No Limit Hold’em – Reflections on a changing game

By | December 31, 2013

Over the past few days, I’ve used the Christmas break to pay two visits to the excellent Big Slick Poker Club in Purley, South East London.

Big Slick Poker

For any UK friends, if you haven’t visited the Big Slick, you really should. It’s one of the friendliest, least pretentious venues you could find, with a nightly No Limit tournament and lively cash games. For anyone requiring further amusement, there’s a bar, bar snacks, a pool table, fruit machine and a darts board.

Every Monday there is a popular deep stack tourney. Last night’s was a £4,000 guaranteed prize fund, £40 entry with re-buy. It attracted over 100 entrants, as well as 50 rebuys. You start with an awesome 25,000 chips (500 big blinds) and levels are 20 minutes throughout. It is a great structure.

Reflecting back on my two recent visits, the game really has changed tremendously over the past couple of years. When I first visited the Slick, around four years ago,  the average age was 40 plus; pre flop raises and post flop continuation bets garnered a lot of respect, and a tight aggressive style would see me and my friends on the final table more often than not.

It truly is a different game now. On my first table, three of my opponents looked barely out of school, and another four had the requisite hoodies, shades and studs that are so popular with loose aggressive (LAG) players. They played with the spirit and aggression that you might expect from a Tom Dwan or a Phil Galfond. As a tight player, I can rarely remember being three bet or raised on the flop quite so liberally, even in a drink fueled game in Vegas.

So how do you respond when your every raise gets 3-bet, and your every c-bet gets raised? It’s a topic I’ve been discussing with my poker friends, and I’ve also been re-reading Ed Miller  Playing the Player   which is a bit of a LAG bible. Some key pointers below, but first, here was a particularly difficult hand played in the second level last night.

Anna Kournikova

The blinds are 50/100 and my stack is still around 25,000. To my left are a lady player who is playing most pots at this stage (and that’s not necessarily a criticism – this is still deep stack, so time to speculate) and a young very loose aggressive player who has three bet me pre flop three times already. Both the lady and the young LAG have around 30,000 chips.

We are currently playing seven handed (the tables tend to fill up by the end of the first hour) and the action is folded round to me. I’ve been dealt Ace King of hearts – the so call ‘Anna Kournikova’ hand, for reasons I will explain later.  I put in a raise of 250. The lady and the young LAG both call and the blinds fold.



The flop comes down AJ7 rainbow giving me top pair on a relatively safe looking board. I fire a continuation bet of 600 into the 900 pot. The lady calls, and the young LAG quickly makes a large raise to 3,000.

I’m already in a quandary here. I could re-raise, but do I really want to build a massive pot with just top pair, top kicker? Against that, what could the young LAG be raising with? If he had a set of Jacks, he would surely have been re-raising pre flop. That leaves just AJ, A7 and a set of sevens as hands which are ahead of me.

I assume I am ahead, but elect to call and re-evaluate the turn. The lady calls as well, as she has been wont to do throughout the evening so far.

The turn comes a harmless looking 6, although there are now two diamonds on board. I elect to check, as does the lady, and the young LAG now fires a bet of 7,000 into the 10,000 pot. This feels like decision time. If I call, then I’ve invested over 40% of my stack already, and may be almost pot committed. I could shove, but then I’m likely only getting calls from hands that beat me. Plus I still have the lady to worry about.

The bottom line is that both my opponents are in the ‘any two cards’ category, and having been brought up on Dan Harrington   I can’t bring myself to risk 250 big blinds with just top pair. I therefore fold, the lady calls, and both players check a harmless river.

The lady turns over second pair, and the young LAG turns over A3 for a weak top pair.

So what do we make of this? I’m not sure how I view the lady’s play, but to my mind the young LAG took advantage of position, leverage and my TAG nature superbly. He forced the best hand to fold, because I wasn’t willing to play for stacks with a marginal holding. The unpredictable lady on my left made things even more difficult, bloating the pot, and being one more person who could draw out on me. So two questions:

–          Firstly, could I have played the hand differently? Having reflected, I think the mistake was the initial c-bet, which was red rag to a bull to the young LAG. A check call approach, whilst passive, would have enabled me to pot control, and given him rope to hang himself on.

–          Secondly, what wider implications do we draw from the hand? I would argue the following. As consistently said by Miller, tight aggressive play is much better suited to medium or shallow stacks than it is to deep stacks. In addition, the hands where you can win big with deep stacks tend to be the disguised hands (8-6 suited, small pairs  etc) rather than the Ace Kings or big pairs. As someone once said, Ace King is like Anna Kournikova. Looks pretty, wins nothing.

Happy new year

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Andy 'IggyPop77' Mack

About Andy 'IggyPop77' Mack

Andy's first love was chess. Three times a competitor in the British Championships, he has played regularly at international level, achieving the rank of FIDE Master. On a fateful day in 2007 Andy visited Las Vegas for the first time. Since that point, his attention has switched from chess to poker. Initially focusing on Hold'em, Andy has branched out, and has been working hard over the past couple of years to perfect his Omaha 8 game. He also plays all the other variants of the 8 Game. Away from poker, Andy's hero is rock star Iggy Pop. Andy claims to love Iggy's wild man image, although even his best friends would find it hard to compare Andy's solid poker style with that of the Godfather of Punk.