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?”