KKing David

Ruminations on poker

Archive for the month “September, 2017”

An Embarrassingly Bad Call

I didn’t want to write this post, but I’ve been thinking about this hand for several days and need to purge it from my consciousness.  This blog originated as a place to vent and purge bad thoughts, back when no one was reading.  In the hand I’m going to describe, I found out exactly where I stood, knew it, and called off my stack anyway out of sheer stubbornness.  Or stupidity.  Or tilt.  I hoped I could forget about it and move on, not owning up to it here, but it’s still rolling around in my head… THAT’S THE ONLY THING SHE COULD HAVE!  And of course, she did.

I still don’t want to write this post, mostly because I’m embarrassed that people will read it.  Now, dear readers, you have a choice.  Either read on to find out what I did that was so awful, or skip the rest of this post.

As usual, I’m playing no limit Texas hold’em in a private game, at someone’s garage.  Most of the players are regulars.  So far, this night has been frustrating as I’ve either had shitty cards, or totally missed the flop with my hands like AK or AQ.  I had bought in for 200 Big Blinds, won a few very small pots, and started this hand with about 170-175 BBs.

The villain is a young woman, who for purposes of this blog I’ll call “Stardust.”  In the cutoff seat, she opens the action with a raise to 4 BBs.  The button calls, and with QQ in the big blind, I re-raise to 16 BBs.  Stardust very quickly calls and the button folds.

Immediately, I’m thinking she is set-mining with some sort of medium pocket pair.  With a pair higher than my Queens, she would have made a bigger raise in the first place.  With a really low pair, she would limp.  Perhaps she has AK, but again she would have made a bigger raise.  Stardust doesn’t balance her pre-flop range by using the same bet size regardless of hand strength.  A lot of players don’t seem to notice the bet sizing tells, so with certain opponents this can actually be an exploitative strategy.  Her stack is about the same size as mine, so set-mining is mathematically justifiable.

The flop is Jd 8c 2d.  I bet 20 BBs and she quickly calls.

The turn is 7c.  Now there are two possible flush draws – diamonds and clubs.  An open-ended straight draw with T9 also got there.  I discount that based on the pre-flop action.  Stardust might have raised to 4 BBs with T9 suited, but wouldn’t have called my re-raise with so little hesitation.  But what I’m really thinking about is whether she might have flopped a set of 888s.  How can I get her to tell me?

I bet 25 BBs.  Stardust stacks all of her chips other than the $1 chips and puts them in for a large raise.  I ask the dealer for a count, and it is 115 BBs more.  She didn’t announce “all-in” so I can call the raise and still have a few $1 chips of my own left.  The conventional response, if not folding, would be to put the last few dollars in as well, but that would alter the order of the showdown.  She would be calling my shove, and I’d have to show first.  By just calling her raise and leaving the handful of remaining chips alone, I am the caller and Stardust will show first.  If I call and lose, nobody will know exactly what I have.

The main failure here was not taking enough time to ponder Level 3.

Level 1 thinking is “what do I have?”  I have QQ, an over-pair to the board, which is generally considered a strong hand.

Level 2 thinking is “what does she have?”  She raised, smallish, pre-flop then quickly called a re-raise.  She called a flop bet, then raised big over the top of the turn bet.  Of the hands that beat me, I can safely conclude she does not have AA or KK – she would have raised my larger pre-flop.  She does not have JJ – same reason.  She does not have 22 – she would have limped in pre-flop.  She does not have T9 off-suit – she would have folded to my re-raise pre-flop.  She might have T9 suited – a total of 4 combinations – but I think the speed with which she called my pre-flop re-raise effectively rules that out.  She never has 2 pair here – all of the 2P combinations are too weak to raise pre-flop AND call my re-raise.  That leaves 88, which perfectly fits the betting patterns and our reads about Stardust’s playing style. This along is enough to justify folding here.  With Level 2 thinking alone, I should fold and move on.

What about Level 3?  Level 3 thinking is “what does she think I have?”  I re-raised from out-of-position pre-flop, then led out with bets on the flop and turn.  Doesn’t this smack of an over-pair?  My hand should be pretty obvious to anyone paying close attention.  It might be AA, or KK, or QQ, but at this point in the action, these are all equivalent hands.  With this being the case, and two flush draws on the board, can she be raising effectively all-in here with a flush draw?  Stardust just put 140 BBs with of chips at risk.  Would she do that as a semi-bluff, and have any reasonable hope that I would fold after showing as much strength as I’ve shown?

My turn bet was intentionally small.  There was about 77 BBs in the pot and I bet 25 BBs, giving her about 4-to-1 odds on a call.  With a flush draw, Stardust can justify calling.  On the other hand, she might not have much fold equity, and might not be increasing her expected value by shoving.  My hand looks too strong for that, and it’s not here style to bet that aggressively without a made hand.  The only flush draw she can have is with a combo like Ad Kd or Ad Qd. Anything weaker is likely to fold pre-flop, and any Ac Kc or Ac Qc would fold on the flop and not hang around for the second flush draw that came on the turn.

If I have any lingering doubts about her having 88 after the Level 2 thinking, they should be totally erased by the Level 3 answers.

What is weird sometimes is the precision of the hand analysis.  It’s also disconcerting.  Surely there is something else she can have… but there isn’t.  After removing my hole cards and the flop & turn cards, there are 46 unknown cards.  Out of those, there are 1,035 combinations of two cards.  My Level 2 and Level 3 analysis reduces this to exactly three combinations that Stardust can really have.  They are:  8s8h, 8s8d, 8h8d.

After thinking through Level 2, I heard “Trust your reads,” from the imaginary gremlin perched atop my right shoulder.

“You have an over-pair!  Won’t it feel great to bust her?” asks the imaginary gremlin atop my left shoulder.

I call, knowing inside I’ve just made a colossal mistake.

Despite each of us having between $5-10 remaining in $1 chips, she immediately flips over her pocket eights.

The dealer delivers the river card, the Kc.

Technically, we aren’t all-in yet, and her set of 888s is laying face-up on the table.  It’s not like I can bluff her into folding, as if I have KK or made a flush.  So I announce loudly, “I check.”  Stardust looks sheepish now, and also checks.

I buy more chips and two hands later, lose half of them again when a different villain hits a flush on the river after getting all-in with me on the flop against my top pair / top kicker.

I buy more chips.  This ain’t going to be my night.

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When Dreams Come True

You know that poker hand you dream about?  When you’ve been running so bad you resort to writing terrible poetry, but laying in bed or driving around in the car alone you imagine that special hand and what it would be like if that actually happened?

Perhaps you imagine being in a casino poker room and double your starting stack.  But the most obnoxious player at the table has tripled his.  He’s drinking too much, talking too much but slurring his words.  He makes blind raises then backs into a winning hand, picking up chips through a series of improbable wins and gloating about it.  His mere presence is a constant irritation.  Even though you don’t actually know each other, you start feeling like there is a personal score that needs to be settled.

Mr. Obnoxious and you are the two biggest stacks at the table and you’re thinking, in your imagination, just get me the right spot to take him down.  Yeah, you want his whole stack.

Maybe you will raise with a medium pocket pair, like nines, and he will 3-bet in a manner that telegraphs a very big pair.  It’s got to be either pocket aces or kings.  So you call, of course, because this could be it.  And the dream continues when you hit top set on the flop, with two suited cards so he’ll have to consider that you might be raising as a semi-bluff.  When he makes a strong bet on the flop, Ka-Pow!  No matter how big of an overbet it is, you’re just going all-in right away, because it’s too much and that will confuse him.  Besides, he’s half-drunk, so his decision making is impaired.  Even the half-drunks can fold pocket aces when the board gets scary enough on the turn or river, but your flop overbet shove reeks of wanting him to fold.  He can’t stand the thought of being bluffed, and his winning has made him start to think he’s invincible, so he calls.

He flips over his pocket rockets and you show your set.  For the first time since he sat down, he’s speechless, realizing he just blew nearly 300 Big Blinds running through a stop sign and police barricade along the way.

Doesn’t everybody who plays poker have a daydream like this?  Don’t you practice, in your mind, what you will say or how you will stare at the villain?

In my dream, I want to act like I’ve been there before.  No hooting and hollering like I’m surprised or feel like I just got lucky.  I want to stay in control, be cool, show everybody at the  table this this is normal for me.  So don’t F- with me as this session continues.  Power commands respect.

Dear readers, I hope your dreams will come true too.  Mine did.  It feels awesome.

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Running Bad Makes Me Mad

The best of times I’ve ever had

Are always followed by running bad;

’tis the curse of the random flop

To see equity so good suddenly drop.

 

Out of position they love to call

With hopes and prayers and mostly gall;

Yet the donkeys get the last laugh

Cutting my chip stack in half.

 

Continuation bets?  They all fail

Silently I suffer and wail;

And wait for the pendulum to swing

To recover from this awful sting.

 

Running bad, it makes me sad

No that’s not it, more like mad;

But must persevere and have more grit

Can I take much more of this shit?

 

There goes another buy-in

And it feels like I’m dyin’;

Not long ago running so good

Beating up the whole neighborhood.

 

When will I get another chance

To celebrate and dance?

Feeling like a shell of my former self

Looking for wisdom on the bookshelf.

 

Uh-oh, here we go again

I flop a big draw, villain flops gin;

The river card fills my flush

And gives him quads!  Now hush.

 

Wrenching emotional pain

In every crevice makes its gain;

Stop I say, don’t turn me into a poet!

I’m not very good and now you know it.

Why Avoid the Bad Players?

Yesterday I was hanging out with two poker friends, talking poker talk and gossip.  One of them, who for purposes of this blog post I’ll call “Melanie,” mentioned that she just started playing online poker again, at the micro stakes.

The problem, says Melanie, is that the players are so bad at blinds of $0.02 / 0.04 that it’s hard to win.  But once she moved up to $0.05 / 0.10, the play becomes a little bit more rational and she’s winning at that level.  One of her complaints is that at the micro-est of the micro stakes, there’s not enough money at risk for people to be willing to fold.

When I play online (cash games only), lately it is at blinds of $0.50 / 1.00.  I’m not sure if this is “low stakes” or “mid stakes” but it’s still pretty low in the overall scheme of things.  I told Melanie there are still plenty of bad players at this level, and all of the levels in between.  Rather than try to avoid the bad players, why not exploit them?

One way to exploit bad players is by folding.  If they won’t fold, you won’t win by bluffing.  So playing lots of junky hands with the intention of “out-playing” them when you smell weakness isn’t going to work.  Another way to exploit bad players is by betting strong hands for value, in ways that maximize the pot size when they call.

Here are two examples:

1 – Eight-Four is Money!

In this hand, I was the big blind with 84 off-suit.  There is a min-raise to $2 from middle position and everyone else folds.  Really, I should just fold as well.  In the back of my head I hear the voice of our friend Myles saying “eight-four is money!”

Since this summer’s World Series of Poker TV broadcasts, I’ve noticed a lot more min-raises in these online cash games.  Apparently, people see the pros on TV making very small pre-flop raises, frequently just 2x the big blind.  It’s one thing to do that in tournaments, where the blinds are increasing, causing lower and lower stack-to-pot ratios as the tournament progresses, and chip preservation is paramount.  It’s a fine strategy for tournaments.  But for deeper stacked cash games, I  think it is ill-advised.  If we are going to exploit other players by value betting when they call too much, we should bet as much as we think they will call, which is more than a min-raise.

Anyway, I call the extra dollar, and the flop is A84 rainbow.  Yahtzee!  I have bottom two pair.

I check, with the intent to check-raise.  If he makes more than a token C-bet, indicating a good chance he has an ace, I’m going to make a very large raise.  He does and I do.  He bets $4.50, which is a pot-sized C-bet.  A pot-sized re-raise would be $18, and I decide to make it $21 as a slight overbet.  If he calls, I’m going to shove any non-ace turn card.

Perhaps this seems too aggressive.  Won’t he fold a hand like AK to such a large raise?  Yeah, maybe.  Or maybe he’ll spazz out.  And he does, coming back over the top with an all-in shove.  I started the hand with $99 and he had me covered.  Of course, I snap call, and to my amazement he only has TT.  The turn and river cards don’t help him, and I double up my stack.

I guess he just convinced himself that I was full of shit, my raise was so large it must mean that I want him to fold, and being the pre-flop raiser he could represent a stronger hand than I could.  I wish I could have seen the look on his face when my hand was revealed…

2 – Putting the Tilted Guy on Tilt

In this hand, the villain in Seat 8 had lost 1/3 of his stack just two hands earlier, in a pre-flop all-in battle of the blinds.  He had AK in the BB, while the SB had AA.  Whoops!

Here is a link to ShareMyPair to see a replay.  When the river gave me quads, I decided to go for the whole enchilada, expecting a nominally tilted guy to run through the stop sign and crash.

Thank you kind sir!  I’ll take better care of your poker chips than you did.

Bad players make bad mistakes.  We can exploit them – trust me Melanie, this is fun – as long as we keep in mind that the #1 mistake bad players make is calling when they should fold.

READERS:  Your comments are always welcome below.

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Bank Error in Your Favor, Collect $200

It’s Friday night poker, and a Monopoly game breaks out.  I roll the dice and land on Community Chest.  The card says “Bank Error in Your Favor, Collect $200.”  The banker hands me the money.  Let me explain.

We are a couple hours into this private, home game of no limit Texas Holdem, with blinds of $1 and $2.  The player to the left of the big blind, who for purposes of this blog I’ll call “John,” raises to $11.  John is a fairly loose player, so even though he is under-the-gun (UTG) here, his raising range is not nearly as tight as many other players.  Still, I know he’s positionally aware so I’ll give him credit for having something decent.

In the cutoff seat, I have KK.  I start to re-raise to $31, then grab two more $1 chips to make it $33, triple the amount of John’s bet.  He has a history of calling 3-bets from out-of-position lighter than he should, so I want to take advantage.

Then the small blind shoves all-in with a short stack.  He has $51 in total.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “KP” after the comedy duo of Key & Peele.

The action is back on John.  What are his options?  My raise was $22 more than John’s bet.  KP’s raise was $18 more than mine.  Can John raise again, or is he limited to calling or folding only?

John does call $51, then says he doesn’t think I can re-raise again.  Since KP only had $18 on top of my bet, which is less than the amount by which I had raised John’s original bet, that’s not a full raise and therefore closes the action.  Right?  John asked for clarification only after he has called the bet.

If so, my only options would be to call $18 more, or fold.  Note that if I had only raised to $31, as was my initial inclination, that would be $20 more than John’s raise.  Then KP’s shove of $51 would be $20 more than my bet and constitute a full raise.  In that situation, the action would clearly remain open for me to raise again.

John and the dealer have a short discussion and review of the betting action, while KP and I sit quietly.  The dealer notes that KP’s raise is over one-half of the minimum, therefore it does not close the action and I can raise again if I want.  If KP had only enough chips to raise $10 more than my bet, or less than that, I would be prohibited from making another raise.

John appears satisfied with that answer.  After calling $51, he has about $150 left in his stack, maybe slightly more, and I have him well covered.

I ask the dealer to confirm that I can raise again if I want, and after he does confirm, I announce all-in.  John shrugs and with very little hesitation says, “OK, I call, but I probably need help.”

I turn over my pocket kings.  KP shows KcJc.  John shows Ac8c.  I’m a 61.4% favorite to win this 3-way pot.

The board runs out KQJ-4-Q and my full house sweeps the pot, albeit with a bit of a sweat.

After the hand, there is some more discussion about the ruling that additional raises are permitted after KP’s shove was less than a full raise.  I ask the dealer if this is a house rule or they are following a guide like the Tournament Directors Association or Robert’s Rules of Poker.  He says he has a copy of Robert’s Rules and believes his is being consistent with that guide, pointing out that the TDA guide sometimes has some quirky tournament-specific rules that don’t work well for cash games.

Now in the comfort of my own home again, I’m curious.  What does Robert’s Rules of Poker actually say here?  Let’s take a look… (emphasis added)

SECTION 3 – GENERAL POKER RULES

BETTING AND RAISING

5. In limit play, an all-in wager of less than half a bet does not reopen the betting for any player who has already acted and is in the pot for all previous bets. A player facing less than half a bet may fold, call, or complete the wager. An all-in wager of a half a bet or more is treated as a full bet, and a player may fold, call, or make a full raise. (An example of a full raise is on a $20 betting round, raising a $15 all-in bet to $35).

But wait, there’s more!

SECTION 14 – NO LIMIT AND POT-LIMIT

A no-limit or pot-limit betting structure for a game gives it a different character from limit poker, requiring a separate set of rules in many situations. All the rules for limit games apply to no-limit and pot-limit games, except as noted in this section. 

NO-LIMIT RULES

3. All raises must be equal to or greater than the size of the previous bet or raise on that betting round, except for an all-in wager. A player who has already checked or called may not subsequently raise an all-in bet that is less than the full size of the last bet or raise. (The half-the-size rule for reopening the betting is for limit poker only.)

Example: Player A bets $100 and Player B raises $100 more, making the total bet $200. If Player C goes all in for less than $300 total (not a full $100 raise), and Player A calls, then Player B has no option to raise again, because he wasn’t fully raised. (Player A could have raised, because Player B raised.)

Whoops!

Since John had not acted in response to my 3-bet, he should have been able to re-raise again if he wanted.  But not me.  And who knows if I would have been able to win John’s full $200 stack if I hadn’t been allowed to raise again in the pre-flop betting round?

Hopefully on the next roll of the dice, I’ll pass Go! and collect another $200.  Until then I’ll just a savor the fortuitous ruling.

READERS:  Your comments are always welcome below.

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A Small Unexpected Gift

Who doesn’t like receiving gifts?  Raise your hands right now.  (No one…)

My favorite gifts tend to be small but unexpected.  On my birthday or Father’s Day, I expect to get something.  Other times, a gift is delivered when there is no expectation – perhaps a friend returned from an overseas trip and brought a snow globe from one of their stops, or Mrs. makes a peach cobbler just ’cause she knew I’d like it.  There is great delight in the unexpected.

In one poker hand last night, another delightfully unexpected gift arrived.

This is a private game, that features a special jackpot that is paid every time a player makes a straight flush, affectionately referred to as a “piggy.”  Last night, the jackpot was equal to 500 big blinds (BBs), which makes you want to play every suited connector and 1- or 2- gapper, no matter how remote the odds, just in case…  I won a similarly sized straight flush jackpot at this game earlier this summer.

In early position, I limp in with 6h4h.  For many reasons this is a money-losing play.  Many pots have not been raised pre-flop, so I convince myself there is a reasonable chance I’ll get to see a cheap flop.  Alas, one player raises to 3 BBs and there are two callers.  I’m getting a decent price to call despite the poor position (another poker logic fallacy), so I call.  This is exactly what the house hopes for; the presence of the piggy promotes more action.

Flop (12 BBs):  K55.  I check, and so does everybody else.  I would not call any bet here.

Turn (12 BBs): 7.  Now my 64 has developed into an open ended straight draw.  (Sorry readers, I didn’t make note of the suits, and don’t recall if there was also a flush draw… probably yes, but I didn’t make a note of it.)  With 8 outs to make a straight, which still wouldn’t be the nuts on this paired board, and all three of the other players showing weakness on the flop, I decided to make a stab at it, and bet 10 BBs.

The original raiser folds, the next guy folds, but the player on the button calls.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll call her “Barbara.”  Barbara is one of the nicest – and most unaggressive – poker players you’ll ever meet.  She comes to play, not watch, thus she calls frequently pre flop to see what develops.  Barbara never complains when she loses and never showboats when she wins.  She treats the game like a social occasion, and the other players like a group of friends.

The fact that she checked the flop and called but didn’t raise on the turn doesn’t always indicate a weak hand.  Earlier she just called bets on the turn and river after she turned a set of 888’s on a board with no obvious straights or flushes, saying after the showdown, “I thought about raising, but just didn’t.”

River (32 BBs): Another 5.  Now the board is K55-7-5.  I’m playing the board.  Should I bluff again?  How much would I need to bet to get Barbara to fold?  What hands could she have that called the turn bet and now would go away against enough pressure?  As I’m pondering these questions for a few seconds, I see Barbara peek at her hole cards.  This makes me think she might have a 5 and just made quads, and has to look again to be sure it really happened.

Betting is too risky, so I decide to concede.  After I check, Barbara peeks at her hole cards again, then hesitates.  She looks like she is deciding how much to bet with her quads, but instead she tosses her hand into the muck and shakes her head.  “I missed, badly” she says.  “Go ahead and take it.”

The dealer slides the entire pot over to me.  It is a gift from Barbara, somewhat small and totally unexpected.  Thank you Barbara.  You are a much nicer person than I am.  Somehow – most likely in a non-poker way – I hope to be able to surprise you back!

Interestingly enough, about an hour later a different player made a straight flush and won the piggy.  He had 53s, didn’t fold before the flop, and banked a nice payoff when the perfect river card arrived.

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Middle Aged White Guy

I’m a middle aged white guy.  I don’t say that to editorialize… it’s just a fact.  White, male, age range 55-60 (this is a poker blog, so we shouldn’t try to put me on an exact age, just a range).  And very aware of my white male privilege.

Over the weekend, at a private poker game, I shoved all-in on a flop of Q84 rainbow.  What is my range?

To help answer that question, let’s back up a bit.  I started the hand with a stack of 67 BBs, having just lost a healthy chunk with a failed hero call.  The villain in that hand was totally polarized – he either had total air, or the nuts.  Once again, Hashtag: They Always Have It.  Maybe I appeared tilted now.

A couple of hands later, I raise to 5 BBs in middle position, and get four callers.

The flop is Q84 rainbow, and I bet 10 BBs.  This flop is totally dry.  If I’m value betting, I don’t need to worry about  punishing any drawing hands.

The player on my immediate left, who I’ve never played with before, raises to 25 BBs.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Ricky.”  Ricky hasn’t been at the table very long, appears to be in his mid-20’s, and works at the Apple store.  Earlier he mentioned that he’s read exactly one poker book in his life, by Daniel Negreanu.  Ricky adores Negreanu.

There is only one hand I fear Ricky having here:  AQ.  With a flopped set of 888’s or 444’s, he would call in hopes of keeping other players in the hand, as there are no threatening draws.  He just flatted pre-flop, so he doesn’t have a set of QQQ’s, or AA or KK.  None of the 2-pair hands fit either… the best of these would be Q8, which is too weak to call my pre-flop raise.  I don’t know if he would flat or 3-bet AQ pre-flop, but this game hasn’t featured much 3-betting by anyone, so I’m inclined to put AQ in his flatting range.

Other possible raising hands would be QJ, JJ or TT, or something like A8.  Or a total bluff / gutshot type of hand.  My less-than-half-pot continuation bet might be interpreted as weak, so he could be raising with a hand weaker than top pair here, which might mean he doesn’t know himself if he’s value betting or bluffing.

After everyone else folds, I come over the top, for 37 BBs more.  Ricky looks surprised and tries to talk out the situation. He mentions my pre-flop raise sizing seemed standard, my C-bet sizing, the number of other players in the hand, etc.  Now I realize he is a thinking player, or at least trying to be one.

But he neglects to note that I’m a middle-aged white guy.  Seriously, forget all of my analysis about his hand and just consider that fact.  What is my range?

Eventually, Ricky calls.  I ask if he has AQ and he says no.  I flip over KQo and he says “Oh, you’re good, I didn’t think you would have that.”

The turn is an ace, and he flips over A8s.  The Dead Man’s Hand holds up to win.  Ricky is gracious, almost apologetic in victory, as he should be having been on the wrong end of an 80/20 equity split when all the chips went in the middle.

I ask him this:  “Why would you not think I could have KQ there?  That was a textbook middle-aged white guy shove, so KQ is the very BOTTOM of my range!”  I try to smile as I say this.  When he has A8 there, I want him to call every time, even knowing that this time, my hand didn’t hold up.  There is no need to lecture or be nasty.

A couple of the players at the far end of the table are laughing at my middle-aged white guy comment.  So true, they are saying, Ricky you should know better.

Author’s note:  The title of this post should be… Revenge of the Middle Aged White Guy.  Unfortunately, poker variance intervened.  Maybe next time…

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