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.
PAUSE WHILE READERS POST COMMENTS…
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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