How Washington State poker laws affect structured games

In Washington State, no limit holdem cash games are illegal. You cannot find it even in Native casinos. In addition, online gambling is illegal here. These limits (pun intended) mean that poker players, even the very best at no limit, must play only structured ring games, and can only get their NLHE fix in tournaments. There are a plethora of cardrooms here with table games (but no slots, dice, or roulette), because card play must be used to promote food sales.

I make my money on the turn in Washington State. I do so very indirectly based on two reactions I can see from other players. First, remember that many no limit players are in structured games only because they cannot play NLHE in Washington. This means that they’re overcompensating for the value of a bluff on the turn, and undercompensating for the value of a bluff on the river.

Here’s the example. Last night, I’m in the cutoff – 1 happily snarfing my excellent Singapore noodles and I wake up to AKs. Under the gun +1 leads out with a raise. One call, and I repop. BB stays in, and we see a flop of queen/rag/rag with 1 of my suit. UTG+1 c-bets, and I call, smugly. BB folds. Turn comes a blank, and UTG+1 checks. I bet, he calls. Right at this moment, I’ve taken control, because I know he has some kind of standalone pair, maybe 8s or 9s, and he hasn’t put me on a hand. NLHE players are very loose right in this moment. He should have folded to my bet on the turn rather than hanging on for one more bet. River comes a rag, and I bet. He folds his almost certainly 100% hand, and I drag the pot, because he stuck around to see if he’d pick up a miracle. He gave me too little credit on the turn, and too much on the river. This pattern repeats constantly, and any time I see someone c-bet the flop and check/call me on the turn if we’re heads up, I’m at 75% to take the pot without seeing his hand on the river. He was playing like an NLHE player. I can add that bet pattern and super tight play to ABC poker and take small pots like a machine all day.

Due to the high caliber of Washington players, playing structured games here is like training at high altitude for the Bellagio 10/20 and 20/40 games. If you can beat the 4/8 games here, you can beat the 10/20 games in Vegas, and if you can beat the 6/12 (often the Big Game at any cardroom) you can beat the 20/40 game in Vegas. I haven’t even tried the 20/40 game at Diamond Lil’s; I’d lose my shirt. I do just fine in the 8/16 game there, though 😉

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