by Russ Fox
Yes, I’m alive. For those wondering why I haven’t penned more articles, I have been busy with a move from Southern California to Las Vegas.
But in the middle of my move I found some time for watching the Bears lose while playing poker $2-$5 nolimit hold’em. It was a quiet game (sort of like the Bears offense), and I was either up a few dollars or down a few dollars. Then John sat down.
It was an hour before noon, but John carried two open beers and smelled of alcohol. While at the table, he disposed of five more Coors Lights (my brother, a beer drinker, says that shows bad taste) and a couple of mixed drinks. We also got some poker in.
After I folded under-the-gun, a player raised to $20. John called without looking at his cards. Three more players joined the action and saw a Qd-10s-2h flop. The pre-flop raiser bet $75, John called—he still hadn’t looked at his cards—and one other player called. The turn was the 8c. The pre-flop raiser went all-in for about $170, John called, and the other player folded. The pre-flop raiser proudly displayed his pocket tens as the dealer flipped over the 9d on the river. John finally looked at his cards and flipped over Jh-3d for the winning straight. John had put one player on tilt.
The unlucky player on that first hand began to spew. He had re-bought for $300, and moved all-in with J-J against John before the flop. Unfortunately, John after calling discovered he had A-A! Mr. Bad Luck went through two more re-buys, including making a horrendous call with 6d-5d on a board of Qc-8c-7h-4c-9c (I had the nut flush on the turn). It’s always nice to see opponents drawing dead and getting there.
After four hands John was up at least $1,500. Unfortunately for him, he continued to play without looking at his cards. While the cards you hold are just one factor in how you play and bet, observant opponents, or even non-observant opponents in this case, quickly realized in this situation that John’s cards were truly random.
John lost his winnings and his buy-in and rebought. His decisions came slower and slower as he became more and more inebriated. His final hand came against me, when I re-raised all-in with 10d-10h against his As-3c. It looked like I was going to double him up when the flop was ace-high, but a river ten had him reaching for his wallet. That was when the floor told him that he needed to take a break.
There are a couple of interesting lessons from this. First, when you’re up against someone who plays almost every hand, your variance will increase drastically. The game may become quite profitable, but it’s also possible that you will lose a substantial amount. If you’re not comfortable in such a game, just get up from the table or ask for a table change. We play poker to win money, and if a game isn’t right for you, take action.
Second, in games with individuals like this you tend to see several players calling before the flop in hopes of hitting something. If you have a big overpair, it’s almost always right to re-raise much larger than normal to make sure you can get heads-up with the inebriated individual. Of course, the most important lesson is the most obvious one: Playing drunk is an excellent way for other players to profit at your expense.
Russell Fox is the co-author of “Mastering No-Limit Hold’em,” “Why You Lose at Poker,” and “Winning Strategies for No-Limit Hold’em.” He’s a federally licensed tax preparer specializing in gambling, with a blog at taxabletalk.com. E-mail Russ at firstname.lastname@example.org