KKing David

Ruminations on poker

Archive for the category “Whoa! I got this one right.”

Rope-a-Dope

Most poker experts will describe two reasons for betting:  Value Betting and Bluffing.

Betting for value happens when you think you have the best hand, and want to get called by someone with a worse hand.  When they call, you make money.  When you make a good hand, one that is likely or certain to win at a showdown, you want to get as much money as possible in the pot and the way to accomplish that is by betting.

Bluffing happens when you think the other player has a better hand than yours, but will fold it if you make a strong enough bet.  Maybe both of you have weak hands.  Or the board fits with a narrative you can tell that represents a very strong hand.  When they fold the best hand, you make money.

In this hand from last night, however, the best line turned out to be checking for value.

This is poker’s version of the rope-a-dope, made famous by Muhammad Ali in the 1974 heavyweight boxing title match against George Forman.  Boxing in Zaire (now Congo), Ali backed up against the ropes in a protective stance and let Foreman flail away at him.  With a defensive posture designed to deflect Foreman’s power, combined with letting his body bounce against the ropes, Ali’s body absorbed very little pain.  After five rounds, Foreman began to look worn out.  After seven rounds, Foreman was spent.  Ali won the fight with an eighth round knockout over the younger and heavily favored Foreman.

In a casino game last night, I had KJo in middle position.  Not great, not terrible.  I put in a raise to 5 BBs and got two callers.  One will act before me on future betting rounds; the other will be after me.

The flop was K43, rainbow.  This is a really good flop for me, but probably terrible for the other players.  The first guy checks.  This is what makes a hand like KJ difficult to play for value.  What hands can be in my opponents likely ranges that will call if I bet again here, and I can beat?  KT?  Kx with weaker kickers?  Pocket pairs 55-QQ?  The player who will act last is a younger, somewhat aggressive player.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “George.”  This is my first trip to this casino, and he’s only been at the table for an hour or so, so I have no history and very limited information.

I also check, and George bets 8 BBs.  The first player folds.  I definitely think I have the best hand here.  If that’s true, raising will only get him to fold.  I fiddle with my chips to try to look uncertain, and call.

Turn (31 BBs):  5d.  This puts two diamonds on the board (including the king).  I check again.  George looks like he’s trying to size me up.  I would like for him to think I have a hand like QQ, JJ, TT or 99 that will have to acknowledge that he has a king in his hand for a better pair.  I would like for him to think he can bluff me.  He bets 15 BBs.  I shuffle my chips again as if I might call but I might fold.  The only hands he can have that beat me (other than something very deceptively played) are KQ, 44 or 33.  There are three combinations of 44 and 33, and eight combinations of KQ that he can have, for a total of 14 combinations out of his entire pre-flop calling range (which might have 100-200 combinations (7.5 – 15% of all possible hands).

Let’s assume his flop bet was just a simple stab at the pot leveraging his favorable position.  If he has nothing, but the first player and I both seemed to miss this flop, or are scared of the king, that’s a reasonable play.  In fact, it is one of the benefits of being last to act – you get to take down small pots like this that nobody else seems to want.  Then I called his flop bet.  That makes the pot larger and worth fighting for.  How frequently will George fire a multi-barrel bluff?  Given my image as a middle-aged white guy (MAWG), and the way I’ve played during his time at the table suggesting a fit-or-fold style, I think his bluffing frequency is high enough to warrant calling again, and so I do.

River (61 BBs):  7d.  At first this looks like a scary card.  Now there are three diamonds on the board, making a flush possible.  And there is a 345-7, so any 6 makes a straight.  I check again, knowing this looks scary enough for many aggressive players to take a final stab.  In my mind, I’m Ali and he is Foreman.  (Friends, just let me have my moment here, OK?)  I’m backed up against the ropes, with my (muscular?) forearms in a vertical position protecting my upper body and face.

George fires out a much larger bet of 43 BBs.  Let’s assume he actually has a hand that is better than mine.  Would he bet that much?  After I’ve shown (or tried to…) hesitancy in calling his flop and turn bets, and a scary looking card falls on the river, what can I possibly have that would call again.  I raised pre-flop, then turned passive on a king-high board.  Would I play this way with AA, AK, or KQ?  Or KK?  If so, would I call a bet that is nearly triple the previous bet when the river card cannot possibly have helped me?

At the table, I don’t need any time to process this.  George’s bet is begging me to go away, so I quickly flip a single chip onto the felt and announce “call.”  Ryan sheepishly turns over As Ts.  He was bluffing with total air the entire time.

Had I made the more straightforward continuation bet on the flop, George has an easy fold and I would have won a very small pot.  Rope-a-dope for value!

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“F**k Sklansky”

There’s going to be a lot of poker math here.  If you don’t like the math, this post may not be for you.  I’ve heard it said that math is only for bad poker players.  Maybe that’s me… here goes.

In several recent posts, I’ve referred to David Sklansky’s classic book, The Theory of Poker.  One post was about Sklansky’s definition of mistakes, as imbedded in his The Fundamental Theorem of Poker:

Every time you play a hand differently from the way you would have played it if you could see all your opponents’ cards, they gain; and every time you play your hand the same way you would have played it if you could see all their cards, they lose. Conversely, every time opponents play their hands differently from the way they would have if they could see all your cards, you gain; and every time they play their hands the same way they would have played if they could see all your cards, you lose.

Sklansky also was the first (or among the first) poker scholars to fully develop and explain the math side of no limit Texas Hold’em.  Other prior posts included discussions about “Skansky Bucks,” (including one here and another one here) a theoretical calculation of the expected value (EV) of all-in bets or calls that occur prior to the river card.

Last night one of my regular blog readers was at the game.  For purposes of this post, I’ll call him “Rob” since that’s what I called him last month after he hit a 3-outer on the river to chop a large pot, after he thought he was drawing completely dead.  Rob mentioned Sklansky, except when he pronounces the author’s name it sounds more like Sklinsky.

After awhile, Rob raised to five BBs from under-the-gun (UTG), an action that conveys considerable strength.  I called with Ad 9d and there was one other caller.

Flop (16 BBs):  Jd 9c 7d.  I have middle pair with a nut flush draw.  I like it!  Rob leads out for 8 BBs.  Since I’m not going anywhere, I might as well apply some pressure, so I raise to 28 BBs.  The other player folds and Rob calls without very much hesitation.  The strongly suggests to me that he has either top set (JJJ), an overpair (AA-QQ) or AJ.  There are three combinations of JJ and AA, six combos of KK and QQ, and nine combos of AJ.  Against that range, my equity is 45.1%, although I discount the set of JJJ’s as he would be more likely to re-raise on such a wet board.

Turn (72 BBs):  8c.  This doesn’t help my hand but is an interesting card as it creates a second flush draw (which helps Rob if he has exactly Ac Jc) and also means any T now has a straight.  He checks.  I can represent a very strong hand here, which could be a flopped straight with T8, or a flopped set of 777’s or 999’s.  I have 65 BBs left and his stack is approximately equal to mine.  I shove all-in, first of all hoping he will fold if he has KK or QQ (which seems most likely) or praying to hit one of my outs if called.

If his range is exactly KK-QQ here, my equity is now 32.3%.  Against KK, any T would create a straight on the board and we would chop the pot, although with QQ that would simply give him a higher straight.  If he has the Kd or Qd, that takes away one of my flush outs.  This is virtually a break-even proposition.  If he calls, I’ll win a pot of 202 BBs 32.3% of the time, for an expected final stack of 65 BBs — the same as I would have by simply surrendering.  If he folds with any non-zero frequency, the EV of shoving is even higher.

Rob tanks for quite awhile, appearing to change his mind multiple times.  He states that it seems like I flopped a set of 777’s.  I try not to give off any tells.  Inside my mind is screaming, please fold please fold please fold, as I know more than 2/3 of the time I’ll go bust if he calls.  Eventually, Rob calls.  The river is the 2d, however, giving me the nuts.  He showed QQ, including the Qd.  Against his exact hand, my equity is 29.5%, and I would need to expect him to fold 8% of the time for this to be a break-even play.

Put me down for 202 BBs after this hand, but only 60 BBs in Sklansky Bucks.

A few minutes later, Rob asks me if his call was a mistake.  In the Sklansky definition of mistake, it would be a mistake if he would not have called knowing my exact cards.  He says he definitely would call in that situation, a flush draw was what he was hoping I had (I’m not sure he considered that any A or 9 was also an out for me, but those extra outs don’t make his call a mistake; he was ahead).  We agree that he played it right, made a good call, and just got drawn out on.

“Well, f**k Sklansky!” he says, as a way of ending the discussion, and the whole table has a good laugh.

Much later I have two more all-in hands.

In the first, I raised from UTG with JJ and got two callers.  On a flop of T22 I felt pretty good and made a continuation bet. The player to my immediate left, who for purposes of this blog I’ll call “John” calls again.  He can have any Tx or most pocket pairs below T and still make this call.  I’ve played with John many times and he calls both pre- and post-flop bets with a wide range, and he has position on me.  If I’m C-betting with AK or AQ, he can take this pot away on many turn cards and may have the best hand.

Turn (43 BBs):  9.  He only has about 29 BBs remaining in his stack and I have him well covered.  I decided to go ahead and bet enough to put him all-in.  He might call with a weak pocket pair.  John does call, and flips over Qc 2c, and his trip twos wins.  Ugh!  That’s John, however, and his calling a pre-flop raise from UTG+1 seat with a hand like this doesn’t really surprise me.  At the time the chips went all-in, I had two outs and my equity was 4.55%.  I lost the pot, but I can nevertheless assign nine Sklansky Bucks to my account.

Later still, I’m on the button and post a live straddle.  John is the small blind and raise to 3x the straddle.  The next player, who for purposes of this blog I’ll call “Brooklyn Mike,” calls and everyone else folds to me.  I look down at QQ and decided to raise to 10x the straddle (which equals 25 BBs).  John shoves all-in for 65 BBs with little hesitation, then Brooklyn Mike also shoves for 75 BBs.  WTF?

I peek at my queens again, and they seem to be shriveling up right before my eyes.  Calling will cost 40 more BBs, with 165 already in the pot.  I know John can be shoving with a wider range than most players, and also know that he knows that I can be 3-betting from the button straddle with a wide enough range that I would fold part of that range to a shove.  I call.

Neither John nor Brooklyn Mike turns over his cards right away, so I flip mine over first.  The body language instantly tells me that I’m ahead.  After a 9-high flop, John tables AQo.  After a low turn card, John pats the table next to me and says nice hand.  As he stands and adjusts his jacket to leave, the dealer delivers an A on the river.

Don’t hate the players (or the dealer), just hate the game.  John scoops up a huge pot, and I win a small side pot of 20 BBs.

Pre-flop, when all the chips went in, I was a 56.8% favorite in a pot of 205 BBs, so I “earned” 116 Sklansky Bucks in this hand, while only collecting the 20 BBs in the side pot.

The three hands above were my only all-ins of the evening.  In these hands, my Sklansky Bucks were (60 + 9 + 116) = 185.  My actual result was (202 + 0 + 20) = 222 (less about 5 BBs worth of rake and tips) = net of 217 BBs.  My actual results exceeded my Sklansky Bucks by about 32 BBs, and I went home with a very slightly better than break-even night.  Notice how in just three hands the actual results start to converge with the Sklansky.  If poker math and Sklansky Bucks calculations are valid concepts and accurately done, we should expect a convergence over the long run.  Short-term variance turns into long-term fairness.

Except for one thing… recency bias.  We’re all human, and our tendency is to remember the most recent hand more vividly than any others.  That’s where I lost a very large pot to John when he got lucky on the river.  That’s the memory I carried home.

With all the affection I can muster, “F**k Sklansky!”

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Yikes!

A few months ago, I wrote “Hashtag: They Always Have It,” describing several hands from a poker weekend at Harrah’s New Orleans.  Hand #4 from that post asked Can I Fold KK Pre-Flop?  In that hand, the player under the gun had limped, then re-raised over the top of my raise (with KK) and two callers.  One of the callers was a short stack who was all-in for less than my raise amount, so I knew that even if I folded, I would find out if I had dodged a pair of bullets.  I did fold, and he did have AA.

Another time, a couple years ago at the Aria in Vegas, I faced a similar limp/re-raise betting line when holding KK.  That time, I didn’t fold and the villain also had KK resulting in a chopped pot.  (Whew!)

Last week I faced this dynamic again.

There were two limpers, then a raise to 6 or 7 big blinds from the cutoff seat.  He is a younger, very aggressive player who raises and re-raises pre-flop with a wide range.  I’m on the button with KK, and 3-bet to about 18 BBs.   The small blind folds but the big blind calls.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Jay.”  Jay is a very loose player who likes to see lots of flops and also looks for bluffing opportunities when he misses but the board may be scary to the other players.  The first limper folds.

Out of nowhere, the 2nd of the limpers 4-bets to 38 BBs.  Yikes!  For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Moses.”  To limp, then 3-bet is one thing.  But to limp/4-bet is downright scary, as Moses should be concerned that either the initial raiser or me (having already 3-bet) might now go all-in.  Unless, of course, he isn’t concerned because that’s what he wants to happen.

Then there is his bet sizing.  Moses’ 4-bet is barely double my bet.  While the absolute size of 38 BBs is a very large amount for the pre-flop action, in relation to the pot this is curiously small.  The raise portion of his bet is 20 BBs.  Including the 18 BBs call portion of his bet, the pot already has approx. 63 BBs in it, making his raise 32% of the pot.  Anything less than a one-half pot raise is considered small.  A standard raise size would be about 50-75 BBs or even slightly more.  Is Moses inviting a call because he has AA and doesn’t want to run off his customers, no matter how transparent his hand is with this betting line?  I have blockers to both AK and KK, so it’s mathematically less likely for him to have either of these hands.

Or is he leaving himself room to fold if either the cutoff seat or I shove all-in, perhaps with AK or QQ/JJ?

The initial raiser folds, and the action is back to me.  Do I have a profile on Moses?

Moses is a middle-aged black guy (MABG) who I’ve played with only a couple times previously.  He has commented directly to me earlier this evening that every time we’ve been in a hand against each other, I’ve come out ahead.  In doing so, Moses assured me that he’s going to get even pretty soon.  I find him very entertaining – he tells a lot of meandering stories, using big words when smaller words would do just fine, that always end up with some karmic explanation of why he (or his favorite football team, the Philadelphia Eagles) will win.  It hasn’t been easy to pinpoint his poker play, as I’ve observed several unconventional plays, including his weird bet sizing here and some other non-standard lines that sometimes backfire badly.

On the other hand, #theyalwayshaveit is another way of using Occam’s Razor, the principle that the explanation that requires the fewest assumptions is usually correct.  In this case, Occam’s Razor says he should have AA.

The pot is now quite large, and there is still the big blind, who called my 3-bet and will have an opportunity to respond to Moses’ bet and whatever I do.

What would YOU do here?  At this point, I’ve invested 18 BBs and have about 105-110 BBs remaining in my stack.  Both Moses and the big blind player have me covered.

Leave your answer and reasoning in the comments section below (if you are reading this on Facebook and want to comment, please click through to the blog itself and comment there rather than in Facebook), and I’ll update with the rest of the story in a few days.

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PAUSE WHILE READERS POST COMMENTS…

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I decided to call.  If I shove here, that’s probably going to run off Jay, who is less likely than Moses to be trapping me with AA, although I consider that possibility too.  If Jay has AA, he’ll let us know now.  If I can make money on this pot, I want to get as much as possible from Jay in addition to Moses.  Since I’ll be last to act on the flop, perhaps I can correctly interpret the additional information provided by the flop and Jay’s & Moses’ actions.

True to form, Jay calls.  I’ve seen him make large calls like this with very speculative hands, so this doesn’t really concern me.

Flop (122 BBs):  752, rainbow.

Jay checks, then Moses bets 25 BBs.  This is a curiously small bet, barely 20% of the pot.  With two other live players, a very safe flop and bloated pot, I would expect a much larger bet with AA.  That is, if he has AA.  Which now I don’t believe he does.

I raise all-in.  It’s possible Jay has something like 88-JJ and might spazz out and call with a weaker overpair here.  It’s also possible that Moses might call with AK, given the size of the pot and his commitment so far.  If I just call here, I’ll be scared shitless if an ace comes on the turn, so I’m going to get it in now.

Jay folds.  Moses tanks for quite awhile, squirming in his seat and commenting again about my luck against him.  Now the pot has about 236 BBs in it and it will cost him another 64 BBs to call.  If his equity in this huge pot is at least 21.3% (calculated by taking the amount to call of 64 BBs, divided by the total pot size including his all [236 + 64 = 300].  64/300 = 21.3%).  Note that if he has AK here and my hand is QQ or JJ (more likely than my actual KK, as he has one of the kings), his actual equity would be 26.4% and he should call even though he only has A-high at the moment.

Moses finally calls, and turns over AK suited (hearts, not that it matters).  Only an ace will help him, and his actual equity is 14.3%.  Calling was a mistake.

Sometimes mistakes pay off anyway, but not this time.  The board bricked out and I won a big pot.

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Thanks for all the Respect

NOTE:  This entry was originally posted on a different site on September 7, 2016 and has been slightly edited prior to re-posting here.

“Thanks for all the respect!”

That was me being sarcastic, at a cash game after raising to 7 big blinds and getting four callers.  It was getting late, and I had told our host about eight minutes earlier that I’d be leaving in 10 minutes.  We were playing 6-handed, as one of our original eight players left early, and another left after going bust, driving to the nearest ATM for more cash, and busting again.

Nobody raised in front of me, and with Ad Kd in the small blind, I’m going to make it expensive for anyone who wants to see this flop.  I’ve been pretty quiet most of the night, but still nearly doubled my starting stack of 100 BBs thanks to one big hand where my KK doubled up through QQ.  It might look like I’m protecting my chips and running out the clock… until I raised to 7 BBs.

I wanted to thin the field, and going to the flop 5-handed from the worst possible position at the table is sub-optimal.  (First-world problems, I know that, but I digress…)

Flashback:  Early last year I was playing a cash game at the Aria.  It seemed like I had folded every hand for at least an hour.  Then I look down at TT and put out a nice raise.  Five other players call, like they are clueless that the nittiest player in all of Las Vegas has just raised.  TT is a fine starting hand, but with this many callers many more things can go wrong than right.  In my best, driest, most sarcastic voice, I commented “thanks for all the respect.”

Anyway, the flop was T42 rainbow, giving me top set.  Lack of respect instantly converts to generosity.  I’m feeling true love for each and every villain.  Everybody checks and a J on the turn improves another player’s AJ hand. There is a bet, call, raise, call, re-raise and shove.  Three of us are all-in, with my set of tens holding up over a set of fours (he thought he was trapping me!) and pair of jacks / ace kicker.  It was one of those wonderful moments when you can hear heavenly choir.

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And memorable for the phantasmagoric emotional shift from finally seeing a decent hand, to the sarcasm, to hating five callers to loving a monster flop to raking in all those chips.

[FLASHBACK ENDS]

Lightning strikes again.  The dealer turns over T32, all diamonds.  I have flopped the nut flush, the pot is already a decent size, and there are four other players.  Hopefully, somebody else also connected with this flop.

I make a smallish opening bet, about 1/3 of the pot.  The next three players fold, but the button (for purposes of this blog entry, I’ll refer to him as “Jason”) calls.  Jason is a pretty tight player who doesn’t make many crazy moves, but he can get stubborn at times when he just doesn’t believe the aggressor has it.  There is no reason for him to believe that I flopped a flush after my pre-flop raise.  The turn is Kh, I bet and he calls again.  The river is 5c.  Perfect… no more diamonds, no pair on the board, absolute nuts for me.  Jason hasn’t made any aggressive actions during this hand, so I don’t think an all-in bet will get called.  I bet a again, but still less than 1/2 of the pot.

Jason starts counting out chips as if he is going to raise.  Or perhaps just seeing how much he would have left over if he called my bet and lost.  Or perhaps just fiddling to kill time and see if I give off any tells.  “I’m all-in!” he announces, and slides his entire stack towards the center.  I feel ever-so-very-very-teeny-tiny-slightly bad for him.

I call and quickly turn over my cards.  He turns over Qd 8d, for a weaker flopped flush.  Poor guy, he was drawing dead on the flop and had no idea, although he handles this cooler very graciously.

[SCROLL UP AND LISTEN TO HEAVENLY MUSIC AGAIN]

Although it feels a bit like a hit-and-run, I had already told our host that I was leaving in 10 minutes, and now it is 14 minutes later.  Cash me out please…

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Facing a Shove on the River With Just One Pair

NOTE:  This entry was originally posted on a different site on January 3, 2017 and has been slightly edited prior to re-posting here.

My previous blog entry explored turning a missed draw into a bluff, after my opponent checked on both the turn and the river, soliciting your comments on the villain’s range.

Last night another, bigger decision presented itself via an interesting puzzle. Let’s unpack the puzzle pieces, assemble them, and see if we can find the missing pieces…

This was at a private, house game (no limit hold’em) with blinds of $1/2. I’ve been having a rough night so far. Shortly after joining the table, I lost my entire stack when I turned a full house, only to lose to a larger full house on the river. I had TT, and the board ran out Qs Qh 6h – Th – Kh. Everybody checked on the flop, then my gin card arrived on the turn, also completing any flush draws. Unfortunately, the other player had KQ and got there on the river. Ouch!

I bought another $300 in chips, and continued trending down. Less than a full orbit prior to the Big Decision, I caught my first big break of the night, with AA > KK on a pre-flop all-in with the same player who had cracked my full house. She had frittered away most of the stack from that hand and had slightly less than $150 remaining, which I was glad to take.

Now I have about $395 in front of me, and look down at King-Queen offsuit. There is one limper in front of me and I raise to $12. Four players call, and I quickly decide not to make a continuation bet unless I connect with the flop.  Let’s protect these newly begotten chips.

Flop ($62): Kd 4d 3c

This is a very good flop for me.  Not huge, but my top pair / 2nd kicker should be the best hand, and I can get value from flush draws, straight draws and kings with weaker kickers.  Giving four other players a free card or ceding the betting initiative would be a mistake.  It is checked to me and I bet $35. While not much more than one-half pot, this shouldn’t look like a run-of-the-mill continuation bet with air as there are four other live players.

The player to my immediate left calls, and everyone else folds. For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Matt.” While I’m a long-time regular here, Matt is a newbie.  Solving the puzzle is going to require us to know as much as possible about Matt.  What do we know so far?

Matt is a young white guy, looks about 25 (but might be closer to 30). He has straggly hair that nearly reaches his shoulders, a beard, and has been wearing headphones. Before this cash game started, we both played in a small-stakes tournament here, and learned that he is a roving contractor, currently in the area working on the installation of Google fiber.  He’s polite and pleasant when he does engage in any conversation, which isn’t very much.

Matt looks and plays like a stereotypical loose-aggressive (“LAG”) poker player. Early in the tournament, he built up a formidable stack, showing AA, a nut flush, flopping a set of QQQs, etc. I made a mental note then not to confuse his LAGGY appearance and playing style with the fact that he kept showing down big hands. A bit later, he lost a large chunk of his chips in a 3-way all-in where he had AK.

I had joined the cash game about an hour or so after it started. The only open seat was on Matt’s immediate right. At the time, he had over $550 in front of him (the max buy-in is $300), and I anticipated the difficulty of playing with a deep-stacked LAG on my left.  Oy!  He can make my session miserable.

Sure enough, that’s what happened. Prior to my full house under full house debacle, Matt picked off my river bluff, after I had floated on the flop with a gutshot straight draw (that missed), then he checked behind on the turn, indicating weakness.  He has been raising and 3-betting frequently, including an OOP 3-bet as weak as A6o and several other hands that indicated a wide raising range, especially in position. He straddled regularly on the button (always for more than the minimum), demonstrated positional awareness, and attacked limpers often. His play definitely matches his stereotype as a LAG.

And he’s been hit by the deck!  Matt built up his stack to approximately $1,100, with multiple full houses, flushes, flopped sets, and bluff-catcher calls.  Other players commented on how hot he is running, although with his headphones on we don’t know if he heard any of these remarks.

Prior to this hand, however, he has started bleeding away much of his winnings. Some of his lighter, bluff-catching calls have been wrong, and he’s been caught bluffing / bullying several times, including several river bluffs. He also lost a large pot with flush < full house.  He still had nearly $650 at the beginning of this hand.

Back to the hand. After he called my flop bet, Matt and I are heads up, and he has position on me. The pot is getting bloated, with $132 in it.

Turn ($132): 4h. Now the board is Kd 4d 3c – 4h.

Thinking I very likely have the best hand, I bet $65.  I can still get value from flush or straight draws and perhaps a few other holdings.  Matt calls again.

What do you think Matt has here? A diamond flush draw is possible. A straight draw with 65 is possible. At the intersection is a combo draw with 6d 5d, although I think such an aggressive player would raise with that on the flop to apply maximum pressure with so many outs as a back-up. He could have a King and we are in a kicker battle. He could have a four and just made trips, or pocket 33s and flopped another set. But I think he probably would have raised on the flop with pocket 33s to protect against flush draws, as none of the other three players had folded yet when he called my flop bet. I also think he probably would raise now on this turn with any 4x (like A4s), to get value from any AA/AK/KQ or draw that I might have. Even as loose as he is, I don’t think he calls $12 pre-flop with A4o or K4.

River ($262): Th.  Now the board is Kd 4d 3c – 4h – Th

This should be a good card for me, as it misses all potential draws. The only hands that it helps are KT and TT.  I don’t think he has TT – his 3-betting range pre-flop is wide enough to include TT (but not necessarily 100% of the time), and even if he flatted with TT and called again on the flop, he probably would surrender on the turn.

If he has a missed draw, I’m not going to get any more value. In fact, the only hand that can reasonably pay me off on another bet is KJ.  So I target that and bet $85, which is a little less than one-third of the pot and might get a crying call from KJ.

With little hesitation, Matt announces “I’m all in!” and slides his remaining chips out.  The rhythm and tone with which he does this seems very strong.  This is hard to describe, but he seemed calm and confident.  The dealer moves my $85 and a matching portion of his stack to the pot, and there is nearly $450 more on top of that.  I have just under $200 remaining so I’ll have to do any math based on my stack, not his.

I have a collection of short essays on poker strategy from the late Bill “Ain’t No Limit” Hubbard, who was a highly regarded professional poker coach for many years specializing in live cash games. Over the holidays, I’ve been reviewing some of these essays and several concepts now come into play.

In his foundational essay, Bill says to practice SBRTA when faced with a big decision. Stop. Breathe. Relax. Think. Act.  I’m having a little trouble breathing at the moment, considering I’m on my second buy-in of the night and it would really hurt to be down 300 BBs.  How in the **** am I supposed to relax when the realization of what might be happening here almost made me shit my pants?  [Inhaling very slowly…]

In another essay, Bill drives home the strategy of playing small hands for small pots, medium-strength hands for medium-sized pots and big hands for big pots.  My hand is a medium-strength hand.  I have two pair, one of which is the pair of 44’s on the board. So my hand is really akin to top pair with 2nd best kicker (“TP2K”). By the river, this is definitely NOT a big hand, but often good enough to win. Bill says: “One of the most notorious leaks among live poker players is that they break the basic rule of playing a medium pot only with a medium sized hand. I think this is due to most players feeling that they must protect their medium strength hand and thus raise to protect the hand plus find out information.”  Was I doing that here? I thought I was betting for value, to get called by worse hands and draws (which some might call “protecting” against draws), but not really for information.

In other essays, Bill describes the central question for successful no limit Texas hold’em players: “What is the villain’s range and what will he do with this range?” Or “what does he have and how will he play it?” I’ll come back to this later.

In another essay, entitled “The Fold Button,” Bill notes that the most common mistake among live players is that they call when they should fold. Making big, successful hero calls is exciting, but far out-weighed by calling mistakes. Sometimes, we know we are beat, but call nevertheless to get to what he refers to as the “funeral for the hand,” a form of certainty and closure.  Calling forces the other player to show their cards, so now we know and can have closure (i.e., the funeral), albeit at a very high price.   This is closely related to the medium-strength hand –> medium-sized pot rule.  Before calling a large river bet, Bill advises us to ask: Is the villain capable of bluffing (in Matt’s case, yes)? Have we actually seen him bluff (yes)? Should the villain expect us to call this size bet? This is harder to answer. After bringing in my $85 and his raise (i.e., up to my stack size), there is approximately $630 in the pot and it will cost my last ~$200 to call. I’m getting 3.15-to-1 odds.  With those odds, if he is bluffing more than 24% of the time, calling is correct in a strictly mathematical sense.  If you feel compelled to call, what percentage of the time is it due to real factors you have considered vs. the overwhelming desire to call and simply see what the villain is betting with (this is really tough, so let’s consider the real factors)?

In another essay, Bill describes the principle of Occam’s Razor. Named after William of Ockham, a 14th Century British mathematician and logician, this principle states that among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. More simply, “If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, then it is most likely a duck!” When we combine this with the medium hand / medium pot rule, Matt’s all-in bet fundamentally says “I like my hand more than you like yours.” Occam’s Razor instructs us that Matt has a hand worthy of playing for an $800+ pot, and I’m toast.

But still, I’m not convinced. Nor am I unconvinced.

First of all, what am I beating? In reality, the ONLY thing I am beating here is a bluff. There is no possible hand that he can be raising all-in for value here, where he is hoping I will call, thinking he has me beat, but he’s actually behind.  To do so would violate the medium hand –> medium pot rule even worse than I did.

There is a finite range of hands that beat mine, so we can explore each of them to figure out if Matt has it.  This is a reverse-engineering approach to Bill Hubbard’s central question of what does he have and how does he play it?  I went through this earlier in my turn betting analysis, but it bears repeating now.

  • Could he have Pocket AAs or KKs…?  Nope! He would have re-raised pre-flop.  Since he didn’t, I can eliminate AA and KK from his range.
  • AK… nope!  Again, Matt would have re-raised pre-flop. I’ve seen him 3-bet much lighter than that and use his position to put me in difficult spots pre-flop with hands weaker than AK.  Besides, if he had AK and planned to raise, he wouldn’t wait until the river.
  • KT… maybe, but I don’t think so. He might call me pre-flop with this, especially if suited (which would leave only 2 combos), but I don’t think he would shove all of his chips in on this river.  The way I’ve played this hand, betting every street, he has to consider AA as part of my range.  With the pair of 44s on the board, it would be a mistake for him to raise instead of just calling again.  But this combo worries me more than the others.
  • TT… nope!  As noted earlier, I think he 3-bets pre-flop with this hand at least some of the time, and also think he releases this by the turn when I show continued strength. My betting looks a lot like I have AA or AK here, especially when I C-bet into four opponents on the flop.
  • 4x… nope!  He might call $12 pre-flop with A4s or 54s, and call the flop C-bet too. But if that were the case, he would raise on the turn after improving to trips, to get value from flush draws, as well as the fact that I might have trouble letting go of AA or AK against a raise as it would look somewhat bluffy based on the board pairing and his image (if he has that level of self-awareness). I don’t think he calls $12 pre-flop with K4, although K4s is a very slight possibility. That would have flopped two pair, which I think he would raise on the flop, again to get value from flush draws.
  • 33… nope!  Again, I think he raises on the flop for the reasons mentioned. Keep in mind there were five players in this hand, it checked to me on the flop and I bet $35. He is on my immediate left, so three other players were still live when he called my C-bet.  He shouldn’t just call there with a flopped bottom set.  If he did and then improved to a full house on the turn, just calling my turn bet and waiting for the river to shove – perhaps hoping to see another diamond in case I’m the one chasing a flush – makes perfect sense. I don’t think he has 33, but this also worries me a little bit.

So here we are.  Out of six groups of hands that beat me, four are a definite “nope” and the other two (KT and 33) are probably “nope” too.  For better or worse, my analytical thinking concludes that with every possible hand that beats me, Matt would have done something different with that hand somewhere along the way. All that remains are bluffs, contradicted by Occam’s Razor and the medium-hand –> medium-pot rule that is screaming inside my head that I’m about to make a big calling mistake.  Matt’s all-in bet looks like a duck, which rhymes with ‘I’m about to get fucked!’

What would you do?  Taking a deep breath, I finally called and Matt tabled Kh 6h.  My hand was good!  He may have thought he was ahead with top pair and a weak kicker on the flop, but by the river realized he need to turn it into a bluff to take this pot.

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Math, Combinatorics and Frequencies

NOTE:  This entry was originally posted on a different site on June 16, 2016 and has been slightly edited prior to re-posting here.

I played this hand at a private cash game a few days ago.  On the river, it was obvious that I needed to fold.  Then again, maybe not.

With QQ in middle position, I raised to 8 BBs following a single limper.  This is a bit more than normal for me, however at this game there were frequently multiple callers pre-flop so I decided to let them pay me a little extra.  Or thin the field.  Either would be fine.

There were 3 callers, making the pot 34 BBs, already a bit bloated.

On a flop of K54 with two spades, I bet 16 BBs and the button called.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Adam.”  Adam is a 23-year-old loose/aggressive thinking player.  He likes to play mixed games and finds Texas Hold’em a bit boring, but plays it because that’s what’s available around here.  Although I’ve only played with Adam a few times, he is willing to mix it up, gamble and be aggressive if he senses an opportunity to steal a pot.

One the one hand, I’m targeting a hand that will call my slightly less-than-half-pot bet like 66-JJ, A5s, A4s or 56s.  On the other hand, I’m concerned about Adam holding either a King or a flush draw with two spades in his hand.  If he does have a King, it’s probably not AK as he would be more likely to re-raise pre-flop on the button.  But it could be KQ or KJ, maybe as weak as KTs.

The turn is an off-suit deuce.  I bet 20BB more and he calls.  My bet is deliberately small, hoping he will call with weaker pocket pairs or other non-flush draw / non-Kx hands that might fold to a larger bet.  He will definitely call with a flush draw and that’s a risk I’m willing to take.  If he has a King with a strong enough kicker, he might raise just in case I am the one chasing a flush.  I know he’s capable of playing his draws aggressively, but not 100% of the time.

The river is the 8 of spades, which completes the flush (if that’s what he’s chasing).  Now I’m faced with a situation that Bart Hanson at Crush Live Poker calls “5th Street Chicken.”  This is where I’m out-of-position, and don’t want to put any more money in the pot.  But if I check, I’m opening the door for Adam to bluff if he actually has one of the hands I’m targeting.

Quick recap:  The board is Ks 5h 4s – 2d – 8s.  I have QQ.  Adam is on the button and called my pre-flop raise, and called my flop and turn bets.  There is now 106 BBs in the pot.

The pot is really too big for my 1-pair hand.  I don’t even have top pair.  If I bet on this river, am I essentially turning a hand with showdown value into a bluff?  Yes.  Is that a good idea?  No.

I check.  Adam bets 32 BBs.

Clearly I have to fold.  He either has the King, or he hit his flush draw, and he’s betting for value.  His bet is small, which it has to be after I waved a white flag by checking the river, all but announcing that I don’t have a flush, nor a hand that is strong enough to bet/fold (for value).

What would you do?  Leave a comment below…

Math

I decided to fold, but before relinquishing my cards started doing the math.  There are 106 BBs in the pot.  Adding his bet of 32 BBs makes it 138 BBs.  By calling, I’d be risking 32 BBs to win 138 BBs means I’m getting pot odds of 4.3-to-1.  I would have to win 1 out of 5.3 times for calling to be profitable, in the purest poker mathematics sense.  That’s slightly less than 19%, a pretty low threshold.  I was recently reading a limit Hold’em strategy book, and recalled some commentary about calling on the river.  Often you will be getting pot odds of 10-to-1 or more in a limit game due to the constraints on bet sizing.  The author’s point was that while most players should fold much more often pre-flop and on the flop, they should call on the river when they have showdown value and there is any chance they are good as little as 8-10% of the time.  That’s just how the math works.

So I ponder this for another minute.  Adam is capable of turning a weaker hand into a bluff here.  What does he think I have?  I went bet-bet-bet-check.  My range can easily be 99-QQ, AK, KQ, KJ, and is probably pretty transparent at this point that I have a 1-pair type of hand.  After I checked the river, the 3rd spade coming in is a great bluffing card for him.  With a King, he’s more likely to check back after the scare card arrives.  But I think he’s figured out that I can fold when it’s obvious that I’m beat.  And he’s got the stones to take advantage of my discipline and tight image.

Combinatorics

I don’t do the combinatorics at the table, but there are far fewer flush draw combos in his range than other combos.  If I include literally any two spades that include an Ace or have two gaps or fewer, that is about 24 combinations.  Plus 3 combinations of pocket 88’s that binked the river for a total of 27 value combos.  I’ll assume that he always bets with these hands.

His non-flush draw, non-Kx calling range for the flop & turn (66-JJ, A5s, A4s, 65s)  has about 39 combinations.  These are the hands that I beat and was targeting with my small bet-sizing.

Frequencies

Now the questions is how frequently will Adam turn one of these 39 hands that I beat into a bluff on the river?  If the answer is 7 or more out of 39, then the mathematically theoretically correct response for me is to call.  Add 7 bluffs to the 27 value combos, and I win 7-out-of-34 times, or 20.6%.  If I do call his river bet, I’m probably going to lose this pot, but poker theory tells me I’ll lose less over the long run by calling in this spot than by folding.  It feels really messed up to have to think this way.  Nevertheless, I think his bluffing frequency with this set of facts is greater than 7-out-of-39, probably closer to 13-out-of-39 (33.3%) or more.  I feel like I’m about to throw away 32 more BBs because of poker math.

To succeed at no limit Texas Hold’em, however, you have to trust your reads.  My read on Adam says his bluffing frequency is high enough for me to call.  And my read on this situation overall is that the most important question right now is the one about his bluffing frequency.

So I call.

He says “I have a pair of fives.”  With 6-5, the turn card gave him a gutshot straight draw to go along with his weak pair… just enough for my small bet to keep him in.

When he sees my cards, he says he figured it was something like that.  “What do I have to do to get you to fold?”

I start to say “Math” but shrug my shoulders instead.

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When Dreams Come True

You know that poker hand you dream about?  When you’ve been running so bad you resort to writing terrible poetry, but laying in bed or driving around in the car alone you imagine that special hand and what it would be like if that actually happened?

Perhaps you imagine being in a casino poker room and double your starting stack.  But the most obnoxious player at the table has tripled his.  He’s drinking too much, talking too much but slurring his words.  He makes blind raises then backs into a winning hand, picking up chips through a series of improbable wins and gloating about it.  His mere presence is a constant irritation.  Even though you don’t actually know each other, you start feeling like there is a personal score that needs to be settled.

Mr. Obnoxious and you are the two biggest stacks at the table and you’re thinking, in your imagination, just get me the right spot to take him down.  Yeah, you want his whole stack.

Maybe you will raise with a medium pocket pair, like nines, and he will 3-bet in a manner that telegraphs a very big pair.  It’s got to be either pocket aces or kings.  So you call, of course, because this could be it.  And the dream continues when you hit top set on the flop, with two suited cards so he’ll have to consider that you might be raising as a semi-bluff.  When he makes a strong bet on the flop, Ka-Pow!  No matter how big of an overbet it is, you’re just going all-in right away, because it’s too much and that will confuse him.  Besides, he’s half-drunk, so his decision making is impaired.  Even the half-drunks can fold pocket aces when the board gets scary enough on the turn or river, but your flop overbet shove reeks of wanting him to fold.  He can’t stand the thought of being bluffed, and his winning has made him start to think he’s invincible, so he calls.

He flips over his pocket rockets and you show your set.  For the first time since he sat down, he’s speechless, realizing he just blew nearly 300 Big Blinds running through a stop sign and police barricade along the way.

Doesn’t everybody who plays poker have a daydream like this?  Don’t you practice, in your mind, what you will say or how you will stare at the villain?

In my dream, I want to act like I’ve been there before.  No hooting and hollering like I’m surprised or feel like I just got lucky.  I want to stay in control, be cool, show everybody at the  table this this is normal for me.  So don’t F- with me as this session continues.  Power commands respect.

Dear readers, I hope your dreams will come true too.  Mine did.  It feels awesome.

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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.

READERS:  Your comments are always welcome below.

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Bank Error in Your Favor, Collect $200

It’s Friday night poker, and a Monopoly game breaks out.  I roll the dice and land on Community Chest.  The card says “Bank Error in Your Favor, Collect $200.”  The banker hands me the money.  Let me explain.

We are a couple hours into this private, home game of no limit Texas Holdem, with blinds of $1 and $2.  The player to the left of the big blind, who for purposes of this blog I’ll call “John,” raises to $11.  John is a fairly loose player, so even though he is under-the-gun (UTG) here, his raising range is not nearly as tight as many other players.  Still, I know he’s positionally aware so I’ll give him credit for having something decent.

In the cutoff seat, I have KK.  I start to re-raise to $31, then grab two more $1 chips to make it $33, triple the amount of John’s bet.  He has a history of calling 3-bets from out-of-position lighter than he should, so I want to take advantage.

Then the small blind shoves all-in with a short stack.  He has $51 in total.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “KP” after the comedy duo of Key & Peele.

The action is back on John.  What are his options?  My raise was $22 more than John’s bet.  KP’s raise was $18 more than mine.  Can John raise again, or is he limited to calling or folding only?

John does call $51, then says he doesn’t think I can re-raise again.  Since KP only had $18 on top of my bet, which is less than the amount by which I had raised John’s original bet, that’s not a full raise and therefore closes the action.  Right?  John asked for clarification only after he has called the bet.

If so, my only options would be to call $18 more, or fold.  Note that if I had only raised to $31, as was my initial inclination, that would be $20 more than John’s raise.  Then KP’s shove of $51 would be $20 more than my bet and constitute a full raise.  In that situation, the action would clearly remain open for me to raise again.

John and the dealer have a short discussion and review of the betting action, while KP and I sit quietly.  The dealer notes that KP’s raise is over one-half of the minimum, therefore it does not close the action and I can raise again if I want.  If KP had only enough chips to raise $10 more than my bet, or less than that, I would be prohibited from making another raise.

John appears satisfied with that answer.  After calling $51, he has about $150 left in his stack, maybe slightly more, and I have him well covered.

I ask the dealer to confirm that I can raise again if I want, and after he does confirm, I announce all-in.  John shrugs and with very little hesitation says, “OK, I call, but I probably need help.”

I turn over my pocket kings.  KP shows KcJc.  John shows Ac8c.  I’m a 61.4% favorite to win this 3-way pot.

The board runs out KQJ-4-Q and my full house sweeps the pot, albeit with a bit of a sweat.

After the hand, there is some more discussion about the ruling that additional raises are permitted after KP’s shove was less than a full raise.  I ask the dealer if this is a house rule or they are following a guide like the Tournament Directors Association or Robert’s Rules of Poker.  He says he has a copy of Robert’s Rules and believes his is being consistent with that guide, pointing out that the TDA guide sometimes has some quirky tournament-specific rules that don’t work well for cash games.

Now in the comfort of my own home again, I’m curious.  What does Robert’s Rules of Poker actually say here?  Let’s take a look… (emphasis added)

SECTION 3 – GENERAL POKER RULES

BETTING AND RAISING

5. In limit play, an all-in wager of less than half a bet does not reopen the betting for any player who has already acted and is in the pot for all previous bets. A player facing less than half a bet may fold, call, or complete the wager. An all-in wager of a half a bet or more is treated as a full bet, and a player may fold, call, or make a full raise. (An example of a full raise is on a $20 betting round, raising a $15 all-in bet to $35).

But wait, there’s more!

SECTION 14 – NO LIMIT AND POT-LIMIT

A no-limit or pot-limit betting structure for a game gives it a different character from limit poker, requiring a separate set of rules in many situations. All the rules for limit games apply to no-limit and pot-limit games, except as noted in this section. 

NO-LIMIT RULES

3. All raises must be equal to or greater than the size of the previous bet or raise on that betting round, except for an all-in wager. A player who has already checked or called may not subsequently raise an all-in bet that is less than the full size of the last bet or raise. (The half-the-size rule for reopening the betting is for limit poker only.)

Example: Player A bets $100 and Player B raises $100 more, making the total bet $200. If Player C goes all in for less than $300 total (not a full $100 raise), and Player A calls, then Player B has no option to raise again, because he wasn’t fully raised. (Player A could have raised, because Player B raised.)

Whoops!

Since John had not acted in response to my 3-bet, he should have been able to re-raise again if he wanted.  But not me.  And who knows if I would have been able to win John’s full $200 stack if I hadn’t been allowed to raise again in the pre-flop betting round?

Hopefully on the next roll of the dice, I’ll pass Go! and collect another $200.  Until then I’ll just a savor the fortuitous ruling.

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A Small Unexpected Gift

Who doesn’t like receiving gifts?  Raise your hands right now.  (No one…)

My favorite gifts tend to be small but unexpected.  On my birthday or Father’s Day, I expect to get something.  Other times, a gift is delivered when there is no expectation – perhaps a friend returned from an overseas trip and brought a snow globe from one of their stops, or Mrs. makes a peach cobbler just ’cause she knew I’d like it.  There is great delight in the unexpected.

In one poker hand last night, another delightfully unexpected gift arrived.

This is a private game, that features a special jackpot that is paid every time a player makes a straight flush, affectionately referred to as a “piggy.”  Last night, the jackpot was equal to 500 big blinds (BBs), which makes you want to play every suited connector and 1- or 2- gapper, no matter how remote the odds, just in case…  I won a similarly sized straight flush jackpot at this game earlier this summer.

In early position, I limp in with 6h4h.  For many reasons this is a money-losing play.  Many pots have not been raised pre-flop, so I convince myself there is a reasonable chance I’ll get to see a cheap flop.  Alas, one player raises to 3 BBs and there are two callers.  I’m getting a decent price to call despite the poor position (another poker logic fallacy), so I call.  This is exactly what the house hopes for; the presence of the piggy promotes more action.

Flop (12 BBs):  K55.  I check, and so does everybody else.  I would not call any bet here.

Turn (12 BBs): 7.  Now my 64 has developed into an open ended straight draw.  (Sorry readers, I didn’t make note of the suits, and don’t recall if there was also a flush draw… probably yes, but I didn’t make a note of it.)  With 8 outs to make a straight, which still wouldn’t be the nuts on this paired board, and all three of the other players showing weakness on the flop, I decided to make a stab at it, and bet 10 BBs.

The original raiser folds, the next guy folds, but the player on the button calls.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll call her “Barbara.”  Barbara is one of the nicest – and most unaggressive – poker players you’ll ever meet.  She comes to play, not watch, thus she calls frequently pre flop to see what develops.  Barbara never complains when she loses and never showboats when she wins.  She treats the game like a social occasion, and the other players like a group of friends.

The fact that she checked the flop and called but didn’t raise on the turn doesn’t always indicate a weak hand.  Earlier she just called bets on the turn and river after she turned a set of 888’s on a board with no obvious straights or flushes, saying after the showdown, “I thought about raising, but just didn’t.”

River (32 BBs): Another 5.  Now the board is K55-7-5.  I’m playing the board.  Should I bluff again?  How much would I need to bet to get Barbara to fold?  What hands could she have that called the turn bet and now would go away against enough pressure?  As I’m pondering these questions for a few seconds, I see Barbara peek at her hole cards.  This makes me think she might have a 5 and just made quads, and has to look again to be sure it really happened.

Betting is too risky, so I decide to concede.  After I check, Barbara peeks at her hole cards again, then hesitates.  She looks like she is deciding how much to bet with her quads, but instead she tosses her hand into the muck and shakes her head.  “I missed, badly” she says.  “Go ahead and take it.”

The dealer slides the entire pot over to me.  It is a gift from Barbara, somewhat small and totally unexpected.  Thank you Barbara.  You are a much nicer person than I am.  Somehow – most likely in a non-poker way – I hope to be able to surprise you back!

Interestingly enough, about an hour later a different player made a straight flush and won the piggy.  He had 53s, didn’t fold before the flop, and banked a nice payoff when the perfect river card arrived.

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