KKing David

Ruminations on poker

Archive for the tag “Online Poker”

Poker Goals for 2018

Have you set any poker goals for 2018?  If so, leave them in the comments box below.

Here are mine:

  • Win more
  • Tilt less
  • Quit playing online
  • Study persistently
  • Move up
  • Write pithier blog posts

At first glance, these seem pretty obvious, and also lacking in specificity.  Kind of like “lose weight” and “be nicer.”  Then again, almost everyone could stand to be nicer, and quite many should lose weight.

At least it’s a start.  I’ll try to elaborate, as if elaboration equals causation, propelling me towards these goals like a SpaceX rocket crossing the sky, generating wondrous admiration from those who know it’s a SpaceX rocket and frightened stares from gullible onlookers who rush to their favorite conspiracy theory laden websites to learn about this latest UFO.

Win more –> in 2017, I won at poker at an average rate of approximately 11 big blinds per hour.  For 2018, let’s up this to 13 big blinds per hour, almost a 20% increase.  There.  Now we have a goal that has a finite time frame (2018) and is easily measured as long as I keep good records.  Ever since I started my adult working life as a staff auditor with a huge CPA firm, I’ve been decent enough at keeping records.  They explained the Golden Rule of Accounting:  “If your debits don’t equal your credits, your ass sets in jail.”  It’s good to know this.

Tilt less –> I’m not sure how to measure this one, and if I achieve the first goal, who cares anyway?  I guess I’ll have to think about it some more and get back to you later… I do know this:  Tilt is vicious.  Sometimes you are the boiling frog.  In this parable, the frog placed in tepid water that is slowly brought to a boil doesn’t perceive the danger and gets cooked to death.  At the poker table, sometimes the greatest threats to emotional stability arise so gradually that you are unwilling or unable to act until it is too late.  Everything is fine, a series of events, each individually non-tilting, occur one after the other like a broken icicles, dislodged pebbles, a crack in a shelf of ice under shallow snow, and a quick wind gust that join forces to push small, then larger volumes of rumbling snow that by the time it’s recognizable as an avalanche your patience and discipline is turned upside down and sideways until, like the skier, or the boiling frog, you are dead without even knowing you were dying.

Other times, tilt is swift and sudden, as when Narcissus arrives, shows the bluff, and makes a point of rubbing salt in the wound.  Or Nemesis arrives, and soon makes a horrible snap-call only to be saved by a one- or two-outer on the river to join your chips onto his stack.

Quit playing online –> This should be easy, as 2017 ended poorly with respect to my online poker account.  Poorly as in poor, as in no money left in the account.  I don’t like re-loading, which feels like putting a wad of money into a slingshot and flinging it into a black hole from whence it will never return.  It’s ironic, actually, that I feel this way about online poker, as 2017 was my most profitable year in at least five years.  I made no deposits, but did withdraw a 4-figure sum.  It was all downhill after that (queue avalanche analogy again), so you might say I reached a good stopping point.

Now I’m working on a strategy of tricking myself into believing this is good news, a benefit of sorts, perhaps like a colon cleansing. I feel lighter already, free of the burden of constant activity in the large intestine of online poker with its meandering path designed to turn whatever it receives into a pile of shit.  Now that I’m clean, I must permanently improve my diet.  Perhaps the time not spent in the micro-stakes bowels of Ignition Poker can be redirected into…

Study persistently –> Sure, I’ll study poker for an hour every day, just like I go to the gym and work out for an hour every day.  Except I don’t.  Historically, I don’t approach these with the persistency that defines the best habits.  I want to.  I should.  Laying in bed in the mornings, awake but enjoying the warmth  of the covers, I have amazing resolve and self-control over the rest of my day.  My intentions are good.  Until I have to get up and pee, that is, and it all goes downhill after that.

Yogi Bhajan was a Pakistani born spiritual leader and entrepreneur who introduced “yoga of awareness” in the U.S. and became the spiritual director of the 3HO Foundation.  One of the yogi’s most famous quotations is:  “If you want to learn something, read about it. If you want to understand something, write about it. If you want to master something, teach it.”

Following that train of spiritual thought, I should find someone to let me teach them how to become a better poker player.  [Hint, hint, volunteers please get in touch, just don’t call me Yogi.]  In the process of organizing and delivering a poker curriculum, I should expect to reap as many benefits as my student(s).  Which means that out of self-interest, I should be willing to offer poker coaching at very little charge.  Can greater persistency in my own study come from teaching?

Move up –> Molly’s Game never called, and I would have disappointed her anyway.  In 2017, I played almost exclusively small stakes, no limit Texas hold’em, at levels ranging from blinds of $1/1 to $2/5, in these proportions:

  • Blinds of $1/1 — 28%
  • Blinds of $1/2 — 33%
  • Blinds of $1/3 — 6%
  • Blinds of $2/5 — 33%

On a weighted average basis, that would be blinds of $1.33/2.78, give or take a penny.  In part, this reflects the fact that I live in a city with no casinos, so most of my action is in private home or house games, including some very friendly games I frequent regularly.  In those games, the stakes tend to be lower, whereas there is much more action available at higher stakes on trips to casinos in Maryland, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Florida, and elsewhere.  Moving up will require venturing into more hostile territory in my local scene, and playing at the grownup tables when I travel.  Perhaps a reasonable goal for 2018 would be weighted average big blinds of $4.00 by year’s end.

Write pithier blog posts –> Y’all be the judge.

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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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Why Avoid the Bad Players?

Yesterday I was hanging out with two poker friends, talking poker talk and gossip.  One of them, who for purposes of this blog post I’ll call “Melanie,” mentioned that she just started playing online poker again, at the micro stakes.

The problem, says Melanie, is that the players are so bad at blinds of $0.02 / 0.04 that it’s hard to win.  But once she moved up to $0.05 / 0.10, the play becomes a little bit more rational and she’s winning at that level.  One of her complaints is that at the micro-est of the micro stakes, there’s not enough money at risk for people to be willing to fold.

When I play online (cash games only), lately it is at blinds of $0.50 / 1.00.  I’m not sure if this is “low stakes” or “mid stakes” but it’s still pretty low in the overall scheme of things.  I told Melanie there are still plenty of bad players at this level, and all of the levels in between.  Rather than try to avoid the bad players, why not exploit them?

One way to exploit bad players is by folding.  If they won’t fold, you won’t win by bluffing.  So playing lots of junky hands with the intention of “out-playing” them when you smell weakness isn’t going to work.  Another way to exploit bad players is by betting strong hands for value, in ways that maximize the pot size when they call.

Here are two examples:

1 – Eight-Four is Money!

In this hand, I was the big blind with 84 off-suit.  There is a min-raise to $2 from middle position and everyone else folds.  Really, I should just fold as well.  In the back of my head I hear the voice of our friend Myles saying “eight-four is money!”

Since this summer’s World Series of Poker TV broadcasts, I’ve noticed a lot more min-raises in these online cash games.  Apparently, people see the pros on TV making very small pre-flop raises, frequently just 2x the big blind.  It’s one thing to do that in tournaments, where the blinds are increasing, causing lower and lower stack-to-pot ratios as the tournament progresses, and chip preservation is paramount.  It’s a fine strategy for tournaments.  But for deeper stacked cash games, I  think it is ill-advised.  If we are going to exploit other players by value betting when they call too much, we should bet as much as we think they will call, which is more than a min-raise.

Anyway, I call the extra dollar, and the flop is A84 rainbow.  Yahtzee!  I have bottom two pair.

I check, with the intent to check-raise.  If he makes more than a token C-bet, indicating a good chance he has an ace, I’m going to make a very large raise.  He does and I do.  He bets $4.50, which is a pot-sized C-bet.  A pot-sized re-raise would be $18, and I decide to make it $21 as a slight overbet.  If he calls, I’m going to shove any non-ace turn card.

Perhaps this seems too aggressive.  Won’t he fold a hand like AK to such a large raise?  Yeah, maybe.  Or maybe he’ll spazz out.  And he does, coming back over the top with an all-in shove.  I started the hand with $99 and he had me covered.  Of course, I snap call, and to my amazement he only has TT.  The turn and river cards don’t help him, and I double up my stack.

I guess he just convinced himself that I was full of shit, my raise was so large it must mean that I want him to fold, and being the pre-flop raiser he could represent a stronger hand than I could.  I wish I could have seen the look on his face when my hand was revealed…

2 – Putting the Tilted Guy on Tilt

In this hand, the villain in Seat 8 had lost 1/3 of his stack just two hands earlier, in a pre-flop all-in battle of the blinds.  He had AK in the BB, while the SB had AA.  Whoops!

Here is a link to ShareMyPair to see a replay.  When the river gave me quads, I decided to go for the whole enchilada, expecting a nominally tilted guy to run through the stop sign and crash.

Thank you kind sir!  I’ll take better care of your poker chips than you did.

Bad players make bad mistakes.  We can exploit them – trust me Melanie, this is fun – as long as we keep in mind that the #1 mistake bad players make is calling when they should fold.

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Multi-barreling short-handed

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

Hero (me) in BB:  $286

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

I am dealt 6-5 off suit.

V raise to $10 and both other players fold.

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

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

I call.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Year-to-date online results:  +$9285

Month-to-date online results:  +$366

I was going to fold, until…

This hand occurred two nights ago playing $1-2 no limit hold’em online.

I am on the button with Qc Jc.  Great spot for suited, connecting Broadway cards.

Stack sizes are:

Villain 1 in middle position:  $74

Villain 2 in cutoff:   $252

Hero (me) on button :  $195

V1 limps in and V2 raises to $8.  Liking both my cards and my position, I call.  Note that in recent posts and readings on poker forums, I’ve become increasingly aware of the importance of position.  It is the numero uno factor!  Nevertheless, there is no need to bloat the pot with a 3-bet here.

Now V1 3-bets to $18.  This strongly suggests a hand like AA or KK, with an outside possibility of AK suited.  There aren’t many other options unless he is a very tricky player, which has not been demonstrated in the short time I’ve been at this table (less than a full orbit).

V2 calls, making the pot $47 and $10 more for me to call.  I’ll be last to act and these are awfully good pot odds, so I call.

(Pot = $57 before rake.)  The flop is Kc Ts 6h.  I have an open ended straight draw.

V1 quickly ships in his remaining $56.  Now I am nearly 100% sure he has AA.  This is a typical move by weaker players at this level, trying to slow play AA, then not sure how much to raise pre-flop and making it really too small because they don’t want to scare everyone away, then hitting the panic button on the flop.

I decide to fold, but it’s not my turn yet.

After tanking awhile, V2 calls.  Now the pot is $169 and it would cost $56 to call.  V1 is all-in so I would not be facing any more action from him.  V2 has me covered, with an effective amount of $125 more behind.  Hmmm… there are some implied odds here with V2.  IF I hit my straight and IF I got the rest of his chips in there, my $56 call here would actually win me a total of $169 + 125 more = $294. That is 5.25 : 1 in implied odds.

But I correctly note that V1’s AA blocks two of my outs for making a straight.  I really have just 6 outs, with 45 unknown cards.  That reduces to 6.5 : 1, clearly making a call a big mistake.

On the other hand, it sure would be nice to win that money sitting out there.

Don’t Call.   Don’t Call.   Don’t Call!   DON’T CALL YOU STUPID

          ASSHOLE!

I call.

The turn and river cards are blanks for me and V2 and I both check on each street.

V1 shows AA, and V2 shows QJ offsuit.  Dang, I never had any implied odds anyway, and never gave any thought to the possibility of him having the same draw that I had, despite his long pause before calling V1’s flop shove.

A side note:  yesterday I attended a 3/4 day long seminar on leadership and emotional intelligence.  In preparation I took an emotional intelligence assessment test, which provides scores on several scales for self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management.

Want to guess where my score was the lowest?  Self-management.

In this case, poor self-management cost my $56 bucks.

Year-to-date online results:  + $9,230

Month-to-date online results:  $311

Thou Shalt Not Steal

I seem to be obsessed with trying to steal pots lately.  That needs to stop.

Last night playing $2-4 no limit Hold’em and finished with a net gain of $22.  OK, at least it wasn’t a loss, but pretty mediocre for playing 3.5 hours, even when considering the rake.

But I surely spewed away $300+ just on failed steal attempts.  I’m not going to provide the full play-by-play here, but here are two (of many) lowlights:

1 – Called on button with KT offsuit and three undercards came on the flop.  Check-check.  The turn card paired the board and I bet.  The original pre-flop raiser called.  River was a brick and I made a pot-sized bet.  He called with AK offsuit and won with A-high.

2 – In a button v. SB (me) battle, check-min-raised turn when a 3rd spade hit the board (I had two hearts), then bombed the river.  Villain had a made flush, albeit not the Ace, but called anyway.

Curtailing these silly and sometimes large losses will fix a major current leak in my game.  If I don’t know where I stand, just fold and wait for a better situation.

THOU SHALT NOT STEAL!

That should do it.

Year-to-date online results:  + $8,716

Month-to-date online results:  + $1,631

Firing Bluffs on Multiple Streets

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

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

Then this happens:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh.

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

Why do I keep doing this?

I need to figure this game out.

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

Month-to-date online results:  + $650

Check-raise with nut flush draw

Trying to pick the worst of many bad plays from last night.

I was doing OK, with a stack of $260 (after initial buy in of $200 at $1-2 no limit), and got Ad Tc in the small blind.  A player in UTG+2 raised to $6 and the cutoff called.

This should be a simple fold. AT off suit , out of position, against an early raiser, is too hard to play and very hard to win a big pot even if something good happens.

But I call anyway, feeling a bit frisky and confident in my skills.  The flop is Kd 7d 3d, giving me a nut flush draw.  This is always a sticky spot for me as I don’t really like pumping chips into the pot from out of position without a made hand, and check-calling somewhat announces that I have a flush draw.

So I choose the latter option and check.  The original opener makes a pot-sized bet and the other player quickly folds.  In an act of NOT thinking, I decide the implied odds justifies a call.  The turn card is Tc, giving a 2nd pair and possibly some additional outs if the villain isn’t fast playing a made flush.

Did I just type “made flush?” I have the Ace of diamonds and the King of diamonds came out on the flop.  Opening from UTG+2 with Qd Jd or Jd Td is fairly unlikely but still possible.  That would take away two of my outs.  He could also have flopped a set of kings or sevens,  in which case the Td would now make him a full house.  Gotta consider whether all of my outs are real.

I check again and bets pot again (now $72), which makes me kind of mad because I know it is a mistake to proceed any further.  With his bet there is now $141 (after the rake), which would look really good added to my stack, now wouldn’t it?

I check-raise shove all in for about $180 and he snap calls, showing KT off suit,  a blank river card comes and he takes down a $515 pot.

Year-to-date online results:  + $7,252

Month- to-date online results:  + $172

Aces misplayed, cracked, leads to tilt

Playing $1-2 no limit online last night and this happened.

I was doing pretty well on this particular table, starting with my standard buy-in of $200 and getting up to about $320.  Then following some unnecessarily loose play (note to self:  need to address this in a separate post, as there seems to be a persistent leak in my game when I get ahead and then start taking unnecessary risks via loose calls, chasing draws, etc.), I’m down to $284.

On the button, I have AA.  Yeee-hah!  A player in middle position raises to $6, and the cutoff calls.  I re-raise to $16.

Looking back on it, I don’t like my bet sizing.  It’s too small, almost like announcing that I have a premium pair, almost certainly AA or KK, and I’m trying to build the pot.  This is exactly what I was doing, and it’s a mistake.  Poker is designed to be a game of incomplete information and now I’ve given the villains virtually complete information about my hand.  They can call with a small pair and go set-mining or with suited connector type hands.  In either case, they know they can win a large pot if they hit the flop and they also know they can release their hands quite easily if they miss.  Making a larger bet would have put more pressure on them, and might look like a squeeze play (i.e., large raise following an initial raise and call – a term made popular by Dan Harrington in describing such a play with very weak cards during the 2003 WSOP final table).

The initial raiser folds, but the initial caller – a short stack who started the hand with $88 – calls again.

The flop is a very, very drawy Qc Ts 9s, and the villain leads out with a bet of $10.

Hmm…  K-J would have just flopped a nut straight.  And that’s exactly the type of hand that might have called the initial raise and the called again when I re-raised pre-flop.  Surely not!

I call and decide to re-evaluate on the turn, which is the 7c, and really changes nothing.

Villain quickly goes all-in for his last $56.

Rather than re-evaluate, I merely get pissed.  AA is supposed to win large pots, dammit!  Maybe he just had some kind of combo draw with a hand like QJ, JJ or JT.  Plus, like most recreational players, I have a very hard time folding my Aces.  I call, and he turns over Ks Js for a flopped nut straight.

Had I actually re-evaluated, I would have noted that I have both the Ace of Spades and the Ace of Clubs, so he cannot have a nut flush draw in either suit.  Not only is KJ in his pre-flop calling range, so is QQ, TT and 99.  Possibly also QT and T9.  There are too many ways for my AA to be badly beaten on this flop, not to mention how my pre-flop raise sizing all but turned my cards face up.  He can bet with fairly high confidence that I will call, and does, and wins a nice pot.

About 15 hands later, with my stack now down to $160, I call a raise to $4 (from the cutoff) with Jd Td on the button, and the big blind also calls.  The flop is Jc 7s 6c.

Cutoff leads out with a bet of $6.50 and I raise to $15.  Now the big blind re-raises to $31.50.

After the cutoff folds, I simply go into TILT mode.  I’m still seething about getting my Aces cracked as well as the way I played that hand.  My stack is 1/2 of its peak level and I deserve (?) to win this hand.

So I go all-in.

Big blind thinks for quite awhile and goes into his time bank for extra time, and finally calls and shows Jh 7c for two pair.  WTF was I thinking?  Big blind check-raised after an initial bet AND raise, showing considerable strength.  He hasn’t shown the kind of aggression and creativity that would do this as a semi-bluff.  All I have is top pair and a mediocre kicker.  Didn’t I read in a book once that with small hands you should try to play for small pots?  Didn’t I re-read that book a second (and probably third) time?  Arrrgh

What is the best I could hope for, aside from a fold?  Calling a min-raise from the BB, he could have a fairly wide range, including Jx, Ac Xc, Kc Xc, any connecting or one gap suited clubs, 77, 66, 76. Heck, now it’s hard to come up with many possibilities that could 3-bet on top of the initial bet and my re-raise that I can beat other than flush draws.  Against flanked flush draw with no over cards (such as Tc 2c — not even in his range), I am a 63% favorite.  But against Ac Xc, the over card Ace reduces me to 55%.  A big combo draw like 9c 8c makes him a 52% favorite.  throw in all the hands where I am out-kicked or he has two pair or a set, and once again the strength of his bet, and this is a clear fold.

Now my stack and ego are both down to $0.

Year-to-date online results:  + $7,085

Month-to-date online results (final for October):  + $1,749

Take a Leak (and Fix It)

This was not a very costly mistake, but represents a leak in my game that I need to fix.

I’m playing $1-2 no limit online, about one orbit into the session.

I’m dealt K-Q offsuit under-the-gun (UTG means seated to the immediate left of the big blind and therefore first to act before the flop).  This looks like a really strong hand, but it actually isn’t.  The reason is poor position, which creates multiple problems:

  • at a full ring table, there are 8 additional players still to act, so the chances of another player having a very strong hand is as high as it will ever be
  • another caller or raiser (other than one of the blinds) have position on every round after the flop
  • a raise from UTG represents great strength; most players have a very tight range for raising from this position.  Since my opponents likely know this, their calling range should also be very tight
  • post flop, K-Q can be easily dominated by a hand like A-K or A-Q.  If I hit either of my cards on the flop and another player bets or raises, how will I really know where I stand?

Anyway, ignoring these healthy thoughts and sitting on a stack of $192, I raise to $6.  The button and small blind both call, and the big blind folds.  The pot is now $20 (less rake).

The flop is J-7-2 rainbow (i.e., all different suits).  The small blind checks and I decide to make a continuation bet, hoping both players completely missed the flop and neither has a pocket pair.  This is a very dry flop, with no flush or straight draws and no pairs on the board, but the button has not acted yet.  I bet $16, which is 80% of the pot.  This is a little large for a continuation bet, but I rationalize that based on their being two players remaining and the button hasn’t acted yet.  Besides, my pre-flop action might suggest a very big pair such as Q-Q, K-K or A-A.  Hopefully I’ll be representing one of these premium pairs and both villains will fold.

The button calls $16, and the small blind rather quickly check-raises all in for $70.50.

Now this is totally gross.  I fold.  I’ve wasted $22 on a hand that very, very rarely will win a big pot.  If my continuation bet had worked, I would have won $13 (after the rake).  Instead I lost $22 by wandering around in no-man’s land.

The kind of hands that will call an UTG raise are going to be much tougher to fold out on the flop than a later position raise, where the opening range is much wider and therefore so is the calling range.

As it turns out, both villains had A-J and they split the pot.  If I really did have a premium pair, I probably would have called and won a very nice pot.

I really need to think about folding K-Q when UTG and wait for better position.  It’s a recurring leak (also with A-J offsuit UTG) that’s probably costing me much more value than I realize.  Acting last after the flop presents so many more stealing opportunities.

Year-to-date online results:  + $6,206

Month-to-date online results:  + 870

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