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The Education of a Poker Player
Installment #12:

My First No Limit Hold-Em Cash Game

By Greg Mallon

It was my first no limit ring game experience and the poker gods were kind since in the space of 28 hands I got 22, 33, A-J ,99 and A-A. I cannot complain about that. I came away from the table in less than 30 minutes up over $30, most of it coming from the poor guy who had top pair on the flop going against my aces.

I started out the session a bit nervous (ok, a lot nervous - since it was my first no limit "cash game" [ non-tournament ] experience) but I had convinced myself that since the blinds were only .10 and .25 that I could not do too much damage to my limited bank roll if I kept things in check (that is played ultra-conservative). I know that is not the right thing to do since, with no limit, you want to be able to get "full value" for your quality hands, and that means playing "properly" not "conservatively". Even so, I brought only ten dollars to the table (which was probably a clue to the rest of the players that I was there to lose it). I think that someone more confident, who was expecting to take control of the game, would bring the max of $25. At any rate, I started with ten bucks and began my conservative play. I properly folded a few trash hands and then got dealt a pair of twos (or a "wired pair" as it is sometimes called - some would argue that deuces are trash as well). My first thought was "No Set - No Bet" (a "set" being "three of a kind") and I stuck to that. I was in for the minimum and out when the flop did not come my way with the third two. Not much lost there. On the following hand I was dealt "wired threes" (again a pair in the hole). I began to think the poker gods were just tempting me to lose all my money. "Discipline", I say to myself… No Set - No Bet I thought. No three came and I was gone after the flop again with a minimal loss. I was a bit bummed that I had just received two wired pairs and had nothing to show for it. Maybe this is the temptation that gets people into trouble.

At this point, with about $8.50, I began to think that my "stake" at the table would not be enough to frighten anyone away. Worse than that, others might easily feel they could take risks against me, since with no limit game, $8 was not much of a risk for someone to take on. I decided I needed to load up to the max, even if I would likely not use it, to at least keep others at bay. They would know that if they popped me for five bucks, I might pop back for twenty. I filled up to the max at $25. After a couple more hands I got an A-J suited and automatically raised, not so much because I thought about it but because I had played so much, I just did it. Everyone folded and I won the blinds and my first "killer" no limit pot of $1.75. Whoopee, break out the champagne. But that game me some confidence that by staying true to what I have learned would be beneficial. After another couple of hands I looked down to see pocket Aces. Swing! I made a mild raise of one dollar - based on the tone of the table - knowing that too much would push everyone out and I would simply get the blinds - not worthy of pocket aces. All folded except two players… just what I was expecting. The flop came down bad with only 10 high. "Crap", I thought, hoping that someone would flop a king to challenge me. At any rate, I had played enough to know you don't want to fool around (even with aces) and it was time to win or make them pay to chase. So I bet out for $10 hoping to shut it down right there and take my $4 pot and be on my way. Maybe that was wrong, or too much, I do not know, but one opponent folded and the other, to my surprise went ALL-IN. Again, after playing so much, I honestly did not stop to think too much about this. I figured he had either top pair on the board with a good kicker, or a wired pair (hidden). I didn't even think about a hidden set. I quickly called. The turn and river cards came so fast I won the pot before I even noticed what he had, a T-6, top pair with a crappy kicker. He must have been sure I was bluffing since that would have been a horrible play to make otherwise. Well, it was still a horrible play. I think if the flop came with a king and he had a king with a good kicker, it would have been worth the chance - but not in this case.

With over a $39 pot I was feeling a bit bold, but folded the next hand to just think. I got a pair a nines a few hands later and bet strong on the flop and took another decent pot. After a couple other crappy hands, which I folded and lost no money, I decided to leave my first no limit holdem table a winner. Professional poker players will tell you, "Never quit when you're ahead - make the money while you can". Maybe I should have stayed, but it felt good to leave a winner. I just wanted to get to the hand histories and review what happened and see if I had made any mistakes.

Obviously, I will be back.

©2005 by Gregory J. Mallon, PokerDecision.com, All Rights Reserved.
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