Paulie, Darko, Wendy and LJ all drove down together Friday afternoon, but I couldn’t make it out of work until 5:30. So after an uneventful cab ride up to the Port Authority, I hopped the 6:30PM bus to Resorts and made it down to AC in 2.25 hours, with a stop at Cheesequake. Pretty damn good time for a holiday weekend. The crew were already playing deep in a tourney at the Showboat, except for John who had busted out early (surprise, surprise). So I took the opportunity to corral him and Paulie into playing low limit Omaha/8 at the Taj next door. Luckily, there was a game opening up when we arrived and we all managed to sit at the table together. It was a blast. The O/8 game at the Taj is low limit and as such attracts the same group of crusty regulars every time I see it. We were sitting at the 2/4 table, although there was a 5/10 table also running, but that’s way beyond us just yet for O/8, a game we’re just learning.
The characters at the table were right out of a movie. There was friendly Mike, who lectured on us on some of the finer tips on how to play, while simultaneously slowly whittling his stack down to the felt. There was the Greek man in the hat who had a habit of saying, “Boom!” in a thick accent. I liked him because he called me a “good player” when I saw him again on Monday. J There was the cantankerous middle aged Jewish woman who seemed to complain about EVERYTHING: “It’s so cold in here”, “I can’t believe they sat a new dealer here”, “Hurry up, you’re taking forever!”, “This place is a dump”, “Are we ever going to see a waitress?”. And, of course, the eager to learn Wall Street crew. The game was fun, although I can’t remember any specific hands. And really, at 2/4, does it matter? I liked that Darko really enjoyed himself because he usually has a real disdain for limit poker. But he commented later that he likes to play O/8 because it really sharpens your skill at reading boards, outs, and putting players on a hand. He’s right, too. I’m also new at the game, so I can’t say with any expertise, but it seems to me that a lot of money is won or lost by being able to put players who are pushing the action on whether or not they’re going high, low or both. If you have a middling high hand, say top set on a flushing board, but an opponent starts raising a multi-way pot when an innocuous 3 hits the board, you might put him on a low hand, especially if the 3 also makes a low possible. In that case, your top set might still be good. There are so many combinations and so many ways to win or lose that your reading skills become very very important. And in low limit, the check/raise play is so rarely effective and so rarely used, that you can get very accurate information when a formerly passive player starts betting or raising when a specific card comes out. A goo example of this happened at our own table in Tuesday’s cash game. The last hand of the night, the flop was JT7, with 2 diamonds. I had been check calling pre-flop and on the flop with 68 and two lower rags. When the non-diamond 9 hit on the turn to give me the low straight, I started the betting with the $4 big bet. Carol, who is an excellent player, immediately muttered, “What a sick card to come out”. She knew IMMEDIATELY that I had made a straight. It was the only story that made sense of my first-to-act bet. Of course, she might have put me on the KQ, rather than the 68, but she put me on a straight regardless and she mucked her cards when it got to her. She’s a super smart player because she puts her read of the player together with the betting patterns and the board to tell what’s in that player’s hand. That skill translates well to ALL poker games, not just O/8 or Hold’Em. And that’s why Darko loved his time spent at O/8, even if we played for about 6 hours and he made a whopping $15 profit.