NOTE: This entry was originally posted on a different site on February 24, 2017 and has been slightly edited prior to re-posting here.
I don’t like getting bluffed and hate it when the villain shows the bluff. But that’s what happened on Monday at the Maryland Live poker room, which led to a chain reaction much like dominoes falling on each other.
I was grinding away at a $2/5 no limit hold’em cash game, with about $685 in my stack. My cards are like the waves on a calm day at the beach, holding very little promise as over and over the fold themselves gently and invisibly into the shore. On the horizon there appears the makings of a big one, or perhaps it’s just a mirage made worse by the sting a drop of sunscreen rolling down my forehead into one eye. How long can I watch the waves and resist the urge to play in them? How many hands can fold without wading at least ankle deep into the action?
With KQo, I wander to the edge of the waves to have a closer look. The player UTG posts a $10 straddle. This is the first domino; when it falls, the stakes for this hand rise. Better cards, higher stakes, bigger waves. Two players call, including a very loose, aggressive Asian player. For purposes of this blog, I’ll refer to him as “Jun.” I raise to $45. Without the straddle, I would only raise to $30 here. If the only thing that happens is everybody folds, I’ll be happy to take the $37 in the pot (rake-free), tip the dealer and move on. If I get called or re-raised, we’ll play poker.
The straddler calls, and Jun also calls. Second domino.
Flop ($140): 622 rainbow. This is a good flop for a continuation bet bluff. As the pre-flop raiser, my range is uncapped. I can have AA, KK, QQ, etc. They cannot, and are much more likely to have hands like AQ, AJ, AT, suited connectors and gappers, and pocket pairs TT & under. Without going through detailed range construction and combinatorics, I know this flop misses most of their ranges, and that I can represent a big pair with a confident continuation bet. They both check and I bet $100, which is designed to say “Guys, I’ve got this!” Third domino. The straddler folds, but Jun calls. Fourth domino.
Now I think he is more likely to have any pocket pair, a pair of 6’s (A6, 76s, 65s), or two high cards.
Turn ($340): 3. This should be a good card for me if I want to continue barreling, representing that I have a big pair. With my image as a tight-ish, middle-aged white guy, another strong bet would look somewhat like turning a big pair face up. But this time Jun leads out with a bet of $125. Fifth domino.
The size of his bet and the action of calling the flop then leading into the aggressor make no sense whatsoever.
I have a little bit of history with Jun. The first hand I ever played with him, a few days earlier, I had 77 and the flop was 722. Yahtzee! I called Jun’s flop bet and checked back on the turn. When a river K came out, he shoved all-in, and looked quite surprised when I snap-called and flipped over a full house. Since then I’ve noted him to be an action player, raising and calling a lot pre-flop (but not many re-raises), and a willingness to make big bluffs post-flop. Despite my first impression, he isn’t a total maniac and seems wary when involved in hands with me after the initial ambush.
Back to our hand. Jun’s bet of $125 into a pot of $340, leading into the aggressor, makes no sense. It feels like the “post oak bluff” described by Doyle Brunson in Super System, where a small bet appears to be begging for a call, which must indicate strength, which makes the bluff successful. What can he really have that would limp/call pre-flop, check/call the flop, and now decide to lead out? I’m tempted to raise to around $350-375, although this would be a total naked bluff. All I have is King-high. And no draws. Heck, I can’t even beat Ace-high. I’ve seen Jun make some pretty light calls. Players like him who bluff a lot tend to assume that other players also bluff a lot and will pay off a lot of strong value hands. Do I really want to get into a dick measuring contest when I don’t have a good read, just a nebulous feel?
So I fold. Sixth domino. It gets weird when a player not involved in the hand remarks that Jun flashed his cards to the player sitting between Jun and himself (which I’d seen Jun do on other occasions prior to mucking) and asks if he can see them also. Jun denies that he flashed his cards and then somebody asks the player in between if he saw Jun’s cards – which are face down on the table but not mixed into the muck pile yet. This puts an innocent guy on the spot. A lot of players would tell a white lie, denying that they saw Jun’s cards, rationalizing that the player asking to see his hand is slowing down the game and has no business demanding extra information when he wasn’t involved in the action. The white lie is “for the good of the game.” Other players are just straightforward and honest. “Did you see that?” “Yes, I did.” And that’s what happened here. After some protest from Jun, the dealer turns over Jun’s cards for everyone at the table to see… Jack-Ten offsuit. Seventh domino.
WTF! My read and instincts were spot on, but Jun’s inexplicable float / smallish bet bluff on the turn somehow worked, since I had no showdown value or backup equity.
Had I raised on the turn, Jun must fold. I would win the pot and my stack would have grown to approximately $1,000.
That’s when I tilted. It took seven dominoes, but the last one – showing the bluff more than the bluff itself – got to me. I wasn’t the one asking to see Jun’s hand, and didn’t want to see it. If he bluffed me, congratulations. Seeing it, however, put me on a tilt. Not a full-blown demolition tilt where I’m determined to lose the rest of my chips as fast as possible, but more like a goddammit-I’m-gonna-play-more-junk-because-it-seems-to-work-for-these-other-clowns tilt.
Which leads to the very next hand. This time, Jun raises to $20 and I’m in middle position with 5s 2s. This is an easy fold, a tiny wave that barely makes a sound as it disappears into the sand. So I call. Eighth domino. There are at least 4-5 players still to act who could re-raise.
If anyone other than Jun was the raiser, I would have folded. The button also calls as does the big blind. Does anything good ever happen here?
Flop ($80): As 4s 8h. Good news: I pick up a flush draw and wheel draw. Bad news: I’m going to put more money in the pot with 5-high, and my flush – if it comes – would get destroyed by any other flushes. But we’re playing poker, so let’s play. Jun makes a continuation bet of $45. Since I’m not on full-blown demolition tilt, I resist the urge to raise or jam here and just call and the button also calls, then the BB folds. Jun’s range is really wide, and the button could have a better flush draw or an Ace (probably not with K as kicker, which usually would re-raise pre-flop on the button). With the potential draws, I would expect the button to raise with any 2-pair plus hand.
Turn ($205): 9h. Now there is a heart draw, making one of my straight outs (3h) suspect as it could give somebody else a backdoor flush as hands like Ah Qh, Ah Jh, Ah Th could be in either Jun’s or the button’s ranges. Jun is first and checks. With this drawy board, he would bet again with a strong value hand, or any pair + flush draw. The action is on me. On goddammit-tilt, with cards I would normally fold pre-flop, it’s time to make some waves again. I bet $125. Ninth domino. In hindsight, I think this should have been more like $160-175 as I really don’t want any callers.
While I’m sneaking a peek at Jun to see if he signals whether he will fold, the button raises to $275. 10th domino. Holy oversight, Batman! After a short acting job, Jun folds. I better assign this guy on the button a “for purposes of this blog” nickname, so from here on I’ll call him “Robin.”
Now there is $605 in the pot and it will cost me $150 to call, with an additional $200 behind. Robin’s raise sizing begs for a call. This – in addition to my other reads on him – tells me he isn’t on a flush draw. Raising with a draw on the turn isn’t his style. Despite not raising on the flop, Robin has to have a 2-pair plus type of hand and I can’t expect him to ever fold if I jam. A9, A8, A4s, 88, 44 are all possible, along with the occasional 98. A9 makes the most sense, improving from a call-strength hand on the flop to a raise-strength hand on the turn. Any spade that pairs the board makes me a flush but might also make Robin a full house. So I have seven clean flush outs. Unless he has exactly Ah 8h, it also means he does not have a heart draw either, so all of the 3’s that make me a straight should be clean outs. If the 3c or 3d comes, my straight will be well concealed and I’m likely to get paid on a river shove. I don’t know if he will pay off a flush.
The math is this: $150 to call with $605 in the pot, and $200 more behind. My equity needs to be at least 150 / (150 + 605), or 19.9% or better to justify a call.
With 10 outs, my equity should be a little over 22%. After the fact, putting this range into my handy-dandy Poker Cruncher app (A9, A8, A4s, 88, 44, 98), I come up with equity of 23.9%, so calling is correct. I didn’t include 99 in his range, but he might have that too.
Somewhere I think there is a quote that says math is for people who are bad at poker. I can’t find it right now, but feel like I’m playing some really bad poker. While calling $150 more is mathematically correct, I’m not happy about this at all. Let’s review why. On the previous hand I lost $145 when I got bluffed. Had I re-bluffed, which I seriously considered, I would have gained over $300. The bluffer, Jun, was forced to show his bluff – not by me, but by another player who wasn’t even involved in the hand. This put me on tilt.
Now I have garbage that I should fold pre-flop without a second thought, but called in the unrealistic hope that I might spring some kind of trap on Jun. I flopped a combo draw, bluffed at the turn card only to get raised, and I’m about to put $150 more, for a total of $340 into this pot, with 5-high and a combo draw, while the target of my ire is now just a spectator. The distance between what my stack could have been after the previous hand and what my stack is probably going to be after this hand is $800.
Why am I here? What am I doing? When are we going to have fun?
I call. 11th domino.
River ($755): 3s. Holy Magic Lantern, Batman! And cue the Heavenly Choir. It’s like the 12th domino is spring-loaded, and snaps back to flip all the other dominoes upright again.
Now I know why I am here! I know what I am doing. I’m having fun, right freaking now!
I shove my last $200, and Robin says “Well if you have a flush, good for you” and calls, showing a set of 8’s.
My stack is now approx. $1150… $150 more than it would have been if I had followed my read on the previous hand, which would have led to folding this one.
As a side note (yes, I know this post is rather long), this poker room was paying high hand bonuses all month every day other than Friday’s and today (President’s Day). Any other day and my straight flush would have brought me an additional $525 windfall. Not bitchin’ just sayin’.
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