Poker Essays

Fattening Sheep For the Slaughter
By March 2006

The other day I was sitting at a short handed 6 person poker table. The game had been fairly conservative and with only 3 of us there no real pots were developing and no betting of any value was taking place.

To clarify, ever since the other 3 players had left their seats, and their money on the table, our biggest preflop action had been a raise of 2 big blinds. That was never followed with anything substantial betting during the live hand. Maybe a 1/3 to a pot bet and those weren't usually called.

It seems as though everyone at the table was too used to easy money and didn't want to take chances anymore. In other words the game had entirely dried up.

Someone who had been losing earlier sat back down and immediately raised preflop, it was obvious that everyone at the table was thinking the same thing - here's a nice snack.

As was expected this player quickly depleted his stack. What options were there?

One conceivably profitable strategy would have been to start playing looser. This could be done by either raising more preflop and trying to pick up blinds, or by limping in more frequently and stealing the pots on the flop. Or by calling preflop and stealing it on the flop regardless of the board. Although this was an idea worth toying with, the fact that the other 2 players were decent meant that it wouldn't work. They would recognize what was going on within 3 or 4 hands and take back any earnings on the following hands.

Without much action on any other tables it seemed that the best idea was to try to rattle this game up a bit. I realized the wild card was right beside me. The next hand that the player raised, I decide to flat call all the way to the river with ace high.

I lost. Did I expect to win? No. Was calling his all in on the river with nothing other than an Ace-high in Omaha a sane and rational, and more importantly profitable decision? Yes.

In most situations it wouldn't be advisable to give a loser at your table money. The four simplest outcomes to consider are as follows:

1) The short chip stack is delighted at doubling up and leaves with the money. This is bad.

2) The short stack uses that money and doubles up off of you successively through a string of lucky breaks. This is the worst case scenario, and most unlikely, not really of concern.

3) One of the two other players takes down the short stack and you have given a good player some money and probably won't get it back. This is worse than situation 1.

4) You take the player down and get your money plus his back. This is a decent outcome.

So with those possibility branches dealt with, and only of them being anywhere near profitable what else is there to shoot for? The answer is the good players' stacks.

They have just seen you call on the river with Ace high, the board didn't have obvious draws so they can't assume it was a value call or an information call. There are now in their opinions two reckless players at the table. That's what poker is about, giving people the wrong opinion of what you are holding and how you are angling.

To top it off they aren't going to try to bluff you, they will probably also limp in with strong starting hands instead of wasting money on preflop raises that won't limit the field.

The short stack is going to be thinking that money is easy to come by at the table due to his amazing last hand and will probably be throwing bets in every direction, without a high draw it is unlikely that one of the other two players will call him because of the added factor of your sloppy calling.

Ideally one of the other players limps in with a high starting hand and makes trips or two pair against your straight. They may let the short stack bet for them even though it will be for less than they should be betting and this can give you better than expected odds while you draw.

The important thing is that you appeared to change into a looser geared game when in reality that was a bluff and now you are waiting for them to slip up. When the time comes you will need to take position into account for betting, don't let them draw for free if you are on the button and hit something, bet it, because they shouldn't believe you.

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