The blinds

March 22, 2009

I love the blinds. Not my living room blinds; those things are getting cracked, bent and falling out faster than a candy addicts molars. I’m talking about the poker blinds, but of course. In the impatient player’s world, the blinds are a priceless friend.

That’s not to say I’m an impatient player, it more or less depends on the situation I’m in. If I’m out for the night at a friends’ house, a few hours into the game, up $100, plenty of alcohol, soda and food to go around, ESPN quietly flickering off in the corner somewhere…hey, I’m as content as can be. But if I’m down $100, need to be home to take my shift with the baby by 2 a.m., and it’s winding into the 1 a.m. hour, the food is stale, the alcohol and its affects are gone, the soda’s flat and the channel formerly showing ESPN somehow went to static…yeah, that tends to try my patience a bit.

So bring on the blinds. I know some people don’t like the idea of having to put money into the middle when others’ can choose to drop a garbage hand without losing anything up front, depending on whose turn it is. I can handle that, it’s part of the game, the same way the low up-card in a casino game of seven-card stud poker tags you as the one who has to make the initial bet to the table. Those are the rules, if you don’t like it, stay out of the tournaments and/or find a home game that’s cash-only and ante’s are standard.

There’s really nothing more annoying, though, than playing in a Texas Hold ‘Em tournament, working your way through the evening, eliminating a player here, avoiding being on the receiving end of a major all-in battle there, still being standing with a chip count you can barely see over, and then being forced to nickel and dime it out with stingy Sam across from you whose just as content to wait for the big hand to even put anything large into play.

Drives me crazy. It’s not the wrong strategy, unless you’re worried at that point about becoming too predictable and giving up the bluff. But even in that situation, it’s a tough call if you know your opponent is skilled enough to consciously bet to the power of his hand 50 times in a row and then throw you a curveball on No. 51. Either way, if he’s staring down a major chip disadvantage, and it’s winner-take-all regardless, what exactly does he have to lose?

Nothing, and that’s why you gotta increase the blinds. Every 10 minutes, every 30 minutes, doesn’t matter. As long as the players know in the back of their head, they can’t sit back and wait for the perfect situation. There has to be a little pressure to act, even for the most patient of poker players out there. It keeps the game interesting, keeps the action moving, and more importantly, keeps the money from staying in one place for too long.

I remember back in college, we’re talking 10 good years ago at least, we would conduct basement poker tournaments. Everyone would buy in for $10, there’d be 10, maybe 12 people…sometimes when we had enough we’d start with 2 tables of 6 or 7, and the top 3 from each table would combine to form the final table of 6. Anyway, I held my own every time one of these came together. I think I outright won a couple, lost at the final table once, but was always in the hunt. The biggest tournament I can remember involved 16 people, and it came down to me and one other kid. There’s some history here, too, since I was (am) a couple years older than him. Back when he was rushing our fraternity house, we got a game together over a big party weekend. He was pretty arrogant, and honestly just didn’t know what he was getting himself into. Funny how, even before poker was popular, there were people out there who thought they were better than they really were just because they ruled their high school weekend group. Of course, I used to be the same way, so who am I to judge.

Anyway, we took him for about $30 that night, with slick smiles on our faces, and he never forgot it…and, as it would seem, he held me mostly accountable since I won the most money that night. We were friends, it wasn’t animosity or anything, but he still would’ve loved the chance to get back at me in cards.

So we went back and forth, I had a huge chip lead (80/20 or a very similar split). The bets remained the same, though, our big rule mistake. So neither of us would give. I had no reason to try my luck given my position, and he was intent on pushing my buttons until I made a wrong decision, which he intended to capitalize on.

Well, that wasn’t going to happen, so we hit a major stalemate, and for literally the next hour sat through a tedious, exhausting back and forth with very little money changing hands. Eventually, we both gave in and just split the final pot 80/20 (other players gave us a little justified grief for making this decision ourselves without input from other players).

So I won some money, but what I really took from that experience is that you have to – HAVE TO – increase the blinds as certain time intervals. As much as I love poker, I need that action to keep moving. Take me to the next game, a different poker game, a new chance to win…the same stale game running in circles is not how poker was meant to be played.