KKing David

Ruminations on poker

Archive for the tag “suited connectors”

Should I Turn This Into a Bluff?

NOTE:  This entry was originally posted on a different site on December 30, 2016 and has been slightly edited prior to re-posting here.

A couple nights ago I was playing at a private house game, when this hand came up.

In a middle position, I get Td 9d, nice-looking suited connectors.  A player in front of me had straddled for double the big blind.  I call, hoping to see a relatively cheap flop.

There is one other caller, plus the Big Blind calls, and the straddler checks.  So far, so good.

The flop is 8d 7h 5d.  I have the top of an open-ended straight draw, a flush draw, and two over cards.  While the absolute strength of my hand at this point is only Ten-high, it has huge drawing power.  Even against a hand like 9-6, which would have flopped the nuts, I would have 52% equity in the pot.  That’s right, a favorite against the nuts.

On the other hand, against Ad 7d, which would give someone a nut flush draw and middle pair, my equity drops to 35%.  Still respectable…  Against Ad 6d, adding a straight draw to the NFD, my equity drops even further to 27.5%, primarily because a non-diamond 9 no longer improves my hand to a winner.  Against 88 flopping top set, my equity is 40%.

Although it is possible that one of my opponents has a hand as strong as 96, Ad7d, Ad6d, or 88, these are very specific combinations.  My equity against these hands, blended in with my equity against all of the worse options I might be facing, makes this a spot where I’m perfectly happy to get it all in right now.  At this game, the house allows the players to “run it” twice or three times by mutual agreement, which would be likely given my knowledge of the other players.  With that backup plan, I can apply maximum pressure.

The checks to the straddler.  For purposes of this blog I’ll call him “John.”  John is generally a somewhat loose, passive player.  For example, when this game started there were only four players.  John bought in for only 50 big blinds, then immediately posted a straddle on the button.  This effectively reduces his stack to 25x the straddle.  It’s like he has heard that straddling on the button is good, but doesn’t really understand why nor understand the value of having a larger stack-to-pot (“SPR”) ratio.  He rarely raises when straddling and no one else raises.  On another hand with still only four players, he called a pre-flop raise with QQ but did not re-raise.

Back to our hand.  With 8 or 9 big blinds in the pot, John bets 7 BBs.  He typically doesn’t lead out like this with a drawing hand, so most of his range is going to be one pair.  I decide to attack, and raise to 25 BBs.  That should get his attention.  At the start of this hand, I had about 125 BBs in my stack.  John appears to have about the same.

The next player folds, then the big blind ponders for a moment and looks very much like he wants to raise.  For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Rick.”  Instead of raising, Rick calls.  Rick is a much more aggressive player than John; in fact his bluffing frequency is higher than anyone else at the table.  He also respects my game (I’m classically TAG) and knows I’ll continue aggression when I have a strong hand, so his call here looks super strong to me.

Back to our hand again.  Rick’s call both surprises and scares me.  Did he flop a straight and now he wants to see if he can keep John in the hand by just calling?  Does he have a higher flush draw, counterfeiting many of my outs?  Is he setting a trap for me to walk right into?  When a player as aggressive as Rick check-calls a post-flop raise, knowing the original better (i.e., John) has the option of re-raising, this suggests that he likes his hand.  A lot.

John folds.  Now Rick and I are heads up.

The turn is Kh, putting 2 hearts on the board.  Having missed all of my outs, my equity is essentially cut in half.  Rick checks.

The pot is bloated now, with about 66 BBs, and I have ten-high.  If I want to try to get him to fold a somewhat strong hand, like 2-pair, it’s going to take quite a large bet and leave me pot-committed if he check-raises all-in.  I’m less enthusiastic now, with only one card to come.  As a general rule, it is usually a good idea to check back in position when you don’t have a clear plan for handling a check-raise.  I don’t like bet-folding here, nor do I like bet-calling.  He’s offered me a free card, so I decide to take it and check.

The river card is 3c, missing all of my outs again.  I still have just ten-high.

Rick checks again.  His faces looks slightly pained, like perhaps he has a bigger flush draw than mine and missed.  Or… he’s giving off a reverse tell – which I consider him capable of doing – having read my turn check as indicative of my range including lots of flush draws and figuring the best way for him to get value from me is by bluff-catching.

With two flush draws and a straight draw after the turn – 8d 7h 5d – Kh – surely I would bet for value again if I had a 2-pair or better hand.  Doesn’t my turn check look more like I’m on a draw (which would be true) and taking the free card?

I’m having trouble narrowing Rick’s range here.  What do you think it is?

One axiom of poker says that in order to bluff, my range should not be too polarized (i.e., only very strong hands or bluffs).  What does my range look like here?  Should I turn my Ten-high nothing-at-all busted combo-draw hand into a bluff here?  If so, how much should I bet?

Please leave replies in comments, and check back in a few days for the spoiler.

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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 – Not Quitting

Last night I was playing $0.50 / 1.00 NL online and lost a full buy-in of $100 fairly quickly (ironically while watching a YouTube video of a poker class that was taught earlier this year at MIT – for credit!).  I did not win a single pot, got restless and loose, and a succession of interesting-but-not-great cards (JTs, KJo, 87o, JJ w A-high flop) sank my balance down to $37.

Then I got another such hand, Ts 9s in the Hijack seat with 5-way action to the flop.  The flop was Ks Js 9h, giving me bottom pair, flush draw, gutshot draw and gutshot straight flush draw.  A player in front of me bet 1/2 pot, I called and the big blind check-raised all-in.  Sure looks like a flopped straight.  At this point, the pot is $56 and I have $26 left behind, so I’m getting 2.15-to-1 odds to call.  According to PokerStove, my equity against a flopped straight (assuming he does not have the Qs) is 42.3%.  That means I need 2.36-to-1 or better to call.

I call anyway, he does indeed have QT, my outs don’t arrive and there goes the rest of my buy-in.

The story begins here, now down $100.  It’s 10:45 pm.

Things get better and and 30 minutes later I’m up to $198 and nearly fully recovered.  I also have another table going – that only started after the first buy-in was all gone – and now sitting at $106 there after buying in for $100.  So combined, I’m up four bucks.

Time for bed!  On the other hand, things are going better now.  I’d really like to sit tight and win just one more decent pot and book a real gain rather than essentially break even.  Not to be results oriented, but still…  Why not.

Five minutes later (on table 2), I get 9h 8h in the UTG position and raise to $3.  Three players call, and the flop comes Js 8c 9d.

Ba-da-bing!  Going to bed right after this hand.  One player folds and I bet $8.50 into $13.  Another player folds.  I can almost smell the toothpaste.

Then the cutoff raises to $17, a minimum raise.  What!?!?  Does his min-raise represent weakness or wariness with a hand like AJ?  Or super strength with JJ or QT, wanting to build the pot but not push me off of it?  Or a piece of the flop plus a draw, like JT?

My next instinct is to go all-in.  Then I remember a dinnertime conversation about self-management and how that affects some poker plays.  Too many times I’ve liked my cards, assessed the situation and my read is that I’m behind, then make the call anyway because I’m not sure / I’ve gotta know for sure.  This starts to feel like one of them.

I have bottom 2 pair.  That beats top pair, and beats any over pair (albeit highly unlikely as the other player would have 3-bet pre-flop), but that’s all.  I cannot beat any other 2-pair hand, any set or straight.  Even JT, which I am ahead of, has a 48.5% chance of beating me, so shoving would really only be a coin flip if called.  I’m getting 5-to-1 pot odds to call his raise, so I do call.

The turn is 6s, changing nothing.  I check and he bets $19 into $47, about 40% of the pot.  Wow!  He sure does not seem to mind getting called here.  If I call again and the river is a blank, will I call a river shove (he would then be betting $60 into $85 to put me all-in)?  Yikes!

Then there is that self management thing.  I’m tired and want to go to bed.  I’m just barely ahead for the session after going down a full buy-in.  I hate (repeat:  HATE) ending a session at a loss.  Arrrrrgh!

I fold.  For a change, self management prevails.

Then I continue playing until 1:35 am, eventually going down over $100, teetering on the edge of full-blown tilt, recovering to a session loss of $65 before relenting to get some sleep.  God I need some sleep.

Tommy Angelo produced an hour-long video on quitting and how important being able to quit – ahead, behind, any time your “A” game is no longer with you – is to achieving tiltlessness and reducing suffering in poker.  Need to watch that again.

Year-to-date online results:  (- $609)

Month-to-date online results + $596

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

I was going to fold, until…

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

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

Stack sizes are:

Villain 1 in middle position:  $74

Villain 2 in cutoff:   $252

Hero (me) on button :  $195

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          ASSHOLE!

I call.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Month-to-date online results:  $311

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