KKing David

Ruminations on poker

Archive for the tag “backdoor flush”

Mistakes and Coolers

In David Sklansky’s classic book The Theory of Poker, the author introduces his 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.

In his view, a mistake is any play that delivers a gain to an opponent.  It’s worth noting that this is Sklansky’s personal definition of mistake, used for purposes of his book, and deviates considerably from a standard dictionary definition (such as “an action or judgment that is misguided or wrong”).  For a poker action to be a mistake, it doesn’t matter who ultimately wins the pot; you can take an action in a poker hand that you would not have taken if you could see your opponent’s cards, then draw out a winning card on the river despite long odds.  You win the pot, but your earlier action is still a mistake.  It also doesn’t matter if other players would have made the same play, as often happens when the 2nd nut hand loses to the absolute nuts.  If you could see your opponent’s cards, you would act differently.

My previous blog post noted that We All Make Mistakes.  So it seems inevitable that the next time I play poker after writing that piece (last night), I suffered through a flood of mistakes.

I made the mistake of being passive when I should have been aggressive, calling a pre-flop raise with QQ, intending to set a trap.  I later learned the villain had TT, after a flop of Js Ts 3s (giving him a set; me an overpair and flush draw).  The 4th T came on the turn, giving him quads.  In hindsight, I might have lost more had I re-raised pre-flop; but at the time of the pre-flop action, not re-raising was a mistake.

I made calling mistakes.  Many of them.

  • In the hand noted above, I called a river bet after a K came on the last card.  Duh… calling when the villain has quads is a mistake!
  • I called turn and river bets with 88 on a board of 432-7-J.  The villain had QQ and just called my pre-flop raise.  His trap worked, whereas my earlier attempt to set a trap with QQ failed.
  • I called flop and turn bets (the latter putting me all-in) with 22 after a flop of 972.  The villain had 99 for top set, crushing my bottom set.  This is a cooler, and fortunate for me that my stack wasn’t too deep.  Under Sklansky’s Fundamental Theorem of Poker, however, calling was a mistake.  If I could see the villain’s cards, I would not have called.  Ouch!
  • With KQs, I called a check-raise and river bet on a board of K64 (two clubs)-6-5.  This was late, the flop was very drawy, a scary turn card came, and the bluffing frequency around the table escalated considerably in the prior half hour.  Not this villain –> he tables A6.  Had I checked-back on the turn for pot-control, I still would make the mistake of calling a river bet, but would lose far less.
  • There was one at least one other river call mistakes, but thankfully I cannot now recall the details.

I made betting and bet-sizing mistakes.  Many of them.

  • With 77 on the button, I flopped a set on a board of 875 (rainbow), and called a flop bet along with two other callers.  The turn J created a flush draw, and everyone checked to me.  One villain called my bet.  The river K completed the flush draw.  I bet again, and the villain called with a very weak flush.  He had 62s, got to the flop when no one raised, flopped an open-ended straight draw and turned a flush draw.  In addition to the river bet mistake, I was too passive pre-flop.  Another cooler, yet still a mistake according to Sklansky’s definition.
  • I made a flush on the river (after my turn semi-bluff got one caller) and a large bet after the villain checked.  He called again, with a bigger flush than mine.  Yet another cooler / mistake.
  • Several times I made a top pair / good kicker hand on the flop, where the villains were too weak to call a bet.  I bet anyway and they all folded.  Had I been more patient, perhaps I could have gotten some value on a later street by giving them a chance to catch up.
  • Other times I was the pre-flop raiser and made continuation bets on flops that didn’t connect with my hand at all, only to be called and have to surrender later.  C-betting with air against a top pair hand is a mistake.

Of course, I didn’t know the villains’ cards in any of these hands at the time of the mistakes.  That’s the thing with the Fundamental Theorem of Poker.  We have to take actions with incomplete information.  This leads to frequent mistakes.  If we can make fewer mistakes than our opponents, we can win over the long run.  The first key to making fewer mistakes is to improve hand reading skills.  Better reads = fewer mis-reads = fewer mistakes.  The second key is to learn to mitigate the effects of tilt.  Tilt leads to anger and other negative emotions, and intense anger shuts down higher brain functions — especially decision making and self-control.

The Stoic philosopher Epictetus said: “An ignorant person is inclined to blame others for his own misfortune. To blame oneself is proof of progress. But the wise man never has to blame another or himself.”

Put me down for progress, with a long way to go to reach wisdom.


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Daily Debacle – Way Ahead / Way Behind

Last night I played in a live tournament with about 65 players.  The buyin was $50 plus another $10 bounty.  The starting stack was equal to 50 big blinds.

I was pretty card dead and uber-tight for awhile, whittling away about 20% of my stack.  Then the most aggressive player, an older guy, was on the button, with me in the big blind.  Not only was this guy aggressive, he was irritating.  A couple of times he was doing business on his cell phone while in a hand, including once as the dealer, and seemed oblivious to the rest of us.

Another time, he made a fairly standard-sized open raise and I called with 9-6 suited.  Not a premium hand, but folding all the time was getting boring, the blinds were still small, and I had position.  Two of my suited cards appeared on the flop and the old fart shoved all-in, about 5x the pot size.  Of course I folded, and he showed AA and said he was just happy to win what was already in the pot.  I made a mental note for future reference.

So this hand he is the button and I still have about 10 big blinds.  Everyone folds to him and he raises to just over 3BB’s, and the SB folds.  I have KT suited.  Not great, not terrible, not something I want to play out-of-position, not something I want to fold.  My image should be very, very tight.  I shoved and he insta-called, showing KK.  As I’m starting to walk away from the table, the river card completes a gutshot straight for me.

A bit later, the blinds are up again, I’ve won one more pot and now have 18.5 BB’s.  Everyone folds to me in the Hijack seat, and I have Ah 8h.  This is certainly good enough to raise, and I have to mix it up some or the blinds will begin taking their toll soon.  I raise to 2.5 BB’s, and the next two players fold.  Then the small blind 3-bets to 5.5 BB’s and the big blind folds.  The small blind made a strange play early in the tournament (first level of blinds).  On a monotone flop, he made the nut flush.  There was a bet and a call in front of him.  He shoved all-in and everybody folded.  He then showed his flush.  Really?  Why push everybody out if you have the nuts?  That seemed like such a perfect time to milk the pot for so much more.  Sure, it’s possible someone will have a draw to a full house, but you want to entice them to chase those draws.

On the other hand, I haven’t seen any 3-bets from this player.  His range seems fairly narrow, like JJ+, AQs+, AK.  For some reason I cannot explain, it seems that the JJ-KK pocket pairs are most likely.  He might call and trap with AA, might call with AK and evaluate the flop, etc.

Against this range, I have 30% equity.  The pot is now 8.5 BB’s and it will cost me 3 BB’s to call, so I have the proper odds.  My stack is 16 BB’s and I would have 13 BB’s after calling.  I will have position on this villain post-flop.

I hate giving up 20% of my remaining stack on a call here.  Any other ace will have me dominated.  Flushes don’t come around that often.  The size of his 3-bet is inviting a call.  Deliberately?  I don’t think so, as I am not very impressed by his prior play.

I decide to fold, but don’t slide my cards to the center.  Let’s think a bit more.  This is a short tournament.  There are only so many opportunities to accumulate chips.  I got a second life with my earlier suckout against the button’s KK.

TOO MUCH THINKING HERE.  “Fold!” I tell myself.

I call.

The flop is A-Q-4, with one heart.  Not bad, top pair with a backdoor flush draw.  He checks.  I check.

The turn is the 4h.  Helps my backdoor flush draw.  Otherwise, this card changes nothing, as he certainly doesn’t have a 4.  He checks again.

At this point, I’m either way ahead or way behind.  I’m ahead if he has KK or JJ – he would only have 2 outs.  I’m behind if he has AA, QQ, AK, AQ.  Against AA or QQ, I’m drawing dead as the turn card completed a full house.  Against AK I have 12 outs (hearts or an 8).  Against AQ I have 9 outs for a flush.  Based on my assessment of his preflop range, those are about the only options.

The only right play here is to check behind.  As I’m writing this, it is abundantly clear.  But last night I was tired, the result of a very late online session the night before (accumulating material for more blog posts!).  The flush draw got me excited, and I rationalized that the additional equity made it proper to shove.  Looking at it now, none of the hands that are ahead of me are going to fold.  Am I representing that I have a 4?  How silly.  None of the hands that are behind are going to call.

So I shove.  He calls and shows AK.  I have 12 outs, miss them all, and make the walk of shame, after starting this hand in perfectly good shape for a deep run in this tournament.

You Must Be Kidding

Still running bad, so for a change of pace, I’ve switched from full ring games to 6-max, and dropped down to $0.25 – 0.50 blinds.  Also experimenting with Hold’em Indicator software and its HUD features.  Since I’m playing an a site where all players are anonymous, the stats can only be tracked for the current session and I have no cumulative reads on any of the regular players.

In this hand, I am the cutoff with As Js.  The player to my right limps in and I raise to $2.25 — a pot-sized raise.  The big blind and limper both call.

The flop is Ts 7d 4c.  Pretty raggedy.  I’ll probably make a continuation bet of about 60-70% of the pot if the other players both check.

Not so far KKing… Big blind takes about 5 seconds then shoves for $26 into a pot of $5.50.  Whoa there big fella!

Then the original limper over-shoves!

I’m outta here!

Big blind has 9d 8c for an open ended straight draw.

Limper has 7s 4s for bottom 2 pair.

The turn and river are 3s and 9s, which would have made a nut flush for me.

But no.  The limper, who limp/called with 7-4 suited, takes down a nearly $60 pot.

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