KKing David

Ruminations on poker

Archive for the category “Missed opportunities”

Should I Turn This Into a Bluff?

NOTE:  This entry was originally posted on a different site on December 30, 2016 and has been slightly edited prior to re-posting here.

A couple nights ago I was playing at a private house game, when this hand came up.

In a middle position, I get Td 9d, nice-looking suited connectors.  A player in front of me had straddled for double the big blind.  I call, hoping to see a relatively cheap flop.

There is one other caller, plus the Big Blind calls, and the straddler checks.  So far, so good.

The flop is 8d 7h 5d.  I have the top of an open-ended straight draw, a flush draw, and two over cards.  While the absolute strength of my hand at this point is only Ten-high, it has huge drawing power.  Even against a hand like 9-6, which would have flopped the nuts, I would have 52% equity in the pot.  That’s right, a favorite against the nuts.

On the other hand, against Ad 7d, which would give someone a nut flush draw and middle pair, my equity drops to 35%.  Still respectable…  Against Ad 6d, adding a straight draw to the NFD, my equity drops even further to 27.5%, primarily because a non-diamond 9 no longer improves my hand to a winner.  Against 88 flopping top set, my equity is 40%.

Although it is possible that one of my opponents has a hand as strong as 96, Ad7d, Ad6d, or 88, these are very specific combinations.  My equity against these hands, blended in with my equity against all of the worse options I might be facing, makes this a spot where I’m perfectly happy to get it all in right now.  At this game, the house allows the players to “run it” twice or three times by mutual agreement, which would be likely given my knowledge of the other players.  With that backup plan, I can apply maximum pressure.

The checks to the straddler.  For purposes of this blog I’ll call him “John.”  John is generally a somewhat loose, passive player.  For example, when this game started there were only four players.  John bought in for only 50 big blinds, then immediately posted a straddle on the button.  This effectively reduces his stack to 25x the straddle.  It’s like he has heard that straddling on the button is good, but doesn’t really understand why nor understand the value of having a larger stack-to-pot (“SPR”) ratio.  He rarely raises when straddling and no one else raises.  On another hand with still only four players, he called a pre-flop raise with QQ but did not re-raise.

Back to our hand.  With 8 or 9 big blinds in the pot, John bets 7 BBs.  He typically doesn’t lead out like this with a drawing hand, so most of his range is going to be one pair.  I decide to attack, and raise to 25 BBs.  That should get his attention.  At the start of this hand, I had about 125 BBs in my stack.  John appears to have about the same.

The next player folds, then the big blind ponders for a moment and looks very much like he wants to raise.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Rick.”  Instead of raising, Rick calls.  Rick is a much more aggressive player than John; in fact his bluffing frequency is higher than anyone else at the table.  He also respects my game (I’m classically TAG) and knows I’ll continue aggression when I have a strong hand, so his call here looks super strong to me.

Back to our hand again.  Rick’s call both surprises and scares me.  Did he flop a straight and now he wants to see if he can keep John in the hand by just calling?  Does he have a higher flush draw, counterfeiting many of my outs?  Is he setting a trap for me to walk right into?  When a player as aggressive as Rick check-calls a post-flop raise, knowing the original better (i.e., John) has the option of re-raising, this suggests that he likes his hand.  A lot.

John folds.  Now Rick and I are heads up.

The turn is Kh, putting 2 hearts on the board.  Having missed all of my outs, my equity is essentially cut in half.  Rick checks.

The pot is bloated now, with about 66 BBs, and I have ten-high.  If I want to try to get him to fold a somewhat strong hand, like 2-pair, it’s going to take quite a large bet and leave me pot-committed if he check-raises all-in.  I’m less enthusiastic now, with only one card to come.  As a general rule, it is usually a good idea to check back in position when you don’t have a clear plan for handling a check-raise.  I don’t like bet-folding here, nor do I like bet-calling.  He’s offered me a free card, so I decide to take it and check.

The river card is 3c, missing all of my outs again.  I still have just ten-high.

Rick checks again.  His faces looks slightly pained, like perhaps he has a bigger flush draw than mine and missed.  Or… he’s giving off a reverse tell – which I consider him capable of doing – having read my turn check as indicative of my range including lots of flush draws and figuring the best way for him to get value from me is by bluff-catching.

With two flush draws and a straight draw after the turn – 8d 7h 5d – Kh – surely I would bet for value again if I had a 2-pair or better hand.  Doesn’t my turn check look more like I’m on a draw (which would be true) and taking the free card?

I’m having trouble narrowing Rick’s range here.  What do you think it is?

One axiom of poker says that in order to bluff, my range should not be too polarized (i.e., only very strong hands or bluffs).  What does my range look like here?  Should I turn my Ten-high nothing-at-all busted combo-draw hand into a bluff here?  If so, how much should I bet?

Please leave replies in comments, and check back in a few days for the spoiler.

The Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect, a phrase coined by American mathematician Edward Lorenz (an early pioneer in the field of chaos theory) is a concept that states that “small causes can have larger effects.”

From Wikipedia:  “The phrase refers to the idea that a butterfly’s wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado or delay, accelerate or even prevent the occurrence of a tornado in another location. The butterfly does not power or directly create the tornado, but the term is intended to imply that the flap of the butterfly’s wings can cause the tornado: in the sense that the flap of the wings is a part of the initial conditions; one set of conditions leads to a tornado while the other set of conditions doesn’t. The flapping wing represents a small change in the initial condition of the system, which cascades to large-scale alterations of events (compare: domino effect). Had the butterfly not flapped its wings, the trajectory of the system might have been vastly different—but it’s also equally possible that the set of conditions without the butterfly flapping its wings is the set that leads to a tornado.”

It is a popular metaphor in science writing, in describing how sensitivity to some set of initial conditions can have a very large impact on some later state of things.

Last night a butterfly flapped its dainty wings at the poker table, and the resulting tornado cost me some money.

We were at a private house game.  It’s late.  The host has announced that at the end of the current orbit, he is breaking up the game and sending us all home.  Consequently, the play has loosened up in an already loose poker game, as some of the players want to be sure not to miss out on one last opportunity to smash the flop and recoup some losses or add to their gains.

I’m in the small blind, when the player on the button posts a live straddle of 4 BBs.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll refer to him as “Chris.”  Chris is not one of those players who always straddles every time he has the button, but this time he does.  I don’t really care whether other players straddle or not; it requires some adjustments and I generally feel confident that I can make these adjustments better than most players.  (Then again, maybe not.)

Anyway, I look down at pocket kings.  There were eight players at the table and I briefly considered just calling the straddle in hopes that one of the seven players to act after me would raise.  If Chris were known to frequently make big raises from the straddle position even with random card strength, as a stealing strategy, I might have done that.  But it seems unwise to risk a cascade of callers, so I raise to 11 BBs.  In hindsight, I could and should make a larger raise and still expect a caller or two.  I don’t want to run off all of my customers with such a strong hand.  Despite Chris’ straddle, 11 BBs is a large opening raise for this game, but I’ll be first to act on all subsequent betting rounds so a multi-way field is not very desirable.

The next player, in the big blind, very quickly calls.  Given the size of my raise and the speed of his call, this indicates strength.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Jeff.”

One other player calls, and Chris also calls, which given his positional advantage post-flop and the great pot odds he is getting (7 BBs to call with 37 BBs already in the pot gives him approx. 5.3-to-1 pot odds), he can call with a very wide range.

The flop is 887.  “Danger Will Robinson, Danger!” goes the voice in the back of my head, and I check.  Jeff bets 20 BBs, and consistent with my earlier thoughts when he called my pre-flop bet so quickly, I think his range is dominated by pocket pairs 99-QQ.  One player folds, but Chris calls on the button.  I call as well.  I’m not ready to put all of my chips at risk, but folding at this point would be way too nitty.  For perspective, Chris started the hand with about 95 BBs, Jeff started with around 175 BBs, and I have both of them well covered.

The turn is a 4.  I check again, hoping to keep the pot small.  Jeff bets again, this time 45 BBs.  So much for pot control. Chris pauses briefly, then takes a deep breath and goes all-in for his last 63 BBs.  I would have called Jeff’s bet, and still feel good about my read on him.  Chris, on the other hand, isn’t risking his entire stack with a drawing hand like T9, nor a middling strength hand like A7 or even 99 on this board.  He doesn’t seem afraid of either of us and has no real fold equity here.  Does he think Jeff might fold for 18 more BBs, with 212 BBs now in the pot?  Hardly.  I fold my kings, and Jeff makes a crying call, declaring that he knows he’s never good here unless he hits a 2-outer.

The minor surprise is that Chris doesn’t have an 8 in his hand, but 65, for a turned straight.  This actually gives Jeff 4 outs, as he flips over pocket queens.  Another queen or 8 would make him a full house.  The river misses, however, and Chris scoops up a nice pot.  I silently congratulate myself on sensing danger and releasing my hand, and tell Jeff and Chris what I was holding as I’m pondering the dynamic of what just happened and wondering how I might have played this differently or whether I simply lost the minimum.

After the hand is over, Chris comments about the impact of his straddle, saying that if he had not straddled, the entire hand would have gone down differently.  He might have called whatever action occurred prior to him on the button, but surely with pocket kings in the small blind I would raise enough to make it impossible for him to continue.  Not only that, but with pocket queens in the big blind, Jeff might put in a big re-raise over the top of my bet, especially if he thinks I’m just trying to steal the dead money in the pot.

Not only all of that, but Chris also notes that the only reason he straddled is because the game is about to break up, so this would be his final hand on the button and he straddled just in case he might get a good situation for leveraging his positional advantage.  15 or 30 minutes earlier he would not have straddled.

As played, I was first to act, so my raise communicated enough strength to make Jeff cautious about re-raising with six more players yet to act pre-flop.

It is tempting to describe Chris’ straddle as the flap of the butterfly’s wings that altered this hand.  But it is more subtle than that.  The initial small change in conditions that led to other changes ultimately shifting chips from Jeff’s and my stacks to Chris was the clock, and our host’s need for sleep.  Our host was the butterfly, fluttering his wings by announcing the game would end soon.

Imagine this hand without a button straddle.  There might be multiple limpers or a raise to around 6-8 BBs.  Chris would over-limp, and may or may not call a modest raise.  From the small blind with pocket kings, I’m definitely going to re-raise.  I cannot say for sure how much, as it would depend on the action in front, but it would likely be more than Chris would call with 65.

With Jeff being the big blind, last to act with pocket queens, he and I could have ended up in a pre-flop raising and re-raising war.  That would have turned out good for me.  If we didn’t get all-in pre-flop but were heads up, I would have been more likely to take a bet/bet/bet line post flop.

Alternatively, what if I had just called Chris’ straddle, as I briefly considered, hoping to trap a raiser and subsequent callers?  Another flap of the butterfly’s wings.  Then Jeff likely raises with pocket queens.  I’m not sure how much, but likely more than 11 BBs given that there would already be one caller of the straddle.  When it got back around to me, I would still re-pop it, having the effect of driving Chris out of the pot if Jeff’s raise didn’t already do that.  Again, this scenario is probably very good for me.

Damn butterfly!


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Overbet All-in on the River

Last night I was playing $1/2 no limit Hold’em in a private house game, where I am a regular.  It was after 3 am and we were down to 5-handed play when this hand occured.

Before describing the hand, some background and table dynamics are needed…

The group was talkative and lively, despite the late hour.  Straddling on the button was frequent.  There were some deep stacks.  I had about $280 to start this hand.  When there are only five players, the dynamics change a lot from a full table, with much wider ranges being played, and much more bluffing and re-bluffing.

The ‘villain’ in this hand (we’ll call him “Myles” for purposes of this post) is one of the more perceptive players at the table.  His hand-reading skills are excellent, and he’s constantly thinking about what other players have based on their playing style, betting patterns, and physical tells.  We’ve played together many times.

Usually he perceives me as very tight – once he called me the “tightest player in the Triad” (note to “Myles”… we live in the Triangle, not the Triad… but I digress).

Not long before this hand, while also playing 5-handed, “Myles” had posted a $6 straddle on the button.  (Dear readers, if you aren’t familiar with straddles, this is a 3rd blind bet voluntarily placed by a player prior to looking at his cards.  The pre-flop betting action action begins with the player to the left of the straddle, so the straddler buys the privilege of acting last on this round of betting with the option of raising when the action gets to him as is normally the case with the BB.  This game follows the “Mississippi Straddle” rule, which allows a straddle from any position in any amount, and this is frequently used on the button to effectively raise the stakes on a hand where the straddler will have position on everyone else during every round of betting.)  Anyway, “Myles” straddled for $6 on the button, and I am in the small blind with Kc Qc.  I call $6, then immediately realize this was a mistake and I should have raised with a hand this strong.  Playing this hand passively from the worst position at the table, with multiple opponents, is just terrible.  It would be better to take the initiative at the outset.

There were 2 callers, then “Myles” raises $30 more, tossing his chips out in a splashy manner.  Often he stacks his chips neatly and slides them out, this time they scattered across the felt in front of him.

Now I’m even madder about not raising myself.  Is he just trying to steal the pot?  Did he wake up with a big hand after straddling?  Is he F.O.S?  Does he read everybody else as weak?  Have we all been playing way too long?  Should I cash out and go home before making a costly mistake?  If I re-raise here, what will he do with the stronger part of his range, say… TT+ / AQs+?  The weaker part of his range?  In all cases here, his range is pretty wide, and somewhat polarized.

Knowing his perceptiveness, as well as his willingness to bluff-raise from the straddle position (not always, but sometimes), I decide to re-raise to $100.  This is a very bold move, and represents a stronger hand than I actually have.  My range for limping / re-raising (being known at the “tightest player in the Triad”), even in the wee hours of the morning playing 5-handed, is narrower than this.  “Myles” tanks for a long time, asking if I want to get it all-in now or wait until the flop.  He seems to be seriously thinking about shoving here, but finally folds, saying he has pocket JJs.  Just to get in his head a little bit, I show him my cards and he realizes I would have had to fold if he had shoved about $200 more, and perhaps also realizes I’m not always as tight as the label “Tightest Player in the Triad” would suggest.  Just for shits and giggles, I ask the dealer to run out the board, which would have given me two clubs (including the Ac) on the flop and the nut flush card on the turn.  (Side note:  Wow!)

On to the hand that is the subject of this post.

“Myles” is the straddler again on the button, putting me in the SB.  I call $6, one or two others call, and “Myles” checks his option.  The flop is all diamonds, something like Jd 8d 6d.  I recall that one of my cards was red, but am unsure (a hazard of the wee hours) which one, and unsure if it was a diamond or heart, so I take a second look and announce that I’m checking to see if I have a diamond in my hand.  This also gives me an opportunity to pause and develop a plan for the hand.  If I have a flush draw, do I want to make aggressive semi-bluffs, representing that I already have a flush while having the draw as a my back-up plan?  Or do I want to chase the draw, calling others’ bets but not betting or raising until the flush arrives?  If I have some other hand with showdown value, such as a pair, 2-pair or a set, do I want to bet aggressively to protect against someone with a single diamond improving to a flush?  Or should I be more cautious and try to keep the pot small in case someone made a flush right away on the flop?  If a 4th diamond arrives, will I turn a non-flush hand into a bluff, representing that I have the Ad?  Making it obvious that I’m checking to see if one (or both) of my cards is a diamond can be good or bad… depending on what everybody assumes that means and how that plays into my plan.  It can also be deceptive, as a way to set up a bluff, or appear that I only have one diamond even if I know that I flopped the nuts.  Since I am making it obvious to all that I’m peeking back at my cards, I can factor that into my plan.

Everybody checks to “Myles” who bets $10.  I call.  The turn is a blank (not a diamond, doesn’t pair any of the other board cards) and he follows my check with a bet of $25.  When I call quickly, it sure looks like I’m chasing a flush draw, and the river is the Qd.

There is about $80 in the pot, I have close to $250 remaining, and “Myles” has me slightly covered.  “I’m all-in” I announce, then slide my entire stack forward.

Another player on my left, a young fellow I’ll call “Alex,” laughs out loud.  “Myles” looks shocked, and soon folds but turns his cards face up, showing the Kd 4d.  He flopped the 2nd nut flush, and now folds to a river shove.  All the while I thought he was much weaker, with a 2-pair type of hand that he was protecting against the flush draw, as I would have expected him to check his monster on the flop for deception, at least some of the time, especially if he flopped the nut flush.  Perhaps my peeking at my cards worried him that it signaled I may have the Ad???  Perhaps I surmised from his betting line that he doesn’t have the Ad???  Despite the earlier hand where I limped / re-raised pre-flop with KQs, and the punchiness of this time of morning, he’s not going to risk his whole stack, not even with the 2nd nuts, when my shove is 3x the size of the pot.

This illustrates the power of such naked aggression against a good, thinking player.  I’ve played with “Myles” enough to know that he doesn’t want to go broke there, and would ONLY call a river shove if he has the nuts himself.  But I also mis-read his hand strength, another indicator that I should go home soon.  I’ve seen other villains call in that situation, even after announcing “you must have the nuts, nothing else makes sense.”

Did I make a great bluff here?  Was I planning this all along in case a scary 4th diamond arrived?

Or just take an idiotic risk?

Or did I actually have the Ad and got lucky on the river?  If I really had it, how much should I bet for value to get the most out of a call from “Myles?”

Too Nitty?

I may have been too nitty on this hand last night.  When this happened, I was having a bad night, having tried to turn KK into a bluff and having this backfire badly, then having QQ cracked by JJ after a villain called a large pre-flop 4-bet (and then admitted that he thought his JJ’s were in trouble).

The good news, perhaps, is that I’m aware things are going badly and trying to be careful not to let emotions overrule good decisions.

Now I have KQo in middle position.  This being a $1/2 no limit Hold’em game, I raise to $11 following one limper, which is fairly typical for me.  The button calls (I’ll call him “Mike”), one of the blinds calls, and the limper calls.

Flop ($40):  Kd 8d 7s

This looks like a good flop for me, but the flush and straight draws can hit the villains’ ranges.  It is checked to me and I bet $17.  In hindsight, this bet is too small, and should have been more than 1/2 of the pot.  But my TPGK, while good, is still just a 1-pair hand and I don’t want to bloat this pot out of control.

Mike, on the button, raise to $43, and both other players fold.  At the start of this hand, I had about $250, and Mike has me covered.

Mike is a tough player, good at hand reading and willing to bluff.  And he has position on me.  With many villains, my default in this situation is to give him credit for 2-pair plus most of the time, and top pair / over pair the rest of the time.  Let’s quickly eliminate the only over pair… AA, as he didn’t 3-bet pre-flop.  But I know Mike will play his draws aggressively, and he might have a K as well.

I decide to re-raise, $45 more.  I want to leave myself room to fold if he comes back over the top and convinces me that he’s flopped a set.  I also, however, want to find out where I am in this hand (and believe I might be good), as I realize after his raise that my C-bet was too weak.  If he calls, that suggests he is on a draw and I can re-evaluate after seeing the turn card.

Mike tanks for a bit, and seems to be considering multiple options.  Then he announces “I’m all in.”


Now I go into the tank.  The pot is indeed bloated, now approximately $220, and will cost me $150 more to call.  My hand is just one pair, and I hate going broke with just one pair (even moreso having already been felted once in this session).

I settle on this range:  88 (3 combinations), 77 (3 combos), multi-way draws (Td 9d, Jd Td, 7d Ad, 7d 6d, perhaps 7d 9d, perhaps Ad Jd and Ad Td — total of 7 combos).  I note the K is a diamond, so a top pair / flush draw cannot be in his range.  I think he would 3-bet pre-flop with Ad Qd and any AK.  Neither of my cards is a diamond.

With the sets, he has me crushed.  With the biggest draw… Td 9d, he has 15 outs and would be a favorite to win the hand.  My equity doesn’t have to be over 50% to justify calling from a math standpoint, as I would be calling $150 to win $370.  I really only need 29% equity ($150 / $520) for calling to be correct.  But I’m not really thinking about that at the table, I’m thinking about being stuck 2 full buy-ins if I lose, and that thought pisses me off.  And I’m thinking about my long-term image if I’m viewed as the guy who over plays a one pair hand (especially with less than top kicker).  The draws seem more likely than the sets, as I’m not sure he shoves a set here.  On the other hand, with a set he might think I’m overplaying AK or AA here, and shoving a set for value could be smart before the board gets scarier.

Reluctantly, I fold.  This wasn’t a math fold, it was a variance fold.  I’d already suffered more variance (see above re QQ losing a large pot to JJ) in this session than I like, wasn’t prepared to buy-in again if I went all-in and lost here, and was sitting on the left of a couple of players who have a history of spewing off lots of chips.  I like my chances if I keep playing.

After saying I thought he had something like Td 9d, he says I’m close and some prodding gets Mike to tell me he had a 7d and another diamond, for bottom pair and a flush draw (14 outs).

Against the range above, my equity is 27.2%.  Against only Td 9d, the drawing hand with the most outs, my equity is 43%.  Against 7Xdd, my equity is 47%.  Gambling for sure, but high enough to call.

Methinks I should have called.  We’ll never know.  But given how poorly the rest of the session went,  I might as well have gambled here.

WSOP Event 42 review

Just busted out of my first ever WSOP bracelet event.  Event #42 this year was a $1,500 buy-in, no limit Texas Holdem tournament, with extended blind levels.  All of the other $1,500 tournaments have blinds increasing every 60 minutes.  This one has blinds increasing every 90 minutes.

I made it to the middle of level 4, but really nothing ever happened for me.

With a starting stack of 7,500 chips, I peaked at barely over 8,000 by making a straight on the last hand of level 1 (I had T8, called a very small raise from the BB, and board went J87-6-9.  We both checked the flop, and I check/called the turn and river, expecting this villain to fire bluffs on both streets.  No point in raising however.)

Level 2 came and went and I don’t recall winning a single pot.  I tried to make a couple of moves.  Once I had call a pre-flop raise with KJo, and the flop was JT8 with 2 clubs.  The pre-flop opener bet 600 (blinds were now 50/100), I raised to 1,400.  My image then – if anyone was paying any attention to me at all – had to be extremely tight.  The button called my raise – a Philippine kid who was making huge hands left and right.  Then the opener goes all-in.  So much for my tight image.  Philippine guy then calls again, having flopped the nuts with Q9.  Another hand folded around to the button with me in the SB.  Button raised to 250, I re-raised (with J8s – just trying to steal here) to 800, then BB 4-bets to 1,900.  Uh-oh.  Gotta fold.

Level 3 the blinds were 75/150 and I started that level with just under 4,500 chips (30 BBs).  Once I raised pre-flop with KQo and Philippine kid calls.  I totally miss the flop, he calls my C-bet, then he puts me all-in on the turn after I check.  Uh-oh again.  Gotta fold.  He said he had TT.  Doesn’t matter as all I had was K-high.

Later in level 3 I open-shoved all-in three times with about 15-16 BBs.  All three times everybody folded and I picked up the blinds.  My hands were QhJh, As9s, and AK0.

When level 4 started, I was down to 11 BBs and really have no option other than folding and shoving here.  Just trying to find a good spot and there are a couple of stacks big enough to call with just about anything.  Finally with 8.5 BBs on the button, everyone folds to me and I have Ad6d.  Good enough!  I shove and SB with a deep stack calls with KhTd.  I have 59% equity in this pot.  At least I got it in with the better hand.

Until the K comes on the flop, and blanks on the turn and river.


Never had any traction this entire tournament.

How Jackpots Change the Odds

I was at Maryland Live! casino near Baltimore recently, and they have some interesting bonuses and jackpots.  During this trip, they were running a special “High Hand” jackpot, where the highest hand anywhere in the poker room each hour gets a payout of $2,500.  In addition, they always have a Royal Flush Bonus, where anytime a player gets a royal flush using both hole cards, that player gets a $500 bonus and each other player at his or her table gets $100.  My friend Brian once got the table share.

So there I am, playing $2/5 no limit with about $600 on the table, and I call a pre-flop raise to $20 from the cutoff seat with Jc Tc.  The button also calls.

Flop ($60):  Ac Kc 4h

A royal flush draw.  But I’ll only get the bonus money for the Royal Flush and the High Hand if it actually hits.  What is the optimal way to play this?

The pre-flop opener checks, I check, and the button bets $30.  Opener folds.  I call.  I have a 2nd nut flush draw, gutshot straight draw, and one-outer to a Royal Flush.  So the odds look like this:

Pot:  $90

Amount to call:  $30

Let’s assume I’m behind here, and my opponent has a hand like Ax or Kx.

I’m getting 3-to-1.  I’ll hit the Royal Flush 1-in-47 times, and win $2,500 + $500 + $90 (assuming I get no further action).

I’ll hit a lesser flush 8-in-47 times, and a straight another 3-in-47 times (cannot count Qc twice), and win $90.

I’ll lose $30 the remaining 35-in-47 times, but may get another chance at the river card.

Here is the math:

1/47 x $3,090 = $65.75

11/47 x $90 = $21.05

35/47 x ($30) = ($22.35)

Add these up for Expected Value of $64.45.  That’s positive EV, so calling is correct.

Without the Royal Flush and High Hand bonuses, the Qc result is the same as any other club, so the math is:

12/47 x $90 = $23.00

35/47 x ($30) – ($22.35)

Net EV is $0.65.  Just a borderline call.

The turn card doesn’t help me, nor does it pair the board which might give the villain a full house, so the odds change only slightly.

Now I check again and he bets $45, into a pot that is now $120.  Since another card has been revealed, the denominator is now 46 instead of 47.  (We start with 52 cards.  Subtract my 2 and the 4 community cards.  The river will be one of the 46 remaining unknown cards.  Yes, it is possible that the card I want is already in the muck pile, but those cards are all part of the unknown 46.)  It will cost me $45 to try to win a pot that is now $165 including the villain’s turn bet, plus the Royal Flush and High Hand jackpots if the Qc hits.

1/46 x $3,165 = $68.80

11/46 x $165 = $39.45

35/46 x ($45) = ($34.25)

Add these up and the EV is $74.00.  Proper to call.

Without the jackpot money, it looks like this:

12/46 x $165 = $43.05

35/46 x ($45) = ($34.25)

Net EV is still positive at $8.80, so calling is still a correct play.

Lastly, we need to consider the impact if I were to bet, or check-raise on the flop or turn.  If I have any fold equity (value that I gain by winning the hand when the villain folds), how does that change the overall EV?

First of all, it must be observed that if I become the aggressor and get the villain to fold, I cannot win the Royal Flush or High Hand bonuses, a combined $3,000, WHICH I REALLY, REALLY WANT TO WIN (really, I do), as I won’t get to see another card.  But let’s do the math anyway.

Part of the challenge is that we don’t know how often he will fold.  We’ll look at 4 scenarios:

Scenario 1 – I check-raise the flop and he folds 1/3 of the time.

Scenario 2 – I check-raise the flop and he folds 2/3 of the time.

Scenario 3 – I call the flop, then check-raise the turn and he folds 1/3 of the time.

Scenario 4 – I call the flop, then check-raise the turn and he folds 2/3 of the time.

In each case, we’ll further assume that my check-raise bet size is 4x his bet on that street.

Ready for some math?

Scenario 1:

One-third of the time, he folds and I win $90.

The remaining two-thirds of the time, he calls my raise to $120.  I can win the $60 that was in the pot pre-flop plus $120 more, so…

1/3 x $90 = $30

2/3 x 1/47 x $3,180 = $45.10

2/3 x 11/47 x $180 = $28.10

2/3 x 35/47 x ($120) = ($59.55)

Total EV is $43.65.  This EV is lower than my calculation for just calling on the flop (which was $64.45), so calling is the better option – heavily influenced by the jackpots.  Take away the jackpots, and now:

1/3 x $90 = $30

2/3 x 12/47 x $180 = $30.65

2/3 x 35/47 x ($120) = ($59.55)

Total EV is $1.10.  Paltry, but better than the $0.65 EV of calling and no jackpots.

Scenario 2:

Now he is folding 2/3 of the time to my check-raise to $120 (i.e., 4x his bet of $30):

2/3 x $90 = $60

1/3 x 1/47 x $3,180 = $22.55

1/3 x 11/47 x $180 = $14.05

1/3 x 35/47 x ($120) = ($29.80)

Net EV is now $66.80.  Whoa Nelly!  Even the the jackpots that I forego when I can make him fold, the EV is now higher than the EV of calling and chasing the jackpots.  If (and it is a big IF) this villain would really fold as much as 2/3 of the time to a 4x check-raise, that becomes a better play than calling and chasing. Of course, we don’t know what he has, nor have we played with this particular villain for very long.

Scenario 3:

I call the flop.  Now the pot is $120, I check, he bets $45 and I check-raise 4x to $180.  One-third of the time, he folds and I win $165.

The remaining two-thirds of the time, he calls my raise to $180.  If I hit one of my outs on the river, I can win the $120 that was in the pot after the flop betting plus $180 more, so…

1/3 x $165 = $55.00

2/3 x 1/46 x $3,300 = $47.85

2/3 x 11/46 x $300 = $47.85

2/3 x 35/46 x ($180) = ($91.30)

Total EV is $59.40.  This EV is also lower than my calculation for just calling on the turn (which was $74.00), so calling is still the better option due to the huge jackpots.  Take away the jackpots, and now:

1/3 x $165 = $55.00

2/3 x 12/46 x $300 = $52.15

2/3 x 35/46 x ($180) = ($91.30)

Total EV is $15.85.  Again this is slightly better than the $8.80 EV of calling on the turn with no jackpots.

Scenario 4:

Now he is folding 2/3 of the time to my turn check-raise to $180 (i.e., 4x his bet of $45):

2/3 x $165 = $110.00

1/3 x 1/46 x $3,300 = $23.90

1/3 x 11/46 x $300 = $23.90

1/3 x 35/46 x ($180) = ($45.65)

Net EV is now $112.15.  Once again, with the greater fold equity, this becomes a better play than chasing the jackpots.

So what finally happened?  Of course, the river was a total brick and we both checked.  He had AQ, including the Qc which was my gin card, and wins the pot.

Given what we now know about his hand, how often would a typical, regular casino $2/5 no limit Holdem player fold to a flop or turn check-raise?  Obviously I’m putting a lot more chips in there, and we now know the only way I could have won that pot was to make him fold.  But would he fold?  If we repeated this hand 100 times, would he fold often enough for my aggression to be profitable?


OESD on button

Here is an interesting decision from last night.

I am playing in a $1/$2 NLHE home game, and familiar with all of the players.

“K” raises UTG to $9 and there are 2 callers, including “R.”  I am on the button with 9-8o, and call.  I could easily just fold here, but I like to see flops on the button as I can manage the pot size better from here than anywhere else, so when I hit a big hand I am more likely to realize good value.

Flop ($36):  Ts-7d-4s.

I have an open-ended straight draw (OESD).  Let’s see what happens.

K opens for $25.  At this point, I think he likes his hand, betting that much from out-of-position.  He is a generally competent but fairly tight player, and would not bet into 3 opponents here with air.  This suggests an over pair like AA, KK, QQ or JJ, or possibly a strong flush draw with As-Ks or As-Qs.

I’m debating whether to call.  The pot odds are not quite good enough, but with my position there is a good chance to realize some implied odds if the flush hits.  I could also raise here, but knowing K I’m not sure I have much fold equity with his range.  For sure I will call if one of the other players calls, especially R who is very loose and aggressive.

R, however, has other plans, and raises to $85.  He has about $55 remaining in his stack.


Let’s try to figure this one out.  R is a very aggressive player who likes to put pressure on his opponents.  He is prone to over-playing top pairs, so we’ll start his range with A-T, K-T, Q-T, J-T and T-9.  We’ll also add sets (TT, 77, 44) as his LAGGY reputation enables him to fast-play big hands and get paid a lot.  Also top 2-pair… he is loose enough to call pre-flop with T-7.  Also 9-8 for the same OESD that I have. Also 6-5 for a lower OESD.  And finally As-Xs for nut flush draws (excluding As-Ks, As-Qs, As-Js that he likely would have 3-bet with pre-flop).  This is 142 combos.

For this calculation, I’m keeping K’s range tight, with only AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, As-Ks, As-Qs, and As-Js.  Just 33 combinations.

My equity is 25.7%, vs. 49.5% for K and 24.8% for R.

My stack is fairly deep with nearly 200BB’s, and K has me covered having just won a large pot in the previous hand.  If I even think about calling here, I have to consider the possibility of K shoving over the top of me.

I must fold, and do fold.

Back to reality:  K calls the $60 raise, and the turn card is a 6 (not completing any flushes), leaving me writhing in agony staring at the large pot in the middle of the table.  K checks, R shoves his last $55, and after a long time in the tank, K calls.  The river is an off-suit five.  R shows A-T off-suit, for top pair, top kicker.  K shows AA and takes down a nearly $300 pot.

AAAaaarrgh! (or equivalent expletive not suitable for a family publication)

Given the facts at hand, folding was clearly correct.

R, on the other hand, really effed it up for me by over-playing his top pair hand against the continuation bet from UTG opener.  It should be noted that I ended the night with a healthy profit, whilst R was last seen slowly shuffling out the door with his pockets empty.

Two Pair on Flop

Here is an interesting hand from a live cash game earlier this week.

The game is $1/$1 no limit hold’em.  This is a regular weekly home game where all of the players are familiar to each other.

I am the small blind, and the player UTG straddles for $2, as he always does.  Three players limp in, and I have 43o.  I really should just fold here, but “it’s only a dollar” plus this is a very loose game, and the straddler does not automatically raise from his straddle position to attack limpers.  I call, and so does the big blind (BB).  Straddler (UTG) checks.

Flop:  ($12)  Ad 4c 3c.

I have bottom 2 pair on a low but drawy board, and can expect to get some value from players with Ax or club draws.  It is unlikely that I’ll see any really strong kickers, as AK, AQ, and probably AJ would have raised pre-flop.

So I open with a pot-sized bet of $12.  There is no reason to slow play here, and bottom 2 pair can turn ugly.

BB calls, then UTG raises to $30, and everyone else folds around to me.

Whoa!  Stop.  What’s going here?  Let’s try to figure it out…

BB is a competent player who is not prone to making really crazy plays, and likely to raise right away with the strongest hands.  I’m going to give him the following range:  Any Ace (other than A-K or A-Q which would raise pre-flop), 6-5o for open-ended straight draw, 7-5o for double gutshot straight draw, any club draw (other than 6c-5c or 7c-5c both of which likely raise now).  That is a really wide range of 207 combinations, but he’s the BB in a limped pot.

UTG is a much more aggressive player and much more likely than BB to be on a semi-bluff of some sort here.  Again, as the straddler, he did not do anything pre-flop other than check his option, so his range is also going to be very wide.  His range includes strong hands like 5-2, 3-3, 4-4, A-4, A-3, all of which beat me already.  Also strong draws like 6-5 and 7-5.  Against this part of his range, my lowly 2-pair is crushed.  But UTG also likes to run multi-barrel semi-bluffs, so I have to include all club flush draws (other than A-K, A-Q, A-J, A-T, K-Q which would have raised pre-flop) and pairs with straight draws such as A-2, A-5, 4-2, 3-2, 5-4, 5-3.  Like BB, UTG’s range is wide (but slightly different) and now includes 249 combinations.

Against these 2 ranges, I have 42.5% equity.  UTG has 33.1% and BB has 24.4%.

Heads up against BB’s range, I am a 65% favorite.  But I’m much more likely to end up heads up vs. UTG and not BB.

Heads up against UTG, I am a 55% favorite.

Complicating my decision, I don’t know what BB will do next, and can expect UTG to fire another large bullet on just about any turn card to put me to a difficult decision.

At the time, I thought I was in worse shape, giving UTG much more credit for the strong part of his range than the weaker part.

So I fold.  I’m increasingly conscious of the need to shift gears from “Oh, goody” to “Oh, shit” BEFORE donking off a bunch of chips.

Now for the rest of the story… after I folded, BB shoves all-in, and UTG calls.

BB has Ac-5c for top pair plus nut flush draw.  UTG has 8c-2c for a weaker flush draw and gut shot straight draw.  He needs a 5 or running 8’s.

My equity against the actual hands now shown is 44.3%, with BB at 47.1% and UTG at 8.7%.

The turn and river cards are both bricks, so I missed an opportunity to win a huge pot.  UTG re-loads.

Looking back at the actual equity, mine is about the same as my calculation against their respective ranges.  UTG is at the weak end of his range, and BB has a lot of outs against my 2-pair, with clubs, deuces, fives and aces all helping him.  Given that 3 players were involved, calling would have been +EV for me, albeit with a very high variance.

But with equity < 50%, folding isn’t terrible either.

The bigger lesson here is the hand cost me $13 and I could have simply folded in the SB pre-flop.  4-3 off suit sucks.  Out-of-position sucks.  Why bother?  Wait for a better set-up.  In this case, I caved to UTG’s positional advantage, then BB pounced.  Not sure what either of them would have done had I shoved over top of UTG there.

What Can I Say?

Dear Readers,

What can I say?  I’ve been running good and winning more than my fair share lately.  Since this blog is supposed to be about poker playing mistakes, there is less material.

Maybe I’ve learned from my mistakes and/or from blogging about them.  That would be nice!

Maybe I’m just on a short-lived run of good fortune.  A few nights ago I called an all-in bet on the flop by the same guy twice when he had a short stack.  I could afford to call; losing wouldn’t hurt me too much.  (Still, it would hurt.)  The first time I had flopped a flush draw against his top pair, and hit my flush on the turn.  The second time, he had flopped a flush draw again my top pair, and he missed.  In a $1 / $1 no limit game, these two pots totaled approx. $175, roughly equal to my winnings for the night.

Not complaining, just can’t analyze or vent about making a poor play.

Similarly with online poker.  A few mistakes here and there, mostly from being overly aggressive in some spots on Bovada’s Zone Poker 6-max tables, but more often than not, the aggression has paid off.  Overall results too good to blog about.

OK, how about this?  I did get into a bad mental state during a live private tournament last Sunday.  This is a league with the same 24 players each month, with funds being escrowed to send someone with the most points to next year’s WSOP.  Two of the players at my table – on the far end from me – were sitting next to each other and several times one would flash his cards to the other just prior to folding (always when the 2nd player was already out of the hand).  It’s bad etiquette, and the general rule is that if you show your cards to one player, you must show everybody so no one gets an informational advantage.

More than once, I asked to see the mucked cards that had been flashed.  It got under my skin and affected my play.  Tilting at the poker table is never good, and this time was no exception.  On one hand, both guys announced “fold” then both flashed the cards to the other and simultaneously mucked.  I said something, and (thinking the hand was over) reached across and flipped over one of their hands… and THEN realized there was still a player who had not acted yet.  It was horribly embarrassing – I pride myself on knowing and maintaining proper etiquette at the poker table as well as paying basic attention to what is going on.

Not long after, I played a hand very poorly (pre-flop limp, flop attempt to steal) that left me somewhat short-stacked.  And not long after that, I shoved with AT off-suit, one of the card flashers with an even shorter stack called me with QJ suited and hit one of his cards to win the pot, doubling up through me.  Boy was I pissed!

Nothing went right after that either, but the lingering takeaway was losing my concentration on the game itself and getting caught up in the game-within-a-game.

Daily Debacle – Great Flop; No Action

Just the small blind and me in the Big Blind for this hand.  Didn’t get any action after this flop.  😦great flop no action

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