Last week I was playing in a short-handed live cash game, no limit Hold’em with blinds of $0.25 / 0.50. For awhile, I was having my way with the table, and ran up an initial buy-in of $20 up to about $70.
Then a new player, “Mike,” arrived. On this hand, I had the button and dealt myself AK off-suit. Mike raised to $2.00, I called, then Dave in the small blind 3-bet up to $6. Jim called, Mike called and I called.
Flop ($24): K-J-T, giving me top pair / top kicker. Everybody checks, so I drop in a bet of $11. I do this by grabbing a stack of $1 chips and plopping them in front of me without bothering to count them. At the time I wasn’t really sure if the bet was $10 or $12 or $13 but it didn’t matter. I wanted my bet to appear more like a challenge – “I dare you to call” – than a carefully measured value bet.
Dave and Jim both fold, but Mike check-raised to $33… then after counting out the chips realized he only had $1 more behind. Let’s just treat this as an all-in bet of $34 when we get to the math.
Whoops! I didn’t see that coming. Mike and I have played a lot together, so it’s important to get to the right level of thinking here. He could be calling BS on me based on the way in which I bet. Normally I’m more of a careful measurer of chips and like to slide them out slowly. Mike knows that. But I like the effect of doing the opposite, especially when I actually do have a hand. Plus I had the button, so I might be simply attacking weakness.
On the other hand, Mike isn’t that reckless. His confidence level is higher in tournament play, so he tends to play cash games more cautiously. Except when he doesn’t. Once he raised all-in pre-flop early in the evening of a cash game, after an initial raise, one call, and a very large 3-bet by me (holding KK, I raise about 6x the original raise). It was the only time I’ve ever folded KK pre-flop in a cash game. He showed me his AK suited and I was quite surprised. But tonight, he’s just gone all-in with a check-raise not very long after joining the game. I have him covered.
He could also have AK and we’re going to chop the pot. Although in hindsight, his check-raise wouldn’t make much sense with only AK. I could easily check behind on the button and give everybody a free card.
He could have flopped a straight. Then I’m totally screwed, with only 3 outs to chop if he has AJ, or to win if he has J9 (in which his pre-flop raise and call of a 3-bet makes less sense).
He could have flopped a set of TT or QQ. With KK I’m sure he would re-raise again pre-flop.
He could have two pair, with KQ, KT, or QT. With KT or QT, I have quite a few outs. A Jack give me a straight, another Ace makes a better two pair, and pairing the K or Q on the board also helps vs. QT or KT respectively. My equity isn’t terrible here.
Or he could have KJ or QJ or JT and flopped a pair plus open-ended straight draw. Then I’m ahead.
I count the pot. There is $24 from pre-flop, plus my $11 and Mike’s $34 makes a total of $69, and it will cost me $23 to call. I’m getting 3-to-1 pot odds, with no further betting (sans Mike’s final $1, but I’m treating that as already in) and two cards to come. For this to be proper mathematical call, I need to have at least 7 outs. Against KT, I have 10 outs (3 aces, 3 queens, 4 jacks). Against QT, I have 9 outs (3 aces, 2 kings, 4 jacks). Against KQ, I have 7 outs (3 aces, 4 jacks). Against sets or higher, I do not have enough outs.
I call. Mike shows KT, so my call is theoretically correct. But I miss the turn and river, lose the pot, and proceed to lose ALL of the rest of my stack within the next 20-30 minutes.
Mathematically correct, until factoring in some TILT control. Then it’s clearly a mistake.