KKing David

Ruminations on poker

Archive for the tag “flopped set”

I Played That Right, Didn’t I?

Last night, on the 5th hand of an online poker session, I get the coveted pocket aces.

As a good poker blogger, I must tell you that I have 82 big blinds in my stack, and I’m in the Hijack seat.  The main villain has me covered.

When playing online, when first to raise I generally hit the ‘pot’ button to make a pot-sized raise.  This automatically adjusts my raise sizing for any limps in front of me.  This time everyone had folded already and I make my standard pot-sized raise.

The next player, in the Cutoff seat, makes a pot-sized 3-bet.  Everyone else folds.  While tempted to 4-bet, I decide just to call here to trap him (or her).

Flop (25 BBs): 8c 5d 4c.  There are two clubs, but I have the Ac and therefore not too worried about flush draws.  The Villain cannot have AcKc or AcQc.  Would he 3-bet with KcQc, KcJc or worse?  Not likely.  There are also straight draws here, but those would require him to 3-bet with a hand like 77 or 66, or even worse with A7 or A6, or 63 or 43.  Again, I can discount all of these.

Trapping still makes sense.  If Villain has any over-pair, he should bet again, probably a strong bet as he would consider the possibility that I have AcKc or AcQc.  I check.  Villain also checks.

Now I can guess that his most likely holding is AK.  Few online players will 3-bet with AQ or worse, and even fewer would check back here with pocket pairs 99-KK.

Turn (25 BBs):  Ks.  I love this card.  I make a very small bet of 4 BBs.  This is designed to look like a blocker bet, as if I have QQ, JJ or TT and want to keep the pot small.  Villain obliges by raising to 11 BBs, also very small given the pot size, not wanting to run me off.  More confirmation that he has AK.

Now it’s time to spring the trap.  I 3-bet to 32 BBs, and eight seconds later he shoves all-in.

Boom!  The cards turn over and Villain is crushed with AK.  His play on the flop and turn made this an easy read.

Oh yeah, the river is another K, and Villain scoops the pot.

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Pause for dramatic effect, primal scream, lots of swearing.

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I played that right, didn’t I?

Earlier I had listened to a poker podcast, where part of the discussion was a reminder that the goal is to play each hand correctly.  When other players suck out, I should feel happy, as it means I got it in as the favorite (in this case 95.5% favorite) and played the hand correctly.  Trying to find that level of happiness, but I gotta tell you, this isn’t the emotion I associate with the word ‘happy.’

Reload.

About an hour later, I have 22 in middle position.  Now my stack is 102 BBs.  The main villain has 100 BBs. It folds to me, so I raise to 3 BBs.  Technically, this is 1/2 of a BB less than a pot-sized raise.  Sometimes I’ll do this with low pocket pairs as a way of setting my own set-mining odds.  Admittedly, the distinction between this raise and my standard pot-sized raise ain’t worth ‘splaining.

Both blinds call.

Flop (9 BBs):  Tc 9d 2c.  I have bottom set or a very wet (i.e., drawy) board.  Both blinds check.

I click the half-pot button.  I want this bet to appear ambivalent, so a hand like QJ or J8 or a flush draw might think he (or she) has fold equity and come back over the top with a big raise.  I’d be happy to get it all-in here and take my chances with the draws.

SB calls, then BB/Villain check-raises all-in.  Thank you sir!  I snap call and SB folds.

My best hopes are realized when Villain turns over T9.  Rather than a straight draw (8 outs) or a flush draw (looks like 9 outs but actually just 7 outs as two of the clubs would give me a full house), Villain has top 2-pair and only 4 outs to improve.

I’m an 83.2% favorite when all the chips go in.  This improves to 90.9% when the Qc comes on the turn.  But the Th falls on the river, and Villain scoops the pot.

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Pause for dramatic effect, primal scream, lots of swearing.

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I played that right, didn’t I?

Still searching for that feeling of happiness when the a villain sucks out.  The math guy in me calculates that I should win both of the hands described above 79.5% of the time based on the odds at the point when we went all-in.  My bankroll would be 385 BBs larger.  And I should win neither hand just 0.75% of the time – that’s three-quarters of one percent!

My “Sklansky bucks” (after the rake) were 150 BBs with my pocket rockets, and 164 BBs with the set of deuces, for a total of 314 BBs.  (Sklansky bucks are determined by multiplying the pot times your probability of winning when an all-in & call occur with cards remaining to be dealt.  It is a theoretical value that indicates whether you are getting it in with the best of it more often than not.  Over the long run, Sklansky bucks and actual results on all-in hands will converge. In the moment, you either win or lose the whole pot, but unless one player is drawing dead, your equity is somewhere in the middle.)

Sklansky bucks calculations are for losers.  Winners never go through this exercise.

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An Embarrassingly Bad Call

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The dealer delivers the river card, the Kc.

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

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

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

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When Dreams Come True

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bad Beat –> Happy Tilt. Oh my!

This post involves our friend “Myles” from the previous post, where I made a massive over-bet all-in river shove.  Read about it here.

About a week later, I’m off to a good start in a $1/2 no limit cash game, having doubled up early when my AA held up against AK on a K-high flop.  At this private game, the host has two interesting jackpot bonuses, both of which are about to come into play.  The first is a high-hand jackpot.  A separate fund is segregated out of the house rake during the night, and the player with the highest hand of the night (paid out at midnight) using both hole cards wins the jackpot, which is usually between $80 – 120.  In addition, there is a bad beat jackpot, which requires losing a hand with JJJ-TT or higher (using both hole cards, although the winner of the hand is not required also to use both hole cards under house policy).  The bad beat jackpot grows by $25 each time there is no winner, up to a cap of $500.  Tonight, we are at the jackpot cap.

In this hand, our familiar villain “Myles” raises to $10 from the UTG+1 seat (i.e., two seats to the left of the Big Blind).  He has about $260 to start the hand, and I have over $400.  Another player calls, and I call with QQ in the Cutoff seat (one seat to the right of the Button).  The Button (I’ll call him “John” for purposes of this post – he has about $200) also calls, but both blinds fold.  I considered re-raising with my QQ here, but decided to make a non-standard call to deliberately under-represent my hand.

Flop ($43):  KQ5 all different suits.  What a perfect spot to have just called with QQ.  Myles bets $20 and the next player folds.  I want to see what “John” is going to do here, so I just call, and John also calls.

Turn ($103):  K.  Now I have a full house, QQQ-KK, which is awesome, and if somehow Myles or John has KK for a bigger full house, I qualify to win the bad beat jackpot.  Also, nobody has posted a higher full house yet this evening, so I’ll be leading the way for the high-hand jackpot.  Some nights this is good enough to win the high-hand jackpot; other nights not.  A couple weeks early I had a 888-99 hand hold up until 11:59 pm, right before payment time, when TTT-QQ stole it away.

Now “Myles” checks.  When “John” called the flop bet, I think he probably has a K or Q, or a straight draw with JT, with a remote chance of a really strong hand with KQ or 55.  I bet $50, about 1/2 of the pot, hoping to get at least one more call from “John.”  If he is on a draw, he may chase it for this amount.  “John” calls $50.  Then… “Myles” slides out $130 for a check-raise of $80 more.  This is really interesting.  He has to consider that either “John” or myself has a strong hand.  So his range is either a bluff, or a very strong hand like AA, AK, KK (quads??? really???) or KQ.

On the other hand, the worst that can happen is I’m going to win the $500 bad beat jackpot, while the most I could lose on this hand is about $260.  Or I’m going to win a huge pot.  Once again, I just call, to see if “John” will put in any more chips.  “Myles” is pretty pot-committed so I should have no problem getting the rest of his chips in on the river.  To my disappointment, “John” folds.

River ($413):  5.  Now the board is KQ5-K-5, or a double paired board.  “Myles” somewhat unhappily tosses out two $1 chips, the minimum bet amount.  Wha-a-a-a-t?  Obviously he doesn’t want to put in the rest of his chips.

Here is where I went on happy tilt.  I’ve fallen in love with my hand, with a flopped set of queens and turned full house.  And the knowledge that I’m qualified to win the bad beat jackpot if somehow I’m beat.  Rather than pause for a second and think about the implications of the river card, I just announce all-in.  The reality is that “Myles” can fold AA here, or anything else he might have that doesn’t include a K.  My raise is totally idiotic – he’s not going to call me with a worse hand, and not going to fold a better hand either.  After considering the possibility of me having KQ rather than QQ, he calls and shows AK suited.  His KKK-55 beats my QQQ-KK.

While I win the $500 bad beat jackpot, I also could have called “Myles'” $2 bet on the river and saved $98 more

“Myles” laughs, thanks me and reminds me and everyone else at the table about the extra $98 I paid him about a dozen times over the remainder of the evening.

Sometimes he reads this blog.  Merry Christmas, “Myles.”  I hope you used it to buy yourself a nice Christmas sweater and matching necktie.

A little while later, against a different villain, my TT runs into AK on a board of KK4-K-9.  The other guy has quad KKKK’s with an Ace kicker, to bump me out of the high hand jackpot.  My KKK-TT again qualifies for the bad beat jackpot, but it has been reset to $25 and the house rule is they won’t pay the jackpot to the same player twice in one night.  I don’t want to sound like a complainer, but a different river card in the first hand with “Myles” and I would have been about $600 richer.

2 Straight Flushes in One Hand

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sonny wins the second round.

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

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

Do-Over

This was a really weird situation at a $1/1 cash game last night.

Effective stacks are about $110.

I have QQ in middle position and raise to $6, which is a fairly typical raise for this game.  There is one caller after me, and one of the blinds also calls.  The dealer burns and turns over the flop, J-x-x.  I don’t recall the other cards, other than they were lower than the J.  I’m pretty happy with that flop and start developing my strategy for the hand.

Then the cutoff seat (I’ll call him “Tom”) says “Wait a minute!”  He had his back to the table as he was counting out a new stack of chips for someone who had gone bust in the previous hand and needed to re-buy.  The action passed by him before he could turn back around, so he hadn’t even looked at his cards.

Since this is a home game, with no rake and each player deals when it is his turn, we have to stop and figure out exactly what to do.  It can be tricky when the dealer is also a player, as well as when there is no floor supervisor to call for help.  I keep quiet – it was a good flop for me, but weighing in with a biased reaction might give away the strength of my hand, in addition to being bad form.

The group does the right thing.  The flop cards (but not the burn card) are scooped up off the table and put back on the deck, and the remaining deck is re-shuffled.  Since Tom was at the table when his cards were dealt, but performing an administrative function for which there is no non-playing person to handle, he should be allowed to act.

Tom looks at his cards, and after some hesitation, he calls the $6.

Great!  (Note the heavy sarcasm.)

Now I have one more person in the pot, who has position on me post-flop.  And a good likelihood of a flop that contains trouble for my Queens.

The new flop is delivered:  KQ6, with 2 clubs.

Yahtzee!

But also very drawy.  I cannot give a free card to someone with a flush or straight draw, and can expect to get called by quite a few hands, both draws and Kx.  The player in the blinds checks, and I bet $18, about 75% of the pot.

After one fold, Tom – the same Tom whose distraction caused this do-over – raises to $60.  I’ve played with him enough to believe his is pot-committed here, as he only has about $40-50 behind and I have him slightly covered.  The blind folds and I go all-in.

Tom turns over AA.

A few seconds later he is turning his back to the table again, to count out more chips for a player who just got felted.

I feel like this should remind me of a popular song about getting a do-over, but cannot think of it at the moment.  If it comes to me later, I’ll make a quick edit.

 

Cinderella

My father will celebrate his 81st birthday next month.  He still plays in a weekly home poker game, every Thursday night, which he enjoys greatly.  But theirs is a low limit, fifty cent maximum bet, dealer’s choice game.  Lots of variety and camaraderie, very little poker skill is required, and nobody gets hurt.

No limit Texas Holdem, which I like to play, is different in the sense that you can lose your entire stack, or double it up, at any time.

With this in mind, at last night’s No Limit Holdem home game with blinds of $1/1, there was a player I have never seen before.  For this purposes, I’ll call her “Eileen,” a very lovely and entertaining 81-year-old women who frequently reminded us that she was “just and old woman.”  She also mentioned that her father once played professional soccer in England, so perhaps she has an in-bred competitive nature that isn’t readily obvious.

In this game, there is a high-hand bonus at 1:00 am, paid to the highest hand of the night that uses both hole cards.  The bonus is usually about $100.  On one hand, “Eileen” had pocket 99’s, flopped a set of 999’s, and did not bet aggressively at all, later stating that she didn’t want to run everybody off and miss out on a chance for the 4th nine to arrive and put her in the lead for the high-hand bonus.  (At this point, another player already have flopped quad 6666’s.)

Meanwhile, I am having a wonderful night, having started with $160 and now sitting at approx. $450.

In middle position, I get KK and raise to $6.  Eileen and one other player call, and the flop is AK7 with 2 hearts.  Ba-da-bing!  If somebody has an Ace, I’m going to get paid off here.

I bet $6 again, a small bet to find out who has the Ace.  Eileen calls and the other player folds.  I need to be careful not to overplay this hand, as she seems a bit timid and may be the type of trusting soul who will just believe me if I bet too aggressively.  I’m going to make the kind of bets that can get called 3 times by a hand like AT or A9.  I just don’t know her capacity to call large bets.

The turn is 8h.  Now I also have to be concerned about flushes as there are 3 hearts on the board.  Since 2 of them are the A and K, it is less likely that she has a flush draw, although her pre-flop calling range could include QJhh, QThh, or JThh.  But this is exactly 3 hand combinations, a very small part of her range, and Ax is much more likely.

I now bet $10, and she calls again.

The river is Jd.  Eileen leans towards me with her eyes opening wide now, as if to say “Whaddaya gonna do sonny?  Keep bluffing and I’ll call you.”  It’s actually a little scary looking and I should remember that look for future reference.  A tell, perhaps?

I bet $15 on the river, a very small bet into a pot that is now approx. $50.

She calls again, so I turn over my cards and announce, “I have three Kings.”  Eileen responds, “Well, I have three Aces” and turns over pockets AA’s.

She called pre-flop, called on the flop with top set, called on the turn, and called again on the river.  Never ever ever ever ever ever would I be able to include AA in her range in that situation.  On the other hand, I lost the minimum.  If she raises on the flop, I would cheerfully get it all in there and double her up.  Once again, Eileen explained that she was hoping for a 4th ace to make the high-hand bonus, or alternatively after the 3rd heart fell, hoping for the board to pair on the river so the flush possibility wouldn’t slow her down.

I’ve never felt such a sense of relief after losing a hand.  Flopped KKK vs. flopped AAA!

About 30-45 minutes later, Eileen hits a Q-high straight flush, which easily holds up to win the high-hand bonus.  After making the straight flush, she bet $5 on the river!

After that happened, I realized I was playing poker with a “mature” Cinderella.  While Eileen looked more like the fairy godmother (or great-godmother?), after flopping a set of 999’s, flopping a set of AAA’s (vs. KKK’s no less!), and a rivered gutshot straight flush at a game that pays a high-hand bonus, it became clear that this was her night at the ball.

There were no glass slippers, no pumpkin turned into a fancy chariot or mice turned into coachmen, no fancy ball gown that I could see.  But the handiwork of a fairy godmother was evident all over the place.  She called her prince to explain that she would be home a bit later than promised so she could stay and collect the high-hand bonus.  At 1:00 she left, saying how much she looked forward to seeing us all again next week.

I hope the spell lasted long enough for Cinderella to arrive home safely.

It I see her again at a poker table and she ever makes a truly aggressive move, I’m running out the front door as fast as I can.

Slow Playing for Dummies

This was just about too good to be true, on Bovada’s Zone Poker.

I’ll let the Share My Pair hand replayer take it from here… the turn gave me a “double gutshot” straight draw and I badly mis-read the lack of action on the flop and thought I might be able to steal the pot with a strong turn bet.

Wrong, but then it got much better.

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.

Huh?

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…

OMG x 3

Here is the very first hand played n a session today, followed by the very next hand, followed by hand # 5.  Enough to make anybody tilt.  OMG.  OMG.  OMG.

Merry Christmas!

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