Returning the Favor and other Slices of Life

Returning the Favor
Returning the Favor
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Friday, January 05, 2007

Play the Player - the Gambler

So to continue our series from yesterday on different types of players at the table, let's look at the Gambler. I see this guy a lot at the underground games, and it's almost always a guy, so we'll abandon any attempts at gender-neutrality for the moment. I promise to talk about girls later. Occassionally you'll see him in the casinos, too. He's the guy that sits down at the $1/2 NL game with his green and black ($25 and $100) chips from the blackjack table, orders a cocktail every chance he gets, and generally moans about his "bad luck," because poker is all a game of luck, anyway, right?

These guys fall into the same category but are vastly different in reality. Let's look first at the Vegas or Atlantic City Gambler. Now I've only made one trip to AC, but I'm lumping all these casino -EV masters into one category, regardless of time zone. Start with the inarguable fact that they are good for the game. You want to get these guys at your table, and I've seen decent players request seat changes to get at a table with these guys. They might drive you nutty for a little while, but they will make you money in the long run.

The Gambler will see every flop if you let him, and may see every flop regardless of how much you try to keep him out. He firmly believes that any two cards can win, and if he loses, it's all in the luck, not his bad play. So don't waste a lot of time bemoaning the fact that he's in every pot, revel in the fact that he's in every pot. Most of the time he's going to miss, and muck to your flop bet. Then he'll order another cocktail, mutter to the guy next to him about his terrible luck, and call your preflop raise next time, too.

The danger of this guy is that he does have some rudimentary poker knowledge, so if he raises you, or leads out with a strong bet, take care. This guy is the ultimate example of "don't go broke with one pair" strategy, because he WILL go broke with one pair. As long as you keep your action reasonable, he'll keep paying you off.

It should go without saying that this is a prime example of a player that you want to get on "happy tilt." You want this guy having a good time, because he's got a sizeable roll in his pocket, and he walked into the building willing to lose every dollar of it. Keep him laughing, remark on his terrible luck, compliment him when he wins a pot with his 93 soooted, and he'll be your ATM all night. Tell him how bad he sucks, and he'll decide poker's "no fun" and go shoot craps. Then it'll be the house that gets all his money, and not you.

So be his buddy, do a couple shots with him, toast his birthday, whatever gets him loosened up and having fun. because that's why he came to the casino. Since you came to make money, your best way of making money is making sure he has his fun. He's also the guy that will softplay his "table buddies" when he catches a monster, so if you're the one yukking it up with him, you can probably keep from getting busted by him on the one hand all night that he does play well. I obviously don't advocate softplaying anyone (hell, I check-raised my wife last weekend), but if somebody wants to "take it easy" on me, who am I to dissuade them?

The underground gambler is a different beast. He's sought out these games, and will fall into one of two categories: the moron, or the hustler. Problem is, it's hard to tell the difference between the two until the hustler has your chips, or the moron has sucked out on you. I tend to give players in an underground game a little more credit than players in a casino, because it's so much more work to find the game. I figure everybody there at least knows that a straight beats a flush and a quads beats a straight flush.

Yes, I know. Just seeing if you were still with me.

We'll ignore the moron, because if you can't beat the average knuckle-dragger, you probably ARE the mouth-breather in question. The underground gambler probably has a high-paying day job, and really doesn't care about the money he's throwing around, which makes him dangerous. In the world of typically uncapped buyins at underground games, the gambler's $700 buyin makes him a serious threat to your $300 buyin (in a $1/2 game) whether he's a maniac or jackass. With this guy, it's best just to pick your spots, hopefully sit to his left, and play your premium hands hard. Again, you should look at preflop reaises as pot-builders rather than a way to thin the field, because he's going to see a ton of flops, and most of the rest of the table is going to come along if he's in a pot, just to get a chance at his pile of chips, because he is not afraid to shove them all in the middle with air.

He's going to be ramming and jamming a lot of pots preflop and postflop, so be prepared for a lot of call/muck in your evening. There's no point calling his $25 bet on the flop with one pair, because if there's ever a time that you don't want to put your stack at risk with one pair, it's against the big stack that just doesn't care. Wait for good starting hands (and against players like this, I'd rather have middle suited connectors and one-gappers than big pocket pairs) and when you can flop a monster or a monster draw, be ready for the over-the-top raise.

Players of this sort respect the reraise. They're looking for someone who'll "play with them," or as one guy in an underground game I've played likes to say "somebody BET something!" After you snap them off a couple of times they respect your moves a lot more, but you have to be patient and wait to flop trips or better usually to get any kind of decent leverage to make those moves. Again, don't go broke with one pair is the mantra here, because nothing makes some people happier than snapping off AA with their 8-3 offsuit. Yes, G-Rob, I'm talking about you.

So that's my approach to playing the "gambler" in casinos or underground games. Lemme know how you play these guys.

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