EDITOR’S NOTE: After discussing some of the details in this post with a friend, who for purposes of this update I’ll call “Josh,” I’ve added some additional commentary (which is italicized below). Thanks Josh!
Sometimes, your medium strength hands run into big hands, and your big hands run into bigger hands. Poker does that. We can spend so much time trying to increase the level of aggression that it becomes hard to pull back the throttle, or let go entirely.
Consider these hands, all from last night.
Hand #1 –> 2-pair v. straight
Several players limped in. On the button with A7o, I also limped. The flop was A98. Everybody checked to me, so I bet. Easy game… I should have the best hand, and since it may look like I was stealing from the button, I might get called by a weaker ace, 9x, 8x, JT, T7 or 76 along with some gutshots. Only the player on my right called. For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Pat.”
The turn was a 7, giving me two pair, and Pat checked. Well, you can’t fear every draw. I bet again, double the amount of the flop bet, and Pat quickly check/raised all-in with a short stack that wasn’t much more than a min-raise. On the one hand, I felt compelled to call, simply because of Pat’s stack size. On the other hand calling totally felt like a donation, because #TheyAlwaysHaveIt and of course he has JT. Note that had I not been greedy on the turn, I might have gotten away by calling a smaller bet on the river.
Hand #2 –> Trips with good kicker v. full house
In the small blind, after no one raised, I completed with AJo. The flop was AA4, with two spades. After clicking on the invisible ‘LIKE’ button inside my head, I checked. One player in middle position bet. For purposes of this blog, I’ll call her “Kim.” It folded to me, I called, and everyone else folded leaving us heads up.
The turn was an off-suit 7. I check again and Kim bet again. I could check/raise here, but don’t, in part because there was a high hand jackpot in play and in part because I didn’t want to run off my customer. On the river, an off-suit T, I checked again. Did I mention recently reading Tommy Angelo’s article on playing “POOP” (Passively Out Of Position)? Kim bet again. Maybe she has a busted flush draw. I call again and she flips over A4s for a flopped full house.
At least I didn’t ramp up the misery this time. (Keep reading, it’s coming…)
UPDATE: Certainly lost the minimum here, so the outcome isn’t really consistent with the title of this post which implies that I overplayed these hands.
Hand #3 –> 2nd nut straight v. nut straight
Kim, from the previous hand, raised from under-the-gun. It was a small raise for this game. From the hijack seat following one or two callers, I called with Q9s. Most of the time I would fold there, out of respect for the clearly stronger range that Kim should have when raising in early position.
The flop was KJT, rainbow. Wait a minute! I flopped a damn straight. Cha-ching! After it checked around to me, I bet about half-pot. Then it folded back to Kim, who called, followed by more folds. The turn was a 6, bringing a backdoor flush draw into the realm of possibility. Kim checked again, and I bet small, about one-third pot. Then Kim check/raised the minimum amount.
Wha—? At that moment, I forgot that Kim had been the pre-flop raiser. My advanced age must have caught up with me. (What were we talking about anyway?) As I looked at the board of KJT-6, and looked across the table at Kim, I was aware that AQ would make a higher straight than mine, but felt that was unlikely as Kim isn’t the type of player to limp in with AQ. Thinking she had only limped in, I also discounted KK, JJ or TT from her range. I don’t recall which card was the same suit as the 6, but perhaps she had picked up a combo draw with a KQs or QJs type of hand. But that didn’t make sense either, as a semi-bluff check/raise should be much larger than a min-raise.
I called, the river brought another K, and Kim checked. Alright… I didn’t feel like I had a good read here, but Kim’s check should mean my hand is best, amiright? So I grab a handful of chips without counting them and drop them into the betting area. Kim snap calls and flips over AQo.
This one hurt, starting with an unforced mistake pre-flop, continuing with a misremembrance of Kim’s pre-flop raise, and ending with getting value-owned on the river.
UPDATE: Easily could have lost my entire stack here by not slowing down. On the other hand, I have a chart that puts Q9s in an ‘Auto-Fold’ range when UTG raises pre-flop and there is at least one caller. I have a significant range disadvantage, poor kicker if a Q comes, two players to act after me who will have position in their favor on post-flop betting if they call, and those plus the blinds who could decide to squeeze. As my daughter likes to say, “Sometimes you need to prevent the first domino from falling.”
Perhaps my looser than normal pre-flop call was the by-product of hands #1 and #2 knocking my off my A-game.
Hand #4 – the Kim-pire Strikes Again
Kim, now with a formidable stack, raised smallish again. There were two or three callers in between her and me in the big blind with K♠Q♠. Kim’s opening range in middle-to-late position is wide enough that I may have the best hand here, and alternatively a strong 3-bet will get the weakest A-x hands in her range to fold. I like that better than calling and playing this hand out of position and 3-bet for 5x the size of Kim’s opening raise.
Kim called, and the other players folded. The flop was Q43 with a flush draw that included the Q, so it would not have been possible for Kim to have AQs or any other Q-xs with both top pair and the nut flush draw. With likely the best hand, I C-bet around 2/3 pot and Kim looked puzzled and calls.
The turn brought an off-suit 7. I bet again, about 60% of pot, and began to sense that the pot had become way too large for a one pair hand, even as good as mine was. This illustrates the difficulty of being first to act. I know Kim is a very aggressive player, capable of firing large bluffs. My 3-bet and C-bet made this pot big enough for her to try to steal it if I showed weakness, yet I didn’t want to give a free card either. Anyway, she hemmed and hawed a bit and went all-in. She had me well covered, with my remaining stack at a little less than 100 big blinds (down from an earlier high water mark of approximately 275 BBs).
In technical poker terms… F%$#@!
After awhile in the tank, I folded. Other than the exact combination of AKs that had the nut flush draw with two over cards, what was I beating? Top pair / second kicker couldn’t possibly be good here. A little later, Kim told me she had 65s and turned the nuts. SMH. My out-of-position aggression cost me a little over 100 BBs there.
UPDATE: #TheyAlwaysGetThere, yet the facts actually confirm that my pre-flop 3-bet was a solid play and often should result in picking up some chips with minimal stress.
Hand #5 – bottom set v. backdoor bullshit
At least there’s a new villain this time. For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Jason.” He raised UTG and I called with 44 from the cutoff or hijack seat. It doesn’t matter. The flop was T64 rainbow and Jason put out a small C-bet. After one caller in front of me, I flatted and another player also called.
On a turn J, which put two spades on the board, Jason bet again, this time much more aggressively. The next player folded, and I raised to just under 3x Jason’s bet amount. After the last player folded, Jason thought for a couple seconds and called. Have I just encountered a set-over-set disaster?
On a river off-sit Q, Jason bet around 55-60 BBs. After my raise on the turn, that’s awfully strong. So really, readers, what was I beating there, with 44 and the board reads T64-J-Q with no possible flushes? Jason had raised pre-flop from early position, so his range can include QQ, JJ, TT, AK, all of which have me crushed. Plus, he didn’t seem worried about what I had, did he? That’s the real clue here. QQ seemed to make the most sense, as JJ and TT would have re-raised on the turn, and AK would fold unless it was the one suited combination that would have the nut flush draw along with a broadway draw.
I hope someday to be good enough to fold there, but not last night. Jason tabled 98s for a backdoor straight. GAA-aaa-h!
UPDATE: Here is the bet sizing. Pre-flop, Jason raised to 4 BBs and got three callers. Pot = 16 BBs. Flop Jason bet 6 BBs and got three callers again. Pot = 40 BBs. Turn Jason bet 20 BBs (1/2 pot). What is the optimal raise sizing for me? After the call portion of my bet, the pot would be 80 BBs, so I think 50-60 BBs more is better. My actual raise was only 38 BBs more. But it’s difficult not to be results oriented and say I should have raised to XXX to force a fold, when in reality against an open ended straight draw I don’t want him to fold. I want to raise the maximum amount he will call when he’s only going to get there 18% of the time.
That’s it. In a session where I flopped three sets, a straight, a flush, and trip aces with a good kicker, I got pretty well destroyed.
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