Playing with dum-dums (WEEKLY COLUMN)

Lunchbox, donkey, dum-dum whatever you want to call them, unfortunately or fortunately, you can't play tournaments without them. I played this past weekend at a venue that has more than their fair share, which usually allows me, a player who is like one level above said dum-dums to have success.

I look down at J10 of spades with two limpers before me. I like to raise with this hand a lot but sometimes I like to limp and hope I hit my flop dead on to a big pot. This time I chose limp with 6 to act after me (9 handed). Limp, Limp, Limp, Limp, Limp, now it's just the big blind to act. We've got 1800 in the pot ($100-$200 blinds). Now this guy, a LAG who fired at every pot no matter the flop (and to his credit was having success as our table was mostly tight), but unlike a player I'd rate as a good lag he'd put too much into the pot when his opponent revealed strength. I also saw him make some questionable decisions. I kind of hope he'd try and buy the pot right there so when I saw him reach for his chips I was happy.

Then he min-raises for another $200. (Huh?) Call-call to me and I'm looking at $200 to win $2400 (just 12-1 on my money). I consider raising, maybe shoving all in but I only have ~$3000 left and I've been in several pots at this place with four or five all-in preflop with just this type of action. My other options for raises didn't seem to merit trying as the pot odds were good for just about any hand for those after me to call.

Two more callers follow me and then another gentleman, makes the second "stellar" raise of the hand. He raises 1k on top. So the pot was 3k and he makes it 4. Needless to say, everybody calls to me. Again, I ask myself what happens if I put it all in? Well, everybody calls, so I call again and the two after me do the same now the pot is 12,600.

I look at the initial raiser and just shake my head. Granted I can understand him wanting to build the pot with hand similar to mine but why didn't he realize as I did that he was just invitating somebody to make a move at the pot? The 1k reraise was just as stupid, the guy actually had the chips to buy the pot but why bet 1k.

Flop comes 9s6c2d. Normally that flop didn't help anybody but with 9 in the hand who knows. The big blind checks, check, check, check, to the 1k raiser. This time he fires another 1k (into the 12,600 pot). Fold-o to the BB. He calls. The rest of us fold. The turn is a 7h. BB checks. Other guy raises 1200 (into the now 14,600 pot). BB folds (what a genuis, two faces at most... AK maybe?).

Hmmm. What would I do if I were in that situation again? I don't know if there is a right answer. The old maxim raise or fold is a maxim because it works and my calling only contributed to the domino chain so probably a raise would have been the better tactic. Still, I have J10 suited with 6 to act and the UTG player and the 2nd to Act had to have something to call. I could have folded...but why fold such a potentially stellar hand?

Dan Harrington talks about calling with mediocre hands (and J10s isn't one) and the inevitable bleed you take on by doing so. Though Gavin Smith or Ted Forrest would disagree, Harrington contends you are basically digging a hole and creating situations where you have to call and keep calling. In a normal game, these calling decisions that you are priced in to make are after the flop and sometimes after the turn. Let's say you got J8 and the flop is 832. You get raised, maybe you try and bet out a continuation bet or maybe you call, but either way more of your money is going into the pot. Let's say the turn is another 2, are you going to fold to a bet now? Probably not, invariably you'll be priced in to call with your top pair medicore kicker. Then when the river brings a K and your opponent value bets, you probably have to at least call. He turns over AK and the only wrong decision you made was playing the J8 in the first place.

Same thing works when swimming with the fish, in these crazy preflop min raises, and reraises that take no account of the pot or the odds their bet would be giving you keep getting priced in. Granted the upside is much better, especially at my venue, because they'll pay you off.

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