Sometimes when things are running pretty good, I start to think that I’m actually a good poker player. It’s a nice thought. I like it. “Self,” I say to myself, “You’ve figured this game out.”
When that happens, the next level is a certain kind of arrogance whereby I start to think that all I have to do to win is merely to show up. I will bet and other players will either call with worse hands or fold with better hands. Show up, put some chips in the middle and rake it all back. What a charmed life!
Then this happens:
I’m plodding along in a $1-2 no limit Hold’em session, with $203 in play after buying in at $200. I have two tables open (playing online) and the other table is down about $130 in part due to similar thoughts to those described above.
With A-K off suit UTG+1, I raise to $7. The players 2 seats to my left calls, and everyone else folds.
The flop is 4d 8d 3d. Three diamonds. This looks like a great spot for a continuation bet or even a multi-barrel bluff. My strategy is to represent that I have a big pocket pair, and hope for a call on the flop if the Villain has a single high diamond and wants to chase a flush draw. I bet $12.50 and he calls. My plan is working. Besides that, I’ve figured this game out. This sort of fancy thinking about how to extract extra value on a monochrome board (Disclaimer: I did not make up the phrase “monochrome board.” I heard it on a poker podcast and thought that sounded way cool. But I digress.)
The turn card is Tc, not really changing anything. Now there is $40 in the pot (after the rake), and I want to make a pot-sized bet so he clearly knows he doesn’t have the proper pot odds to continue chasing a flush. I bet $40. He calls again, and now the pot is $120.
This surprises me somewhat, but maybe this player is weaker than I thought. Or maybe he has something. Let’s do some structured hand analysis and math (after the fact – there is not enough time to do this while playing).
First, let’s assign a range of possibilities to his hand holding. He called but did not re-raise the pre-flop, flop and turn bets. I will rule out AA and KK, but he could have pocket pairs QQ – 33. I think he probably folds 77 – 55 on the turn if not sooner, so I’ll delete these. He could have Ad or Kd with an unsuited kicker, possibly as low as an 8. So I will give him AdKx – Ad8x (Ace of diamonds, offsuit kicker) and KdQx – Kd8x. He could also have a made flush with just about any two diamonds higher than the 8, although I think combos of Q9 and J9 are less likely to have called pre-flop. I will also include 76 and 65 suited connecting diamonds in his range. That would be a bit loose for pre-flop calls, but I don’t have a good enough read on this Villain to rule that out.
Against this range, I have about 21% equity. Obviously I am behind all of the pairs, sets and made flushes, and only ahead of naked drawing hands. But I’ve figured this game out and it is very clear that is the case here.
The river is 3h, pairing the board but missing the flush. How much to bet now? I have about $142 remaining, so I bet $71. This is half of my remaining stack and approximately 60% of the pot.
He quickly calls and shows AdKd for a flopped nut flush. Villain wins a $264 pot.
The funny thing about poker at this level is that other players will give you their chips if you’ll just be patient and wait for the right spots. This sort of fancy play is totally unnecessary. Sure, sometimes it works, but spewing away 2/3 of your stack is not the route to fame or fortune.
Why do I keep doing this?
I need to figure this game out.
Year-to-date online results: + $7,735
Month-to-date online results: + $650