KKing David

Ruminations on poker

Archive for the month “June, 2013”

Daily Debacle – Trapping… myself!

Over and over, non-standard plays seem to backfire more than they work.  Deceptive play is believed by many to be the biggest key to poker, so making non-standard plays (looking weak when actually strong / looking strong when actually weak) is recommended by some as a way to keep opponents off-balance and improve results.

On the other hand, I’ve been particularly focused lately on adhering to the more standard play of never calling pre-flop.  If the cards are good enough to play, they need to be good enough to raise.  Conversely, if they aren’t good enough to raise, you should simply fold.  This has three benefits:  (1) you are more likely to be starting out in the lead on the hand.  If the opponents are behind and have to catch up, you will win a higher percentage of the time.  Simple math.  (2) you are always the aggressor when starting a hand.  This buys more flexibility post-flop, as opponents will likely defer to you in the betting.  If you are last to act and everybody checks, you may make a bet to take down the pot even with unimproved cards based on weakness shown by the other players, or you may check behind and take a free card.  (3) reading your opponents hands is easier.  If an opponent re-raises pre-flop, they are signaling a very strong hand and you can easily fold the weaker part of your range.  If they limp and then call your raise, you can begin narrowing their range more easily than if you had let them see the flop more cheaply.

I recently posted about a tournament hand where I limped, then call after a raise and one other caller.  Before I knew what hit me, 90% of my stack and 100% of my tournament hopes were gone.

Last night playing $0.10 – 0.25 NL online, it happened again.  I had decided that for this session I would stick to the mantra of never calling pre-flop 100%.  Then a hand came along that seemed like a perfect exception to the rule.  I had QQ in the big blind.  Everybody folded to the button, who had just joined the table a couple hands earlier, and he raise to $1.00.  I was about to make a pot-sized 3-bet when a flash of brilliance overcame me, that I could make more money here by slow-playing the entire hand (as long as an A or K didn’t show up).

Flop ($2.25):  9h 8c 6h.  I check and button makes a continuation bet of $1.75.  Standard-ish continuation bet, and I call.  I don’t have a really good read on my opponent, but I do know that most flops miss most hands (thanks Dan Harrington!), and my overpair should still be good.  My call probably represents a draw to either a heart flush or a straight with me holding a 7.

Turn ($5.75):  8d.  This doesn’t change anything unless he has an 8 in his hand.  Now that there are two 8’s on the board, this is even less likely, and his range is still too wide to be able to write it all down.  The button now bets $3.50.  OK, now it is more likely that he has something with showdown value, or maybe he puts me on one of the draws and hopes to push me off the hand now or on the river if a safe card comes.  I call again, thinking my QQ is good.

River ($12.75):  4s.  A safe card for the button if I am indeed on a draw.  He bets $8.50 now.  I wonder what he has, still suspecting it is most likely 2 high cards or maybe a busted draw of his own.  This is also a safe card for me.  If I was ahead on the turn, surely I am still ahead.  The only hand this river card could help is 44.  I call again.

Button turns over 8h 9c for a full house!  I shoveled $14.75 into this pot (59 BB’s) never knowing where I stood but thinking I was the cleverest guy at the table.  (Cleverest?  Is that even a real word?  Spell-check didn’t flag it, but I digress…)

Had I make a pot-sized 3-bet before the flop, he probably folds and I win $1.00.  That’s $15.75 better than the actual result.

Before the flop I was an 84% favorite.  I should have made him pay for the chance to try to catch up.

Thinking about Phil Collins’ song title:  Against All Odds.  Gotta try rewriting the lyrics to make this a poker song and not a stupid love song.

Year-to-date online results:  (- $1,831)

Month-to-date online results:  + $74

Daily Debacle – Tilted Overbet

This came near the end (out of necessity) of a long session playing $0.10 – 0.25 NL online.

The villain in this hand is a super fish sitting to my immediate right (6-max tables).  His basic stats are VPIP = 49, PFR = 8 over 71 hands played.  Several times he has grossly overbet the pot after the flop, as much as 4x when the pot is very small.  I’ve been looking for a spot to take a big bite out of him.  Overall my session isn’t going so well.  On this and other tables I keep running into flopped sets and river suckouts, and my better hands aren’t getting paid off enough to compensate.  I probably should have quit before now, but that’s a whole another post for later…

Fishy villain is the small blind with $35 behind and I am the big blind with $37, there are only five players at the table, and everyone else folds.

I have Td 9d, for a sexy looking medium suited connector.  SB completes the blind and I check my option.  Let’s see a cheap flop and see what happens.

Flop ($0.50):  Qd 6h Jd.  SSSSWEEEEEET!!!  I have a straight flush draw.

Villain bets $2.00, into a pot of $0.50 (actually, after removing the rake, the pot is only $0.48).  I’m tired of this shit from him.  Let’s suppose he has something, like a pair or two pair.  I have 15 outs – 9 to make a flush, plus the 3 non-diamond kings and eights to make a straight, with 2 cards remaining.

If he has one pair, I am a favorite by about 57 – 43% to win the hand.

If he has two pair, he has outs to make a full house and his is the favorite by about 51 – 49%.

If he has a set (only plausible if he has 66 – surely he would have raised pre-flop with JJ or QQ), he would be the favorite by 58 – 42%.  I consider this very unlikely as probably would slow play.

So I shove all-in.  That’ll show him!

He calls without too much hesitation and shows J-6 off suit.  At the time, I thought it was just a pair of jacks with a weak kicker, but now I’m looking at the replay and he actually had bottom 2 pair.

The turn and river are Tc (giving me two more outs to make 3 of a kind) and Ah.  There goes a $70 pot.

On the one hand, I had a lot of equity in this pot and coulda / shoulda / woulda won a nice sum if one of my outs had hit.

On the other hand, it was basically a coin toss and in hindsight not realistic to think that I had any fold equity – my bet screams of bluff or semi-bluff and this fish wouldn’t know how to fold 2-pair on the flop even if I had top set and turned my cards over face up.  Putting your entire stack at risk on a 50/50 proposition is GAMBLING, and my goal is to make profitable short-term investments, not to “gamble.”

My huge overbet shove after his much smaller overbet was a tilted play.  I was on tilt.  Not the full raging, screaming, throwing things kind (until after this hand), but the “C game” not thinking clearly or acting rationally kind.


Daily Debacle – Root Cause Analysis

This hand was played in a live NL Hold’em  tournament last night.  I’ve played with this group several times previously, but only familiar with 2-3 of the other players.

This event starts with a relatively short stack for a tournament, with 50 BB’s to start, increasing every 20 minutes.  There are no antes throughout this tournament.  The room was packed, so they put 11 players at each table initially.  With these starting stacks, we typically starting seeing some all-in moves in the first level.  It only takes one or two raises before feeling pot committed.  There is a resulting tendency to feel a need to get involved in many pots early on (if one can do so cheaply) to maximize your chances of accumulating some chips early.

Barely one orbit into the tournament, I get Jh Th in the UTG+1 seat.  I’ll walk through what happened, and save the analysis for the end here.

I limp in – just calling the big blind.  A player in MP raises to 5BB’s and the button calls.  A few hands earlier, I picked off a river bluff from the MP player with a low pocket pair when he only had Ace-high on a scary board.

The flop is J-T-5, rainbow.  Top two pair for me.  I check.  MP checks and Button bets 15 BB’s.

I then check-raise and my stack is larger than both MP and Button (I started the hand with about 51 BB’s, MP had 32 BB’s and Button had 44 BB’s).  I shove all-in over the top of Button’s bet.

MP calls and after tanking a bit Button also calls.

I turn over J-T for top two pair.  MP shows T-T for a set of tens.  Button shows AA.

The turn is another 5, putting the Button ahead of me for the side pot, and the river is a total brick.

MP wins the main pot and triples up, Button survives with about 25 BB’s out of the side pot, and I’m left with only 7 BB’s.

A few hands later, I bust out of the tournament, when my 55 loses to 33 making a set on the turn by this same Button villain.

After busting out, I walked outside to get some fresh air, sip on a beer and reflect.  I wrote our my recollection of this hand on the notes app of my iPhone and tried to think about what my comments would be if a friend sent me the play-by-play and asked for my feedback.

After the flop, the hand basically plays itself, except the Button’s call after I shove and the MP shoves is a bit suspect.  But it’s so hard to let go of pocket Aces on the flop and had he done so he would have been left with just under half of his original stack.

I checked into the pre-flop aggressor.  This seemed pretty straightforward to me, as I planned to check-raise all-in as soon as I saw the flop.  Had I led out there, it’s possible both other players (of course me not knowing their cards yet) would sense danger and fold.

MP checked behind me and this was a bit of a surprise, but suggested either big unpaired cards like AK or AQ that would hope for a free card, or something like 99 or 88 that is worried about the over cards.  As it turned out he was just setting a trap with his monster flopped set of tens.

Button’s flop bet looked very much like a “both of you guys look weak so why don’t I just take this away from you” type of bet.  At least that was my interpretation at the time.  He had called pre-flop, so I was not suspecting he would have a big pair like AA.  Give him credit for deceptive play, and criticism for giving me odds to call pre-flop and make it a multi-way hand.

At the flop, the pot was 16.5 BB’s, and Button bet 15 BB’s.  After calling 15, the pot would now be 46.5 BB’s and I would have 31 remaining.  No reason to get cute – shove it!

So did I make a mistake on this hand?  Was this disaster avoidable?  Should I have had a read here that I was in big trouble?

I’ve been trying extra hard lately to accept and apply the basic principle in no limit Texas Hold’em that if your cards are good enough to play pre-flop, they must be good enough to raise.  If they are not strong enough to raise – given your position and the prior action – then you must fold and not call.  Calling is passive.  Calling is for dummies.  Calling is spewing chips.  Calling leads to death!  And I’ve been drastically reduced the number of limps and calls pre-flop.

Yet here I limped with Jh Th.  They look so good, these suited-connecting-Broadway cards.  Yet I know this is not a monster hand, and with 11 players at the table and I’m 2nd to act, I did not want to inflate the pot to a level that I could not call a raise.

That was my mistake.  JT suited is not in my raising range for such an early position.  Therefore I must fold, not limp.  At the time I was thinking about all the good things that can happen, and the importance of seeing some flops before too many other player built up big stacks.

But re-read the hand and think about two alternative scenarios.  The first is that I fold.  Easy peasy.  I still have 51 BB’s and can wait for a better opportunity to attack.  After all, this is still blind level 1.

Alternatively, I could have raised.  Surely either MP or Button (or both!) would have re-raised.  If MP calls, I cannot imagine Button flat calling with two other players and he has AA.  He can try to represent a squeeze play (a big raise after an opening raise and one call, which implies great strength, consequently this is used at times as a bluff) or just decide the chips in the pot are worth attacking.  Besides, one or both of us might call.  If MP re-raises, even if Button then flat calls (more likely he ships), I’m probably going to fold.  JT is no good against a re-raiser and caller and I’d be out of position for the rest of the hand.  So if I raise (say… to 4 BB’s), it is nearly certain that I’ll end up folding pre-flop and still have 47 BB’s left to play with.

Hmmmph!  That’s not so bad.

In hindsight, limping pre-flop resulting in setting my own trap, then walking right into it after the flop came out.

Either folding or raising would have avoided that.

I finish my beer and wait for the cash game to begin.

Year-to-date online results:  (- $1,787)

Month-to-date online results:  + $118


Daily Debacle – Bluffed Again!

One of the consequences of tight-aggressive play is that sometimes the tight part is just too tight.

I recently posted about folding KK pre-flop in a live cash game – for the first time ever.  As it turned out then, the villain had AK suited, not the feared AA.

Last night it happened again.  I was playing in a no limit Hold’em tournament at a local sports pub.  The starting field of 22 players was whittled down to the final seven, and I look down at 22 in middle position.

I should fold.  But… I’m playing poker and a flopped set would be really nice.  My stack is above average.  My table image is strong.  I’ve knocked several players out of the tournament already and not been caught with my hand in the cookie jar.

So I do the worst possible thing – limp.  Rhymes with wimp.  Shrimp.  Gimp.  Imp.  Nothing good here.  In online games, I’ve virtually eliminated pre-flop limps and calls from my repertoire.  If it’s not strong enough to raise or re-raise, I fold.  The results of doing this, finally accepting and applying some wisdom I’ve known for a  long time, have been quite good.

Back to last night.  The cutoff and button both fold, the small blind calls and the big blind checks his option.

Flop (3 BB’s):  Ah Kc 7h.  Both blinds check.

Then I realize I’m the only player in the hand that didn’t start out in one of the blinds.  They both look weak.  I can represent an ace here and take this down.  I bet 2 BB’s, and get ready to drag in some more chips.

But my plan is derailed when the small blind calls.  Hmmm… sure looks like a flush draw.

Turn (7 BB’s):  4s.  SB checks.  I hate giving him a free card, but hate even worse spewing away chips at this point of the tournament.  At the start of this hand I had about 20 or so BB’s in my stack.  No time to get cute with just a pair of deuces.  I check back.

River (7 BB’s):  2h.  Voila!  I make a set, but the 3rd heart also comes.  Now the small blind thinks a few seconds and bets 4 BB’s.  I don’t recall ever playing with this guy before and he hasn’t done anything unusual.

Let’s review:

  • Pre-flop:  he limps
  • Flop:  he checks, then calls
  • Turn:  he checks, I check
  • River:  he leads out for just over half the pot

Looks like a flush.  I know I’m beat.  But then again… I’m a poker player.  If I fold, I may never know for sure.  This fact haunts me over and over.  I examine my stack.  If I call and lose, I still have enough chips to be able to throw some weight around, but can’t really afford another passive, spewy hand like this one.  If I fold, I feel much more confident about the fold equity.

As they say, the chips you lose in a tournament have more value than the chips you win.

But I really wanna, wanna, wanna call.  The whole point of getting into this hand in the first place was hoping for a set.  I got it.  How’m I going to fold?

I stare at him hoping for a tell, a glimmer of inspiration as to what to do.  Ultimately I decide that if I’m wrong, I’d rather be wrong folding than be wrong calling.  I announce that this is a really big laydown, and fold my set of deuces face up.

Before merging the pot with his stack, he shows AJ off-suit, smiles and says he thought I might have 2 pair and he hoped the 3rd heart would be scary enough that I’d let it go.

I lost 3 BB’s in this hand.  With a call, I could have gained 8 BB’s, a huge swing late in this tournament.

And that’s how poker goes.  When I thought I was ahead, I was actually behind.  Then the river card came which helped me but helped the hand I imagined the villain to have even more.  Now I thought I was behind, but I was actually ahead.

Year-to-date online results:  (- $1798)

Month-to-date online results:  + $107

Lean on Me

I was doing a cardio workout at the gym today and listening to some music on Pandora when Bill Withers’ classic Lean on Me came on.

The opening refrain sure does sound like a poker game theme:

“Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain, we all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow…”

Year-to-date online results:  (- $1,846)

Month-to-date online results:  + $59

Daily Debacle – When Not to Semi-Bluff

Still back at the micro-stakes rebuilding my confidence and playing $0.05 / 0.10 NL online.

In this hand I have As 6s in the cutoff seat and the action is folded to me.  I make my standard opening raise to $0.30, the button re-raises to $0.50, and the small blind calls.  Big blind folds, and it is $0.20 more to me, with $1.40 now in the pot.  Getting 7-to-1, I call.

Flop ($1.60):  7h Ts Js.  Nut flush draw for me.  The small blind, with only $1.18 remaining in his stack, quickly goes all-in.  I have approx. $7.00 behind and call.  Button also calls.

Turn ($5.14): Qc.  Missed.  The button now has $2.86 behind and I have him covered.

Since there is not side pot at this point and the SB is already all-in, a semi-bluff accomplishes nothing.  I should assume SB has something with showdown value – perhaps a simple top pair / good kicker type of hand, or 2-pair, or a set.  He may have a straight draw or weaker flush draw.  But regardless, I cannot push him off the pot.  Repeat:  I cannot push a player who is already all-in off the pot.  CANNOT!

If I check, the button may also check and I’ll get a free card.

I’m really not sure why I did this, other than a brain fart or mini-tilt of some sort, but I shove all-in on the turn.  The button quickly calls.

SB:  Ks Jc, for a pair of jacks with a king kicker, and a straight draw.

Button:  Jh 9c for a pair of jacks with a nine kicker, and the idiot end of a straight draw.

River:  brick!

Stupid play.  I could have saved some money here.  Won’t get out of these micro stakes if I keep playing like I belong here.

Year-to-date online results: (- $1882)

Month-to-date online results:  + $23

Daily Debacle – Sinking my Boat

A picture tells a thousand words.  Got it all-in on the turn here:



Boat over boat

Daily Debacle – VPIP = 100

While recovering from a recent major downswing, I’m playing at the micro stakes again.  Now at $0.05 / 0.10 NL online.  Yuck!  Some adjustments are necessary at these stakes based on the nature of the player pool and $$ involved.

At this particular table, one player has been in every pot.  Literally every single one.  He’s been at the table for 22 hands and VPIP (Voluntarily Put $$ Into Pot) is 100%.  He’s been bleeding money, but keeps sticking more in there.

I have As Ac.  Time to relieve this fish of some more of his chips.  (Do you like my use of fish and chips in the same sentence?  I thought so, but I digress…).  I am in the cutoff seat and the fish is the small blind.

UTG raises to $0.20 and the next player calls.  I 3-bet to $0.60.  The fish in the small blind calls and so does the original raiser and original caller.

Flop ($2.50):  9h 5s 2h.  This is really dry except for the hearts flush draw.  Possible sets out there (as always) but this board would not have hit many of the villains’ hands very hard.  Let’s play aggressively.

Everybody checks to me, so I bet $2.10, about 85% of the pot.  The fish now check-raises all-in for $5.40.  I have him covered and it will cost me $3.30 more to call.  There is $10 in the pot now, so I’m getting 3-to-1 on the call.

Before I tell the rest of the story, let’s do some analysis.

First of all, his range:  For starters, any 2 cards.  Now, check-raising all-in, we have to give him sets (999, 555 or 222), any 2-pair (95, 92, 52), flush draws (any 2 hearts), top pair hands (any 9x).  What else?

Against this very wide range, I am a 64.5% favorite.  Easy call.

Against sets only, I am only a 10% favorite.  Easy fold (if I can narrow his range this much).

Against 2-pair hands only, I have more outs as the board can pair making me a higher 2-pair hand.  I would be a 27% favorite, just high enough to justify a call.  73%-to-27% = 2.7-to-1 and the pot is giving me 3-to-1 odds.

Against sets and 2-pair hands combined, I am a 22.7% favorite.  Not high enough to call.

Against sets, 2-pair and hands with a 9 and a kicker higher than 9 (A9-T9), I am a 57.5% favorite.  Easy call.

So I call.  (Duh… you knew that already, as the title of this post starts with “Daily Debacle…”)

Villain turns over 5h 2s.  Yep, the lowest possible 2-pair and shittiest possible hand in his range.  My hand doesn’t improve and I lose this pot.

Who is the fish now?

Year-to-date online results:  (- $1,892)

Month-to-date online results:  + $14.   Yee-haw!


Daily Debacle – Pocket Aces / Easy Fold

I actually played this hand right, but it sure didn’t go the way I wanted.

Last night in a private live cash game, $0.25 / 0.50 NL Hold’em.  It’s getting late and the game is going to break up in less than an hour.  Everyone is a regular.

I get AA in late/middle position.  Two players limp in front of me.  I raise to $2.75, a pot-sized raise.  5 players call, including both of the limpers.

Yes, five!  Jeez, this a a formula for getting hammered.  AA is so hard to fold and with six players in the hand, one pair is not very likely to win.  Against 5 random hands, AA is only 48% favorite to win.  Actually I was surprised upon seeing this figure, expecting it to be even lower.  Maybe I’ll hit a set on the flop…

Flop ($16.50):  Td 9d 8d.  It doesn’t get any wetter than that.  Straights, flushes, straight flushes…

I check to see if I have the A of diamonds.  Nope.

The small blind (Gary) leads out for $2, kinda small and suspicious if you ask me.  One of the limpers (Chad) calls.  The next limper (Darryl) raises to $10.  Hmmm…  A bet, call and raise all in front of the pre-flop aggressor.

After waiting patiently all night for a hand like this, my brain is struggling to send the nerve signals to my hand muscles to toss my pocket rockets into the muck.  But really!  This is probably the easiest fold of AA I’ll ever get.  Common sense prevails and I much the cards, followed by everyone else.  Darryl shows 6d 4d for a flopped baby flush.

Just for fun, the dealer runs out the remaining cards, which includes the 2d which would have made a 4-card flush on the board.

Just sayin…..


Daily Debacle – Take it Easy

With apologies to The Eagles, the song “Take it Easy” comes to mind with a few modifications:

Well, I’m running out of dough
about to loosen my load
I’ve got seven villains on my mind…
Four are gonna own me,
Two that wanna stone me,
One says he’s a friend of mine…
Take it easy, take it easy
Don’t let the turn and the river drive you crazy
Lighten up while you still can
don’t even try to understand
Just find a place to make your stand and take it easy
Well, I’m sitting on the button
when all of a sudden
there’s such a fine sight to see
It’s two Aces, my Lord, and the big stack calls
slowin’ down to make a play at me
Come on, baby, don’t say maybe
I gotta know if your sweet call is
gonna save me
We may lose and we may win
Though we will never be here again
so open up, I’m goin’ All-in,
so take it easy
Oh No-o-o oh oh… No-o-o oh oh
Well I’m running down the road and I’ve loosened
my load, got a world of trouble on my mind
lookin’ for a backer who knows I’m not
a hacker, that’s so hard to find
Take it easy, take it easy
don’t let the turn and the river make you crazy
come on baby, don’t say maybe
I gotta know if your sweet call is
gonna save me
Oh No-o-o oh oh… No-o-o oh oh
Oh we got it easy
We oughta take it easy…   …   …

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