Dodging Bullets

Lately I’ve been hosting several online poker tournaments each week, using PokerStars Home Games platform. One of the keys to being a good host is never playing in your own games. This suits me fine, as I enjoy being a tournament promoter and director more than being a tournament player, and the admin requirements would be too distracting to be able to play well.

Last night was my first PLO tournament (“inaugural” you might say, in the spirit of the week), and it wildly exceeded expectations.

In each tournament, there’s a stretch of around 90-120 minutes that I don’t have much to do, and frequently I use that time to play in a cash game on some other platform. Last night it was a “Round of Each” (ROE) game, with alternating rounds of $1/2 NLH and $1/2 PLO. Ironically, the host of that game was simultaneously playing in my PLO tournament.

I won a small NLH pot on the 2nd hand after joining the table. On the 4th hand, the game switched to PLO and I’m in the big blind with A♠ A♥ 9♦ 7♥. Four players in front of me limp in and the small blind completes. One could actually make an argument for checking here, as this is generally a loose-passive table where a raise is likely to get multiple callers, I’ll be out-of-position for the rest of the hand, and as PLO hands with two aces go, this doesn’t have the strongest backup. It will be hard to play aggressively unless I flop a set or nut flush draw, but surely it’s the best hand right now, one of the aces is suited, and I didn’t join the table to be passive.

I make a pot-sized raise to $14 and get two callers. On a flop of 7♠ 6♣ 2♦ (not even a backdoor flush draw), everyone checks. The turn is the 6♠. After I check again, the next player, who for purposes of this blog I’ll call “Andy,” bets slightly less than half-pot. Andy has the highest pre-flop limp-calling frequency of anyone at this table. Perhaps the highest in the Western Hemisphere. The third player folds.

Knowing Andy to have a high bluff frequency when it seems like no one wants a pot, and the potential for him to be on a draw, and the small bet size, I call.

The river is the 6♦, leaving the final board 7♠ 6♣ 2♦ – 6♠ – 6♦. This is interesting as now the only hands that beat me are any six (for quads), or any hand with 77 (for 777-66 to beat my 666-AA).

I check a third time. I’ve underrepresented my hand here and Andy is prone to some illogical betting lines at times, so I should call if he bets again. He could have one of the hands that beats me, and with many other villains I might check-fold. But it’s Andy!

He checks back. Certain that my hand is good, I watch in both horror and amusement as the app reveals his hand: Q♥ J♦ T♣ 6♥. Yes, he checked back quads on the river. For a guy prone to illogical betting lines, this one takes the all-time cake! Dodged a bullet there.

Three hands later, I have Q♦ J♦ J♣ T♠ in the cutoff seat. Five players (out of five) limp in front of me. I raise pot, to $17. Andy calls from the SB, the BB calls, one limper goes all-in for $13, and the hijack also calls. There’s $87 in the pot.

(OK nerds, I know stack sizes matter. At the start of this hand, I had $190. After my pre-flop raise I have $173 remaining behind, for a stack-to-pot ratio of 2.0. A pot-sized bet on this flop likely leaves me pot-committed. Two other players have me covered. One has $104 behind after the flop. And the other was all-in pre-flop for a mere $13.)

The flop is 8♦ 6♣ 2♦, giving me the 3rd nut flush draw, to go along with an overpair. While better than nothing, against four opponents there’s no need to go crazy here. Everyone else checks, and last to act I check as well.

The turn is the 4♣, putting a 2nd flush draw out there. The SB bets pot ($87) and the remaining live players both fold. Hmmm??? I think this is an easy fold, but it’s never easy is it? I have to assume SB has at least a 2-pair+ hand that he believes can beat the all-in player, so I let mine go.

Sure enough, SB has a 7 and 5 for the nut straight, and my heart skips a couple of beats when the river 3♦ appears, which would have completed my flush. Then I notice SB also had a K-high flush draw and I was actually drawing completely dead. Dodged another bullet there.

Looking back, SB called $17 pre-flop with K♦ 7♦ 6♥ 5♠, and a middle position player limp-shoved $13 with A♦ T♥ T♣ 2♣. Did I mention this is a very loose-passive table?

On the very next hand, I have A♣ A♥ K♣ 5♠ in the hijack seat. Tighten your seat belts folks, we’re going to try again!

All three players in front of me limp, and I raise pot to $13. Andy calls from the SB, and two of the limpers also call.

With a pot of $56 and $160 behind (SPR ratio 2.85) and position on all of the other players, the flop is A♠ 9♠ 7♦. Boom! The first two check, then the player on my immediate right bets $18. His stack is short, with only $73 remaining after this bet. Smelling a flush draw, I decide to pump it up to $70. In hindsight, I should have thought more carefully about my bet sizing, although I’m not expert enough at PLO to be able to say what would be optimal.

Andy folds. Then an early position player goes all-in for less, and the opener goes all-in for slightly more. Now there’s $98 in a side pot, $182 in the main pot, and all three of us have checked this app’s “run it twice” box.

Early position has K♠ J♥ 3♥ 3♠ for a second nut flush draw. Villain on my right has K♦ Q♠ J♠ 9♥ for a third nut flush draw. My equity in this 3-way all-in is 76.9%, as neither has a path to win the pot other than making a flush (or running 3’s or 9’s or weird backdoor straight), and everybody is blocking some of the flush outs.

Until, that is, the turn is the 8♠. Really!?!? A quick burn spreads across my face. Not knowing what involuntary reaction will come next, the river is another 8, giving me a full house and a spontaneous sigh of relief. Whew! The second runout is uneventful and I scoop the pot, dodging another bullet in the process.

After another 40 hands of running in place, I return my attention to the PLO tournament, pleased with the results and fascinated when I ponder the different ways this might have gone.

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