April 03, 2012
"In my club, I will splash the pot whenever the fuck I please."
~Teddy KGB (John Malkovich), in Rounders
As my faithful readers are aware, I enjoy playing a little Pot Limit Gamboool (PLG) from time to time. In Vegas, the poker rooms at Aria and Venetian have been spreading fairly regular low stakes PLG games the past year and half or so, while the Pokerati half-n-half NLHE/PLG game has been rotating around several Vegas locales for at least three years (home base has been at the Palms for the past year or so). [FN1] During that time, I've managed some big scores (e.g., hitting both ends of a straight flush draw while running it twice for a monsterpotten at Venetian during IMOP-VI), and some memorable flameouts (e.g., getting felted by Orel Hersheiser's quad ducks at Aria during WPBT 2011). The PLG deities giveth, the PLG deities taketh away, praise be the PLG deities.
This past December I was in Vegas for the WPBT (for those of you unfamiliar with the WPBT, my 2010 tournament summary and trip report, and my 2011 food porn report should give you some flavor). On my last evening, after most of the WPBT crew had departed, I was playing a session of PLG at Aria. The game was playing deep and aggressive, so I played pretty tight and walked away with a triple up after about a three hour session. But the most interesting dynamics at the table didn't involve me at all.
When I sat down at the game, it took less than an orbit to figure out that three young guns were engaged in a full-fledged cock-measuring war (and not in the entertaining gay porn way). Each of the guys had over a thousand dollars behind, and there was a lot of jawing, taunting, and generalized verbal warfare. One of the guys was a know-it-all expert who critiqued every hand, refused to run it twice, and never acknowledged drawing out while always bitching about losing to a draw. Another of the guys was an uber-aggressive hoodie-n-shades player, who loved to mix it up and jaw with his opponents. Expert had gone on a mini-rush to build his stack to over $2,500, while Hoodie had a healthy stack over $1,000. Expert and Hoodie sparred back and forth, but generally avoided each other and made money by bullying the weaker players at the table.
Until "The Hand". It was probably inevitable that Expert and Hoodie would have an epic clash, given their styles of play. Still, one has to acknowledge the PLG deities have a pretty sick sense of humor. The Hand started innocuously enough. Preflop, action limped to Hoodie who raised the pot. There was a caller to Expert on the button, who reraised the pot (to ~$75 total); only Hoodie called. At this point, I felt Hoodie had a good hand, maybe a rundown hand like J-T-9-8 double suited, or a decent pair with straight and flush cards, like Q-Q-J-T with a suit. Expert could easily have been on a position steal, but he likely had a decent fallback hand, with some kind of bigger pair with straight or flush cards.
The flop came out Ks-Jd-5s. Hoodie checked, Expert bet pot (~$225), Hoodie called. So far, pretty standard. Expert might have anything from a set to pure air, while Hoodie might have straight and/or flush draws, maybe with top pair.
The turn brought the Th. Hoodie checked, Expert bet $400, and Hoodie moved all-in for roughly $600 more. Expert thought, groaned, and called. Hoodie asked if Expert wanted to run it twice. Expert waved his hand dismissively and barked, "I only run it once." Hoodie nodded, picked two cards out of his hand, and tabled them:
AsQs ... giving Hoodie the nut straight and nut flush redraw. Expert started carping about how Hoodie had "gotten so f@#$ing lucky," showing his KdKhXdXh for top set. Hoodie pointed out he had a big draw, which Expert dismissed. Expert said to the dealer, "Come on, give me some justice! Pair the f@#$ing board!"
And so the dealer did: Jh
"Justice!" shouted Expert.
"Quads," muttered Hoodie, rolling over his other two cards: JsJc
Expert stared at the board, looking like his puppy or his nuts had been kicked. The dealer counted down Hoodie's stack, and calmly stated, "$985 more." Expert muttered something profane under his breath, so the dealer began to reach forward to Expert's stacks to pull out the requisite chips. Expert snapped, "Don't touch my chips! I'll handle it!"
Then Expert deliberately counted out $85, breaking it down. He picked up the chips and flicked them forward into the pot, "splashing the pot". As the dealer scrambled to pull the chips out to verify the amount, Expert deliberately slid out a series of nine stacks of twenty $5 chips each. Instead of letting the dealer verify the stack size and slide the stacks to Hoodie, Expert deliberately picked up each stack and lobbed each of them forward into the pot, one at a time. Once Expert's tantrum was over, the dealer silently re-stacked the entire pot, re-worked all four streets of betting, verified the pot size, and slid the chips to Hoodie.
In a bit of poker justice, Expert went on super monkey tilt and burned through his remaining stack of about $1,000, plus another $3,000 in the next hour.
Moral of the story—Don't splash zee pot.
How could I not include the "splash zee pot" scene from Rounders?
[FN1] The Venetian PLG game has $1/$2 blinds, which are counted as $5 for pot-calculation purposes, with a $5 bring-in (if you call preflop, it's $5; first raise without a limp is to $15). The Aria PLG game has $1/$3 blinds, which are counted as $3 for preflop action, with post-flop action in $5 increments (first raise without a limp is to $12). The Aria game plays a bit smaller if there is a lot of preflop action, otherwise the games play pretty much the same. Buy-ins are $200-$500 at Aria, $200-$1,000 at Venetian. Overall, the skill level is a bit tougher at Venetian, but there are plenty of relatively novice players at both games. Dealers at both rooms generally are pretty knowledgeable and skilled at handling a pot limit game.
Both rooms also spread $2/$5 PLG on a fairly regular basis. However, the skill level and pot sizes in those games are not for the faint of heart or low of bankroll. As a rule of thumb, PLG plays twice as big as a NLHE game of the same blind structure. So, to play $1/$3 PLG, you should have a bankroll at least big enough to play $2/$5 NLHE. To play $2/$5 PLG, you should have a bankroll big enough to handle the swings at $5/$10 NLHE.