Mastering Macau

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Mastering Macau’s Live Cash Games: Part 1 & 2

Postby DM101 » Mon Mar 19, 2012 7:03 pm

Baller Magazine's ex-editor Ben Wilson wrote an interesting article lately. I'll just cut and paste it here for the kakis to read. Great stuff Ben!

PART I

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PLAYER PROFILING

Ben Wilson gives you the lowdown on how to beat the low-stakes Macau cash games. Lesson one: know your enemy

Gone are the days when a competent player could sit down at a poker table in Macau and be given free money by fishy opposition. Well, it is live poker, obviously this still happens, just not with the frequency it did back in 2007-2008 when poker made its first foray over to Macau. Now players have to work for their money and you know what they say about poker; it’s a hard way to make an easy living.

In Macau it’s all about picking your targets and there is a huge difference in the quality of opponents, even in a low stakes game like HKD $10/$25. As there is so much more information available to you when playing live, it is important to pay attention to your opponents – they give a great deal away without actually saying anything. Look at how they handle their cards and chips. If they are looking a bit lost, asking the dealer whether it’s their turn to bet, are acting out of turn or are string betting then it’s fair to assume they have no idea what they are doing. It is still possible to find players from Mainland China sitting at your table who have never played poker before in their life.

Rule 1:

DO NOT attempt to bluff these players; you are just giving money away. You should be taking all the cheap/free cards they give you to hit your draws and value betting them into submission when you have the goods. Conversely, whenever a fish puts in a massive raise, you should be folding unless you have a huge hand. With a bad player strong usually means strong and often they have hit an unlikely two-pair, back door draw or rivered a set with an under-pair. Avoid paying them off wherever possible.

Rule 2:

Don’t tap the glass; when (not 'if') these players call off all their chips for a gutshot or to hit runner-runner and suck out on you do not give them a lecture on why they are a fish or how they should have played the hand. You will either upset them and they will leave to go and play baccarat instead (where they will not be shouted at for gambling), or they will pay attention to your free ‘poker lesson’ and get better. Both of these things will hurt your bottom line and you are trying to make money after all.

Rule 3:

Over-bet the pot if you have the nuts. Obviously this is situation dependent and works best with straights, but can also work with flushes and full houses. For example you are in a multi-way limped pot (an extremely common occurrence in Macau) and the board has come down four to a straight, 7-8-9-10, and you are holding Queen-Jack. Move all-in. You will be surprised how many players will call with a Jack or even just a Six. You make the most money in Macau by stacking players when you have the best of it and they can’t find the fold.

Rule 4:

Get used to playing limped pots and being called to death. Players out in Macau like to call, a lot, especially at the lower stakes. This means that speculative hands like suited connecters and small to medium pocket pairs go up in value as you can get in cheap and hit the flop hard. Conversely premium hands like Ace-King and Ace-Queen can be tricky to play – you often end up either winning a small pot or losing a big one as it can be tough to get the hand heads-up or even three-way.

Rule 5:

Understand your foe; if you were the pre-flop raiser and a fishy player donk-bets into you on the flop they either hold some type of draw, middle pair or top pair on a low, raggedy board. Hell, they can even have top pair/no kicker on a King-high board (see Rule 1 above). Being as their draws are not always premium and include gutshots (even the bottom/idiot end), pair+gutshot draws and non-nut flush draws, it is usually a good idea to raise if you wish to protect your hand as they are trying to buy themselves a cheap turn card. You only have yourself to blame if you let them get there cheaply and then pay them off. Be aware that it is important to differentiate between a fishy player donk-betting a weak hand and a solid/nitty Tight-Aggressive (TAG) regular leading into the raiser with a set, which brings us to our next point…

Rule 6:

Respect the regulars; if a player is riffling their chips comfortably and betting with confidence then it’s reasonable to assume they know how to handle themselves. Assume they are competent until they show you otherwise i.e. calling against the odds to hit the bottom end of the straight or otherwise making suspect plays. Underestimate the regulars at your peril.

While the majority of low-stakes players are far from amazing, the local Macanese, Chinese and Hong Kong players, or the regulars at least, have been playing for around 3-5 years now and have a reasonable idea of what they are doing. Some are horribly nitty, love to short stack and getting money out of them is like squeezing blood from a stone. However, there are some decent TAGs who know how to play solid (but exploitable) ABC poker while others are competent but spewey LAGs (Loose-Aggressive players).

Play each type accordingly. Loosen up your calling range slightly against the LAGs and look to bluff catch by occasionally checking strong. Call in position with pocket pairs and suited connecters against the TAGs who can’t fold over pairs or top pair/top kicker hands and look to stack them when you hit two pair or better.

PART II

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EAST MEETS WEST

Ben Wilson give you the lowdown on how to beat the low-stakes Macau cash games. Lesson two: Macau plays differently

With Vegas on the wane and Macau on the rise, more poker players than ever are making the trip out East. However, the games play a little differently out in Macau and many players from Western countries often find themselves struggling to adjust their game. It is important to remember that live cash games are a different animal to online, and low stakes Macau cash games are a different species entirely, even compared to other live games.

When sizing up cash games in Macau versus Europe, the US and Australia/New Zealand, especially at the lower stakes ones like HKD $10/$25 and HKD $25/$50, one major difference is the mentality of the players at the tables. In the West players like to mix their pleasures and will often drink alcohol and play. Out in Asia they take their gambling seriously and very rarely mix booze and betting. Usually in Macau the only players you will see drinking at the tables are Westerners, and it’s a good bet that these are recreational players on holiday and can be taken advantage of the same way you would if you were playing an inebriated opponent at home.

Different Strokes

Games in the West are a lot more aggressive and there is a great deal of three and four-betting pre-flop, usually with a wide range of hands. Generally, in Macau when a player three-bets, four-bets or cold calls a three/four-bet they have one of two hands: Aces or Kings. Occasionally they may have Queens.

It is extremely unlikely (unless they are a short-stack) that they are doing this with Ace-King or Ace-Queen. Players simply don’t play Big Slick/Big Chick like that out in Macau; they prefer to limp call out-of-position (OOP) and smooth call in position so it pays to be wary. You can often find yourself raising in late position with Ace-Jack, King-Queen, King-Jack or a middling to low suited Ace, hitting the flop and buying a one-way ticket to value town, population you. Many of the locals will call you down all the way on Ace/King/Queen high boards, not raise you at any point and then show up on the river with Ace-King/Ace-Queen. It catches a lot of Westerners by surprise so consider this a warning.

Some players also like to limp in with big pocket pairs, and while these guys are often a good source of revenue when they take their Aces into a nine-way pot and can’t lay them down, they can also occasionally give you a nasty surprise on the river.

It is profitable to play your big made hands such as sets and two pair extremely fast. It is also viable to over-bet top pair/top kicker hands like Ace-King and Ace-Queen against poor players who will limp call all-in with top pair/poor kicker hands. While you may occasionally run into a big hand you also get massive value from players who can’t fold Ace-Five off-suit. While these bad players often overplay these hands and bet strongly with them you also need to be aware that if a fish shows real strength by firing really big bets or raises then they probably hold something decent.

Table Etiquette

You might want to try and eradicate any major tilt issues you have before visiting. Poker etiquette is distinctly lacking out in Macau and a lot of players will happily slow roll you. Indeed, it is considered something of a sport out here as, in their eyes at least, they make their unfortunate opponent lose face (perceived social value), which gains them extra brownie points (or something). The concept of face is something the Chinese take pretty seriously and many Asian players consider bluffing an art form as it makes their opponents lose face.

Moving On Up

There is also a noticeable difference in play between the two lower-stakes games. A winning style at $10/$25 will not necessarily make you money at $25/$50 and vice versa. In general $10/$25 games tend to be limp-call-fests where players are happy to limp-call with a wide range of hands. While this is the lowest stake cash game you will find in Macau it is not necessarily the softest and there are a lot of grinders at this level who know how to play.

Interestingly, while the $25/$50 game is bigger, the standard of play is not necessarily that much higher. If anything there are bigger fish at this level. Quite simply the sort of hardcore gambler who would think nothing of dropping HKD $10,000-$15,000 on a single hand of baccarat is not going to sit down at a $10/$25 table for $2,500-$5,000 and try to grind out a win.

However, the one noticeable difference in the $25/$50 game is the level of aggression and the game plays a lot more like a standard cash game in the West, albeit with some of the differences mentioned above. Players at this level usually enter the pot with a raise as opposed to a call, and will three and four-bet lighter and more liberally.

As soon as you get over the culture shock and get your head around the differences in playing styles out in Asia there is a great deal of money to be made for those who are willing to take the plunge. We wish you the best of luck.

Source: PokerPortal.Asia
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Re: Mastering Macau’s Live Cash Games: Part 1 & 2

Postby sengkang » Mon Mar 19, 2012 8:47 pm

Thank you for sharing.

However, this is the same site which reported the opening of a poker room in RSW"...Poker Portal Asia then reached out to a Resorts World source who has since confirmed for us that the news is indeed true."

I am not judging them, but personally I take it with a pinch of salt.
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Re: Mastering Macau’s Live Cash Games: Part 1 & 2

Postby Jeefei » Fri Apr 06, 2012 10:55 pm

Thanks a lot for the info. It was a good read for me. :)
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