KKing David

Ruminations on poker

Archive for the tag “full house”

Facing a Shove on the River With Just One Pair

NOTE:  This entry was originally posted on a different site on January 3, 2017 and has been slightly edited prior to re-posting here.

My previous blog entry explored turning a missed draw into a bluff, after my opponent checked on both the turn and the river, soliciting your comments on the villain’s range.

Last night another, bigger decision presented itself via an interesting puzzle. Let’s unpack the puzzle pieces, assemble them, and see if we can find the missing pieces…

This was at a private, house game (no limit hold’em) with blinds of $1/2. I’ve been having a rough night so far. Shortly after joining the table, I lost my entire stack when I turned a full house, only to lose to a larger full house on the river. I had TT, and the board ran out Qs Qh 6h – Th – Kh. Everybody checked on the flop, then my gin card arrived on the turn, also completing any flush draws. Unfortunately, the other player had KQ and got there on the river. Ouch!

I bought another $300 in chips, and continued trending down. Less than a full orbit prior to the Big Decision, I caught my first big break of the night, with AA > KK on a pre-flop all-in with the same player who had cracked my full house. She had frittered away most of the stack from that hand and had slightly less than $150 remaining, which I was glad to take.

Now I have about $395 in front of me, and look down at King-Queen offsuit. There is one limper in front of me and I raise to $12. Four players call, and I quickly decide not to make a continuation bet unless I connect with the flop.  Let’s protect these newly begotten chips.

Flop ($62): Kd 4d 3c

This is a very good flop for me.  Not huge, but my top pair / 2nd kicker should be the best hand, and I can get value from flush draws, straight draws and kings with weaker kickers.  Giving four other players a free card or ceding the betting initiative would be a mistake.  It is checked to me and I bet $35. While not much more than one-half pot, this shouldn’t look like a run-of-the-mill continuation bet with air as there are four other live players.

The player to my immediate left calls, and everyone else folds. For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Matt.” While I’m a long-time regular here, Matt is a newbie.  Solving the puzzle is going to require us to know as much as possible about Matt.  What do we know so far?

Matt is a young white guy, looks about 25 (but might be closer to 30). He has straggly hair that nearly reaches his shoulders, a beard, and has been wearing headphones. Before this cash game started, we both played in a small-stakes tournament here, and learned that he is a roving contractor, currently in the area working on the installation of Google fiber.  He’s polite and pleasant when he does engage in any conversation, which isn’t very much.

Matt looks and plays like a stereotypical loose-aggressive (“LAG”) poker player. Early in the tournament, he built up a formidable stack, showing AA, a nut flush, flopping a set of QQQs, etc. I made a mental note then not to confuse his LAGGY appearance and playing style with the fact that he kept showing down big hands. A bit later, he lost a large chunk of his chips in a 3-way all-in where he had AK.

I had joined the cash game about an hour or so after it started. The only open seat was on Matt’s immediate right. At the time, he had over $550 in front of him (the max buy-in is $300), and I anticipated the difficulty of playing with a deep-stacked LAG on my left.  Oy!  He can make my session miserable.

Sure enough, that’s what happened. Prior to my full house under full house debacle, Matt picked off my river bluff, after I had floated on the flop with a gutshot straight draw (that missed), then he checked behind on the turn, indicating weakness.  He has been raising and 3-betting frequently, including an OOP 3-bet as weak as A6o and several other hands that indicated a wide raising range, especially in position. He straddled regularly on the button (always for more than the minimum), demonstrated positional awareness, and attacked limpers often. His play definitely matches his stereotype as a LAG.

And he’s been hit by the deck!  Matt built up his stack to approximately $1,100, with multiple full houses, flushes, flopped sets, and bluff-catcher calls.  Other players commented on how hot he is running, although with his headphones on we don’t know if he heard any of these remarks.

Prior to this hand, however, he has started bleeding away much of his winnings. Some of his lighter, bluff-catching calls have been wrong, and he’s been caught bluffing / bullying several times, including several river bluffs. He also lost a large pot with flush < full house.  He still had nearly $650 at the beginning of this hand.

Back to the hand. After he called my flop bet, Matt and I are heads up, and he has position on me. The pot is getting bloated, with $132 in it.

Turn ($132): 4h. Now the board is Kd 4d 3c – 4h.

Thinking I very likely have the best hand, I bet $65.  I can still get value from flush or straight draws and perhaps a few other holdings.  Matt calls again.

What do you think Matt has here? A diamond flush draw is possible. A straight draw with 65 is possible. At the intersection is a combo draw with 6d 5d, although I think such an aggressive player would raise with that on the flop to apply maximum pressure with so many outs as a back-up. He could have a King and we are in a kicker battle. He could have a four and just made trips, or pocket 33s and flopped another set. But I think he probably would have raised on the flop with pocket 33s to protect against flush draws, as none of the other three players had folded yet when he called my flop bet. I also think he probably would raise now on this turn with any 4x (like A4s), to get value from any AA/AK/KQ or draw that I might have. Even as loose as he is, I don’t think he calls $12 pre-flop with A4o or K4.

River ($262): Th.  Now the board is Kd 4d 3c – 4h – Th

This should be a good card for me, as it misses all potential draws. The only hands that it helps are KT and TT.  I don’t think he has TT – his 3-betting range pre-flop is wide enough to include TT (but not necessarily 100% of the time), and even if he flatted with TT and called again on the flop, he probably would surrender on the turn.

If he has a missed draw, I’m not going to get any more value. In fact, the only hand that can reasonably pay me off on another bet is KJ.  So I target that and bet $85, which is a little less than one-third of the pot and might get a crying call from KJ.

With little hesitation, Matt announces “I’m all in!” and slides his remaining chips out.  The rhythm and tone with which he does this seems very strong.  This is hard to describe, but he seemed calm and confident.  The dealer moves my $85 and a matching portion of his stack to the pot, and there is nearly $450 more on top of that.  I have just under $200 remaining so I’ll have to do any math based on my stack, not his.

I have a collection of short essays on poker strategy from the late Bill “Ain’t No Limit” Hubbard, who was a highly regarded professional poker coach for many years specializing in live cash games. Over the holidays, I’ve been reviewing some of these essays and several concepts now come into play.

In his foundational essay, Bill says to practice SBRTA when faced with a big decision. Stop. Breathe. Relax. Think. Act.  I’m having a little trouble breathing at the moment, considering I’m on my second buy-in of the night and it would really hurt to be down 300 BBs.  How in the **** am I supposed to relax when the realization of what might be happening here almost made me shit my pants?  [Inhaling very slowly…]

In another essay, Bill drives home the strategy of playing small hands for small pots, medium-strength hands for medium-sized pots and big hands for big pots.  My hand is a medium-strength hand.  I have two pair, one of which is the pair of 44’s on the board. So my hand is really akin to top pair with 2nd best kicker (“TP2K”). By the river, this is definitely NOT a big hand, but often good enough to win. Bill says: “One of the most notorious leaks among live poker players is that they break the basic rule of playing a medium pot only with a medium sized hand. I think this is due to most players feeling that they must protect their medium strength hand and thus raise to protect the hand plus find out information.”  Was I doing that here? I thought I was betting for value, to get called by worse hands and draws (which some might call “protecting” against draws), but not really for information.

In other essays, Bill describes the central question for successful no limit Texas hold’em players: “What is the villain’s range and what will he do with this range?” Or “what does he have and how will he play it?” I’ll come back to this later.

In another essay, entitled “The Fold Button,” Bill notes that the most common mistake among live players is that they call when they should fold. Making big, successful hero calls is exciting, but far out-weighed by calling mistakes. Sometimes, we know we are beat, but call nevertheless to get to what he refers to as the “funeral for the hand,” a form of certainty and closure.  Calling forces the other player to show their cards, so now we know and can have closure (i.e., the funeral), albeit at a very high price.   This is closely related to the medium-strength hand –> medium-sized pot rule.  Before calling a large river bet, Bill advises us to ask: Is the villain capable of bluffing (in Matt’s case, yes)? Have we actually seen him bluff (yes)? Should the villain expect us to call this size bet? This is harder to answer. After bringing in my $85 and his raise (i.e., up to my stack size), there is approximately $630 in the pot and it will cost my last ~$200 to call. I’m getting 3.15-to-1 odds.  With those odds, if he is bluffing more than 24% of the time, calling is correct in a strictly mathematical sense.  If you feel compelled to call, what percentage of the time is it due to real factors you have considered vs. the overwhelming desire to call and simply see what the villain is betting with (this is really tough, so let’s consider the real factors)?

In another essay, Bill describes the principle of Occam’s Razor. Named after William of Ockham, a 14th Century British mathematician and logician, this principle states that among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. More simply, “If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, then it is most likely a duck!” When we combine this with the medium hand / medium pot rule, Matt’s all-in bet fundamentally says “I like my hand more than you like yours.” Occam’s Razor instructs us that Matt has a hand worthy of playing for an $800+ pot, and I’m toast.

But still, I’m not convinced. Nor am I unconvinced.

First of all, what am I beating? In reality, the ONLY thing I am beating here is a bluff. There is no possible hand that he can be raising all-in for value here, where he is hoping I will call, thinking he has me beat, but he’s actually behind.  To do so would violate the medium hand –> medium pot rule even worse than I did.

There is a finite range of hands that beat mine, so we can explore each of them to figure out if Matt has it.  This is a reverse-engineering approach to Bill Hubbard’s central question of what does he have and how does he play it?  I went through this earlier in my turn betting analysis, but it bears repeating now.

  • Could he have Pocket AAs or KKs…?  Nope! He would have re-raised pre-flop.  Since he didn’t, I can eliminate AA and KK from his range.
  • AK… nope!  Again, Matt would have re-raised pre-flop. I’ve seen him 3-bet much lighter than that and use his position to put me in difficult spots pre-flop with hands weaker than AK.  Besides, if he had AK and planned to raise, he wouldn’t wait until the river.
  • KT… maybe, but I don’t think so. He might call me pre-flop with this, especially if suited (which would leave only 2 combos), but I don’t think he would shove all of his chips in on this river.  The way I’ve played this hand, betting every street, he has to consider AA as part of my range.  With the pair of 44s on the board, it would be a mistake for him to raise instead of just calling again.  But this combo worries me more than the others.
  • TT… nope!  As noted earlier, I think he 3-bets pre-flop with this hand at least some of the time, and also think he releases this by the turn when I show continued strength. My betting looks a lot like I have AA or AK here, especially when I C-bet into four opponents on the flop.
  • 4x… nope!  He might call $12 pre-flop with A4s or 54s, and call the flop C-bet too. But if that were the case, he would raise on the turn after improving to trips, to get value from flush draws, as well as the fact that I might have trouble letting go of AA or AK against a raise as it would look somewhat bluffy based on the board pairing and his image (if he has that level of self-awareness). I don’t think he calls $12 pre-flop with K4, although K4s is a very slight possibility. That would have flopped two pair, which I think he would raise on the flop, again to get value from flush draws.
  • 33… nope!  Again, I think he raises on the flop for the reasons mentioned. Keep in mind there were five players in this hand, it checked to me on the flop and I bet $35. He is on my immediate left, so three other players were still live when he called my C-bet.  He shouldn’t just call there with a flopped bottom set.  If he did and then improved to a full house on the turn, just calling my turn bet and waiting for the river to shove – perhaps hoping to see another diamond in case I’m the one chasing a flush – makes perfect sense. I don’t think he has 33, but this also worries me a little bit.

So here we are.  Out of six groups of hands that beat me, four are a definite “nope” and the other two (KT and 33) are probably “nope” too.  For better or worse, my analytical thinking concludes that with every possible hand that beats me, Matt would have done something different with that hand somewhere along the way. All that remains are bluffs, contradicted by Occam’s Razor and the medium-hand –> medium-pot rule that is screaming inside my head that I’m about to make a big calling mistake.  Matt’s all-in bet looks like a duck, which rhymes with ‘I’m about to get fucked!’

What would you do?  Taking a deep breath, I finally called and Matt tabled Kh 6h.  My hand was good!  He may have thought he was ahead with top pair and a weak kicker on the flop, but by the river realized he need to turn it into a bluff to take this pot.


Dear readers, if you like my blog, please like / share /retweet on Facebook or Twitter, and enter your email address in the top right corner to be notified of all new posts.

Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog

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

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

According to Wikipedia:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


If you enjoyed this post, please like / share /retweet on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, post a comment, and enter your email address in the top right corner to be notified of all new posts.

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.

Not to Play is to Play Well

The famous quote “Not to decide is to decide” is attributed to theologian Harvey Cox.  A quick web search reveals the the full quote is “Somewhere deep down we know that in the final analysis we do decide things and that even our decisions to let someone else decide are really our decisions, however pusillanimous,” from On Not Leaving It to the Snake.

In poker, sometimes “not to play is to play well.”

I’ll keep this brief.

I’m playing online poker, on Bovada, in micro stakes limit holdem games (feel free to question my sanity later).  I have two tables running simultaneously.

UTG I look as 6d 4d.  I really want to play these small suited one-gappers, but of course this would be a poor decision, so I fold.  While concentrating on the other table, I peek over and see the board has come out 4c Kc As 4s 6s, and the pot is 19 BBs big, which is a lot for a limit game.  Had I played, I would have a well-disguised full house.  Then the showdown comes and one of the players has KK, for a much bigger full house.


On the very next hand, I have Kc Jc in the Big Blind.  UTG+1 raises and I’m definitely going to call.  Then a strange thing happens.  The button re-raises and it occurs to me that (1) UTG+1 might re-re-raise even more, and (2) I’m out of position against both players.  I decide not to play, and fold.  UTG+1 just calls.

The flop is T-J-J.  Trip JJJ’s for me.

Now both players are betting, raising and capping the pot, and this happens again on the turn (a 9).  What the…?

Keeping the long story short, the button has KK, and UTG+1 has AJ.  I woulda coulda shoulda been out kicked and the final pot was over 35 BBs.

Not playing these two hands – heavily influenced by my position at the table – was to play well both times.

(Insert image of KKing David patting himself on the shoulder.)

What Can I Beat?

One way to decide whether to call a big river bet is to ask yourself “What can I beat?”  And of course, it the situations that require this question, the answer usually is “very little” or sometimes “only a bluff.”

This typically occurs when you have some showdown value – let’s just call it a medium strength hand – and the villain’ s range is somewhat polarized.

Here is an example – poorly done on my part as usual – from a live $1/$1 no limit cash game last night.

I am in the cutoff seat, with A-9 off suit.  Villain (I’ll call him Dennis the Menace) is the Big Blind and the player to his left (UTG) posts a $2 live straddle.  We end up in a 4-way limped pot, so there is $8 in the pot.  I have position on the other players, and effective stacks are approx. $120.

Flop:  K-K-T.  A somewhat scary flop.  All three players check, so I toss out $6 hoping to take it down without a fight, which would be nice since I totally whiffed on the flop. Only Dennis the Menace in the BB calls.  This is my first time playing with him, and so far he has been winning but not made any fancy plays.  Moderately tight, moderately aggressive, nothing stands out.

At this point, I have nothing but Ace-high, and his range is narrowed to a K, a T, or a straight draw with Q-J, possibly with some gutshot draws or lower pocket pairs if he reads me (correctly) for a bluff.  Pre-flop he just limped in from the BB.

Turn ($20):  Ace.  Nice, now I actually have some showdown value.  But his Q-J makes a straight, and any K stills beats me too.  He checks, so I check behind.  Now I would be happy to check this down to the river and have a showdown.

River ($20):  8.  No flushes are filled, so this card changes nothing unless he floated my flop bet with exactly 8-8.  Unlikely.  Now he leads out with a bet of $16.


He also looks confident.

I had a discussion earlier in the day with a buddy about the biggest leak in my game continuing to be self-management.  When I just know I’m beat, I still call too much, thus giving away a lot of value.  River bets are the largest, and here is another example.  It cost just $2 to see the flop.  I bluffed for another $6 on the flop.  Now it will cost $16 more to find out if my hand is good.  It doesn’t feel very good.  I know I should fold.

But I don’t.  First, I take some time to think through the possibilities, and still come up with his holdings narrowed to any K, any T, or QJ.

What Can I Beat???  I am only beating the T or a bluff.  If he had a Ten, wouldn’t he also want to check this down?  Or is he bluffing the original bluffer?  I haven’t seen indications of this type of play from him.  But I’ve never played with him before last night.

So I do what bad poker players do:  I rationalize.  My hand is probably (very probably) second best, but I’ll pay him off anyway so I can learn how he played this hand and have a better point of reference in the future.

Announcing that I’m probably beat, I make the call.  Dennis the Menace turns over K-T, for a flopped full house.

I knew it.  I knew it.  I knew it.  I knew it.  I knew it.


No More Free Beer

Last night I played in a home cash game.  I’ve played 4 times previously with this group, lots of fun, and won some decent amounts of money each time.

So I decided to be a nice guest, and buy an extra 6-pack for the host.  I emailed to inquire as to his favorite brew, bought some (and another 6-pack for myself with intention of leaving behind the extras in hopes that some would survive until the next game or two there).  When I arrived and handed him the gift, I smiled broadly and explained this was just a small show of appreciation for being invited to join the game, he and his friends are lots of fun to play with and besides they keep giving me their money.

We had a good laugh.

Then started playing poker.  Not too deep into the night, I got AA, raised to $5 (blinds are $1 and $1) and 3 callers.  The flop was 3h 5h 7h.  I have the Ah, so this is not a terrible flop for me.  Everybody checks and I bet $11.  One caller.

Turn:  Jh.  Bingo!  Now I have an Ace-high flush and the only remaining issue is how to extract the most value.  The remaining villain checks, and I’m concerned he might just go away too easily.  By checking behind, I can represent weakness and hopefully induce a bluff on the river.

River:  5d.  Sure, this pairs the board, bringing full houses into the realm of possibility, but I’m really not so worried about that.  He leads out with a bet of $22.  Looks like the bluff I was hoping for.  I don’t want to re-pop him too hard, so I make a barely min-raise to $45.

Now he tanks for awhile, and says the river cards worries him.  I find this a little odd, as if he’s somehow representing the Ah, which I have securely in front of me.  He tanks some more, and looks to be leaning towards folding.

Then he re-raises all-in.  Huh?  My best guess is that he  has convinced himself that I’m the one bluffing here.  I feel pretty pot committed.  Let’s see… there’s about $180 in the pot and I have about $45 behind.  I’m getting 4-to-1 to call.  Gotta call here, and I do.

He says, “Sorry, but I have the nuts!” and turns over 6h 4h for a flopped straight flush.

About an hour later, I get into a hand with Ks Tc, and the board runs out As Js 6s Ac 2s, again giving me the top flush on a paired board.  The same villain leads out on the river, and again I raise – not seeing any possible straight flushes out there.

This time he calls, and says “I suppose you have Ace-Jack.”  Nope, nut flush.  He turns over A-6 for a full house, and takes most of my second $100 buy-in.

Is there a lesson to be learned here?  Probably so.  I tend to think many players are too tight in playing a flush on a paired board.  The percentage of the time that a paired board actually results in someone having a full house (note that in hand #1 above it wasn’t a full house, but a straight flush that did me in, but I digress) is fairly low.  On the other hand, both of my flushes involved 4 same-suit cards on the board, and I had the top possible flush both times.  It is much more likely that someone has a lesser flush than a full house (or quads, or a straight flush).

According to my math, a single player with a random hand will make a full house less than 3% of the time when the board is paired.  Of course, by the river his hand is no longer random.  With about the widest range I can imagine for hand #1, he makes a full house less than 8% of the time.  I’m not going to calculate for hand #2 but it should be higher due to the paired card being an Ace.  Many aces in his range.

I guess in hindsight, I have no issues with the way I played the first hand.  It was just a cooler, my AA turned into an A-high flush and lost to a flopped straight flush.  I’ll enjoy telling and re-telling that story.  The second hand warrants a call and not a raise on the river.  Much easier for the villain to have AJ, A6 or A3 and hit a full house, although I’m pretty sure he checked the turn.

Both times I could have called and not raised on the river, and saved about $120 +/-.

Is that actually the higher EV play?  I’m really not sure.

Please add your thoughts in the comments section.

Love/Hate This Game

Last night I played in a live tournament with a private poker league that I joined during the summer.  The winner – whoever earns the most points over a span of 22 tournaments – will get his buy-in paid for the Main Event at the WSOP next summer.

I started poorly, then doubled up, then won some more to get to a stack over 49,000 chips. We start with 30,000 chips, and at this point there are 21 players remaining from the original 24.  In other words, I’m in good shape.

Or so I thought.  My pocket 7’s made a set on the flop, and I’m heads up against John (the same John from this prior post about a live cash game), and he’s on the button, so his pre-flop calling range (I had raised to 3BB’s, and he called) is pretty wide.  I’ll keep this short… he flopped a set of Q’s and barely had me covered, so the tournament is over.

I hate this game.

So I waited an hour for a cash game to start.  During the cash game, I knocked out a short stack who shoved pre-flop when I had AA, and later made a K-high straight flush (only had one of the cards in my hand; the board was a real action killer).  But overall played too loose and lost a few dollars.

Not terrible, but I still hate this game.

When I came home, now after 10:30 pm and I’ve been playing poker for several hours in the tournament and cash game, I still felt restless, so I logged into my online account and joined 2 tables.  On one of these tables, the following sequence occured:

First 12 hands… not much, lost 4BB’s in blind postings

Hand 13… AA, short stack has KK, win 36 BB’s

Hand 14… 88, flop a set, all-in with flush draw who misses, win 65 BB’s

Hand 15… 22, flop a set again, no action this time, win 4BB’s

Hand 16… I fold pre-flop

Hand 17… Ks Qc in small blind, flop KQQ and everybody checks, turn T, pre-flop raiser has AJ and my boat crushes his straight.  Win 98 BB’s.

Log out, go to bed.

I love this game!

Daily Debacle – Sinking my Boat

A picture tells a thousand words.  Got it all-in on the turn here:



Boat over boat


This hand came in a session of 6-max, $0.25 – 0.50 NL.  I am in the small blind with a stack of $40, having been pretty card-dead for awhile.  I am dealt Ad Jc.

UTG has $269 on the table and has been running wild!  Over the last 28 hands, he has voluntarily put $$ in the pot (VPIP) 82% of the time and pre-flop raised (PFR) 50%.

UTG raises to $1.50, which is not a show of any particular strength given his stats.  The cutoff calls $1.50 (his VPIP and PFR are 67 / 33 but he’s only been at the table for 6 hands.

This looks like a good spot for a healthy re-raise.  My Ace-Jack offsuit is likely the best hand right now and it would be better to take down the pot right now than have to play the rest of the hand out-of-position against two very loose players.  If one or both of them call and I connect with the flop, even better!

I’m trying to decide how much to raise – a pot-sized raise would be a total bet of $6.50.  I might even go with $7.50 to apply extra pressure to end this now.

Snapping me out of my amazingly clear thoughts is the player on the button, who re-raises to $4.  If he is a typical player at this level, this smallish raise signals strength.  He wants at least one caller, and UTG is sure to oblige.

Now my hand looks easily dominated!  A pot-sized raise would now be $11.50, leaving me with about $28 behind and making it very tough to avoid being pot-committed.  What will I do from out-of-position if the button calls and I whiff the flop?  I fold, pat myself on the back of the shoulder and reassure myself that discretion is the better part of valor.  Or something Sun Tzu said about not fighting battles that cannot be won.

Sure enough, UTG and Cutoff both call the $4.


Everyone checks to the button, who shoves all-in for his last $15.  UTG cheerfully calls, and the cutoff folds.

UTG has A-9.  Button has K-K.

Had I stayed in, I might have gotten the rest of my chips in and a call from the UTG player.


Month-to-date online results:  + $294

Year-to-date online results:  (- $504)

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.

Post Navigation