Last night, whilst playing Texas Holdem in a house poker game of course, I took an informal poll.
If I were to write a poker book, which I’m not, but if I were (just saying… it might be about poker strategy or might be just a collection of poker stories), I was thinking the title would be They Always Have It. This was part of the title of a previous blog post, and is a common theme in poker. It’s far more subtle than simply They Always Have the Best Hand, however. As we get better and better at hand reading, at putting together the puzzle pieces of each poker hand, They Always Have the hand (or one of several hands) that completes the puzzle. Sometimes, that is necessarily a bluff, although in low stakes, live poker, it is most often the case that big bets indicate big hands.
On the other hand, perhaps a better title would be They Always Get There. This resonated better with the other players at the table last night. It sounds like a bad beat book, but this crowd preferred They Always Get There as the title for my book (that I’m not writing). It also fits my experience playing poker so far in 2018.
I suppose They Always Get There encompasses They Already Got There, meaning They Already Had It. When you’re running bad, does it really matter?
As an example, there is a regular player who for purposes of this blog I’ll call Sam. Like our friend Sam Sheepdog of Looney Tunes cartoon fame, Sam is an affable fellow. Not flashy, he doesn’t look menacing and I like him. We’ve talked about going on a poker playing road trip together, and someday we will. Before the game begins, we enjoy each other’s company. After we punch the time clock, however, Sam is all business.
Sam raises pre-flop more than I do, which means his range is wider than mine. He is positionally aware, which means he raises on the cutoff or button with an even wider range than in other positions.
When he raises on the button, I defend with suited cards in the big blind. The flop is AT4 rainbow. While this isn’t a good flop for me, Sam should completely miss this flop over 70% of the time. I lead out with a bet, a pure naked bluff. Sam calls. This was a one and done effort. I’m not putting any more money in this pot. The turn pairs my top card. I check, and Sam makes a strong bet, so I fold. As a courtesy, he shows me AT… he flopped top two pair. They Always Get There, in this case Already Got There.
A little bit later, Sam again raises pre-flop again on the button. I call with a suited ace of clubs. The flop is all diamonds, and I make bottom pair. Everybody checks. The turn pairs the middle card. Everybody checks to Sam, who tosses out a very small bet, as if to say “If nobody else wants this pot, I’ll take it.” I call. I don’t have much, but don’t believe he has anything. The river is a blank. After I check, Sam bets again. Now there is enough in the pot to be worth fighting for. After I check-called and checked again, perhaps he thinks I have a high diamond, probably the ace or king, and missed? It looks like a good bluffing spot for Sam. In reality, the only thing I beat is total air, but that’s what I think he thinks I have. So I call again. He flips over Ad Td. He flopped the nuts! Lather, rinse, repeat: They Always Get There, in this case Already Got There.
Another little bit later, Sam limps in, and I raise with Kd Jd. Everybody else folds. Sam mutters something to the effect of “Do I have to call?” then shrugs his shoulders and calls. The flop is Js 5h 4h. Sam leads out with a bet. Hmmm? If he’s doing this with a flush or straight draw, he’s giving himself bad odds. If he limped in with a weak pocket pair like 55 or 44 and flopped a set, I’m in big trouble. With top pair, second kicker, I don’t really want to play for stacks, so I call. The turn is 9h, completing a possible flush, and Sam checks. Hmmm? Pot control seems in order, so I check back. The river is the Jc, improving my hand to trips. Now Sam bets. Hmmm? Apparently I haven’t read the book that I haven’t written, so I call again. Sam shows Kh 2h. They Always Get There.
Two days earlier, it was much the same. With KTo, I saw a flop of 993. Everybody checked. The turn was a T. I bet and Sam called. He could have a T also (perhaps with a weaker kicker), or QJ, J8, or a 9x hand that checked on the flop for deception. I don’t recall the river card, other than it didn’t complete any possible draws, nor was it another T or 9. After I checked, Sam put out a much larger bet. I know that he’s capable of bluffing on the river with missed draws. He knows that I’ll make bluff-catching type calls with weaker hands. I know that he knows that, accordingly his river bets against me tend to be polarized – bigger bets that represent one extreme (bluff!) or the other (strength!). I call. He shows J9. Lather, rinse, repeat: They Always Get There, in this case Already Got There.
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