KKing David

Ruminations on poker

Archive for the month “April, 2015”

Fancy Play Syndrome

This hand took place last night at a home cash game, blinds of $1/$1.  Two players limped in, and the button (for purposes of this post, I’ll call him “Jeff”) also limped.  I am the SB with Qs7s, and check, as does the BB (“Russ”).  No reason to get excited about Queen-Seven suited, out of position.

In the immediately preceding hand, both Russ and Jeff were involved.  At the river, the pot was rather large and the board was something like 822-5-2, and Russ made a large river bet.  I recall that Jeff had bet $20 on the turn and Russ raised to $50.  He also muttered something to the effect of “I’m good here unless he has the remaining deuce.”  After Jeff folded, Russ showed a naked bluff with King high.

I have to consider this in the hand we are now playing as both Jeff and Russ are involved.

The flop hits the board Q-T-7 rainbow (i.e., all different suits), giving me two pair.  This is a reason to get excited about my hand, there are straight draw possibilities, multiple villains might have a Q or T, so a value bet is called for.  I bet $4 into a pot of $5. Russ calls, the other villains both fold, then Jeff raises to $15 from the button.

My antenna goes up. The most common scenario with a flop raise is 2-pair or better.  The next most common scenarios are an over pair and top pair with a good kicker.  I have 2-pair with the top and bottom ends. So what does Jeff have?  Pre-flop, he limped in after two other limpers.

Let’s consider the possibilities, in three broad groups:

FIRST – Two-pair plus.  There are 3 ways he could have two pair… QT – which has me crushed, Q7 – same as mine, or T7 – and I would have him crushed.  Better than 2-pair means a set, as it is not yet possible for anyone to have a straight, flush or full house.  A set requires Jeff to have QQ, TT or 77.  The first two of these possibilities I can discount heavily, as he would raise pre-flop with QQ or TT.  Possibly also with 77, possibly not.  I have blockers to QQ and 77, so there is only one combination of each remaining in the deck.  I have seen Jeff bet flopped sets very aggressively before in other games, so his raise is consistent with how I’ve seen him play a set.

SECOND – Over pair or top pair with good kicker.  An over pair would be AA or KK.  As with QQ and TT, he would raise with either of these pre-flop.  Eliminate from his likely range.  Top pair would be Qx, with a strong kicker like AQ, KQ or QJ.  I think Jeff would have raised pre-flop with AQ or KQ, so I’m discounting these as well, although not entirely removing them from his range.

THIRD – Semi-bluff / draws.  Also there are draw possibilities with KJ, J9 or 98 for Open-Ended Straight Draws (“OESDs”), either of which he might be playing more aggressively than normal after folding and being shown Russ’ bluff on the preceding hand.  Less likely would be gutshot straight draws, with hands like AK (would have raised pre-flop), AJ, K9, and J8.

The last consideration is stack size… he has about $55 behind, and I have him covered.

Let’s put everything that makes sense into a range and see how we fare.

Jeff’s range: QT, Q7, T7, 77, AQ, KQ, QJ, KJ, J9, 98, AJ, K9, J8

My hand: Qs 7s.

My equity v. range: 71.2%.  Quite good.

Removing the gutshot straight draws (AJ, K9, J8) and my equity drops to 65.9%.  Still quite good.

Now that we know the correct answer is to call, back to the actual hand as played.

I called Jeff’s raise, and Russ also called.  Maybe I should give some extra thought to Russ’ range.  Now there is $50 in the pot.

Turn ($50): I don’t recall the exact card, other than it was a low blank – not completing any OESDs or gutshots, not pairing the board, not turning any top pair hands into 2-pair.

I check, Russ checks and Jeff goes all-in for his remaining $55.  Then Russ folds out of turn, before I have acted.  This is comforting in that now I don’t have to worry about Russ laying back with the real monster, nor do I have to go through the entire range analysis for Russ here in my blog post.  Whew!

This is not the first time I’ve played with Jeff.  I’ve seen him overplay medium strength hands, especially with a shorter stack.  I’ve seen him shove a short stack with less than the nuts.  I have the impression he wants to end this hand right now. If he wanted a call, he would bet less. (Or so I hope.)

I call, and he turns over AA, a hand that I previously ruled out because he did NOT raise pre-flop.  The river doesn’t help him and I scoop in the pot.

Apparently he was hoping to trap Russ by limping on the button and hoping Russ continued his aggression from the previous hand by raising from the big blind.

The fancy play cost Jeff his entire stack, in a situation where the straightforward play – raising on the button with pocket aces – may have netted him only a small win, but a win nevertheless.

Trail of Tears

This happened Sunday while at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, in Cherokee, NC during the World Series of Poker Circuit stop.

For the uninitiated, this casino is owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the only federally recognized Indian tribe in North Carolina.  Prior to the opening of this casino in 1997, this tribe was best known for its forced removal from its traditional home to a designated area west of the Mississippi River in 1838, under the Indian Removal Act of 1830.  An estimated 4,000 Cherokee died as a result of starvation, cold or disease.

But this story is about my own trail of tears…

I was playing a 2/5 cash game in the main poker room, having played in a very large tournament the previous day. For a long time I felt I was being too passive and my image was not good, but the cards and action weren’t giving me many opportunities to change that, at least without too much risk of spewing away a lot of chips. I topped off my stack a couple of times, for a total buy-in of $800, when I looked down at 5d5h, and raised to $20 after an opening limper. My stack was approx. $620 and I am 8 hours into the session.

5’s had been hot at this table all day. I made quad 5555’s once and I’ve seen at least 4 other sets of 5’s.  Two players call, then a very good but loose/aggressive girl in the BB calls and the opening limper calls. On a flop of Ad Td 2s, it checks all the way around. Now comes 5s on the turn and it checks to me. I bet $75 and one old man calls. He has a grumpy scowl that say “you can’t push me off a flush draw with that bet.” After another fold, the girl in the BB check-raises all-in, and she has me covered. WTF?

She has been hopping out of her seat a lot to go chat with a boyfriend at the next table, massaging his shoulders, discussing hands, making out, whatever. Since she joined the table, she made several very aggressive moves, like 3-betting with QTo (which pushed a AQss out of the hand but got re-raised by a very short stack so short that she had to call and show. AQ would have made top 2 pair, but here QT held up to win with just one pair). On another hand she called a raise on the button with something like 53o and made a wheel straight and won a nice pot. More recently she has twice bet $200+ on scary boards and got caught bluffing. Once another woman at the table had QQ and was betting on the flop and turn, then checked the river when a 3rd diamond appeared on a T-high board.  Another time a different old man had pocket JJ’s and flop was JJx. She tried to push him off with a big all-in bet on the turn.

I got the impression that she and her boyfriend are traveling WSOP Circuit grinders. While some of her plays may be questionable or her ranges may be too wide, she clearly knows what she is doing and her strategy is to put lots of pressure on weaker players. Clearly she knows  that most ordinary / routine players make their decisions based on the bet-sizing and not due to the logic of the play. She bought in deep and keeps putting other players to difficult decisions with large bets. I had actually moved to an empty seat two seats to my right to get closer to her left.  This is the first time we’ve tangled with each other with any sizable pot.

It’s hard to put her on a range here, as the board now has both diamond and spade flush draws on it (Ad Td 2s 5s), and she over-called pre-flop from the BB knowing it would be a multi-way flop. But let’s try:

She could have the Nuts (or could she?):  43, suited or unsuited, 16 combinations. But really, did she call a pre-flop raise out of position on everybody, with 43?  It’s very hard to give her credit for that, but if somehow that is what she has here, I suppose it is consistent with the Check/Raise All-In on such a drawy board.

Other hands that beat me:  TT, 3 combos.  I’m not going to include AA here, as she certainly would have re-raised pre-flop after my raise and two callers.  After my raise to $20 and 2 callers, I think she might have made a large 3-bet with TT from the BB, but I cannot be 100% sure.  So it has to be in her range now, and checking the flop with her set would be OK with an Ace out there and so many players.

Strong hands that I beat:  22, AT, 12 combos.  Again, I think these are more likely to lead out on the turn after no one bet on the flop, for all the reasons mentioned.

Draws:  The biggest imaginable draw would be ATss, for top 2 pair plus a nut flush draw. But there are other combination draws with KQ, KJ, QJ of either diamonds or spades having flush draws + gutshots, Txss having middle pair plus a spade flush draw, Axss having top pair plus a spade flush draw. If I include any Ax spades, T9ss+, any KQ, KJ or QJ spades or diamonds I get 19 semi-bluff combinations (not including ATss, which I have already accounted for in the prior paragraph).

I would expect her to lead out with a healthy bet on the turn with all of her strong hands – straights, sets, top 2 pair, due to the presence of both spade and diamond flush draw possibilities.  With 5 players, it would easy to have at least one player chasing diamonds and another player chasing spades.  This is the time to punish the drawing hands, and once one of them calls, the others will too.  Why risk letting it check around again and giving them a free card (plus any gutshots to a Broadway straight) when a strong bet is likely to get called at least once?  If she checked, and everybody else also checked, and the river is any diamond, any spade, or any K, Q or J, her poor position leaves her in quite a pickle trying to figure out where she stands.  So the Check/Raise All In play, which typically represents great strength, appears more consistent with having a big draw than having a big made hand.

Against this entire range, my equity is 59.3%. On the other hand, if I were in her position and had one of the hands that beats my 555’s, I would lead out with a strong bet here, so it is questionable whether 43 or TT even belong in her range.  For that matter, it is questionable whether 43 belongs in the range from the pre-flop action, but I want to include it as a way of thinking about all the hands that could either have the strength for such a large bet or could have enough equity via a big draw plus whatever fold equity they might have to make this a +EV play.

It seems like most of the time she is going to have a big spade draw with the ace of spades. That gives her top pair plus a nut flush draw picked up on the turn, giving her plenty of equity (or so she might think).  A narrow range looks like mostly 22 or AsTs, although it would be a mistake on my part to try to narrow her range that much.

So… (drum roll please) I call for my entire remaining stack, over $500, and she turns over 43 off suit. The river is 6c and I go searching for a beer into which I can pour my trail of tears.

Here is a link to watch the hand and its resulting $1,350+ pot on ShareMyPair.

Two days later, I’m still trying to figure out if I am supposed to be good enough, or to become good enough, to be able to fold in that situation.

I’m also fascinated (whilst participating in) the emotional and financial variance that comes from one card.  When I called, I still had 10 outs to make a better hand and win.  If one of those had come, I’d be singing a happy tune and buying dinner for friends.

Am I supposed to become detached enough not to feel the pain (or pleasure)?  As a human being, it just seems wrong to want to strip away all the emotions from losing / winning in a competitive activity, however much pain I’m still in today.

Doing the Laundry

Playing good poker is like doing the laundry:  you have to fold a lot.


Click here to watch this hand I played today on Bovada’s Zone Poker.

There is so much injustice in poker it is amazing.  Coolers, bad beats, suckouts, missed opportunities and the like seem to be everywhere.

On this hand, I probably should have simply folded right away.  I probably should have folded when the BB 3-bet pre-flop.  When he checked in an Ace-high flop, I actually thought he probably had something like KK or QQ and the ace scared him, and considered making a strong bet right there to try and steal it.  It was probably the presence of a 3rd player that kept me from trying that.

On the flop, our Villain has 86.6% equity.


How unjust the outcome here.

What a wonderful world we live in.

Watch the hand again on the Share My Pair replayer.  Just wonderful, delightful, fantastic.


Who is the Dummy This Time?

After my last post, “Slow Playing for Dummies,” I’m reluctant to be caught slow playing any hand, lest it turn out that I am (or become) to Dummy (or Donkey).

Nevertheless, here is a sequence where I was dealt AA twice in a short span of 5 hands, and BOTH times there was a pre-flop raise and re-raise in front of me.  And both times, I just called to disguise (i.e., slow play) the strength of my hand.

Let’s compare, as these hands played out quite differently.

But first, a reminder that this is micro stakes (blinds of $0.10 – 0.25) on Bovada’s Zone Poker, where all players are anonymous and a new table is formed for each and every single hand.  So all we can assume about the Villains is that they are “ordinary, routine” micro stakes players.

In the first hand (click here to see it in the Share My Pair hand replayer), I am the Big Blind.  The Hijack (HJ) seat, two places to the right of the button, raises to $0.75, and the next player (Cutoff, or CO) re-raises to $2.00.  Both the button and small blind fold.

I decide to flat call here, hoping the original raiser HJ has a strong enough hand like KK, QQ or AK to come over the top with a big 4-bet or shove.  Instead, he folds, leaving CO and me heads up, with me out of position for the rest of the hand.

Flop: ($4.85)  5s Qc 4d.  This is a pretty dry flop and mostly good for me.  Other than CO having exactly QQ, I’m still way ahead.  His range for 3-betting should be something like 99+, AK, AQ, AJs, KQs with a few other random hands.  Many players will just flat an opening raise from HJ with JJ-99, some will flat with QQ, and very many will flat with any unpaired hand other than AKs.  We just don’t know if he is loose/aggressive enough to 3-bet with anything weaker.  Best case:  he has AQ, KQs or KK (24 combinations) and we can crush him.  Worst case:  he has QQ (3 combinations) and will crush us.  Weird case:  he has AA (1 combination) and we are going to chop this pot.  All others:  about 28 other combinations where he probably slows down after firing a continuation bet.

He bets $2.50, slightly more than 1/2 pot and a fairly standard-ish C-bet.  I call.  While I’m way ahead of his range with 85%+ equity, up to half of his range could fold to a raise here on the flop and I don’t want to chase away my customer.  While this flop makes it hard for him to put me on any sort of draw, maybe he’ll still fire one more barrel with some of his weaker holdings.

Turn:  ($9.85)  9c.  This card only changes our status if he has exactly 99 (3 combinations), but I still have 81%+ equity against his entire original range.  I check, and he checks behind, so now I can eliminate QQ and 99, both of which would be strongly here given that flush and straight draws are now conceivable (albeit unlikely…  am I calling on that flop with JT, KJ, KT, J8 or T8?  What 2 clubs am I calling with?  But poker players tend to see monsters under the bed, so I can still eliminate these hands).  I also think his top pair and over pair hands – AQ, KQs, KK – also are betting for value with this turn card, so now I conclude the weaker part of his original range – AK, AJs, JJ, TT – is his most likely holding.

River: ($9.85)  4c.  I have to bet for value now.  While there is an outside chance he just hit a flush on the river with AcKc or AcJc, this is only 2 combinations, and the only 2 combinations from his original range that could have hit.  Remember that he 3-bet pre-flop, which narrowed his range.  It would be a mistake for me now to see the monsters under the bed and add ‘any 2 clubs’ to his range when the lower holdings never would have 3-bet in the first place.  I bet $4.00, hoping this looks like a somewhat random attempt to steal the pot, having played passively up until now.

To my delight, he calls, and shows 77.  I win a pot of $17.85, for a net gain after the rake of $8.45.  His hand wasn’t even in the range I had developed, albeit compatible with the low end.  Most players are not 3-betting this light, and his call on the river can only beat a bluff.  I guess he thought I was bluffing, so my goal of playing AA deceptively worked!

Would an alternative line been more profitable on this hand?  Knowing all the facts now, probably not.  If I had 4-bet strongly pre-flop (a pot-sized 4-bet would have been a re-re-raise to $6.85 and most players will simply fold 77 there).  If I had made a smaller 4-bet and he called, then he folds to my continuation bet on the flop as my range is very narrow and mostly big pairs.  And I would not 4-bet too small, as I’m out of position in the BB seat, and still have to worry about the original raiser calling and making it a 3-way pot.

While I rarely recommend slow playing AA before the flop, this one worked out for me.

Just 4 hands later, I get AA again, this time on the button.  Click here to see this hand in the SMP replayer.

NOTE TO SELF:  Don’t complain that you never get Aces.  You do!

Once again, HJ raises to $0.75 and now the CO 3-bets it up to $2.10.  Hoping as I did previously for the original raiser to spazz out and come over the top, I call.  Both blinds fold, and HJ calls.  We are 3-handed going to the flop, and this time I have position on both villains.

Flop: ($6.65)  9d Kd Tc.  This is a much scarier flop than the first hand above, as there are more higher cards and both flush and straight draws are possible.  In fact, a flopped straight is possible if either villain has QJ.  I think the CO range is pretty much the same as the 3-better from the first hand above.  HJ’s range includes some smaller pairs like 88-55, and some players will call the 3-bet – even out of position (remember, it’s the micro stakes) after I called with just about any 2 Broadway cards or suited connectors that would have opened.  My call results in him getting pot odds of 3.9-to-1 to call CO’s 3-bet.

Both villains check.  Hmmm… monsters under the bed?  KK, TT, 99 (18 combos) are in both of their ranges, and 2-pairs with KT (9 combinations) and flopped straights with QJ (16 more combinations) are in HJ’s range.  Draws include any AQ, AJ, KQ, KJ, QT, JT, QQ and JJ, some of which are also flush draws such as QdTd and JdTd (all draws = 70 combinations).  Note that I have the Ad, so neither villain can have a nut flush draw.  If I bet here, there are 43 possible combinations that are ahead of me and another 70 that are likely to call at least once to chase a draw.  The only really strong hands that I’m way ahead of are AK (6 combinations, after eliminating the 2 aces in my hand and one on the board).  I decide to check behind.

Turn: ($6.65)  8d.  This doesn’t complete any of the straights, and now gives me a nut flush draw heading to the river.  HJ checks and CO bets $2.15, slightly less than one-third of the pot.  This is any easy call.  If I were to raise here, and get re-raised, I would have to fold as now he would be revealing a monster hand.  But there is also a very good chance that I have the best hand right now and this is a delayed continuation bet or thin value bet with QQ or JJ.

River: ($10.95)  3c.  This card changes absolutely nothing.  If I was ahead on the turn, I’m still ahead and not getting much if any value here.  If I was behind on the turn, the board is scary enough that he could check the river with 2-pair or a set.  He checks, and I check as well.

He shows Qh Qc, and my Aces take down the pot, for a net gain after the rake of $6.15.

Unlike the previous hand, a more aggressive line pre-flop might have paid off.  Would he have called a pre-flop 4-bet shove with QQ?  Maybe; maybe not.  We just don’t know enough about this Villain, but the odds of a call there are pretty good.  Would he have called a smaller 4-bet?  Probably, although the flop and turn are going to cause one or both of to slam on the brakes just as we did as the hand actually played.

I don’t regret the slow play, as I gained a little bit of value from HJ when he called CO’s 3-bet, and gained some additional value from CO’s bet on the turn.  I also know by now (although some of my friends would tell you otherwise) that if the pot gets really big after this flop and turn, my AA is ‘just one pair’ and no good!

Slow Playing for Dummies

This was just about too good to be true, on Bovada’s Zone Poker.

I’ll let the Share My Pair hand replayer take it from here… the turn gave me a “double gutshot” straight draw and I badly mis-read the lack of action on the flop and thought I might be able to steal the pot with a strong turn bet.

Wrong, but then it got much better.

Bottom Set = No Good on Dry Flop

Here is an instructional hand that I played online recently, in Bovada’s “Zone Poker” game, at the micro stakes level with blinds of $0.10 – 0.25.

For the uninitiated, Zone Poker is a lightning fast game, where you can click “Fold Now” at anytime after the cards are dealt, and not only is your hand automatically folded when the action gets to you, but you are also immediately re-seated at a newly formed table with a new group of players to start another hand.  This takes anonymity to a new level.  In Bovada’s regular cash games, all players are anonymous – i.e., only identified by their seat number and not by any actual or screen name – but over the course of several dozen hands you can observe each player’s habits – loose, tight, bluffs a lot, defends blinds aggressively, etc.  But you cannot recognize a player from the previous day or last week and recall that “PokerBum123” is a certain type of player based on the prior sessions.

With Zone Poker, EACH HAND is with a new group of players, so you don’t even have the benefit of knowing how they played the last 10 or 20 hands in the current session.

This results in very polarized play:  a lot of players play in a very straightforward, “ABC Poker” manner, or they make large and frequent bluffs.  Any style in between tends to get crushed.

Here is a link to a replay of the hand.

I am at a 6-handed table, and have the dealer button, and a starting stack of $30.35 (the maximum buy-in at this table with blinds of $0.10 – 0.25 is $25.00, so I’m up a little bit.  I look down at 33 and it seems like I’ve had 33 or 22 dealt a lot in the last several sessions and surely one of these times I’m going to flop a set and win a huge pot from some unsuspecting villain.  (Of course, I have similar thoughts about many starting hands, but I digress.)  The Hijack and Cutoff seats both limp in for $0.25 and I raise to $0.75.

Some people might not raise here, but my rationale is to build the pot a little bit just in case the set comes, so the next round of betting one-half pot or three-quarters pot sized bet will be large enough to mean something.  Plus, with certain flop textures, I may be able to take down the pot with a strong continuation bet even if I miss.  The Big Blind (BB) calls and so doe stye Hijack seat (HJ = 2 to the right of the button), and the Cutoff folds.

Here comes the flop:  ($2.60)  9s 4c 3d.  Cha-ching!  Now it’s time to make some money off these chumps.  Because I raised pre-flop, whereas most players would just limp in if their strategy is set mining here, my set of 3’s is well-disguised.  Think about it:  if you were developing a range of hands for me based on my position and raise (remember, I’m a totally anonymous player), would 33 be part of that range?

The BB checks and HJ bets $0.25, the minimum amount.  That’s a strange and fishy amount, and probably means (1) he’s just a bad player who doesn’t know what he’s doing, or (2) a blocking bet hoping to preempt me from making a larger continuation bet, typically indicating a player chasing a draw (the only possible draws on this flop are straight draws with 76, 75, 65, 52, A5 or A5), or (3) a weak made hand like 9x, 4x, or 88-55, and trying to find out where he stands, or (4) some kind of disguised trap or setup for a bluff on a later street.

I’m not going for any of that, so I raise to $1.50, trying to think about the bet increments that will be needed on the turn and river to build up the largest pot possible.  To my delight, BB calls.  Then HJ re-raises to $2.75, the minimum re-raise amount.


Zone Poker only gives you 15 seconds to make each decision, with no option to request extra time (their regular cash games give you 30 seconds, with the option of requesting 30 extra seconds if needed).  So I must process this quickly.  FIrst I note how dry the flop is.  943, rainbow.  No flush draws at all.  Not many straight draws – see above – and many of those hands should have folded to my pre-flop raise.  I’ve learned that most of the time a Villain raises or re-raises pre-flop, they have 2-pair or better.  After that, they probably have top pair or an over pair.  Over 85% of the time, they will have one of these possibilities.

Rather than shovel my money in as fast as possible, I decide to call and buy a few extra second to think about this.  The BB also calls.

Hands that I can bet include:  2-pair?  That requires starting cards of 94, 93 or 43.  Nope, not in any decent player’s range, not even at this low level.  Over pair?  Nope.  The flop is 9-high, so over pairs include TT, JJ, QQ, KK and AA.  I think ALL of those would have raised pre-flop from the HJ seat, either right away (when he limped) or as a re-raise after I raised on the button, having set a trap by limping with a very strong hand.  Top pair?  Maybe but not likely.  A9 or K9 should be wary of my enthusiasm for the hand.  I raised pre-flop, indicating strength, and raised on the flop, further suggesting that I might be the one with an over pair.  Certainly AA-TT is in my range here.  A thinking player would slow down after I raised to $1.50.

Besides, the BB called both my re-raise and HJ’s re-re-raise from out of position.  Is he the real villain in this hand, sitting there with a monster?

After eliminating 2-pair and over pair hands, and reducing the likelihood of HJ having top pair, now I have to worry about sets.  Since I have a set of 33’s, either or both villains here could have 44 or 99 (the latter being more likely for BB as a calling hand after my pre-flop raise, and less likely HJ as a limp/calling hand from the outset).  If this is the case, I’m toast!

Turn card:  ($10.85)  Jh.  Now no flush is possible, and nothing really seems to have changed.

BB checks again, and HJ bets $1.50.  Being wary, I just call, and BB now raises all-in.  HJ quickly calls, and both villains have more chips in their stacks than I do.

Holy Bankruptcy, Batman!

I’m not positive which one of them has a bigger set than mine, but surely one (or both) of them does.  I fold.  One of them might be an idiot, and I’ll find out which one in a few seconds, but not both of them.  (Not that i can use the information for any advantage in Zone Poker, however.)

BB shows J9 for top 2-pair.  HJ shows 99 for top set on the flop and wins the final pot of approx. $70 – which is freaking huge at these stakes.

I’m thrilled to have ‘only’ lost five bucks on this hand and $25 + change remaining in my stack.

Ok Bovada, how about giving me 2 more cards and let’s try again…

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