KKing David

Ruminations on poker

Archive for the tag “limp-reraise”


A few months ago, I wrote “Hashtag: They Always Have It,” describing several hands from a poker weekend at Harrah’s New Orleans.  Hand #4 from that post asked Can I Fold KK Pre-Flop?  In that hand, the player under the gun had limped, then re-raised over the top of my raise (with KK) and two callers.  One of the callers was a short stack who was all-in for less than my raise amount, so I knew that even if I folded, I would find out if I had dodged a pair of bullets.  I did fold, and he did have AA.

Another time, a couple years ago at the Aria in Vegas, I faced a similar limp/re-raise betting line when holding KK.  That time, I didn’t fold and the villain also had KK resulting in a chopped pot.  (Whew!)

Last week I faced this dynamic again.

There were two limpers, then a raise to 6 or 7 big blinds from the cutoff seat.  He is a younger, very aggressive player who raises and re-raises pre-flop with a wide range.  I’m on the button with KK, and 3-bet to about 18 BBs.   The small blind folds but the big blind calls.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Jay.”  Jay is a very loose player who likes to see lots of flops and also looks for bluffing opportunities when he misses but the board may be scary to the other players.  The first limper folds.

Out of nowhere, the 2nd of the limpers 4-bets to 38 BBs.  Yikes!  For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Moses.”  To limp, then 3-bet is one thing.  But to limp/4-bet is downright scary, as Moses should be concerned that either the initial raiser or me (having already 3-bet) might now go all-in.  Unless, of course, he isn’t concerned because that’s what he wants to happen.

Then there is his bet sizing.  Moses’ 4-bet is barely double my bet.  While the absolute size of 38 BBs is a very large amount for the pre-flop action, in relation to the pot this is curiously small.  The raise portion of his bet is 20 BBs.  Including the 18 BBs call portion of his bet, the pot already has approx. 63 BBs in it, making his raise 32% of the pot.  Anything less than a one-half pot raise is considered small.  A standard raise size would be about 50-75 BBs or even slightly more.  Is Moses inviting a call because he has AA and doesn’t want to run off his customers, no matter how transparent his hand is with this betting line?  I have blockers to both AK and KK, so it’s mathematically less likely for him to have either of these hands.

Or is he leaving himself room to fold if either the cutoff seat or I shove all-in, perhaps with AK or QQ/JJ?

The initial raiser folds, and the action is back to me.  Do I have a profile on Moses?

Moses is a middle-aged black guy (MABG) who I’ve played with only a couple times previously.  He has commented directly to me earlier this evening that every time we’ve been in a hand against each other, I’ve come out ahead.  In doing so, Moses assured me that he’s going to get even pretty soon.  I find him very entertaining – he tells a lot of meandering stories, using big words when smaller words would do just fine, that always end up with some karmic explanation of why he (or his favorite football team, the Philadelphia Eagles) will win.  It hasn’t been easy to pinpoint his poker play, as I’ve observed several unconventional plays, including his weird bet sizing here and some other non-standard lines that sometimes backfire badly.

On the other hand, #theyalwayshaveit is another way of using Occam’s Razor, the principle that the explanation that requires the fewest assumptions is usually correct.  In this case, Occam’s Razor says he should have AA.

The pot is now quite large, and there is still the big blind, who called my 3-bet and will have an opportunity to respond to Moses’ bet and whatever I do.

What would YOU do here?  At this point, I’ve invested 18 BBs and have about 105-110 BBs remaining in my stack.  Both Moses and the big blind player have me covered.

Leave your answer and reasoning in the comments section below (if you are reading this on Facebook and want to comment, please click through to the blog itself and comment there rather than in Facebook), and I’ll update with the rest of the story in a few days.




I decided to call.  If I shove here, that’s probably going to run off Jay, who is less likely than Moses to be trapping me with AA, although I consider that possibility too.  If Jay has AA, he’ll let us know now.  If I can make money on this pot, I want to get as much as possible from Jay in addition to Moses.  Since I’ll be last to act on the flop, perhaps I can correctly interpret the additional information provided by the flop and Jay’s & Moses’ actions.

True to form, Jay calls.  I’ve seen him make large calls like this with very speculative hands, so this doesn’t really concern me.

Flop (122 BBs):  752, rainbow.

Jay checks, then Moses bets 25 BBs.  This is a curiously small bet, barely 20% of the pot.  With two other live players, a very safe flop and bloated pot, I would expect a much larger bet with AA.  That is, if he has AA.  Which now I don’t believe he does.

I raise all-in.  It’s possible Jay has something like 88-JJ and might spazz out and call with a weaker overpair here.  It’s also possible that Moses might call with AK, given the size of the pot and his commitment so far.  If I just call here, I’ll be scared shitless if an ace comes on the turn, so I’m going to get it in now.

Jay folds.  Moses tanks for quite awhile, squirming in his seat and commenting again about my luck against him.  Now the pot has about 236 BBs in it and it will cost him another 64 BBs to call.  If his equity in this huge pot is at least 21.3% (calculated by taking the amount to call of 64 BBs, divided by the total pot size including his all [236 + 64 = 300].  64/300 = 21.3%).  Note that if he has AK here and my hand is QQ or JJ (more likely than my actual KK, as he has one of the kings), his actual equity would be 26.4% and he should call even though he only has A-high at the moment.

Moses finally calls, and turns over AK suited (hearts, not that it matters).  Only an ace will help him, and his actual equity is 14.3%.  Calling was a mistake.

Sometimes mistakes pay off anyway, but not this time.  The board bricked out and I won a big pot.


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Overbet All-in on the River

Last night I was playing $1/2 no limit Hold’em in a private house game, where I am a regular.  It was after 3 am and we were down to 5-handed play when this hand occured.

Before describing the hand, some background and table dynamics are needed…

The group was talkative and lively, despite the late hour.  Straddling on the button was frequent.  There were some deep stacks.  I had about $280 to start this hand.  When there are only five players, the dynamics change a lot from a full table, with much wider ranges being played, and much more bluffing and re-bluffing.

The ‘villain’ in this hand (we’ll call him “Myles” for purposes of this post) is one of the more perceptive players at the table.  His hand-reading skills are excellent, and he’s constantly thinking about what other players have based on their playing style, betting patterns, and physical tells.  We’ve played together many times.

Usually he perceives me as very tight – once he called me the “tightest player in the Triad” (note to “Myles”… we live in the Triangle, not the Triad… but I digress).

Not long before this hand, while also playing 5-handed, “Myles” had posted a $6 straddle on the button.  (Dear readers, if you aren’t familiar with straddles, this is a 3rd blind bet voluntarily placed by a player prior to looking at his cards.  The pre-flop betting action action begins with the player to the left of the straddle, so the straddler buys the privilege of acting last on this round of betting with the option of raising when the action gets to him as is normally the case with the BB.  This game follows the “Mississippi Straddle” rule, which allows a straddle from any position in any amount, and this is frequently used on the button to effectively raise the stakes on a hand where the straddler will have position on everyone else during every round of betting.)  Anyway, “Myles” straddled for $6 on the button, and I am in the small blind with Kc Qc.  I call $6, then immediately realize this was a mistake and I should have raised with a hand this strong.  Playing this hand passively from the worst position at the table, with multiple opponents, is just terrible.  It would be better to take the initiative at the outset.

There were 2 callers, then “Myles” raises $30 more, tossing his chips out in a splashy manner.  Often he stacks his chips neatly and slides them out, this time they scattered across the felt in front of him.

Now I’m even madder about not raising myself.  Is he just trying to steal the pot?  Did he wake up with a big hand after straddling?  Is he F.O.S?  Does he read everybody else as weak?  Have we all been playing way too long?  Should I cash out and go home before making a costly mistake?  If I re-raise here, what will he do with the stronger part of his range, say… TT+ / AQs+?  The weaker part of his range?  In all cases here, his range is pretty wide, and somewhat polarized.

Knowing his perceptiveness, as well as his willingness to bluff-raise from the straddle position (not always, but sometimes), I decide to re-raise to $100.  This is a very bold move, and represents a stronger hand than I actually have.  My range for limping / re-raising (being known at the “tightest player in the Triad”), even in the wee hours of the morning playing 5-handed, is narrower than this.  “Myles” tanks for a long time, asking if I want to get it all-in now or wait until the flop.  He seems to be seriously thinking about shoving here, but finally folds, saying he has pocket JJs.  Just to get in his head a little bit, I show him my cards and he realizes I would have had to fold if he had shoved about $200 more, and perhaps also realizes I’m not always as tight as the label “Tightest Player in the Triad” would suggest.  Just for shits and giggles, I ask the dealer to run out the board, which would have given me two clubs (including the Ac) on the flop and the nut flush card on the turn.  (Side note:  Wow!)

On to the hand that is the subject of this post.

“Myles” is the straddler again on the button, putting me in the SB.  I call $6, one or two others call, and “Myles” checks his option.  The flop is all diamonds, something like Jd 8d 6d.  I recall that one of my cards was red, but am unsure (a hazard of the wee hours) which one, and unsure if it was a diamond or heart, so I take a second look and announce that I’m checking to see if I have a diamond in my hand.  This also gives me an opportunity to pause and develop a plan for the hand.  If I have a flush draw, do I want to make aggressive semi-bluffs, representing that I already have a flush while having the draw as a my back-up plan?  Or do I want to chase the draw, calling others’ bets but not betting or raising until the flush arrives?  If I have some other hand with showdown value, such as a pair, 2-pair or a set, do I want to bet aggressively to protect against someone with a single diamond improving to a flush?  Or should I be more cautious and try to keep the pot small in case someone made a flush right away on the flop?  If a 4th diamond arrives, will I turn a non-flush hand into a bluff, representing that I have the Ad?  Making it obvious that I’m checking to see if one (or both) of my cards is a diamond can be good or bad… depending on what everybody assumes that means and how that plays into my plan.  It can also be deceptive, as a way to set up a bluff, or appear that I only have one diamond even if I know that I flopped the nuts.  Since I am making it obvious to all that I’m peeking back at my cards, I can factor that into my plan.

Everybody checks to “Myles” who bets $10.  I call.  The turn is a blank (not a diamond, doesn’t pair any of the other board cards) and he follows my check with a bet of $25.  When I call quickly, it sure looks like I’m chasing a flush draw, and the river is the Qd.

There is about $80 in the pot, I have close to $250 remaining, and “Myles” has me slightly covered.  “I’m all-in” I announce, then slide my entire stack forward.

Another player on my left, a young fellow I’ll call “Alex,” laughs out loud.  “Myles” looks shocked, and soon folds but turns his cards face up, showing the Kd 4d.  He flopped the 2nd nut flush, and now folds to a river shove.  All the while I thought he was much weaker, with a 2-pair type of hand that he was protecting against the flush draw, as I would have expected him to check his monster on the flop for deception, at least some of the time, especially if he flopped the nut flush.  Perhaps my peeking at my cards worried him that it signaled I may have the Ad???  Perhaps I surmised from his betting line that he doesn’t have the Ad???  Despite the earlier hand where I limped / re-raised pre-flop with KQs, and the punchiness of this time of morning, he’s not going to risk his whole stack, not even with the 2nd nuts, when my shove is 3x the size of the pot.

This illustrates the power of such naked aggression against a good, thinking player.  I’ve played with “Myles” enough to know that he doesn’t want to go broke there, and would ONLY call a river shove if he has the nuts himself.  But I also mis-read his hand strength, another indicator that I should go home soon.  I’ve seen other villains call in that situation, even after announcing “you must have the nuts, nothing else makes sense.”

Did I make a great bluff here?  Was I planning this all along in case a scary 4th diamond arrived?

Or just take an idiotic risk?

Or did I actually have the Ad and got lucky on the river?  If I really had it, how much should I bet for value to get the most out of a call from “Myles?”

Cowboy Chess Match

Yaacov Norowitz is one of the top chess players in the world. He is an International Master Chess player with a rating of 2435 (on the Elo chess rating system, a rating above 2400 indicates an International Master, and above 2500 is a Grandmaster).  According to the World Chess Federation’s website, Yaacov is ranked 65 among active U.S. players and 1516 in the world among active players. He’s good!  In his early 30’s, he plays in major chess tournaments and teaches chess to others, primarily online and using Skype, for a living.

Some of this I know from simple research on the World Chess Federation and Yaacov’s own websites. The rest I know because I played a bunch of hours of poker with him at the Aria poker room during my recent trip to Las Vegas.  Yaacov told me he came to Las Vegas to play in the 2nd Millionaire Chess Open, at Planet Hollywood (finishing in 17th place in the open division), then stayed to play poker for another week after the chess tournament ended.  If my interpretation of the prize money is correct, it appears that Yaacov won $23,500 playing chess for a few days, as the highest finisher not rated as a Grandmaster.

On the night of my arrival at the Aria, I lost my entire $200 initial buy-in at a $1/3 table to Yaacov over a span of 2 hands. First, I doubled him up when my Ks Ts < 77 on Qs 6h 3s – 8d – Qc board. I had open-raised pre-flop in the cutoff seat, he called from BB.  Yaacov then donked (i.e., led into the pre-flop raiser) $20 on flop, I raised to $55 (trying to represent an over pair), and after tanking a bit he shoved his shorter stack with pot odds that dictated a call with my flush draw + one over card.  A couple of hands later, his AKo > my TT when we got all-in pre-flop for my remaining $60 or so.  He turns out to be a friendly and funny fellow, and we played at the same table for several hours, again on the following day, and again the day after that.

On this 3rd day, Yaacov looked as if he hadn’t slept since I first met him, a fact he later confirmed.  He was spewing chips all over the place (I had yet to figure out how much $$ he had won in the chess tournament), re-buying probably a half-dozen times.  But now he’s won a few pots, so even though he is stuck well over $1,000, he does sit behind a formidable stack.  And he’s an aggressive player by nature.

Then this hand happens…

Yaacov limps into the pot from UTG+1, and I raise to $13 from the Hijack seat (two seats to the right of the button) with Ks Kc.  It is time for KKing David to announce himself.  This session has gone well for “the KKing” and I have about $600+ on the table. Yaacov has about $400.

The action folds back to Yaacov, and he limp-reraises to $39.  Uh-oh.

When someone limps from an early position, then re-raises on the way back around, this represents great strength.  Many players who do this, only do it with AA.  Having played perhaps 10 hours with Yaacov over these three days, I’ve noted his aggression and creativity (although his Fancy Play Syndrome has costs him dearly at times), and have to give him credit for a wider range than just AA.  But how wide?  AA, KK, QQ, JJ. AKs, AQs, AKo.  Maybe some strange bluffs, with suited Aces or other hands with decent backup equity?  Today I’ve seen him go all-in pre-flop with 55 (and a much shorter stack).  Two days earlier against me, he donked/3-bet shoved on a Q-high flop with 77.  It’s really hard to know where to draw the line.  So I call.

The flop is J87 rainbow. This doesn’t really hit his range, with the possible exception of JJ. He bets $65.

I’m on full alert. The number one sensation I’m having at this point is that I’ve seen this movie before – aggressive player limp/re-raises pre-flop from early position – and I know how it ends.  Badly.  Against an unknown player, I should be able to fold here.  Against Yaacov, I’m just nervous as hell, on full alert.  But wait, I’m KKing David, and here I am with KK, the 2nd nut hand pre-flop, and I want to play it.

I call.

The pot is now approx. $215. The turn card is a T, putting a 1-liner to a straight on the board.  In reality, while this looks scary, there are no 9’s in either of our ranges.  I feel confident about that.  Does he know that?  He’s a professional chess player, which is a game played with complete information, whereas no limit Texas Hold’em is a game played with incomplete information.  I wonder what’s going through his mind now.  What does he think I have?

Yaacov checks. If the board simply scares him just a little, he could be checking for pot control with his entire range.  On the other hand, if he’s concluded that I can’t have a 9 in my range, then he could be turning AA into a bluff catcher.  I consider betting, but decide pot control is a better idea and check behind.  I’m beating AK, AQ and QQ, but my hand is still just one pair, and betting now would bloat this pot way beyond the strength of my hand.

Then comes an Ace on the river, bringing to mind the eponymous title of Barry Greenstein’s excellent book.  This is my nightmare card.  Now AK and AQ beat me too.  DAMMIT!  (And other expletives not suitable for a public blog.)

Yaacov slides out a stack of red chips, a $100 bet.  My two black Kings are turning into milquetoast.


I replay this hand backwards and forwards, trying to find a clue that might help me solve this puzzle.  I’m having a good, winning session and don’t want to go back to square one.  There is $315 in the pot and it will cost me $100 to call.  I’m getting 3.15-to-1 pot odds, so I have to be good against his range 1 time out of 4.15 (24%) for calling to be mathematically correct.  Am I winning here 24% of the time against this set of facts?  Could Yaacov be turning QQ into a bluff?  Would he bet $100 on this board with AK?

Finally, I decide to call, just based on the pot size and the math. I don’t expect to win, but think his bluffing frequency is just high enough that I can rationalize the call. Besides that, I want to see what he has, that has played this hand in such an interesting way.  Part of this decision is based on feeling confident that I won’t tilt if I lose the pot.  I’m fully aware this is a rationalized call based on the math, and most of the time I’m going to lose, yet I find enough calm over this awareness to make the call.

Of course, the entire table is watching, as both of our moves and counter-moves have been slow, deliberate and intense throughout the hand. It has been a chess match at the poker table.

Yaacov turns over his cards first and all I can see is they are both red and both paint.  Two red queens???  I lean forward to see better, and it is actually the two red kings.  I flip over my two black kings, and there is a big “WOW!” all around.  He looks just as relieved over the chopped pot as I am, so I stand up and walk around to his end of the table to shake his hand and we have an awkward bro-hug.  He says he actually considered the possibility of us both having pocket KKs, although I really didn’t.

Whew!!!  My good session continues.


Daily Debacle – Danger Will Robinson!

Like the goofy robot in “Lost in Space,” the 1960’s science fiction TV series, sometimes another poker player or situation shouts “Danger!” at you in such an annoying manner that the first instinct is to move towards the danger, rather than away from it.

Of course, if Will Robinson always listened to the robot’s danger warnings, the rest of each Lost in Space episode wouldn’t be very interesting, would it?

This happened to me last night, playing $0.50 / 1.00 NL online.  My table has been characterized by very passive play, with multiple limpers on nearly every hand.  I need to attack these fish and make them pay.  A player UTG+1 is particularly bad, with VPIP=35 and PFR=7 over a stretch of 55 hands.  He limps, two more players limp and I am in the cutoff seat with Ad Td.  So I raise to $4.  The button and blinds all fold, but the original limper now 3-bets to $11.

I’ve seen this TV show before.  He has pocket aces.  I fold.  No problem.

Exactly one orbit later, I am on the button with Qs Th.  The same villain limps again, now from UTG+2 and everyone else folds to me.  So I raise to $3.  Just because he limp-reraised once with AA doesn’t mean I can’t punish Mr. Limp-A-Lot and leverage my favorable position to dominate this table.

The blinds fold, and this time he 3-bets to $9.  Enough already!  Just because I folded to your limp-reraise once does not mean I’m going to roll over and play dead every time.  My table image could suffer too.

This is not going to be a battle about hand strength, but a battle of will power.  I 4-bet to $19.75.  That seems like a good amount to let him know I’m not scared of this BS.  He calls, and now the pot is $41 and he has only $34 left behind.

The flop is 6-5-2.  Still not wanting to back down, I again ignore the robot’s annoying warning.  I’m not Will Robinson, but I’ve got more Will Power than the fish across the table.  I shove all-in.

He insta-calls.  Whoops!  He shows KK and doubles up.

Did somebody forget to tell me that even the fish can get a big pair every now and again?  Did somebody forget to tell me that the same fish can get a big pair in early position two orbits in a row?  Did somebody tell me that the fish at this level aren’t thinking about the fact that I folded to their 3-bet from early position once and therefore they can limp-reraise light the next time?  Did somebody forget to tell me that the fish aren’t going to fold KK even if you turn AA face up, because “Shee-it bro!  Pocket kings is just too dang good to fold”?

Nope.  Nope.  Nope.  Nope.  The robot gave me fair warning.  Twice.  I just refused to listen the second time.

Year-to-date online results:  (- $509)

Month-to-date online results:  + $696

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