I was playing 4-8 holdem at Canterbury last night and sat down at an insane table. Pots were being capped 5-6 ways pre-flop about 30-40% of the time. I got very few cards to play, so I mostly just sat and folded (down $55 in 7 hours), but I realized that I don’t have a very good idea of how to adjust my play. I ended up playing just high pairs and strong aces (of which I got very few). What hands should you play if you know it will be capped (4 raises) 5-6 way pre-flop? It seems like low pairs are a bad idea, as are Axs. About all I felt good playing was AA-JJ, AK-AJ, and KQ (maybe). How do people normally play in these games? Do you play hands like QJ-JT suited? KJ suited? These are hands that I like to play in passive no-foldem games, but they seem like chip burners when you have to pay 5 small bets to see the flop.
The most interesting thing about this game was the reactions of the normal players. They would bitch and moan about the bad play of the maniacs, yelling at them about raising with 45 suited, and proceeded to go on major tilt. They would get into raising wars with the maniacs with nothing, and then bitch when the maniac beat them with a small pair. While I was not having the most enjoyable game (folding for 2 hrs straight is not what I look for in an evening), I was certainly not going to get upset with people who want to play poker like roulette. They paid for their chips, so they can play them however they want. This newsgroup was instrumental in teaching me how to play in low-limit loose-passive games. Now I need help with the maniacs. I await your advice.
My personal opinion…..if you’re not willing to play big suited connectors, then you should find another table. Even middle suited connectors. Or any two big suited cards. I don’t like Ax in a game like this, because it sounds like our opponents are playing any ace and you’ll be outkicked. If AK,AQ, etc. doesn’t improve it’s not going to win. With that many people in the pot….somebody’s going to get some piece of the flop. Not much bluffing in a game like this. You almost have to look at it like there’s an ante of big blind x 4 to play a hand. So given that, what hands do you want to play for those stakes. If you can only name 3 or 4 hands…..then you need to find another game.
One school of thought says simply wait for AA KK, QQ, or AKs. Same authors that give this advice say they realize this is a stupid way to play poker. An important question would be is post-flop play as wild as pre-flop play? I’ve seen some games where on average 7 players see every flop for one or two raises, but only 3 players see the turn card and one caller on the river. If the game is like this, where whoever hits the flop wins very few bets after the flop, it’s more of a crap shoot than a poker game, and you have to play very tight pre-flop. Big pairs (nines would be my cut-off) are what you want. AK is good, AQ is borderline, AJ is not worth it. Being suited helps only a little.
AJs, KQs are borderline hands. If the table is full of true maniacs who cap it every round with even the slightest hope of winning, you can actually loosen up and add medium pairs (down to fives) and medium suited connectors (down to 45s) when you have position. You must tighten up on the flop now. It is tempting to put in 5 more small bets with 8c7c and a flop of 8h9h2c but don’t. If you make a very strong hand, don’t bother to bet/raise it until at least the turn. For the second type of game you need a much larger bankroll than normal. If I knew ahead of time a 4-8 game was that wild I would buy in for $500, and be prepared to buy for another $500 if my stack got below $200. If you can’t afford that find another game. This is a very debateable topic and I’m sure others will disagree with my advice.
I played in a 3/6 game very similar to your table of maniacs this weekend. The advantage I had was that I had to railbird for about 20 minutes before a seat opened up. During that time I was thinking about how the play would be different from a loose-PASSIVE game that usually takes place at these lower limits. I was observing the hands that were played and determined that I would have to either: a) play looser and risk a bigger variance or, b) play tighter and spend a lot of time folding otherwise playable hands. I chose b. Looking a the size of the pots, I figured that I would have about the same hourly rate by playing less hands and significantly reduce my bankroll variance. To do this, however, I would need to get a fair amount of strong hands. Obviously.
I threw away some pretty good hands, that I would have played in a “normal” game. Many times I was glad I did, because with that many players seeing the flop – it would hit a few of them. And, it did. I saw hands like 89s win (trip 8′s – on the river), 46o would make a straight, etc. You get the idea. I played a very tight-aggressive game and after about 7 hours came out about 15% better than I usually do against my hourly rate. I played about 60% FEWER hands. Perhaps, I got more than my share of winning hands – who knows? It was a lot harder to play, I know that. One might argue that it isn’t fun. I’d suggest that it offers an opportunity to learn how to adapt to the table conditions. Changing up your usual style is a great learning experience. I wouldn’t want a steady diet of this type of play, however, I believe I came out better for the experience.