KKing David

Ruminations on poker

Archive for the month “May, 2015”

Not to Play is to Play Well

The famous quote “Not to decide is to decide” is attributed to theologian Harvey Cox.  A quick web search reveals the the full quote is “Somewhere deep down we know that in the final analysis we do decide things and that even our decisions to let someone else decide are really our decisions, however pusillanimous,” from On Not Leaving It to the Snake.

In poker, sometimes “not to play is to play well.”

I’ll keep this brief.

I’m playing online poker, on Bovada, in micro stakes limit holdem games (feel free to question my sanity later).  I have two tables running simultaneously.

UTG I look as 6d 4d.  I really want to play these small suited one-gappers, but of course this would be a poor decision, so I fold.  While concentrating on the other table, I peek over and see the board has come out 4c Kc As 4s 6s, and the pot is 19 BBs big, which is a lot for a limit game.  Had I played, I would have a well-disguised full house.  Then the showdown comes and one of the players has KK, for a much bigger full house.


On the very next hand, I have Kc Jc in the Big Blind.  UTG+1 raises and I’m definitely going to call.  Then a strange thing happens.  The button re-raises and it occurs to me that (1) UTG+1 might re-re-raise even more, and (2) I’m out of position against both players.  I decide not to play, and fold.  UTG+1 just calls.

The flop is T-J-J.  Trip JJJ’s for me.

Now both players are betting, raising and capping the pot, and this happens again on the turn (a 9).  What the…?

Keeping the long story short, the button has KK, and UTG+1 has AJ.  I woulda coulda shoulda been out kicked and the final pot was over 35 BBs.

Not playing these two hands – heavily influenced by my position at the table – was to play well both times.

(Insert image of KKing David patting himself on the shoulder.)

Too Much Information

One of my loyal readers (thank you, dear readers!!!) told me recently that I should post more hands where I win.  It seems that most of the time, I’m analyzing, sharing or commenting on hands that I lose, and this is true for a couple of reasons.  Originally this blog was all about bad poker play.  More recently I’ve shifted slightly, but one of the reasons I blog is to get “badness” out of my system.

Last night at a local $1/2 no limit Holdem home game, I played this hand which is replayed here.  It was nearly 2:00 am and I’ve been playing since about 8:00 pm.

So far the night has gone well.  I was up to about $640 on an initial buy-in of $300, but have slipped down to just over $500.  Still a tidy profit, and I’ve announced to the table that I’ll be leaving soon.

See the link to the hand replayer for the detailed betting action, ’cause I’m not typing it all out here.  A summary is that I raised to $10 pre-flop with JTo, the flop is Jc Ts 6c, giving me top 2-pair on a very wet (i.e., draw-heavy) board.

There is a bet, raise and 2 calls on the flop, then the main villain (I’ll call him “Jason”) check-raises me on the turn (low, off suit, irrelevant card), raising my $55 bet to $110.  I call, cautiously, but suspecting he flopped a set of 666’s.

On a river 7d (which would complete a straight if he had exactly 98), he open shoves all-in.

Grrrr… I was having a really good night, slipped back a bit, and plan to leave soon.  He has me covered, so I risk going bust and being stuck $300 if I call and lose.  Alternatively, I can fold here and take home a $50 profit.  Or, even though I have top 2-pair, this feels very much like a hero call to make and if I call and win this will be a huge pot.

My first option is folding.  When someone goes all-in on the river, they usually have what they consider to be the best hand.  He could easily put me on an over pair (AA, KK or QQ) here given the betting action, so his all-in bet says “I can beat your over pair!”  He called my flop raise (over a 3rd player’s bet – he later got out of the way) quickly and in rhythm, then check-raised me on the turn again very quickly and in rhythm.  He looks confident, although I also know he’s lost badly tonight and has a history of amping up the aggression when he is losing.  That just doesn’t seem to be the case here.

Then Jason does the most wonderful thing:  he offers to let me see one of his hole cards.  “Pick either one,” he says, spreading his cards apart, “and I’ll turn it over for you to see it.”

Poker is a game of incomplete information, so getting extra, voluntary information from a villain here is good for me.  My read on this situation is that he flopped a set of 666’s, so if he shows me a six, I can confidently fold and avoid a big loss.

I point to the card closest to me and he turns over the J of diamonds.  He also says “I have better than just one pair of Jacks.”

Whoa!  That changes things quite a bit.  First of all, he does NOT have pocket 66’s, and did not flop a set of 666’s.  Secondly, he didn’t pick up a straight on the river with hole cards of 98.  If he flopped 2-pair plus, it is either a set of JJJ’s, JT (and we’ll just chop the pot), or J6.  I point this out and he states that he doesn’t have J6.

JJ or JT?  That is the question.  He has one J, I have one J, and there is one J on the board.  That only leaves one J left in the deck.  Low odds of him having it, but he did just shove all-in on me.

I know Jason doesn’t like to bloat pots pre-flop with JJ, especially out of position.  So while other players at this table would discount the possibility of his having a set of JJJ’s based on his calling but not re-raising pre-flop, I won’t do that.  With other villains I might, but not with Jason.

Or he could have JT, we chop the pot (which has about $350 in it prior to his shove) and I get approx. $175 back which would be a very small profit from the chips put in by other players.  But I have to risk $350 to win $175, so I’m laying odds.  Not happy about that.  This is twice as likely as his having JJ, as I have one T, there is another T on the board, leaving two more unaccounted for.  From a strictly math standpoint, if the only possibilities are he has JJ or JT, he will have JT twice as often as JJ.  If he sometimes re-raises pre-flop with JJ, then he should have JT here more than twice as often as JJ.  If he might be bull shitting me when he says (as he has now done multiple times) his hand is better than one pair of Jacks, that puts other possibilities in his range, such as AJ or KJ, which reduces the frequency of his having the only hand I fear – pocket JJ’s – even lower, perhaps to 1/4 or 1/5 of the time.

If this exact scenario were to play out 100 times, how many of those will have have JJ and how many will he have something else.  It occurs to me that my decision is almost mathematically neutral.  Let’s go back to him having JJ 1/3 of the time and JT 2/3 of the time.  So 1/3 of the time I will lose my remaining $350.  The Expected Value of that is ($117).  And 2/3 of the time we will chop and my half of the pot is $175.  The EV of that (2/3 x $175) is $117.  The net EV of calling is zero!

If there are any other options in his range, this pushes the EV into a positive number for calling and I should call.

Finally, after a very long time in the tank and a couple of apologies to the rest of the table for taking so long, I decide I have to trust my read.  My biggest regrets in poker are when I DON’T trust my read and my read was correct.  Here my read is that he has JT and we will chop the pot.

Reluctantly, I call, and turn over my JT.

Jason turns over Jd 9d.  All he has is one pair.

I’m stunned… I just won the whole pot, which is over $1,000.  I’m pretty sure this is the largest pot I’ve ever won at a $1/2 game.

Had he not turned over one card, I probably would have folded.  His play fit the initial read of him flopping a set of 666’s too perfectly, and I would have to trust that read.  Instead, he gave me too much information, which led me to a different read and the right decision.

Jason was very gracious afterwards.  Privately, he told me that he read me as having an over pair, and that it didn’t occur to him that I would put him on pocket 66’s.  Thus he figured showing me one card and then telling me that he had better than a pair of JJ’s was his best chance of getting me to fold.  He also said he purposely put the J closer to me than the 9, figuring I would select the closest card (which I did… at the time thinking both were 6’s so it really didn’t matter).

What if I had selected the other card and he flipped over a 9?  That brings a possible straight into the equation, although his betting patterns don’t seem consistent with a straight draw.  On the other hand, referring to Jason’s betting as a “pattern” when he’s losing and/or tilting can be another mistake.

Clearly the extra information saved me from a mistake here.  Thanks Jason, I hope you are reading this…

How Jackpots Change the Odds

I was at Maryland Live! casino near Baltimore recently, and they have some interesting bonuses and jackpots.  During this trip, they were running a special “High Hand” jackpot, where the highest hand anywhere in the poker room each hour gets a payout of $2,500.  In addition, they always have a Royal Flush Bonus, where anytime a player gets a royal flush using both hole cards, that player gets a $500 bonus and each other player at his or her table gets $100.  My friend Brian once got the table share.

So there I am, playing $2/5 no limit with about $600 on the table, and I call a pre-flop raise to $20 from the cutoff seat with Jc Tc.  The button also calls.

Flop ($60):  Ac Kc 4h

A royal flush draw.  But I’ll only get the bonus money for the Royal Flush and the High Hand if it actually hits.  What is the optimal way to play this?

The pre-flop opener checks, I check, and the button bets $30.  Opener folds.  I call.  I have a 2nd nut flush draw, gutshot straight draw, and one-outer to a Royal Flush.  So the odds look like this:

Pot:  $90

Amount to call:  $30

Let’s assume I’m behind here, and my opponent has a hand like Ax or Kx.

I’m getting 3-to-1.  I’ll hit the Royal Flush 1-in-47 times, and win $2,500 + $500 + $90 (assuming I get no further action).

I’ll hit a lesser flush 8-in-47 times, and a straight another 3-in-47 times (cannot count Qc twice), and win $90.

I’ll lose $30 the remaining 35-in-47 times, but may get another chance at the river card.

Here is the math:

1/47 x $3,090 = $65.75

11/47 x $90 = $21.05

35/47 x ($30) = ($22.35)

Add these up for Expected Value of $64.45.  That’s positive EV, so calling is correct.

Without the Royal Flush and High Hand bonuses, the Qc result is the same as any other club, so the math is:

12/47 x $90 = $23.00

35/47 x ($30) – ($22.35)

Net EV is $0.65.  Just a borderline call.

The turn card doesn’t help me, nor does it pair the board which might give the villain a full house, so the odds change only slightly.

Now I check again and he bets $45, into a pot that is now $120.  Since another card has been revealed, the denominator is now 46 instead of 47.  (We start with 52 cards.  Subtract my 2 and the 4 community cards.  The river will be one of the 46 remaining unknown cards.  Yes, it is possible that the card I want is already in the muck pile, but those cards are all part of the unknown 46.)  It will cost me $45 to try to win a pot that is now $165 including the villain’s turn bet, plus the Royal Flush and High Hand jackpots if the Qc hits.

1/46 x $3,165 = $68.80

11/46 x $165 = $39.45

35/46 x ($45) = ($34.25)

Add these up and the EV is $74.00.  Proper to call.

Without the jackpot money, it looks like this:

12/46 x $165 = $43.05

35/46 x ($45) = ($34.25)

Net EV is still positive at $8.80, so calling is still a correct play.

Lastly, we need to consider the impact if I were to bet, or check-raise on the flop or turn.  If I have any fold equity (value that I gain by winning the hand when the villain folds), how does that change the overall EV?

First of all, it must be observed that if I become the aggressor and get the villain to fold, I cannot win the Royal Flush or High Hand bonuses, a combined $3,000, WHICH I REALLY, REALLY WANT TO WIN (really, I do), as I won’t get to see another card.  But let’s do the math anyway.

Part of the challenge is that we don’t know how often he will fold.  We’ll look at 4 scenarios:

Scenario 1 – I check-raise the flop and he folds 1/3 of the time.

Scenario 2 – I check-raise the flop and he folds 2/3 of the time.

Scenario 3 – I call the flop, then check-raise the turn and he folds 1/3 of the time.

Scenario 4 – I call the flop, then check-raise the turn and he folds 2/3 of the time.

In each case, we’ll further assume that my check-raise bet size is 4x his bet on that street.

Ready for some math?

Scenario 1:

One-third of the time, he folds and I win $90.

The remaining two-thirds of the time, he calls my raise to $120.  I can win the $60 that was in the pot pre-flop plus $120 more, so…

1/3 x $90 = $30

2/3 x 1/47 x $3,180 = $45.10

2/3 x 11/47 x $180 = $28.10

2/3 x 35/47 x ($120) = ($59.55)

Total EV is $43.65.  This EV is lower than my calculation for just calling on the flop (which was $64.45), so calling is the better option – heavily influenced by the jackpots.  Take away the jackpots, and now:

1/3 x $90 = $30

2/3 x 12/47 x $180 = $30.65

2/3 x 35/47 x ($120) = ($59.55)

Total EV is $1.10.  Paltry, but better than the $0.65 EV of calling and no jackpots.

Scenario 2:

Now he is folding 2/3 of the time to my check-raise to $120 (i.e., 4x his bet of $30):

2/3 x $90 = $60

1/3 x 1/47 x $3,180 = $22.55

1/3 x 11/47 x $180 = $14.05

1/3 x 35/47 x ($120) = ($29.80)

Net EV is now $66.80.  Whoa Nelly!  Even the the jackpots that I forego when I can make him fold, the EV is now higher than the EV of calling and chasing the jackpots.  If (and it is a big IF) this villain would really fold as much as 2/3 of the time to a 4x check-raise, that becomes a better play than calling and chasing. Of course, we don’t know what he has, nor have we played with this particular villain for very long.

Scenario 3:

I call the flop.  Now the pot is $120, I check, he bets $45 and I check-raise 4x to $180.  One-third of the time, he folds and I win $165.

The remaining two-thirds of the time, he calls my raise to $180.  If I hit one of my outs on the river, I can win the $120 that was in the pot after the flop betting plus $180 more, so…

1/3 x $165 = $55.00

2/3 x 1/46 x $3,300 = $47.85

2/3 x 11/46 x $300 = $47.85

2/3 x 35/46 x ($180) = ($91.30)

Total EV is $59.40.  This EV is also lower than my calculation for just calling on the turn (which was $74.00), so calling is still the better option due to the huge jackpots.  Take away the jackpots, and now:

1/3 x $165 = $55.00

2/3 x 12/46 x $300 = $52.15

2/3 x 35/46 x ($180) = ($91.30)

Total EV is $15.85.  Again this is slightly better than the $8.80 EV of calling on the turn with no jackpots.

Scenario 4:

Now he is folding 2/3 of the time to my turn check-raise to $180 (i.e., 4x his bet of $45):

2/3 x $165 = $110.00

1/3 x 1/46 x $3,300 = $23.90

1/3 x 11/46 x $300 = $23.90

1/3 x 35/46 x ($180) = ($45.65)

Net EV is now $112.15.  Once again, with the greater fold equity, this becomes a better play than chasing the jackpots.

So what finally happened?  Of course, the river was a total brick and we both checked.  He had AQ, including the Qc which was my gin card, and wins the pot.

Given what we now know about his hand, how often would a typical, regular casino $2/5 no limit Holdem player fold to a flop or turn check-raise?  Obviously I’m putting a lot more chips in there, and we now know the only way I could have won that pot was to make him fold.  But would he fold?  If we repeated this hand 100 times, would he fold often enough for my aggression to be profitable?


Deja Vu

According to Wikipedia, “Déjà vu is the phenomenon of having the strong sensation that an event or experience currently being experienced has been experienced in the past, which is often not the case.”

Yeah, whatever.

Here we go again, this time at $0.25/0.50 blinds on Bovada Zone Poker, and quite frankly dear readers, I’m getting tired of it:  http://mysmp.me/h_duP


KK v. AA, part 3

Here is another in a lengthening series of hands where my KK runs into AA.  This is the 3rd time in less than a week, including this one vs. “Cinderella” who never raised me and this one I managed to lay down the following night.

Now I’m playing online in Bovada’s Zone Poker game, at the micro stakes (6-handed).  Blinds are $0.10 / 0.25.

Here is a replay of the hand, on ShareMyPair.  The key question here, as always and to be explored in detail below, is “what is his range?”

To recap the hand, I have KK on the button.  UTG raises to $0.75, UTG+1 calls, and I 3-bet squeeze to $3.10.  UTG and UTG+1 both call.

Flop ($9.65):  Js 8s 5c.  At first glance, this is a somewhat drawy board, but should be a good flop for my hand.  I hope somebody has AJ.

Both villains check, so I bet $6.00.  UTG then check-raises all-in.  He has me barely covered.  UTG+1 is short-stacked, with only $4.25 behind and calls.  All this action is rather unexpected.  Now there is $41.50 in the pot and it will cost me my remaining $15.60 to call.  I’m getting 2.66:1 pot odds.  Should I call?  I need to have equity of at least 27.3% to justify calling.

I call.

Let’s look at this hand on Flopzilla.  For starters, I’m going to ignore UTG+1 since he is short-stacked and I’m not calling his bet.  Then I’ll explain why that might be a mistake.

UTG’s range (for calling my 3-bet) should be something like this:  77+, ATs+, KQs, AJo+, KQ, QJs.  I’m giving him “credit” for calling a bit wide here, as many villains would be expected to play tighter.  On the other hand, he might interpret my 3-bet as a light squeeze play, since I have the button and there was another caller, and I have no other information about him (or her?) as this is Zone Poker and everybody is anonymous on every hand.

Now I’ll narrow the range to hands that can check-raise all-in, as sets, two pairs, overpairs, top pairs, flush draws, and open-ended straight draws. Based on this portion of his original range, here is what he can be shoving with:

Set                   15.8%   (JJJ or 888)

Overpair         34.2%   (AA, KK for a chop, QQ)

Top pair         39.5%   (AJ, QJs)

Flush draw     10.5%  (AsKs, AsQs, AsJs, AsTs, KsQs, QsJs)

OESD               0.0%   (T9 and 76 not in his original range)

Against this range, my equity in the hand is 54.5%. I definitely have to call.

What if I narrow his range for calling my pre-flop 3-bet from out-of-position, perhaps removing QJs and AJo?

Now it looks like this when he shoves on the flop:

Set                   23.1%    (JJJ or 888)

Overpair         50.0%   (AA, KK for a chop, QQ)

Top pair         11.5%     (AJ, QJs)

Flush draw     15.4%    (AsKs, AsQs, AsJs, AsTs, KsQs)

OESD              0.0%     (T9 and 76 not in his original range)

My equity is now down to 43.5%.  Things aren’t looking so good, but I’m still well ahead of the needed equity of 27.3% to break even on my call.  This still looks like a proper call.

I guess I shouldn’t feel to bad here, but this is the 3rd KK v. AA hand I’ve played in about a week.  When do I get to play AA v. KK?  Hopefully soon… hopefully at higher stakes… hopefully mine will hold up.

But wait, there’s more!

After UTG+1 put his short stack all-in, there are 2 separate pots.  The main pot has $22.40 in it, and the side pot has $19.10 including the portion of my flop bet that exceeded UTG+1’s stack, along with the portion of UTG’s all-in bet that exceeded UTG+1’s stack up to the amount of my stack.  It will cost me $15.60 to call, so my odds from the side pot are 1.22:1.  I need equity of at least 45% to justify calling based on the side pot alone.  If I fold, I sacrifice my equity in the main pot.

The key point here is that my equity in the main pot is different from my equity in the side pot due to the presence of another player.  If these villains’ hands were reversed, for example, I would have lost the main pot, but won enough in the side pot to wind up with a profit on the hand.

To get this entirely right, I should develop a range for UTG+1’s hand, as he called twice pre-flop and then shoved in a short stack on the flop.  I’m still not going to do that, as I’ll never, ever put 76o in his range and that’s what he had, for an open-ended straight draw on the flop.  If I plug his actual hand into the equation with my actual hand and UTG’s ranges, my equity in the main pot goes down.  There are now more outs against me.

With the wider version of UTG’s range (including QsJs and AJo), my equity against both of them is 33.4%.  Removing QsJS and AJo from UTG’s range, now my equity against both of them is 27.7%.

I still thing calling is correct, but it’s much closer when looked at this way as my equity is inherently lower with another player involved.  If I were to slow down – not really possible on Zone Poker as you only get 15 seconds to take action when it’s your turn, but imagine this were a live game and the stakes were higher – I might be able to reason my way into folding here.

On the other hand, folding to a check-raise all-in on the flop when I have an over pair to the board, is never a huge mistake.  Time and time again, I’m simply beat by 2-pair+.  Time and time again when I’m not beat, the villain will draw out anyway.

On the other hand, I would have cheerfully stuck it all-in pre-flop had UTG simply asked for it then.  Sigh.  By waiting until the flop, UTG actually gave me a chance to be able to fold…

Folding KK Pre-Flop

In No Limit Texas Holdem, one of the hardest things to do is to fold pocket kings before the flop.  My friend Mike did it recently, and I’ve folded KK myself twice… once in a cash game (ironically, Mike was the Villain in that hand, as described here) and once in a tournament.

Dan Harrington and Bill Robertie wrote a series of classic books on No Limit Holdem.  In Harrington on Cash Games, he asks “Should kings ever be folded?”  Then he answers his own question.  “As I discussed in Harrington on Hold ’em (addressing tournament play), the practical answer is ‘No.’  It’s true that you look like a genius when your opponent puts in a third raise and you show your kings and fold them, and he then shows his aces.  But if you’re willing to fold kings, I guarantee you that sometimes you’ll be folding them to queens, or ace-king, or a total bluff, and over time, your willingness to fold kings will cost you money.”

Last night I was at a $1/2 home game, and another player who I’ll refer to as “Patrick” raised to $11.  In the cutoff seat, I peek at my cards and see red KK’s.  What would KKing David do?  Obviously I re-raise, to $31.  Everyone folds back to Patrick, who re-raises to $85.  He has about $100 more behind and I have him easily covered.

Does he have pocket AA’s?  Getting dealt KK and another player has AA only happens about 1-out-of-every-5,000 hands.  Here is the math:  I’ll get KK 1-out-of-221 hands.  There are 9 other players at the table.  Each other player will have AA at the same time as my KK about 1-out-of-204 hands (i.e., the frequency increases just slightly after taking into account the elimination of my two kings from the deck).  There are 9 chances (9 other players) that this happens, increasing the frequency to 204/9 or approx. 1-out-of-22.5.  Multiply 1-out-of-221 times 22.5 and I’ll have KK vs. AA 1-out-of-every-4,972 hands that I play No Limit Holdem at a full table.  We can round this up to 5,000 to make the general point.  (This also means I should get AA vs. a villain’s KK the same 1-out-of-5,000 hands.)

What is the general point, you might ask?  In this case, I’m thinking about the fact that I had KK vs. AA one night earlier, vs. “Cinderella” as described here.  So at the moment of this hand where Patrick has slid out a 4-bet to $85, I’m feeling some injustice.  I’m not due for this again.  It’s only been a couple hundred hands, or fewer, since the prior night’s KK vs. AA confrontation, so “it’s not fair” for that to be happening again so soon.

Back to Patrick.  Patrick and I have played with each other quite a few times before.  I know he’s not crazy.  He’s not what I would call an expert player, nor a total drooler, and he’s never shown any inclination to push this hard with a deep stack and AK or QQ or anything weaker.  In fact, I’m trying to think of another hand where Patrick got his whole stack in pre-flop when he was this deep.  I do know that when he gets short-stacked, he tends not to buy more chips to top off his stack, and accordingly is more willing to get it all-in  with a short stack and a hand like JJ or QQ.  But this is not such a time.

More importantly, I believe he respects my game too.  At this point in the night, I had a solid, emotionally stable, winning image based on aggressive plays that have won several small pots without showdowns.  This was the first time I had 3-bet this large all night.  There is no reason for him to think my 3-betting range is very wide.

I stare at Patrick for a minute and he looks very peaceful.  His eyes aren’t blinking rapidly, and there are no signs of stress.  He’s not 4-betting light here, not out-of-position, not against me, not committing nearly half of his stack after my strong 3-bet.

I think about the consequences of folding and not knowing (for absolutely sure) what he has.  I will have to live with that.  I think about the impact on my emotional state of losing $31 with KK and not even seeing the flop.  I think about the consequences of shoving all-in, the resulting impact on my emotional state of being right, i.e., seeing that he actually does have AA and losing a very large pot.  Will I recover?  Will I tilt and spew away hundreds more?

Calling is out of the question.  I’m not getting anywhere near the proper odds for set-mining (hoping for a 3rd K on the flop/folding if I miss), and how would I possibly be able to fold if the flop is all rags and Patrick open-shoves?

I think about Dan Harrington.

I think about my never-ending quest for better self-discipline, a willingness to let go (physically letting go of the cards, emotionally letting go of the sense of entitlement that I have a big hand and deserve to win) that so often eludes me.

I think about trusting my reads.

I slide my Kings into the muck.  “Nice bet, Patrick.”


My father will celebrate his 81st birthday next month.  He still plays in a weekly home poker game, every Thursday night, which he enjoys greatly.  But theirs is a low limit, fifty cent maximum bet, dealer’s choice game.  Lots of variety and camaraderie, very little poker skill is required, and nobody gets hurt.

No limit Texas Holdem, which I like to play, is different in the sense that you can lose your entire stack, or double it up, at any time.

With this in mind, at last night’s No Limit Holdem home game with blinds of $1/1, there was a player I have never seen before.  For this purposes, I’ll call her “Eileen,” a very lovely and entertaining 81-year-old women who frequently reminded us that she was “just and old woman.”  She also mentioned that her father once played professional soccer in England, so perhaps she has an in-bred competitive nature that isn’t readily obvious.

In this game, there is a high-hand bonus at 1:00 am, paid to the highest hand of the night that uses both hole cards.  The bonus is usually about $100.  On one hand, “Eileen” had pocket 99’s, flopped a set of 999’s, and did not bet aggressively at all, later stating that she didn’t want to run everybody off and miss out on a chance for the 4th nine to arrive and put her in the lead for the high-hand bonus.  (At this point, another player already have flopped quad 6666’s.)

Meanwhile, I am having a wonderful night, having started with $160 and now sitting at approx. $450.

In middle position, I get KK and raise to $6.  Eileen and one other player call, and the flop is AK7 with 2 hearts.  Ba-da-bing!  If somebody has an Ace, I’m going to get paid off here.

I bet $6 again, a small bet to find out who has the Ace.  Eileen calls and the other player folds.  I need to be careful not to overplay this hand, as she seems a bit timid and may be the type of trusting soul who will just believe me if I bet too aggressively.  I’m going to make the kind of bets that can get called 3 times by a hand like AT or A9.  I just don’t know her capacity to call large bets.

The turn is 8h.  Now I also have to be concerned about flushes as there are 3 hearts on the board.  Since 2 of them are the A and K, it is less likely that she has a flush draw, although her pre-flop calling range could include QJhh, QThh, or JThh.  But this is exactly 3 hand combinations, a very small part of her range, and Ax is much more likely.

I now bet $10, and she calls again.

The river is Jd.  Eileen leans towards me with her eyes opening wide now, as if to say “Whaddaya gonna do sonny?  Keep bluffing and I’ll call you.”  It’s actually a little scary looking and I should remember that look for future reference.  A tell, perhaps?

I bet $15 on the river, a very small bet into a pot that is now approx. $50.

She calls again, so I turn over my cards and announce, “I have three Kings.”  Eileen responds, “Well, I have three Aces” and turns over pockets AA’s.

She called pre-flop, called on the flop with top set, called on the turn, and called again on the river.  Never ever ever ever ever ever would I be able to include AA in her range in that situation.  On the other hand, I lost the minimum.  If she raises on the flop, I would cheerfully get it all in there and double her up.  Once again, Eileen explained that she was hoping for a 4th ace to make the high-hand bonus, or alternatively after the 3rd heart fell, hoping for the board to pair on the river so the flush possibility wouldn’t slow her down.

I’ve never felt such a sense of relief after losing a hand.  Flopped KKK vs. flopped AAA!

About 30-45 minutes later, Eileen hits a Q-high straight flush, which easily holds up to win the high-hand bonus.  After making the straight flush, she bet $5 on the river!

After that happened, I realized I was playing poker with a “mature” Cinderella.  While Eileen looked more like the fairy godmother (or great-godmother?), after flopping a set of 999’s, flopping a set of AAA’s (vs. KKK’s no less!), and a rivered gutshot straight flush at a game that pays a high-hand bonus, it became clear that this was her night at the ball.

There were no glass slippers, no pumpkin turned into a fancy chariot or mice turned into coachmen, no fancy ball gown that I could see.  But the handiwork of a fairy godmother was evident all over the place.  She called her prince to explain that she would be home a bit later than promised so she could stay and collect the high-hand bonus.  At 1:00 she left, saying how much she looked forward to seeing us all again next week.

I hope the spell lasted long enough for Cinderella to arrive home safely.

It I see her again at a poker table and she ever makes a truly aggressive move, I’m running out the front door as fast as I can.

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, Zip… Uh Oh!

Dear Readers,
Sorry for the bad beat story to follow here, but you KNOW that’s how I get these out of my system.  At least I hope to get it out of my system, ’cause dammit it still hurts.  If you don’t like bad beat stories, consider yourself forewarned to stop now.
Last month I was at the Harrah’s Cherokee casino in western North Carolina during the WSOP Circuit stop there.  I had a really bad cooler in a cash game, as described here.  One of the guys traveling with me (I’ll call him “Chad”) said it was the kind of hand that leaves you restless and angry all night, such that when you wake up the next morning, the first thing out of your mouth is “Fuck!”
Yesterday Chad hosted a 18-player tournament.  This was a bonus event for some regular cash game players, essentially a free roll, with a prize pool of $2,770.  Other than $20 to add-on some extra chips at the first break, there was no cost to me or the other players.  The prize pool was to be divided among the top 4 finishers, 45%, 30%, 20%, 5%.
When we got down to one table of 9 players, we all agreed to take $100 each, then divide the remaining $1,870 among the final 3 finishers, 50%, 30%, 20%.  I thought this was a nice way to mitigate some of the risk.
At the first hand after the next break we were still 9-handed, with antes of $100 and blinds at 400/800.  I have about 25 BBs remaining, which is about 2/3 of the average stack size.  At this point, the play has tightened up and therefore I want to ramp up my aggression slightly.
In UTG+3, all fold to me and I look down at Ad 9d, and raise to 2,100.  The player to my immediate left (I’ll call him “Andrew”) 3-bets to 4,200 and everyone else folds.  Andrew’s stack is almost identical to mine.
I have not played in tournaments with Andrew, but have played with him frequently in cash games.  His 3-bet range is wider than many of the players, including 99+, AJ+, KQ type of hands, and he will C-bet a large percentage of the time especially in position.  Calling him here is debatable, but his 3-bet raise was rather small so he might just be hoping I was raising light and will go away.  I call out of position – in hindsight I should not be doing that for 20% of my tournament stack, but that’s what I did.
The flop was Qd Jd 3d.  I have an ace-high flush, THE STONE COLD FREAKING NUTS!
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah! Zip-a-dee-ay!
My, oh my, what a wonderful day?
Plenty of sunshine heading my way.
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah! Zip-a-dee-ay!

Oh, Mr. Blue-bird – on – my – shoul-der.
It’s the truth, its actual.
And everything is satisfactual.

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah! Zip-a-dee-ay!
Wonderful feeling.
Wonderful da-a-ay!

I check, and Andrew bets 6,500.  I’ve got him!  He’s now invested more than half of his stack in this pot.  Maybe he has AA or KK or AQ.  I count my chips and have the 6,500 to call, plus 8,700 more. “All-in” I announce, after some theatrics with the counting and shuffling.
Andrew looks pained, and tanks for awhile, saying repeatedly “I have to call” and “if this how it’s going to be, then so be it” and finally calls.  He has me covered by exactly 100 chips.  The pot is just over 50 BBs and more than 1.3x the average stack size.  Winning this pot will put me  in a position to threaten the biggest stacks at the table.  Fan-damn-tastic!!!  Zip-a-dee-doo-dah some more.
Then Andrew turns over QQ and my heart surges up into my throat.  He has top set, with two cards to come that can make him a full house or quads.  This is much stronger than I was expecting given how long he was thinking before he called.  I turn over mine and stand up.  It’s like I’ve seen this movie before and know how it ends.  I’ve just been crowned King of the Prom and handed revolver with two bullets in it for a mandatory game of Russian Roulette in the same gesture.
Click goes the revolver.  The turn card is Ks.  Missed.  Maybe this time the movie will end differently.  77% of the time I will win here, with one card to come. He has 10 outs.
The dealer burns and turns.  3h on the river.  BANG goes the revolver, as Andrew completes his full house.  I feel like my brains just exploded all over the table.  I already know what the first word out of mouth will be tomorrow morning.
Next I have to exit stage right.  I try to do it gracefully, which is difficult when your FUCKING BRAINS ARE SPLATTERED ALL OVER A POKER TABLE.  Andrew has to wipe sweat off his hand before he can shake mine, which we do awkwardly, in the manner of combatants who both know an injustice has occured.  Of course, that is what we signed up for.
I walk straight out to Chad’s deck.  After a couple minutes, I text him – he’s only a few feet away, but inside the house – to request a bottle of water.  I cannot even walk back into the room to get my own.
Here is the thing:  I played well. Early in the tournament I lost a hand with straight < full house that took me down to less than 4,000 out of my starting 10,000 chips.  Patiently, I fought back, and doubled up to about 12,000 on the last hand before the $20 add-on gave me 5,000 more.
I look back at the remaining players, knowing I can play with any of them, knowing I could go deep in this tournament, knowing now good it would feel to bring home the extra cash.  Knowing the pain of being on the outside, looking in.
A few minutes later, Andrew is the next player to bust out of the tournament.

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