KKing David

Ruminations on poker

Archive for the month “December, 2015”

2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,200 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 20 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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But you would never do that!

This is all about the question that was asked several minutes after the hand was over.  In the spirit of “beginning with the end in mind” I’ll go to the question first, then we can ponder that as we review the actual hand history.

A couple more hands had already passed.  Out of the blue, “Tim” asks me this:  “What would you have done if I had e-raised to $75?”  I had trouble coming up with an answer at that moment.

Now let’s back up and see what had happened.  We are playing $1/2 no limit Texas Hold’em, at a private house game.  I have $167 to start this hand.

3 players limp into the pot.  The player in the cutoff seat (immediate right of the button) also limps.  For purposes of this post, we’ll call him “Tim,” and notice his stack is larger than mine.  The button (we’ll call him “Patrick”) also limps.  He is nursing a very short stack, approx. $40-45.

Yours truly is the Small Blind, with A7o.  I complete, and the Big Blind checks.

Before the flop is spread out, I announce “check in the dark.”  I’m not normally a big fan of doing this, but with this many players in the hand, I like this move.  I get to see what everyone else is doing without necessarily revealing any information about the strength of my hand.

Flop ($14): Ah 7c 3c. (Note: my ace is not Ac).  I have top 2 pair.

Everyone checks until it gets around to “Tim” and he bets $6. “Patrick” calls on the button.  Then I check-raise to $16.  My raise is somewhat small, as I want to keep an Ace with weaker kicker in the hand.  I’ll be giving flush draws a fair price to see the turn card.  If another club comes on the turn, I will have to re-evaluate (especially if “Tim” and “Patrick” are both still in.  I’ll lead out with a much larger bet on any safe turn.  Everybody folds back to “Tim.”

Looking confident, “Tim” re-raises to $51.  (Go back to the top and re-read his question:  What would I do if he had raised here to $75 here?)  And “Patrick” goes all-in for a little bit less.

WTF?  Did somebody wake up with a set of 3’s, or the only remaining combo of 77’s?  Is there any worse hand that can pay me off if I come over the top?  I have to think through my history with both “Tim” and “Patrick” and how they play certain situations.  Here we have an Ace, a flush draw, and a multi-way limped pot.  After my check-raise, rather than slowing down, they both mashed the accelerator.

I posted this spot on a 2+2 forum and got wide ranging feedback ranging from “ugly situation” to “easy shove.”  I tended to side with the “ugly situation” crowd.  Generally my read here is that one or both of them have 2-pair+ or a flush draw.  2-pair+ hands include 77 (only 1 combination is possible, as I have a 7 and one is on the board), 33 (3 combinations), A7 (chopping the pot) and A3 (6 combinations).  AA would have raised pre-flop.  73 would have folded.  There are lots of combinations of flush draws that can limp pre-flop, although I don’t believe “Tim” is re-raising with most of them.  I do believe “Patrick” can call with a flush draw, as now he’s getting decent odds on a draw.

My combinatorics at the table got close enough to this to decide to shove. Now “Tim” went into the tank.  The longer he tanks (he finally called), the more obvious it becomes to me that he must have A3, which was exactly right.  “Patrick” had a middlin’ flush draw.  The turn and river miss all draws and my hand is good.

Now back to the question:  What would I have done if “Tim” had raised to $75?  I’ve thought about this several times since that night.

The fundamental problem with the question is that “Tim” would never do that.  Why would he, given that we now know he had A3?  Would he be expecting to get a weaker hand to call?  No… weaker hands are going to fold to $75.  Flush draws no longer have the odds to chase, Aces with weak kickers will fold.  Aces with strong kickers, like AK or AQ, cannot be involved, as someone holding such strength would have raised pre-flop.

Would he be expecting a stronger hand to fold?  The only stronger hand that could even consider folding on that flop would be A7, exactly what I had.  A flopped set isn’t going to fold.  Top 2-pair isn’t likely to fold (although I did consider that option).

Would he be trying to get a weaker hand to fold?  Not smart poker.  We want to give weaker hands a bad price to call, and then have them call, not fold.  That’s how we make money.

And this is why the question was so difficult to answer.  Since I already knew his hand, I couldn’t project myself into a situation where a re-raise to $75 made any sense.  The only way it might make sense is from a player who would bet extra-aggressively with a strong flush draw (i.e., top pair + flush draw).  In that case, I would shove.  Such a move would be highly atypical for “Tim” however.

Note to “Tim” — interesting question, but you would never do that!

Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog

Ralph E. Wolf and Sam Sheepdog are characters in a series of classic Looney Tunes cartoons that I enjoyed many, many years ago.

Ralph (apparently named after a Warner Bros. employee – Ralph Wolf) was modeled after the Wile E. Coyote character from the Road Runner series, with brown fur, a wiry body, huge ears, and a love for products from Acme Corporation.  Sam is a large, burly sheepdog with a mop of red hair covering his eyes, who is largely sedentary but with a knack for being at the right place at the right time.

According to Wikipedia:

The series is built around the idea that both Ralph and Sam are just doing their jobs. Most of the cartoons begin at the beginning of the workday, in which they both arrive at a sheep-grazing meadow, exchange pleasant chitchat, and punch into the same time clock. Work having officially begun, Ralph repeatedly tries very hard to abduct the helpless sheep and invariably fails, either through his own ineptitude or the minimal efforts of Sam (he is frequently seen sleeping), who always brutally punishes Ralph for the attempt. In many instances there are also multiple copies of Ralph and particularly Sam.

Sam_and_Ralph_clockAt the end-of-the-day whistle, Ralph and Sam punch out their time cards, again chat amiably, and leave, presumably only to come back the next day and do it all again. Both Ralph and Sam are performed by voice actor Mel Blanc.  In “A Sheep In The Deep” the workday is interrupted by a lunch break, which they also conduct amiably.  

I’m often reminded of these wonderful cartoons when playing poker in private home games or house games.  (To me, a “home” game is one with no rake and each player takes a turn shuffling and dealing the cards; a “house” game takes a rake out of the pot, provides a dealer who works for tips and offers complimentary food & beverages.  House games are making a profit off of the game.  Home games are not.  Perhaps this should be the subject of another post, but I digress…)

Most of the players are regulars.  Many of the same players can be found at different venues.  We might invite our poker-loving friends to come join us at the games.  Over time, we get to know each other, learn about jobs, families, other interests… all the stuff that leads to friendships.  Various sub-groups go on poker road trips together.  Like Ralph and Sam, before the game starts, we exchange pleasant chitchat.

Then the poker officially begins.  While involved in a hand, each of us becomes Ralph, using whatever cunning means we have at our disposal to abduct the helpless poker chips from the “villains.”  We are aggressive and deceitful.  We bluff and exploit all weaknesses.  We seek out information that gives us an edge.  We punish villains’ mistakes mercilessly.  And each of us also becomes Sam.  When not asleep, we defend.  We lay traps.  We punish unbridled aggression in the worst possible way.

When we fold, and the player to our left or our right also folds, we can go back into chitchat mode.  “How’s work going?”  “Did you see the game this afternoon – your team won, right?”  “Let’s get together for dinner with our wives next weekend, OK?”

Then another hand is dealt.  We punch our poker time clocks and go back to battle.  It is almost as if we are clocked in whenever we have live cards in our possession, then clocked out from the time we fold until the next hand is dealt.

Or we take a break and wander into the kitchen or out on the deck.  The atmosphere is friendly there, we break bread together and share a story, celebrate each other’s joys or commiserate with each other’s pains.

I was reminded of Ralph E. Wolf and Sam Sheepdog a few nights ago when another regular player (I’ll call him “Rob”) was getting ready to leave the game.  “Rob” had already racked up his chips and was getting ready to cash out.  But he punched in to the poker time clock for one more hand.  “Rob” (attacking, like Ralph) raised, I (defending, like “Sam”) called.  The flop came out… full house on the flop for me.  I laid the trap.  Rob never saw it, and it cost him over 150 Big Blinds.  That’s how the game is played…

Yet I both like and respect “Rob.”  Sometimes he wins and sometimes he loses, but he never seems to take the losses personally, never directs any anger at his villains.  Before he left the building, I met him at the door to acknowledge the brutality of that last hand, and to wish him a very sincere Merry Christmas.  He’ll bounce back.  He always does.

I was reminded of Ralph and Sam again last night.  This time the on-the-clock villain / off-the-clock friend I’ll call “Jayson.”  Earlier in the night there was a large pot, with one player all-in and “Jayson” and myself in a side pot.  I had pocket AAs, and put “Jayson” all-in on the flop.  He looked anguished and finally folded, muttering something in Japanese or Arabic that sounded like “Suqma-deek.”  He showed pocket JJs.  Because a 3rd player was already all-in, I still had to show my cards and watched as the dealer delivered the turn card (a Jack, probably from Acme Corporation).  Lots of “oohs” and other gasps from around the table.  Then the river card – an Ace (how many times do we have to watch the cartoon to learn the sheepdog always wins?).  More reactions.  Later on, after announcing that I was leaving at a certain time, we reached what would be my last hand of the night.  Once again, it was “Jayson” and myself playing the roles of wolf and sheepdog.  I made a nut flush on the river.  “Jayson” bet and I raised all-in.  His top pair / top kicker hand was no good, and he smartly laid it down.

Tomorrow we’ll be friends again.  Except when we both have cards in front of us.

Just a bunch of guys at the office, socializing near the water cooler and time clock.  Transforming into wolf and sheepdog, then back to office buddies, over and over and over again.

Bad Beat –> Happy Tilt. Oh my!

This post involves our friend “Myles” from the previous post, where I made a massive over-bet all-in river shove.  Read about it here.

About a week later, I’m off to a good start in a $1/2 no limit cash game, having doubled up early when my AA held up against AK on a K-high flop.  At this private game, the host has two interesting jackpot bonuses, both of which are about to come into play.  The first is a high-hand jackpot.  A separate fund is segregated out of the house rake during the night, and the player with the highest hand of the night (paid out at midnight) using both hole cards wins the jackpot, which is usually between $80 – 120.  In addition, there is a bad beat jackpot, which requires losing a hand with JJJ-TT or higher (using both hole cards, although the winner of the hand is not required also to use both hole cards under house policy).  The bad beat jackpot grows by $25 each time there is no winner, up to a cap of $500.  Tonight, we are at the jackpot cap.

In this hand, our familiar villain “Myles” raises to $10 from the UTG+1 seat (i.e., two seats to the left of the Big Blind).  He has about $260 to start the hand, and I have over $400.  Another player calls, and I call with QQ in the Cutoff seat (one seat to the right of the Button).  The Button (I’ll call him “John” for purposes of this post – he has about $200) also calls, but both blinds fold.  I considered re-raising with my QQ here, but decided to make a non-standard call to deliberately under-represent my hand.

Flop ($43):  KQ5 all different suits.  What a perfect spot to have just called with QQ.  Myles bets $20 and the next player folds.  I want to see what “John” is going to do here, so I just call, and John also calls.

Turn ($103):  K.  Now I have a full house, QQQ-KK, which is awesome, and if somehow Myles or John has KK for a bigger full house, I qualify to win the bad beat jackpot.  Also, nobody has posted a higher full house yet this evening, so I’ll be leading the way for the high-hand jackpot.  Some nights this is good enough to win the high-hand jackpot; other nights not.  A couple weeks early I had a 888-99 hand hold up until 11:59 pm, right before payment time, when TTT-QQ stole it away.

Now “Myles” checks.  When “John” called the flop bet, I think he probably has a K or Q, or a straight draw with JT, with a remote chance of a really strong hand with KQ or 55.  I bet $50, about 1/2 of the pot, hoping to get at least one more call from “John.”  If he is on a draw, he may chase it for this amount.  “John” calls $50.  Then… “Myles” slides out $130 for a check-raise of $80 more.  This is really interesting.  He has to consider that either “John” or myself has a strong hand.  So his range is either a bluff, or a very strong hand like AA, AK, KK (quads??? really???) or KQ.

On the other hand, the worst that can happen is I’m going to win the $500 bad beat jackpot, while the most I could lose on this hand is about $260.  Or I’m going to win a huge pot.  Once again, I just call, to see if “John” will put in any more chips.  “Myles” is pretty pot-committed so I should have no problem getting the rest of his chips in on the river.  To my disappointment, “John” folds.

River ($413):  5.  Now the board is KQ5-K-5, or a double paired board.  “Myles” somewhat unhappily tosses out two $1 chips, the minimum bet amount.  Wha-a-a-a-t?  Obviously he doesn’t want to put in the rest of his chips.

Here is where I went on happy tilt.  I’ve fallen in love with my hand, with a flopped set of queens and turned full house.  And the knowledge that I’m qualified to win the bad beat jackpot if somehow I’m beat.  Rather than pause for a second and think about the implications of the river card, I just announce all-in.  The reality is that “Myles” can fold AA here, or anything else he might have that doesn’t include a K.  My raise is totally idiotic – he’s not going to call me with a worse hand, and not going to fold a better hand either.  After considering the possibility of me having KQ rather than QQ, he calls and shows AK suited.  His KKK-55 beats my QQQ-KK.

While I win the $500 bad beat jackpot, I also could have called “Myles'” $2 bet on the river and saved $98 more

“Myles” laughs, thanks me and reminds me and everyone else at the table about the extra $98 I paid him about a dozen times over the remainder of the evening.

Sometimes he reads this blog.  Merry Christmas, “Myles.”  I hope you used it to buy yourself a nice Christmas sweater and matching necktie.

A little while later, against a different villain, my TT runs into AK on a board of KK4-K-9.  The other guy has quad KKKK’s with an Ace kicker, to bump me out of the high hand jackpot.  My KKK-TT again qualifies for the bad beat jackpot, but it has been reset to $25 and the house rule is they won’t pay the jackpot to the same player twice in one night.  I don’t want to sound like a complainer, but a different river card in the first hand with “Myles” and I would have been about $600 richer.

Overbet All-in on the River

Last night I was playing $1/2 no limit Hold’em in a private house game, where I am a regular.  It was after 3 am and we were down to 5-handed play when this hand occured.

Before describing the hand, some background and table dynamics are needed…

The group was talkative and lively, despite the late hour.  Straddling on the button was frequent.  There were some deep stacks.  I had about $280 to start this hand.  When there are only five players, the dynamics change a lot from a full table, with much wider ranges being played, and much more bluffing and re-bluffing.

The ‘villain’ in this hand (we’ll call him “Myles” for purposes of this post) is one of the more perceptive players at the table.  His hand-reading skills are excellent, and he’s constantly thinking about what other players have based on their playing style, betting patterns, and physical tells.  We’ve played together many times.

Usually he perceives me as very tight – once he called me the “tightest player in the Triad” (note to “Myles”… we live in the Triangle, not the Triad… but I digress).

Not long before this hand, while also playing 5-handed, “Myles” had posted a $6 straddle on the button.  (Dear readers, if you aren’t familiar with straddles, this is a 3rd blind bet voluntarily placed by a player prior to looking at his cards.  The pre-flop betting action action begins with the player to the left of the straddle, so the straddler buys the privilege of acting last on this round of betting with the option of raising when the action gets to him as is normally the case with the BB.  This game follows the “Mississippi Straddle” rule, which allows a straddle from any position in any amount, and this is frequently used on the button to effectively raise the stakes on a hand where the straddler will have position on everyone else during every round of betting.)  Anyway, “Myles” straddled for $6 on the button, and I am in the small blind with Kc Qc.  I call $6, then immediately realize this was a mistake and I should have raised with a hand this strong.  Playing this hand passively from the worst position at the table, with multiple opponents, is just terrible.  It would be better to take the initiative at the outset.

There were 2 callers, then “Myles” raises $30 more, tossing his chips out in a splashy manner.  Often he stacks his chips neatly and slides them out, this time they scattered across the felt in front of him.

Now I’m even madder about not raising myself.  Is he just trying to steal the pot?  Did he wake up with a big hand after straddling?  Is he F.O.S?  Does he read everybody else as weak?  Have we all been playing way too long?  Should I cash out and go home before making a costly mistake?  If I re-raise here, what will he do with the stronger part of his range, say… TT+ / AQs+?  The weaker part of his range?  In all cases here, his range is pretty wide, and somewhat polarized.

Knowing his perceptiveness, as well as his willingness to bluff-raise from the straddle position (not always, but sometimes), I decide to re-raise to $100.  This is a very bold move, and represents a stronger hand than I actually have.  My range for limping / re-raising (being known at the “tightest player in the Triad”), even in the wee hours of the morning playing 5-handed, is narrower than this.  “Myles” tanks for a long time, asking if I want to get it all-in now or wait until the flop.  He seems to be seriously thinking about shoving here, but finally folds, saying he has pocket JJs.  Just to get in his head a little bit, I show him my cards and he realizes I would have had to fold if he had shoved about $200 more, and perhaps also realizes I’m not always as tight as the label “Tightest Player in the Triad” would suggest.  Just for shits and giggles, I ask the dealer to run out the board, which would have given me two clubs (including the Ac) on the flop and the nut flush card on the turn.  (Side note:  Wow!)

On to the hand that is the subject of this post.

“Myles” is the straddler again on the button, putting me in the SB.  I call $6, one or two others call, and “Myles” checks his option.  The flop is all diamonds, something like Jd 8d 6d.  I recall that one of my cards was red, but am unsure (a hazard of the wee hours) which one, and unsure if it was a diamond or heart, so I take a second look and announce that I’m checking to see if I have a diamond in my hand.  This also gives me an opportunity to pause and develop a plan for the hand.  If I have a flush draw, do I want to make aggressive semi-bluffs, representing that I already have a flush while having the draw as a my back-up plan?  Or do I want to chase the draw, calling others’ bets but not betting or raising until the flush arrives?  If I have some other hand with showdown value, such as a pair, 2-pair or a set, do I want to bet aggressively to protect against someone with a single diamond improving to a flush?  Or should I be more cautious and try to keep the pot small in case someone made a flush right away on the flop?  If a 4th diamond arrives, will I turn a non-flush hand into a bluff, representing that I have the Ad?  Making it obvious that I’m checking to see if one (or both) of my cards is a diamond can be good or bad… depending on what everybody assumes that means and how that plays into my plan.  It can also be deceptive, as a way to set up a bluff, or appear that I only have one diamond even if I know that I flopped the nuts.  Since I am making it obvious to all that I’m peeking back at my cards, I can factor that into my plan.

Everybody checks to “Myles” who bets $10.  I call.  The turn is a blank (not a diamond, doesn’t pair any of the other board cards) and he follows my check with a bet of $25.  When I call quickly, it sure looks like I’m chasing a flush draw, and the river is the Qd.

There is about $80 in the pot, I have close to $250 remaining, and “Myles” has me slightly covered.  “I’m all-in” I announce, then slide my entire stack forward.

Another player on my left, a young fellow I’ll call “Alex,” laughs out loud.  “Myles” looks shocked, and soon folds but turns his cards face up, showing the Kd 4d.  He flopped the 2nd nut flush, and now folds to a river shove.  All the while I thought he was much weaker, with a 2-pair type of hand that he was protecting against the flush draw, as I would have expected him to check his monster on the flop for deception, at least some of the time, especially if he flopped the nut flush.  Perhaps my peeking at my cards worried him that it signaled I may have the Ad???  Perhaps I surmised from his betting line that he doesn’t have the Ad???  Despite the earlier hand where I limped / re-raised pre-flop with KQs, and the punchiness of this time of morning, he’s not going to risk his whole stack, not even with the 2nd nuts, when my shove is 3x the size of the pot.

This illustrates the power of such naked aggression against a good, thinking player.  I’ve played with “Myles” enough to know that he doesn’t want to go broke there, and would ONLY call a river shove if he has the nuts himself.  But I also mis-read his hand strength, another indicator that I should go home soon.  I’ve seen other villains call in that situation, even after announcing “you must have the nuts, nothing else makes sense.”

Did I make a great bluff here?  Was I planning this all along in case a scary 4th diamond arrived?

Or just take an idiotic risk?

Or did I actually have the Ad and got lucky on the river?  If I really had it, how much should I bet for value to get the most out of a call from “Myles?”

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