A Funny Thing Happened When I Decided Not to Chop My Blinds

Normandie Casino, where I work, has been under new management in the past few months, and our new manager has really done an excellent job of turning the place around. Part of that has been bringing a yellow chip game (that’s a game with $5 chips for those of you who don’t play in LA much) to the Normandie. This week was the first week I got paid to play $15-30 at the Normandie as part of my regular schedule, and the difference between it and the lower games were striking. The players were, in general, far more aggressive regarding their involvement in a hand and would by a bit more reactive to your actions in this hand given the context of how you’ve acted previously. A reactive opponent is certainly something that takes a little getting used to when you’ve been paid to play blue chip games.

For instance, a player raised my big blind and I had Ah 7h. I am the most liberal defender of the blinds that I know of, a habit I picked up from Mike Caro. It’s served me well, and I feel other players are relatively easy prey when they give up their blind money so easily, but I’ll get more into that in a bit. At any rate, this player and I took the flop heads up. The flop was all rags, with two hearts. I check raised the flop, bet on the turn when the board paired, and then on the river when in paired again. My opponent called me all the way down with AK. My flush draw didn’t make it, but the two pair allowed me to get half the pot back. In a later pot, this player raised my blind again with pocket 10s. I called out of the big blind with Kc 10c. The flop brought a K and two suited rags that were not clubs. I check raised the flop and my opponent, figuring I was raising on the flush draw three bet the 10s, then proceeded to bet into me on the turn and river. I called all the way to win the maximum amount with my pair of Kings, because I feel he might have folded his 10s to me anywhere along the line had I ever put in any more action.

One of the ways that my new manager has managed to bring players in to play $15-30 at the Normandie is to offer the lowest house rake in town- $3. Things brings up something that I usually don’t give much thought to, and that’s chopping the blinds. In most forms of limit Hold’em, there are at least two blinds. If the actions folds down to just the blinds, it’s traditional that the blinds will simply “chop” or take their money back. The logic goes that it just doesn’t make sense for two players to play more or less random hands against each other when the house is going to take out a fair portion of the pot. For instance, in an $8-16 game, where the drop is $5 plus a $1 jackpot drop, if both of the blinds chose to play, then they will both start by putting $8 or so into the pot, and the house will take out $6. So you would have to outplay your opponent by quite a large margin to show a profit from this maneuver. Therefore, chopping the blinds makes sense.

However, in $15-30, where both blinds are putting in $15 and the house is only taking out $3 plus a $1 jackpot, you would only have to outplay your opponent by 10% or so to show a profit from this maneuver, and the amount you have to outplay your opponent decreases when you add more money to the pot in later betting rounds. I decided to take a very unusual path (particularly for a house player who are mainly concerned only with limiting their risk as much as possible) and not chop my blinds in the $15-30 game. Strangely, the first few days of my trying it, I’ve profited quite handsomely from it. I didn’t keep exact records, but I want to say that I seem to be winning a staggering number of blind pots- something akin to 90%.

I do this by positioning myself to the immediate left of players who are not comfortable playing short handed and who are too tight in defending their blinds. Their tendency is to just fold the small blind to me and allow me to win their $9 ($10 minus the houses take of $1 preflop) without a contest. I then have only to break even against the player to my left when I just call out of the small blind. I also try to make sure that the player to my left is not very aggressive in raising my blind when I just call out of the small blind. As strange as it may seem, these circumstances are not hard to arrange in the game I’m playing in. It seems as though most players are so conditioned to chop their blinds that they simply aren’t used to playing the hands out and fold when I put any action on them at all. This fundamental error on their part appears to be a huge potential windfall profit for me.

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