Self Management… Not!

This hand came a couple weeks ago playing $2-4 NL online.

I was the big blind.  A middle position player open-raised to $8, and there was one caller.  Only $4 to call and I have 9-8 suited.  I have posted previously about the ills of playing speculative hands out-of-position.  These middle suited connectors certainly qualify as a speculative hand.

By “speculative” I mean a hand that is much more likely to turn into a drawing hand (flush or straight draw) on the flop than it is to turn into a made hand with showdown value.  Often times, it will still be a drawing after the turn card.  Playing these out of position is a $$ killer.  It’s hard to be aggressive with semi-bluffs when you have to go first and have no sense of whether the opponents are showing any signs of weakness.  If their hands are strong, they will pound away with raises.  On the other hand, if you just check and call with draws, the more aggressive late position players will smell weakness and pound away with anything or nothing, leveraging their positional advantage.

So I called.

The flop was 9-9-5, with two diamonds.

Woo-hooooo!  A flop with showdown value.

There was $26 in the pot, so I led with a bet of $16, and one player called.

What could he have?  Maybe a diamond flush draw.  Maybe he also has a 9.  In that case, I’m in big trouble with my very mediocre kicker.  Maybe pocket fives and a flopped full house.  Or possibly some other pocket pair higher than 5’s and thinks I’m bluffing.  Or possibly two overcards.

The turn card was an off-suit 4, changing nothing.  I decide to be more aggressive and bet $60, approximately the size of the pot.  He calls again.

Now I’m sure this is a sign of trouble.  My bet is pretty aggressive.  He could think I’m bluffing, but I’ve been pretty darn tight and straightforward this session.  Much more likely he has the last 9, and a small chance of a flush draw.  Most flush draws would fold here… the board is already paired and my bet is too large to chase a draw based on the pot odds.

I don’t recall the exact river card, but it did not pair up my 8 and did not change the texture of the board significantly.  Now there is over $180 in the pot and I have $237 remaining.  I’m first to act and feeling some despair after my initial euphoria about the flop.

Aha!  This must be one of those “bet / fold” situations, where you can make a value bet on the river knowing that if the opponent raises he can only do so with a superior hand and you can confidently fold.  But how much?

Now my brain stops working.  Damn!  I’ve got to work on that.  Meanwhile the clock is ticking and I decide to bet 1/2 of my remaining stack, or $120 into about $185.  If he raises, that will answer the riddle of this hand.

Well, by golly he raises, and a mere minimum raise puts my all-in.  Now the pot is $540 and I have about $120 remaining.  I’m getting pot odds of approx. 4.5-to-1.  If he’s bluffing or betting a weaker hand a mere 18-20% of the time in this situation, it’s profitable for me to call.

Brain…   stops…   working…   again…

I call of my last chips, and he shows K-9.

My assessment was spot on, but I somehow couldn’t make myself stop dumping all my chips into the pot.

The quick emotional high of hitting the flop hard here caused an expensive mini-tilt in the middle of this hand.

Year-to-date online results:  $  -1,041

Month-to-date online results:  $ +164

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