Madden-ing: adjective meaning extremely annoying or infuriating; invoking the memory of former football coach and analyst John Madden.

These back-to-back poker hands from last night were Madden-ing.

With pocket 6’s on the button, I call an under-the-gun raise following one other caller. Fine, I’m set-mining.

The flop is J♣T8. Nothing to see here. The other players check, and I also check.

The turn is the 6. Despite the flushy, straighty nature of the board, I like this card. Now the original pre-flop raiser leads out with a bet. For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Chris.” Then the initial pre-flop caller puts out a small raise, just one big blind larger than a min-raise. I’ll call him “Dave.” I don’t like this action.

Let’s put some numbers to this puzzle. This is a private $1/2 no limit Texas Hold’em game. The pre-flop raise was $11. With two callers plus the blinds, there was $36 in the pot.

Chris’ turn bet was $25, and Dave raised to $55. That makes $116 in the pot and $55 for me to call. I have bottom set but feel rather queasy about it.

“The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

— John Madden

Chris has about $150 remaining in his stack. I have close to $500 and Dave covers us both. Deepstack considerations might matter here.

Let’s think about ranges. Chris’ range is uncapped, as he was the original pre-flop raiser. Hands like AK, AQ, AJ, KQ, or any AKx / AQx are all in his range. If I call Dave’s bet, Chris could come over the top with any of these hands. Dave’s range is weaker, but that only means it hits this board better. He’s a fairly loose player, so any AX or suited connector/gapper diamonds can be in his range, giving him many more flush draw combos than Chris.

At the table I thought about Dave possibly having a larger set than mine (worst case for me), or flopped a straight with Q9 or 97. In hindsight, these are less likely (other than exactly 97 for a flopped straight with a redraw to a straight flush), as Dave would not check such strong hands on this flop.

One thing is clear: Dave likes his hand. His small raise begs to be called. Let’s assume the obvious (thank you Occam’s Razor)… he has a flush. If I call and Chris folds, I’ll have a 22.7% chance of improving to a full house or quads. Based on the pot and bet sizes, I need to be at 32% equity to break-even. Calling is -EV unless I can confidently expect to get paid off on a river bet.

Chris also seems to like his hand. If he also calls, that increases the pot and I my break-even equity is reduced to 27%. Still not enough. And what if he re-raises? What if Chris re-raises and Dave responds by going all-in? Then I’d have to put my entire stack that I’ve worked so hard to build at risk with a draw.

Having just read and written about Hero Folding over the weekend, I let it go. Madden might cringe but I choose not to become a sewer dweller.

Chris does call Dave’s raise, and the river is T, pairing the board. “Boom!” as Madden loved to declare, except I’m no longer in the hand. Both players check. Chris shows AT♣ for a missed nut flush draw and trip tens, and Dave tables 54 for a baby flush to scoop the pot. Madden-ing. (Shortly after this, Chris mentions that had I called Dave’s turn bet, he would have shoved all-in with his nut flush draw / nut flush blocker.)

As I’m lamenting the missed opportunity to get to Easy Street via the sewer, I peek at the next hand and see 88. Now in the cutoff seat, I raise to $11, the button calls, and Chris calls from the Big Blind.

The flop is 875, rainbow. Top set for me. Isn’t it nice of the Poker Gods to reward my self-disciplined Hero Fold?

“Don’t worry about the horse being blind, just load the wagon.”

–John Madden

Chris checks, and I make a $15 continuation bet. The button jams all-in with a fairly short stack (about $85-90). Thank you sir!

Then Chris over-jams for $110. WTF?

Madden would continue loading the wagon, but let’s briefly pause. The pot is approx. $245 and it’s $95 more to call Chris’ bet. I need 28% equity for this to be a break-even call. While it appears one of them flopped a straight, I wasn’t 100% sure at the moment that I was behind. Either or both of them could have a smaller set, two pair, a pair + open-ended straight draw, etc.

The worst possible case would be if one has 96 and the other has 75, blocking two of my outs to improve. That would still give me 28.2% equity, enough for a crying call. I slide out calling chips and soon learned the button had 66 while Chris defended his big blind with 96o. I actually had 36% equity against their exact hands.

The board bricks out and Chris nearly triples up. Madden-ing.

Had I played both hands incorrectly when the big decisions arose, I’d probably have another $500 or more in my stack.

“The only yardstick for success our society has is being a champion. No one remembers anything else.”

–John Madden

Later, when I crawl into bed, Mrs. asks me “how was your night?” 

“It was fun,” I respond. “Lots of fun.”


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