KKing David

Ruminations on poker

Archive for the tag “costly mistake”

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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Fancy Play Syndrome

This hand took place last night at a home cash game, blinds of $1/$1.  Two players limped in, and the button (for purposes of this post, I’ll call him “Jeff”) also limped.  I am the SB with Qs7s, and check, as does the BB (“Russ”).  No reason to get excited about Queen-Seven suited, out of position.

In the immediately preceding hand, both Russ and Jeff were involved.  At the river, the pot was rather large and the board was something like 822-5-2, and Russ made a large river bet.  I recall that Jeff had bet $20 on the turn and Russ raised to $50.  He also muttered something to the effect of “I’m good here unless he has the remaining deuce.”  After Jeff folded, Russ showed a naked bluff with King high.

I have to consider this in the hand we are now playing as both Jeff and Russ are involved.

The flop hits the board Q-T-7 rainbow (i.e., all different suits), giving me two pair.  This is a reason to get excited about my hand, there are straight draw possibilities, multiple villains might have a Q or T, so a value bet is called for.  I bet $4 into a pot of $5. Russ calls, the other villains both fold, then Jeff raises to $15 from the button.

My antenna goes up. The most common scenario with a flop raise is 2-pair or better.  The next most common scenarios are an over pair and top pair with a good kicker.  I have 2-pair with the top and bottom ends. So what does Jeff have?  Pre-flop, he limped in after two other limpers.

Let’s consider the possibilities, in three broad groups:

FIRST – Two-pair plus.  There are 3 ways he could have two pair… QT – which has me crushed, Q7 – same as mine, or T7 – and I would have him crushed.  Better than 2-pair means a set, as it is not yet possible for anyone to have a straight, flush or full house.  A set requires Jeff to have QQ, TT or 77.  The first two of these possibilities I can discount heavily, as he would raise pre-flop with QQ or TT.  Possibly also with 77, possibly not.  I have blockers to QQ and 77, so there is only one combination of each remaining in the deck.  I have seen Jeff bet flopped sets very aggressively before in other games, so his raise is consistent with how I’ve seen him play a set.

SECOND – Over pair or top pair with good kicker.  An over pair would be AA or KK.  As with QQ and TT, he would raise with either of these pre-flop.  Eliminate from his likely range.  Top pair would be Qx, with a strong kicker like AQ, KQ or QJ.  I think Jeff would have raised pre-flop with AQ or KQ, so I’m discounting these as well, although not entirely removing them from his range.

THIRD – Semi-bluff / draws.  Also there are draw possibilities with KJ, J9 or 98 for Open-Ended Straight Draws (“OESDs”), either of which he might be playing more aggressively than normal after folding and being shown Russ’ bluff on the preceding hand.  Less likely would be gutshot straight draws, with hands like AK (would have raised pre-flop), AJ, K9, and J8.

The last consideration is stack size… he has about $55 behind, and I have him covered.

Let’s put everything that makes sense into a range and see how we fare.

Jeff’s range: QT, Q7, T7, 77, AQ, KQ, QJ, KJ, J9, 98, AJ, K9, J8

My hand: Qs 7s.

My equity v. range: 71.2%.  Quite good.

Removing the gutshot straight draws (AJ, K9, J8) and my equity drops to 65.9%.  Still quite good.

Now that we know the correct answer is to call, back to the actual hand as played.

I called Jeff’s raise, and Russ also called.  Maybe I should give some extra thought to Russ’ range.  Now there is $50 in the pot.

Turn ($50): I don’t recall the exact card, other than it was a low blank – not completing any OESDs or gutshots, not pairing the board, not turning any top pair hands into 2-pair.

I check, Russ checks and Jeff goes all-in for his remaining $55.  Then Russ folds out of turn, before I have acted.  This is comforting in that now I don’t have to worry about Russ laying back with the real monster, nor do I have to go through the entire range analysis for Russ here in my blog post.  Whew!

This is not the first time I’ve played with Jeff.  I’ve seen him overplay medium strength hands, especially with a shorter stack.  I’ve seen him shove a short stack with less than the nuts.  I have the impression he wants to end this hand right now. If he wanted a call, he would bet less. (Or so I hope.)

I call, and he turns over AA, a hand that I previously ruled out because he did NOT raise pre-flop.  The river doesn’t help him and I scoop in the pot.

Apparently he was hoping to trap Russ by limping on the button and hoping Russ continued his aggression from the previous hand by raising from the big blind.

The fancy play cost Jeff his entire stack, in a situation where the straightforward play – raising on the button with pocket aces – may have netted him only a small win, but a win nevertheless.

Bottom Set = No Good on Dry Flop

Here is an instructional hand that I played online recently, in Bovada’s “Zone Poker” game, at the micro stakes level with blinds of $0.10 – 0.25.

For the uninitiated, Zone Poker is a lightning fast game, where you can click “Fold Now” at anytime after the cards are dealt, and not only is your hand automatically folded when the action gets to you, but you are also immediately re-seated at a newly formed table with a new group of players to start another hand.  This takes anonymity to a new level.  In Bovada’s regular cash games, all players are anonymous – i.e., only identified by their seat number and not by any actual or screen name – but over the course of several dozen hands you can observe each player’s habits – loose, tight, bluffs a lot, defends blinds aggressively, etc.  But you cannot recognize a player from the previous day or last week and recall that “PokerBum123” is a certain type of player based on the prior sessions.

With Zone Poker, EACH HAND is with a new group of players, so you don’t even have the benefit of knowing how they played the last 10 or 20 hands in the current session.

This results in very polarized play:  a lot of players play in a very straightforward, “ABC Poker” manner, or they make large and frequent bluffs.  Any style in between tends to get crushed.

Here is a link to a replay of the hand.

I am at a 6-handed table, and have the dealer button, and a starting stack of $30.35 (the maximum buy-in at this table with blinds of $0.10 – 0.25 is $25.00, so I’m up a little bit.  I look down at 33 and it seems like I’ve had 33 or 22 dealt a lot in the last several sessions and surely one of these times I’m going to flop a set and win a huge pot from some unsuspecting villain.  (Of course, I have similar thoughts about many starting hands, but I digress.)  The Hijack and Cutoff seats both limp in for $0.25 and I raise to $0.75.

Some people might not raise here, but my rationale is to build the pot a little bit just in case the set comes, so the next round of betting one-half pot or three-quarters pot sized bet will be large enough to mean something.  Plus, with certain flop textures, I may be able to take down the pot with a strong continuation bet even if I miss.  The Big Blind (BB) calls and so doe stye Hijack seat (HJ = 2 to the right of the button), and the Cutoff folds.

Here comes the flop:  ($2.60)  9s 4c 3d.  Cha-ching!  Now it’s time to make some money off these chumps.  Because I raised pre-flop, whereas most players would just limp in if their strategy is set mining here, my set of 3’s is well-disguised.  Think about it:  if you were developing a range of hands for me based on my position and raise (remember, I’m a totally anonymous player), would 33 be part of that range?

The BB checks and HJ bets $0.25, the minimum amount.  That’s a strange and fishy amount, and probably means (1) he’s just a bad player who doesn’t know what he’s doing, or (2) a blocking bet hoping to preempt me from making a larger continuation bet, typically indicating a player chasing a draw (the only possible draws on this flop are straight draws with 76, 75, 65, 52, A5 or A5), or (3) a weak made hand like 9x, 4x, or 88-55, and trying to find out where he stands, or (4) some kind of disguised trap or setup for a bluff on a later street.

I’m not going for any of that, so I raise to $1.50, trying to think about the bet increments that will be needed on the turn and river to build up the largest pot possible.  To my delight, BB calls.  Then HJ re-raises to $2.75, the minimum re-raise amount.


Zone Poker only gives you 15 seconds to make each decision, with no option to request extra time (their regular cash games give you 30 seconds, with the option of requesting 30 extra seconds if needed).  So I must process this quickly.  FIrst I note how dry the flop is.  943, rainbow.  No flush draws at all.  Not many straight draws – see above – and many of those hands should have folded to my pre-flop raise.  I’ve learned that most of the time a Villain raises or re-raises pre-flop, they have 2-pair or better.  After that, they probably have top pair or an over pair.  Over 85% of the time, they will have one of these possibilities.

Rather than shovel my money in as fast as possible, I decide to call and buy a few extra second to think about this.  The BB also calls.

Hands that I can bet include:  2-pair?  That requires starting cards of 94, 93 or 43.  Nope, not in any decent player’s range, not even at this low level.  Over pair?  Nope.  The flop is 9-high, so over pairs include TT, JJ, QQ, KK and AA.  I think ALL of those would have raised pre-flop from the HJ seat, either right away (when he limped) or as a re-raise after I raised on the button, having set a trap by limping with a very strong hand.  Top pair?  Maybe but not likely.  A9 or K9 should be wary of my enthusiasm for the hand.  I raised pre-flop, indicating strength, and raised on the flop, further suggesting that I might be the one with an over pair.  Certainly AA-TT is in my range here.  A thinking player would slow down after I raised to $1.50.

Besides, the BB called both my re-raise and HJ’s re-re-raise from out of position.  Is he the real villain in this hand, sitting there with a monster?

After eliminating 2-pair and over pair hands, and reducing the likelihood of HJ having top pair, now I have to worry about sets.  Since I have a set of 33’s, either or both villains here could have 44 or 99 (the latter being more likely for BB as a calling hand after my pre-flop raise, and less likely HJ as a limp/calling hand from the outset).  If this is the case, I’m toast!

Turn card:  ($10.85)  Jh.  Now no flush is possible, and nothing really seems to have changed.

BB checks again, and HJ bets $1.50.  Being wary, I just call, and BB now raises all-in.  HJ quickly calls, and both villains have more chips in their stacks than I do.

Holy Bankruptcy, Batman!

I’m not positive which one of them has a bigger set than mine, but surely one (or both) of them does.  I fold.  One of them might be an idiot, and I’ll find out which one in a few seconds, but not both of them.  (Not that i can use the information for any advantage in Zone Poker, however.)

BB shows J9 for top 2-pair.  HJ shows 99 for top set on the flop and wins the final pot of approx. $70 – which is freaking huge at these stakes.

I’m thrilled to have ‘only’ lost five bucks on this hand and $25 + change remaining in my stack.

Ok Bovada, how about giving me 2 more cards and let’s try again…

What am I Doing Here?

This occurred about 2 minutes after the hand in the previous post.  I had opened up a new table and this was my first hand played there, also at $0.25 – 0.50 6-max NL.

I am the Big Blind with 9s 6s.

Everybody folds to the Small Blind, who raises to $1.50.  Since this is the first hand, I have no reads or data on his tendencies.  I should assume that he is being straightforward and has something with reasonable strength.  There is no reason to make assumptions otherwise based on non-existent data.

should fold.

should know better.  Maybe it is OK to call and then play a fit-or-fold approach on the flop, although that is clearly a -EV play.  At least it is lower variance than…

I call.

Flop ($3.00)  Js Kc 9c.  I caught the bottom end of it.  Surely I can outplay this unknown.

SB bets $3, playing right into my strategy.  (Who am I kidding?  I don’t have a strategy here, other than bullying my way through this hand.)

I raise to $7.50.  That should end it.  Not so big of a raise that it looks like I’m trying to push him off the pot, not so small that I look too timid.  SB calls.

Turn ($18.00)  Ks.  A perfect card for a second barrel.  I’m representing a K and this certainly helps.

SB checks and I bet $11, feeling a little bit of guilty pleasure over the anticipated pickup in just one hand here.  THEY…   WILL…   FEAR…   ME…   AT…   THIS…   TABLE!!!

SB calls again.  WTF?  Maybe he actually has a hand.

River ($40.00)  7s.  This changes nothing, other than my only option here is to continue the ruse which probably means I have to shove, or giving up.

SB checks.  I meekly check back.  He is acting like he’s not going anywhere.  Now this only smells like a trap.

He shows Kd Jc, for a flopped top 2 pair and turned full house.  Once again, getting involved in a blind vs. blind leveling war only backfires.

Who said:  “When you look around the table and can’t figure who is the biggest fish, you’re probably it”?

Year-to-date and month-to-date online results:  (- $851).  Running bad.  Running so so so bad.

Multi-barreling short-handed

This happened last night at a $2-4 no limit hold’em online table.  A new table was just formed and still playing short-handed while waiting for more players.  Right now there are 4 players.

Hero (me) in BB:  $286

Villain is UTG:  $405 (only been at the table a few hands, no information)

I am dealt 6-5 off suit.

V raise to $10 and both other players fold.

I hate being a wuss short handed, even though this is a clear fold.  I have two low cards and will be out of position for the entire hand.  Given my recent desire to be more disciplined about position, just FOLD.

But this short-handed, I tell myself, so V’s raise cannot be automatically assumed to mean strength.  Yes, he is under-the-gun.  But looked at differently, he is the cutoff, a prime blind-stealing position.

I call.

($22)  Flop is 2d 5h Qc.  Yay!  I caught a piece of it.

I lead out with a bet of $15 and V calls.  His call could indicate that he thinks my donk-bet (leading into the pre-flop raiser) is a feeble attempt to steal the pot.  Perhaps he has a pocket pair lower than QQ, such as 66-JJ, and isn’t ready to give up with just one overcard.  I like my chances of winning here by firing another barrel.

($52)  The turn is 3d.  I want to take this pot, and lead out with $40.  Plus, now I have a gutshot straight draw.  Any 6, 5 or 4 helps my hand.  Again V calls, not very quickly.

($132)  The river is 2s, pairing the board, but really this is inconsequential.  I think about giving up here, but now the pot has a decent amount of money in it, and I want it.  In fact, I think I deserve it for being bold enough to fire multiple barrels in this short-handed situation, and V has not fought back on any street.  So I bet $100.

V takes about 15 seconds and calls, showing QT off suit.  His very mediocre opening cards made top pair on the flop, and he could not, would not let go despite the medium kicker.

I lost… no make that spewed away $165 on this hand.

As the cockatoos said, “Some people never learn.”

Year-to-date online results:  +$9285

Month-to-date online results:  +$366

Top 10 Disasters in One Day

Last weekend I had time to play a lot of hours one day and things went particularly badly all day.  Murphy’s Law rained upon me.  Rather than pick one or two terrible plays, I’ve compiled a Top 10 list (with apologies to David Letterman).

All of this came playing $1-2 no limit Hold’em, online.  In scrolling through hand histories to pick out these hands and recall the details, I notice how many other hands might also qualify.  Hand after hand of getting involved in pots with mediocre cards, playing out of position, calling bets where surely I am beat and making bluffs that get called, spewing away chips upon chips upon more chips.  Ugh!

#10 – I have AA in middle position.  (These hands are not presented in sequence.  Suffice it to say that I’ve already been running badly and bleeding lots of chips.)  I’ve just raised pre-flop on two immediately prior hands, so my table image at the moment should be very loose.  Surely I’ll get some action and make back some of my losses.  I raise to $7.  Everyone folds, including both blinds.  I win $3.  OMG.

#9 – I have TT in the UTG+2 position.  I raise to $7, my standard amount in an unopened, unlimped pot.  The cutoff calls and the big blind also calls for $5 more.  The pot is now $22.  The flop is 6d Ks Js.  BB folds and I make a continuation bet of $10.  This is a little on the low side for a c-bet as I usually try to bet a little over 1/2 pot.  Cutoff calls and BB folds.  The turn is Qh, giving me an open-ended straight draw.  I decide to slow down a bit and check.  Cutoff now bets $10, which is clearly a very weak bet, now less than 25% of the pot.  This looks very defensive.  I call and now the pot is $62.  The river is Jc.  Oh, I have a great idea.  I’ll represent that I have a J and just made 3-of-a-kind.  I lead out with a bet of $41, about 2/3 of the pot.  He’ll know that he is beaten.  He takes about 2 seconds to call and shows AA, winning a $144 pot.  OMG.

#8 – I am UTG and dealt Ah Jh.  This should be an easy raise to $7, but I try to convince myself to be more cautious.  If re-raised I’ll have to fold, calling to mind David Sklansky’s gap concept.  (If someone in early position raises, you should not call or re-raise unless your hand is better than the minimum you would have needed to make the original raise from that position.)  While I like that fact that these cards are strong and are suited, I can  easily be dominated by AK or AQ.  If an A comes on the flop and a player with position on me raises, how will I know where I stand?  How will I control the pot size?  So I limp instead.  Everyone folds to the SB, who completes and the BB checks.  The flop is 7h 4h 4s.  I have an A high flush draw.  SB checks and BB bets $6, a pot-sized bet.  I call and SB also calls.  Now the pot is $24.  The turn is Th, completing my flush.  Time to go to value-town, baby!  Both blinds check and I bet $18.  SB now check-raises me to $40 and BB folds.  WTF?  I guess the idiot has either a weaker flush or a 4.  He has the shorter stack, having started the hand with $75 whereas I started with $176.  After his check-raise, he only has $27 more behind.  I’m not backing down.  Within a few seconds both of our stacks are in the middle, and he shows 7c 4c, for a flopped full house Small Blind Special, and takes down a $159 pot.  A simple pre-flop raise probably wins me $3 instead.  OMG.

#7 – About two orbits prior to this hand, I have AQ offsuit, my least favorite hand in the entire world to play.  When I get the “Big Chick” nothing ever seems to go right.  My other nickname for this hand is “Anna Kournikova” because it looks really good but never wins anything.  Anyway I caught a straight on the river of a board showing J-T-6-9-8 and bet $50 into two other players.  One of them shipped all of his chips in and I folded.  The other guy called but the first raiser showed KQ, for the nuts, with his K-high straight just better than my Q-high straight (which the 3rd player in the hand also had).  I lost $71 on that hand and went on tilt with my stack reduced to $117.  About 18 tiltish hands later, I now have $80 in the BB and get dealt AA.  Time to make up some ground here.  UTG+1 limps in, a player in middle position raises to $6 and the cutoff and SB both call.  I re-raise to $21.  The bet sizing here is rather tricky as I’d really like to isolate one other player.  Winning now would be a net gain of $20.  While not terrible, I’d like to get it all in here and double up.  The original limper UTG+1 calls, middle position calls, cutoff calls and now the SB who has a very short stack shoves in a total of $25.65.  Since his 4-bet raise is only $4.65 more and this is less than my raise of $15 (from $6 to $21), it caps the betting and I’m not allowed to raise again.  Everybody calls and we go to the flop 5-handed with a pot of $128 and three other live players.  With $65 behind – barely 1/2 of the pot – I pretty much decide that I’m going all-in on the flop regardless of what it looks like or what the other players do.  I don’t have a deep enough stack to evaluate and think about folding if things get hairy.  The flop is 8d Jh 7d.  Talk about hairy!  Flush and straight draws galore that can hit many of the hands in the other players’ ranges.    I shove, UTG+1 also shoves (he had a couple of dollars less than me), middle position folds and the cutoff calls.  Uh-oh.  UTG+1 shows JJ for a flopped set of Jacks.  The cutoff shows Jd 9d for top pair, a flush draw and a gutshot straight draw.  Yes, he called $25 pre-flop with J9 suited.  The SB, who was all-in pre-flop for his last $25.65 shows 6h 4h.  WTF?  No wonder he had such a short stack.  Please, oh please buy-in again and stay to my immediate right at this table.  The turn is Tc, filling the cutoff’s straight, and the river is a harmless 5s.  Mr. J9 suited wins a $292 pot, while I head to the cyber cashier, thinking about my pre-flop raise sizing.  Could I have raised enough to make both JJ and J9 go away?  In a span of 20 hands, I’ve lost $188 at this table.  OMG.

#6 – A very few minutes later, on a different table (most of the day I have two tables going at the same time), I get KK in the UTG+2 position.  UTG raises to $6 and I re-raise to $16.  The SB calls and the original raiser also calls, so the pot is now $50.  The flop is 9c Js Qc, an extremely drawy board with both straight and flushes to worry about.  UTG checks and I take a deep breath and bet $50.  Let’s end this right here.  SB calls, which puts him all-in and UTG check-raises to $175, putting me all-in as I started the hand with only $140 (see #4 below, which actually preceded this hand by a couple of orbits and made a dent in my stack.  I must be beat and for once today I decide to fold.  The check-raiser has Qs Tc, for top pair and an open-ended straight draw, but my KK would have been superior at the moment, and a 77% favorite to win the hand.  My kings block some of check-raisers outs for a straight draw and a ten that would give him 2-pair also gives my a K-high straight.  So let’s just get this straight – he opened the betting from Under-The-Gun with QT offsuit, then called my 3-bet, then check-raised the flop with top pair, mediocre kicker and a straight draw.  Yeah, that’s right.  SB shows Qh 8h, for top pair with an even weaker kicker and a gutshot straight draw.  But his gutshot is no good, as the ten that would fill it would also give me a higher straight to my K.  His only way to win this pot (if I had called) would be runner-runner 88.  So he called $16 from the SB with Q8 suited and the original opener still to act in response to my re-raise.  Then called $50 more on the flop, putting his whole stack at risk.  Yeah, that’s also right.  These are the kind of players I love to play against in online poker.  God bless them both!  The turn is 2d and river is 8d, giving the SB 2 pair now, but also completing the bottom end of UTG’s straight.  So I would have lost anyway.  As it was, I lost $66 on this hand and UTG’s awful pre-flop play is rewarded by winning a $203 pot.  OMG.

#5 – In the SB I get 6d 5c.  Everyone folds to the button, who limps in.  I complete and then the BB raises to $8.  This is an obvious fold, with low, unsuited cards out-of-position.  Even if I connect in a big way, it will be hard to win a decent sized pot.  I call and the button also calls.  Now the pot is $25.  The flop comes 5s 8d Th, giving me bottom pair with a shitty kicker.  No need for any further damage.  I check and the BB bets $12, just under 1/2 pot.  The button folds.  I don’t like getting pushed around by a frisky Big Blind and his continuation bet should be seen for what it is… just barreling away at a limped pot.  So I call and decide to reevaluate on the turn, which is  Kc.  We both check.  I thought so!  He has air and I can take this pot away on the river.  The river is Td, putting two tens on the board.  Since I called his flop bet, it should be easy to represent a Ten in my hand.  I lead out with a bet of $38 into a pot of $49.  That should do it.  But no!!! Instead, BB goes all-in for an additional $141 on top.  I fold, having just lost $58 playing weak cards out-of-position.  It seems like every steal attempt today has gone just like this one.  OMG.

#4 – UTG+2 and I am dealt Kc Qd.  The player in front of me (UTG+1) makes a minimum raise to $4 and I call.  The SB also calls but the BB folds, so there is $14 in the pot.  The flop is Ks Ts 9s, giving me top pair, second best kicker on a monochrome board.  The UTG+1 players leads out with a bet of $8, which looks to me like a random continuation bet on a scary board or possible a flush draw if he has As.  I call and SB folds.  The turn card is 2d and now he bets $22 into a pot of $30.  I have a stronger feeling now that he is on a flush draw, so I make a minimum raise to $44.  In retrospect, this is too small of a raise, as I’m giving him just over 4.25-to-1 odds to call, which he does.  The river is Qh, now giving me top 2 pair, but also making a one-liner to a straight in addition to the flush draw.  He checks and I ponder making another bet.  I cannot imagine getting called with worse than my 2 pair, but he could have a made flush and expecting me to bet again so he can check-raise.  So I check behind.  He shows Kd Jc, for a straight and wins the pot.  I lost $56 here and it could have been worse.  Prior to the river card, he had exactly 3 outs in the entire deck.  We both had top pair and I had him out-kicked.  There are no cards in the deck that would counterfeit my kicker advantage and he had no other draws.  My min-raise on the turn was a big mistake, as a larger raise (may have gotten him to concede.  But despite that, hitting a 3-outer is a bad break for me.  OMG.

#3 – I have 99 in the cutoff seat and call a pre-flop raise to $9 and call again a 3-bet to $16.  99 has good set mining potential and I’ll get away from the hand otherwise.  The flop is 8h 6h 5x flop and 3-better bets $34.  I consider shoving it in and hoping 1) neither is holding a bigger over-pair, although I’d be shocked if neither has it, or 2) I can hit another 9 or a 7 for a straight on either the turn or river card.  But that’s only 6 outs.  I just cannot do it, and fold.  The other two proceeded to get it all in on the flop and one showed JJ and the other showed AA.  The turn was a 4 and the river was a 7, resulting in a straight on the board and they chopped a pot of $336.  My 99 would have taken the entire pot with a river suckout.  I had seriously thought about shoving it in on the flop but decided that would be irresponsible and the session was already going so badly that I should slow down and recognize the futility of doing so.  Right play, but…  OMG.

#2 – I am the BB with AT offsuit.  The button raises to $6 and the SB calls.  My cards are really not that strong to be playing out of position, but I call anyway.  The SB led out with $10 on a flop of A-K-K and again for $10 more on a turn of some very small card.  I called both and so did the button.  On the turn I thought about a raise but decided against for pot control.  A raise there might only chase away weaker hands but any stronger than mine would surely stick around.  A river Q appears and SB and I both check.  I’d be very happy just to get to a showdown.  The button now makes a pot sized bet – I think it was about $55 – and SB folds.  I cannot imagine what he could have that I can beat and decide to fold.  But Harrington on Hold’em says not to act too fast.  There is no reason not to take the time that is available and think through the possibilities.  So I ponder a bit.  Maybe he’s making a desperate stab at the pot with a bluff, sensing weakness in SB’s weak bets and my meek checks on every street so far.  His river bet is really too large for a value bet and seems to be begging us to go away.  If he is bluffing in this situation at least 1/2 of the time, it is a profitable call, mathematically speaking.  The more I thinkg about it (thanks Dan!) the more convinced I become that he is on a bluff.  So I call.  He shows QQ.  He only had 2 outs at the river and hit one of them.  Had I raised the flop or turn it probably would have chased him away; after all, who can keep calling with QQ on an A-K-K board???  There goes another $81.  OMG.

#1 – In the BB I have 3h 2h, the lowest possible suited connectors.  Everyone folds to the hijack who calls.  SB raises to $4 and I call along with the hijack.  The flop is 4c 4s 5h.  There is a pair on the board and I have an open-ended straight draw.  There is $12 in the pot.   SB bets $4 and I call.  His bet is very modest and I can reevaluate on the turn.  Hijack folds.  Not the pot is $20.  The turn card is Jc, changing nothing.  SB leads out with $6.  He appears to be just probing to see if I have anything.  I know the odds of hitting my straight are now down to about 4.5-to-1, so my EV surely goes up if I raise and try to represent that I either have a 4 or a J.  I raise to $26.  After tanking for over 20 seconds, SB 3-bets to $46.   Convincing myself that I have good implied odds, I decide to call.  The river is Qs.  Dang!  Missed the straight.  Now SB checks.  WTF?  Perhaps his 3-bet on the turn was some sort of weird bluff or semi-bluff, like 7-6 or two clubs.  I dunno, but I do know that I am tired of being kicked around today and losing pot after pot.  Since I cannot beat the board with my 3-2, the only way to win the pot – now $112 – is to bet.  SB has $101 remaining behind and I have about $198.  So I make a pot-sized bet of $112 to put him all-in.  Surely he will give it up.  Nope.  It takes him 7 seconds to call and he shows Qd 8d.  WTF?  His 3-bet on the turn was total air, and now he wins a $317 pot.  Over the next several orbits I come to realize just how bad this player is, as he spews away all of his and my chips in a series of loose, bad, fishy plays.  Every time he shows down his cards, it makes no sense why he is in the hand.  I wanted him to read me as having 3-of-a-kind with a Big Blind special on this hand and he was too stupid to see it.  Or I was too stupid to think he might see it, plus now I am just raging that he called (much less 3-bet) on the turn when I raised him from $6 to $26.  Did I really just lose $155 with a deuce and a trey???  OMG.

All in all, a horrible day!  I had some bad beats, made many, many terrible plays, missed out on some opportunities, and gave away a lot of money – much to some terrible players who quickly gave it away again.

Year-to-date online results:  +$8,413

Month-to-date online results:  + $1,328

Play to Win, Not the Other to Lose

This is a guest entry submitted by a good friend and poker buddy.  Some background – the author and I have both played multiple times in local, live tournaments with a player who can most charitably be called a jerk.  Many of you have probably played with someone like this:  a very good player himself but chirping constantly (and not in a friendly or social manner); always telling you how you misplayed the hand you just lost but how he got sucked out on if he loses (and by the way, what a terrible play it was for you to make that call in the first place) and sometimes outright guaranteeing that he’ll have all of your chips before the tournament is over.  The more he drinks, the nastier he gets.

Here goes:

The setting – halfway through a live tournament with 50 starting players that only pays out the top 3 (with first place paying $1,200, second place $800 and third place $500).  The average stack is about 52K chips with me holding about 55K and the blinds at 1/2K.

The jerk limps in from UTG+2 and is called by the SB and the BB (me) holding 6s-8s.  The flop comes 3-5-7 rainbow, giving me an up-and-down straight draw.  SB and BB both check and the jerk goes all in with just over 38K chips.  Small blind folds so it’s my turn to act.  As I’m going over the hand in my head, the jerk is chirping that he could have a big pocket pair or two over cards or it might be a stone cold bluff.  This is really irritating.

Going over the possibilities, I see three likely alternatives: high pocket pair (I’m behind 65/35); pocket pair that hit a set (behind 75/25); two over cards (coin flip).  I just don’t smell bluff, and putting his obnoxious behavior aside, this jerk is too strong of a player to make this big of an overbet on a bluff.  At this point in the tournament, I have an above average chip stack and reasonable blinds so there is no need to pick two cards to risk 70% of my stack on what I believe to be a coin flip at the very best.  The obvious, no, the only move to make is to fold my cards and continue to play solid poker.

Unfortunately, what came out of my mouth was “Call.”  The jerk turned over pocket 10’s and after neither the turn nor the river made my open-ended straight, I had less than ten big blinds left.  I exited the tournament a little later after a particularly brutal hand on which a non-jerk hit a full house on the river to take down my flush.

It wasn’t until thinking about it afterwards that I realized that it wasn’t the 38K chips that I was after on that hand – it was the opportunity to knock the jerk out of the tournament.  I ignored my gut, math, skill and everything else I know (or think I know) from a lifetime of poker and took my eye off the prize (winning) because I was distracted by another small, petty and stupid goal.  I will try never to do that again and will be a better player and person because of it.


KKingDavid’s note:  Jerk made the final table of this tournament but did not cash.

Year-to-date online results:  + $8,462

Month-to-date online results:  + $1,378

Firing Bluffs on Multiple Streets

Sometimes when things are running pretty good, I start to think that I’m actually a good poker player.  It’s a nice thought.  I like it.  “Self,” I say to myself, “You’ve figured this game out.”

When that happens, the next level is a certain kind of arrogance whereby I start to think that all I have to do to win is merely to show up.  I will bet and other players will either call with worse hands or fold with better hands.  Show up, put some chips in the middle and rake it all back.  What a charmed life!

Then this happens:

I’m plodding along in a $1-2 no limit Hold’em session, with $203 in play after buying in at $200.  I have two tables open (playing online) and the other table is down about $130 in part due to similar thoughts to those described above.

With A-K off suit UTG+1, I raise to $7.  The players 2 seats to my left calls, and everyone else folds.

The flop is 4d 8d 3d.  Three diamonds.  This looks like a great spot for a continuation bet or even a multi-barrel bluff.  My strategy is to represent that I have a big pocket pair, and hope for a call on the flop if the Villain has a single high diamond and wants to chase a flush draw.  I bet $12.50 and he calls.  My plan is working.  Besides that, I’ve figured this game out.  This sort of fancy thinking about how to extract extra value on a monochrome board (Disclaimer:  I did not make up the phrase “monochrome board.”  I heard it on a poker podcast and thought that sounded way cool.  But I digress.)

The turn card is Tc, not really changing anything.  Now there is $40 in the pot (after the rake), and I want to make a pot-sized bet so he clearly knows he doesn’t have the proper pot odds to continue chasing a flush.  I bet $40.  He calls again, and now the pot is $120.

This surprises me somewhat, but maybe this player is weaker than I thought.  Or maybe he has something.  Let’s do some structured hand analysis and math (after the fact – there is not enough time to do this while playing).

First, let’s assign a range of possibilities to his hand holding.  He called but did not re-raise the pre-flop, flop and turn bets.  I will rule out AA and KK, but he could have pocket pairs QQ – 33.  I think he probably folds 77 – 55 on the turn if not sooner, so I’ll delete these.  He could have Ad or Kd with an unsuited kicker, possibly as low as an 8.  So I will give him AdKx – Ad8x (Ace of diamonds, offsuit kicker) and KdQx – Kd8x.  He could also have a made flush with just about any two diamonds higher than the 8, although I think combos of Q9 and J9 are less likely to have called pre-flop.  I will also include 76 and 65 suited connecting diamonds in his range.  That would be a bit loose for pre-flop calls, but I don’t have a good enough read on this Villain to rule that out.

Against this range, I have about 21% equity.  Obviously I am behind all of the pairs, sets and made flushes, and only ahead of naked drawing hands.  But I’ve figured this game out and it is very clear that is the case here.

The river is 3h, pairing the board but missing the flush.  How much to bet now?  I have about $142 remaining, so I bet $71.  This is half of my remaining stack and approximately 60% of the pot.

He quickly calls and shows AdKd for a flopped nut flush.  Villain wins a $264 pot.


The funny thing about poker at this level is that other players will give you their chips if you’ll just be patient and wait for the right spots.  This sort of fancy play is totally unnecessary.  Sure, sometimes it works, but spewing away 2/3 of your stack is not the route to fame or fortune.

Why do I keep doing this?

I need to figure this game out.

Year-to-date online results:  + $7,735

Month-to-date online results:  + $650

A blog about bad poker

Greetings!  First of all thanks for visiting my blog.  I hope you like it.

Secondly, are you crazy???  What are you doing here?

(Oh, sorry.  Not supposed to offend the readers.  I take that back.)

My goal here is to chronicle some of my own very bad poker play, including bad beats, bad plays and missed opportunities.   A little bit of definition:

A BAD BEAT is when you play a hand of poker, end up with something really, really strong, and yet still lose the pot to an even stronger hand.

A BAD PLAY is simply a costly mistake, such as bluffing when I shouldn’t, continuing a bluff when I really shouldn’t, raising when I shouldn’t, calling another player’s bet when I shouldn’t, and any similar action that should have been obvious not to do, but I did it anyway and ended up losing a lot of money.

A MISSED OPPORTUNITY is a large pot that I would have won but I was too cautious, or too conservative, or folded too early or failed to bet aggressively enough to build the pot to its full potential.

A little bit of poker background:

I’m an avid recreational player, currently playing $1-2 no limit Texas Hold’em on one of the few poker sites that still accepts U.S. players for real money games.  I’ve been playing online for about 4 years, and also play in a monthly live tournament (private game with about 20 players) and a pub league, plus about 2-3 casino trips per year for live play – both tournaments and cash games.  I started playing poker in high school (1970’s) when everything was “dealer’s choice” and nobody had ever heard of Texas Hold’em.

Lately my results have been pretty good.  I set up the online account with an initial deposit of $100 in January this year.  My year-to-date (YTD) results are + $5,395.  Month-to-date (MTD) is + $60 which is pretty flat following three really strong months.

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