KKing David

Ruminations on poker

Archive for the category “Bad play”

RIP Tom Petty

I keep a number of reference lists handy, things like a vacation packing list, books to read, restaurants to try, and so on.  One of my lists is Songs for Poker.  I don’t have these songs downloaded and organized into an actual playlist, but occasionally I’ll hear a song and something about the theme or lyrics makes me think about some aspect of poker and I put it on the list.

First on the list is Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ classic I Won’t Back Down.  Now Tom is gone.  May this rock & roll legend rest in peace.  He passed away yesterday at the age of 66 following a cardiac arrest.

As much as I love this song, having it on the top of your mind at a crucial moment of a poker game is downright awful.  Facing a big raise or re-raise, you are usually going to lose.  I mentioned this song in a blog post a couple of years ago, that bears repeating here, in explaining that backing down is exactly what a good poker player does.

Well I won’t back down, no I won’t back down
You could stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won’t back down

Gonna stand my ground, won’t be turned around
And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down
Gonna stand my ground and I won’t back down

[Chorus:]
Hey baby, there ain’t no easy way out
Hey I will stand my ground
And I won’t back down

Well I know what’s right, I got just one life
In a world that keeps on pushin’ me around
But I’ll stand my ground and I won’t back down

Hey baby there ain’t no easy way out
Hey I will stand my ground
And I won’t back down
No, I won’t back down

Feeling a great loss over Tom Petty’s passing.  Maybe I Won’t Back Down should go on a different list — songs I hope other players have on their minds when I have the nuts.  In looking at a list of Tom Petty songs, we could make a whole list based on titles that could be about poker.  I expect to be listening to a lot of Tom Petty in the coming days for sure:

  • Don’t Do Me Like That
  • Don’t Fade on Me
  • Even the Losers
  • Free Fallin’
  • I Need to Know
  • Jammin’ Me
  • Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around
  • Turn This Car Around
  • Yer So Bad
  • You Got Lucky
  • You Wreck Me

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Quitting

According to Tommy Angelo, in his classic Elements of Poker, one should think of quitting is a skill to be developed and mastered.

It is one of the longest element in the book, which highlights its importance.

The end.

An Embarrassingly Bad Call

I didn’t want to write this post, but I’ve been thinking about this hand for several days and need to purge it from my consciousness.  This blog originated as a place to vent and purge bad thoughts, back when no one was reading.  In the hand I’m going to describe, I found out exactly where I stood, knew it, and called off my stack anyway out of sheer stubbornness.  Or stupidity.  Or tilt.  I hoped I could forget about it and move on, not owning up to it here, but it’s still rolling around in my head… THAT’S THE ONLY THING SHE COULD HAVE!  And of course, she did.

I still don’t want to write this post, mostly because I’m embarrassed that people will read it.  Now, dear readers, you have a choice.  Either read on to find out what I did that was so awful, or skip the rest of this post.

As usual, I’m playing no limit Texas hold’em in a private game, at someone’s garage.  Most of the players are regulars.  So far, this night has been frustrating as I’ve either had shitty cards, or totally missed the flop with my hands like AK or AQ.  I had bought in for 200 Big Blinds, won a few very small pots, and started this hand with about 170-175 BBs.

The villain is a young woman, who for purposes of this blog I’ll call “Stardust.”  In the cutoff seat, she opens the action with a raise to 4 BBs.  The button calls, and with QQ in the big blind, I re-raise to 16 BBs.  Stardust very quickly calls and the button folds.

Immediately, I’m thinking she is set-mining with some sort of medium pocket pair.  With a pair higher than my Queens, she would have made a bigger raise in the first place.  With a really low pair, she would limp.  Perhaps she has AK, but again she would have made a bigger raise.  Stardust doesn’t balance her pre-flop range by using the same bet size regardless of hand strength.  A lot of players don’t seem to notice the bet sizing tells, so with certain opponents this can actually be an exploitative strategy.  Her stack is about the same size as mine, so set-mining is mathematically justifiable.

The flop is Jd 8c 2d.  I bet 20 BBs and she quickly calls.

The turn is 7c.  Now there are two possible flush draws – diamonds and clubs.  An open-ended straight draw with T9 also got there.  I discount that based on the pre-flop action.  Stardust might have raised to 4 BBs with T9 suited, but wouldn’t have called my re-raise with so little hesitation.  But what I’m really thinking about is whether she might have flopped a set of 888s.  How can I get her to tell me?

I bet 25 BBs.  Stardust stacks all of her chips other than the $1 chips and puts them in for a large raise.  I ask the dealer for a count, and it is 115 BBs more.  She didn’t announce “all-in” so I can call the raise and still have a few $1 chips of my own left.  The conventional response, if not folding, would be to put the last few dollars in as well, but that would alter the order of the showdown.  She would be calling my shove, and I’d have to show first.  By just calling her raise and leaving the handful of remaining chips alone, I am the caller and Stardust will show first.  If I call and lose, nobody will know exactly what I have.

The main failure here was not taking enough time to ponder Level 3.

Level 1 thinking is “what do I have?”  I have QQ, an over-pair to the board, which is generally considered a strong hand.

Level 2 thinking is “what does she have?”  She raised, smallish, pre-flop then quickly called a re-raise.  She called a flop bet, then raised big over the top of the turn bet.  Of the hands that beat me, I can safely conclude she does not have AA or KK – she would have raised my larger pre-flop.  She does not have JJ – same reason.  She does not have 22 – she would have limped in pre-flop.  She does not have T9 off-suit – she would have folded to my re-raise pre-flop.  She might have T9 suited – a total of 4 combinations – but I think the speed with which she called my pre-flop re-raise effectively rules that out.  She never has 2 pair here – all of the 2P combinations are too weak to raise pre-flop AND call my re-raise.  That leaves 88, which perfectly fits the betting patterns and our reads about Stardust’s playing style. This along is enough to justify folding here.  With Level 2 thinking alone, I should fold and move on.

What about Level 3?  Level 3 thinking is “what does she think I have?”  I re-raised from out-of-position pre-flop, then led out with bets on the flop and turn.  Doesn’t this smack of an over-pair?  My hand should be pretty obvious to anyone paying close attention.  It might be AA, or KK, or QQ, but at this point in the action, these are all equivalent hands.  With this being the case, and two flush draws on the board, can she be raising effectively all-in here with a flush draw?  Stardust just put 140 BBs with of chips at risk.  Would she do that as a semi-bluff, and have any reasonable hope that I would fold after showing as much strength as I’ve shown?

My turn bet was intentionally small.  There was about 77 BBs in the pot and I bet 25 BBs, giving her about 4-to-1 odds on a call.  With a flush draw, Stardust can justify calling.  On the other hand, she might not have much fold equity, and might not be increasing her expected value by shoving.  My hand looks too strong for that, and it’s not here style to bet that aggressively without a made hand.  The only flush draw she can have is with a combo like Ad Kd or Ad Qd. Anything weaker is likely to fold pre-flop, and any Ac Kc or Ac Qc would fold on the flop and not hang around for the second flush draw that came on the turn.

If I have any lingering doubts about her having 88 after the Level 2 thinking, they should be totally erased by the Level 3 answers.

What is weird sometimes is the precision of the hand analysis.  It’s also disconcerting.  Surely there is something else she can have… but there isn’t.  After removing my hole cards and the flop & turn cards, there are 46 unknown cards.  Out of those, there are 1,035 combinations of two cards.  My Level 2 and Level 3 analysis reduces this to exactly three combinations that Stardust can really have.  They are:  8s8h, 8s8d, 8h8d.

After thinking through Level 2, I heard “Trust your reads,” from the imaginary gremlin perched atop my right shoulder.

“You have an over-pair!  Won’t it feel great to bust her?” asks the imaginary gremlin atop my left shoulder.

I call, knowing inside I’ve just made a colossal mistake.

Despite each of us having between $5-10 remaining in $1 chips, she immediately flips over her pocket eights.

The dealer delivers the river card, the Kc.

Technically, we aren’t all-in yet, and her set of 888s is laying face-up on the table.  It’s not like I can bluff her into folding, as if I have KK or made a flush.  So I announce loudly, “I check.”  Stardust looks sheepish now, and also checks.

I buy more chips and two hands later, lose half of them again when a different villain hits a flush on the river after getting all-in with me on the flop against my top pair / top kicker.

I buy more chips.  This ain’t going to be my night.

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Running Bad Makes Me Mad

The best of times I’ve ever had

Are always followed by running bad;

’tis the curse of the random flop

To see equity so good suddenly drop.

 

Out of position they love to call

With hopes and prayers and mostly gall;

Yet the donkeys get the last laugh

Cutting my chip stack in half.

 

Continuation bets?  They all fail

Silently I suffer and wail;

And wait for the pendulum to swing

To recover from this awful sting.

 

Running bad, it makes me sad

No that’s not it, more like mad;

But must persevere and have more grit

Can I take much more of this shit?

 

There goes another buy-in

And it feels like I’m dyin’;

Not long ago running so good

Beating up the whole neighborhood.

 

When will I get another chance

To celebrate and dance?

Feeling like a shell of my former self

Looking for wisdom on the bookshelf.

 

Uh-oh, here we go again

I flop a big draw, villain flops gin;

The river card fills my flush

And gives him quads!  Now hush.

 

Wrenching emotional pain

In every crevice makes its gain;

Stop I say, don’t turn me into a poet!

I’m not very good and now you know it.

Why Avoid the Bad Players?

Yesterday I was hanging out with two poker friends, talking poker talk and gossip.  One of them, who for purposes of this blog post I’ll call “Melanie,” mentioned that she just started playing online poker again, at the micro stakes.

The problem, says Melanie, is that the players are so bad at blinds of $0.02 / 0.04 that it’s hard to win.  But once she moved up to $0.05 / 0.10, the play becomes a little bit more rational and she’s winning at that level.  One of her complaints is that at the micro-est of the micro stakes, there’s not enough money at risk for people to be willing to fold.

When I play online (cash games only), lately it is at blinds of $0.50 / 1.00.  I’m not sure if this is “low stakes” or “mid stakes” but it’s still pretty low in the overall scheme of things.  I told Melanie there are still plenty of bad players at this level, and all of the levels in between.  Rather than try to avoid the bad players, why not exploit them?

One way to exploit bad players is by folding.  If they won’t fold, you won’t win by bluffing.  So playing lots of junky hands with the intention of “out-playing” them when you smell weakness isn’t going to work.  Another way to exploit bad players is by betting strong hands for value, in ways that maximize the pot size when they call.

Here are two examples:

1 – Eight-Four is Money!

In this hand, I was the big blind with 84 off-suit.  There is a min-raise to $2 from middle position and everyone else folds.  Really, I should just fold as well.  In the back of my head I hear the voice of our friend Myles saying “eight-four is money!”

Since this summer’s World Series of Poker TV broadcasts, I’ve noticed a lot more min-raises in these online cash games.  Apparently, people see the pros on TV making very small pre-flop raises, frequently just 2x the big blind.  It’s one thing to do that in tournaments, where the blinds are increasing, causing lower and lower stack-to-pot ratios as the tournament progresses, and chip preservation is paramount.  It’s a fine strategy for tournaments.  But for deeper stacked cash games, I  think it is ill-advised.  If we are going to exploit other players by value betting when they call too much, we should bet as much as we think they will call, which is more than a min-raise.

Anyway, I call the extra dollar, and the flop is A84 rainbow.  Yahtzee!  I have bottom two pair.

I check, with the intent to check-raise.  If he makes more than a token C-bet, indicating a good chance he has an ace, I’m going to make a very large raise.  He does and I do.  He bets $4.50, which is a pot-sized C-bet.  A pot-sized re-raise would be $18, and I decide to make it $21 as a slight overbet.  If he calls, I’m going to shove any non-ace turn card.

Perhaps this seems too aggressive.  Won’t he fold a hand like AK to such a large raise?  Yeah, maybe.  Or maybe he’ll spazz out.  And he does, coming back over the top with an all-in shove.  I started the hand with $99 and he had me covered.  Of course, I snap call, and to my amazement he only has TT.  The turn and river cards don’t help him, and I double up my stack.

I guess he just convinced himself that I was full of shit, my raise was so large it must mean that I want him to fold, and being the pre-flop raiser he could represent a stronger hand than I could.  I wish I could have seen the look on his face when my hand was revealed…

2 – Putting the Tilted Guy on Tilt

In this hand, the villain in Seat 8 had lost 1/3 of his stack just two hands earlier, in a pre-flop all-in battle of the blinds.  He had AK in the BB, while the SB had AA.  Whoops!

Here is a link to ShareMyPair to see a replay.  When the river gave me quads, I decided to go for the whole enchilada, expecting a nominally tilted guy to run through the stop sign and crash.

Thank you kind sir!  I’ll take better care of your poker chips than you did.

Bad players make bad mistakes.  We can exploit them – trust me Melanie, this is fun – as long as we keep in mind that the #1 mistake bad players make is calling when they should fold.

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Intermittent Explosive Disorder

What is tilt anyway?

I ponder this while reflecting on an online poker session last night.  Up a small amount, I was going to close out the session and go to bed early.  But look, there’s pocket tens, let’s just play this hand.

Fast forward and the villain has pocket nines, but hits a 3rd nine on the river.  Now I’m down a small amount – can’t quit there.

The next hand I get AKs.  One caller, who also calls my C-bet then shoves on the turn with the board showing 654-7.

An orbit later, with pocket deuces, I call a pre-flop raise and float his C-bet on a flop of 753 with a flush draw.  His C-bet sizing didn’t convince me that he had much.  A deuce came on the turn giving me bottom set.  He shoves and I snap call to find out he has pocket queens.  Just like the ending of a movie I’ve seen too many times before, the river is a queen.  Burned twice by 2-outers on the river in a span of just a few minutes.

In 20 minutes after deciding to book a small win, I proceed to blast through 180 BBs, recover a little bit, and go to bed an hour after I really wanted.

Tilt can be so sudden and unexpected.  Like road rage.  Looking for understanding, I found this article: The Psychology and Biology of Road Rage, which introduced me to the term “Intermittent Explosive Disorder.”

According to Wikipedia, “Intermittent explosive disorder (sometimes abbreviated as IED) is a behavioral disorder characterized by explosive outbursts of anger and violence, often to the point of rage, that are disproportionate to the situation at hand (e.g., impulsive screaming triggered by relatively inconsequential events). Impulsive aggression is unpremeditated, and is defined by a disproportionate reaction to any provocation, real or perceived. Some individuals have reported affective changes prior to an outburst (e.g., tension, mood changes, energy changes, etc.).”

The psychological root of this is something called Hostile Attribution Bias, “the belief that every accidental injury  or threat is purposeful, and personal.  People with IED over-personalize every interaction, and then over-react with immediate aggression.”  This is obviously dangerous when it happens to the driver of a car on a busy highway and financially self-destructive when it happens at the poker table.

I’m not prone to road rage and my propensity to tilt isn’t severe enough to classify as a disorder.  But I do tilt, having experienced many of the types of tilt Tommy Angelo describes in his wonderful book Elements of Poker: steaming tilt, simmering tilt, too loose tilt, too tight tilt, too aggressive tilt, too passive tilt, playing too high tilt, playing too long tilt, playing too tired tilt, entitlement tilt, annoyed tilt, injustice tilt, frustration tilt, sloppy tilt, revenge tilt, underfunded tilt, overfunded tilt, shame tilt, distracted tilt, scared tilt, envy tilt, this-is-the-worst-pizza-I’ve-ever-had tilt, I-just-got-showed-a-bluff tilt, I-gotta-get-even tilt, I-only-have-so-much-time-to-lose-this-money tilt and demolition tilt.  Entitlement tilt is my biggest nemesis.  I can handle bad pizza.

On the other hand, I have some friends with tendencies much closer to Intermittent Explosive Disorder when the poker Gods deliver just a few of the 10 plagues of poker injustice upon them.  Dear friends, you know who you are!

Do you have a tilt story to share… put it in the comments section below.

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Stuck in No Man’s Land

Last night I was at a low-stakes, private poker game marked by some very loose play.  There was frequent straddling as much as 13 BB’s, along with very light pre-flop raising (like 95s), light 3-betting, and light calling of 3-bets (with hands like T4s and 53s – the latter making quad 5’s).

It was a poker table ripe for Justin Bieber to sing, Roller Coaster, Roller Coaster.

For the most part, I was taking good advantage of this.  I bought in for 140 Big Blinds (“BBs”), felted one of the players with AQ v KQ on a Q-high flop, then felted the same player again with TT v JT after he limp/re-raised all-in with a short stack pre-flop, and built my stack to over 300 BBs.

A little later, I look down at AKo in early position, and raise to 7 BBs.  While this may seem like a large initial raise to online or casino players, it wasn’t unusual here.  My starting hand is very strong, but plays best post-flop against just one or two villains.  If I only raise to 4 BBs, everybody at the table might call and it becomes hard to know where you stand after the flop and turn.  There is one caller, then another player re-raises to 21 BBs.  For purposes of this blog post, I’ll call him “Mitch.”

Processed with VSCO with c8 preset

This is the first time I’ve played poker with Mitch.  He is a young white guy, early-to-mid 20’s, dressed like he just came from a  strange 70’s themed party – wearing what appears to be bicycling shorts, a casual shirt, old school nearly knee high basketball socks (white, with wide colorful stripes at the top of his calves), and low-cut white Chuck Taylors or similar footwear.  With a cap sporting the logo of Nag’s Head’s Lucky 12 Tavern and dark sunglasses to look like a real poker player, the whole look makes quite an impression.  I don’t really care how people look or dress, other than sometimes there are clues that help in profiling them as poker players – loose/tight or passive/aggressive or gambly or playing with a very small bankroll or whatever.  I suppose the impression here was not to be surprised by unconventionality.

Earlier in the game, Mitch had called a river all-in bluff on a very scary board (K-9-7-6-5) with KTo and won a large pot.  At the time, I was thinking that I would have folded there.  Before that, he had called a pre-flop raise from me with 92s and made a backdoor flush to beat my trip kings.

I’ve also noticed that Mitch is very friendly with another player, the one that I’ve already felted twice.  Apparently they drove to this game together and have been chatty between hands.  Mitch’s friend has a wild streak, making several large bluffs, showing his bluffs multiple times when were successful, and generally playing in a way that indicates a complete disregard for the value of his money.  Do birds of a feather flock together?

After Mitch’s 3-bet, there are two callers.  Both are very loose players who like to see lots of flops.  Perhaps both have played more than I have with Mitch and their calls indicate a certain lack of respect for his 3-bet.  I have experience with these callers, and think either of them would 4-bet here if holding a monster hand.

With all this in mind, I decide to make a sizable 4-bet myself.  With one ace and one king, I have blockers against Mitch having either of the hands I fear most – pocket aces or pocket kings.  Having started the betting from early position, I can credibly represent a monster pocket pair.  If I raise large enough, the two players who called Mitch’s bet would be forced to fold.  I make it 105 BBs.

Take that!

One player who called my original raise quickly folds.

But Mitch starts counting his entire stack.  He has 130 BBs more on top of my raise, and ships it all in.  I have him covered.

Right then it dawns on me that I’m in No Man’s Land, that terrible spot where you realize charging forward is a mistake and retreating is no good either.  In my youth I played a lot of competitive tennis.  On a tennis court, No Man’s Land refers to the area in front of the baseline, where it is difficult to make normal groundstrokes, but behind the service line, where you cannot make volleys either, at least not hitting the ball at a height that creates enough leverage to hit the ball hard or use sharp angles.  In No Man’s Land, all of your options are bad, unless you enjoy being yelled at by your tennis coach.

Another player folds.  The last player hems and haws a bit, asks for a count of Mitch’s chips, and also goes all-in, for less than Mitch’s stack.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Chuck.”  [This is really important, as I know Chuck (or whatever his real name might be) desperately covets a mention in this blog.  I hope he leaves a snarky comment after reading this.]  Chuck had about 180 BBs at the start of the hand.  His call surprised me, as noted earlier I thought my 4-bet would squeeze him out.  Even when he called, I interpreted that more as a desire to gamble over a huge pot than an indication of great strength.  Still, he could have at least one ace or king, or both, that would cancel some of my outs in the event Mitch has something like QQ or JJ.

Even so, I really don’t think Mitch has QQ or JJ.  Despite my blockers, he virtually always will have AA or KK here.  My 4-bet was so strong that his 5-bet must be stronger.  Hopefully it is KK and my ace is a live card.  Otherwise I’ll be crushed.  This is where my mistake becomes more clear.  I failed to make my 4-bet small enough to keep an exit strategy available.

Let’s review.  I’ve put 105 BBs into the pot.  Mitch has put in 235.  Chuck has put in 180.  Two other players put in 7 and 21, respectively, and later folded.  So the pot has 538 BBs in it, and it will cost me 130 more to call.  I’m getting pot odds of 4.14-to-1 to call, meaning I have to expect to win at least 19.5% of the time for calling to be mathematically, theoretically the proper thing to do.  How can I really justify folding here, even though it’s obvious that I’m in big trouble?

Some more math… heads up against Mitch, the villain I’m most worried about, if his range is AA/KK – which I consider most likely despite my blockers – and nothing else, my equity is 18.6%.  If I think he would also shove here with AKs or QQ, my equity is 33.3%.  Despite all the loose play at this game, I can only assume Mitch has a monster.  After all, loose players still get dealt monster hands just as frequently as tight players.  And not so long ago, I wrote a post entitled “Hashtag: They Always Have It.”  Mitch didn’t hesitate much before going all-in, so now I have to go with this read.

That’s heads up.  What about Chuck?  His range should be wider that Mitch’s, as his body language when calling all-in didn’t ooze great strength.  But he could have blockers to some of my outs.  Let’s give him a range of TT+, AQs+ or AK.  Against that range and Mitch’s AA/KK, my equity drops to 13.1%.  If we again widen Mitch’s range to include AKs and QQ, my equity improves to 20.4%.

Chuck could have some random suited connectors too – perhaps suspecting that Mitch and I have all the high cards and hoping for a hand like 98s to sneak to victory.  So I’ll add 98s and 87s to his range.  This, with Mitch at AA/KK would leave me with equity of 13.8%.  With the wider range for Mitch, I’m at 21.6%.  Chuck’s range has far less impact on how I stand than Mitch’s range, but if Chuck’s actual cards include any aces it kills a very important out for me.

I’m not doing all this math in my head at the table.  With Chuck’s chips in the middle now, it seems like a mandatory call.  I make the crying call, not at all happy, but would still have nearly 100 BBs left if I call here and lose.  If I had made a smaller 4-bet, say in the neighborhood of 60-75 BBs, I would have less hesitation about folding and saving my chips.

As the dealer sorts out the main pot and side pot, Chuck asks who has pocket aces.  Mitch says he has cowboys, i.e., pocket kings.  I actually feel a slight sense of relief at hearing this.  I say that I have one ace, but not two of them, and turn over my Ace of spades.  Mitch turns over his King of spades, then a red king to go along with it. Chuck doesn’t turn over either of his cards, but looks like he’s in a lot of pain.

One more bit of math:  against Mitch’s exact hand, which we now know for sure (and ignoring Chuck, since we still don’t know what he had), my equity is 30.3%.  If Chuck had folded to Mitch’s all-in bet, the pot would have been 389 BBs with 130 more for me to call.  I would need to have greater than 25.0% equity to justify calling.  While calling would be correct, it is only correct because of my betting mistake when I made such a large 4-bet that I stepped into No Man’s Land and pot-committed myself without consciously intending to do so.

If you’ve read this far, I’m pleased to report that a beautiful ace fell on the flop, and I won the whole freakin’ thing.  That’s poker I guess, and I’ve certainly been on the other side many, many times.

My stack grew a little bit more by the end of the night and I booked a very nice profit of 700+ BBs.

Thinking about Mitch’s 70’s theme appearance… That’s the way, uh-huh, uh-huh, I like it!

Bad Beat –> Happy Tilt. Oh my!

This post involves our friend “Myles” from the previous post, where I made a massive over-bet all-in river shove.  Read about it here.

About a week later, I’m off to a good start in a $1/2 no limit cash game, having doubled up early when my AA held up against AK on a K-high flop.  At this private game, the host has two interesting jackpot bonuses, both of which are about to come into play.  The first is a high-hand jackpot.  A separate fund is segregated out of the house rake during the night, and the player with the highest hand of the night (paid out at midnight) using both hole cards wins the jackpot, which is usually between $80 – 120.  In addition, there is a bad beat jackpot, which requires losing a hand with JJJ-TT or higher (using both hole cards, although the winner of the hand is not required also to use both hole cards under house policy).  The bad beat jackpot grows by $25 each time there is no winner, up to a cap of $500.  Tonight, we are at the jackpot cap.

In this hand, our familiar villain “Myles” raises to $10 from the UTG+1 seat (i.e., two seats to the left of the Big Blind).  He has about $260 to start the hand, and I have over $400.  Another player calls, and I call with QQ in the Cutoff seat (one seat to the right of the Button).  The Button (I’ll call him “John” for purposes of this post – he has about $200) also calls, but both blinds fold.  I considered re-raising with my QQ here, but decided to make a non-standard call to deliberately under-represent my hand.

Flop ($43):  KQ5 all different suits.  What a perfect spot to have just called with QQ.  Myles bets $20 and the next player folds.  I want to see what “John” is going to do here, so I just call, and John also calls.

Turn ($103):  K.  Now I have a full house, QQQ-KK, which is awesome, and if somehow Myles or John has KK for a bigger full house, I qualify to win the bad beat jackpot.  Also, nobody has posted a higher full house yet this evening, so I’ll be leading the way for the high-hand jackpot.  Some nights this is good enough to win the high-hand jackpot; other nights not.  A couple weeks early I had a 888-99 hand hold up until 11:59 pm, right before payment time, when TTT-QQ stole it away.

Now “Myles” checks.  When “John” called the flop bet, I think he probably has a K or Q, or a straight draw with JT, with a remote chance of a really strong hand with KQ or 55.  I bet $50, about 1/2 of the pot, hoping to get at least one more call from “John.”  If he is on a draw, he may chase it for this amount.  “John” calls $50.  Then… “Myles” slides out $130 for a check-raise of $80 more.  This is really interesting.  He has to consider that either “John” or myself has a strong hand.  So his range is either a bluff, or a very strong hand like AA, AK, KK (quads??? really???) or KQ.

On the other hand, the worst that can happen is I’m going to win the $500 bad beat jackpot, while the most I could lose on this hand is about $260.  Or I’m going to win a huge pot.  Once again, I just call, to see if “John” will put in any more chips.  “Myles” is pretty pot-committed so I should have no problem getting the rest of his chips in on the river.  To my disappointment, “John” folds.

River ($413):  5.  Now the board is KQ5-K-5, or a double paired board.  “Myles” somewhat unhappily tosses out two $1 chips, the minimum bet amount.  Wha-a-a-a-t?  Obviously he doesn’t want to put in the rest of his chips.

Here is where I went on happy tilt.  I’ve fallen in love with my hand, with a flopped set of queens and turned full house.  And the knowledge that I’m qualified to win the bad beat jackpot if somehow I’m beat.  Rather than pause for a second and think about the implications of the river card, I just announce all-in.  The reality is that “Myles” can fold AA here, or anything else he might have that doesn’t include a K.  My raise is totally idiotic – he’s not going to call me with a worse hand, and not going to fold a better hand either.  After considering the possibility of me having KQ rather than QQ, he calls and shows AK suited.  His KKK-55 beats my QQQ-KK.

While I win the $500 bad beat jackpot, I also could have called “Myles'” $2 bet on the river and saved $98 more

“Myles” laughs, thanks me and reminds me and everyone else at the table about the extra $98 I paid him about a dozen times over the remainder of the evening.

Sometimes he reads this blog.  Merry Christmas, “Myles.”  I hope you used it to buy yourself a nice Christmas sweater and matching necktie.

A little while later, against a different villain, my TT runs into AK on a board of KK4-K-9.  The other guy has quad KKKK’s with an Ace kicker, to bump me out of the high hand jackpot.  My KKK-TT again qualifies for the bad beat jackpot, but it has been reset to $25 and the house rule is they won’t pay the jackpot to the same player twice in one night.  I don’t want to sound like a complainer, but a different river card in the first hand with “Myles” and I would have been about $600 richer.

Two Pair Plus

How many times to I have to tell you?

In this case, “you” is actually myself.

Last winter, Bill Hubbard showed me some data on live cash games, where a villain raises or check-raises on the flop.  A majority of the time, when there is a flop raise or check-raise by a villain who was not the pre-flop aggressor, said villain has 2-pair or better (2-pair plus, or 2P+.  According to the data, bluffs and semi-bluffs are surprisingly rare at the lower stakes, but raises or check-raises with top pair or an over-pair are fairly common (just not as common as 2P+).

For example, last night I was playing in a local home game, with blinds of $1/2.  With AK0, I raise to $10 and there are 3 callers.  The flop is AT3cc (two clubs).  It is checked to me, and I have top pair, top kicker (TPTK), a very good result for my hand.  I bet $24.  I can expect calls by Ax with a weaker kicker, drawing hands like flush draws or some Broadway gut shots, and some more speculative calls by Tx hands who are not convinced by my C-bet that I hit this flop.

The the guy in one of the blinds (I’ll call him “Rob”) check-raises to $55 and the others fold.  Back to me.

I’ve played with Rob a lot.  He calls pre-flop raises from any position with a very wide range.  He is capable of bluffing in a wide range of situations, although I’ve picked off enough of his bluffs that he should be somewhat reticent to try this with me.  Nevertheless, he could make this play with Ax and a weaker kicker, or with a flush draw.  And certainly with 2-pair or sets, given the draws that are out there.  His range starts so wide, it is always hard to figure out what he is doing.

He has about $115 more behind and I have him easily covered.

On the one hand, I should just fold.  Once Rob likes his hand, he also likes to fire multiple barrels, and the based on stack and pot sizes, the next one could be an all-in bet.  Why risk this much when I’m not sure where I’m at?

On the other hand, I have TPTK.  Earlier this evening, I folded AT on an A-high flop to a check-raise from another guy at the table.  Again?

My inner Tom Petty kicks in…

I raise all-in and Rob quickly calls, turning over A3dd.  His two pair holds up.  I buy another $200 in chips.

How many times…?

Good Guy, Bad Guy

The phrase “Good Guy, Bad Guy” generally refers to a negotiating tactic whereby two people on the team team play very different roles.  One negotiator is the “Bad Guy” who bullies, uses anger and threatens to walk away from the negotiating table.  The other negotiator is the “Good Guy” who comes to rescue the negotiation by being considerate and understanding.  The Good Guy blames the Bad Guy for all the difficulties while telling the other side that if they will only concede certain negotiating points (the most important ones, of course), he’ll try to get the deal back on track.

This comes to mind in thinking through an interesting poker hand I recently played.  In this case, the actual sequence is Bad Play, Worse Play, Good Play, Bad Outcome.

I’m in a $1/2 no limit home game, and the player to my left – with whom I have played quite a bit (I’ll call him “Russ”) – has sucked out on me twice already.  Once I flopped middle set v. his top pair/medium kicker.  The turn gave him trips (i.e., paired the top card on the board) while also giving me a full house.  The river paired up with his kicker, giving him a better full house.

And very recently, I flopped top pair/top kicker and he had a flush draw.  Both the turn and river cards looked like bricks but actually gave Russ a back-door, well concealed straight.

So my stack is down to $112, and my emotional state is sub-par as well.

Another player (“Jason” from this post) puts up a $5 live straddle, and I look down at 5s 3s one or two seats to the right of the button.  This is an easy fold, almost always.  Bad Play:  I call.  Maybe it’s my turn to hit some kind of well-concealed bullshit hand.  In reality, WTF am I doing here?  Not folding is a sure sign of the onset of my C-game.

Then Russ raises to $15.  Another player calls and Jason also calls.  I feel like I’m getting a good price to continue.  Now there is $53 in the pot (including the blinds) and $1o more for me to call.  Maybe they all have high cards, leaving the deck loaded with lots of low cards to come out on the flop and connect with my hand.  Worse Play:  I call again.  At least my cards are so bad that I should be able to get away from them easily on the flop.  WTF again?  my stack is not deep enough for this sort of highly speculative call, where I’ll be out-of-position with respect to the aggressor post-flop.

Flop ($63):  Ts 7h 4s.  I have a flush draw and gutshot straight draw.  12 outs for a very strong hand.

Russ leads out for $50.  Sure looks like he has a big pair, and would be perfectly happy to take this pot down right now, or at least charge a high price to any draws.

After one fold, Jason then goes all-in for $35.  He could be calling with any hand that hit any part of this flop, or any draw.  I’ve played with Jason enough to know he will stick it all-in when he has a short stack with a very wide range that gives him any amount of hope, so there is no reason to assume this means great strength.

I have $97 remaining, and Russ has much, much more.  I can fold, in which case I’ll still have $97.  I can call, but that would be very stupid.  If I’m going to continue, I need to be sure I will see both the turn and river cards.  Yet… surely if I raise, Russ will call even if just two over cards to the board.  I cannot count on any fold equity.  What does the math tell me if I shove?

At the table, I use the simple “rule of 4.”  With two cards to come, simply multiple the number of outs by 4 and the result is the percentage of times you will hit one of your outs if you are able to see both the turn and river cards.  I have 12 outs (9 spades to make a flush, plus 3 non-spade sixes to make a straight = 12).  12 x 4 = 48%.  One small adjustment still needs to be made:  since I have more than 8 outs, I have to subtract the excess over 8.  12 – 8 = 4.  Subtract 4% and voila… 48% – 4% = 44%.  If I shove and Russ calls, I should have approx. 44% equity in the pot.

If Russ indeed has an overpair, and Jason has something other than a bigger flush draw, this should be pretty close.  Note that I’m not overly concerned about putting either Russ or Jason on a range.  I need to hit one of my outs, and if I do my hand will win.  If not, I will lose.  The only exception is where one of the villains (more likely to be Jason than Russ) has a higher flush draw.  For now, my hand is 5-high.  I know I’m behind 100% of both of their ranges and don’t need to worry about constructing the range to make my decision.  I need to worry about outs and pot odds.

I assume that if I go all-in, Russ will call.  Jason is already all-in.  The main pot will be $168 ($63 from the pre-flop action, plus $35 from each player).  There will be a side pot of $124 (the rest of my chips and enough from Russ to call my raise).

So my EV is 44% x (168 + 124) = $128.

Compare that to my stack size if I fold, which is $97.  Going all-in has an EV of $31, the increase in my stack (i.e., on average if we were to play out this exact scenario thousands of times) that results from calling.

Good Play:  I go all-in, and Russ calls, whilst shaking his head and saying he knows he is about to get ****’d.

Russ turns over QQ (with the Q of spades).  Jason turns over J8 (with the 8 of spades).  Dammit, there goes two of my outs.

Now that I am at home, I can do the math again based on their actual hands, both of which are pretty close to what I expected.  I’m 41.5% against Russ heads up for the side pot, and about 40% against the two of them for the main pot.  Note how close this is to my “rule of 4” calculations at the table.  I’m slightly weaker than I thought after taking their combined 4 cards out of the deck, including 2 of my flush outs.  My theoretical stack size after the hand would be $119, further reduced to $112 after the house rake and dealer tip, making the play a +EV of $15.  Lower than my rule of 4 calculation due to the impact of Russ and Jason each holding one of my out cards, plus the rake/tip, yet calling still is correct.

To reduce the variance a bit, Russ and I agree to “run it three times” for the side pot.  (This means the side pot is divided into thirds.  We’ll have a turn and river card for 1/3 of the pot, then a new turn and river card for the next 1/3 of the pot.  And a final turn and river card for the remaining 1/3 of the pot.)  Since there are 3 players in the main pot, we cannot run it more than once, so only the first turn and river will apply.

Bad Outcome:  I miss my outs on the first turn and river, and Russ wins the main pot and 1/3 of the side pot.  The big money is quickly gone.  I miss again on the next two board run outs and decide to go home and eat some ice cream.

Ice cream always cheers you up a little bit when you’re feeling bad, doesn’t it?

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