”The best is yet to come.”
I’m taking the morning run around Chelsea Harbour’s finest areas, as good memories come back to my mind from 2013 when I lived in the Compass house for the summer. At the familiar little park near Imperial Wharf I prepare for my sprints and observe the different people walking their dogs as the sun starts shining.(London, have you gone mad??)
Just when I’m finished with my sprints, I notice two guys carrying kettlebells as they arrive to the park, and I strike up a conversation with them. The other one tells me he runs an exotic dance lessons business combined with personal training, which explains the kettlebells. They come to this beautiful park to train a few times a week. We chat for quite a bit about various things before I start my cooldown for the training, heading back to the hotel.
So, a shoutout to Jonathan from Jam Total Sport – if you’re looking to learn how to dance, try out muay thai or just generally need a personal trainer in London, check out jamtotalsport.com
The usual steps after the morning run include taking a cold shower, packing up and heading downtown. I was planning to play in either Hippo or Empire, but my gut instinct says the day games at Vic might be worth checking out also on a Tuesday. So I take the overground but forget to step off at the next station, which leads me to taking the same route that I took almost every day in May 2013: Overground to Shepherd’s Bush & changing to Central Line. However, this time I don’t step out on Queensway which used to be my stop back then, but continue to Marble Arch instead which is half a mile away from the Vic.
Arriving at Vic a see few players waiting for a new game and one table that looks like a 1/2 or 1/3 with two free seats. I take seat 4 just like the previous time in Vic, and wonder how there’s only 2 guys at the table but 7 stacks. Turns out everybody’s out for a smoke. Seat 9 says to me decisively that we’re not gonna play short-handed, so we wait until a few more players come back. Scanning the table, there is one guy about my age, and the rest of the table are approx between their 40s and 70s. Luckily the guy about my age is sitting on only 75BB’s and I do have the position on him, so I assume it’s going to be an easy table.
We speculated with CupOfTea after playing through the weekend, that the best time to start the session is probably between 10-12am in the morning – games get worse between 2-4pm as the live grinders step out of their caves and show up, and the games stay this way until 6pm after which the people with jobs or businesses come in to have a good time at the casino, perhaps playing a few hands of poker. This turned out to be true also today, except the game never turned worse since nobody left the table before the evening.
So what’s our game plan here as there are no professional players at the table? To steal every pot we possibly can! The way live poker dynamics work in London is, people only use aggression with the nutted hands and not much else. In case you’re the only brave hearted beast using aggression also with your draws, hands with backup equity such as overcard(s), bottom pair or backdoor draws, people are going to give up their share of the pot to you too often. And I mean WAY too often.
In the beginning of the session I want everybody to think I’m only putting money in when I have the goods. That’s why I never show any hands for the first few hours, unless I think it’s +ev to do that for some particular reason. You can’t go wrong if you don’t show any hands voluntarily ever – that’s how Phil Ivey likes to roll.
So the session at the 1/2 table starts out like this:
Hand 1: Q♣ 6♣
EP limps, the younger guy makes it 11 from SB, Hero 3bets to 35 from BB, 2 folds
Hand 2: Trash
Hero doesn’t get involved from the SB
Hand 3: 6♥ 5♥
Hero raises to 8 from the cutoff, white-haired gent from the BB calls
Flop: A♥ K♥ 9♣
BB leads 15, hero calls
BB leads 30, hero announces raise and pops it up to 120, BB folds
Now my image is good, aggressive and people think I have hit it big so far. And that’s exactly how we want to start a session. The worst outcome in the beginning of session for future EV is bluffing and getting caught, as then your image is bad and you have to just wait for some hands due to decreased fold equity.
Another older gent sit backs to his seat happening to be directly to my right, and I notice he has around 250BB so I add a chip to have him covered. I also noticed a weird thing lying between his chips and I ask him what would be the white oval-shaped thing, a bit larger than a chip, sitting there. He says ‘don’t touch my chips!’ with a serious face, and then slowly puts up a smile and I know the guessing game is on. I look the oval-shaped thing from all angles, and it just reads Victoria Casino at the top. My initial guesstimate is that it can’t be a placard, since those come in square form. So, I try to guess it’s worth, and I say it’s either 3-figures or low 4-figures. He says I’m in about the right ballpark and tells how the man who invented money was smart, but the man who invented gambling chips was a genius. So it has something to do with money obviously. It turned out to be a placard worth 100 GBP, which was a lamer outcome than I expected for this guessing game.
The next puzzle he gives me is to add operators of +, -, : or x between numbers of 9911 so that they equal 10, while the numbers can be placed in any order – this was an interview question for the been-bankrupt-for-years Lehman Brothers, and it takes me quite some time to solve it as I first try to reverse-engineer the answer with poor success. The next puzzle has the same rules except the numbers are 8833 and they must equal 24 – I still haven’t solved it and I won’t look up the answer from Google. This one should be harder and might take a few days!
Anyways, I don’t remember how we ended up discussing maths with the Professor and I can see he is amused watching me write possible combinations for the first puzzle on a piece of paper. He reveals that he has a degree in maths and philosophy, the latter being the major of the younger guy at seat 2 who also who joins our conversation. So we briefly discuss some the most interesting philosophical dilemmas, such as the question of determinism and existence of free will. A few other players listen to our discussion out of curiosity, when this hand occurs:
Hand 4: 5♣ 5♠
The Professor raises to 8, Hero calls, heads-up to the flop
Flop: T♣ 9♣ 4♦
The Professor checks, Hero bets 12, The Professor calls
The Professor checks, Hero checks
The Professor bets 40, Hero folds
The Professor shows: 7♣ 6♣
By showing this hand, the Professor reveals he is not your typical live player in his sixties. Even a hand like QJo got there on the river, and I would expect him to bet the flop with the straight draws such as the one he had, instead of check-calling. I start to think he is very likely the second best NLHE player at the table, and ask him how long he has played poker. The answer was 32 years. We then discuss how much information of the game is available and how the game has changed since he started, as he had to figure out everything on his own before Moneymaker started the poker boom.
Furthermore, he tells he lived and played cards in Vegas and his answer is definite when I ask if any particular names stand out that he remembers as great players who played with him back then: Stu Ungar. Equipped with photographic memory, Stu arrived to Las Vegas as a Gin Rummy player, but left his mortal life as one of the greatest poker players of all time. This makes me want to re-watch the documentary of Stu’s life available for free on YouTube. In between our chatter, I fold hand after hand, while stealing some easy pots that nobody else is ready to fight for. You have to make some disciplined folds like this when playing in a passive game:
Hand 5: Q♠ Q♦
Younger guy raises to 8 from UTG, Hero 3bets to 32 from MP, BB announces all-in with for roughly 300 equalling 160BB’s, Hero takes his time before folding.
BB asks what I had and says I needed help, which I find easy to believe. In this particular spot even KK is not an easy call, as BB hasn’t raised nearly any hands preflop, let alone 3b or 4bet some. He later showed down aces when 3betting against an utg open, so my fold here should be correct.
We continue discussing about achievements of Google’s DeepMind and Facebook’s AI in various games, when this hand occurs:
Hand 6: Mind games with the Professor
Hero: T♠ 6♠
The Professor raises to 7 from UTG, Hero raises to 32 next to act, The Professor calls
Flop: K♣ 9♣ 4♥
The Professor checks, Hero bets 24, The Professor calls
The Professor checks, Hero bets 90, The Professor pats the table and folds.
Here we decide to show the hand, as I want the Professor to think I’m willing to hammer him all the way to the river even with two Uno cards, as I certainly didn’t have any equity if called in that hand. I get some decent hands to isolate limps with, and continue pressing until I’m the only one holding cards after the betting round on Turn also known as the bluff street. Ez game.
But hey, they say you can’t win them all – I fail in a delayed cbet bluff with 5♠ 3♠ against a passive player as I bet both turn and river with 4card straight on the board assuming him probably drawing to the nut flush – instead, he had turned the nut flush and went into check-call mode from there on, as did Mike McDermott in Rounders with the flopped straight against the aggressive mobster Teddy KGB. Smart move kiddo, well played.
Excited of the successful bluff catch of his friend, a guy next to him just happens to tell him he should have raised me instead of calling with the nut flush on paired board, as I might re-raise the river as a bluff since I’m bluffing all the time. Well, that should be no shocking news to anyone at this point, but I’m not crazy enough for that. It’s simply time for a grande finale, which I’m just crazy enough for:
Hand 7: The Bombatomic 3barrel bluff (multiway OOP, yeah you know me)
Hero: K♠ J♦
UTG limps, UTG +1 limps, Hero raise to 22 from SB, BB calls, UTG calls, UTG +1 calls.
Flop: T♥ 5♦ 4♦
Hero bets 38, BB folds, UTG calls, UTG+1 folds
Hero bets 105, BB tank-calls and seems genuinely discomfortable with the call
Hero changes plans from shutting down to announcing all-in three seconds after the river from heaven landed, BB is quiet, lifts up his cards, throws them to the muck face-down and raises his voice saying F**KING RIVER and stands up from the table and goes to the bar of the poker room.
The Professor comments: ‘’This now, would be a very good time to show a bluff’’. And I gladly obey. I know, my maniac image will stick with me for rest of the night by showing this hand, and I better start making some huge hands quick! I decide to go for the dinner break with my sharp trader friend shortly after, as he is visiting the neighbourhood. Decent play with no big hands preflop:
Coming back from the break, my stack is removed again as the cook took awhile baking the Napolitan pizzas for my friend and me. I register my name to the queue again, and get my old seat back in a few minutes. A few players at the table have changed since, with a Bulgarian lady sitting directly to my left, a cool guy I played with on Sunday on the seat 2 and a new player whom I saw playing a 1k high-roller tourney on Pokerstars India on this iPhone hopping to seat 9. The game is on again.
I watch some fireworks go down between the Bulgarian lady and the new player on seat 9 I named ‘Le Aggressor’:
Single-raised flop reading A♣ 9♥ 2♥, Le Aggressor minraises lady’s bet of 75 to 150, Bulgarian lady calls.
Turn is the 6♠, checks to the lady who bets 225 visibly shaking when picking up those chips (at this point I read her for a set and nothing else), Le Aggressor goes all-in with about 500 and lady asks would he be willing to run it twice.
Negotiations stopped as they can only start once the lady calls. So, she calls and Le Agressor agrees to running it twice, turning over AJ offsuit. Lady shows him the 22, and the river is dealt only once due to AJ drawing dead. Le Aggressor reloads.
I manage to get myself into a bit of trouble by 3betting too small OOP:
Hand 8: Q♣ Q♦
UTG raises to 5, UTG +1 calls, Le Aggressor calls, Hero raises to 32 from SB, UTG calls, UTG+1 calls, Le Aggressor calls.
Flop: 7♦ 6♦ 5♣
Hero checks, UTG bets 100 with 50 behind, UTG+1 raises all-in for 267, Le Aggressor folds, Hero calls, UTG calls
UTG+1 shows 7♥ 6♠, Hero tables QQ, UTG flashes A♣ Q♠, Hero scoops the pot.
Analysis: Our 3bet OOP should have been larger in hindsight, to around 45-50. The reason I chose the just 32 for sizing was that UTG & UTG+1 both had less than 300 in their stacks when the hand started. I’m sitting deep though with Le Aggressor, so it makes sense to drop out a few players before the flop when you have a big pair in the SB, guaranteed to be OOP against everyone. On the flop we need to balance some of our checks/giveups with AK & AQ type of hands, and QQ plays that role well. UTG doesn’t seem too strong here betting throwing a chip in quite quickly, and UTG+1 can have many draws in his range. Obviously they can both have sets, but the stack-to-pot ratio is a little over 2 so we are not going anywhere against them. If Le Aggressor calls the all-in raise from UTG +1, we can start to consider folding our hand. In this case it’s a super clear call even though we we’re severely behind the player who flopped top two pair.
I managed to flop back-to-back TPTK with AK against Le Aggressor in 3bet pots. Both times the flop is dry as Sahara, and turn brings in a flush draw with a red ten. In the first one he calls my cbet of 38 and folds to my turn bet. In the second one he decides to take a stand (or probably he just didn’t have much the first time):
Hand 9: Valuetown
Hero: A♣ K♠
Le Aggressor raises to 18 from MP, Hero 3bets to 51 from the SB, Le Aggressor calls.
Flop: A♠ 7♦ 3♥
Hero bets 38, Le Aggressor calls
Hero bets 110, Le Aggressor goes all-in for 260, Hero calls, Le Aggressor shows A9o and Hero tables AK
Analysis: The open raise to 9BB is quite an overkill. Hence we don’t have to make our 3bet too large here, 25.5BB should be just fine. On the superdry flop we want to bet the same sizing with all our holdings, which in this case can be 38 (equals 35% of the pot). On the turn we bet around 2/3 pot to make him committed on the river with any pair if he decides to call the turn, and to deny equity from any turned flush draws, gutshots and paired hands drawing to two pair – they need to put some money in the pot if they want to see the river card. Le Aggressor doesn’t believe we have the goods this time, as he blocks the ace – our 2nd barrel hands in this spot should include suited connectors with diamonds, turned gutshots and any 56/89 suited. This sounds like a lot of bluffs – if our value range includes AK, AQ, AT suited (assuming we check AJ suited on the turn), we can’t just fire every single hand combo of the draws/small equity hands, as we want to keep the amount of bluff combos somewhat balanced to our value combos towards the river.
As a final note, if you adjust to your current game conditions well and play each hand with close to zero big mistakes, you stack should look something like this after a little bit of sunrunning:
Even though I’m cream crackered as of writing this, I hope I’ll visit London again somewhere in the near future, maybe booking a longer stay like 2-3 weeks to grind. This would make it easier to optimize my daily routines during the trip for maximum performance at the tables. Which in turn, hopefully translates in more winnings. But you can only affect the former – the second will be taken care of by time and repetition.
Kudos to all the cool bosses I met during my trip – peace out!