This is a column devoted to making money in low limit holdem, popularly referred to as No Foldem. This author does not claim to be an expert poker player. He is a legend only in his dog’s mind.
When we lived in Virginia, my wife and I once kenneled a dog for the first time with an old dog trainer. Now this dog was like my wife’s child. It had reached the age of five without every being kenneled. Like any mother, my wife expressed her concerns for the dog to the trainer. After listening politely for a few minutes, the trainer said in a gentle southern way, “Ma’ am are you training the dog or is the dog training you?”
Anyone who has every played low limit holdem has witnessed this scene. A player lecturing another player who just beat him, how the player who just won should never have been in the pot. To the player raking in the chips, this of course seems like utter nonsense. If I get such a lecture from a player, I usually tell him or her that I skipped that chapter in the book.
Instead of wasting time lecturing a player about pot odds, these “book” players should ask themselves the question, who is training who?
More often than not, low limit game $3-$6 games are fairly passive with little pre-flop rising. Most of the time players can see the flop for $3. In these types of games, a pattern develops with six or more players paying to see the flop. Then they start to drop out until two or three are left. Rarely will one person win on the end by other people folding.
In a $3-$6 game with six initial players and one player dropping out after each betting round, the total pot usually will be $71 after a $4 dollar rake assuming only one bet at each round. If that is the case, then a player only needs to hit a winner on the flop every 23 times to breakeven on an initial $3 bet. If a player pays another $3 to see the turn, the player only need to develop a winning hand on the turn once every 12 times.
Certainly, after the flop or turn the player may have to pay in more to see the river. But if the players throw away the real junk and stick with hands that have a chance to be a winner, even if it requires runner-runner, such players will hold there own at least in the short run. The table is training them that it is ok to play this way. If they happen to catch some cards, they will start to have a big stack of chips in front. This encourages these players all the more and starts a low boil in the “book” players.
Of course part of the answer to such players is to make them pay for the opportunity to chase those runner-runners. But the other complaint one hears from “book” players is that you can’t get anyone to fold in low limit holdem. Some subscribe to the theory that there is no point in raising even with premium hands. If you are convinced of this, ask yourself who is training whom?
Think about it from the prospective of a typical low limit player who chases too many hands. They aren’t thinking about how the pot odds have just changed because a “book” player raised preflop. Certainly they would rather see the flop for one bet, but they can usually still anticipate getting to the turn or river for minimal bets. After all, the only guaranteed raise opportunity in holdem is preflop. Players can’t raise themselves.
So if you’re a “book” player in a low limit, no foldem ligaz11 game, here is some advice: Keep betting your premium hands; just don’t fall in love with them. Holdem simulation of every player staying through to the river shows premium starting hands such as big pairs will win 25-33% of the time. With those odds, there is nothing better than getting six people calling your raises when you have aces.
On the other hand, if the flop misses your hand completely, be ready to abandon ship. Too often I have watched “book” players muck hand after hand waiting for the real premium hands. You can tell they are priding themselves on their discipline and looking down their noise at their wild and wooly compatriots.
They finally get that pair of aces and view it as their just reward for mucking so many hands. By this time it doesn’t matter if the flop shows a pair, straight or flush draw, they have almost a fatalistic desire to play their aces to the end. It is like they can’t believe the poker gods have conspired against them to deliver one more bad beat. Often they pay off the winner when they have the third best hand. Who is the sucker now?
The only revenge for getting rivered is rivering someone else. A “book” player needs to remember that in almost every discussion of starting hand standards is the caveat that players need to adjust them for game conditions. Part of the reason these books set higher standard for early position hands is the risk of paying too much to see a flop with a hand that needs a lot of help. If a table has fallen into a pattern of letting players see the flop cheaply that risk is taken away. Hands the books tell you are only playable in late positions become playable in early positions, particularly if they have the chance to be a big hand.
So if you have a premium hand in a low limit game and you know you just got beat; don’t pay off just to see another bad beat so you can lecture the player who caught runner-runner. Instead, use that money to see a few more flops and lace up your track shoes.