Fausto raises quickly. When he attacks the lead from the small blind, he is acting, in part, out of habit. He has left the sphere of totally deductive play. I can see him taking this action again and again, because he has and he will. The chips distribute themselves slightly sideways after falling lightly from his hand: Fausto is a dropper, not a placer or a pusher. He’s not creating a line away or toward his opponent, in an expression of aggression or coyness, either intended to skew one's perception: all he is doing is mathematically raising the potential price for the possible showdown of our cards. He has no need for theatrics – other than the slight exaggeration of casualness - because he’s done it so many times.
In other words, it’s not an act. It is, as they lamely say, what it is: plain aggression.
Were you expecting something else?
That’s one of the reasons I know he is drawing on Ac5h4h.
Fausto, incited by the black haired supervisor on his right, has been playing a lot of pots. He’s very likely to have the 9h6h more so than an ace; that’s his style so far, limping anything even remotely playable with the intention of calling, while still raising quality hands.
That makes sense at this point in the game and now broken realm of poker. After all, the table is getting deep, and several Red Chippers have been wounded and stacked. Fausto wants to play post flop with these guys, and in the course of twenty four hours, has been given permission to do anything he wants.
Now, that showdown he is using as a threat is a long ways off. The small blind has over 600 bbs.
But we’ll get there.
A few folds.
I’m the small blind. I reraise.
Someone else who will get there is a certain over the top personality I sit with at my first table at the Red Chip game held at Caesar's. An outlandish ham and busy physical presence, (we’ll call him The Beef and mix up his pedigree), he is one of those people that life from the very start has encouraged and suckled into a bounding beast of charisma and playful obnoxiousness. He’s helped run the Red Chip brunch buffet, hailing the founders as heroes, getting in ChipXtractor’s face while he labors in his prop bet, pushing product he’s clearly never read, and otherwise sensing a camera rolling, somewhere. Action!
The Beef is a massive, muscled man with a one of those full heads that look good on a marble pedestal. He has an oblong skull as wide as a sea tortoise and out of it he smiles broadly and coaxingly, like a too-popular high schooler preening after his latest indiscretion. He wants to shake and move and entertain. He a fighter and good looking, but deep in his heart, he’s at his happiest as a song and dance man.
The Beef is always working it.
At the poker table, it’s tougher going for, being, well, not to put too fine a point on it, a complete if comedic fish. The Beef doesn’t mind, though. He is above the game, a social animal relishing the spotlight poker puts on a man. After he misplays every hand and goes broke a couple times, he somehow coaxes a loan from one of the old dudes who basically don’t have the energy to say yes or no anymore, like a worn out girlfriend. I personally wouldn’t give this guy a torn dollar and expect it back, mostly because I would expect him to forget as he rambles into his next adventure, but no doubt his enthusiasm and over-communicated lust for life carries many days and might bend even my will.
I’m too diabolical to be warmed much by this schtick, but how can you not smile at least a little on account of The Beef? He is a mother’s dream, a guy’s guy, and a crush for the girls. While having to deal with these zestful giants, who bestride the world like overgrown Pokémon (armed with headshots, no less), is occasionally trying, I’m good in these situations on the whole and enjoy most of my hour with The Beef. He’s like an ambassador for L.A. culture, something I enjoy and admire, and you always want to shake hands with dignitaries.
However, unbelievably, it’s not him that kidnaps my attention, but the play of my first table. At that point, having over a thousand posts on Red Chip, and now in the supposed lion’s den, I realized most of my advice is just plastic bags in the breeze. Paper or Plastic, ma’am? I’d always castigated Gargamel: “Stop educating the fish! Stop tapping the tank!,” but after an hour of poker with these guys, it was pretty clear no one ever listens, as that grumpy villain always tells me. Yet looking back now, months later, I see that I overreacted. I’m always changing and if these guys want to play a strange version of small ball, who is to stop them? I mean, who, in all of Red Chip, limps more often than me these days? My mind has been opened more fully to the possibilities of winning poker.
In any case, I’d soon slide over to a much more intense gathering of players, including The Soto, Fausto, Luka, Sacha, Chip et al, but more importantly, also have the fun of playing in the mixed game table, where they would let this limit fish escape with a sick 4/8 win rate, "crushing" the table (you'd think most poker players worked in quarries) for $30/hr in a clearly sustainable and environmentally friendly fashion (so much less CO2 created in relaxing). I met yet more players, even ones who read this boutique blog. We had fun. The Red Chip founders had thrown a great party for everyone.
For you NL specialists: live a little. Mixed games are great and social and move quickly: no long pauses and even less long faces. It was here that I took part in the first public spread of Drawmaha, Doug Hull's clever combination of Omaha and Badugi! It is great and fun but needs a low qualifier in order to grow. The split pot to scooped pot ratio is far too high and kills most of the reward of attempting to execute its strategy.
Meanwhile, though, being left to my thoughts was not enough for The Beef. His endless antsyness shook the heavy table. His jokes exploded like sweet cream pies and rotten eggs. He showed us his MMA fights, his film biography, and god knows what else. I’m sure he would have belly danced if he thought the moment was right; I was sure he was about to climb onto the table at one point. However, there’s only so much half-feigned interest an actor actually requires to keep him contented and on track to whatever it is he wants- and does not, for all his expansiveness, usually reveal.
Les acteurs ne sont pas des gens, Lacenaire nous a dit.
What the Beef needed (as do we all), however, was not so complicated and all too des gens: it was some Bun. So he stopped looking at himself, and fired up Tinder.
For the next hour The Beef proceeded to take me on a social media tour of LV’s most desperate and available ladies. The Beef is one of those people who constantly demands your opinion but it's not clear he listens to the answer because he's already on the next question. It's not a bad conversational strategy and a big part of positivity culture. In any case, I knew I would be able to keep my opinions mostly to myself and enjoy the enthusiastic and surprisingly expert survey.
The Beef knows the game. His audition for the Virgil of Tinder might get him a callback.
However, what struck me most, through our afternoon at the virtual partnering zoo, was the comparative Sexual Market Value of The Beef versus a mostly rather motley crew of “Ladies.” While he, delighted, started getting some replies, unsurprisingly, I reflected on the nature of men and women. Though the Beef sought out the transaction, as we all do, what was it that he needed? And why were these young (well, most of them) women, probably on their nth broken affair, unable to understand the laws of the relationship market and sex and death, interested in the latest grinner?
Why does no one ever learn? (I mean, I'm not saying I ever learn, either.)
Perhaps another time. For now, just keeping up with the Beef 's mattress quest requires significant attention, and I'm supposed to be playing poker and socializing. He was triangulating some hook ups on the app already, glowing like hotspots on a police precinct map. To get there, I watched him swipe through hundreds of women: the thin, the fat, the young, the old, the blonde, the dark, the eager, the resentful, the pretty, the ugly. What did they want?
What all women want: To be desired.
The Beef was playing his role in the equation. He was generous but that was not the point. He was there for them but that was not the point. What did he want, whether he knows it or not?
What all men want: To be loved.
Sex is the transaction, but not the parlay. Everyone wants the transaction, obviously, because the transaction is the most basic form of love... and it can explain everything.
It’s the GTO baseline.
When Fausto raises his draws on A54, I am not incentivized to slowplay, but the response bet sizing is crucial. A pedestrian reraise this deep provides no punishment for this pest of a player, especially in position. I need a big, Beefy raise, something that will get a jaded raccoon eyed harlot’s attention. So here I am in a limped pot, sticking in over 60 bbs on the flop.
The Soto, master of $5pkrclub ceremonies, having incited his aggressive protege to now open limp, of all things, looks on, amused at his work. Comfortable in the dark and cozy Nugget, with its distinct echos of East Coast unpretentiousness and grit, he placidly looks on: The Soto has more than a taste for mayhem.
I can tell Fausto doesn’t expect my action at all. He leans back slightly and takes a breath, then sits up in his chair to reasses. I’m sure he’s used to being the one with the lead in this spot, and moreover, taking it when it wants it. Perhaps he is also used to smaller bet sizing from his opponents. He looks ever so slightly regretful. As it happens, the bet/three bet is a big part of my game. The reason for this is it essential to me that I follow what I call a Hard Strategy, if I can. I am not looking for a safe card when I have the distinct upper hand. I want to claim equity and never allow my opponent to do the pricing for me, if possible. I also often have a plan for my hand on the flop, and will get us straight to showdown or evade it with action rather than take a lazy cul-de-sac through the turn. Obviously not every situation will be so clear, if not entirely favorable. Here, I’d rather not have two pair, but a set, as its equity is so sweet and so easily improved to a 100% score - equity nine out of ten Tinder users prefer.
I haven’t played with Fausto until tonight, our second $5pkrclb meeting at the GN. I know him through the forums, of course, but that is no substitute for the real animal. My initial read he is a little wild, a true Danger Bunny. I can see after a few orbits together, both by his posture and his hungry expression, he does not give up easily. He is not pinched or looking for easy ways out. He is no beta hold'em player, full of excuses and ready to put the chips in once the game is over. I will discover that he is the strongest of the Red Chip subscribers I have so far met in person, but in a wrinkle that will help me, is as much of an improviser as he is planner, and will sometimes veer off course late in hands or as complicated action develops.
I’m not sure how he will respond in this, our first significant clash, but if he has what I think he has -96hh, 87hh, 86hh, 76hh, and 63hh- I doubt he will give up. I hold the Ace of hearts, but at the time, and a possible mistake, I may have overestimated just how much he was willing to gamble on a naked flush. The six is the key, as he will have either a straight draw or a backdoor straight draw with his flush draw. I really don’t want to see a heart on the turn, and I will give up on one, and on an 8 as well, as 76hh makes the most sense of all his hands and fills his range the best.
An offsuit deuce would be the hardest card in the deck for me to deal with.
How about a nice four of spades? How about the Jack of Marshmallows?
Fausto collects himself. He's back on top of the situation.
He calls. It's the right play, having arrived here and in position. The dealer knocks the table.
I will counter Fausto fairly well in the days to come. In one key pot I induce a painful five bet spazz from his 108 while I hold KK- like I wrote, he lets it ride. I will value bet him with ace high.
Fausto, though, makes adjustments. He does not fall for three spots I set up for him, one with a min bet lead, which he raises, not going for the level; nor does he pay me off again when I value bet him right after the Ace high ownage. One time I snap check a flush on the river to induce him. However, this last play is the least well thought out, because I have or had already learned something about Fausto’s game, and although I will not discuss it here, I know for certain why this last maneuver was not the right one.
The turn brings the card of confusion, the worst one for the clarity of my plan – that offsuit deuce. It's only faintly poisonous, with a deceptively sweet profile to linger on; I can't see its little Chinese tattoo promising me something troublesome. Now, a one liner to a straight is often an action killer, but because I have made up in my mind what he potentially has, I view it as a possible false scare card. He has to have one combination in the entire deck, as played – the six three of hearts – for the action to make any sense and for me to beaten. He can't have A3hh, remember. He never has a naked straight draw. We've got him on just a three or four hands.
There are still 250 more big blinds or so to play for, and as I am ahead of the range I give him. I will go for the throat. I expect him, even facing the turn lead, to move all in with all of his range – it fits his profile perfectly. (In fact, he will confirm this later.)
I make it $200 even -100 bbs- to go, a big, three quarter pot bet that forces the issue. There is no going back. If I check, I slip into Soft Strategy, which isn't the worst thing, and will surrender rather than bluff catch, respecting the board and allowing him, conservatively, to use it against me.
Fausto reaches for chips.
There are other ways to create what you want when you know a player’s tendencies and plans. Fausto and I will later that week spar in a pot where I squeeze the field of limpers – Fausto has coincidentally open limped in this spot and the formation is almost exactly the same. My holding is JJ, a natural raise.
Despite a large sizing, I pick up the entire field. The flop comes J98 two suits, or something very close. It’s a wet board and not one that favors my range particularly. I am not going to cbet here with any of my hands. Fausto, however, does not take the lead, and the field checks around.
The turn is a six, and now I check again. With the field having checked, Fausto will deduce no one is nutted or had a draw that could steal, easily, in position.
Now he takes the bait and puts in the bet. Everyone folds.
I raise. Having checked twice. It’s hard for me to have anything, in the way that most players think about the game. Although the board has gotten worse for me, the idea that Fausto will not lead significant equity on the flop, having been given the keys, gives me confidence that he is unlikely to be nutted. I can improve if somehow wrong.
Fausto raises the J986 board.
Fausto ships the A542 board.
I get all the money in.
When the river comes a nine after Fausto calls my all-in, he fastrolls A9, expecting to win on a freak card. Not so fast, Fausto.
When the river comes a five, Fausto fastrolls his hand, hoping he’s still ahead and looking straight at me. Not the right board pair, alas. I nod at his 63 of hearts in the poker sign language: you win this time.
Life is a continuum, and so what we most like, naturally, is continuity. It brings us confidence. It makes women irreproachable and men irresistible, because it shows belonging and having been loved.
We are meaty, dying creatures but our themes are eternal and abstract. We have one foot in another realm. I realize now that it’s not enough to see the broken up parts, the jigsaw pieces, but to understand the full human in his or her themes, just as when we understand the nature of our game, no limit hold'em, only when we see the full possibilities and get away from static conceptions. No limit.
I take my loss, and my win, satisfied.
And next as well: Gargamel Crashes (Vegas)!