KKing David

Ruminations on poker

Archive for the tag “position”

I Played That Right, Didn’t I? (Part Two)

Part One of “I Played That Right, Didn’t I?” described a two online poker hands where I was all-in and way ahead, only to see the villains hit a 2-outer and 4-outer, respectively, to win big pots.

After reading the blog, Mrs. asked me how I could be sure the online poker room (in my case, Ignition Poker) wasn’t cheating me somehow.  Perhaps there is an algorithm that identifies you as a winning player, then intentionally [bleep]‘s you over to keep you from cashing out?  How can you know?

This led to a long discussion about variance and Sklansky bucks, among other things, to explain that these things happen in live games with real cards that I can see being shuffled with my own eyes, all of which Mrs. found quite boring.

At a live, private game Saturday night, there was a 3-way all-in on the flop.  I was just an observer in this one.  One player had pocket aces, another flopped middle set, and the 3rd guy had top pair and a good kicker.  I was sitting next to the guy with a set and told him “nice hand!”  Then another ace fell on the river.  Ouch.

Last night, at a different private game, it was me again.  This game uses the Mississippi straddle rule, allowing any player to post a live straddle of any amount, in any position.  I’ve been experimenting with straddling more frequently on the button, especially when my stack is reasonably deep.  On this hand, I started with a little over 180 BBs and posted a standard straddle.

The SB called blind, meaning he didn’t look at his cards before calling.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Rob.”  I won’t try to explain Rob’s reasons for doing this… he later referred to himself as a “fish/donkey.”  Another player in middle position raised to 7 BBs (not quite 3x the straddle amount), there was one caller, and I called with T7 off-suit.  Rob also called.

Normally I wouldn’t call 7 BBs with T7o, but part of the reason for straddling on the button is to maximize the leverage of being last to act post-flop.  If you’re going to pump up the volume by straddling, you need to stick around for the action in more marginal spots.

Flop (29 BBs):  T77.

As I was saying, when you are last and flop a monster, the effect of the straddle is there is already a larger pot, making post-flop bets also larger coupled with the positional advantage that allows you to manage the final pot size.  With this flop, that’s a good thing.

After Rob check, the pre-flop raiser now bets 9 BBs, and the next player folds.  I don’t need to raise yet.  With a full house already, I don’t have to worry about a straight or flush draw hitting, and I want to see if anyone else wants to keep playing.  I call and Rob also calls.

Turn (56 BBs):  K

Both players check.  I bet 18 BBs.  Rob takes his time, then raises all-in, a total of 52 BBs.  The pre-flop raiser folds.  I call and turn my hand over immediately, showing my full house.

Rob winces in pain, then lets out a sound like a badly wounded fish/donkey.  He turns over one card – a seven – and starts walking away from the table.  Obviously his kicker is lower than my ten, so he’s drawing dead and knows it.

River (160 BBs):  Another K.

Wait a minute!  The dealer studies the board.  I study the board.  This can’t be happening.  (“Oh it’s happening, sweetheart!”)  Rob comes back to his seat.  He never surrendered his other card to the muck pile, and turns it over to show an eight.  The king on the river gives us both the same hand, sevens full of kings.

I didn’t lose any money here, but it feels like a loss.  Having a zero percent chance of winning the pot when he went all-in, Rob quietly stacks his 80 BB portion of the pot.

How do I tell Mrs. that I want her to listen to a “bad chop story?”


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Not to Play is to Play Well

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

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

I’ll keep this brief.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is the Dummy This Time?

After my last post, “Slow Playing for Dummies,” I’m reluctant to be caught slow playing any hand, lest it turn out that I am (or become) to Dummy (or Donkey).

Nevertheless, here is a sequence where I was dealt AA twice in a short span of 5 hands, and BOTH times there was a pre-flop raise and re-raise in front of me.  And both times, I just called to disguise (i.e., slow play) the strength of my hand.

Let’s compare, as these hands played out quite differently.

But first, a reminder that this is micro stakes (blinds of $0.10 – 0.25) on Bovada’s Zone Poker, where all players are anonymous and a new table is formed for each and every single hand.  So all we can assume about the Villains is that they are “ordinary, routine” micro stakes players.

In the first hand (click here to see it in the Share My Pair hand replayer), I am the Big Blind.  The Hijack (HJ) seat, two places to the right of the button, raises to $0.75, and the next player (Cutoff, or CO) re-raises to $2.00.  Both the button and small blind fold.

I decide to flat call here, hoping the original raiser HJ has a strong enough hand like KK, QQ or AK to come over the top with a big 4-bet or shove.  Instead, he folds, leaving CO and me heads up, with me out of position for the rest of the hand.

Flop: ($4.85)  5s Qc 4d.  This is a pretty dry flop and mostly good for me.  Other than CO having exactly QQ, I’m still way ahead.  His range for 3-betting should be something like 99+, AK, AQ, AJs, KQs with a few other random hands.  Many players will just flat an opening raise from HJ with JJ-99, some will flat with QQ, and very many will flat with any unpaired hand other than AKs.  We just don’t know if he is loose/aggressive enough to 3-bet with anything weaker.  Best case:  he has AQ, KQs or KK (24 combinations) and we can crush him.  Worst case:  he has QQ (3 combinations) and will crush us.  Weird case:  he has AA (1 combination) and we are going to chop this pot.  All others:  about 28 other combinations where he probably slows down after firing a continuation bet.

He bets $2.50, slightly more than 1/2 pot and a fairly standard-ish C-bet.  I call.  While I’m way ahead of his range with 85%+ equity, up to half of his range could fold to a raise here on the flop and I don’t want to chase away my customer.  While this flop makes it hard for him to put me on any sort of draw, maybe he’ll still fire one more barrel with some of his weaker holdings.

Turn:  ($9.85)  9c.  This card only changes our status if he has exactly 99 (3 combinations), but I still have 81%+ equity against his entire original range.  I check, and he checks behind, so now I can eliminate QQ and 99, both of which would be strongly here given that flush and straight draws are now conceivable (albeit unlikely…  am I calling on that flop with JT, KJ, KT, J8 or T8?  What 2 clubs am I calling with?  But poker players tend to see monsters under the bed, so I can still eliminate these hands).  I also think his top pair and over pair hands – AQ, KQs, KK – also are betting for value with this turn card, so now I conclude the weaker part of his original range – AK, AJs, JJ, TT – is his most likely holding.

River: ($9.85)  4c.  I have to bet for value now.  While there is an outside chance he just hit a flush on the river with AcKc or AcJc, this is only 2 combinations, and the only 2 combinations from his original range that could have hit.  Remember that he 3-bet pre-flop, which narrowed his range.  It would be a mistake for me now to see the monsters under the bed and add ‘any 2 clubs’ to his range when the lower holdings never would have 3-bet in the first place.  I bet $4.00, hoping this looks like a somewhat random attempt to steal the pot, having played passively up until now.

To my delight, he calls, and shows 77.  I win a pot of $17.85, for a net gain after the rake of $8.45.  His hand wasn’t even in the range I had developed, albeit compatible with the low end.  Most players are not 3-betting this light, and his call on the river can only beat a bluff.  I guess he thought I was bluffing, so my goal of playing AA deceptively worked!

Would an alternative line been more profitable on this hand?  Knowing all the facts now, probably not.  If I had 4-bet strongly pre-flop (a pot-sized 4-bet would have been a re-re-raise to $6.85 and most players will simply fold 77 there).  If I had made a smaller 4-bet and he called, then he folds to my continuation bet on the flop as my range is very narrow and mostly big pairs.  And I would not 4-bet too small, as I’m out of position in the BB seat, and still have to worry about the original raiser calling and making it a 3-way pot.

While I rarely recommend slow playing AA before the flop, this one worked out for me.

Just 4 hands later, I get AA again, this time on the button.  Click here to see this hand in the SMP replayer.

NOTE TO SELF:  Don’t complain that you never get Aces.  You do!

Once again, HJ raises to $0.75 and now the CO 3-bets it up to $2.10.  Hoping as I did previously for the original raiser to spazz out and come over the top, I call.  Both blinds fold, and HJ calls.  We are 3-handed going to the flop, and this time I have position on both villains.

Flop: ($6.65)  9d Kd Tc.  This is a much scarier flop than the first hand above, as there are more higher cards and both flush and straight draws are possible.  In fact, a flopped straight is possible if either villain has QJ.  I think the CO range is pretty much the same as the 3-better from the first hand above.  HJ’s range includes some smaller pairs like 88-55, and some players will call the 3-bet – even out of position (remember, it’s the micro stakes) after I called with just about any 2 Broadway cards or suited connectors that would have opened.  My call results in him getting pot odds of 3.9-to-1 to call CO’s 3-bet.

Both villains check.  Hmmm… monsters under the bed?  KK, TT, 99 (18 combos) are in both of their ranges, and 2-pairs with KT (9 combinations) and flopped straights with QJ (16 more combinations) are in HJ’s range.  Draws include any AQ, AJ, KQ, KJ, QT, JT, QQ and JJ, some of which are also flush draws such as QdTd and JdTd (all draws = 70 combinations).  Note that I have the Ad, so neither villain can have a nut flush draw.  If I bet here, there are 43 possible combinations that are ahead of me and another 70 that are likely to call at least once to chase a draw.  The only really strong hands that I’m way ahead of are AK (6 combinations, after eliminating the 2 aces in my hand and one on the board).  I decide to check behind.

Turn: ($6.65)  8d.  This doesn’t complete any of the straights, and now gives me a nut flush draw heading to the river.  HJ checks and CO bets $2.15, slightly less than one-third of the pot.  This is any easy call.  If I were to raise here, and get re-raised, I would have to fold as now he would be revealing a monster hand.  But there is also a very good chance that I have the best hand right now and this is a delayed continuation bet or thin value bet with QQ or JJ.

River: ($10.95)  3c.  This card changes absolutely nothing.  If I was ahead on the turn, I’m still ahead and not getting much if any value here.  If I was behind on the turn, the board is scary enough that he could check the river with 2-pair or a set.  He checks, and I check as well.

He shows Qh Qc, and my Aces take down the pot, for a net gain after the rake of $6.15.

Unlike the previous hand, a more aggressive line pre-flop might have paid off.  Would he have called a pre-flop 4-bet shove with QQ?  Maybe; maybe not.  We just don’t know enough about this Villain, but the odds of a call there are pretty good.  Would he have called a smaller 4-bet?  Probably, although the flop and turn are going to cause one or both of to slam on the brakes just as we did as the hand actually played.

I don’t regret the slow play, as I gained a little bit of value from HJ when he called CO’s 3-bet, and gained some additional value from CO’s bet on the turn.  I also know by now (although some of my friends would tell you otherwise) that if the pot gets really big after this flop and turn, my AA is ‘just one pair’ and no good!

Daily Debacle – What Not to Play

One of my daughter’s favorite TV shows is TLC’s “What Not to Wear.”  In this makeover reality show, participants are nominated by friends (?), co-workers or relatives to participate in a fashion makeover, but only after being thoroughly humiliated for their bad taste in clothing.

The poker equivalent would be my very own “What Not to Play.”  Let me explain…

Bovada online poker recently introduced “Zone Poker,” a super-fast paced game of No Limit Hold’em.  When you hit the fold button, you are immediately moved to a new table and another hand begins.  A copycat of Full Tilt’s “Rush Poker,” this format increases the number of hands played per hour by a factor of at least 3-4x.

Because you can fold and move to another table right away, it is much easier to simply fold in sticky situations or coin flips and wait for more favorable betting situation.  And because Bovada poker is 100% anonymous, there is no player tracking or stats possible.  On occasion you can recognize a few other players based on their stack sizes – typically those with very large stacks.  Otherwise, you don’t really know if the players at your table include any of the players from the previous hand, or not.

After playing with this for a couple of weeks, I’ve reached a few basic conclusions.  (Alright, some of you might have reached these same or even smarter conclusions much faster… I don’t care!)

Note that virtually all of the play in Zone Poker is at the 6-max tables, and currently Zone Poker is only available at the micro stakes, but it will be introduced at higher levels eventually.

First of all, there is no meta-game to play.  Being caught in a bluff is not likely to get you paid off in a later hand.  Players cannot recall if you are loose or tight, or always check-raise with good draws when out of position.  Staking out a certain image in order to capitalize on it later in the session is a waste of time (“WOT”).

Bluffing works some of the time but not all the time.  If getting caught in too many bluffs causes you to tilt, just don’t.  Some of the big stacks do try to run over the table, but that style has not worked for me.

Position is critical.  Playing speculative hands from the blinds – typically justified based on pot-odds, being “priced in” to the hand or not having to worry about a raise from additional players still to act pre-flop, is a tremendous spew of chips.  (See this prior post for more on playing speculative hands OOP.)  By speculative hands, I mean those where a “good” flop results in a draw more often than a made hand.  For example, suited connectors, suited one-gappers and suited aces frequently (about 10-11% of the time) lead to a flush draw.  Other connectors and gappers often lead to straight draws – more often a gutshot than an open-ender.  So now you are out of position, not sure what the other guys have or plan to do, and have to decide between leading out, check-raising, check-calling or check-folding.  I’ve noticed a lot of check-raise all-in bets getting called when the pre-flop aggressor has top pair or an over-pair, and even the best draws are going to miss most of the time.

Too much variance for me to play these aggressively, too spewy to play these passively.

Also not to play are the weaker unpaired Broadway cards, especially out of position.  JTs, KT, KJ, QTs can get in a lot of bad spots against overpairs or higher kickers.  Against an under-the-gun raiser, I might even fold KQ on the button.  I want to know where I stand, and these hands make it really tough.

3-betting pre-flop is fine with the biggest hands, but no one is tracking your 3-bet percentage.  Again, no meta game advantage to be gained.  I’ve quit 3-betting a lot of hands, such as AK and also cut way back on 3-betting to protect my blinds against button open-raises.  (Side note here:  Annie Duke wrote an excellent poker strategy book called “Decide to Play Great Poker.”  She says many players worry too much about defending their blinds.  I’m not sure the exact quote but basically she says Let the Dick Measurers Measure Dicks!  Yikes, that’s one tough lady!)  In Zone Poker you don’t have the same guy on your right constantly attacking your blinds, so there is nothing gained by sending a message.  If you think you have the best hand, bet.  Otherwise, move on to another table.

By 3-betting less, the stack-to-pot ratio is larger and so are the implied odds.  I have less invested in the hand, so I can fold on a sticky flop situation without feeling like I’m making a big write-off.  For hands that need good implied odds, such as set-mining with medium pocket pairs, this helps.  Of course, I’ll still open-raise with many of these in an unopened pot, but rarely 3-bet.

Calling from good position with speculative hands is OK some of the time, but generally should be limited to the button and multi-way pots.  I’ll over limp with suited connectors on the button, and sometimes call a raise if there is already one caller.  Otherwise, what the hell am I doing in the hand with 97s when I can start another hand in less than 5 seconds?  And God forbid, what am I going to do if the pre-flop raiser checks on a flop like Q-7-3 and I have 9-7s?  Seems like every time that happens and I bet, the guy has flopped top set and is trapping.  Since folding pre-flop on the button is FREE, let’s take advantage.

The end result of all this is a style of very tight / aggressive ABC poker.  Play good cards, especially when there is no prior action, play big hands aggressively, stay out of trouble.  Tricky, trappy play rarely makes sense, other than a basic check-raise when out of position against a pre-flop aggressor.

Paradoxically, many of the players in this game – remember this is only at the micro-stakes for now – are the most dis-believing of your straightforward play.  A little while ago, I called a pre-flop raiser in position with 66 and hit a set on the flop.  I called on the flop then raised all-in on the turn noting there were 2 suited cards on the board.  Sensing a flush draw, the villain called with top pair (Q’s) and a 9 for his kicker.  Really.  Q-9s calls an all-in turn bet on a Q-high board.

Easy game.  (or perhaps not as the remainder of this post wlll illustrate all too well…)

Year-to-date online results:  (- $1,958)

Month-to-date online results:  + $119

Daily Debacle – Poker After Dark

Sorry I haven’t been posting much lately.  Running so bad, I don’t know where to start.  River suck-outs, missed draws, villains hitting draws, failed bluffs, villains executing bluffs, folding then watching my dream card appear on the next street, bad hero calls, mini-tilt, full-raging TILT, all of the above and more.

The last few weeks have been maddening.

I also noticed my live cash game results were fairly good this year, whereas my online cash game results totally suck.  Why is that?

Then I played in a live cash game about a week ago – the impromptu kind that starts after a few players bust out of a tournament – for $0.25 / 0.50 NL hold’em.  Everything went right for a change, and I won $140 in less than an hour, breaking up the game when I stacked off two other players at once on the last hand.  (Note:  the other players played terribly in this game, but I’ll take the win no matter how it happens.)

So I was thinking about the differences between live v. online cash game play.  More bluffing online, for sure (myself included).  Also I seem to be able to make bigger laydowns live.  Something about seeing the villain’s face helps me accept the fact that I’m beat – or maybe I just don’t want to see him gloat when he scoops up a huge pot.  Also I seem to pay off fewer times when a villain hits a draw (especially flushes).

Then a few nights ago I was watching some “Poker After Dark” re-runs on YouTube.  Notice what happens starting at the 22 minute mark.

Ilari Sahamies raises pre-flop with As 9s and gets three callers.  The flop is 6h 5c 9h. Howard Lederer is holding Jh 8h and check-raises all-in over Sahamie’s continuation bet (he actually has top pair / top kicker) with a combo draw and Phil Ivey still live in the hand.  Lederer’s shove is more than 2x the pot size.  He has a flush draw (9 outs), a gutshot straight draw (3 more outs) and an overcard to Sahamies’ top pair (3 more outs).

After Ivey folds, the graphic shows Lederer as a 54% favorite to win the hand.  But at the moment, he’s behind, with only J-high.

Does he want a call?  Does he want a fold?  Is he indifferent here?

Sahamies folds, and Lederer wins a respectable pot for a net gain of 17 big blinds.

Of course the problem with combo draws like this is that chasing is expensive, especially out of position as Lederer is here.  For the turn card only, the odds about about 2.3-to-1 against Lederer improving.  It would cost him 9 BB’s to call and find out.  If he misses and checks again on the turn, he probably faces another barrel from Sahamies, AND makes it easier for his villain to read his hand as a draw, thus he can deny Lederer any implied odds by folding if a 3rd heart or a 7 appears on the river, followed by an aggressive bet by Lederer.

Getting it all in on the flop gives Lederer the best chance of winning.  He puts so much pressure on Ivey (who also has top pair and a gutshot draw) and Sahamies (“it’s only one pair!) that he wins the pot right away.  Even if he gets called, he’s still a slight favorite, making this a win-win play and avoiding a potentially very tough decision on the turn.

I’ve been too timid in these situations, especially in my online play, and especially when out of position.

Bad, very bad.  Let’s see if I can fix that.  The short-term variance might be a bit larger, but the long-term results should pay off.

Year-to-date online results:  (- $2,067)

Month-to-date online results:  + $11

Daily Debacle – Root Cause Analysis

This hand was played in a live NL Hold’em  tournament last night.  I’ve played with this group several times previously, but only familiar with 2-3 of the other players.

This event starts with a relatively short stack for a tournament, with 50 BB’s to start, increasing every 20 minutes.  There are no antes throughout this tournament.  The room was packed, so they put 11 players at each table initially.  With these starting stacks, we typically starting seeing some all-in moves in the first level.  It only takes one or two raises before feeling pot committed.  There is a resulting tendency to feel a need to get involved in many pots early on (if one can do so cheaply) to maximize your chances of accumulating some chips early.

Barely one orbit into the tournament, I get Jh Th in the UTG+1 seat.  I’ll walk through what happened, and save the analysis for the end here.

I limp in – just calling the big blind.  A player in MP raises to 5BB’s and the button calls.  A few hands earlier, I picked off a river bluff from the MP player with a low pocket pair when he only had Ace-high on a scary board.

The flop is J-T-5, rainbow.  Top two pair for me.  I check.  MP checks and Button bets 15 BB’s.

I then check-raise and my stack is larger than both MP and Button (I started the hand with about 51 BB’s, MP had 32 BB’s and Button had 44 BB’s).  I shove all-in over the top of Button’s bet.

MP calls and after tanking a bit Button also calls.

I turn over J-T for top two pair.  MP shows T-T for a set of tens.  Button shows AA.

The turn is another 5, putting the Button ahead of me for the side pot, and the river is a total brick.

MP wins the main pot and triples up, Button survives with about 25 BB’s out of the side pot, and I’m left with only 7 BB’s.

A few hands later, I bust out of the tournament, when my 55 loses to 33 making a set on the turn by this same Button villain.

After busting out, I walked outside to get some fresh air, sip on a beer and reflect.  I wrote our my recollection of this hand on the notes app of my iPhone and tried to think about what my comments would be if a friend sent me the play-by-play and asked for my feedback.

After the flop, the hand basically plays itself, except the Button’s call after I shove and the MP shoves is a bit suspect.  But it’s so hard to let go of pocket Aces on the flop and had he done so he would have been left with just under half of his original stack.

I checked into the pre-flop aggressor.  This seemed pretty straightforward to me, as I planned to check-raise all-in as soon as I saw the flop.  Had I led out there, it’s possible both other players (of course me not knowing their cards yet) would sense danger and fold.

MP checked behind me and this was a bit of a surprise, but suggested either big unpaired cards like AK or AQ that would hope for a free card, or something like 99 or 88 that is worried about the over cards.  As it turned out he was just setting a trap with his monster flopped set of tens.

Button’s flop bet looked very much like a “both of you guys look weak so why don’t I just take this away from you” type of bet.  At least that was my interpretation at the time.  He had called pre-flop, so I was not suspecting he would have a big pair like AA.  Give him credit for deceptive play, and criticism for giving me odds to call pre-flop and make it a multi-way hand.

At the flop, the pot was 16.5 BB’s, and Button bet 15 BB’s.  After calling 15, the pot would now be 46.5 BB’s and I would have 31 remaining.  No reason to get cute – shove it!

So did I make a mistake on this hand?  Was this disaster avoidable?  Should I have had a read here that I was in big trouble?

I’ve been trying extra hard lately to accept and apply the basic principle in no limit Texas Hold’em that if your cards are good enough to play pre-flop, they must be good enough to raise.  If they are not strong enough to raise – given your position and the prior action – then you must fold and not call.  Calling is passive.  Calling is for dummies.  Calling is spewing chips.  Calling leads to death!  And I’ve been drastically reduced the number of limps and calls pre-flop.

Yet here I limped with Jh Th.  They look so good, these suited-connecting-Broadway cards.  Yet I know this is not a monster hand, and with 11 players at the table and I’m 2nd to act, I did not want to inflate the pot to a level that I could not call a raise.

That was my mistake.  JT suited is not in my raising range for such an early position.  Therefore I must fold, not limp.  At the time I was thinking about all the good things that can happen, and the importance of seeing some flops before too many other player built up big stacks.

But re-read the hand and think about two alternative scenarios.  The first is that I fold.  Easy peasy.  I still have 51 BB’s and can wait for a better opportunity to attack.  After all, this is still blind level 1.

Alternatively, I could have raised.  Surely either MP or Button (or both!) would have re-raised.  If MP calls, I cannot imagine Button flat calling with two other players and he has AA.  He can try to represent a squeeze play (a big raise after an opening raise and one call, which implies great strength, consequently this is used at times as a bluff) or just decide the chips in the pot are worth attacking.  Besides, one or both of us might call.  If MP re-raises, even if Button then flat calls (more likely he ships), I’m probably going to fold.  JT is no good against a re-raiser and caller and I’d be out of position for the rest of the hand.  So if I raise (say… to 4 BB’s), it is nearly certain that I’ll end up folding pre-flop and still have 47 BB’s left to play with.

Hmmmph!  That’s not so bad.

In hindsight, limping pre-flop resulting in setting my own trap, then walking right into it after the flop came out.

Either folding or raising would have avoided that.

I finish my beer and wait for the cash game to begin.

Year-to-date online results:  (- $1,787)

Month-to-date online results:  + $118


Daily Debacle – Terrible Bluff

Playing $0.50 / 1.00 NL online.

This session isn’t going very well, with my $100 starting stack now down to $45.  A large chunk of that took place on a hand where I had KQ and the board ran J-5-9-K-Q.  Of course, the villain had a straight, and I called his turn and river bets.

Now I have A7 off suit in the hijack position.  The cutoff just joined the table and posted $1 blind, in addition to the SB and BB.  Everyone else folds to me, so I make a pot-sized raise to $4.50.  My hand really isn’t that strong, but there is $1 of extra dead money in the pot so perhaps I can take this down without a fight.  My primary objective here is to steal the blinds.  If there is any secondary objective, it is to secure position for all post flop action.

The button calls $4.50 and all others fold.  Shoot!  Neither objective has been accomplished, but perhaps I can make a nifty play and still win.  I look at the button’s pre-flop stats – VPIP=21, PFR=14 over 29 hands played.  Pretty solid, nothing fishy or super-tight.

Flop ($11.50):  2s 2h 3s…  all low cards.  This looks like a good spot for a continuation bet, representing a high pair.  I bet $10 into $11.50 and the button calls.


Turn ($31.50):  Qs… completing a flush draw.  I only have $30.35 remaining, less than the size of the pot.  If I shove, will he fold?

Let’s consider his calling range for the pre-flop action.  First I’ll assign him a very tight 3-betting range of AA-QQ, AK-AQs, AKo.  So his calling range, given that he has position after the flop, might be:

Pocket pairs JJ-22.  Higher pairs would have likely re-raised, although I’ve seen players with similar stats just call with QQ in position.

Suited AJ-A2, KQ-K7, QJ-Q8, JT-J9, T9-T8, 98, 87, 76, 65, 54

Unsuited AQ-A5, KQ-K9, QJ-QT, JT, T9

This is actually about 26% of all hands, higher than his VPIP suggests but again he has position.

After the flop, I’ll assume he would fold a lot of this and keep:

Pocket pairs JJ-22

Suited any two spades, 65, 54, A5

Unsuited A5, maybe AQ, not much else

Now that I look at this, his flop calling range is pretty strong, dominated by over pairs and flush draws.  Any huge hands (33, 22, A2s) he can afford to slow play as I’ve now mentioned several time, HE HAS POSITION.  At the time however, I thought I could steal the pot with another strong barrel.

So I shove all-in on the turn, betting my last $30 into a pot of $31.50.

He insta-calls, and turns over Jc Jh, near top of his range.  The Q and flush draw didn’t phase him a bit.

The river bricks and I head to the cyber cashier.  A terrible play on every street.

Year-to-date online results:  (- $776)

Month-to-date online results:  + $430



TPTK no good

Playing online at $0.50 – 1.00 no limit hold’em.

I’ve been trying to play a little bit looser, a little bit more aggressively lately.  At this table, I won a nice pot by stacking off a short stack with A-5 on the button.  Another player called me a “donkey” in the chat box after that hand.  So my table image is questionable at this point, but I’m up a few dollars.

Since then, I’ve been out of the hand at least three times that I would have had a monster and watched fairly large pots build in each case.  Once I had A5 again, would have flopped 2 pair and another ace on the turn.  Another I had J8 on the button and would have made a nut straight on the turn.  Another I had 86 and would have made a full house.  I’ve been trying to play more of these types of hands (in position!) just to capitalize on such opportunities, so the last half-hour has been maddening.

Perhaps I over-reacted to the donkey comment by tightening up too much.

Now comes this hand.  I have AJ suited in the cutoff seat.  A middle position fish (VPIP 52, PFR 39 over a small sample of 23 hands) opens for $3.50 and the next player calls.  I make a squeeze bet (a large re-raise after an initial raise and one call) to $15.50.

The button calls, rather quickly.  Better make a note of that.  His squeeze calling range should be pretty narrow, and includes setting a trap with AA or KK.  He could also have me dominated with AK or AQ, or have some stronger suited connectors like KQ or QJ, and pocket pairs 88-QQ.  He starts this hand with $91 vs. my stack of $108.

The original raiser calls too, and the original caller now folds.

Flop ($51.50)  9-8-J rainbow.

The fish checks to me.  Well now, I’ve got top pair, top kicker (TPTK) and surely must bet.  The only problem is that it’s hard to imagine many weaker hands calling (KJ or QJ suited?) nor any stronger hands folding.  On the other hand, I need to know where I stand, don’t I?  If I check and yield the initiative to the button and he bets, then what?

I bet $30, about 60% of the pot.  That should clarify things.

The button player goes all-in for his last $76.50, and the fish also ships in his short stack of just $12 more.

Now doesn’t that just suck?  AA, KK or set.  I’ve represented a big pair here and he’s totally unphased.

On the other hand, this is a drawy board for any hand containing a ten.  Is that a possibility?  (Note to self:  Nope!)

Concluding that I’m way behind here, I call anyway.

The fish shows 74 suited, for the idiot-end of a gutshot straight draw.  Button shows KK, one of the very few hands that could justify calling (and not 4-betting) my pre-flop squeeze.

Year-to-date online results:  – $832    😦

Month-to-date online results:  + $373    🙂


Self Management… Not!

This hand came a couple weeks ago playing $2-4 NL online.

I was the big blind.  A middle position player open-raised to $8, and there was one caller.  Only $4 to call and I have 9-8 suited.  I have posted previously about the ills of playing speculative hands out-of-position.  These middle suited connectors certainly qualify as a speculative hand.

By “speculative” I mean a hand that is much more likely to turn into a drawing hand (flush or straight draw) on the flop than it is to turn into a made hand with showdown value.  Often times, it will still be a drawing after the turn card.  Playing these out of position is a $$ killer.  It’s hard to be aggressive with semi-bluffs when you have to go first and have no sense of whether the opponents are showing any signs of weakness.  If their hands are strong, they will pound away with raises.  On the other hand, if you just check and call with draws, the more aggressive late position players will smell weakness and pound away with anything or nothing, leveraging their positional advantage.

So I called.

The flop was 9-9-5, with two diamonds.

Woo-hooooo!  A flop with showdown value.

There was $26 in the pot, so I led with a bet of $16, and one player called.

What could he have?  Maybe a diamond flush draw.  Maybe he also has a 9.  In that case, I’m in big trouble with my very mediocre kicker.  Maybe pocket fives and a flopped full house.  Or possibly some other pocket pair higher than 5’s and thinks I’m bluffing.  Or possibly two overcards.

The turn card was an off-suit 4, changing nothing.  I decide to be more aggressive and bet $60, approximately the size of the pot.  He calls again.

Now I’m sure this is a sign of trouble.  My bet is pretty aggressive.  He could think I’m bluffing, but I’ve been pretty darn tight and straightforward this session.  Much more likely he has the last 9, and a small chance of a flush draw.  Most flush draws would fold here… the board is already paired and my bet is too large to chase a draw based on the pot odds.

I don’t recall the exact river card, but it did not pair up my 8 and did not change the texture of the board significantly.  Now there is over $180 in the pot and I have $237 remaining.  I’m first to act and feeling some despair after my initial euphoria about the flop.

Aha!  This must be one of those “bet / fold” situations, where you can make a value bet on the river knowing that if the opponent raises he can only do so with a superior hand and you can confidently fold.  But how much?

Now my brain stops working.  Damn!  I’ve got to work on that.  Meanwhile the clock is ticking and I decide to bet 1/2 of my remaining stack, or $120 into about $185.  If he raises, that will answer the riddle of this hand.

Well, by golly he raises, and a mere minimum raise puts my all-in.  Now the pot is $540 and I have about $120 remaining.  I’m getting pot odds of approx. 4.5-to-1.  If he’s bluffing or betting a weaker hand a mere 18-20% of the time in this situation, it’s profitable for me to call.

Brain…   stops…   working…   again…

I call of my last chips, and he shows K-9.

My assessment was spot on, but I somehow couldn’t make myself stop dumping all my chips into the pot.

The quick emotional high of hitting the flop hard here caused an expensive mini-tilt in the middle of this hand.

Year-to-date online results:  $  -1,041

Month-to-date online results:  $ +164

What am I Doing Here?

This occurred about 2 minutes after the hand in the previous post.  I had opened up a new table and this was my first hand played there, also at $0.25 – 0.50 6-max NL.

I am the Big Blind with 9s 6s.

Everybody folds to the Small Blind, who raises to $1.50.  Since this is the first hand, I have no reads or data on his tendencies.  I should assume that he is being straightforward and has something with reasonable strength.  There is no reason to make assumptions otherwise based on non-existent data.

should fold.

should know better.  Maybe it is OK to call and then play a fit-or-fold approach on the flop, although that is clearly a -EV play.  At least it is lower variance than…

I call.

Flop ($3.00)  Js Kc 9c.  I caught the bottom end of it.  Surely I can outplay this unknown.

SB bets $3, playing right into my strategy.  (Who am I kidding?  I don’t have a strategy here, other than bullying my way through this hand.)

I raise to $7.50.  That should end it.  Not so big of a raise that it looks like I’m trying to push him off the pot, not so small that I look too timid.  SB calls.

Turn ($18.00)  Ks.  A perfect card for a second barrel.  I’m representing a K and this certainly helps.

SB checks and I bet $11, feeling a little bit of guilty pleasure over the anticipated pickup in just one hand here.  THEY…   WILL…   FEAR…   ME…   AT…   THIS…   TABLE!!!

SB calls again.  WTF?  Maybe he actually has a hand.

River ($40.00)  7s.  This changes nothing, other than my only option here is to continue the ruse which probably means I have to shove, or giving up.

SB checks.  I meekly check back.  He is acting like he’s not going anywhere.  Now this only smells like a trap.

He shows Kd Jc, for a flopped top 2 pair and turned full house.  Once again, getting involved in a blind vs. blind leveling war only backfires.

Who said:  “When you look around the table and can’t figure who is the biggest fish, you’re probably it”?

Year-to-date and month-to-date online results:  (- $851).  Running bad.  Running so so so bad.

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