KKing David

Ruminations on poker

Archive for the month “August, 2015”


This was a really weird situation at a $1/1 cash game last night.

Effective stacks are about $110.

I have QQ in middle position and raise to $6, which is a fairly typical raise for this game.  There is one caller after me, and one of the blinds also calls.  The dealer burns and turns over the flop, J-x-x.  I don’t recall the other cards, other than they were lower than the J.  I’m pretty happy with that flop and start developing my strategy for the hand.

Then the cutoff seat (I’ll call him “Tom”) says “Wait a minute!”  He had his back to the table as he was counting out a new stack of chips for someone who had gone bust in the previous hand and needed to re-buy.  The action passed by him before he could turn back around, so he hadn’t even looked at his cards.

Since this is a home game, with no rake and each player deals when it is his turn, we have to stop and figure out exactly what to do.  It can be tricky when the dealer is also a player, as well as when there is no floor supervisor to call for help.  I keep quiet – it was a good flop for me, but weighing in with a biased reaction might give away the strength of my hand, in addition to being bad form.

The group does the right thing.  The flop cards (but not the burn card) are scooped up off the table and put back on the deck, and the remaining deck is re-shuffled.  Since Tom was at the table when his cards were dealt, but performing an administrative function for which there is no non-playing person to handle, he should be allowed to act.

Tom looks at his cards, and after some hesitation, he calls the $6.

Great!  (Note the heavy sarcasm.)

Now I have one more person in the pot, who has position on me post-flop.  And a good likelihood of a flop that contains trouble for my Queens.

The new flop is delivered:  KQ6, with 2 clubs.


But also very drawy.  I cannot give a free card to someone with a flush or straight draw, and can expect to get called by quite a few hands, both draws and Kx.  The player in the blinds checks, and I bet $18, about 75% of the pot.

After one fold, Tom – the same Tom whose distraction caused this do-over – raises to $60.  I’ve played with him enough to believe his is pot-committed here, as he only has about $40-50 behind and I have him slightly covered.  The blind folds and I go all-in.

Tom turns over AA.

A few seconds later he is turning his back to the table again, to count out more chips for a player who just got felted.

I feel like this should remind me of a popular song about getting a do-over, but cannot think of it at the moment.  If it comes to me later, I’ll make a quick edit.


Two Pair Plus

How many times to I have to tell you?

In this case, “you” is actually myself.

Last winter, Bill Hubbard showed me some data on live cash games, where a villain raises or check-raises on the flop.  A majority of the time, when there is a flop raise or check-raise by a villain who was not the pre-flop aggressor, said villain has 2-pair or better (2-pair plus, or 2P+.  According to the data, bluffs and semi-bluffs are surprisingly rare at the lower stakes, but raises or check-raises with top pair or an over-pair are fairly common (just not as common as 2P+).

For example, last night I was playing in a local home game, with blinds of $1/2.  With AK0, I raise to $10 and there are 3 callers.  The flop is AT3cc (two clubs).  It is checked to me, and I have top pair, top kicker (TPTK), a very good result for my hand.  I bet $24.  I can expect calls by Ax with a weaker kicker, drawing hands like flush draws or some Broadway gut shots, and some more speculative calls by Tx hands who are not convinced by my C-bet that I hit this flop.

The the guy in one of the blinds (I’ll call him “Rob”) check-raises to $55 and the others fold.  Back to me.

I’ve played with Rob a lot.  He calls pre-flop raises from any position with a very wide range.  He is capable of bluffing in a wide range of situations, although I’ve picked off enough of his bluffs that he should be somewhat reticent to try this with me.  Nevertheless, he could make this play with Ax and a weaker kicker, or with a flush draw.  And certainly with 2-pair or sets, given the draws that are out there.  His range starts so wide, it is always hard to figure out what he is doing.

He has about $115 more behind and I have him easily covered.

On the one hand, I should just fold.  Once Rob likes his hand, he also likes to fire multiple barrels, and the based on stack and pot sizes, the next one could be an all-in bet.  Why risk this much when I’m not sure where I’m at?

On the other hand, I have TPTK.  Earlier this evening, I folded AT on an A-high flop to a check-raise from another guy at the table.  Again?

My inner Tom Petty kicks in…

I raise all-in and Rob quickly calls, turning over A3dd.  His two pair holds up.  I buy another $200 in chips.

How many times…?

Isolating on the flop

At a $1/2 home game last night.

Villain #1 (I’ll refer to him as “Jason”) is prone to big swings in the way he plays.  Sometimes nitty, other times very loose and/or aggressive, easily tilted.  In MP, he min-raises to $4.  Another player has been doing the same thing at this table, and it should not be interpreted as strictly weak.

Villain #2 (I’ll refer to him as “Matt”) is a young kid, very loose, not overly aggressive.  He calls in the CO seat.

I have T9o in the SB and call.  There are a couple other callers.

Flop ($20):  Th 9s 6h.

The good:  flopped top 2 pair.

The bad:  flush draw, possible straight already.  I could be dead already, and a lot of cards (any heart, any K, Q, J, 8 or 7) are going to make this difficult.  Middle pocket pairs can easily call pre-flop, so I could also run into something like a set of 66’s.

I lead out for $13.  There are a lot of hands I can get value from, including flush draws, top pairs, OESDs like QJ or J8, pair + gut shots like T8, T7, 98, 97 or 76.

Jason raises to $30.  Given that he was the pre-flop raiser, this defines his hand much better.  His most likely range is over pairs (JJ+) and top pair (AT, KT).  After his raise, Jason has about $50-55 remaining.

Matt calls $30.  He has a little over $200 remaining and I have him slightly covered.  His range looks very drawy to me.  He could have virtually any flush draw and some of the pair + gut shots.

Everybody else has folded.  The action comes back to me.  What to do?

When all else fails, I have to trust my reads.  The small size of Jason’s pre-flop raise makes it easy for a very wide range of callers.  I’ve played enough with Jason to feel pretty good about my read on him.  Matt is harder to figure, and also much deeper.

So let’s turn this around.  Suppose Matt has a hand that beats me, either a set or flopped straight.  How would he play it?  With my bet and Jason’s raise, he doesn’t have to worry about losing us if he re-raises, so there is good reason to be aggressive.  With the flush draw out there, playing this passively by just flat-calling would be ill-advised.  I think Matt is a good enough player to punish the draws with a hand that beats my top two pair.  Since he flats, my read is that he mostly likely has a draw himself.

So I go all-in.  If I’m right about Jason, he won’t fold as his stack is too short.  I’d like to isolate him and make it too expensive for Matt to chase a draw.

Jason calls.  Matt folds, but holds his cards rather than tossing them into the muck.

Jason has QQ.  The turn is the 4h.  Now Matt turns over his Ah 7h, which would have made a nut flush had I let him stay in.  The river is a brick and my two pair holds up.

Got this one right.  I’m going to post this on 2+2 and see what the “experts” have to say.


Tippy Top

Last night I was playing in a local house game, when this happened.

A player I don’t know straddled for $4 on the button.  I thought I heard someone call him Reuben once, so for now I’ll refer to him as “Reuben.”  He’s a younger guy – maybe early 30’s – and plays fairly loose.  Tonight, he has been winning thanks to some good cards.

Effective stacks in this hand are $150.

After one caller, I raised to $14 with AKo.  In hindsight, I should have raised more, perhaps to $16 or $18, although that would not have affected the outcome.  Just pointing out that my raise was too small.

Reuben calls to defend his straddle, and the other limper also called.

Flop ($42):  As Kc 7s.

This is a great flop for me, with top 2 pair.  It is checked to me.  How much should I bet?

There is no way I’m going to slow play this or try to trap.  There is a flush draw, either player might have an Ace that could improve to a weaker 2-pair, and I’m not giving a free card to any gutshot Broadway draws.

I bet $20, just under 1/2 of the pot.

Reuben raises to $40, a minimum raise, and the other guy folds.

In a hand like this, I really don’t need to try to figure out what his full pre-flop straddle defending call range is.  Much simpler is to consider his range right now, divided into hands that are ahead of mine, and hands that are behind mine.

The only hands that are ahead are sets:  AA, KK, and 77.  If Reuben had AA or KK, he would 3-bet pre-flop.  (Even if I included these in his range, there is only one combination of each, after considering the A and K on the board and A/K in my hand.)  There are 3 combinations of 77.

I am ahead of EVERYTHING ELSE, with the exception of AK which would be a tie (and I also exclude from his range as he would 3-bet pre-flop with this as well).

I am ahead of other 2-pair hands (A7 and K7, 6 combinations of each).

I am ahead of everything else, Ax, Kx, draws…  While I don’t know how many combinations might be in his range, that he would min-raise me with on this flop, it really doesn’t matter because I know for sure I’m ahead.

So against any kind of range, I’m way ahead.

After calling his $20, the pot will be $122 and I have $103 behind.  I go all in.

Reuben calls and turns over 77, the tippy top of his range, and his set holds up.

I have to find comfort in the knowledge that I played this perfectly OK.  Can I every really fold there?  (No.)  Should I try to pot control?  (No.)  If I don’t shove right now, won’t all of the chips end up in the middle anyway, since effective stacks are only 75 BBs?  (Yes.)  Had I raised more pre-flop, might Reuben have folded his 77’s?  (No.)  Given the same set of facts, would I want to play any differently on the flop?  (Not really.)

Sometimes you just run into the top of a villain’s range.  In this case, the tippy top.  The real danger is when you let one hand like this change the way you play.

PS – a bit later, another one of the regulars walked in and joined the game.  I’ll call him “Myles.”  His arrival has nothing to do with this post, other than “Myles” told me recently that he just learned that I write this blog, and wondered why he hadn’t been mentioned in any of the posts.  Now he has.

RIP Bill Hubbard

For a few weeks last winter, I took some poker coaching from Bill “Ain’t No Limit” Hubbard.  Although I suspended the coaching at a time when there were too many concepts swirling around in my head and I needed to slow down and digest them better, he taught me a lot – an awful lot – about how to navigate through live cash games of Texas Hold’em.

Sadly, Bill passed away in May.  Even more sadly, I only learned about his passing yesterday, while searching on the TwoPlusTwo forums for something completely unrelated.  RIP Bill… may the memory of the righteous be a blessing.

Our last email exchange came in mid-April, after a bad beat in a nearly $1,400 cash game pot.  I wrote:

Bill, Link below to a cash game hand at 2/5 during WSOP Circuit stop in NC.  Villain was a very good player but also very aggressive and caught 2x in large bluffs recently.  Your thoughts???  ShareMyPair link here.

Bill replied the next morning:

This is a cooler which you cannot get away from.  She lost money overall in the hand and you won overall in the hand.  Variance had you lose this time.  No biggie.  She gambled and won this time, but loses most always.

Bill’s short reply integrates two concepts he worked hard to teach, and helped me move past this hand a little faster than I would have otherwise.

The first is variance.  Over the short run, variance can be a real bitch.  You will lose big pots that you thought you should win.  Bad beats, coolers, suck outs, etc. will occur seemingly too often.  Losing big pots is painful.  It hurts the ego, hurts the bankroll, hurts the confidence, hurts the table image, and hurts some more.  If you are going to play a lot of no limit poker, you better accept the fact that variance will be there to bitch-slap you from time to time just when you least expect it.  But over the long run, variance is your friend.  It is the reason winning players are able to win, as it is variance that keeps losing players coming back to the games.  Without variance – in this case referring to the big hands that are won by overall losing players – the good games would dry up.  More and more losing players would go gamble elsewhere, to find another source of variance (blackjack?  craps?  roulette?  horse racing?) even though they are still likely to lose in the long run.  Meanwhile, a winning player, who can get money in the pot over and over with a positive expected value, as a 51% or 65% or 90% favorite, is going to keep winning over the long run.

The second concept is reciprocality.  Bill taught reciprocality as originally described by Tommy Angelo:

Reciprocality says that when you and your opponents would do the same thing in a given situation, no money moves, and when you do something different, it does.

In the subject hand, the she-Villain called a pre-flop raise from one of the blinds with 4-3 off suit.  I would fold.  So in this given situation, I would not do the same thing as the Villain.  In the short run, she won a large pot.  That’s variance.  In the long run, she will lose much more by playing this way than she will win.  In this particular hand there was a perfect storm.  She has 4-3.  I have 5-5.  The flop is A-T-2.  She has, in reality, only two outs to make a wheel straight.  I have the same two outs to make a set. without which I would not be putting any more money into this multi-way pot.  Even after all the money goes in the middle on the turn, I still have 10 outs to win.

Reciprocality is both a very simple and a very deep concept.  You can think of this existing on every single move in a poker game.  Often the right play does not involve any reciprocality.  For a very simple example, imagine a heads-up game, where the Villain makes a large pre-flop raise and you have 3-2 off suit.  You fold, of course.  The Villain would do the same thing if the roles were reversed.  While the Villain wins this individual hand, over the long run you will break even with respect to each other as it relates to this exact situation.  Your reciprocal edge comes when you play differently from the Villains.  The biggest source of reciprocal profit, in my opinion, happens to be the simplest.  This is folding marginal hands pre-flop, especially out-of-position.  Folding troublesome hands that others would play is a huge source of profit, by enabling you to retain more of the money you win with your good hands.  Other sources of reciprocal profit come from bet sizing that is different from Villains bet sizing, well executed bluffs that Villains would not attempt, and so on.

Thanks again Bill for some excellent lessons.

Now I’m going to re-read the reciprocality section in Tommy Angelo’s classic Elements of Poker.

Republican Presidential Debate, Part 2

In my previous post, I provided a copy of my entry into FiveThirtyEight.com’s reader contest for  ideas about how to select the candidates to invite to Fox News’ upcoming Republican Presidential debate.

Here is my second contest entry:

How many candidates would you invite to the debate?

A:  2

Describe your criteria and why you think it’s best.

A:  Since this is Fox News and the Republican Party, we’re not seriously going to let “the people” decide who will be nominated for President.  There is no good Fox-worthy reason to parade a bunch of loonies across the stage, unless of course it’s Jeff Foxworthy’s show.  Which it’s not.  So we’ll select only the top two legitimate candidates, who happen to be 2nd and 3rd in national polls.

By your criteria, who would be included in your debate?

A:  Jeb Bush and Scott Walker

So, what other rules would you have at your debate?  Anything goes. It’s your debate.
A:  For the official debate, we’ll give each candidate an alternating three minutes to talk, with a hard stop imposed by muting the microphone at the of each turn.  A coin flip will determine who goes first.  No questions… just take turns speaking and responding.  Debating.  The only role for a moderator is to say “Thank you Mr. ______.  Mr. ______ now it is your turn.”
For all of the other announced candidates, sorry, but your participation can only turn this into a debate about nothing.  So for you, we will have an alternative forum about nothing, borrowing a format from our favorite TV show about nothing:  Seinfeld.
Specifically, the other candidates will have a “Festivus” debate.  Since Festivus is “for the rest of us” all other announced candidates will be invited.  The stage will be adorned with an aluminum pole, whose very high strength-to-weight ratio makes it highly attractive.  [Writer’s note:  although not included in my submission, while copying this into this blog post it occurs to me that I wish I had called it a “Job Creating Aluminum Pole,” since Republican candidates tend to describe everything they support as “job creating” and everything they oppose as “job killing” regardless of any actual causal relationship.  But I digress.]  All candidates will stand haphazardly on the stage, with no podiums or other props.
The event will begin with “Airing of Grievances” in which each candidate will have four minutes to lash out, passing a hand-held microphone to each other when assigned to speak.  The speaking order will be determined via auction, with the highest bidder choosing when they want to speak, followed by the 2nd highest bidder, etc..  After all, money does matter in politics.
Airing of Grievances will be followed by “Feats of Strength.”  In Seinfeld’s Festivus, tradition states that Festivus isn’t over until someone pins the head of household in a wrestling match.  This role will be appropriated to the leader in the most recent polls, currently Trump.  The 2nd highest polling candidate will wrestle Trump in a made-for-Republicans wrestling ring until pinning him, or until Trump pins #2, or either one concedes.  It really does not matter which poll or average of polls is used to select the 2nd candidate, as long as Trump is the first.  That’s what viewers are going to tune in for.
Once the outcome is decided, the #3 candidate will enter the Feats of Strength ring to wrestle the winner between Trump and #2, and so on until the very last candidate has his (or Carly’s) chance to wrestle and emerge as the winner.  There will be no time limit.
Feats of Strength matches will be posted to YouTube and also re-playable via Fox News’ website.

Republican Presidential Debate, Part 1

We interrupt KKing David’s poker blog for this special edition on Republican Presidential politics.  The first televised debate is scheduled for next Thursday, August 6th, on Fox News.

Once of my favorite sources of information is FiveThirtyEight.com.  Back in May, they asked readers to submit ideas about how to stop NBA teams from tanking at the end of already-bad seasons and otherwise improve the NBA draft.  There were nearly 7,000 entries, and 538 sent their picks on to NBA commissioner Adam Silver (who actually responded).

Now 538 has done it again.  This time, the problem is Fox News’ refusal to state which polls it will use in determining the Top 10 Republican Presidential candidates (out of 17 announced candidates so far… that’s not a typo.  17.  Seventeen) to invite to the debate.  They again asked readers to submit ideas, serious or silly, for candidate selection and other debate rules.

I submitted two entries.  Here is the first one:

How many candidates would you invite to the debate?

A:  All of ’em, why not.

Describe your criteria and why you think it’s best.

A:  Representative democracy prevails. Since the Republican Party is actually willing to entrust the selection of their Presidential nominee to all individuals who identify as Republicans (with apologies for using the words “identify” and “Republican” in the same sentence; I digress a bit here but somebody has to stand up against people who “identify” as Republican despite the preponderance of evidence to the contrary – Joe the Plumber comes to mind), everybody gets to go to this first dance.

It is tempting to leave out the black guy (Carson), the woman (Fiorina), the Indian (Jindal), the Libertarian (Paul), the Hispanic (Rubio), the lifelong bachelor (Graham), and the guy who keeps setting his own hair on fire (Trump). After all, this is the Republican Party. Once the number of regular white guys gets winnowed down to a few finalists, these outliers have no chance. Repeat: Republican Party. Say it slowly: REE—PUB—LICK—UN…   PAR—TEE.

But this is America, and we’re Americans, as in United States of Americans. Invite them all.

By your criteria, who would be included in your debate?

A:  In alphabetical order, by last name:

Bush, Jeb

Carson, Ben

Christie, Chris

Cruz, Ted

Fiorina, Carly

Gilmore, Jim

Graham, Lindsay

Huckabee, Mike

Jindal, Bobby

Kasich, John

Pataki, George

Paul, Rand

Perry, Rick

Rubio, Marco

Santorum, Rick

Trump, Donald

Walker, Scott

So, what other rules would you have at your debate?  Anything goes. It’s your debate.

A:  The candidates shall be seated at a large, oval table, with cameras at many angles, so a speaker can look or glare at (or away from) any other candidate whilst speaking. No podiums.

Candidates will not be shown on camera at any time when not speaking or being asked a question.

The candidates shall wear identical attire selected by an image consultant. Like a team uniform. No suits or ties. Think Ryder Cup golf team uniforms, not Golden State Warriors’ basketball team uniforms.

Auto-mute microphones when each speaker’s time is up. The moderator also shall have the authority to mute microphones whenever a candidate wanders off topic (with the clock still ticking) while the moderator instructs speaker to return to the topic or question as a condition of un-muting.

A drawing of bingo balls will decide who gets to speak, with replacement (such that someone could get to address two consecutive questions, or none. Consider variations, such as weighting the number of bingo balls for each candidate based on poll, endorsement or fundraising data, NBA lottery-style.

A drawing from a separate set of bingo balls will select the question for each speaker, with replacement. Questions shall be simple and straightforward on a wide range of topics, such that any question would apply to any candidate. (Example: Should recreational marijuana be legal? Why or why not? Or… What would you do to respond to ISIS, Boko Haram and other terrorist groups?)


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