Manufacturing hands at the poker table
July 19th, 2012 by Chris Humpherys
On slow nights at the poker table, you sometimes have to create your own luck.
After a frenzied night of tending bar in one of South Tampa’s finer establishments, I walked into the Seminole Hard Rock with a little financial cushion to throw down on some No Limit Texas Hold ‘Em. However, I sat at the table of choice for the better part of three hours without literally having anything better to play than A-J suited pre-flop. Not a single pocket pair, no ace and higher, nothing of the sort. Like I said, slow night, yet I still managed to come out ahead.
It didn’t take long for me to ascertain the relatively, conservative make-up of the table. With no monster stacks and no aggressive raisers, it wasn’t long before I decided to test the waters. It was either that or sit there all night like a bump on a log with blind after valuable blind eroding my chip stack. I decided to take a shot on a couple of hands that were playable under the circumstances. Note: before you go trying this at home, there are a few things you should consider before adopting this sort of table behavior.
First, know what the hell you’re doing, always good advice at a poker table, but particularly when you’re entering hands with the odds stacked against you. Be aware of how much you’re willing to risk, or more appropriately, lose.
Second, understand who you’re playing against. Their chip stacks need draw your attention. How passive or aggressive have they been playing, and how do they perceive your play? If you haven’t played a hand in thirty minutes, then all of a sudden throw out a healthy raise, those who have been paying attention are going to put you on a hand, whether you’re holding one or not.
If you’re at a passive table, where everyone is consistently checking around, there’s no reason not to play suited connectors or far worse if you’re in a position to do so. Ultimately, when you show a winning hand, particularly one you had no business playing in the first place, you can establish a reputation at the table for playing any two cards. People will think twice before messing with you and that will work to your advantage. Make them pay for allowing you to play.
That’s exactly what happened the other night. After a good hour of being dealt an array of mismatched jacks and fours, I decided to stay in one hand with a three and nine of hearts, for no reason other than to have some action. It’s a hand I would never normally play.
A few players checked in front of me allowing me to limp in for only the blinds. Their mistake.
The flop brought two hearts, a great flop for me but still no guarantee considering the best I could land was a nine high flush. I threw a healthy bet into the middle of the table just to test the waters. Nothing extensive, I just wanted to see what was out there. Again, even four to a flush, with such low cards, I’m susceptible to losing a nice chunk of change to a higher flush if I decide to chase it.
No heart fell on fourth street but I kept up with the betting. Only one person called this time, the gentleman to my immediate right.
The river came and much to my elation, a heart hit, but again, no guarantees. My opponent immediately threw fifty dollars at the pot, making me think. Was he trying to buy it? He was clearly representing a higher flush than mine, but had he played that way throughout? I had the chips to burn and ultimately determined his play wasn’t consistent with that of holding a flush, so I called, and he mucked his hand. I was the big winner at the casino.
It was at that point that I made sure to show the entire table my pocket three nine. It raised eyebrows. And sometimes that’s all it takes. Even though I legitimately won the hand with a flush, it’s still not a hand anyone would play.
From there on out, my opponents knew I would play any two cards, which I generally don’t unless the need arises, but they don’t need to know that. Just be careful to use that reputation wisely once you’ve established it. Otherwise, there’s no need playing that three-nine in the first place. Other pots can be won as a result if you, ahem… play your cards right.
Such are the dangers of poker. Of course, it’ll probably be another year before I play two hole cards like that again, although maybe not if I find another passive table on which to prey.