KKing David

Ruminations on poker

Archive for the tag “pocket aces”

Online Analysis, Part 1 – pre-flop 3-bets

I play a fair amount of online poker on the Ignition platform, almost entirely cash games.  So far this year I’ve been a winner, but not at a rate I’m particularly proud of.  Unless I compare it to last year when I won just a very tiny bit, or the year before which was worse.

One of the benefits of Ignition’s poker site is that after a few days have passed, the hand history details show all of the hole cards for all of the other players.  We can study hands that did not go to showdown and see exactly what each player was doing.  I can only see histories of the hands I played and on this site all players are anonymous – no avatars, no screen names, no other identifiers.  Still, this hole card visibility can be used to build a profile of the “typical” player (absent any specific observations) and to spot leaks in my own game (of which there are plenty).

So I’ve embarked on a study project, not using Poker Tracker or similar software for meta-data analysis, but scrolling through hand-by-hand, picking out hands with certain attributes or very large pots, and entering some of the data into a spreadsheet for further review when the sample size is larger.

It’s tedious, laborious work.  There are additional insights to be gained from the meta-data and maybe I’ll go there eventually.  For now, this is good enough.

At the top of my list of situations to analyze is pre-flop 3-bets.  When one player raises, then another re-raises (this is the 3rd bet, after the posting of the big blind and the initial raise), can we rely on any general conclusions about the strength of the re-raiser’s hand?  Do those ranges change – wider or narrower – as we move up or down in stakes?

The sample is still very small, but so far 3-bets have included:

AA – 11x     KK – 7x     QQ – 3x

88 – 1x      AK – 6x     AQ – 1x

AJ – 3x      Other/junk – 5x

I’ve seen some hands as strong as AK or QQ/JJ calling instead of 3-betting.  And the 3-bets made from the blinds after a cutoff or button opening raise, that look like a blind-steal vs. re-steal situations, are still dominated by the strongest hands.  The basic range here is QQ+/AK, which accounts for 27 instances of 3-bets in this sample (73%), with only 10 instances of a 3-bet outside of that range (27%).

Tentative conclusion:  respect the 3-bets.  It’s OK to call the smaller sized 3-bets with low-to-medium pocket pairs when the math is right for set-mining (especially in position).  Otherwise, as Idina Menzel sang in the movie Frozen, “Let It Go!”

http://
I can even fold hands as strong as JJ or QQ to the larger sized 3-bets, without bothering to set-mine.  Does this seem too nitty?  Let’s look at the math.  Using Poker Cruncher, I’ll set Player 1’s (my) hand as QQ, and give Player 2 (villain) a strong range of which 72% is QQ+/AK, to approximate the sample above.  Against this range, it’s a coin flip.  That’s gambling, and I have better things to do, unless I have a very player-specific read to go on.

        

 

Change my hand to JJ vs. a similar range that is 72% QQ+/AK, and my equity drops below 41%.  That’s worse than gambling at a casino, and I have much better things to do.

As the opening raiser from the cutoff or button against 3-bet by the small or big blind, I can let these go as well.  My initial investment will be small, and the data so far doesn’t suggest a high enough frequency of re-steal attempts to warrant fighting back.

It would be a mistake, however, to assume live players’ 3-bet follow the same pattern of distribution as online players.  This might be the case… or not.  Gathering enough data on live players would be vastly more difficult, as most of these hands don’t go to showdown nor get voluntarily shown on hands that end prior to a showdown.

In later posts, we’ll look at the ranges of hands involved in other common situations…

=====

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.

Advertisements

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.

When Dreams Come True

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also, if you enjoy this blog, please follow / like / share / post / tweet all about it to help spread the word.

 

Aces, Aces Everywhere

Towards the end of a frustrating poker session last night, I finally got dealt pocket aces.

Until then, double A batteries seem to have been present more than normal at this game, just not for me.

Early on there was a pre-flop all-in confrontation where the rockets flopped a set, only to be cracked when KQs hit a gutshot straight draw on the river.

I’m pretty sure there was another early hand where snake eyes were cracked in a large all-in pot, but I cannot recall the details.

Once I had QQ and made a 3-bet after an initial raiser.  The next player then goes all-in.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Jason.”  Jason is not normally the type of player who makes a cold 4-bet all-in just for fun, and after the initial raiser folded so did I.  While Jason never showed his cards, its about 50/50 either bullets or cowboys. Later, Jason made a large 3-bet pre-flop and got multiple callers.  He bet-folded on a flop of 986 with two clubs, and after the hand stated “Alan Alda no good there.”

Another time, on the first hand after buying more chips, I called an all-in from a short stack who had open limped.  Duh… he has American Airlines and they hold up.

Another time the player on the button raises after a couple of limps, and with KQ in the big blind I make a re-raise.  When he comes over the top, I quickly surrender and he flips over the Eyes of Texas.  Less than 10 minutes later, the same guy gets Teepees again.

I’m probably omitting a couple more.  The Banditerna seemed to be everywhere, and finally, near the end of the night, I have them.  Will mine join the list of broken sticks?  Will they win the blinds and nothing else?

I raise and get three callers.  The flop is A23 with two clubs.  This is both great and dangerous, so I bet 15 BBs.  Not giving any free cards.  This time I get two callers, including Jason and the biggest stack at the table, who for purposes of this blog I’ll refer to as the “Other Dave.”  The Other Dave has had a charmed night.  The very first hand featured a 3-way all-in on the turn, with the board showing AJT-Q and two spades.  One player had shoved with a king in his hand, holding the nuts.  Jason had called with a nut flush draw.  The Other Dave then over-called with AJ for two pair.  A jack fell on the river giving him a full house and early triple up.

The turn is another 3.  Bang!  Let’s try to get maximum value.  One of these guys probably has the case ace and a decent kicker.  The other… maybe he flopped a set of threes (uh-oh!) or twos, or possibly even a straight.  Otherwise, he must have a flush draw, or some decent pocket pair and isn’t giving me any credit for hitting that flop.  I make the same 15 BB bet again on the turn.  Jason goes all-in for 42 BBs.  The Other Dave calls.

Wth only 37 BBs left on top of this action, I shove too.  The Other Dave confesses he is about to make a bad call, then does exactly that.  He shows AJ, Jason has 66 (WTF?).

Did I mention what a wonderful evening of poker this was?  A Rocky Mountain high will do that, you know…

 

Stuck in No Man’s Land

Last night I was at a low-stakes, private poker game marked by some very loose play.  There was frequent straddling as much as 13 BB’s, along with very light pre-flop raising (like 95s), light 3-betting, and light calling of 3-bets (with hands like T4s and 53s – the latter making quad 5’s).

It was a poker table ripe for Justin Bieber to sing, Roller Coaster, Roller Coaster.

For the most part, I was taking good advantage of this.  I bought in for 140 Big Blinds (“BBs”), felted one of the players with AQ v KQ on a Q-high flop, then felted the same player again with TT v JT after he limp/re-raised all-in with a short stack pre-flop, and built my stack to over 300 BBs.

A little later, I look down at AKo in early position, and raise to 7 BBs.  While this may seem like a large initial raise to online or casino players, it wasn’t unusual here.  My starting hand is very strong, but plays best post-flop against just one or two villains.  If I only raise to 4 BBs, everybody at the table might call and it becomes hard to know where you stand after the flop and turn.  There is one caller, then another player re-raises to 21 BBs.  For purposes of this blog post, I’ll call him “Mitch.”

Processed with VSCO with c8 preset

This is the first time I’ve played poker with Mitch.  He is a young white guy, early-to-mid 20’s, dressed like he just came from a  strange 70’s themed party – wearing what appears to be bicycling shorts, a casual shirt, old school nearly knee high basketball socks (white, with wide colorful stripes at the top of his calves), and low-cut white Chuck Taylors or similar footwear.  With a cap sporting the logo of Nag’s Head’s Lucky 12 Tavern and dark sunglasses to look like a real poker player, the whole look makes quite an impression.  I don’t really care how people look or dress, other than sometimes there are clues that help in profiling them as poker players – loose/tight or passive/aggressive or gambly or playing with a very small bankroll or whatever.  I suppose the impression here was not to be surprised by unconventionality.

Earlier in the game, Mitch had called a river all-in bluff on a very scary board (K-9-7-6-5) with KTo and won a large pot.  At the time, I was thinking that I would have folded there.  Before that, he had called a pre-flop raise from me with 92s and made a backdoor flush to beat my trip kings.

I’ve also noticed that Mitch is very friendly with another player, the one that I’ve already felted twice.  Apparently they drove to this game together and have been chatty between hands.  Mitch’s friend has a wild streak, making several large bluffs, showing his bluffs multiple times when were successful, and generally playing in a way that indicates a complete disregard for the value of his money.  Do birds of a feather flock together?

After Mitch’s 3-bet, there are two callers.  Both are very loose players who like to see lots of flops.  Perhaps both have played more than I have with Mitch and their calls indicate a certain lack of respect for his 3-bet.  I have experience with these callers, and think either of them would 4-bet here if holding a monster hand.

With all this in mind, I decide to make a sizable 4-bet myself.  With one ace and one king, I have blockers against Mitch having either of the hands I fear most – pocket aces or pocket kings.  Having started the betting from early position, I can credibly represent a monster pocket pair.  If I raise large enough, the two players who called Mitch’s bet would be forced to fold.  I make it 105 BBs.

Take that!

One player who called my original raise quickly folds.

But Mitch starts counting his entire stack.  He has 130 BBs more on top of my raise, and ships it all in.  I have him covered.

Right then it dawns on me that I’m in No Man’s Land, that terrible spot where you realize charging forward is a mistake and retreating is no good either.  In my youth I played a lot of competitive tennis.  On a tennis court, No Man’s Land refers to the area in front of the baseline, where it is difficult to make normal groundstrokes, but behind the service line, where you cannot make volleys either, at least not hitting the ball at a height that creates enough leverage to hit the ball hard or use sharp angles.  In No Man’s Land, all of your options are bad, unless you enjoy being yelled at by your tennis coach.

Another player folds.  The last player hems and haws a bit, asks for a count of Mitch’s chips, and also goes all-in, for less than Mitch’s stack.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Chuck.”  [This is really important, as I know Chuck (or whatever his real name might be) desperately covets a mention in this blog.  I hope he leaves a snarky comment after reading this.]  Chuck had about 180 BBs at the start of the hand.  His call surprised me, as noted earlier I thought my 4-bet would squeeze him out.  Even when he called, I interpreted that more as a desire to gamble over a huge pot than an indication of great strength.  Still, he could have at least one ace or king, or both, that would cancel some of my outs in the event Mitch has something like QQ or JJ.

Even so, I really don’t think Mitch has QQ or JJ.  Despite my blockers, he virtually always will have AA or KK here.  My 4-bet was so strong that his 5-bet must be stronger.  Hopefully it is KK and my ace is a live card.  Otherwise I’ll be crushed.  This is where my mistake becomes more clear.  I failed to make my 4-bet small enough to keep an exit strategy available.

Let’s review.  I’ve put 105 BBs into the pot.  Mitch has put in 235.  Chuck has put in 180.  Two other players put in 7 and 21, respectively, and later folded.  So the pot has 538 BBs in it, and it will cost me 130 more to call.  I’m getting pot odds of 4.14-to-1 to call, meaning I have to expect to win at least 19.5% of the time for calling to be mathematically, theoretically the proper thing to do.  How can I really justify folding here, even though it’s obvious that I’m in big trouble?

Some more math… heads up against Mitch, the villain I’m most worried about, if his range is AA/KK – which I consider most likely despite my blockers – and nothing else, my equity is 18.6%.  If I think he would also shove here with AKs or QQ, my equity is 33.3%.  Despite all the loose play at this game, I can only assume Mitch has a monster.  After all, loose players still get dealt monster hands just as frequently as tight players.  And not so long ago, I wrote a post entitled “Hashtag: They Always Have It.”  Mitch didn’t hesitate much before going all-in, so now I have to go with this read.

That’s heads up.  What about Chuck?  His range should be wider that Mitch’s, as his body language when calling all-in didn’t ooze great strength.  But he could have blockers to some of my outs.  Let’s give him a range of TT+, AQs+ or AK.  Against that range and Mitch’s AA/KK, my equity drops to 13.1%.  If we again widen Mitch’s range to include AKs and QQ, my equity improves to 20.4%.

Chuck could have some random suited connectors too – perhaps suspecting that Mitch and I have all the high cards and hoping for a hand like 98s to sneak to victory.  So I’ll add 98s and 87s to his range.  This, with Mitch at AA/KK would leave me with equity of 13.8%.  With the wider range for Mitch, I’m at 21.6%.  Chuck’s range has far less impact on how I stand than Mitch’s range, but if Chuck’s actual cards include any aces it kills a very important out for me.

I’m not doing all this math in my head at the table.  With Chuck’s chips in the middle now, it seems like a mandatory call.  I make the crying call, not at all happy, but would still have nearly 100 BBs left if I call here and lose.  If I had made a smaller 4-bet, say in the neighborhood of 60-75 BBs, I would have less hesitation about folding and saving my chips.

As the dealer sorts out the main pot and side pot, Chuck asks who has pocket aces.  Mitch says he has cowboys, i.e., pocket kings.  I actually feel a slight sense of relief at hearing this.  I say that I have one ace, but not two of them, and turn over my Ace of spades.  Mitch turns over his King of spades, then a red king to go along with it. Chuck doesn’t turn over either of his cards, but looks like he’s in a lot of pain.

One more bit of math:  against Mitch’s exact hand, which we now know for sure (and ignoring Chuck, since we still don’t know what he had), my equity is 30.3%.  If Chuck had folded to Mitch’s all-in bet, the pot would have been 389 BBs with 130 more for me to call.  I would need to have greater than 25.0% equity to justify calling.  While calling would be correct, it is only correct because of my betting mistake when I made such a large 4-bet that I stepped into No Man’s Land and pot-committed myself without consciously intending to do so.

If you’ve read this far, I’m pleased to report that a beautiful ace fell on the flop, and I won the whole freakin’ thing.  That’s poker I guess, and I’ve certainly been on the other side many, many times.

My stack grew a little bit more by the end of the night and I booked a very nice profit of 700+ BBs.

Thinking about Mitch’s 70’s theme appearance… That’s the way, uh-huh, uh-huh, I like it!

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 (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.  This time the on-the-clock villain / off-the-clock friend I’ll call “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.  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.

Do-Over

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

Effective stacks are about $110.

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

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

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

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

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

Great!  (Note the heavy sarcasm.)

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

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

Yahtzee!

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

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

Tom turns over AA.

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

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

 

Deja Vu

According to Wikipedia, “Déjà vu is the phenomenon of having the strong sensation that an event or experience currently being experienced has been experienced in the past, which is often not the case.”

Yeah, whatever.

Here we go again, this time at $0.25/0.50 blinds on Bovada Zone Poker, and quite frankly dear readers, I’m getting tired of it:  http://mysmp.me/h_duP

 

KK v. AA, part 3

Here is another in a lengthening series of hands where my KK runs into AA.  This is the 3rd time in less than a week, including this one vs. “Cinderella” who never raised me and this one I managed to lay down the following night.

Now I’m playing online in Bovada’s Zone Poker game, at the micro stakes (6-handed).  Blinds are $0.10 / 0.25.

Here is a replay of the hand, on ShareMyPair.  The key question here, as always and to be explored in detail below, is “what is his range?”

To recap the hand, I have KK on the button.  UTG raises to $0.75, UTG+1 calls, and I 3-bet squeeze to $3.10.  UTG and UTG+1 both call.

Flop ($9.65):  Js 8s 5c.  At first glance, this is a somewhat drawy board, but should be a good flop for my hand.  I hope somebody has AJ.

Both villains check, so I bet $6.00.  UTG then check-raises all-in.  He has me barely covered.  UTG+1 is short-stacked, with only $4.25 behind and calls.  All this action is rather unexpected.  Now there is $41.50 in the pot and it will cost me my remaining $15.60 to call.  I’m getting 2.66:1 pot odds.  Should I call?  I need to have equity of at least 27.3% to justify calling.

I call.

Let’s look at this hand on Flopzilla.  For starters, I’m going to ignore UTG+1 since he is short-stacked and I’m not calling his bet.  Then I’ll explain why that might be a mistake.

UTG’s range (for calling my 3-bet) should be something like this:  77+, ATs+, KQs, AJo+, KQ, QJs.  I’m giving him “credit” for calling a bit wide here, as many villains would be expected to play tighter.  On the other hand, he might interpret my 3-bet as a light squeeze play, since I have the button and there was another caller, and I have no other information about him (or her?) as this is Zone Poker and everybody is anonymous on every hand.

Now I’ll narrow the range to hands that can check-raise all-in, as sets, two pairs, overpairs, top pairs, flush draws, and open-ended straight draws. Based on this portion of his original range, here is what he can be shoving with:

Set                   15.8%   (JJJ or 888)

Overpair         34.2%   (AA, KK for a chop, QQ)

Top pair         39.5%   (AJ, QJs)

Flush draw     10.5%  (AsKs, AsQs, AsJs, AsTs, KsQs, QsJs)

OESD               0.0%   (T9 and 76 not in his original range)

Against this range, my equity in the hand is 54.5%. I definitely have to call.

What if I narrow his range for calling my pre-flop 3-bet from out-of-position, perhaps removing QJs and AJo?

Now it looks like this when he shoves on the flop:

Set                   23.1%    (JJJ or 888)

Overpair         50.0%   (AA, KK for a chop, QQ)

Top pair         11.5%     (AJ, QJs)

Flush draw     15.4%    (AsKs, AsQs, AsJs, AsTs, KsQs)

OESD              0.0%     (T9 and 76 not in his original range)

My equity is now down to 43.5%.  Things aren’t looking so good, but I’m still well ahead of the needed equity of 27.3% to break even on my call.  This still looks like a proper call.

I guess I shouldn’t feel to bad here, but this is the 3rd KK v. AA hand I’ve played in about a week.  When do I get to play AA v. KK?  Hopefully soon… hopefully at higher stakes… hopefully mine will hold up.

But wait, there’s more!

After UTG+1 put his short stack all-in, there are 2 separate pots.  The main pot has $22.40 in it, and the side pot has $19.10 including the portion of my flop bet that exceeded UTG+1’s stack, along with the portion of UTG’s all-in bet that exceeded UTG+1’s stack up to the amount of my stack.  It will cost me $15.60 to call, so my odds from the side pot are 1.22:1.  I need equity of at least 45% to justify calling based on the side pot alone.  If I fold, I sacrifice my equity in the main pot.

The key point here is that my equity in the main pot is different from my equity in the side pot due to the presence of another player.  If these villains’ hands were reversed, for example, I would have lost the main pot, but won enough in the side pot to wind up with a profit on the hand.

To get this entirely right, I should develop a range for UTG+1’s hand, as he called twice pre-flop and then shoved in a short stack on the flop.  I’m still not going to do that, as I’ll never, ever put 76o in his range and that’s what he had, for an open-ended straight draw on the flop.  If I plug his actual hand into the equation with my actual hand and UTG’s ranges, my equity in the main pot goes down.  There are now more outs against me.

With the wider version of UTG’s range (including QsJs and AJo), my equity against both of them is 33.4%.  Removing QsJS and AJo from UTG’s range, now my equity against both of them is 27.7%.

I still thing calling is correct, but it’s much closer when looked at this way as my equity is inherently lower with another player involved.  If I were to slow down – not really possible on Zone Poker as you only get 15 seconds to take action when it’s your turn, but imagine this were a live game and the stakes were higher – I might be able to reason my way into folding here.

On the other hand, folding to a check-raise all-in on the flop when I have an over pair to the board, is never a huge mistake.  Time and time again, I’m simply beat by 2-pair+.  Time and time again when I’m not beat, the villain will draw out anyway.

On the other hand, I would have cheerfully stuck it all-in pre-flop had UTG simply asked for it then.  Sigh.  By waiting until the flop, UTG actually gave me a chance to be able to fold…

Folding KK Pre-Flop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think about Dan Harrington.

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

I think about trusting my reads.

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

Post Navigation