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Stories Where Sub-Optimal Poker Strategies Paid Off Big

Bad Poker

One wonderful thing about poker is that different strategies can win depending on the situation and the players involved. There are even times where sub-optimal and unusual strategies can succeed when they normally would not.

Below are three real-life examples from my personal playing career that highlight this.

Play Like You’re On Tilt

Most of us can spot when a player at the table is going on tilt or when they’re already there. There are times where you can sometimes take advantage of this to win money at the tables. One of the best examples I’ve ever seen was in a tournament at the now-defunct United States Poker Championships.

It was probably about Level 5 and there was a misdeal at the table. The player right next to me open mucked pocket kings after the dealer declared a misdeal. He sat there for a moment with a look of annoyance on his face before looking down at his cards.

Being the first to act, he immediately grabbed his whole stack and slammed it down in front of him and it was pretty clear he was still pissed over the last hand. Most of us folded until it got to the button who started shaking looking like he felt bad for what he was about to do. He made the call and said sorry as he turned over pocket queens.

The guy who was “on tilt” turned over pocket kings. The dealer’s reaction was priceless as her eyes out popped out of her head. We all had a good laugh as the board ran out and the guy on tilt doubled – well everyone except for the guy that had the queens.

“I figured everyone would figure I was on tilt and someone with a decent hand would call me.” Well played sir.

“Don’t Tap The Glass”

There are times where I feel bad for younger players at the poker table, especially in limit games with older players, especially if the players are competent. I was in a lower stakes Limit Hold’em game in Atlantic City one time and this guy not older than 22 or 23 sat down to play and the entire table dynamic immediately changed.

Prior to this, the table was a relatively tight rock fest. I knew most of the players, and while I was only about 30 at the time, they knew I wasn’t going to fall for what they pulled on this kid. They played very loose with a lot of limping and raising pre-flop and the kid started off playing tight but a couple of the other players was telling him that he needed to “adjust to the game.”

An older woman beside me reminded them to “not tap the glass” so to speak, but the one guy was all “hey, we’re all friends here” and proceeded to “teach him” how to loosen up to win more at these lower stake games.

Sure enough, the kid won a couple of nice pots and was beginning to relax. It was at that point that several of us, including myself, just took turns taking pot after pot as we’d get decent hands that wound up holding and he just bled off chips to us. He ultimately dropped about 40 big bets to the table before declaring that “Limit is stupid” and went to play $1-$2 NL.
The game broke in about 15 minutes. Yes, there’s bum hunting at low stakes Limit Hold’em too. Either that or it was getting close to some of the other player’s bedtime.

Tip The Dealer!

Playing uber-tight ABC poker doesn’t usually net a sizable win in Limit poker at low stakes. Usually. The one significant exception I can think of was at the now-defunct Trump Taj Mahal and I was the beneficiary of two guys that had so much money they decided to literally give it away.

Have you ever seen someone site down with $2,000 at a $2-$4 Limit game? I have. Two of them. It was two friends that normally play mid-stakes NL and decided to drink and “tip the dealer!”

What do I mean by Tip the Dealer? Every hand, both players tipped the dealer at least two dollar – even if they weren’t in the hand. The dealer was getting at least $4 per hand in tips in a game that they are lucky to get 50 cents.

These guys were also three-betting and capping every pot pre-flop, so a lot of the time they were the only people playing. Sometimes you’d have some players try and come along but few were able to get anything going.

I had my little $120 stack there and decided to just rock up. Sure enough, I got pocket kings and the pot was capped pre-flop. It was then capped on the flop, turn, and they finally decided to slow down on the river when the board paired. I flopped a set of kings and rivered kings full of fours to take the pot.

About five or six hands later, I get aces. Capped pre-flop and on the flop. This time the boys got annoyed at me and slowed down on the turn and river. My aces held for another nice pot.

Overall, I won about 7 pots that night but by the third pot, they slowed down their raising. However, except for the last two, they calling stationed me to the river. After about two hours, they finally got done having fun and left.

I left with about $468 from a $120 stack – in $2-$4 Limit. The dealers? Each dealer that left had a full tip tube along with at least a rack full of tips.

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