Low stakes live casino poker is often filled with LOL’s.  Sometimes people playing micro stakes or freerolls online are critical of the “level of play” shall we say, and when particularly silly play takes place they may even refer to it as “not real poker”.   Whatever that means.  Usually the speaker means players going all in preflop with trash or making ridiculous plays isn’t “real” and if it were for real money that the play would be more in line with “good poker”.

I’ve always been mystified at the notion that people want to play against opponents who make fewer mistakes, and smaller mistakes, rather than against those who would routinely make gross mistakes and thus provide the largest edges.  I suppose I do get it on one level… psychologically it’s frustrating/tilting/crushing to have your KK cracked by 95o or see a short stack survive in a tourney because someone folds to them despite getting ridiculous odds to call.  But this type of Tom Foolery isn’t exclusive to play money, freerolls, or .10c buy ins.

If you’re wondering where I’m going with all this, I played a live session last Friday night at the local casino near my house that had me thinking about it.  I thought I’d share with you a few of the highlights for your amusement.

The stakes were $1-$2 blind NLHE (the only stakes being spread in this small local casino room).  Most stacks at the table range from between $100-$600.  Max buy in is 100bb’s or $200.  No one at this table was particularly good… there were a couple tight, nitty players, a young kid who was playing semi-LAGgy and on tilt half the time (more on that shortly), and the rest were fish of some variety or another.  Err, sorry, recreational players.  Be kinder to the splashers. 

I mentioned young kid was tilty.  This is the kind of player who has some skills, but is raw and unrefined.  He knows more than the avg rec player for sure, but his lack of emotional control often brings him down.  I see in this kid a player who has a ton of potential, a player who with a lot of hard work could be a great poker player, but it’s potential that will never be realized until he gains emotional control.  At any rate, his source of tilt this day was a player across the table I’ll call Rec1.  Rec1 was playing almost every hand (you stat people, think VPIP 80%, the guy was playing something like 80/15 I’d say).  His issue with Rec1 was that every time he raised, Rec1 called.  Then he would continuation bet on the flop basically all the time, and Rec1 would call.   Invariably he’d have missed the flop and just couldn’t shake the guy.   When it would tilt him, he’d start ranting (sometimes under his breath, sometimes not so under his breath) about Rec1 is just going to call him every single time, every single bet, no matter what.  Yes I’m keeping it clean for the blog, I’m sure you can imagine how it really sounded from a tilty young gun. 

So here’s a bit of the awesomeness of Friday night live poker:

1.  Young kid raises, gets called by Rec1 as described above, check/folds the turn to Rec1 and complains vocally about the guy calling every single bet he makes.  The very next hand he raises again to 16, Rec1 calls, and on the flop he says “call this” and moves all in for about $150.  lol  Rec1 does fold this time.

2.  There’s a raise to $7 and 5 players take the flop.  Rec2 leads for $15 on a flop of Q75 with 2 hearts.  Rec3 who is short stacked calls, everyone else folds.  There is $65 in the pot.  The turn is an offsuit deuce.  Rec2 bets $50.  Rec3 goes all in for $70 total.  Rec2 has to call $20 more into a pot of $185, and folds getting 9-1 on his money.  But wait, it gets better… Rec2 turns over a Q first and then folds.  I guess $20 to win $185 isn’t enticing when you have top pair? 

3.  Young kid raises to $12, gets called by a tight/nit and all 3 recs.  The flop comes J52 rainbow.  Young kid continuation bets $25.  Rec1 raises to $65,  Rec2 raises all in for $150 total.  Young kid goes into a mini-rant about how unbelievable it is these guys being so lucky, shows our side of the table QQ and folds.  Rec1 snap calls the all in.  The board runs out with low cards and both players table AJ to chop the pot, sending young kid into an emotional downwards spiral yet again.

4.  Right after the hand in #3, young kid raises all in preflop for about $100.  Everyone folds and he wins the $3 in blinds.

5.  Several big pots get played between variations of Recs 1, 2, 3, and 4… there are a lot of draws and 1 pair hands involved.  Overpairs to the boards are the nuts playable for any amount of money facing any amount of action.  Top pair too, except apparently if getting 9-1 on a call.

6. Young kid raises to $7 from UTG and gets 3 callers.  Flop and turn check around.  On the river Young kid bets $60 into the $28 pot on a board of QJ937.  Everyone folds and young kid proudly throws 86o face up onto the board.

7. Young kid has another “Rec1 is going to call every bet I make” tilt rant incident when his aggressive bluff fails and he has to check/fold to a small river bet from Rec1 after raising pre and firing 2 streets.  The very next hand I’m dealt 88 UTG and limp in for $2.  Young kids slams his entire stack across the betting line (about $80 or so), everyone folds back to me and since I know he’s tilting hard I figure overpairs to 88 are a relatively small part of his range, I’m happy to gamble with him.  I call.   The board runs out T9742 and he says “1 pair”.  Me too I say, but I called him so he’s compelled to show his hand first.  In a somewhat flustered manner he tables 73o and I stack him.  He rebuys $100 but doesn’t play another hand, declaring “xxxx this xxxx” and picking up his newly purchased stack of $5 chips, storms off into the night.  In light of the fact it was his 4th such purchase since I’d arrived in the game, I’d say he just made his best decision of the evening.

This is just a sampling of my evening, I hope you enjoyed reading along.  This was not for play money, not a freeroll, not a $1 buy in MTT online… no, this was “real poker” at it’s finest.  I’m not saying every single low stakes live game is quite as good as this one, but I am probably saying if you take a seat in a $1-$2 blind game and don’t find it to be a very good table in the first 30 minutes, ask for a table change… you are probably at the worst table in the house. 

Whether playing live or online, whatever the stakes, don’t be like the young kid who tilts at every bit of insanity done by other players. Understand there will be variance and move on, adjusting to take advantage of the situation and not letting the situation take advantage of you.  Be the player who stays emotionally centered, focus on making the best decisions you can in the moment, and you’ll be poised to take advantage of the opportunities that come your way.