KKing David

Ruminations on poker

Archive for the tag “Dan Harrington”

If I Had a Time Machine

If I had a time machine, it would be a very simple time machine.  My time machine would only allow me to go back in time; I don’t need to see the future before it gets here.  Not far back either – a maximum of about 15 minutes would be enough.

You know all those times you say something that doesn’t come out right and you know it immediately?  Like when Mrs. asks if I like HGTV, or do I want to go to the grocery store.  Or Mom calls and asks why I don’t call her more often.  Many self-inflicted kerfuffles could be fixed with a quick trip to my time machine.

If I had a time machine, my life would be more harmonious.  I’d also be rich.

With my time machine, I’d do-over a few poker hands from this week.

First, there was that hand where the button straddled for five BBs, several players just limped in and I put out a big raise from the cutoff seat.  I just wanted to pounce on the limpers’ chips, holding decent but far from dominant cards.  The small blind — for purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Dave” — called rather quickly, so fast the thought flashed through my mind that my raise had been large enough that it should give him pause.  After two more callers (jeez, some of these guys want to see every flop!), another original limper re-raised all-in with a short stack.  I’ll call him “Andy.”

Andy’s limp/re-raise seemed unusual, in the sense that there were three limps before his.  Why wouldn’t he go ahead and raise the first time around if he has a monster hand?  Now the pot has approx. 195 BBs in it already and I have the other players covered.  It will only cost me 38 BBs to call Andy.  With juicy odds, I’m not folding, but a fancier thought enters my head.  If I shove all-in here, I can drive out Dave and the other callers and isolate Andy.  With lots of dead money in the pot, this would be a profitable play.

As I announce my all-in bet, Dave slides his entire stack into the center so fast it gets there while the sound waves emanating from my mouth are still moving across the table.  I think back to his original limp as the first player to act after the button straddle, and to his rapid response call of my original large (30 BBs) raise.  While I’m retracing these steps in my mind, a fourth player also calls, explaining later the pot was too big, too tempting not to join Andy and me as lemmings following each other off the cliff.

The fact that I have an ace reduces the probability of Dave having two aces, and also is irrelevant.  A reduced probability is not a zero probability.  I like Dave, however, and think he likes me.  Of course, he does have pocket AA, a/k/a American Airlines, and flips them over without forcing me to show my soul crushing hand first, despite protocol dictating that I show first.  It’s easier to be magnanimous when you are scooping in a pot with 900 BBs, plus or minus a few.  There are some speculative comments as to what I had while I suffer silently.

If I had a time machine, I’d play that quite differently.

Second, there was a hand later that night when I was in middle position with 6s 3s.  One nickname for 6-3 is the Spanish Inquisition, in reference to a Monty Python movie line, “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.”

Before the action got to me, however, another player raised to 8 BBs.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Ray S.”  Still wounded from Dave’s ambush, I fold.  Playing junky cards like these – low, suited, with two gaps – is a losing proposition.  Playing from behind sometimes works, but starting out with the lead is smarter.  Ray S. does get a couple of callers, so we see a flop of Kc 8h 7s.  Everybody checks.  The turn is 5s.  Had I called pre-flop, now I would have an open-ended straight draw with my 6, plus a spade flush draw, with the 4s potentially giving me a straight flush.  Now Ray S. bets and gets two callers.

When you are running bad at poker, the badness comes in all forms.  Sure enough the 4s comes, and I wish I had my time machine.  At this game, there is a straight flush piggy – a jackpot that builds every week and is paid out when someone makes a straight flush.  The piggy is now 540 BBs.  Ray S. shows pocket KK.  He flopped top set and decided to check the flop for deception.

Third, there was one more hand that same night where I raised pre-flop with QJ.  Some poker pros called this hand Hawaii, as in “if you don’t play QJ for a year you will save enough money to go to Hawaii.”  Another player – I’ll call him “Rob,” makes a massive re-raise.  My raise was 6 BBs.  Rob goes to 50 BBs.  Is this a show of strength or just a move to try to blow me out of the hand?  He still gets one caller.  Some of these guys want to see every flop.  I want to see this one.  But I don’t have a time machine, I’m still bruised from shoving into Dave’s aces and bleeding internally from the curses of the Spanish Inquisition.  And someday I might like to go back to Hawaii, so I fold.

The flop is JT9, with two hearts.  That would give me top pair, plus an open-ended straight draw.  If I were in the hand, with a large pot and modest remaining stack, I would cheerfully get it all-in here.  Rob bets about 50 BBs more, and the other player calls.  The turn card is a K, the river a blank, and Rob shows Ah Kh to take it down.  He wasn’t going anywhere on that flop!

Fourth, a different night of the week.  The player to my right raises to 10 BBs.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Gary.”  With TT, I call and there are two other callers and we see a flop of 764.  Gary bets 35 BBs.  His large continuation bet indicates a very big pocket pair, like AA or KK.  He’s been studying poker rather furiously over the last few months, trying to improve his game, with one result being much greater aggression.  Another result has been better vision into what’s happening when things get all wonky.  I think he might be able to fold a big over pair on a board like this, if he realizes that his hand is pretty transparent.  When it becomes obvious that you have AA or KK, and another player raises or shoves on the flop, you are toast (most of the time), and this flop connects with set-mining hands like 77, 66 or 44.

So I shove, pretty quickly and aggressively.  Gary looks startled, as he should.  He had about 140 BBs at the start of this hand, and I have him covered.  He asks me, did you flop a set?  Oh well, he says, I guess if you did then you got me, and he puts in the rest of his chips.  It WAS obvious what he had, at least I got that part right.

If I had a time machine, I’d go back and spare myself the misery of being right about his hand, right about his ability to smell trouble, and wrong about his willingness to surrender.  Two out of three ain’t good.

Fifth,  there was the hand where I was dealt AA later that same night (or more accurately, in the wee hours of the following morning), we were playing short-handed.  There is a small raise to 3 BBs and Gary calls.  I re-raise to 11 BBs and both call.  Here we go!  The flop was 7c 6s 4s, the same as the hand above only with different suits.  Should that be a tell?

I bet 15 BBs and both call.  The turn is 7s.  This is gross – it pairs the top card on the board and fills out a flush.  Gary checks and I check too.  On the button is a player who, for purposes of this blog, I’ll call “Zach.”  Zach can be very aggressive when he smells weakness, and is sometimes prone to excess aggression towards the end of a long poker session.  He bets 40 BBs and Gary folds.  As the original pre-flop raiser to 3 BBs, it is entirely possible that Zach has a pocket pair higher than 7’s, perhaps including one spade.  It’s also possible he has something that includes a 5 and flopped a straight draw.  Or he could have trip 777’s or a made flush or full house already.

The board is almost perfect for him to apply pressure, which he will do here with very high frequency.  I double check and do not have the Ace of Spades.  Nevertheless, I call.  This is now a leveling war.  He knows that I 3-bet pre-flop, indicating strength.  I know that he calls my 3-bets when in favorable position at the table – and late in a long session – with a wide range.  He knows that I’m trying for pot control when I check this turn, or perhaps have a weaker hand like AK.  I know that he likes to apply pressure and his bet is not necessarily indicative of a better hand than mine.  He knows that I don’t automatically surrender to his big bets.  (Earlier I called a small pre-flop raise from Gary with A9o.  After another caller, Zach re-raised more than the size of the pot, a move popularized by Dan Harrington as the “squeeze play.”   After Gary folded, I shoved with a short stack and doubled up through Zach’s king-high.)  I know that he knows that I know that he knows…

Perhaps neither of us really know what level the other is on.  My flop bet was deceptively small (note to self:  when doing this over in time machine mode, make a man-sized bet on this flop!), so despite the pre-flop 3-bet, my true hand strength is probably under-represented.

The river is the Ts, putting four spades on the board.  [insert curse words]  I check again, and Zach slides his entire stack into the middle.  There is no way I can call now.  I flip my aces face up into the muck, and Zach smiles as he shows a bluff, with 54 and no spade.  My read on the turn was right, but the river card made it impossible to continue.  The badness of running bad comes in all forms.

But I gotta tell y’all, and this is absolutely true, if I had a time machine I’d be rich!

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Hashtag: They Always Have It

I just returned from a weekend poker trip to New Orleans.  There were eight guys on this trip, one of whom – for purposes of this blog I’ll refer to him as “Tony” – was celebrating a birthday during the weekend.

Happy Birthday Tony!

We stayed in some fancy digs in the French Quarter, and played a lot of poker at Harrah’s New Orleans casino.  On Saturday, there were a number of interesting hands, all at blinds of $1/3.  Because this poker room allows players to buy-in up to the largest stack on the table, and also lets players straddle $6 from any position, the game plays larger than most $1/3 games, and much larger than most $1/2 games.  Let’s get started.

Hand #1 – Nut Flush on a Paired Board

This was early in my day, so I didn’t have much in the way of player-specific reads.  I have Kd Js on the button, and raise to $15 over a single limper.  I started the hand with approx. $300 and the BB is the main villain and has me covered.  The SB folds, but BB raises to $30.  He could simply be putting me on a wide range trying to leverage my position on the button, and trying to re-steal, but his raise is too small if his goal is to make me fold.  He is a middle aged white guy (like me!) making a barely minimum raise, so I need to give him credit for a strong or very strong hand.  Everyone else folds, and I call.  Heads up, in position, I’m willing to call $15 more with $52 already in the pot.  

Flop ($67):  Ad Jd 2d.  All diamonds.  He checks.  I have the King of diamonds for a nut flush draw, and middle pair.  While I could bet here as a semi-bluff, I actually have some showdown value and decide to take the free card instead.  I’m not sure he will fold any Ace to a bet.  I check.  

Turn ($67):  2c.  This card pairs the board but doesn’t otherwise change anything.  He checks again.  Does have have KK or QQ and hoping to get to a cheap showdown?  In that case, perhaps I should make at least one steal attempt, but I’m not sure he would fold, especially if he has Qd Qx.  Free cards are good, right?  So I check again.

River:  ($67) 8d.  Awesome.  This completes my nut flush.  I’m anticipating another check when he fires out a bet of $45.  I should have the best hand here, and might get a crying call if he has Ax Qd or Qd Qx.  There really isn’t much else in his pre-flop 3-betting range that can make a weaker flush here, and he wouldn’t call me without either that or better.  The Ad and Jd are on the board, and I have the Kd.  Could he be as weak as Td Tc?  I can’t imagine anything else will call a raise.  If he comes back over the top of my raise, however, I need to be concerned about AA or JJ, although I would have expected either one of these to make a small be on the turn, for value, since he would have turned a full house and would want to continue building the pot.  

I raise to $110.  With very little hesitation, he declares that he’s all-in.  Dammit!  Now I pissed at myself for raising instead of just calling, although I can hear the voices of those who advocate bet/folding and raise/folding for value as superior long-term value strategies over calling whenever you have a big, but non-nut hand.  I also here the voice of one of my favorite poker podcasters saying “hashtag: they always have it” (#theyalwayshaveit).  

While trying to get emotionally unattached from my nut flush and decide if I’m a bad enough player to donate the rest of my chips, I replay the hand, try to recall any observations about this specific player and ponder his body language when he went all-in and the meaning of his very small pre-flop 3-bet.  He seemed confident, not the least bit afraid of the fact that he cannot have the Kd.  Yes, he has to have pocket aces here.

I fold, and in an act of pure kindness that I’ll exploit if given the chance, he flashes his AA for the entire table to see.

In hindsight, I think raising was a mistake on that river, as there were too few hands that would call a raise, and his pre-flop action certainly suggested AA as part of his range, with a small raise begging to be called.

Hand #2 – Does Small Turn Bet Signal Weakness?

After Hand #1, I add another $200 to my stack.  Shortly after that, I am dealt Kh Jd in middle position, and two players limp in front of me.  What is it with “jack-king-off” and me this weekend?  I felted a woman (felted her, not felt her!) for a nearly $400 pot with this holding late the previous night, and here it is again in both Hand #1 and #2.  This time, I raise to $18 and get called by the button and one of the limpers.  I started this hand with $326 and the main villain on the button has me easily covered.

Flop ($61):  Tc 9s 7c.  This is an interesting flop, very drawy, giving me a double gutshot straight draw in addition to two over cards, while also hitting a lot of pre-flop calling ranges for flush draws, flopped straights or straight draws, combo draws, sets and more.  The first guy checks.  I want to retain the initiative, and bet $35 as a semi-bluff.  Hopefully they missed this flop badly and will fold.  Or the button will fold and I’ll have position on the other guy.  The button does not cooperate, instead raising to $85, and the other guy folds leaving us heads up, with me being out-of-position

I don’t have any reads or tells on this player, as he is new at this table, a white male who appears to be in his mid-to-late 30’s.  Since he called a raise pre-flop on the button, his range can be pretty wide but would exclude 3-betting hands like AA, KK or QQ.  For now, I’ll give him credit for possibly raising with a flush or straight draw, combo draws, and strong made hands of top pair / top kicker or better.  This range is JJ-77, Ac 2c+, Kc Jc+, Qc Jc, JT, J8s, T9, T7s, 98, 97s, 87, 86s, ATo.  

(Or:  pocket pairs from 77 through JJ, Ac along with any other club, Kc along with the Qc or Jc, Qc Jc, Ace-Ten off-suit, any JT, T9, 98 or 87, and any suited J8, T7, 97 or 86.)

The overall player pool in this poker room is very loose pre-flop.  In position, a large portion will call with virtually any connecting cards (like JT, T9, 98 or 87) or suited 1- and 2-gappers (like J8, T8, 97 or 86). 

This range includes 139 different combinations of two cards, more than 10% of all possible combinations.  Even without a pair, I have 32.7% equity against his range.  With $180 already in the pot and it costing me $50 more to call, I only need 21.7% equity to call even if I’m only assured of seeing one card.  If it’s a blank and he fires out a large turn bet, I might have to bail out.  I call.

Turn ($230): Ks.  Now I have top pair, plus the double gutshot draw, and a second flush draw is now also a possibility.

I check and the button bets $50, less than 1/4 of the pot.  This is a strangely small bet.  With so many draws possible, I would expect a much larger bet from his stronger made hands – flopped straights or sets – as there would be a lot of hands I could have that would call again and he should be protecting against the draws.  If he were semi-bluffing with a flush draw, he should be betting much more here, or else just check back and take a free card.  My range is narrower than his, as I was the pre-flop raiser and less likely to be raising with the weaker connectors and gappers that he may have called with favorable position.

Against his full range, my equity is now 60.5%.  I’m beating hands like T8, 98, 88, 87, AT, JT, and have more outs against his 2-pair hands.  Smelling weakness, I check-raise all-in for $173 on top of his bet.  Now there is $503 in the pot and it costs him $173 to call.  I wish my stack were deeper, but this is still a large enough bet to make him pause and think.  

He finally makes what looks like crying call and I flip my cards over right away.  The river is another 7, putting a pair on the board.   He turns over 99, for a flopped set & rivered full house to scoop up the pot.  I must have sold him that I was representing QJ there for a turned straight and he felt like he was gambling with the call, whereas in reality all he needed was to fade a Q or 8.  

His hand was within the range I assigned to him, but right up near the top of that range.  Once again, #theyalwayshaveit.  I still think his turn bet was curiously small on such a wet board.  Maybe he’s just not a thinking poker player, and that caused a misread on my part.  Against his exact hand, my equity was 25.3% on the flop and 18.2% on the turn.

At this point of my day, I’ve been playing about 45 minutes blasted away $500.  I take a break for a few minutes, then move to another table where I buy-in for $500 more.

Hand #3 – Donk Bets on Flop Signal Weakness

The villain in this hand is an older (early 70’s?), white haired guy, somewhat the “old man coffee” (“OMC”) type — enjoying his poker game, passing time playing fairly tight and straightforwardly.  He started this hand with about $350 in chips and I cover.  After he and a couple others limp in, I raise to $20 with QQ.  Two others call, then OMC calls.  

Flop ($83):  J 9 4 rainbow.  It checks to OMC, who bets $50.  With straightforward players, this “donk bet” (betting into the pre-flop raiser) is usually a good but not great made hand.  This looks exactly like he has AJ.  With 2-pair or better, he would be more likely to try for a check-raise, with greater confidence that his hand would still be best on the turn if it checks all around.  If he does have AJ, I may be able to get his entire stack if I’m patient.  Not too quickly, I call, and the others all fold.

Turn ($183):  7c now puts two clubs on the board.  OMC bets $25, a strangely small bet, but this doesn’t change my read that I should target him having AJ (despite my misread of a small turn bet in Hand #2, it would be an example of recency bias to change my read here).  I raise to $125 by tossing out five green chips.  I hope this somehow looks bluffy. He tanks, fidgets, squirms, appears to decide to fold and then change his mind.  OMC’s as a general rule are stubborn and hate folding top pair / top kicker hands when they’ve been sitting for a long time just to get one.  He calls.

River ($333):  4s.  This is a great card for me, pairing the bottom card on the board.  If somehow he had donk bet with top two pair (J9) he’s now counterfeited.  He checks, I slide out $200 to be sure I cover his remaining ~ $150 or so.  He says “you’re going to put me all in aren’t you?”  And calls with an expression on his face that says “I know I’m beat, but I’ve gone too far in this hand to give up now.”  Without waiting for me to show first, he flips over KJ, confirming my read was almost exactly right.  My QQ is good and I drag home a large pot.

In this case, #theyalwayshaveit turned out to be good for me.  He had it, but “it” was a hand that I beat and the straightforward nature of his play enabled me to confidently play for stacks with a 1-pair hand.

Hand #4 – Can I Fold KK Pre-Flop?

After the previous hand, OMC left the table and was replaced by another older guy (late 60’s?) who was more of an “old man beer” (“OMB”) than “old man coffee.”  He was more social than the first guy, but hadn’t been playing long enough for any other reads prior to this hand.  At the start of this hand he has about $250-300 and I have him covered.

After OMB limps in under the gun and the next player folds, I look down at Kh Kd and raise to $17.  A woman calls all-in for her last $11 and there is one other call.  Then OMB re-raises to $85.  WTF?

Wait… did he limp in earlier or was he the big blind?  Just to be absolutely sure, I confirm the position of the button on the table as it is in the corner opposite my seat.  Then carefully count small blind, then big blind, then OMB.  Yes, he definitely limped then re-raised.  Dammit!  People love to do this with pocket aces.  

I ponder Dan Harrington’s seminal books on cash games, where he says no one is good enough to put an opponent on exactly AA and be right often enough to justify folding pocket kings.  Since you can re-load anytime in a cash game, his philosophy is to just take your lumps when this happens (unless playing with very deep stacks), so I consider just closing my eyes and shoving all-in.

Then I ponder Occam’s Razor, a problem solving principle that says when there are multiple explanations for an occurrence, the simplest one is usually better.  That’s a fancy way of saying #theyalwayshaveit, the simplest explanation for large bets.

And I ponder former poker coach Bill Hubbard, who constantly asked, based on what we know about a villain, “what does he have and how will he play it?”  Working backwards, how did he play it (limp / re-raise) and what does that mean he has?  #theyalwayshaveit, AA in this case.

And I ponder myself.  I have to be a good enough poker player to fold here.  But it’s a major ego destroyer.  I mean, like, c’mon, this is KKing David’s poker blog.  I’m KKing David.  I have KK here.  This pot is supposed to be mine.  After getting beat up in Hands #1 and #2, this is the kind of hand I need to get un-stuck.

This time, I win the battle with my emotions, and reluctantly make the disciplined fold.  Since one player is all-in for $11, we get to see the runout.  She has 99 and, sure enough, OMB has AA.  There are no aces, nor kings, nor nines on the board and OMB scoops up a modest pot.  

Deep breathing exercises…

Hand #5 – He Can Only Have Pocket Queens (or Quad Jacks???)

A new player has recently joined the table, two seats to my left.  The entire time I’ve been at this table, one of the other guys on this road trip has been on my immediate right.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Zach.”  Shortly after the new player arrived, Zach softly commented to me to beware of this new player, who seems to be a very strong and aggressive player, although he is drinking a beer and it’s 3:00 on a Saturday afternoon.  I notice his ability to leverage favorable position against passive players.  

In this hand, he is the main villain in the cutoff seat, with a stack around $550, which I cover.  The button straddles for $6 and three players call.  With my first AA of the day, I make it $35.  The villain tanks, counting and re-stacking his  chips in a manner that tells me he is thinking about re-raising.  Zach told me later that it took so long for this guy to act that he was ready to call the clock on him.  I just wanted to see him re-raise, but ultimately he calls $35.  The button folds, but there are two more out-of-position callers.

Flop ($150):  J high and very dry.  I don’t recall exactly the two lower cards, other than there was no flush draw nor possible made straight.  It is checked to me, and I bet $100.  The villain calls almost immediately.

His range for 3-betting pre-flop might be TT+, AQ+ absent any other reads.  This is important, as his pondering a 3-bet indicates something in the weaker part of this range or slightly weaker, and also rules out – assuming my read is correct – weaker calling hands.  While the player pool here in New Orleans is very loose pre-flop, there hasn’t been much light 3-betting pre-flop, and the straddle and callers in front of me has already push the bet-sizing above normal ranges.   He would definitely 3-bet with AA or KK, so that leaves his pre-flop calling range as 88-QQ, AJ+.  I heavily discount the TT, 99, 88, AJ part of this range as I don’t think he would take so long to decide to just call my $35 bet.  

Now he has confidently called $100 on a J-high flop.  There is no T on the board, so he cannot have two over cards with a straight draw (AK, AQ, KQ).  We can rule those hands out.  He would have to think a bit before calling with TT or any lower pocket pair, so we can rule those out also.  I’ve already ruled out AJ based on the pre-flop read, so that leaves QQ and JJ and nothing else.  If he flopped a set of Jacks here, it makes sense for him to just call and see if either of the other players wants to come along too, but they both folded.  There are six combinations of QQ and three combinations of JJ.  

Turn ($350):  A low brick arrives that really changes nothing.  I check, partly for pot control as my hand is still only one pair and I don’t want to play for stacks yet, and partly to see what he does.  He checks  back.

River ($350):  Another J.  Ugh!!!!!  I check.  At first, I hate this card, as an instinctive reaction to seeing the top card on the board pair.  What if he has AJ or KJ – even though I previously ruled these out?  

He bets $200.  Gulp!  I take a deep breath and re-play the hand and re-evaluate my reads based on the action on each street.  I have to trust my reads!  There are still six combos of QQ that he can have, but now only one combo of JJ.  #theyalwayshaveit… in this case “it” is either QQ 85.7% of the time, or JJ 14.3% of the time.  It is an unusually precise read.  Notice the contrast between this read and Hand #2 above where he could have over 130 combinations.  I’m confident that his pre-flop chip handling signaled thoughts about re-raising.  Perhaps I should check-raise all-in here, which would really be sick, but that seems very unwise.  I call and he shows QQ.  Cha-ching!

Zach later pointed out, and I agree, that his river bet there was terrible.  The villain was in a “way ahead / way behind” situation.  The weakest hand I could would beat him is KK, which will almost never fold there.  Most players with a better hand won’t think as much as I did (a flaw? or a gift?) and would just call.  And the strongest hand that he beats would be TT, which will almost never call.  If you can’t get a better hand to fold nor a weaker hand to call, and you are last to act, just check back and go to showdown.  I’m not sure if he thought he was betting for value or if he knew he was turning his QQ into a bluff, or if he even knew why he was betting on that river.

I drag home another large pot, just glad to have turned my day around.

Folding KK Pre-Flop

In No Limit Texas Holdem, one of the hardest things to do is to fold pocket kings before the flop.  My friend Mike did it recently, and I’ve folded KK myself twice… once in a cash game (ironically, Mike was the Villain in that hand, as described here) and once in a tournament.

Dan Harrington and Bill Robertie wrote a series of classic books on No Limit Holdem.  In Harrington on Cash Games, he asks “Should kings ever be folded?”  Then he answers his own question.  “As I discussed in Harrington on Hold ’em (addressing tournament play), the practical answer is ‘No.’  It’s true that you look like a genius when your opponent puts in a third raise and you show your kings and fold them, and he then shows his aces.  But if you’re willing to fold kings, I guarantee you that sometimes you’ll be folding them to queens, or ace-king, or a total bluff, and over time, your willingness to fold kings will cost you money.”

Last night I was at a $1/2 home game, and another player who I’ll refer to as “Patrick” raised to $11.  In the cutoff seat, I peek at my cards and see red KK’s.  What would KKing David do?  Obviously I re-raise, to $31.  Everyone folds back to Patrick, who re-raises to $85.  He has about $100 more behind and I have him easily covered.

Does he have pocket AA’s?  Getting dealt KK and another player has AA only happens about 1-out-of-every-5,000 hands.  Here is the math:  I’ll get KK 1-out-of-221 hands.  There are 9 other players at the table.  Each other player will have AA at the same time as my KK about 1-out-of-204 hands (i.e., the frequency increases just slightly after taking into account the elimination of my two kings from the deck).  There are 9 chances (9 other players) that this happens, increasing the frequency to 204/9 or approx. 1-out-of-22.5.  Multiply 1-out-of-221 times 22.5 and I’ll have KK vs. AA 1-out-of-every-4,972 hands that I play No Limit Holdem at a full table.  We can round this up to 5,000 to make the general point.  (This also means I should get AA vs. a villain’s KK the same 1-out-of-5,000 hands.)

What is the general point, you might ask?  In this case, I’m thinking about the fact that I had KK vs. AA one night earlier, vs. “Cinderella” as described here.  So at the moment of this hand where Patrick has slid out a 4-bet to $85, I’m feeling some injustice.  I’m not due for this again.  It’s only been a couple hundred hands, or fewer, since the prior night’s KK vs. AA confrontation, so “it’s not fair” for that to be happening again so soon.

Back to Patrick.  Patrick and I have played with each other quite a few times before.  I know he’s not crazy.  He’s not what I would call an expert player, nor a total drooler, and he’s never shown any inclination to push this hard with a deep stack and AK or QQ or anything weaker.  In fact, I’m trying to think of another hand where Patrick got his whole stack in pre-flop when he was this deep.  I do know that when he gets short-stacked, he tends not to buy more chips to top off his stack, and accordingly is more willing to get it all-in  with a short stack and a hand like JJ or QQ.  But this is not such a time.

More importantly, I believe he respects my game too.  At this point in the night, I had a solid, emotionally stable, winning image based on aggressive plays that have won several small pots without showdowns.  This was the first time I had 3-bet this large all night.  There is no reason for him to think my 3-betting range is very wide.

I stare at Patrick for a minute and he looks very peaceful.  His eyes aren’t blinking rapidly, and there are no signs of stress.  He’s not 4-betting light here, not out-of-position, not against me, not committing nearly half of his stack after my strong 3-bet.

I think about the consequences of folding and not knowing (for absolutely sure) what he has.  I will have to live with that.  I think about the impact on my emotional state of losing $31 with KK and not even seeing the flop.  I think about the consequences of shoving all-in, the resulting impact on my emotional state of being right, i.e., seeing that he actually does have AA and losing a very large pot.  Will I recover?  Will I tilt and spew away hundreds more?

Calling is out of the question.  I’m not getting anywhere near the proper odds for set-mining (hoping for a 3rd K on the flop/folding if I miss), and how would I possibly be able to fold if the flop is all rags and Patrick open-shoves?

I think about Dan Harrington.

I think about my never-ending quest for better self-discipline, a willingness to let go (physically letting go of the cards, emotionally letting go of the sense of entitlement that I have a big hand and deserve to win) that so often eludes me.

I think about trusting my reads.

I slide my Kings into the muck.  “Nice bet, Patrick.”

Daily Debacle – Trapping… myself!

Over and over, non-standard plays seem to backfire more than they work.  Deceptive play is believed by many to be the biggest key to poker, so making non-standard plays (looking weak when actually strong / looking strong when actually weak) is recommended by some as a way to keep opponents off-balance and improve results.

On the other hand, I’ve been particularly focused lately on adhering to the more standard play of never calling pre-flop.  If the cards are good enough to play, they need to be good enough to raise.  Conversely, if they aren’t good enough to raise, you should simply fold.  This has three benefits:  (1) you are more likely to be starting out in the lead on the hand.  If the opponents are behind and have to catch up, you will win a higher percentage of the time.  Simple math.  (2) you are always the aggressor when starting a hand.  This buys more flexibility post-flop, as opponents will likely defer to you in the betting.  If you are last to act and everybody checks, you may make a bet to take down the pot even with unimproved cards based on weakness shown by the other players, or you may check behind and take a free card.  (3) reading your opponents hands is easier.  If an opponent re-raises pre-flop, they are signaling a very strong hand and you can easily fold the weaker part of your range.  If they limp and then call your raise, you can begin narrowing their range more easily than if you had let them see the flop more cheaply.

I recently posted about a tournament hand where I limped, then call after a raise and one other caller.  Before I knew what hit me, 90% of my stack and 100% of my tournament hopes were gone.

Last night playing $0.10 – 0.25 NL online, it happened again.  I had decided that for this session I would stick to the mantra of never calling pre-flop 100%.  Then a hand came along that seemed like a perfect exception to the rule.  I had QQ in the big blind.  Everybody folded to the button, who had just joined the table a couple hands earlier, and he raise to $1.00.  I was about to make a pot-sized 3-bet when a flash of brilliance overcame me, that I could make more money here by slow-playing the entire hand (as long as an A or K didn’t show up).

Flop ($2.25):  9h 8c 6h.  I check and button makes a continuation bet of $1.75.  Standard-ish continuation bet, and I call.  I don’t have a really good read on my opponent, but I do know that most flops miss most hands (thanks Dan Harrington!), and my overpair should still be good.  My call probably represents a draw to either a heart flush or a straight with me holding a 7.

Turn ($5.75):  8d.  This doesn’t change anything unless he has an 8 in his hand.  Now that there are two 8’s on the board, this is even less likely, and his range is still too wide to be able to write it all down.  The button now bets $3.50.  OK, now it is more likely that he has something with showdown value, or maybe he puts me on one of the draws and hopes to push me off the hand now or on the river if a safe card comes.  I call again, thinking my QQ is good.

River ($12.75):  4s.  A safe card for the button if I am indeed on a draw.  He bets $8.50 now.  I wonder what he has, still suspecting it is most likely 2 high cards or maybe a busted draw of his own.  This is also a safe card for me.  If I was ahead on the turn, surely I am still ahead.  The only hand this river card could help is 44.  I call again.

Button turns over 8h 9c for a full house!  I shoveled $14.75 into this pot (59 BB’s) never knowing where I stood but thinking I was the cleverest guy at the table.  (Cleverest?  Is that even a real word?  Spell-check didn’t flag it, but I digress…)

Had I make a pot-sized 3-bet before the flop, he probably folds and I win $1.00.  That’s $15.75 better than the actual result.

Before the flop I was an 84% favorite.  I should have made him pay for the chance to try to catch up.

Thinking about Phil Collins’ song title:  Against All Odds.  Gotta try rewriting the lyrics to make this a poker song and not a stupid love song.

Year-to-date online results:  (- $1,831)

Month-to-date online results:  + $74

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