KKing David

Ruminations on poker

Archive for the tag “all-in”

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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An Embarrassingly Bad Call

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The dealer delivers the river card, the Kc.

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

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

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

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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)



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!


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. 


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.)


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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Middle Aged White Guy

I’m a middle aged white guy.  I don’t say that to editorialize… it’s just a fact.  White, male, age range 55-60 (this is a poker blog, so we shouldn’t try to put me on an exact age, just a range).  And very aware of my white male privilege.

Over the weekend, at a private poker game, I shoved all-in on a flop of Q84 rainbow.  What is my range?

To help answer that question, let’s back up a bit.  I started the hand with a stack of 67 BBs, having just lost a healthy chunk with a failed hero call.  The villain in that hand was totally polarized – he either had total air, or the nuts.  Once again, Hashtag: They Always Have It.  Maybe I appeared tilted now.

A couple of hands later, I raise to 5 BBs in middle position, and get four callers.

The flop is Q84 rainbow, and I bet 10 BBs.  This flop is totally dry.  If I’m value betting, I don’t need to worry about  punishing any drawing hands.

The player on my immediate left, who I’ve never played with before, raises to 25 BBs.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Ricky.”  Ricky hasn’t been at the table very long, appears to be in his mid-20’s, and works at the Apple store.  Earlier he mentioned that he’s read exactly one poker book in his life, by Daniel Negreanu.  Ricky adores Negreanu.

There is only one hand I fear Ricky having here:  AQ.  With a flopped set of 888’s or 444’s, he would call in hopes of keeping other players in the hand, as there are no threatening draws.  He just flatted pre-flop, so he doesn’t have a set of QQQ’s, or AA or KK.  None of the 2-pair hands fit either… the best of these would be Q8, which is too weak to call my pre-flop raise.  I don’t know if he would flat or 3-bet AQ pre-flop, but this game hasn’t featured much 3-betting by anyone, so I’m inclined to put AQ in his flatting range.

Other possible raising hands would be QJ, JJ or TT, or something like A8.  Or a total bluff / gutshot type of hand.  My less-than-half-pot continuation bet might be interpreted as weak, so he could be raising with a hand weaker than top pair here, which might mean he doesn’t know himself if he’s value betting or bluffing.

After everyone else folds, I come over the top, for 37 BBs more.  Ricky looks surprised and tries to talk out the situation. He mentions my pre-flop raise sizing seemed standard, my C-bet sizing, the number of other players in the hand, etc.  Now I realize he is a thinking player, or at least trying to be one.

But he neglects to note that I’m a middle-aged white guy.  Seriously, forget all of my analysis about his hand and just consider that fact.  What is my range?

Eventually, Ricky calls.  I ask if he has AQ and he says no.  I flip over KQo and he says “Oh, you’re good, I didn’t think you would have that.”

The turn is an ace, and he flips over A8s.  The Dead Man’s Hand holds up to win.  Ricky is gracious, almost apologetic in victory, as he should be having been on the wrong end of an 80/20 equity split when all the chips went in the middle.

I ask him this:  “Why would you not think I could have KQ there?  That was a textbook middle-aged white guy shove, so KQ is the very BOTTOM of my range!”  I try to smile as I say this.  When he has A8 there, I want him to call every time, even knowing that this time, my hand didn’t hold up.  There is no need to lecture or be nasty.

A couple of the players at the far end of the table are laughing at my middle-aged white guy comment.  So true, they are saying, Ricky you should know better.

Author’s note:  The title of this post should be… Revenge of the Middle Aged White Guy.  Unfortunately, poker variance intervened.  Maybe next time…

I fold. Will you show?

Quick story about a hand at Harrah’s New Orleans last Friday night, at a $1/3 no limit table.

Near the end of a horribly bad, losing session, refusing to put any more money on the table, I stumble into a Broadway straight on the turn, get snap called on a smallish bet by the pre-flop aggressor, and ship my last $100 or so in despite the river card pairing the board.

How we got to this point is irrelevant.

The villain is a 40-ish woman who is irritatingly loud.  I truly do not know her name, but for purposes of this blog I’ll refer to her as “Irene.”  On the one hand, Irene is not a very experienced player.  This poker room allows a blind straddle from any position.  She keeps asking for an explanation, claiming she doesn’t understand what a straddle is, when to do it, why or why not, and consequently gets confused as to when to call $3 vs. when to call $6.  On the other hand, she is shown a surprising amount of aggression prior to this hand, and had min-raised to $6 (or maybe thought she was calling a straddle???) then 4-bet over top of my raise on this hand.  I shouldn’t have called but thought she might be a little bit drunk; then I got lucky.

Calling my all-in bet will consume 80% of her remaining stack.

After thinking and squirming for a minute, she says “I fold.  Will you show?”  Two of my buddies were at the same table, and we all heard the same thing.  Thinking the hand was now over, I said “Sorry, I don’t show.”

Then Irene says “In that case, I call!” and pushes forward the stack of chips she had counted out for the call amount, then flips over pocket jacks (the board is AT4-Q-Q).

I’m sure my straight is good, but expect the dealer to intervene and tell Irene she can’t do that because she already announced a fold.  But I go ahead and show my KJ and the dealer pushes the entire pot, including the final calling chips, in my direction.


All’s well that ends well, in this case, but suppose I had been bluffing?  Then there would be a big difference depending on whether she really said “I fold.  Will you show?”  Or said “If I fold, will you show?”  I don’t know how that would have turned out but the angle shooting accusations would make quite a more colorful story.

Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog

Ralph E. Wolf and Sam Sheepdog are characters in a series of classic Looney Tunes cartoons that I enjoyed many, many years ago.

Ralph (apparently named after a Warner Bros. employee – Ralph Wolf) was modeled after the Wile E. Coyote character from the Road Runner series, with brown fur, a wiry body, huge ears, and a love for products from Acme Corporation.  Sam is a large, burly sheepdog with a mop of red hair covering his eyes, who is largely sedentary but with a knack for being at the right place at the right time.

According to Wikipedia:

The series is built around the idea that both Ralph and Sam are just doing their jobs. Most of the cartoons begin at the beginning of the workday, in which they both arrive at a sheep-grazing meadow, exchange pleasant chitchat, and punch into the same time clock. Work having officially begun, Ralph repeatedly tries very hard to abduct the helpless sheep and invariably fails, either through his own ineptitude or the minimal efforts of Sam (he is frequently seen sleeping), who always brutally punishes Ralph for the attempt. In many instances there are also multiple copies of Ralph and particularly Sam.

Sam_and_Ralph_clockAt the end-of-the-day whistle, Ralph and Sam punch out their time cards, again chat amiably, and leave, presumably only to come back the next day and do it all again. Both Ralph and Sam are performed by voice actor Mel Blanc.  In “A Sheep In The Deep” the workday is interrupted by a lunch break, which they also conduct amiably.  

I’m often reminded of these wonderful cartoons when playing poker in private home games or house games.  (To me, a “home” game is one with no rake and each player takes a turn shuffling and dealing the cards; a “house” game takes a rake out of the pot, provides a dealer who works for tips and offers complimentary food & beverages.  House games are making a profit off of the game.  Home games are not.  Perhaps this should be the subject of another post, but I digress…)

Most of the players are regulars.  Many of the same players can be found at different venues.  We might invite our poker-loving friends to come join us at the games.  Over time, we get to know each other, learn about jobs, families, other interests… all the stuff that leads to friendships.  Various sub-groups go on poker road trips together.  Like Ralph and Sam, before the game starts, we exchange pleasant chitchat.

Then the poker officially begins.  While involved in a hand, each of us becomes Ralph, using whatever cunning means we have at our disposal to abduct the helpless poker chips from the “villains.”  We are aggressive and deceitful.  We bluff and exploit all weaknesses.  We seek out information that gives us an edge.  We punish villains’ mistakes mercilessly.  And each of us also becomes Sam.  When not asleep, we defend.  We lay traps.  We punish unbridled aggression in the worst possible way.

When we fold, and the player to our left or our right also folds, we can go back into chitchat mode.  “How’s work going?”  “Did you see the game this afternoon – your team won, right?”  “Let’s get together for dinner with our wives next weekend, OK?”

Then another hand is dealt.  We punch our poker time clocks and go back to battle.  It is almost as if we are clocked in whenever we have live cards in our possession, then clocked out from the time we fold until the next hand is dealt.

Or we take a break and wander into the kitchen or out on the deck.  The atmosphere is friendly there, we break bread together and share a story, celebrate each other’s joys or commiserate with each other’s pains.

I was reminded of Ralph E. Wolf and Sam Sheepdog a few nights ago when another regular player (for purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Rob”) was getting ready to leave the game.  Rob had already racked up his chips and was getting ready to cash out.  But he punched in to the poker time clock for one more hand.  Rob (attacking, like Ralph) raised, I (defending, like Sam) called.  The flop came out… full house on the flop for me.  I laid the trap.  Rob never saw it, and it cost him over 150 Big Blinds.  That’s how the game is played…

Yet I both like and respect Rob.  Sometimes he wins and sometimes he loses, but he never seems to take the losses personally, never directs any anger at his villains.  Before he left the building, I met him at the door to acknowledge the brutality of that last hand, and to wish him a very sincere Merry Christmas.  He’ll bounce back.  He always does.

I was reminded of Ralph and Sam again last night.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll refer to the on-the-clock villain / off-the-clock friend as “Jayson.”  Earlier in the night there was a large pot, with one player all-in and Jayson and myself in a side pot.  I had pocket AAs, and put Jayson all-in on the flop.  He looked anguished and finally folded, muttering something in Japanese or Arabic that sounded like “Suqma-deek.”  He showed pocket JJs as he folded them.  Because a 3rd player was already all-in, I still had to show my cards and watched as the dealer delivered the turn card (a Jack, probably from Acme Corporation).  Lots of “oohs” and other gasps from around the table.  Then the river card – an Ace (how many times do we have to watch the cartoon to learn the sheepdog always wins?).  More reactions.  Later on, after announcing that I was leaving at a certain time, we reached what would be my last hand of the night.  Once again, it was Jayson and myself playing the roles of wolf and sheepdog.  I made a nut flush on the river.  Jayson bet and I raised all-in.  His top pair / top kicker hand was no good, and he smartly laid it down.

Tomorrow we’ll be friends again.  Except when we both have cards in front of us.

Just a bunch of guys at the office, socializing near the water cooler and time clock.  Transforming into wolf and sheepdog, then back to office buddies, over and over and over again.


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2 Straight Flushes in One Hand

I’ve never seen this before.  Last night at a $1/1 home game, two of the players got all-in on the flop.

One of them, I’ll call him “Eric,” has 5c 3c.

The other, I’ll call him “Sonny,” has 76o, where neither of his cards is a club.

The flop was 6c 5d 4c, giving Eric a middle pair + open-ended straight flush draw, and giving Sonny top pair + open-ended straight draw.  At the point, Sonny is ahead with his pair of 66’s beating Eric’s pair of 55’s, but Eric is actually a slight favorite (55%-to-45%) to win the hand based on his many outs (any club, any five, any deuce).

After some posturing and negotiation, they decide to run it three times.  (This means the pot will be divided into 3 equal sub-pots.  The dealer will flip over a turn & river card for 1/3 of the pot.  Then, using the same original flop cards, the dealer will flip over a 2nd turn & river for another 1/3 of the pot, then a final turn & river for the last 1/3 of the pot.  This helps reduce variance when players are all-in before the river.)

The very first turn card is 2c, giving Eric a 6-high straight flush, followed by a meaningless river card. Wow!

Sonny wins the second round.

In the final round, the river card is the 7c, hitting the top end of Eric’s draw and giving him a 7-high straight flush.  Double wow!

Highlight of a crazy night.  During this game, there were 6 hands where someone had pocket AA’s and flopped a set (including Eric 3 of those times).  Triple wow!

Multi-Way Action

Here is an interesting hand from a $1/1 cash game last night.

I am the Big Blind, and look down at 9d 8d.  My stack is $130.  I’ve been playing for about 2 hours and nothing good has happened yet.  Four players limp into the pot, and the SB completes.  I check my option, so there are 6 players and $6 in the pot for the flop.

Flop ($6):  9s 8h 4c.

The SB (I’ll call him “Dell”) checks.  I like my hand, having flopped top 2 pair.  With this many players, I need to bet for value and to find out who likes his hand enough to continue.

The player to my immediate left (let’s call him “Jeff”) quickly calls.  Hmmm…  He is UTG and limped in pre-flop from this early position.

Another player (I’ll call him “John”) also calls, then “Jason” calls, and Dell also calls.

My $5 bet was 83% of the pot size (albeit still very small in absolute terms) and only scared away one player.  This might turn into an action hand.

Turn ($31):  6d.

This card doesn’t hurt me, unless someone has exactly T7, 75 or 66.  With this loose crowd of players anything is possible, so let’s see what happens.

Now Dell in the SM leads out with a bet of $11.  He does this a lot, leading out into the raiser from a prior street, but it doesn’t necessarily mean great strength.  I debate raising vs. calling and decide to call to help me get some more information.  If my hand is indeed the best, I don’t want to run everybody off with a big raise here.

Then Jeff raises to $35.  Huh?  “Danger, Will Robinson!  Danger, DANGER!” goes the alarm in my head.  John calls $35, and Dell also calls the raise to $35.  It’s back to me.

Here is where I need to think very carefully about what each Villain might have and how they would play it.  Jeff is the biggest concern, so I’ll deal with him last.

Dell is fairly easy, once I think about it.  I’ve played with him several other times, and he is loose and aggressive.  He donk bets a lot of flops and turns where he has hit any part of the board – bottom pair, middle pair, weak kicker, as a way of (1) getting information, and (2) winning the dead money when no one else has anything.  I can exploit this from time to time by raising big and representing a strong hand.  If he does have a really big hand, he bets it aggressively rather than trying to trap.  (For example we had a recent confrontation where he has AJ and I had QQ on a flop of AQJ.  He led out, I raised, he 3-bet and also called when I shoved, playing his 2-pair (top + bottom) like it was the nuts and ultimately doubling me up.)  Back to the present, however, he just calls Jeff’s raise but doesn’t re-raise.  I conclude my top 2-pair is better than his hand.  No need for me to slow down on account of Dell.

Next up is John.  John is a very loose player who likes to see flops with virtually any two cards, and likes to chase draws, including weak flush draws, gut shots, etc.  Hard to push him off of a pot as he is very sticky if he hits any part of it.  He ends up making 2-pair or middling straights an awful lot, and this frustrates many of the other players.   He called my $5 bet on the flop and then called Jeff’s $35 on the turn.  He only has about $30 remaining behind.  Surely he would re-raise all-in if he had a made straight or set.  This looks like classic John chasing some kind of draw, perhaps with a pair + open-ended straight draw (97, 87, 76), pair plus gutshot straight draw (T9, T8, T6, 95, 85, 65) or something like J7 that was a gutshot on the flop and gained outs when the 6 hit.  He also could have 2 pair like 98, 96, 86, 64.  Since he didn’t shove it all-in on the turn, my top 2-pair dominates his range.

Lastly, what about Jeff?  He’s the one who worries me the most here, based on his UTG limp, quick call on the flop and raise on the turn.  Could he have 44?  T7?  These are the two hands that crush me and might follow this betting pattern (especially T7s).  With 44 I think he might raise on the flop, although with so many players behind him, calling to keep everyone in the pot may be his best option despite the possible straight draws with 98 on this flop.  T7 is certainly possible, and his stack is larger than mine.  Ouch!  Or he could have turned 2 pair (or have the same hand as me… suited 98, but only one combination remains), but I’m having trouble seeing which 2 pair would make sense to limp in from UTG other than 98s.  Not that it has to make sense, and I do know Jeff can be very loose passive at times.  He could also be overplaying a strong 1-pair hand (I’ve seen him limp with AA from early position trying to trap).  Without doing all of the combinatorics at the table, it seems like I need to worry about 3 combinations of 44, plus 4 combinations of T7s.  In either case, I’ll have 4 outs (9%) to catch up on the river.  It seems like there is a greater number of combinations that I can beat, plus the pot size is now rather swollen.  There is $147 in the pot, and it costs me $24 to call or $115 more to go all-in.

My last consideration here is whether Jeff could fold 44 if I go all-in, representing that I have the T7 and nut straight.  Would he fold a small set?  I doubt it, but maybe, just maybe…

I finally decide to throw caution to the wind and shove all-in.  All three players (especially Dell and John) have a lot of draws in their ranges and I need to punish them if they are going to chase.  And I might actually get paid.

Jeff folds.  Whew!  I feel better already.

John calls his remaining $30.

Dell folds.

John shows J7o, for an open-ended straight draw, plus one (useless) over card.  He has 8 outs, with the the large pot, he is getting the right odds to make this final call.

The river is a blank and I scoop up a large pot, which puts me “in the black” for the evening.

Gotta Win the Races

In a few days, I’m heading to Las Vegas for my first trip ever (can you say… Bucket List?) to the World Series of Poker.  I will be playing in exactly one bracelet event, with a $1,500 buy-in, starting June 20.

So a couple days ago I switched from my normal cash game mode to a tournament mode.  I played an online tournament on Thursday, and played in live, private tournaments on Friday and Saturday nights.

Let’s get real here, very quickly, and acknowledge that these tournaments aren’t going to be representative of what I should expect at the WSOP.  But at least they involved more players who I do not play with regularly, and the basic issue that the blinds increase in scheduled increments, creating various inflection points along the way.  And when you bust out, you’re out.  Finished.  Over.  Done.

On Friday, there were 47 players in the tournament, with a $50 buy-in plus $10 bounty.  Blinds increased every 20 minutes.  The prize money goes to the last 5 players.  I did pretty well, played a mini-“Survivor” and made it to the final 4.  Then we negotiated a “chop” of the remaining money, giving a larger share to the guy with the biggest stack and splitting the balance equally among the other three.  I had the 2nd largest stack, although my lead over 3rd and 4th place was slim… no more than 3-4 big blinds.

On Saturday, there were 16 players, with a $60 buy-in, plus re-entry for the first hour, plus a $10 add-on at the end of an hour.  Blinds increased every 15 minutes.  The prize money goes to the last 3 players.  Again, I hung on for a good while, busting out in 6th place.

Here’s the thing:  in both tournaments, there are points where significant risks are required.  Let’s call a “big risk” any situation where you are going to commit all or a sizable portion of your chip stack before the flop.  This is when you have the least amount of information — only your two hole cards.  When you go all-in and another player calls, or another players goes all-in and you call, you cannot ever be assured of winning.  With pockets AA’s, you might be somewhere between 77-94% favorite, but never 100%.  And some additional times you’ll be doing the same on the flop, with two cards still to come.

Often times the odds will be fairly close to 50/50.  When this happens, we call it a “race” or a “coin flip.”  I suppose it’s fair to call it a race whenever neither player is a greater than 60% favorite (although I have not seen any semi-official definition).  Even at 70/30, the underdog is going to win often enough to make it pretty nerve-wracking.

Here are some of the hands from Friday and Saturday nights that stand out:

Friday – Coachman’s Trail tournament (format:  my cards, my percentage equity at the time we went all-in, “>” or “<” to indicate that I won / lost, villain’s cards, villain’s percentage.  (Percentages may be slightly off as I don’t remember the suits from every hand.  This is in the order they occurred to the best of my recollection.)

1.  AKo (45%) > 55 (55%).  Knocked out opponent.

2. JJ (50%) = JJ (50%).   Chopped pot.  Villain shoved over my opening raise, then picked up a flush draw on turn but missed.  Whew.

3.  A9s (30.5%) < AKo (69.5%).  Doubled up opponent.  I had raised first, he shoved, not too much more to call and I had the bigger stack.  Same villain as #2.

4. AA (80%) > TT (20%).  Doubled up my stack.

5. QQ (80%) > TT (20%).  Knocked out opponent.  This was the very next hand after #4.  Mini-heater.

6. KJo (73.2%) < K3o (26.8%).  Doubled up opponent, who had gotten short stacked and made a “fuck it” call that was less than my pre-flop raise.

7. K9o (57.8%) > QJo (42.2%).  Doubled up my stack.  Villain open-limped in cutoff and appeared weak.  I shoved on button hoping to have just enough fold equity to get rid of him.  He called anyway.

8. KQs (44.1%) > ATo (55.8%).  Doubled up my stack.  Flopped flush draw giving me lots of outs, hit flush on river.

9.  TT (80%) > 88 (20%).  Doubled up my stack.  Villain was loose, aggressive, big stack.  Now at 5 players remaining.

In this group, I won 6, lost 2 and chopped 1.  Both losses came when I had a big enough stack to survive the beating.  4 of the wins came when I was the shorter stack (and 2 of these were 80/20 situations so not exactly races.  But still…).

My simple average equity in these hands was 60.1%.  My “win rate” of 6.5 out of 9 is 72.2%.  So without weighting for stack sizes or Independent Chip Model theories and such other fancy analysis, I performed slightly better than expected on this small sample of hands.  Most importantly, there were 5 times that a loss would have knocked me out of the tournament and I survived them all.  This is a must to go deep in a no limit holdem tournament, especially with the blinds increasing so quickly.  When we finally negotiated the chop, even the biggest stack had only about 15-17 big blinds remaining.

Saturday – John D.’s house tournament.

1.  KK (78.6%) > QQ (11.1%) < Q6s (10.3%).  WTF?  Villain #2 UTG min-raises,  Villain #1 UTG+1 re-raises, and I shove on the button with KK.  V2 has slightly less than one-half of her starting stack and we have not yet reached the end of the re-entry period, so she makes a tilted, “fuck-it, I’ll just re-buy” call with Qs6s and V1 also calls with QQ.  I love this spot.  Then a 6 comes on the flop and another 6 on the river.  I make a very tiny profit on the side pot and knock out V1, while V2 pulls in chips equal to about 135% of a starting stack.  OMG.

2.  8c 3c (44.2%) < Ks Qc (55.8%) after flop of Kc 8d 7c.  After 2 limps, I completed from the small blind (AND THEREIN LIES THE REAL MISTAKE!!!) with total garbage.  But I hit the flop pretty good, with middle pair and a flush draw.  We are 6-handed and the blinds are big, such that I begin the hand with 10.5 BBs.  I open shove into a pot of 4 BBs, a massive over bet designed to put maximum pressure on the villains knowing I have a lot of equity.  Guy on button calls (why did he limp and not raise with KQo on the button???).  Turn is another 7, pairing the board and eliminating some of my outs as now I cannot win by pairing my kicker.  River is a 3, pairing my kicker.

Trying to remember other races from this tournament and cannot think of any.  I know I didn’t knock out anyone else as I only had one bounty to cash in afterwards.  I cannot recall any other hands where I doubled up my stack.

Both of these hands were weird, and the first one doesn’t really qualify as a “race” other than how it illustrates what can happen in tournaments.

My simple average equity for these two hands is 61.4%.  I won the side pot on the first hand but lost the main pot.  So let’s just say I won 1 out of 3 pots for a win rate of 33.3%.  Performed worse than expected and finished out of the money.

Friday –> variance is my friend.  Saturday –> variance is my enemy.  Inevitably, gotta win some key races to survive.

On to the cash game.  A key hand there (see #1 again from the Saturday tournament) is where again I have KK and raise to 7 BBs pre-flop.  2 callers and then a short stack makes a “Fuck it!” shove for 25 BBs.  I go all-in to isolate him and he turns over 33.  KK (80%) < 33 (20%) after he spikes another 3 on the turn.  Sigh.

Too Much Information

One of my loyal readers (thank you, dear readers!!!) told me recently that I should post more hands where I win.  It seems that most of the time, I’m analyzing, sharing or commenting on hands that I lose, and this is true for a couple of reasons.  Originally this blog was all about bad poker play.  More recently I’ve shifted slightly, but one of the reasons I blog is to get “badness” out of my system.

Last night at a local $1/2 no limit Holdem home game, I played this hand which is replayed here.  It was nearly 2:00 am and I’ve been playing since about 8:00 pm.

So far the night has gone well.  I was up to about $640 on an initial buy-in of $300, but have slipped down to just over $500.  Still a tidy profit, and I’ve announced to the table that I’ll be leaving soon.

See the link to the hand replayer for the detailed betting action, ’cause I’m not typing it all out here.  A summary is that I raised to $10 pre-flop with JTo, the flop is Jc Ts 6c, giving me top 2-pair on a very wet (i.e., draw-heavy) board.

There is a bet, raise and 2 calls on the flop, then the main villain (I’ll call him “Jason”) check-raises me on the turn (low, off suit, irrelevant card), raising my $55 bet to $110.  I call, cautiously, but suspecting he flopped a set of 666’s.

On a river 7d (which would complete a straight if he had exactly 98), he open shoves all-in.

Grrrr… I was having a really good night, slipped back a bit, and plan to leave soon.  He has me covered, so I risk going bust and being stuck $300 if I call and lose.  Alternatively, I can fold here and take home a $50 profit.  Or, even though I have top 2-pair, this feels very much like a hero call to make and if I call and win this will be a huge pot.

My first option is folding.  When someone goes all-in on the river, they usually have what they consider to be the best hand.  He could easily put me on an over pair (AA, KK or QQ) here given the betting action, so his all-in bet says “I can beat your over pair!”  He called my flop raise (over a 3rd player’s bet – he later got out of the way) quickly and in rhythm, then check-raised me on the turn again very quickly and in rhythm.  He looks confident, although I also know he’s lost badly tonight and has a history of amping up the aggression when he is losing.  That just doesn’t seem to be the case here.

Then Jason does the most wonderful thing:  he offers to let me see one of his hole cards.  “Pick either one,” he says, spreading his cards apart, “and I’ll turn it over for you to see it.”

Poker is a game of incomplete information, so getting extra, voluntary information from a villain here is good for me.  My read on this situation is that he flopped a set of 666’s, so if he shows me a six, I can confidently fold and avoid a big loss.

I point to the card closest to me and he turns over the J of diamonds.  He also says “I have better than just one pair of Jacks.”

Whoa!  That changes things quite a bit.  First of all, he does NOT have pocket 66’s, and did not flop a set of 666’s.  Secondly, he didn’t pick up a straight on the river with hole cards of 98.  If he flopped 2-pair plus, it is either a set of JJJ’s, JT (and we’ll just chop the pot), or J6.  I point this out and he states that he doesn’t have J6.

JJ or JT?  That is the question.  He has one J, I have one J, and there is one J on the board.  That only leaves one J left in the deck.  Low odds of him having it, but he did just shove all-in on me.

I know Jason doesn’t like to bloat pots pre-flop with JJ, especially out of position.  So while other players at this table would discount the possibility of his having a set of JJJ’s based on his calling but not re-raising pre-flop, I won’t do that.  With other villains I might, but not with Jason.

Or he could have JT, we chop the pot (which has about $350 in it prior to his shove) and I get approx. $175 back which would be a very small profit from the chips put in by other players.  But I have to risk $350 to win $175, so I’m laying odds.  Not happy about that.  This is twice as likely as his having JJ, as I have one T, there is another T on the board, leaving two more unaccounted for.  From a strictly math standpoint, if the only possibilities are he has JJ or JT, he will have JT twice as often as JJ.  If he sometimes re-raises pre-flop with JJ, then he should have JT here more than twice as often as JJ.  If he might be bull shitting me when he says (as he has now done multiple times) his hand is better than one pair of Jacks, that puts other possibilities in his range, such as AJ or KJ, which reduces the frequency of his having the only hand I fear – pocket JJ’s – even lower, perhaps to 1/4 or 1/5 of the time.

If this exact scenario were to play out 100 times, how many of those will have have JJ and how many will he have something else.  It occurs to me that my decision is almost mathematically neutral.  Let’s go back to him having JJ 1/3 of the time and JT 2/3 of the time.  So 1/3 of the time I will lose my remaining $350.  The Expected Value of that is ($117).  And 2/3 of the time we will chop and my half of the pot is $175.  The EV of that (2/3 x $175) is $117.  The net EV of calling is zero!

If there are any other options in his range, this pushes the EV into a positive number for calling and I should call.

Finally, after a very long time in the tank and a couple of apologies to the rest of the table for taking so long, I decide I have to trust my read.  My biggest regrets in poker are when I DON’T trust my read and my read was correct.  Here my read is that he has JT and we will chop the pot.

Reluctantly, I call, and turn over my JT.

Jason turns over Jd 9d.  All he has is one pair.

I’m stunned… I just won the whole pot, which is over $1,000.  I’m pretty sure this is the largest pot I’ve ever won at a $1/2 game.

Had he not turned over one card, I probably would have folded.  His play fit the initial read of him flopping a set of 666’s too perfectly, and I would have to trust that read.  Instead, he gave me too much information, which led me to a different read and the right decision.

Jason was very gracious afterwards.  Privately, he told me that he read me as having an over pair, and that it didn’t occur to him that I would put him on pocket 66’s.  Thus he figured showing me one card and then telling me that he had better than a pair of JJ’s was his best chance of getting me to fold.  He also said he purposely put the J closer to me than the 9, figuring I would select the closest card (which I did… at the time thinking both were 6’s so it really didn’t matter).

What if I had selected the other card and he flipped over a 9?  That brings a possible straight into the equation, although his betting patterns don’t seem consistent with a straight draw.  On the other hand, referring to Jason’s betting as a “pattern” when he’s losing and/or tilting can be another mistake.

Clearly the extra information saved me from a mistake here.  Thanks Jason, I hope you are reading this…

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