The long, slow downswing, against which, like the cancer it has been, I diagnosed, summarized, and prescribed some low stakes immersion therapy, was in part brought on by a lack of hours of $5 games at the Village. My absence, however, has had other effects besides a deleterious one for my bank balance. It turns out I’m mostly an unknown on Friday when I play the small game at the Village for the first time in a long while. The army of plump software immigrants that refresh the games with novice, loose money have no idea I’ve pulled a salary out of these games over the past few years, and why should they? I’m dumpily dressed, unshaven, and wearing yet another silly hat. (I’m even short stacking it tonight, ridiculously and at the request of a member of the Coven, but that is another story.) I’m just one donk among many, chillin’ with twenty five bigs, while I watch my name move up the list to the deeper 5/5.
I’m glad I’m feeling optimistic, because everything is a wreck. I left my apartment in a state of disaster. It seems barely worth cleaning. My subletter burned up the absurdly expensive bulb in my projector in an orgy of gaming and its replacement immediately crashed. I was looking at my favorite hoodie the other day and noticed that the right arm not only was worn, but a hole had developed- yet in my mind, for months, it’s been a little too formal to wear. My bicycle has been fully stripped- they even took the handgrips, those barbarians. They weren’t satisfied with my motorcycle helmet, so they ripped the whole trunk right off the frame, stupidly leaving behind the bracket that secures it. The druggies used their fingernails to take the seal off of a window in a very pathetic break in attempt that failed- but left my poor car looking like it’s lost a tooth; I feel very sorry for her and wish I could afford to fix the wound. Some driving fish cracked the rear light in the apartment garage (they drive extremely poorly in this city and I guess it starts at home!) Speaking of, the managers won’t even return my calls, happy in their little cozy life of babies and irresponsibility and free rent, but they smile blithely when I see them, shamelessly. They can’t do simple accounting and I today get a stern reminder that my rent is due- a week after I put the check in their inbox. I look, humorlessly, at the bank’s online record of it, cashed days ago, to confirm. I'm not even going to bother to prove it but will instead let them figure it out. Hopefully the chop shop needs some Volvo parts; the managers do like to leave the garage door open on occasion and their vehicle is so nice and family friendly.
So all in all, I have been out of touch for a while, methinks: no one has been running this show while I travelled and meandered and wrote. That’s what I am changing.
Gargamel, too, has been struggling. He’s well up this year because of some big, sweet nights, but the wins themselves have in fact been scant, something that's going to bother someone who cares deeply about streaks and records. Tonight, once I tire of my short stack experiment, I follow him to the bigger game, where I notice a strange attitude around what should be the storm cloud of his presence: a lack of the fear of Gargamel.
All the classic bluster is there. He berates the fish, complains about how he’s running, snarks and snarls, but everyone seems alright with it. Achilles openly mocks his apparently tight range. It’s as if a vicious dog has been put on a stern leash and everyone is curious to finally see it up close without fear of getting bit.
Losing makes you a gelding. Poker is all about the results, baby. No one cares about your opinion, no one cares who you are or what you look like. It’s the American way on a spongy table. Put up or shut up. If I know what I need to do to make improvements, if I have to work on my life, my appearance, and my hours, what can Gargamel work on? One thing that he seems to suffer from is overplay. I observe two related hands that came up which point to a flaw he and other TAGs can reconsider, including the TAG’s Dilemma, and hopefully put some bite back into that bark.
The first is just a prelude, but an important one. Gargamel opens, maybe a bit more than 100 bbs effective with a bad image to 5x, probably too small on account of his image with something in the middle of his range. I like the open with deeper stacks, but it is dubious in this game. As Limon likes to say, these are Hard Men. They are here to gamble. They do not care what you have or what you are “repping.” “Repping” is indigenous Canadian hip hop to them. So, early position in a maniacal ring game is the death position. It’s where you sit down in an electric chair on a dare.
On a paired board he leads into three players. I don’t like this. Continuation betting is a science and an art, and when you bet into three or four people, you are ignoring too many factors and relying on image… yet Gargamel’s image is, as I described, shot. Cbetting into two people should be pretty much the maximum number of opponents with shorter stacks and SPR 4-5. There’s just no way to make this work four way, and if you do “have it” you can see that the money can go in on the turn and river any way.
So Gargamel, excellent player that he is, ends up correctly throwing away a big made hand but never had to burn up the cbet in the first place. This is a good segue in to a truly important hand to think about.
Winning big and feeling good, the Koala opens small from up front. He’s no Banker, and his sizing is unbalanced. He picks up a fish and the brave but loose Grasshopper, and Gargamel sees KQcc on the button.
Gargamel has some options to consider. First off, we know the Koala is weak, so we can raise any two napkins and show a profit when he folds. Secondly, we can flat in position with an extremely good hand. Third, we don’t know what the Fish and the Grasshopper are going to do, even though folding is probable.
Because we can raise any two profitably it may seem on the surface that that’s what we should do. After all, that’s how I used to play: squeeze monkey style. However, as I understand the game more deeply I see now that I was wrong. We can’t autoraise because over the long haul we use our range incorrectly. This ends up mattering, and I will show you why.
All our hands are pieces of equity, from 27 to AA. They have potential value, and we want to play that potential value as well as possible. So when we turn certain hands into fake AA (the squeeze) we either embrace or ruin the potential value of what that hand is best for. Our piece of equity is put in the right or wrong spot.
Gargamel raises large, putting on the squeeze from the button. It’s just a color and a shape difference, but this is so much better a play with KQo. Not only is he making responsible use of his blockers, he’s taking a marginal hand that has high top pair equity to a low spr situation should his opponents want to continue. Conversely, KQo doesn’t want to play a four way pot, which is what calling would accomplish.
KQcc is not the same hand. Its equity is similar to KQo, but its expected value is so much higher. Gargamel can overflush someone and in general play postflop so much better with this hand. He can bluff more confidently and maneuver the pot- in position, no less. By turning KQcc into KQo, he is misusing his range- and that has consequences.
The Koala folds but the Hard Men are having none of it. Both the Fish and the Grasshopper flat, and now Gargamel is in a bad spot. He’s got about 500 back in a three way, $380 pot.
Flop is a low 234, one club. The Fish and the Grasshopper both check.
Gargamel elects to bet. He has a backdoor draw and two overs. It’s thin, but the TAG’s Dilemma has smacked him in the face. He is repping very heavily and will now become trapped by the situation he created by electing to use his image so fiercely preflop. The TAG, in other words, often and paradoxically suffers from his top heavy range played so aggressively that it misuses his equity vis-à-vis position and holding.
The problem is, he’s up against guys who double flatted pre, and are going to like this board. Yes, they have some J10s that will give up, but what they really rate to have, especially the Grasshopper, are pocket pairs they can’t let go of. Fish in particular will have or misplayed Axs-AQs hands that have gutters and backdoors. So when Gargamel continues, his fold equity is not what he thinks it is. It’s a desperate cbet into two people. It’s the TAG’s Dilemma in action.
This flop is a check, so why did he bet besides desperation? Because of that one club on the flop. Because he turned a postflop hand (KQs) into a three bet hand (KQo), he’s using deepstack principles at exactly the wrong time, the opposite time, and now becomes a slave to his equity and preflop action. You see this in forums, where, taught, not entirely incorrectly, to monkey bet, relatively competent players are searching for all sorts of reasons to simply wager, rather than using the intersection of their holding, position, and board in a unified manner.
Fish shoves, and Grasshopper rips it in. Gargamel has to call something like 300 to win 1500 and is forced to go with his overs. Nasty.
Having arrived here, if you care for such things, the flop is a check. Gargamel can pick up backdoor equity or a pair in spot he should not get folds. If he has KQo, as he should, he can bet/fold or check, and never become a victim of his holding. KQo, which should show up here, never has to go broke, and maybe Gargamel’s stock at the Village doesn’t have to continue to plummet.
This is why you create your range for the right spots. If we could rewind the hand, Gargamel flats pre, folds to the Grasshopper’s raise (I think the Fish leads after the Koala checks), and lives to fight for another pot a few minutes later.
Poker’s tough and the Coven is on the defensive. The Persuadeo & Gargamel show has seen better days. 100’ Hose is getting into some funky shortstack-Ninja stuff with interesting results. The Confector dances to his own unfathomable tune.
Things will turn around, of course. Even if it’s been tougher for him on a daily basis, I think Gargamel is on an eighteen month winning streak, so let’s not get all weepy on his account. However, the old team is going to have to play their best to get out of the Twilight and back into the Sun. Smart range choices that other low stakes grinders are still miles behind on are one way forward.