KKing David

Ruminations on poker

Archive for the tag “pot odds”

Winning by Leading

You want to win more often than you lose, right?

In team sports, two teams compete head-to-head.  When each contest starts, the score is tied, 0-0.  The scoreboard doesn’t confer any advantage to one team or the other.  Whether it is football, basketball, baseball, hockey or soccer, the winning team is the one with the most points, runs or goals at the end of the game.

What matters is the final score.  One team can be losing throughout the game, only to pull ahead on the final play.  Or the score can remain tied for most of the contest until one team scores to take a late lead.  Or a team can be dominated early, only to have momentum shift in their favor for a come-from-behind win.  Or the lead can shift back and forth multiple times.  Or a team can score first, extend their lead, and never be threatened.  Under every scenario, the winner is whoever has the lead at the end of the game.  It seems silly to have to say that, doesn’t it?

Yet in every sport, the team that scores first ends up winning a majority of the time.  At any time during the game, the team in the lead is most likely to win.

In baseball, hockey and soccer, the team scoring the first run or goal will win about 2/3 of the time.  In football, the team scoring first will win more than 60% of the time.  In basketball, with NBA teams averaging 100 or more possessions per game, the edge is not as great.  The first team to score wins approximately 54% of all games.

Having an early lead doesn’t guarantee victory, but it improves your chances.

In Texas Holdem poker, some of the dynamics are fundamentally different from team sports.  You aren’t a team.  It isn’t a head-to-head competition.  You can opt-out, by folding.  Yet we can still think of each hand of poker like a team sports contest.

Here is the fundamental rule:  The best starting hand is more likely to be the best hand at showdown.

I know, call me Captain Obvious, but bear with me just a bit.

One of the biggest flaws of poker players is playing too many hands.  This post started with a simple question:  You want to win more often than you lose, right?

Before the cards are dealt, the score is tied.  Are the conditions favorable?  Sports teams prefer to play at home.  If professional sports teams played all of their games at home, they would win 5-10% more games.  In poker, the equivalent of the home field advantage is having good position (button or cutoff seat), plus a deep chip stack, winning image and calm emotional state.  Are you giving yourself the poker equivalent of home field advantage?

After the cards are dealt, the score is no longer tied.  Although you can’t look at a scoreboard to see who has the best cards, somebody is in the lead.  Everybody’s betting actions provide us with clues.  If you have the best hand pre-flop, this is the equivalent of scoring first in a team sport.  It doesn’t guarantee victory, but does make you the favorite.  If you have the best hand plus home field advantage (good position, deep stack, winning image, calm emotional state), you are an even bigger favorite.

The amazing thing here is that in each hand of poker, you can opt-in by betting, raising or calling, or you can opt-out by folding.  Professional sports teams don’t have the luxury of opting out when the other team has home field advantage and scores first.  You do.  So why in the world do so many poker players voluntarily put themselves at a probabilistic disadvantage by opting in with hands that are already losing?  Jeez, another hand will start in just a minute or two.

There are 169 possible combinations of two cards.  We can rank them in order of their probability of winning against a full table of opponents.  AA will rank highest; before the flop, this is the nuts.  Next is KK.  There are plenty of poker equity calculators that will show the projected win percentage of each hand vs. any number of unknown hands.

What do you have?  Is it likely to be the best hand at this point – before the flop – in the contest?  Possibly?  Unlikely, but with a reasonable chance of improvement?  Never?  Since poker is a multi-player contest, winning more than anyone else might still be less than 50% of the time.

For example, suppose you are dealt Kh Jh.  King-jack suited is a good hand.  It ranks in the top 7% of all hands.  Out of 169 possible combinations, my Poker Cruncher app ranks it as #15 in strength.  It is possible that you have the best hand at the table.  Kh Jh is projected to win 46% of the time against two random hands, while each random hand is projected to win 27% of the time.  Even though you probably have the lead, the multi-player aspect of poker forces you to acknowledge that most of the time, another player will win the pot.

Limp / call range

But the other players don’t have random hands.  Let’s take this a step further.  Suppose one other player limps in from middle position, you raise with Kh Jh in the cutoff seat, the big blind calls and the limper also calls.  You are 3-handed going to the flop, but now you can eliminate many of the 169 combinations from each villain’s range.  You can eliminate the strongest hands, with which they would raise instead of calling.  And you can eliminate the weakest hands, which they would simply fold.

For this example, let’s assume the limper would have raised rather than limped with all 14 hands that rank stronger than Kh Jh.  These are:  AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, 99, 88, AKs, AQs, AJs, ATs, KQs, AKo, AQo.  We’ll eliminate those from his or her range.  Also let’s assume he or she would fold the weakest 50% of all hands, instead of limping or in response to our raise.  We’ll eliminate those too.

BB call range

The big blind was responding to our raise.  We’ll assume that he or she would re-raise only with a top 10 hand:  AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, 99, AKs, AQs, AJs, AKo.  Since we only got called, we can eliminate these.  We’ll also assume the big blind folds the weakest 60% of all hands to our raise.  We’ll eliminate those too.

Now we can recalculate our equity.  Kh Jh is projected to win 41% of the time, vs. 28% for the limp / call hand in middle position and 31% for the big blind.  You are still the favorite, just less so than against two completely random hands.

If your raise was a little bit larger, maybe the big blind would fold and the limper would fold the weakest 60% rather than 50%.  Now you would be heads up, and project to win 58% of the time at showdown (in all cases, these win rates assume there is no further betting), switching the outcome from ‘lose most of the time’ to ‘win most of the time.’  See how powerful raising is?

Suppose, instead, that you had made the same raise with Th 8h and gotten the same two calls.  Now you would be projected to win 30% of the time. vs. 33% for the limp / caller and 37% for the big blind.  Instead of starting with the lead, you’ve opted in despite being an underdog, and done so via a raise.  Why would you want to do that?  Have you forgotten the original question:  You want to win more often than you lose, right?

It is possible to win a pot without having the best hand.  There is even a technical term for this:  bluffing.  Sports teams don’t have this weapon.  Imagine a Little League baseball team yelling in a menacing tone at the other team, “we are beating y’all by more than 10 runs, so you should quit and go home under the mercy rule!” even though the other team is actually ahead by one or two runs.  That would never work.  I’ll return to bluffing in a later post.

There are other reasons you might want to opt-in with starting cards that won’t enjoy the early lead.  This involves pot odds and implied odds.  I’ll return to this in a later post as well.

For now, if you want to win more often than you lose (right?), the easiest place to start is by playing hands that are more likely to be in the lead already and raise enough to shrink the number of remaining villains.  Before you starting bluffing or calculating pot odds and implied odds, just practice playing poker with the lead.  Develop the habit of opting in with the lead and opting out whenever another player is more likely to have the lead.  Opting out eliminates your disadvantage, with no penalty.

Imagine a professional sports coach being able to withdraw from a game after the other team scores first with no penalty, no impact on the team’s win/loss record.  The coach would simply say he’s decided to reset the scoreboard and start over.  In team sports, that would never work.  In poker, you have that option every hand.


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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.


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Good Guy, Bad Guy

The phrase “Good Guy, Bad Guy” generally refers to a negotiating tactic whereby two people on the team team play very different roles.  One negotiator is the “Bad Guy” who bullies, uses anger and threatens to walk away from the negotiating table.  The other negotiator is the “Good Guy” who comes to rescue the negotiation by being considerate and understanding.  The Good Guy blames the Bad Guy for all the difficulties while telling the other side that if they will only concede certain negotiating points (the most important ones, of course), he’ll try to get the deal back on track.

This comes to mind in thinking through an interesting poker hand I recently played.  In this case, the actual sequence is Bad Play, Worse Play, Good Play, Bad Outcome.

I’m in a $1/2 no limit home game, and the player to my left – with whom I have played quite a bit (I’ll call him “Russ”) – has sucked out on me twice already.  Once I flopped middle set v. his top pair/medium kicker.  The turn gave him trips (i.e., paired the top card on the board) while also giving me a full house.  The river paired up with his kicker, giving him a better full house.

And very recently, I flopped top pair/top kicker and he had a flush draw.  Both the turn and river cards looked like bricks but actually gave Russ a back-door, well concealed straight.

So my stack is down to $112, and my emotional state is sub-par as well.

Another player (“Jason” from this post) puts up a $5 live straddle, and I look down at 5s 3s one or two seats to the right of the button.  This is an easy fold, almost always.  Bad Play:  I call.  Maybe it’s my turn to hit some kind of well-concealed bullshit hand.  In reality, WTF am I doing here?  Not folding is a sure sign of the onset of my C-game.

Then Russ raises to $15.  Another player calls and Jason also calls.  I feel like I’m getting a good price to continue.  Now there is $53 in the pot (including the blinds) and $1o more for me to call.  Maybe they all have high cards, leaving the deck loaded with lots of low cards to come out on the flop and connect with my hand.  Worse Play:  I call again.  At least my cards are so bad that I should be able to get away from them easily on the flop.  WTF again?  my stack is not deep enough for this sort of highly speculative call, where I’ll be out-of-position with respect to the aggressor post-flop.

Flop ($63):  Ts 7h 4s.  I have a flush draw and gutshot straight draw.  12 outs for a very strong hand.

Russ leads out for $50.  Sure looks like he has a big pair, and would be perfectly happy to take this pot down right now, or at least charge a high price to any draws.

After one fold, Jason then goes all-in for $35.  He could be calling with any hand that hit any part of this flop, or any draw.  I’ve played with Jason enough to know he will stick it all-in when he has a short stack with a very wide range that gives him any amount of hope, so there is no reason to assume this means great strength.

I have $97 remaining, and Russ has much, much more.  I can fold, in which case I’ll still have $97.  I can call, but that would be very stupid.  If I’m going to continue, I need to be sure I will see both the turn and river cards.  Yet… surely if I raise, Russ will call even if just two over cards to the board.  I cannot count on any fold equity.  What does the math tell me if I shove?

At the table, I use the simple “rule of 4.”  With two cards to come, simply multiple the number of outs by 4 and the result is the percentage of times you will hit one of your outs if you are able to see both the turn and river cards.  I have 12 outs (9 spades to make a flush, plus 3 non-spade sixes to make a straight = 12).  12 x 4 = 48%.  One small adjustment still needs to be made:  since I have more than 8 outs, I have to subtract the excess over 8.  12 – 8 = 4.  Subtract 4% and voila… 48% – 4% = 44%.  If I shove and Russ calls, I should have approx. 44% equity in the pot.

If Russ indeed has an overpair, and Jason has something other than a bigger flush draw, this should be pretty close.  Note that I’m not overly concerned about putting either Russ or Jason on a range.  I need to hit one of my outs, and if I do my hand will win.  If not, I will lose.  The only exception is where one of the villains (more likely to be Jason than Russ) has a higher flush draw.  For now, my hand is 5-high.  I know I’m behind 100% of both of their ranges and don’t need to worry about constructing the range to make my decision.  I need to worry about outs and pot odds.

I assume that if I go all-in, Russ will call.  Jason is already all-in.  The main pot will be $168 ($63 from the pre-flop action, plus $35 from each player).  There will be a side pot of $124 (the rest of my chips and enough from Russ to call my raise).

So my EV is 44% x (168 + 124) = $128.

Compare that to my stack size if I fold, which is $97.  Going all-in has an EV of $31, the increase in my stack (i.e., on average if we were to play out this exact scenario thousands of times) that results from calling.

Good Play:  I go all-in, and Russ calls, whilst shaking his head and saying he knows he is about to get ****’d.

Russ turns over QQ (with the Q of spades).  Jason turns over J8 (with the 8 of spades).  Dammit, there goes two of my outs.

Now that I am at home, I can do the math again based on their actual hands, both of which are pretty close to what I expected.  I’m 41.5% against Russ heads up for the side pot, and about 40% against the two of them for the main pot.  Note how close this is to my “rule of 4” calculations at the table.  I’m slightly weaker than I thought after taking their combined 4 cards out of the deck, including 2 of my flush outs.  My theoretical stack size after the hand would be $119, further reduced to $112 after the house rake and dealer tip, making the play a +EV of $15.  Lower than my rule of 4 calculation due to the impact of Russ and Jason each holding one of my out cards, plus the rake/tip, yet calling still is correct.

To reduce the variance a bit, Russ and I agree to “run it three times” for the side pot.  (This means the side pot is divided into thirds.  We’ll have a turn and river card for 1/3 of the pot, then a new turn and river card for the next 1/3 of the pot.  And a final turn and river card for the remaining 1/3 of the pot.)  Since there are 3 players in the main pot, we cannot run it more than once, so only the first turn and river will apply.

Bad Outcome:  I miss my outs on the first turn and river, and Russ wins the main pot and 1/3 of the side pot.  The big money is quickly gone.  I miss again on the next two board run outs and decide to go home and eat some ice cream.

Ice cream always cheers you up a little bit when you’re feeling bad, doesn’t it?

Daily Debacle – Blind and Sloppy

My first hand at this table, playing $1/2 NL online.

I am the big blind, with 6c 2s.  Total shit, if I may be blunt.  The player two spots to my left makes a minimum raise to $4 and the button and small blind both call.

What the heck, now there is $14 in the pot and it will only cost me $2 more to call.  I’m getting 7-to-1.  At a live tournament a couple nights ago, my friend Robert was in a memorable situation, where one player limped in, another player shoved all-in for 1.25 BB’s, I called from the SB and he held 6-2 off-suit in the BB.  Might as well call.  Then he flopped 2 pair, which held up to win a rather decent pot.

So I call.

Flop ($16):  9s 6s 3h.  SB checks, I check and the original raiser checks.  Looks like everybody missed.  Then the button (VPIP=39, PFR=7 over 28 hands) bets $6.  Obviously he’s trying to steal it.  A strong check-raise can win this…  right???

The small blind folds and I re-pop it to $20.  The original raiser also folds.  And THAT’S WHEN I NOTICE that he only has $23.50 behind after his initial bet.  If he shoves all-in over my check-raise bluff, I’ll be getting 6.9-to-1 odds, and my hand – while embarrassingly bad – does have a piece of this flop.  I cannot fold it.

If I’m going to bluff (or re-steal) in this manner, I should have check-raised enough to put him all-in straight away.  That maximizes the pressure on him.  If I do get caught with my pants down, it is on my bluff rather than on my call of his shove which is much more laughable.  And check-raising that large would be overkill.  Any play at this pot is a terrible move; his small stack size makes it even worse; my failure to notice this is inexcusable.

He shoves.  Ugh.  I call, hoping all of the other players have gone to the bathroom or are engrossed in some other distraction.

He turns over Ts 8s, for a multi-way draw plus two overcards.  Any spade, any 7, any 8 or any 10 helps him.  I have one spade blocker, so that leaves him with 17 outs and two cards remaining.  Although I’m ahead at this point in the hand, he is a59% favorite to win the pot.  This is probably the best I could have hoped for when he went all-in.

The turn is 7d, completing his straight, and the river is Js, rubbing a little salt in the wound by making his flush.

What a spew!

Year-to-date online results:  (- $308)

Month-to-date online results + $200


Daily Debacle – Low Flush

This hand occurred in a $0.50 / $1.00 no limit game online.

I have the button, and dealt 3d 2d.  Yes, I know these are really low cards, but there is one limper in front of me so I limp in to see a cheap flop, in position.  A guy I play with in some local live games says he always plays deuce-trey suited because you can win a really big pot with a well disguised hand when it hits.  I think about him as I click the ‘call’ button.  The small blind folds and the big blind checks, so I got what I wanted.  The original limper has been at the table for 18 hands, with stats of VPIP = 50, PFR = 22.

The flop is Kh 7d 5d.  A flush draw.  Woo-hoooo.  Both players check, so I bet $2 into a pot of $3.50.  BB folds and the limper calls.

What I should do now is estimate a range for this player.  Given his stats and pre-flop lime, it will be a pretty wide range but won’t include many premium hands that would have open-raised.  Let’s go with this:

Pairs:  99, 88, 77, 66, 55, 44

Suited:  Almost any 2 diamonds, including any Ad, any Kd, Qd Jd-8d, Jd Td-8d, Td 9d-8d, 9d 8d, 9d 6d, 8d 6d, 6d 4d

Unsuited:  KQ-K5 (including suited but not diamonds), 7T-75, and maybe some random 5’s like A5, 65, 54.

The turn card is 3s, giving me a low pair to go with my flush draw.  While a pair of 3’s is pretty weak, this  creates 5 more outs for me with the remaining 2’s and 3’s.

The original limper checks and I get $6 into a pot of $13.50.  In hindsight, this bet is too weak, about 44% of the pot.  If I’m trying to say “Dude, I’ve got this one” a larger bet is needed, somewhere around $10 or $11.  Now the villain check-raises to $15.


Did the 3 help him?  Or was he setting up for this all along?  If the 3 helped, he could have 33 for a set (only one combination of 3’s is now possible) or 64 to make a straight (any 64 suited might have limped in) or K3 (I suppose a very loose player could limp with K3 suited, but much more of a long-shot.

Otherwise he might have flopped a set of 777 or 555 and been waiting to ambush me.  KKK less likely as he would have raised pre-flop.  Or flopped two pair with K7 or K5.

I have a hard time seeing this check-raise with a single pair of K’s or anything weaker.  His pre-flop limp rules out AK and probably KQ (both should have raised pre), and the check-raise represents too much strength.

Should I call or should I fold?  The pot is now $28.50 and it will cost $9 to call.  I’m getting 3.2 – to – 1 odds to call.  The odds of making my flush, assuming all 9 outs are live, are 3.9 – to – 1 against.  Not good enough. If he has a set, then two of my outs are likely counterfeited, leaving me with odds of 5.3 – to – 1 against.  On the other hand, if he has something weaker that I can bet by hitting another 3 or a 2 on the river card, I may have as many as 14 outs (9 diamonds, 3 deuces, 2 treys).  Then my odds are 2.1 – to – 1 and I should call.

One last consideration.  I have position and get to act last.  This helps me to have a better chance of getting more of his chips into the pot.  I can assume I have some implied odds here so I decide to call.

The river is Ad.  Ba-da-bing!  My flush comes home to pappa.

He leads with a bet of $20 into a pot that is now $37.50.

Do I need to consider the possibility that he has a stronger flush?  Methinks not.  If he’s also chasing a flush, his check-raise on the turn makes no sense.  That was clearly a value bet, the board isn’t paired, and it’s time for me to take him to Value-Town.

How much to raise?  I consider a minimum raise, to $40.  No, too conservative and too transparent.  That just screams “I HAVE A FLUSH.”  Shove all-in?  No, too aggressive.  I want to win a bigger pot and justify the implied odds on which my turn call was based, not blow him off the pot now that my draw has arrived.  I decide to raise to $50, leaving me with $34 behind.

In hindsight, this was not a good size for my raise.  I’m pot-committed.  The pot is $107.50 and will grow to $137.50 if he calls.  If he re-raises all-in, the pot will be $171.50 and cost me $34 to call, giving me odds of slightly more than 5 – to – 1 to call.  There’s no way I’m going to fold me flush with those odds.  Instead I should simply call here – if I think he might also have a flush – or go ahead and shove, hoping he will interpret that as a bluff.

He rather quickly re-raises all-in, and I think the pot odds make my call mandatory.

He shows Kd Jd for the nut flush.  Jeez.  It turns out he had flopped top pair, decent kicker and 2nd to nut flush draw, and the river card being the Ad made his hand the absolute nuts.  He wins a $207.50 pot.

Year-to-date online results:  (- $814)

Month-to-date online results:  +$391

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