Tantalus, Greek God of Temptation, Part 2

Tantalus Greek God of Temptation

IMy previous post focused on the physiological effects of excitement, and the attendant difficulty of shifting emotionally from “I just flopped a monster hand…” to “I’m beat and have to fold” within the same betting round.

To recap, “Adam” had 22 on a flop of 942 rainbow.  He was the last of five callers to a pre-flop raise.  With bottom set, he plans to check-raise.  “Dave,” the pre-flop raiser makes a 2/3 pot continuation bet, strongly indicating an overpair to this board.  “Cary” calls, then yours truly makes a min-raise.  By making such a small raise, I’m giving what appear to be very good odds of about 5:1 for Dave or Cary to call.  I’m Tantalus, the Greek God of Temptation.

After a long pause, Adam decides to fold instead of check-raising all-in.

I asked him to elaborate on his reasoning, and he said this (slightly edited):

I can’t remember if I was a blind or under the gun, but just called the pre flop raise to 6 BBs along with 3 or 4 others.

My notes said there were a total of 5 callers.

Flop came 249 rainbow, so perfect for me, I was first to act planning on check-jamming. Dave the original raiser C-bet for 23 BBs, new guy Cary flats, I’m thinking this is playing out perfect next player folds then I just needed one more fold for me to jam and have my plan play out exactly as planned, but as the great Woody Allen said “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” It got to you and you min raise to 46 BBs, so I go from on top of the world to “I guess I’m gonna lose my stack” in a matter of 6 seconds.

It should be noted that this is a private, house game.  Adam is a very regular player there, and I am a semi-reg.  We’ve played together enough to have history and good profiles on each other.

I went through all the scenarios I could think of in my head, and I came to the conclusion that with that dry of board and with Dave already committing close to half his stack I knew you couldn’t be stealing and therefor very strong. If I had middle set I could’ve possibly put you on bottom set and would’ve been felted, but since that’s what I had I knew I had to fold.

Plus I knew you didn’t have a huge over pair which you could’ve made that move with also because you were in late position with a pre-flop raise that had already been called twice so I’m sure you would’ve 3-bet with a hand like that. Plus I could lay it down because like you say “they always have it.” LOL.

“… all the scenarios I could think of…” would include hands I could have that make 2-pair.  But Adam knows it would be grossly out of character for me to call a pre-flop raise with 94, 92, or 42.  The low-card nature of this flop removes 2-pair from my range.  Yet the min-raise implies a “two-pair plus” (2P+) type of hand.  If I have 2P+ but not 2-pair, that only leaves sets.  I can’t have bottom set, since Adam has it, so that only leaves middle and top set.

Poker players are taught to put their opponents on ranges of hands.  Range construction usually focuses on hole card combinations, where my range in calling Dave’s pre-flop raise might be {22-JJ, A2s+, KJs+, AJo+, 76s-QJs, 97s-QTs}.  Late position calling ranges, after others have already called, tend to be very wide.  Then the range is narrowed based on my actions in each subsequent betting round.  What Adam did instead is look at a range of raising scenarios that fit my min-raise.  He assigned my “range” as {sets, 2-pair, huge over pair}, which puts my hole card range as {99, 44, 22, 94, 92, 42, AA, KK, QQ}.  Then, based on the prior action, he eliminated everything other than 99 and 44 as being inconsistent with my actions (or in the case of 22, impossible because that’s what he has).  This technique works here without bothering to construct a pre-flop calling range in the first place.

Adam’s reasoning here is spot on and he made the correct play, amazingly getting away from bottom set on the flop without putting any chips in the pot before folding.  What makes it professional caliber is harnessing his emotions long enough to trust his read.  Note the difference in this YouTube video from the final table of the WSOP 2016 Main Event when veteran and highly respected pro Cliff Josephy was knocked out with a set of 2’s by Gordon Vayo’s set of 3’s.

After Josephy calls Vayo’s all-in bet on the turn, the cards are revealed.  Josephy turns to his supporters on the rail and says “Set under set.  I knew he had it.  I can’t fold it, I can’t fold it.”

They Always Have It.  The TV commentators and analysts pointed out that it was very difficult for Vayo to have anything else in that spot.  There weren’t any other hands in his range – none, zip, nada, zilch – that he would play that way, in that situation (final 3 players in WSOP Main Event).  Josephy is a pro with over $7 million in live tournament cashes.  He knew it, but couldn’t harness his emotions fast enough.

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