Two hands from yesterday can illustrate specifically why this game is beatable.
Two players limp and I raise 77 in the small blind. Most players would not raise in this spot, but doing so has huge advantages over calling:
1. You have an equity advantage over the ranges of the limpers. Specifically, it is very unlikely that either of them has a pair larger than your sevens, since they declined to raise.
2. You could fold out the big blind, who probably has 1 and maybe has 2 over cards to your pair. This puts dead money in the pot, which is always nice.
3. You take control of the hand. Even when playing WOOPs (Way Out Of Position), being in the betting lead usually makes things easier.
4. Everyone assumes you have a monster, because to raise the small blind, they'd need a monster. In short, you're going to get more folds this way, even though the pot is bigger, which is backwards.
Back to the hand....the big blind and both limpers call, so we see the flop 4 ways for 8 small bets:
643 with two hearts (I have the 7 of hearts)
This is about as good as it gets without flopping a set. I bet (as I would virtually always here, unless the flop had 3 broadway cards or something), and the big blind raises. The limpers fold, and I 3-bet. So far I figure he has something like a 6, a pair and a straight draw, or even a heart draw or just two naked overs. In short, I'm still way ahead. Then he caps. I go into my memory banks and come up empty; I basically don't know this guy. Ok, I call. Most likely he's got something pretty good here. We're now heads up, for 8 big bets (suddenly a large pot).
643-2 with still just two hearts
Now that's a very bad card for obvious reasons. A 5 was a very large part of his range and it just got there. I check, he bets, and I think for a minute. The pot is laying me 5:1 on a calldown (there are 9 bets, 10 if he bets the river, and I have to put in 2 to see the show down). He could still be making some weird sort of play here, and I have an overpair and a gutshot. I elect to grit my teeth and call down.
643-2-4 and the hearts don't come in
I check and call. He sheepishly says "you win" and rolls A3o for two pair, 4s and 3s. I roll my hand and drag the 480 dollar pot.
What did my opponent do wrong here? Yeesh, where to begin. First of all, even playing A3o from the big blind when the small blind raises is a horrible idea. You're dominated by practically my entire range (by basically any pair and any ace, which is a huge portion of what I'm raising), and to boot you have terrible post flop position (2nd to act of 4, and first to act after the player who's in the betting lead). Without expert post flop play, and perhaps even with it, this hand is surely a loser.
Next...on the flop you have basically a bluff catcher. Admittedly getting 9:1 on the flop it'd be hard/bad to lay this down, but here comes our old friend position. Are you really getting 9:1? What if one of the limpers raises? What if I then 3-bet? Things are not always what they seem. He elects to raise, which honestly might be the best play, so kudos for him. He clears out the limpers and if I do in fact have Ace-High he's setting himself up to take down the pot on the turn. Then....
I 3-bet. I basically put my hand faceup on the table and declare "I can beat a pair of 6s". My opponent is undeterred, and elects to cap. With a strong draw, such as 65 (for top pair and an open ended straight draw) or maybe something like T8 of hearts (two overs and a heart draw), this would make sense. It's pretty clear now that I'm not folding, but with a cap here he can elect to see the river for free most of the time. This isn't what he's doing....at this point, he's left the reservation. I call.
The turn is a scary card, making any hand holding a 5 the virtual nuts (75 is the actual nuts). Perhaps this changed my opponents mind, and convinced him to try to bet once more. If that's the case, then again good for him; he adapted during the hand when a scary card fell and took one more shot at a swollen heads up pot. I have the feeling, however, that he "Put me on Ace King" and decided to just go batshit. When he bets, I think for a second for calling, which may have convinced him I was weak (although the flop action basically puts a cap on how "weak" I can actually be). I do in fact have practically the worst hand I can possibly have, and part of what I was thinking about was the fact that he should know this....he should know 77 is about as bad of a "made" hand as I can have. So if he's betting, he should be able to beat it most of the time. I call.
At this point, the hand should be over from his point of view. My turn call commits me to showdown. There are now 10 big bets in the pot, and on the river if he bets I'm going to be getting 11:1 on my money to see what he has and possibly drag the pot. His pair of 3s is a bluff catcher now. If I check the river, I will call him with everything that beats him (pairs) and fold everything that doesn't (ace high....busted flush draws...etc). The river 4 is basically inconsequential (although it does actually pull me ahead of a couple of two pair hands that aren't out of the question for him to be holding). He stabs one last time, undoubtedly having no idea why he's betting. Does he think I'll call with a worse hand? No. Does he think I'll fold a better one? No. He simply thinks "I have the best hand he has Ace King I bet" and bets. I call, and he looks like an idiot after spewing off 4 big bets pots flop with a pair of 3s.
Again I'm in the small blind, and this time about 4 players limp. I raise KJ of diamonds, mainly because it rates to have a large equity advantage over the ranges of the limpers. Everybody calls, and lets say it's 6 handed for 12 small bets:
T44 with two diamonds.
A fantastic flop again. I have two overs, a second nut flush draw, and a back door straight draw. Unless somebody has a 4, I am a prohibitive favorite in this hand 6 ways (meaning I probably have something like 50% equity). I bet, and 3 players call.
T44-Q, now two hearts and two diamonds
I bet, one player folds, the worst player at the table says "I don't know what I have yet" and I believe him (he's been playing hands blind) and checks his cards. "Wow, I have a Queen!" he says. I tend to believe him, as he's really that bad. Now a late position player raises.....
I say to him "found a heart draw eh?" and he looks away. I'm never folding here and call him pretty quickly, as I have 15 outs to a monster (I have an open ended straight draw and still a flush draw). I note that he actually might have that heart draw, since he did look away. The crazy fish folds his hand, showing it to the other half of the table. There is general disbelief, as this guy takes most of his hands to show down. He actually had a queen.
T44-Q-6 of spades. I have made squadush.
I check. My opponent quickly checks behind and I announce "King High". My opponent looks ill as I table my hand. He courtesy shows J9 of hearts, for basically the same draw I had (flush draw, open ended straight draw). The table erupts in general amazement. Not only did I raise KJ from the small blind, but the calling station mega-fish threw away top pair on the turn after playing the hand blind and my opponent forgot to follow through on his bluff because he didn't take the size of the pot into consideration.
My opponent's call with J9s from late position preflop is completely sane.
His call on the flop, getting 15:1 closing the action is not great, but honestly isn't awful, either. He has two back door draws, which are worth about 3 outs, which on the surface makes a call seem break even. However, the board is already paired and another flush draw is present. These two things substantially weaken his chances, as he can make one of his hands and still lose a good percentage of the time.
On the turn the pot has gotten big again...8 big bets specifically. I fire the 9th into the pot, and the blind fish puts in the 10th. This pot is "protected" at this point by the fish, who just announced he has a Queen (top pair). My opponent elects to raise anyway, with Jack-high. This is terrible, not because it can't get me off the hand, but because the fish is going to show down basically any pair (this fish was playing 95% of his hands and was the reason I was in the game). I call him, which is bad, but then he gets a gift from the gods. The fish folds!!! "Sweet mercy I can win this pot" should be all he's thinking. "This 13 bet pot in which I hold Jack High is mine for the taking!" The river bricks off and I check....and he checks it right back. Perhaps the check is defensible, but honestly were he planning to check in that situation the turn raise is ridiculous. This is one of those situations in limit where you either need to call one bet and fold when you miss, or put in the full 3 to try to a fold. He did neither, and simply managed to transfer a huge pot from the fish to me, for which I was quite greatful :)