggest, looking very much as you would imagine an old Russian mansion might look.

The card-room had been extended to include what was normally a lap dancing club judging by the secluded alcove seating and padded velvet walls (I have had this “read” confirmed by experts Marc Goodwin and Jeff Kimber).

I also believe that many of its “regular employees” were still working during the tournament and even the tournament director, if turning her hand, as it were, to that type of activity, would certainly not go hungry.

All in all the women were remarkably beautiful mostly with lovely long dark hair though the weather was extremely cold. Had I been 20 years younger, more athletic, much better looking and able to talk crap to women to get into their pants, I would have filled my boots.

I woke up on the morning of the tournament and, as if a prophecy for how I would run in the tournament I opened my curtains in the nude, only to be faced by some young Scandinavian lad (most of the players fitted this so I guess he was) doing the same from the room directly opposite looking straight at me. In case he noticed who I was, as previously advised, it was very cold!!

So off to the tournament and early on I have TT on button. The player in the small blind (looked a bit like a Russian gangster, though I think an unusual number of Russians look like they might be gangsters) has just sat down and this is the first hand he has encountered in the game. The blinds are 25/25 and it is folded round to me and I raise to 100. He goes to make a call and throws In chips to add to the 25 chip he already has out but, inadvertently, adds a 1000 chips to his “call”. The dealer looks shocked and realises it was an innocent mistake and almost try’s to advise him of his error and give him his chips back to make the call he intended to (maybe frightened of sleeping with the fishes if he tried to act as a rule enforcer) another player (maybe a rival trafficker) observed this and made the point that he could not take the 1000 back and then ensued a very heated discussion in Russian, I did not involve myself in this as I could not understand a word, though I could have guessed some, and I also did not fancy being tied to a chair in a dark room having my fingers removed one by one. The upshot of the discussion was that they gave him one 25 chip back leaving the 1000 and two 25 chips in the pot.

So it was back to me to call his unintentional re-raise. This seemed like an opportune moment to move my 15000 stack into the pot and so I did. He loudly mumbled something in Russian and threw the 1050 chips to me. I actually should have been entitled to the other 25 chip they gave back to him but I thought that as I was not wearing a bullet proof vest I would let that one go.

There was one very aggro flairy player who float folded his cards into the air (not as professionally as James Akenhead or the “daddy” Praz Bansi, but he made a good effort at it). He had bluffed off 8000 of his stack to various players while the blinds were still 25/25. In one hand I limped early with AQ and he limped after me. The flop was AT5 I bet 125 and he called. The turn was K and I now checked, hoping he would bet, but he checked also. The river was a nice safe 2 I checked and called his bet of 275 only to be shown a very creative 25 off suit.

Later on with blinds at 25/50, I limp with 9T and the flop is AJ8. It is checked to the button who bets 250, I call as does the player in the cut-off. The turn is Q, giving me a straight, I check again and it is checked around. The river is a 4 (making an unlikely back door flush) I bet 500 and the player in the cut off min-raises to 1000. The button player folds, I call ( he was the type of player who only re-raised when he was very sure he had the best hand) and get shown KT for a nice inside straight hit beating my lower straight. I suppose, in terms of chips lost, it could have been worse, it definitely could have been better.

The most amusing hand I was aware off involved two Scandinavian players. With an average stack of about 17K and blinds at 125/250 one player with 42k raises and is called by another huge stack of 37K (holding 55). The flop is A35 rainbow and the player now with a set of fives, checks and the pre-flop raiser makes about a pot sized bet which is called. The turn is 7 (putting up a back door flush draw) the player with a set again checks the pre-flop raiser bets 3k which is check raised to 7k and he instantly moves all-in for the full 42K stack. The player with the set of fives calls and proudly shows his set, waiting to have the pot shipped over to him after the river card is dealt. The aggro raiser tables a hopeful J2 off suit and hits a 4 on the river to make a nice straight.

As usual in these circumstances, I plodded along waiting for the opportunity to use an aggressive players aggression against him and eventually the following hand took place.

The blinds are 150/300 average stack about 19k and I have a plodding 14k. I raise to 900 and the player in the small blind (who in the 30 minutes I have been sat at the table has re-raised several times and called raises out of position and then led into the pre-flop raiser on the flop 3 times) re-raises to 2700. Now in this spot against this player, if he has me beat I am almost certainly going out of the tournament and I am going to proceed with the hand on the basis that I almost certainly have the best hand pre-flop. I am also prepared to allow him more leeway than might seem sensible post-flop (given today’s apparent psychotic desire among many players to avoid a difficult decision at any cost) to allow him to hang himself.

I call the re-raise and the flop is 752 rainbow. He now leads out for 5k (about half my stack). Now against a good intelligent thinking player if I just call this bet for half my stack I would expect them to put me on KK at worst and so just calling would be a very poor attempt to disguise anything. Against this player I doubt he would think with sufficient sophistication to analyse even that deeply and so I just called (with zero intention of folding on any turn) expecting him to set me in on the turn with anything from no hand no draw upwards. The turn is a safe looking 2 and he instantly set me all-in. I call and show JJ he shows 99 and the river is another 9, happy days.

After my exit I sat down at a small (1/2 lats) Omaha cash game. As with most online players they were not even aware that Omaha could be played with more than 4 cards and after a while I managed to convince them to play with 5 cards. I tried for 6 but had no chance and 5 was enough to mess up their understanding of post flop hand values.

At one point one of the players said he could not cope with the maths of the game with five cards as compared to with four cards.

On the basis that the principals of pot odds, probability and risk/reward do not change regardless of the number of cards you have I found this strange and I observed that the maths was exactly the same. He then went to explain that, in terms of personal pot equity, he could not compute the optimal plays holding 5 cards. After losing 300 lats (about £400, his maths was good enough to deduce that five card Omaha was not the game for him).

I got the impression that this method of decision making allowed for players of very limited ability to read the game, to justify most random acts of aggression, whether appropriate or othwerwise.

I was advised shortly afterwards by another player, that using personal pot equity as a determining factor as to optimal play, would result in a pre-flop position that with five even only marginally playable cards in your hand, it was “theoretically correct” to never fold pre-flop.

Enough said I thought!!

Tue, 14th December 2010

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