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…

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