KKing David

Ruminations on poker

Archive for the month “December, 2017”

Yikes!

A few months ago, I wrote “Hashtag: They Always Have It,” describing several hands from a poker weekend at Harrah’s New Orleans.  Hand #4 from that post asked Can I Fold KK Pre-Flop?  In that hand, the player under the gun had limped, then re-raised over the top of my raise (with KK) and two callers.  One of the callers was a short stack who was all-in for less than my raise amount, so I knew that even if I folded, I would find out if I had dodged a pair of bullets.  I did fold, and he did have AA.

Another time, a couple years ago at the Aria in Vegas, I faced a similar limp/re-raise betting line when holding KK.  That time, I didn’t fold and the villain also had KK resulting in a chopped pot.  (Whew!)

Last week I faced this dynamic again.

There were two limpers, then a raise to 6 or 7 big blinds from the cutoff seat.  He is a younger, very aggressive player who raises and re-raises pre-flop with a wide range.  I’m on the button with KK, and 3-bet to about 18 BBs.   The small blind folds but the big blind calls.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Jay.”  Jay is a very loose player who likes to see lots of flops and also looks for bluffing opportunities when he misses but the board may be scary to the other players.  The first limper folds.

Out of nowhere, the 2nd of the limpers 4-bets to 38 BBs.  Yikes!  For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Moses.”  To limp, then 3-bet is one thing.  But to limp/4-bet is downright scary, as Moses should be concerned that either the initial raiser or me (having already 3-bet) might now go all-in.  Unless, of course, he isn’t concerned because that’s what he wants to happen.

Then there is his bet sizing.  Moses’ 4-bet is barely double my bet.  While the absolute size of 38 BBs is a very large amount for the pre-flop action, in relation to the pot this is curiously small.  The raise portion of his bet is 20 BBs.  Including the 18 BBs call portion of his bet, the pot already has approx. 63 BBs in it, making his raise 32% of the pot.  Anything less than a one-half pot raise is considered small.  A standard raise size would be about 50-75 BBs or even slightly more.  Is Moses inviting a call because he has AA and doesn’t want to run off his customers, no matter how transparent his hand is with this betting line?  I have blockers to both AK and KK, so it’s mathematically less likely for him to have either of these hands.

Or is he leaving himself room to fold if either the cutoff seat or I shove all-in, perhaps with AK or QQ/JJ?

The initial raiser folds, and the action is back to me.  Do I have a profile on Moses?

Moses is a middle-aged black guy (MABG) who I’ve played with only a couple times previously.  He has commented directly to me earlier this evening that every time we’ve been in a hand against each other, I’ve come out ahead.  In doing so, Moses assured me that he’s going to get even pretty soon.  I find him very entertaining – he tells a lot of meandering stories, using big words when smaller words would do just fine, that always end up with some karmic explanation of why he (or his favorite football team, the Philadelphia Eagles) will win.  It hasn’t been easy to pinpoint his poker play, as I’ve observed several unconventional plays, including his weird bet sizing here and some other non-standard lines that sometimes backfire badly.

On the other hand, #theyalwayshaveit is another way of using Occam’s Razor, the principle that the explanation that requires the fewest assumptions is usually correct.  In this case, Occam’s Razor says he should have AA.

The pot is now quite large, and there is still the big blind, who called my 3-bet and will have an opportunity to respond to Moses’ bet and whatever I do.

What would YOU do here?  At this point, I’ve invested 18 BBs and have about 105-110 BBs remaining in my stack.  Both Moses and the big blind player have me covered.

Leave your answer and reasoning in the comments section below (if you are reading this on Facebook and want to comment, please click through to the blog itself and comment there rather than in Facebook), and I’ll update with the rest of the story in a few days.

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PAUSE WHILE READERS POST COMMENTS…

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I decided to call.  If I shove here, that’s probably going to run off Jay, who is less likely than Moses to be trapping me with AA, although I consider that possibility too.  If Jay has AA, he’ll let us know now.  If I can make money on this pot, I want to get as much as possible from Jay in addition to Moses.  Since I’ll be last to act on the flop, perhaps I can correctly interpret the additional information provided by the flop and Jay’s & Moses’ actions.

True to form, Jay calls.  I’ve seen him make large calls like this with very speculative hands, so this doesn’t really concern me.

Flop (122 BBs):  752, rainbow.

Jay checks, then Moses bets 25 BBs.  This is a curiously small bet, barely 20% of the pot.  With two other live players, a very safe flop and bloated pot, I would expect a much larger bet with AA.  That is, if he has AA.  Which now I don’t believe he does.

I raise all-in.  It’s possible Jay has something like 88-JJ and might spazz out and call with a weaker overpair here.  It’s also possible that Moses might call with AK, given the size of the pot and his commitment so far.  If I just call here, I’ll be scared shitless if an ace comes on the turn, so I’m going to get it in now.

Jay folds.  Moses tanks for quite awhile, squirming in his seat and commenting again about my luck against him.  Now the pot has about 236 BBs in it and it will cost him another 64 BBs to call.  If his equity in this huge pot is at least 21.3% (calculated by taking the amount to call of 64 BBs, divided by the total pot size including his all [236 + 64 = 300].  64/300 = 21.3%).  Note that if he has AK here and my hand is QQ or JJ (more likely than my actual KK, as he has one of the kings), his actual equity would be 26.4% and he should call even though he only has A-high at the moment.

Moses finally calls, and turns over AK suited (hearts, not that it matters).  Only an ace will help him, and his actual equity is 14.3%.  Calling was a mistake.

Sometimes mistakes pay off anyway, but not this time.  The board bricked out and I won a big pot.

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Ending Abruptly

Over the last few years, I’ve developed a strong preference for cash game poker over tournament poker.  When asked why I don’t like tournaments, the quick answer is “because they always end abruptly.”

I find that irritating.  Last night I made it to the final table of a private tournament that started with 33 players.  Seven remain.  There is a little extra at stake, as this is the final tournament of a year-long poker league.  The league winner is determined by points that are awarded based on each player’s finishing position in each tournament.  The points leader is also among the final seven, and I’m in second place overall.  If I finish two spots higher than him in this tournament, I’ll be tied for the points lead.  Winning the points title is worth a little over $2,500 (for larger tournament entry fees + travel costs), so I’m pretty motivated to win this game-within-a-game.

He’s trying to wait me out, folding virtually every hand and now severely short stacked with only two or three big blinds remaining.  I have more chips than he does, but also less than 5 BBs.

Everyone folds to the player on my right, who is on the button.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll refer to him as “Gary.”  He raises.  In the small blind, I have pocket aces.  Then we are all-in.

Then I’m out.  Abruptly.

Gary also is one of my best friends.  After he wins the tournament, he says “don’t be mad, I’ll buy you a beer.”

 

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Tilting From the Sidelines

NOTE:  This entry was originally posted on a different site on January 25, 2017 and has been slightly edited prior to re-posting here.

It started innocently enough.

At a $2/5 game at Maryland Live! casino, I’m dealt 8h 7h on the button.  No one raises.  Suited connectors like these are an excellent value for seeing a cheap flop, especially multi-ways, especially in position.  I limp in.

So far, I’ve invested $5.

The flop is As Th 7s.  This gives me bottom pair with a very weak kicker.

After a check or two, somebody bets $20 and another player calls.  Is there really any reason to continue here?

No.  Putting more money into this pot is a losing proposition.  I don’t have any draws, other than runner-runner Hail Mary types.  The board is very drawy, I don’t have the right draws (like spades or 98), and I’m not Aaron Rodgers.  So I fold.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll refer to myself as “Player 1.”

I’ve been trying to make more notes on my poker game, partly to force me to pay closer attention to the action (which is necessary if you want to write down the salient points) and partly to review later and analyze key hands.  While this hand is playing out, I’m tap-tap-tapping notes on my phone, which I’m holding on my lap underneath the table.

“All-in,” says the dealer.  Wha—?  Looking up at the table, I see that two players remain in the hand.  The turn and river cards have been dealt, one player has bet $200, and the other has raised all-in for about $600.

It takes a couple seconds to sink in.  Before the showdown somebody tells the dealer, “get ready to call the floor.”  The poker room is running a High Hand promotion today.  Every 20 minutes, the highest hand on any table in the room gets a $500 bonus, and each new high hand has to be verified by a floor supervisor.  I glance at the monitor and see that the current highest hand is quad-something.  It doesn’t really matter what… any quads are lower than any straight flush.  I resist the urge to puke.

The first guy calls the all-in bet and the raiser turns over his cards, and scoops the large pot with his A-high flush.

I only lost $5 on this hand, but it feels like I lost $1500.  Call it the “opportunity cost” of folding on the flop for $20.

Maintain poker face.  Looking calm, disinterested.  Don’t force the table to listen to me whine about what woulda / coulda / shoulda happened.

Feeling #$$J&##@*&>!!  Invisible TILT.  Injustice tilt.  Internal raging fire tilt.  FOMO tilt.  I-could-book-a-nice-win-and-go-see-a-movie-tilt.

 

When the cards are shuffled and cut, the order has been determined.  As often happens in poker, had the same community cards been delivered in a different order, the outcome would change.  Dramatically.

For solace, I turn to the 2nd century Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius, who wrote:

  • “Begin each day by telling yourself:  Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil.  But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother (not in the physical sense, but as a fellow creature similarly endowed with reason and a share of the divine); therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading.”

At the poker table, the other players are my “brothers” in the sense described by Aurelius, and so is the dealer.  In a different way, so are the cards.  As inanimate objects, the cards are the most ignorant of all as to what is good or evil.  The cards never show any gratitude or loyalty.

According to Aurelius, I should not be angry with my brother.  But I was.  I was really, really, really, really, very pissed off.  I still am.  This entry could be a happy-brag-blog rather than a tilt-whine-blog.  The rest of my session didn’t go well either (two lowlights:  AK v 77 on KK7 flop and AK v KK (who flatted pre-flop) on KQ5-A flop-turn.  In both cases, the light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be an oncoming train).

What will today bring?  For one thing, today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness…

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I Played That Right, Didn’t I? (Part Two)

Part One of “I Played That Right, Didn’t I?” described a two online poker hands where I was all-in and way ahead, only to see the villains hit a 2-outer and 4-outer, respectively, to win big pots.

After reading the blog, Mrs. asked me how I could be sure the online poker room (in my case, Ignition Poker) wasn’t cheating me somehow.  Perhaps there is an algorithm that identifies you as a winning player, then intentionally [bleep]‘s you over to keep you from cashing out?  How can you know?

This led to a long discussion about variance and Sklansky bucks, among other things, to explain that these things happen in live games with real cards that I can see being shuffled with my own eyes, all of which Mrs. found quite boring.

At a live, private game Saturday night, there was a 3-way all-in on the flop.  I was just an observer in this one.  One player had pocket aces, another flopped middle set, and the 3rd guy had top pair and a good kicker.  I was sitting next to the guy with a set and told him “nice hand!”  Then another ace fell on the river.  Ouch.

Last night, at a different private game, it was me again.  This game uses the Mississippi straddle rule, allowing any player to post a live straddle of any amount, in any position.  I’ve been experimenting with straddling more frequently on the button, especially when my stack is reasonably deep.  On this hand, I started with a little over 180 BBs and posted a standard straddle.

The SB called blind, meaning he didn’t look at his cards before calling.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Rob.”  I won’t try to explain Rob’s reasons for doing this… he later referred to himself as a “fish/donkey.”  Another player in middle position raised to 7 BBs (not quite 3x the straddle amount), there was one caller, and I called with T7 off-suit.  Rob also called.

Normally I wouldn’t call 7 BBs with T7o, but part of the reason for straddling on the button is to maximize the leverage of being last to act post-flop.  If you’re going to pump up the volume by straddling, you need to stick around for the action in more marginal spots.

Flop (29 BBs):  T77.

As I was saying, when you are last and flop a monster, the effect of the straddle is there is already a larger pot, making post-flop bets also larger coupled with the positional advantage that allows you to manage the final pot size.  With this flop, that’s a good thing.

After Rob check, the pre-flop raiser now bets 9 BBs, and the next player folds.  I don’t need to raise yet.  With a full house already, I don’t have to worry about a straight or flush draw hitting, and I want to see if anyone else wants to keep playing.  I call and Rob also calls.

Turn (56 BBs):  K

Both players check.  I bet 18 BBs.  Rob takes his time, then raises all-in, a total of 52 BBs.  The pre-flop raiser folds.  I call and turn my hand over immediately, showing my full house.

Rob winces in pain, then lets out a sound like a badly wounded fish/donkey.  He turns over one card – a seven – and starts walking away from the table.  Obviously his kicker is lower than my ten, so he’s drawing dead and knows it.

River (160 BBs):  Another K.

Wait a minute!  The dealer studies the board.  I study the board.  This can’t be happening.  (“Oh it’s happening, sweetheart!”)  Rob comes back to his seat.  He never surrendered his other card to the muck pile, and turns it over to show an eight.  The king on the river gives us both the same hand, sevens full of kings.

I didn’t lose any money here, but it feels like a loss.  Having a zero percent chance of winning the pot when he went all-in, Rob quietly stacks his 80 BB portion of the pot.

How do I tell Mrs. that I want her to listen to a “bad chop story?”

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I Played That Right, Didn’t I?

Last night, on the 5th hand of an online poker session, I get the coveted pocket aces.

As a good poker blogger, I must tell you that I have 82 big blinds in my stack, and I’m in the Hijack seat.  The main villain has me covered.

When playing online, when first to raise I generally hit the ‘pot’ button to make a pot-sized raise.  This automatically adjusts my raise sizing for any limps in front of me.  This time everyone had folded already and I make my standard pot-sized raise.

The next player, in the Cutoff seat, makes a pot-sized 3-bet.  Everyone else folds.  While tempted to 4-bet, I decide just to call here to trap him (or her).

Flop (25 BBs): 8c 5d 4c.  There are two clubs, but I have the Ac and therefore not too worried about flush draws.  The Villain cannot have AcKc or AcQc.  Would he 3-bet with KcQc, KcJc or worse?  Not likely.  There are also straight draws here, but those would require him to 3-bet with a hand like 77 or 66, or even worse with A7 or A6, or 63 or 43.  Again, I can discount all of these.

Trapping still makes sense.  If Villain has any over-pair, he should bet again, probably a strong bet as he would consider the possibility that I have AcKc or AcQc.  I check.  Villain also checks.

Now I can guess that his most likely holding is AK.  Few online players will 3-bet with AQ or worse, and even fewer would check back here with pocket pairs 99-KK.

Turn (25 BBs):  Ks.  I love this card.  I make a very small bet of 4 BBs.  This is designed to look like a blocker bet, as if I have QQ, JJ or TT and want to keep the pot small.  Villain obliges by raising to 11 BBs, also very small given the pot size, not wanting to run me off.  More confirmation that he has AK.

Now it’s time to spring the trap.  I 3-bet to 32 BBs, and eight seconds later he shoves all-in.

Boom!  The cards turn over and Villain is crushed with AK.  His play on the flop and turn made this an easy read.

Oh yeah, the river is another K, and Villain scoops the pot.

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Pause for dramatic effect, primal scream, lots of swearing.

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I played that right, didn’t I?

Earlier I had listened to a poker podcast, where part of the discussion was a reminder that the goal is to play each hand correctly.  When other players suck out, I should feel happy, as it means I got it in as the favorite (in this case 95.5% favorite) and played the hand correctly.  Trying to find that level of happiness, but I gotta tell you, this isn’t the emotion I associate with the word ‘happy.’

Reload.

About an hour later, I have 22 in middle position.  Now my stack is 102 BBs.  The main villain has 100 BBs. It folds to me, so I raise to 3 BBs.  Technically, this is 1/2 of a BB less than a pot-sized raise.  Sometimes I’ll do this with low pocket pairs as a way of setting my own set-mining odds.  Admittedly, the distinction between this raise and my standard pot-sized raise ain’t worth ‘splaining.

Both blinds call.

Flop (9 BBs):  Tc 9d 2c.  I have bottom set or a very wet (i.e., drawy) board.  Both blinds check.

I click the half-pot button.  I want this bet to appear ambivalent, so a hand like QJ or J8 or a flush draw might think he (or she) has fold equity and come back over the top with a big raise.  I’d be happy to get it all-in here and take my chances with the draws.

SB calls, then BB/Villain check-raises all-in.  Thank you sir!  I snap call and SB folds.

My best hopes are realized when Villain turns over T9.  Rather than a straight draw (8 outs) or a flush draw (looks like 9 outs but actually just 7 outs as two of the clubs would give me a full house), Villain has top 2-pair and only 4 outs to improve.

I’m an 83.2% favorite when all the chips go in.  This improves to 90.9% when the Qc comes on the turn.  But the Th falls on the river, and Villain scoops the pot.

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Pause for dramatic effect, primal scream, lots of swearing.

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I played that right, didn’t I?

Still searching for that feeling of happiness when the a villain sucks out.  The math guy in me calculates that I should win both of the hands described above 79.5% of the time based on the odds at the point when we went all-in.  My bankroll would be 385 BBs larger.  And I should win neither hand just 0.75% of the time – that’s three-quarters of one percent!

My “Sklansky bucks” (after the rake) were 150 BBs with my pocket rockets, and 164 BBs with the set of deuces, for a total of 314 BBs.  (Sklansky bucks are determined by multiplying the pot times your probability of winning when an all-in & call occur with cards remaining to be dealt.  It is a theoretical value that indicates whether you are getting it in with the best of it more often than not.  Over the long run, Sklansky bucks and actual results on all-in hands will converge. In the moment, you either win or lose the whole pot, but unless one player is drawing dead, your equity is somewhere in the middle.)

Sklansky bucks calculations are for losers.  Winners never go through this exercise.

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