Here is a report on my first 4 days (nights actually I guess) from the front. So far it's been a mixed bag, with every night being very different from the one before.
My first (and as it turns out best) shift so far was Friday. I showed up a bit early (so early in fact that I got a demerit for swiping in too early...turns out you can only swipe in 15 minutes before your shift) and was seated in a 20/40 game by 10:40 PM. The 20/40 games collapsed from 3 tables to 2 a few hours later, and I took a 40 minute break, then was put back in one of the games where I stayed for the remainder of my shift. I won a fair bit that night (the trajectory was +1100, -100, +1400, +700) and left quite happy. I played 6.5 hours of 20/40 in a 7 hour shift, basically doing exactly what I would have done were I not a prop with the exception of the 40 minute break (which honestly was probably good for me). The reason I played no 40/80? The 60/120 game went all night and was full anyway. Even if a seat opened up I wouldn't have had to play, since I'm only a 40/80 prop.
Saturday was a little different. I started off in a 20/40 game and played for an hour or so, then Davey called me into the 40/80 game (the 60/120 had converted down to 40/80 at about 6pm according to Frank) because there was an open seat. I played for 30 minutes, won $400, and gave up my seat the instant a customer showed up. I then finished my "lunch" (garlic chicken) and eventually put myself into an 8/16 game that was in danger of breaking. I won 2 racks in an hour (that was pretty fun) with the following rough sketch of a hand proving that I am only allowed to win in small games:
Low jack open limps 8 handed and I raise A3cc in the cutoff. This "iso raise" works beautifully, as the button calls two cold, the big blind comes along, and the low jack proceeds to back raise. I call obviously. 4 ways for 3 bets, and the flop is:
J93 with one club
BB checks and low jack bets. I can't fold unless he shows me a set of jacks or nines, so I raise. This is probably a little silly, but I had no read on the low jack and he could easily have AK here so I went for it. The button folded but the big blind called and the low jack 3-bet. OK OK I get it. I called along with the big blind.
Bing blang blaow. The big blind now donks and the low jack is pained. He calls only and I raise. The big blind now folds and now the expression on the low jack's face is one of pure joy. He 3 bets! I got limp re-raised twice in the same hand! At this point I have no idea what's going on and have no choice but to just call and hope he doesn't actually have the full house he's representing.
He checks! I tank and bet, he calls and folds QQ face up. To say I am stunned would be quite an understatement. At this point I am nicknamed "Action" by one guy at the table, as in when I get an open seat in a 20/40 game 15 minutes later he says "Hey, where's Action going? He can't leave!"
I played the 20/40 for an hour or so and lost a bit, then got called back into the 40/80, in which I played and broke even for the remaining 2.5 hours of my shift. I made some pretty egregious mistakes (I think) and was tired and a bit scared, but I I got out alive for the night a $500 winner.
Sunday night was pretty bad. I spent my first 2.5 hours in a shortish 20/40 game. It was alright, with an interesting mix of some very competent and very terrible players. It's not a game I would have sought out were I on my own, but I'm sure I was at least a marginal winner and sitting in it was not a waste of time. Eventually the game got down to 5 handed, with me and two other solid players and the pair of fish (one of whom was truly terrible, the other of whom was merely pretty bad). Then the game basically broke at 1:45, except for me and the truly terrible player (who by the way was on his 4th rum n coke since 12:30) and I offered to continue to play him HU. My motivation for this was a virtual platter of reasons. First of all, I had nothing better to do and playing this guy HU would actually be fun. Second of all, if I let this game break I'd really have nothing to do for the next 4 hours and there was some chance that a couple of brave souls would walk in the door and gamble with us. Third of all, this guy was terrible, and even at a $1/hand drop I figured I could crush him. And finally, the guy was way too drunk to drive. Like it was not close, and I hoped that offering to play would keep him long enough that maybe his situation would improve. Anyway, we played HU for about an hour, and he at first just crushed me, winning every hand (if they flop a pair and you do not, you cannot win) then I crushed him, getting back almost to even for the night, then he won the last two hands (we declared them to be the last two hands) with me getting it backwards (some action and I fold 44 on a flop of KT7 because this guy is super passive...like that's why I was playing him, he basically didn't bluff and probably only check raised twice in the hour we played heads up....He shows 83o for a total bluff, but I'm sure he'd have made a straight anyway so I saved some chips...and on the last hand I called him down with K8 on a board of AQJ-2-2 and on the river he's like "you're good" and I'm like "king high" and he's like "What? Really? I have a queen...why did you call me? Did you think I was going koo koo?" and it being the last hand I just kinda shrugged and said "well yeah" and a little light bulb went on over his head and he said "Well I guess you were right, I would have done that with anything") and ending the HU portion of the night basically dead even but still stuck the better part of a rack.
The next 3.5 hours were soul crushing. I shuttled through 5 tables of 3/6, 3-100 spread, 6/12, 3/6 and 6/12, taking small losses basically everywhere I went. The games weren't even that good. Like if they'd put me at a 3/6 table where every pot was going off 7 or 8 ways and I could raise and get 6 cold callers that would have been at least fun. Perhaps not very profitable, but fun nonetheless. These games were just weak tight boring and terrible with a $5 drop. By the end of the night there were only 4 tables going in the entire poker area, and I was counting the minutes until I could rack up my chips at 6am. I took the blind at 5:58, and at 6:00 with me under the gun two players at my table called for service. Apparently "first call" is at 6am. See, you really do learn something every single day. Result for the night was to wipe out the previous day's profits.
And Monday night...ah Monday night. This was the first night on which I really felt like I earned any portion of my pay check. I started the night in a short 8/16 game (one thing I will say is that I have showed up 4 days in a row and been seated instantly in a 20/40 three times and an 8/16 once) which I once again crushed for almost 2 racks in 75 minutes. The games collapsed from 2 tables to 1 after a while (this is when props usually have to get up, as they need all the seats for the customers), and I was homeless again for 30 minutes (during these breaks early in the evening I've been fortunate enough to have a friend at the casino with whom I shot the bull, about all manner of stuff like how to play AA or whether or not I could have a demerit free night....I did not, but did have my first single demerit night). I did an orbit of 3-100 spread but gave up my seat instantly when 3 customers showed up and listed themselves, but the purple elephant in the corner of the room couldn't be ignored much longer. There was no 20/40 game (this is a lifetime first for me...I had never walked into Garden City and there not been a 20 game) and the 40/80 game was full with no list. At 1:15am I got the call, and I ended up playing in the game until my shift ended at 6am. At first the game was fantastic, with a bunch of lags spewing chips left and right, but eventually they went broke and were at pivotal moment. There were only 5 of us, and I thought the game might break. Even though I was stuck handily I wanted it to break because I was tired and just didn't need the stress. The 8/16 was still going and I'd have been perfectly happy to play that all night. We continued to play, however, and eventually another crazy Russian appeared and we played out the evening from about 3:30 onwards with the same 6 players. Myself, the Russian, Frank the prop, a solid but passive player, a solid TAG, and a steaming fish. Soldier on I did all night, and here then is how it went. I dragged my first pot at the 75 minute mark....in 75 minutes I won at least 6 pots, maybe more, in the 8/16. And no I'm not getting outplayed by these big game geniuses. I just didn't have any hands worth showing down for almost an hour and a half. Or stuff like this happened:
First hand is completely standard for Garden City 40/80. UTG raises and 5 people call. That's five. I think we were still 9 handed at this point, but maybe only 8 I don't know what on Earth does it matter it's freaking 40/80 here people. I call in the big blind with 94dd closing the action getting 13:1 with suited cards. This is beyond standard.
Why wouldn't I get this flop? I don't even end up going batshit, although I probably should have. I check to UTG obviously (betting into him would be silly...I want as many people putting as many bets into this pot as possible) and he checks....The next guy bets and gets two callers before somebody raises. I think for a second and pick up an incoming telegraph that the better is going to 3-bet, which basically means there's no freaking reason for me to do it, so I just call. He 3-bets and sadly both callers fold. The steaming fish calls and I just call...I could cap for value here but the steaming fish is likely to have some of my outs covered so I play it safe. Besides, winning this pot without hitting seems pretty unlikely. There are 25 small bets in the pot already, AKA $1000, and I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 33% equity. The turn brings a king and the bettor continues to fire. Steaming fish now folds (lol, wtf) and I consider a bluff check/raise but think better of it. River J and I check to surrender. He checks back 87 for a counterfeited two pair that still beats me and I am sad.
Second one is just kind of silly. It's 7 handed and UTG opens and UTG+1 3-bets. Now both of these players are aggressive and the like, but UTG+1 has been cold calling a lot. I mean like once or twice an orbit a lot. So it's not like she doesn't know how to cold call and therefore I assume her 3-betting range isn't massive. So UTG+2 I peer down and see AQo and think for about half a second before mucking it. This is close...obviously AKo is a cap, and there are certainly ranges the two players can have that make a cap correct, but I don't think they have them. I emailed some friends about this and 3 out of 4 said they muck the hand. The button calls and the board runs out AA5-9-Q. The preflop 3-bettor eventually tables 55 after checking the flop and watching it check through, then getting exactly 1 bet on each street. The amount of money I would have won on this hand is astonishing. Alas.
Now we move on to more standardly awful beats. The steaming fish opens for the third hand in a row under the gun. He's short on chips (as usual, I think he bought $400 5 or 6 times just while I was in the game, and he was clearly already bludgeoned at that point) and I 3-bet ATo in the small blind. This is not standard, but his range is obviously kamikaze level wide, my hand is not awful, the BB will fold, and his positional advantage is greatly nullified by the fact that he only has 13 chips left. The flop comes down
And he calls my bet. This is the whole positional advantage thing. I can fire the turn now pretty much no matter what and he's lost his ability to raise.
Praise jesus a pair. I have a pair I bet! He raises all in for one extra chip and I call. The river bricks off and he has A8ss for the stone nut flush. I take AT to war against A8s, hit a TEN, and still cannot win the pot.
10 minutes later he's on kamikaze duty again (his basic strategy was to get it all in bad against me, win, then spew off the winnings to everyone else, rebuy, then get it all in bad against me again and win). I open 77 UTG in a kill pot. He has posted the kill two spots later. I'm not even kidding the man has won two pots in a row and he does not have enough chips to play this 60/120 hand. Everyone else folds and he calls (when you post the kill you're last to act preflop, which is a huge advantage). The flop comes:
I bet 6 chips and he calls
I bet 12 chips and he raises...to 13 chips. Once again he has a single chip left with which to raise me. The river bricks off and I table my hand. He shows J3hh for the head shot.
Next up the button opens and I 3-bet A6cc in the small blind. The big blind folds and the button elects to cap. I call and we see the board run out:
Obviously he has the mighty KTo for the boat.
Frank opens in the HJ and I 3-bet him on the button with KQcc. This is a kill pot mind you, with the kill posted by steaming fish in the natural big blind. So I've already put $180 out there and I have King high. Frank just calls, and also just calls the flop of:
He check/raises the 8 turn and I call him down on the river brick. He has J9cc (even the same suit as me) for the turned nuts.
Some other humorous stuff happens, with me raising the Russian's kill with A4o OTB and him calling with J6o and somehow calling the turn with a one card 6-high flush draw and rivering a jack to beat my ace high. Frank does basically the same thing, with me instead holding QTs and checking back a river of K97s-2s-8c to see him table 85ss for one pair. I open the button with 33 and the super passive SB 3-bets me (at least he's super passive in that I've seen him cold call with AQs and AKo in almost this exactly spot before). I expertly fold the 965 rainbow flop and he shows me 66. I am so good....
Despite all this I manage to catch a few hands here and there and grab a little rush between 5:50 and 6:00 to leave the game stuck only a little more than a rack and post only a 3 figure loss for the night. I feel like I have some work to do on my short handed play if I'm going to thrive in situations like this, but I already learned a lot in under a week.
My general thought on this whole situation is so far so good. I think that treating poker like a job again, and being forced into some situations that are a little outside my comfort zone, be it passive 6/12 tables or short handed laggy 40/80 ones, will be good for my development. I think I'd perhaps gotten a little complacent in my studying and learning efforts, and this change of pace should help turn that around.