Be aware of chips your poker opponents start with

Nov 20, 2019 3:00 AM

We often read of the passing of a famous poker celebrity. Rarely do we learn of the death of a recreational player. So, I dedicate this column to a very special person.

Michel Tawfik Mikael died of a heart attack on Sept. 2. He was 69 years old, leaving behind his wife and two sons. He was tall and handsome, quiet and unassuming, and always had a pleasant smile for everyone.

Michel was born in Egypt and immigrated here at an early age. His close friend, Majid Mmx, told me that Michel’s favorite words were “You shut up!” — but he never meant it as such; players took it as a joke.

Like me, he often enjoyed $4-$8 limit hold’em at the Hustler Casino in Gardena, Calif., where I met him years ago. Always a gentleman, quiet and polite, accepting bad beats without anger, along with his share of winners, it was a pleasure to play at his table; he helped to make it a great experience for all.

May he rest in peace, and find the poker game in heaven. . .

After waiting for a seat to play $4-$8 limit hold’em, you are finally called to a table. As you buy-in for chips, impulsively you look around the table. You have eight opponents at the table. Approximately how many chips does each have in front of him? That’s information you want to retain. A suggestion: make written note of that — don’t depend on memory. For that purpose, a 4x6-inch piece of paper will suffice. That information can be quite helpful as the game progresses.

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In a $4-$8 limit game, the minimum buy-in is $40. Players often start with as much as a full rack — $100 in chips. As the game progresses, if they lose those chips or have only a few remaining, players usually buy more chips — a re-buy. They are not ready to quit.

A player is permitted to re-buy for less than $40. The dealer places a “Short Buy” button in front of him. Should he soon need another re-buy, it must be at least $40.

What does that tell us? A player with fewer than $40 in chips is losing, and could be on tilt, influencing how he plays his hands. He may become ultra-conservative (tight) — playing only the very best hands.

Alternatively, he may become ultra-loose, often playing with maniacal aggressiveness to get back to even. Observe the hands he shows to decide which way he is leaning. Then. use that information to your advantage when he is in a hand against you.

What if you observe a player with two or more racks of chips?

Doesn’t this suggest that he is a winner? And, indeed, he may very well be far ahead; but not necessarily. Before you arrived at that table, he may have bought in for that amount — or even more. I have seen some players in a $4-$8 limit hold’em game with as many as three racks-full — $300 in chips. That’s a huge buy-in for a $4-$8 game.

Why does he buy-in for such a large amount? He wants his opponents, especially those who later join the game, to believe that he is a big winner — “to put the fear of the Lord into them.”

Along this same line, occasionally a deceptive player will arrive at the table carrying two or three racks full of chips. He wants his opponents to think that he is changing tables, and is well ahead. But, unbeknownst to them, he is coming from the cage where he just bought those chips. He wants his opponents to regard him as a big winner — to fear him. They hesitate to raise against him. And, it’s easier for him to pull off a bluff when appropriate.

The bottom line is it pays to get as much information as possible about your opponents. There is so much available, but few players take advantage of this opportunity. Best is not to rely on memory; make a note to which you can refer to make the best decision.

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