A Fun Hand at Planet Hollywood


Sometimes hand reading seems so easy to those of us who do it every day. While we struggle with reads every day, other reads are completely automatic. But to a recreational player, especially one without much experience, hand reading isn’t even on their radar. It’s just not something they think about. A hand I played at Planet Hollywood during March madness a few years ago offers a good example.

There was a player at the table who had hit a six team parlay and made some significant sum of money. I don’t remember how much, but it was enough that he was drinking as fast as they could bring him shots and playing like a maniac. He was raising to $75 every hand at a $1/2 game. Every hand. Yep.

Because he was doing this every hand, and sitting just a few seats to my left, I was forced to play tight and wait for a hand. I was still grateful he was there, because anytime I got a hand I knew I was going to get paid. He was running good too, drunkenly flinging chips into the pot and making hands. He had about $2,300 in front of him.

There was only one other player with a big stack, a young kid who was clearly uncomfortable playing with about $2,500 in front of him. He was seated on my right and we were chatting. Within a few minutes I could tell that he wasn’t interested in playing anymore big pots and was considering getting up from the table.

Then a big hand happened. One of the biggest $1/2 pots I’ve ever seen.

A few people limped for $2, though I have no idea why because it was obvious that the maniac in the small blind was going to raise to $75 again like he did every hand. The kid with the big stack on my right was one of the limpers. When the maniac made it $75, the big blind called with about $250 behind, and to my surprise the kid called too. They saw a flop three ways.

The flop was an ace and two kings. This could be interesting.

The maniac was first to act from the small blind, and he shoved all-in for over 1,000 big blinds. A… unique… strategy choice. The big blind immediately called. The kid to my right started thinking and looked like he was in terrible pain. If you are comfortable reading hands, you may have already figured out why this was confusing to me.

There are two kings on the board. When the big blind snap called, I was certain that he had a king as well. So there is only one king left in the deck. If the kid didn’t have a king, the fold should be easy. And if he did have a king, then his kicker didn’t matter because there are only four kings in the deck. The maniac can not have a king. If the kid has a king, he is almost certainly going to win two thousand from the maniac even if he loses to the big blind.

There really isn’t anything else to consider here. The maniac is not going to have two aces often enough to be a serious consideration. But the kid thought so long that I went into the Miracle Mile shops to get ice cream and when I came back he was still thinking. Eventually he called, showing K9s. The big blind had KQ and won a nice main pot of about $800, while the kid won a side pot of over $4,000.

The maniac? He had A2, went broke, and happily rebought. He burned through another two thousand before he was too drunk to sit up straight and went upstairs to his room.

The kid racked up his chips the next orbit. He looked like he was walking on air as he headed to the cashier’s cage with racks and racks of chips.

Me? I made $400,a solid night at a low-limit table, but I didn’t manage to get a nickel from the maniac while he was sailing off for over four grand. Some nights the fish just aren’t biting where you are casting.

The moral of the story is that many recreational players know nothing about hand reading. They aren’t thinking about what you have or what anyone else really has. They may make a guess sometimes, but the guess isn’t very educated and they don’t have a lot of faith in it when the pot gets big.

That’s the difference between a serious player and someone who is at the table to have some fun and gamble. A serious player is thinking through every situation and they have seen enough hands to know what is going on. They see deeper into the game than a typical “rec player”.

I don’t mean to denigrate recreational players at all. I hope to be one again someday. And I need them. I can’t pay my bills with what I would make stealing pots from thinking players and paying rake in a casino.

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