KKing David

Ruminations on poker

Archive for the tag “Structured hand analysis”

Great Flop for Me

It was Saturday night, which means I’m playing poker in someone’s garage.  Just about everybody is a regular player, so we get to do some higher level thinking.  Level 1, of course, is just thinking about the strength of our own hand.  We like it, or we don’t like it, or we’re not sure.  Level 2 is thinking about our opponents’ hands.  The more we have played with somebody, the more we should know about their style and tendencies and use that information to our advantage.  They should be doing the same.  Level 3 is thinking about what our hand looks like to our opponents.  While we know our exact cards, they don’t, so we can consider what our hand looks like from their perspective.  Level 4 flips back to their hand.  What will they think we are putting them on?

On the button, after several players just call the big blind, I look down at JJ.  I like my hand (Level 1).  So far, no one has a hand worthy of raising.  I don’t know their exact cards, but any hand better than mine would have raised already (Level 2).  When I raise, some of the players will think I’m just attacking the limpers and won’t give me credit for a hand as strong as JJ (Level 3).  So I can raise more than normal and still get called by worse hands.

I raise to 8.5 big blinds (BBs).  The BB calls and so do two of the limpers.

Flop (37 BBs):  4d 4s 2d.  This is a great flop for me.  There are no over cards to my JJ.  While there is a diamond flush draw and a possible straight draw, a paired board makes the flush draw less attractive to anyone who has it, and the straight draw cannot be open-ended unless someone limp/called with 53.

Everybody checks to me.

I still like my hand.  It should be best here (Level 1).  While no one has shown any strength (Level 2), any of these players could have a single A, K or Q, or two diamonds, or a lower pocket pair that could turn a set, so I’m not giving them a free turn card.  I bet 20 BBs, just over one-half of the pot.  Some weaker hands will call another bet, including flush draws and low-medium pocket pairs like 55-88.  They would expect me to make a continuation bet on this flop with close to 100% of my pre-flop range, which they would think includes a lot of unpaired hands (Level 3).

The BB folds, but the next guy raises to 60 BBs.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Myles.”  Myles likes to see lots of flops and is willing and able to be bluffing here if he thinks I’m just trying to steal a pot with my favorable position.  He knows his check/raise would look very strong, and I would have to consider the possibility that he has trip 4’s or better (Level 4).  As I start to ponder the meaning of his check/raise, the next guy announces that he’s all-in for about 180 BBs.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Rob.”

Wow!  A big check/raise from Myles, followed by Rob’s check/re-raise shove.  Similar to Myles, Rob likes to see lots of flops.  Even moreso than Myles, Rob will try to steal a pot with a big bluff when the board gets scary or he thinks his opponent is weak.  Both of them initially limped in, then called my largish pre-flop raise, which makes both of them more likely than me to have a 4 or pocket 22’s.  Myles has Rob covered, while I have the smallest stack with about 75 BBs remaining after my flop bet.

Let’s try to figure out where we are (Level 2), while trying not to wet our pants.

I can rule out AA, KK, QQ based on the pre-flop betting, so the only holdings that beat me are any 4x or 22.  That’s it.  And most 4x hands are pretty junky and would have folded pre-flop.  Calling hands might include A4 (suited or unsuited) 64s, 54s, and maybe 43s.  That’s not many combinations: after eliminating the cards on the board, there are 3 possible combos of 22, 8 combos of A4, 2 combos each of 64s, 54s, 43s.

I don’t think Myles would have called my pre-flop raise with A4 off-suit, but he might with A4s, 64s or 54s.  Not with 43s.  Not with K4, Q4 or worse.  He also could have a diamond draw, with Ad2d+, Kd8d+, Qd9d+, or suited connecting diamonds from JdTd down to 6d5d.  He also could be on a pure bluff, or could have a medium pocket pair that he thinks is the best hand (55-99).  But that assumes he always check-raises with his flush draws.  In reality, sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn’t.  I’ll eliminate about half of his flush draws (including AdKd, AdQd, AdJd and KdQd all of which would have raised pre-flop), resulting in a range of 99-44, 22, A4s, AdTd-Ad8d, Ad5d, Ad3d, KdTd+, QdTd+, 6d5d, 64s, 54s.  Heads-up against that range, my JJ has 77.4% equity and I should call.

But Rob went all-in, AFTER seeing Myles’ check/raise.  That scares the shit out of me.  He could have the same 22 or 4x hands as Myles could, plus I have to include K4s, Q4s and 43s in his range as I’ve seen Rob surprise the hell out of people before when he makes a junky call and hits the flop hard.  I’ll also include A4o.  He too could have a flush draw, but if he does in this spot, it should only be an A-high flush draw (as with Myles, excluding AdKd, AdQd or AdJd as he would have raised pre-flop with these stronger suited aces).  Rob shouldn’t be shoving here with weaker flush draws because he should know Myles might be on a flush draw too, and shoving a non-nut flush draw and getting called by a nut flush draw would be disastrous.  Rob’s resulting range is stronger than Myles’ range: 99-44, 22, A4s, A4o, AdTd-Ad3d, K4s, Q4s, 64s, 54s, 43s.

Against both of these ranges, my equity is 39.7%, compared to 35.8% for Rob and 24.5% for Myles.  Something about a check-raise following by a check-re-raise makes me feel quite certain that I’m crushed here on this flop that initially looked so good for me, and I expected the math to be even worse that this.  It will cost me 75 BBs to call, for a chance to win (assuming Myles also calls) approx. 320 BBs.  If my equity is greater than 75/320 = 23.4%, calling would be the mathematically correct play.

I take my time, and finally fold.  I couldn’t work out all of the math in my head at the table, so I went with the old “Hashtag: they always have it” and concluded that at least one of them had me crushed.

Myles takes his time, asks Rob if he has a 4 and if so how good is his kicker.  Then he declares that he might as well gamble and calls the all-in bet.

The turn is Qc.  I don’t recall the exact river card, only that it wasn’t a high card or a diamond and didn’t change anything.

Rob turns over Ad6d.  He did indeed have the A-high flush draw.  We can debate the merits of shoving over the top of Myles’ check/raise there, but that’s what he did.  Myles turns over Qd9d, a weaker flush draw.

This burns me up when I first see it, as I was ahead of both of them when I folded.  Later I entered their exact hands and my equity was 53.7%.  Putting in 33.3% of the money and having 53.7% equity is a profitable play all night long, and I definitely should have called.

Then Myles sees that the queen on the turn paired one of his hole cards, giving him 2-pair queens and fours, and he scoops in a pot that totals over 415 BBs.  My JJ would have lost anyway.  That doesn’t change the conclusion that I should have called, however.  Against the ranges I constructed and against the actual hands, calling would be the correct play.  If both Myles’ and Rob’s cards were face up, I would call, especially knowing their flush outs partially cancel each other (and I was holding another out with Jd).  But I folded instead, then got the reverse of “lucky” since part of the draw hit anyway.  What looked like such a great flop for me cost me about 1/4 of my stack and I was lucky not to lose all of it.

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Multi-Way Action

Here is an interesting hand from a $1/1 cash game last night.

I am the Big Blind, and look down at 9d 8d.  My stack is $130.  I’ve been playing for about 2 hours and nothing good has happened yet.  Four players limp into the pot, and the SB completes.  I check my option, so there are 6 players and $6 in the pot for the flop.

Flop ($6):  9s 8h 4c.

The SB (I’ll call him “Dell”) checks.  I like my hand, having flopped top 2 pair.  With this many players, I need to bet for value and to find out who likes his hand enough to continue.

The player to my immediate left (let’s call him “Jeff”) quickly calls.  Hmmm…  He is UTG and limped in pre-flop from this early position.

Another player (I’ll call him “John”) also calls, then “Jason” calls, and Dell also calls.

My $5 bet was 83% of the pot size (albeit still very small in absolute terms) and only scared away one player.  This might turn into an action hand.

Turn ($31):  6d.

This card doesn’t hurt me, unless someone has exactly T7, 75 or 66.  With this loose crowd of players anything is possible, so let’s see what happens.

Now Dell in the SM leads out with a bet of $11.  He does this a lot, leading out into the raiser from a prior street, but it doesn’t necessarily mean great strength.  I debate raising vs. calling and decide to call to help me get some more information.  If my hand is indeed the best, I don’t want to run everybody off with a big raise here.

Then Jeff raises to $35.  Huh?  “Danger, Will Robinson!  Danger, DANGER!” goes the alarm in my head.  John calls $35, and Dell also calls the raise to $35.  It’s back to me.

Here is where I need to think very carefully about what each Villain might have and how they would play it.  Jeff is the biggest concern, so I’ll deal with him last.

Dell is fairly easy, once I think about it.  I’ve played with him several other times, and he is loose and aggressive.  He donk bets a lot of flops and turns where he has hit any part of the board – bottom pair, middle pair, weak kicker, as a way of (1) getting information, and (2) winning the dead money when no one else has anything.  I can exploit this from time to time by raising big and representing a strong hand.  If he does have a really big hand, he bets it aggressively rather than trying to trap.  (For example we had a recent confrontation where he has AJ and I had QQ on a flop of AQJ.  He led out, I raised, he 3-bet and also called when I shoved, playing his 2-pair (top + bottom) like it was the nuts and ultimately doubling me up.)  Back to the present, however, he just calls Jeff’s raise but doesn’t re-raise.  I conclude my top 2-pair is better than his hand.  No need for me to slow down on account of Dell.

Next up is John.  John is a very loose player who likes to see flops with virtually any two cards, and likes to chase draws, including weak flush draws, gut shots, etc.  Hard to push him off of a pot as he is very sticky if he hits any part of it.  He ends up making 2-pair or middling straights an awful lot, and this frustrates many of the other players.   He called my $5 bet on the flop and then called Jeff’s $35 on the turn.  He only has about $30 remaining behind.  Surely he would re-raise all-in if he had a made straight or set.  This looks like classic John chasing some kind of draw, perhaps with a pair + open-ended straight draw (97, 87, 76), pair plus gutshot straight draw (T9, T8, T6, 95, 85, 65) or something like J7 that was a gutshot on the flop and gained outs when the 6 hit.  He also could have 2 pair like 98, 96, 86, 64.  Since he didn’t shove it all-in on the turn, my top 2-pair dominates his range.

Lastly, what about Jeff?  He’s the one who worries me the most here, based on his UTG limp, quick call on the flop and raise on the turn.  Could he have 44?  T7?  These are the two hands that crush me and might follow this betting pattern (especially T7s).  With 44 I think he might raise on the flop, although with so many players behind him, calling to keep everyone in the pot may be his best option despite the possible straight draws with 98 on this flop.  T7 is certainly possible, and his stack is larger than mine.  Ouch!  Or he could have turned 2 pair (or have the same hand as me… suited 98, but only one combination remains), but I’m having trouble seeing which 2 pair would make sense to limp in from UTG other than 98s.  Not that it has to make sense, and I do know Jeff can be very loose passive at times.  He could also be overplaying a strong 1-pair hand (I’ve seen him limp with AA from early position trying to trap).  Without doing all of the combinatorics at the table, it seems like I need to worry about 3 combinations of 44, plus 4 combinations of T7s.  In either case, I’ll have 4 outs (9%) to catch up on the river.  It seems like there is a greater number of combinations that I can beat, plus the pot size is now rather swollen.  There is $147 in the pot, and it costs me $24 to call or $115 more to go all-in.

My last consideration here is whether Jeff could fold 44 if I go all-in, representing that I have the T7 and nut straight.  Would he fold a small set?  I doubt it, but maybe, just maybe…

I finally decide to throw caution to the wind and shove all-in.  All three players (especially Dell and John) have a lot of draws in their ranges and I need to punish them if they are going to chase.  And I might actually get paid.

Jeff folds.  Whew!  I feel better already.

John calls his remaining $30.

Dell folds.

John shows J7o, for an open-ended straight draw, plus one (useless) over card.  He has 8 outs, with the the large pot, he is getting the right odds to make this final call.

The river is a blank and I scoop up a large pot, which puts me “in the black” for the evening.

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…

Fancy Play Syndrome

This hand took place last night at a home cash game, blinds of $1/$1.  Two players limped in, and the button (for purposes of this post, I’ll call him “Jeff”) also limped.  I am the SB with Qs7s, and check, as does the BB (“Russ”).  No reason to get excited about Queen-Seven suited, out of position.

In the immediately preceding hand, both Russ and Jeff were involved.  At the river, the pot was rather large and the board was something like 822-5-2, and Russ made a large river bet.  I recall that Jeff had bet $20 on the turn and Russ raised to $50.  He also muttered something to the effect of “I’m good here unless he has the remaining deuce.”  After Jeff folded, Russ showed a naked bluff with King high.

I have to consider this in the hand we are now playing as both Jeff and Russ are involved.

The flop hits the board Q-T-7 rainbow (i.e., all different suits), giving me two pair.  This is a reason to get excited about my hand, there are straight draw possibilities, multiple villains might have a Q or T, so a value bet is called for.  I bet $4 into a pot of $5. Russ calls, the other villains both fold, then Jeff raises to $15 from the button.

My antenna goes up. The most common scenario with a flop raise is 2-pair or better.  The next most common scenarios are an over pair and top pair with a good kicker.  I have 2-pair with the top and bottom ends. So what does Jeff have?  Pre-flop, he limped in after two other limpers.

Let’s consider the possibilities, in three broad groups:

FIRST – Two-pair plus.  There are 3 ways he could have two pair… QT – which has me crushed, Q7 – same as mine, or T7 – and I would have him crushed.  Better than 2-pair means a set, as it is not yet possible for anyone to have a straight, flush or full house.  A set requires Jeff to have QQ, TT or 77.  The first two of these possibilities I can discount heavily, as he would raise pre-flop with QQ or TT.  Possibly also with 77, possibly not.  I have blockers to QQ and 77, so there is only one combination of each remaining in the deck.  I have seen Jeff bet flopped sets very aggressively before in other games, so his raise is consistent with how I’ve seen him play a set.

SECOND – Over pair or top pair with good kicker.  An over pair would be AA or KK.  As with QQ and TT, he would raise with either of these pre-flop.  Eliminate from his likely range.  Top pair would be Qx, with a strong kicker like AQ, KQ or QJ.  I think Jeff would have raised pre-flop with AQ or KQ, so I’m discounting these as well, although not entirely removing them from his range.

THIRD – Semi-bluff / draws.  Also there are draw possibilities with KJ, J9 or 98 for Open-Ended Straight Draws (“OESDs”), either of which he might be playing more aggressively than normal after folding and being shown Russ’ bluff on the preceding hand.  Less likely would be gutshot straight draws, with hands like AK (would have raised pre-flop), AJ, K9, and J8.

The last consideration is stack size… he has about $55 behind, and I have him covered.

Let’s put everything that makes sense into a range and see how we fare.

Jeff’s range: QT, Q7, T7, 77, AQ, KQ, QJ, KJ, J9, 98, AJ, K9, J8

My hand: Qs 7s.

My equity v. range: 71.2%.  Quite good.

Removing the gutshot straight draws (AJ, K9, J8) and my equity drops to 65.9%.  Still quite good.

Now that we know the correct answer is to call, back to the actual hand as played.

I called Jeff’s raise, and Russ also called.  Maybe I should give some extra thought to Russ’ range.  Now there is $50 in the pot.

Turn ($50): I don’t recall the exact card, other than it was a low blank – not completing any OESDs or gutshots, not pairing the board, not turning any top pair hands into 2-pair.

I check, Russ checks and Jeff goes all-in for his remaining $55.  Then Russ folds out of turn, before I have acted.  This is comforting in that now I don’t have to worry about Russ laying back with the real monster, nor do I have to go through the entire range analysis for Russ here in my blog post.  Whew!

This is not the first time I’ve played with Jeff.  I’ve seen him overplay medium strength hands, especially with a shorter stack.  I’ve seen him shove a short stack with less than the nuts.  I have the impression he wants to end this hand right now. If he wanted a call, he would bet less. (Or so I hope.)

I call, and he turns over AA, a hand that I previously ruled out because he did NOT raise pre-flop.  The river doesn’t help him and I scoop in the pot.

Apparently he was hoping to trap Russ by limping on the button and hoping Russ continued his aggression from the previous hand by raising from the big blind.

The fancy play cost Jeff his entire stack, in a situation where the straightforward play – raising on the button with pocket aces – may have netted him only a small win, but a win nevertheless.

Trail of Tears

This happened Sunday while at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, in Cherokee, NC during the World Series of Poker Circuit stop.

For the uninitiated, this casino is owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the only federally recognized Indian tribe in North Carolina.  Prior to the opening of this casino in 1997, this tribe was best known for its forced removal from its traditional home to a designated area west of the Mississippi River in 1838, under the Indian Removal Act of 1830.  An estimated 4,000 Cherokee died as a result of starvation, cold or disease.

But this story is about my own trail of tears…

I was playing a 2/5 cash game in the main poker room, having played in a very large tournament the previous day. For a long time I felt I was being too passive and my image was not good, but the cards and action weren’t giving me many opportunities to change that, at least without too much risk of spewing away a lot of chips. I topped off my stack a couple of times, for a total buy-in of $800, when I looked down at 5d5h, and raised to $20 after an opening limper. My stack was approx. $620 and I am 8 hours into the session.

5’s had been hot at this table all day. I made quad 5555’s once and I’ve seen at least 4 other sets of 5’s.  Two players call, then a very good but loose/aggressive girl in the BB calls and the opening limper calls. On a flop of Ad Td 2s, it checks all the way around. Now comes 5s on the turn and it checks to me. I bet $75 and one old man calls. He has a grumpy scowl that say “you can’t push me off a flush draw with that bet.” After another fold, the girl in the BB check-raises all-in, and she has me covered. WTF?

She has been hopping out of her seat a lot to go chat with a boyfriend at the next table, massaging his shoulders, discussing hands, making out, whatever. Since she joined the table, she made several very aggressive moves, like 3-betting with QTo (which pushed a AQss out of the hand but got re-raised by a very short stack so short that she had to call and show. AQ would have made top 2 pair, but here QT held up to win with just one pair). On another hand she called a raise on the button with something like 53o and made a wheel straight and won a nice pot. More recently she has twice bet $200+ on scary boards and got caught bluffing. Once another woman at the table had QQ and was betting on the flop and turn, then checked the river when a 3rd diamond appeared on a T-high board.  Another time a different old man had pocket JJ’s and flop was JJx. She tried to push him off with a big all-in bet on the turn.

I got the impression that she and her boyfriend are traveling WSOP Circuit grinders. While some of her plays may be questionable or her ranges may be too wide, she clearly knows what she is doing and her strategy is to put lots of pressure on weaker players. Clearly she knows  that most ordinary / routine players make their decisions based on the bet-sizing and not due to the logic of the play. She bought in deep and keeps putting other players to difficult decisions with large bets. I had actually moved to an empty seat two seats to my right to get closer to her left.  This is the first time we’ve tangled with each other with any sizable pot.

It’s hard to put her on a range here, as the board now has both diamond and spade flush draws on it (Ad Td 2s 5s), and she over-called pre-flop from the BB knowing it would be a multi-way flop. But let’s try:

She could have the Nuts (or could she?):  43, suited or unsuited, 16 combinations. But really, did she call a pre-flop raise out of position on everybody, with 43?  It’s very hard to give her credit for that, but if somehow that is what she has here, I suppose it is consistent with the Check/Raise All-In on such a drawy board.

Other hands that beat me:  TT, 3 combos.  I’m not going to include AA here, as she certainly would have re-raised pre-flop after my raise and two callers.  After my raise to $20 and 2 callers, I think she might have made a large 3-bet with TT from the BB, but I cannot be 100% sure.  So it has to be in her range now, and checking the flop with her set would be OK with an Ace out there and so many players.

Strong hands that I beat:  22, AT, 12 combos.  Again, I think these are more likely to lead out on the turn after no one bet on the flop, for all the reasons mentioned.

Draws:  The biggest imaginable draw would be ATss, for top 2 pair plus a nut flush draw. But there are other combination draws with KQ, KJ, QJ of either diamonds or spades having flush draws + gutshots, Txss having middle pair plus a spade flush draw, Axss having top pair plus a spade flush draw. If I include any Ax spades, T9ss+, any KQ, KJ or QJ spades or diamonds I get 19 semi-bluff combinations (not including ATss, which I have already accounted for in the prior paragraph).

I would expect her to lead out with a healthy bet on the turn with all of her strong hands – straights, sets, top 2 pair, due to the presence of both spade and diamond flush draw possibilities.  With 5 players, it would easy to have at least one player chasing diamonds and another player chasing spades.  This is the time to punish the drawing hands, and once one of them calls, the others will too.  Why risk letting it check around again and giving them a free card (plus any gutshots to a Broadway straight) when a strong bet is likely to get called at least once?  If she checked, and everybody else also checked, and the river is any diamond, any spade, or any K, Q or J, her poor position leaves her in quite a pickle trying to figure out where she stands.  So the Check/Raise All In play, which typically represents great strength, appears more consistent with having a big draw than having a big made hand.

Against this entire range, my equity is 59.3%. On the other hand, if I were in her position and had one of the hands that beats my 555’s, I would lead out with a strong bet here, so it is questionable whether 43 or TT even belong in her range.  For that matter, it is questionable whether 43 belongs in the range from the pre-flop action, but I want to include it as a way of thinking about all the hands that could either have the strength for such a large bet or could have enough equity via a big draw plus whatever fold equity they might have to make this a +EV play.

It seems like most of the time she is going to have a big spade draw with the ace of spades. That gives her top pair plus a nut flush draw picked up on the turn, giving her plenty of equity (or so she might think).  A narrow range looks like mostly 22 or AsTs, although it would be a mistake on my part to try to narrow her range that much.

So… (drum roll please) I call for my entire remaining stack, over $500, and she turns over 43 off suit. The river is 6c and I go searching for a beer into which I can pour my trail of tears.

Here is a link to watch the hand and its resulting $1,350+ pot on ShareMyPair.

Two days later, I’m still trying to figure out if I am supposed to be good enough, or to become good enough, to be able to fold in that situation.

I’m also fascinated (whilst participating in) the emotional and financial variance that comes from one card.  When I called, I still had 10 outs to make a better hand and win.  If one of those had come, I’d be singing a happy tune and buying dinner for friends.

Am I supposed to become detached enough not to feel the pain (or pleasure)?  As a human being, it just seems wrong to want to strip away all the emotions from losing / winning in a competitive activity, however much pain I’m still in today.

Bottom Set = No Good on Dry Flop

Here is an instructional hand that I played online recently, in Bovada’s “Zone Poker” game, at the micro stakes level with blinds of $0.10 – 0.25.

For the uninitiated, Zone Poker is a lightning fast game, where you can click “Fold Now” at anytime after the cards are dealt, and not only is your hand automatically folded when the action gets to you, but you are also immediately re-seated at a newly formed table with a new group of players to start another hand.  This takes anonymity to a new level.  In Bovada’s regular cash games, all players are anonymous – i.e., only identified by their seat number and not by any actual or screen name – but over the course of several dozen hands you can observe each player’s habits – loose, tight, bluffs a lot, defends blinds aggressively, etc.  But you cannot recognize a player from the previous day or last week and recall that “PokerBum123” is a certain type of player based on the prior sessions.

With Zone Poker, EACH HAND is with a new group of players, so you don’t even have the benefit of knowing how they played the last 10 or 20 hands in the current session.

This results in very polarized play:  a lot of players play in a very straightforward, “ABC Poker” manner, or they make large and frequent bluffs.  Any style in between tends to get crushed.

Here is a link to a replay of the hand.

I am at a 6-handed table, and have the dealer button, and a starting stack of $30.35 (the maximum buy-in at this table with blinds of $0.10 – 0.25 is $25.00, so I’m up a little bit.  I look down at 33 and it seems like I’ve had 33 or 22 dealt a lot in the last several sessions and surely one of these times I’m going to flop a set and win a huge pot from some unsuspecting villain.  (Of course, I have similar thoughts about many starting hands, but I digress.)  The Hijack and Cutoff seats both limp in for $0.25 and I raise to $0.75.

Some people might not raise here, but my rationale is to build the pot a little bit just in case the set comes, so the next round of betting one-half pot or three-quarters pot sized bet will be large enough to mean something.  Plus, with certain flop textures, I may be able to take down the pot with a strong continuation bet even if I miss.  The Big Blind (BB) calls and so doe stye Hijack seat (HJ = 2 to the right of the button), and the Cutoff folds.

Here comes the flop:  ($2.60)  9s 4c 3d.  Cha-ching!  Now it’s time to make some money off these chumps.  Because I raised pre-flop, whereas most players would just limp in if their strategy is set mining here, my set of 3’s is well-disguised.  Think about it:  if you were developing a range of hands for me based on my position and raise (remember, I’m a totally anonymous player), would 33 be part of that range?

The BB checks and HJ bets $0.25, the minimum amount.  That’s a strange and fishy amount, and probably means (1) he’s just a bad player who doesn’t know what he’s doing, or (2) a blocking bet hoping to preempt me from making a larger continuation bet, typically indicating a player chasing a draw (the only possible draws on this flop are straight draws with 76, 75, 65, 52, A5 or A5), or (3) a weak made hand like 9x, 4x, or 88-55, and trying to find out where he stands, or (4) some kind of disguised trap or setup for a bluff on a later street.

I’m not going for any of that, so I raise to $1.50, trying to think about the bet increments that will be needed on the turn and river to build up the largest pot possible.  To my delight, BB calls.  Then HJ re-raises to $2.75, the minimum re-raise amount.

Huh?

Zone Poker only gives you 15 seconds to make each decision, with no option to request extra time (their regular cash games give you 30 seconds, with the option of requesting 30 extra seconds if needed).  So I must process this quickly.  FIrst I note how dry the flop is.  943, rainbow.  No flush draws at all.  Not many straight draws – see above – and many of those hands should have folded to my pre-flop raise.  I’ve learned that most of the time a Villain raises or re-raises pre-flop, they have 2-pair or better.  After that, they probably have top pair or an over pair.  Over 85% of the time, they will have one of these possibilities.

Rather than shovel my money in as fast as possible, I decide to call and buy a few extra second to think about this.  The BB also calls.

Hands that I can bet include:  2-pair?  That requires starting cards of 94, 93 or 43.  Nope, not in any decent player’s range, not even at this low level.  Over pair?  Nope.  The flop is 9-high, so over pairs include TT, JJ, QQ, KK and AA.  I think ALL of those would have raised pre-flop from the HJ seat, either right away (when he limped) or as a re-raise after I raised on the button, having set a trap by limping with a very strong hand.  Top pair?  Maybe but not likely.  A9 or K9 should be wary of my enthusiasm for the hand.  I raised pre-flop, indicating strength, and raised on the flop, further suggesting that I might be the one with an over pair.  Certainly AA-TT is in my range here.  A thinking player would slow down after I raised to $1.50.

Besides, the BB called both my re-raise and HJ’s re-re-raise from out of position.  Is he the real villain in this hand, sitting there with a monster?

After eliminating 2-pair and over pair hands, and reducing the likelihood of HJ having top pair, now I have to worry about sets.  Since I have a set of 33’s, either or both villains here could have 44 or 99 (the latter being more likely for BB as a calling hand after my pre-flop raise, and less likely HJ as a limp/calling hand from the outset).  If this is the case, I’m toast!

Turn card:  ($10.85)  Jh.  Now no flush is possible, and nothing really seems to have changed.

BB checks again, and HJ bets $1.50.  Being wary, I just call, and BB now raises all-in.  HJ quickly calls, and both villains have more chips in their stacks than I do.

Holy Bankruptcy, Batman!

I’m not positive which one of them has a bigger set than mine, but surely one (or both) of them does.  I fold.  One of them might be an idiot, and I’ll find out which one in a few seconds, but not both of them.  (Not that i can use the information for any advantage in Zone Poker, however.)

BB shows J9 for top 2-pair.  HJ shows 99 for top set on the flop and wins the final pot of approx. $70 – which is freaking huge at these stakes.

I’m thrilled to have ‘only’ lost five bucks on this hand and $25 + change remaining in my stack.

Ok Bovada, how about giving me 2 more cards and let’s try again…

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.

Shoot!

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

 

 

Trust Thy Reads

When discussing poker with my friends, one of the common themes that I bring up is trusting your reads.  This requires two things:  first you have to be decent at hand reading (or “structured hand analysis”); second you have to trust your reads and act on that trust.

Many recreational players will get involved in a clash of two big hands where the Villain goes all-in, and find themselves saying something like, “I know you’ve got me beat, but I have to see it anyway just to be sure.”  And of course, you end up paying off the Villain.

So this happened last night, playing $1/2 NL Hold’em online:

Villain ($201.75) – cutoff

Hero ($210.15) – button, holding Ts Tc.

Preflop:  UTG limps in and Villain raises to $8.  I call.  In retrospect, I’m not sure why I didn’t re-raise here, except for some concern about the UTG player slow playing a huge hand like AA or KK and coming back over the top.  But that’s irrelevant to today’s lesson.

Flop ($21) – Ad Th Kc:  Villain checks, and I bet $10.50.  I’ve flopped bottom set and need to bet for value.  If I’m going to have a chance to get his full stack, I need to start building the pot now.  Hopefully he has AK or AQ and can’t get away from it.

Now he check-raises to $29.  Hmmmm!  Could he have AA or KK?  QJ?  Or just a silly check-raise bluff?  I consider just calling, but decide to raise again to $59.  I still have about $160 behind, so if he ships it all in here I can fold and keep playing.  I cannot imagine another raise with a hand that is weaker than mine.

It should be noted that I know absolutely nothing about this Villain.  He’s only been at the table for 4 or 5 hands and hasn’t done anything weird.

He 4-bets to $119.

Time for some hand reading.  Really the only cards he can have are QJ, for a flopped straight.  His bet isn’t big enough to be an effort to push me off the pot.  He only has $75 behind, so he’s pot committed.  I know all the poker pros say that you have to put your opponents on a range of hands and not try to guess their exact cards, but in this case, I cannot see him betting this way even with AA or KK.  He has the nut straight.

I decide to fold.

Then I un-decide.  I don’t know what came over me.  I was thinking that if he has AA or KK, then I would only have one out in the deck, the last 10 to make quads.  But if he has QJ, which I am now quite sure of, then I have 7 outs on the turn and 10 outs on the river to make a full house or quads, which gives me about 35% equity in the hand.  (Note to self:  35% equity means you are BEHIND, NOT AHEAD, asshole!)

Some external force moves the mouse to the all-in button and clicks.  Villain calls and shows Qs Js and goes on to win a $405 pot.

Gotta trust your reads!

Year-to-date and month-to-date online results:  +$738

 

Aces misplayed, cracked, leads to tilt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I go all-in.

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

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

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

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

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

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