shipitfish: (Default)

Here's another one of these. I am only even considering I made a mistake because the player in question was extremely tight.

In a $1/$2 NL HE $200 Max online, 10 players, the hijack seat limps, cutoff raises all-in for $8.50. I reraise to $25-to-go (having started the hand with $250) from the SB with Ks Kh. An Ultra-Tight player in the BB (who has me covered) smooth-calls and the limper folds. I have Ultra-Tight on QQ or AA, maybe AKs, but he probably folds even the latter 90% of the time in that spot.

The flop is Ad Kc Qd. I check with the intention of raising, since I know he probably flopped a set. He bets $20, I raise to $100, and he goes all in and I call immediately, expecting to either see a set of queens or of aces. It's aces.

I should never, ever consider just betting out and being done with the hand if he stays in the pot, right? I should try to get the money in, right?

Man, playing poker this many hours yields set-over-set too often. :)

shipitfish: (cincinnati-kid-betting)

I've been playing reasonably well lately, and been able to make pretty big laydowns. Here's a case where I failed to lay down the third nut full house when there was a reasonable chance my opponent held the nut full. However, I don't think that I made a mistake, but would like some input.

This hand is from a 10-handed tight online game, with $.25/$.50 blinds and no maximum buy in. This game was tight and passive, most flops were heads up if raised, but there was a good amount of limping. I started the hand with $213 and have the table covered. spcome, my heads-up opponent on the flop, had $59.90 behind.

UTG+2, I raised with 8h 8c. RoyRFlush called me, and spcome from the small blind made it $5.75 to go.

I've been raising lots with any pair, any suited connectors and two-gappers, and pretty much any hand I play, and I play tons against opponents this tight-weak. However, it's not common for someone to reraise from the blinds, so I actually gave him a tight range: JJ, QQ, KK, AA, AQ or AK. There is really no way he has something else.

I called for set value, since it's only 10% of his stack and most players on this site will stack off with any overpair. I flopped gin with 8 s 5d 5s. spcome bet out $9. I basically have him on an overpair or an AK continuation bet. I call with celerity, trying to represent a flush draw, and hoping it doesn't come if he has an overpair. The turn fell Kc.

spcome thought for a moment and bet out $7.50. This bet is basically narrows to three possible things: As Ks, KK, or a scared QQ, the last being unlikely.

I figure I should call to try to trap the As Ks.

The Ts brings any possible flush draw home on the river, and spcome led all-in for $37.65 into $45.25. I called immediately, figuring he's made a flush or he has kings full. My “muck or show” window popped up; he had Kh Ks.

I'm curious if others think this was just plain bad luck. I think the only other decisions I could have made were: (a) raise the flop against the obvious two-outer, (b) fold the river. It seems to me the spade falling on the river forces my auto-call because As Ks becomes as likely a holding at that moment as KK, given the action. I also don't mind my play on the turn, because I'm enticing him to keep coming at me if he does have AK. As for the flop, again, I think just calling is better in case it's just AK or AQ.

[ Update: for those who don't read comments, I'm convinced by [livejournal.com profile] swolfe's arguments that I should fold the hand on the river if I chose not to move in on the turn. ]

shipitfish: (poker-strategy-books)

Over on [livejournal.com profile] bobby_the_worm's journal, I'm involved in a thoughtful and good discussion about playing a large limit O/8 pot with a likely drawing-dead high draw and a counterfeitable nut low draw. The discussion will bore to sleep all you HE-only players, but if you have an interest on what we Omaha-holics get so excited about that “four card game”, take a look.

High/low split games introduce some of the most complicated poker decisions you can find, because the naked aggression that can run over an HE game with ease just doesn't work here, and you have to really think through what is going on to make the right decisions. If you are a card-playing connoisseur and haven't tried learning some O/8, you really should. (Did I ever mention that contract bridge players tend to love O/8 the most? Someday, I've got to find a bunch of people who want to learn contract bridge and play it for money. That game must be enjoyable. :)

shipitfish: (Default)

Below is my exchange with Bob Ciaffone about the Ad Qd monster draw hand from a few weeks back. Most of the commentors suggested I should have played differently. Bob's first comment was:

I often fold A-Q offsuit to a single raise, but seldom fold A-Q suited, especially having position. I call if I do not know the player, or if he is not a rock.

On the flop, when he bets, I like your raise. He could have zero (but the best hand with AK). I do not let an opponent with such a hand charge me to draw when I have a hand that I am willing to back with all my money. Plus I do not know what an overcard will do for me, or which one to hit.

You ran into a good hand, yet were still about even money to win. Just have a little more karma next time...

I replied:

As for folding preflop, you mention you would fold AQs if he was a rock. His starting hand selections may have been close to “rockish” (he would have only AJ-AK or a middle pair or better), but he would make some big mistakes on the flop with one pair. Does that justify?

I think you are saying you approve backing the hand with my whole stack, but even if I am pretty sure I have no fold equity against an overpair (as I was in this case)?

I am confused by your distinction between someone “charging to draw”, and “backing the hand with all the money”. Would this summarize your position: “His hand might just be a little better or worse than mine given my monster draw, and I don't want to see a turn with money left.”?

Some of my friends who are pretty good players argued that I should take a turn cheaply and see if I hit. I disagreed, because I think I'm a favorite enough of a time that I want to get it all in, since I know he'll put it in with any overpair.

Are there times when I want to play that hand a little bit more conservatively? I didn't think there were, but some argued I should so I wanted to ask you — would you ever play more conservatively there given the situation and my read that he'd overplay any overpair?

Bob responded to that with:

A-J is not “rockish” so you can call with A-Q suited. I do approve of your backing your hand with your whole stack. The problem with calling is you may have to face a big bet with only one card to come, where you are not so eager to play. Plus he will pull up if the flush comes. Plus you do not know if an ace wins or if a queen wins (you know one of them is a winner, if not against aces, but which one?).

The clearest way to state my position is he may make money off me on a hand that cannot call a raise if I do not put down some heat.

I do not play this type of hand conservatively when heads-up against a preflop raiser.

So, I appreciate all of your opinions and thoughts. I've decided to declare that I played this hand correctly. I don't think that I love this situation anymore — I know that I love this situation.

shipitfish: (clueless-donkey by phantompanther)

When I originally posted about last weekend's losses, I mentioned there were a number of hands where I clearly played badly (unlike this hand, where there is actual useful discussion to consider). This post is about a hand that I just played horribly from the flop and thereafter.

The hand started at 13:57 EST on Sunday 2006-03-12 on Ultimate Bet at a six-handed $1/$2 NL table with a $200 maximum buy-in. A player named stealerste with $100 called $2 UTG. I had $166 and received Kd Qc. I decided to make a small raise. Small raises on Ultimate Bet, because the players are often so tight-weak, generally clear the field pretty easily. My goal was to end up heads-up with stealerste. If he didn't limp-reraise, I thought, I probably would go to the flop with the better hand.

A player called fuerte with $364 in the big blind called the $3 cold, and stealerste called. We saw the flop three handed, with $16 in the pot, and I was in position. I didn't really have a good idea of what fuerte had, but felt I had stealerste beat.

The flop came 3c Kc Ad . They checked to me, and I made a feeler bet of almost the pot size ($12). This is a pretty standard and profitable play that I make as the preflop raiser with position when checked to on a board with serious draw possibilities — tight-weak players almost always bet out with top pair on boards with draw possibilities.

fuerte check-raised for the minimum. I didn't like this situation, and figured he had a reasonable ace. There is almost no point to call here. At the time, I felt that I could call and represent a flush if the draw came, but that was a stupid move against a weak player. I called, making the pot $64.

The draw got there on the turn with the 4c. fuerte made a defensive bet of $15, and I made it $40 to go, hoping to represent a flush. fuerte called rather quickly.

Now, what was the point here of making this raise? At the time, I thought it was a reasonable bluff (and maybe a semi-bluff, since I now had a second-nut flush draw of my own). But, making these sort of turn bluffs against weak players is totally pointless. I was not thinking straight, believing I could run over the table post flop in the way that I do preflop in these games. Yet, the whole reason I play these games is that the players are too tight-weak preflop and can rarely fold top pair on the flop when it hits. Representing that I hit a draw is pointless; I need the actual flush to get paid well, and bluffing is just a waste. At the time, I thought I could make some quick money bluffing, but that was just a mistake of trying to recover legitimate losses earlier that weekend too quickly. It was the very definition of tilt. No matter what lies we tell ourselves, we are all prone to it sometimes.

fuerte quickly called, and I then put him on specifically the Ac. The way he called instantly really indicated that he was drawing to beat the flush I was representing. Even weak players think twice before calling so quickly with just top pair if they aren't also drawing to beat the likely made hand.

The river came 9h and fuerte bet $40 into the $144 pot. I knew this was some sort of defensive bet with the Ac, but I had no clue what his kicker was. Looking back, I should have cut my losses right here and let his defensive bet win. But, it was too enticing — knowing that he almost surely didn't hold a made flush — that I pushed for $97 total.

What a terrible play on my part! I'm offering about 1-to-1.75 when he has already shown that he's somewhat skeptical that I made a flush. I thought at that moment that he'd play like I would — another common terrible mistake. In the moment, I believed I was making some “amazing” read on his defensive bet that he would fold.

The truth is, I couldn't eliminate a made flush on his part here, anyway. This could be a bet specifically designed to entice me to do what I'd just done — push and try to bluff him off the naked Ac when he actually held the nuts. Indeed, the way the hand played out, the street-by-street action could easily indicate something like Ac 10c! Instead, I put him on the one hand that I had a chance of bluffing and threw my chips away.

fuerte called with Ac 4d. Of course, he should have thrown away two pair there and certainly shouldn't have check-raised the flop (I deeply wish he'd bet out, of course, because I would have folded), but my play is substantially worse than his.

I have to remember I'm in these games because people do terrible stuff like this and I have a real opportunity to make big scores (and do, regularly, when playing my best game), when I don't get tilt-induced fancy play syndrome and make very stupid plays.

Those of you who think you are immune to this, no matter what stakes you play at, don't continue to fool yourselves. Despite adequate bankroll, overconfidence and that desire to end the weekend “up”, mixed with some reasonable but useless reads can get the best of the best of us.

shipitfish: (Default)

I had to stop thinking about poker for a bit after losing that grand, and I will be posting more about total donkey plays I made last weekend. But, I want to be clear about the hand that is the subject of this post: I am pretty sure that I love this situation. I made a brief off-handed reference to it in my earlier post. The thrust of the argument against my play below is that the preflop decision leaves me an underdog (i.e., playing AQs against a likely big pair or AK), and therefore it's not worth taking a flop. Furthermore, one could argue that the flop is at best a coin flip, so why introduce so much variance for this? Before I get deep into the analysis, let me first retell the whole situation, which should be stated and considered first before extensive analysis can be at all useful.

The hand begins on 21:09 on last Saturday when readysteady, a tight-aggressive, overpair-overplayer player on Full Tilt raised UTG to $9 in a six-handed NL HE game with $1/$2 blinds. I was right next to him and decided to call with Ad Qd. I could have easily been dominated by AA, QQ, or AK, but felt that it would be reasonably easy to get away for a small raise on the flop if it came A or Q high. Meanwhile, having seen him play aces once before at this table, I felt he'd raised less preflop with AA from early position (probably only $6), trying to induce action. He'd won with those aces earlier, so it was unlikely he hadn't gained a temporary “must over-protect aces” philosophy. He had raise to $6 before from early position with hands like AJ, so I suspected here that he held a vulnerable big pair that didn't want to see a flop out-of-position — probably TT or JJ. But, maybe he did hold QQ or KK; I couldn't rule it out. AK was another possibility, of course.

There was still some chance he had AA, but I figured (at the time) that most of the time, he held a hand like AK or TT-KK as opposed AA. In fact, the real numbers were much better. He's a tight player who almost always holds one of those hands when he makes that raise. With an Ace in my hand, there are only three ways he can make AA, while he has 33 ways to make one of those other hands, so he's about 1-to-11 underdog, statistically, to hold AA after his $9 raise. Why am I so focused on AA in this post-hand analysis? I'll get to that shortly.

To continue with the hand itself: I decided to call his $9, and that I'd get away on the flop if I made merely one pair. I had $259 and he had me covered. He had overplayed one pair a number of times at this table; he fit the typical profile of someone who plays NL HE by being very tight preflop and getting all the money in on nearly any flop where he holds an overpair or top pair, strong kicker. I'd of course rather have a set-building hand against him, but a nut-flush-building hand wasn't too bad, and I'd have position for the rest of the hand, as I expected the rest of the four people to fold unless they had monster.

With $21 in the pot, we see the aforementioned 5c 2d 3d. (My original quick note about the hand had the suit of the 5 wrong, but it isn't relevant since it wasn't a diamond. :) readysteady bet out $15.

I now had him read for an overpair, or maybe a feeler bet with AK (pretty unlikely). Folding on this flop seemed like a bad move; I have too many outs against so many of his possible holdings. I could call and see if the turn hit me, or raise right away. It was highly likely that he would reraise, and I decided that, before I raised, I had to know what I'd do when he reraised. If he reraised, I had to be committed to playing for all my chips. I had limited time to make this decision, but I was sure in about 20 seconds of my one minute to act that I had to be committed.

My biggest consideration was how I'd get paid off if my outs came. I thought he might put one more pot-sized bet in if I hit the flush or the straight, but he might slow down if an overcard came. If my overcards are actually live outs, then I might make another half-pot bet from him on the turn, and when I called it or raised, he'd be done with the hand because he knows that I am not going any further without a pair that beats his (i.e., his “get all money in with overpair” rule no longer applies). Meanwhile, if one of my overcards isn't good (specifically, if he holds KK), I'm a favorite (see numbers below), but it's still tough to play a Q on the turn. I was therefore ready to commit my stack.

I raised to $40, readysteady paused for about a quarter of the allotted time (15 seconds) and reraised to $100. That pause made me even a bit more sure that he didn't have AA. I felt he'd be faster to commit chips with AA, because he doesn't have to pause to consider that I might have an overpair to his. The pause, of course, could have merely been his consideration of a set, but this was a player I'd seen commit quickly to aces once at this table. I felt he would do so again. I moved in, putting my whole remaining $250, and he thought again (this time only about 2-3 seconds) and called. He showed Kd Ks and the board completed to 5c 2d 3d Jh Kh. His set won $521.

Now, in the moment, I didn't have time for heavy math analysis. But even after the hand, I think that the questions are really these: (a) should I fold AQs preflop to an early position raiser, and (b) should I just see if my draw hits on the turn rather than getting all my money in?

As to the first question, I don't think it is reasonable to fold the hand, even against a tight online player. The typical profile of tight players in the six-handed games on Full Tilt — a profile which this fellow fit and had confirmed by his actions — is that they overplay overpairs and/or strong top pair for all their chips. My 9-to-253 implied odds are just too huge to pass up in a six handed game. The other players behind me are highly likely to fold. I'm going to see a flop heads up with position.

Of course, I may be dominated. I need a lot of help on the flop (which I got, IMO) to put any more chips in the pot. But when I do get that help, I'm going to get his whole stack. I am focused on taking stacks in NL HE; not making sure I make the absolute direct odds pre-flop EV play. This is why I decided that for me in this hand “hitting the flop” did not include merely top pair. I definitely needed two pair or better.

Two pair would be tough to play, but this fellow was likely to slow-play a set, so it'd go check-bet-call or check-bet-raise on an AQx flop should he hold a set. Either way, I would have slowed down and eventually folded two pair in that sort of situation. I might lose a bit more on the turn, but I'm only going to bet a quarter of the pot on the turn when he checks again, worrying specifically about the check-raise by that set of aces of queens. Once he check raises, I'm done — I've folded two pair many times in such a spot. So, while there are some negative implied odds for two pair against a set, I also get paid off pretty well from AK, with which he bets out rather than check-raising in that spot. (I should note that despite lots of advice out there about betting out with a set, few players do it; I didn't think readysteady was likely to.)

If I flop Broadway, I'm getting all my money in on the flop while winning. In that spot, he puts it all in with AK most of the time, and a set all the time. If I flop a flush, I almost always win but I admittedly don't make too much from him, unless he flops a set.

If I flop what I flopped, overcards, a flush draw, and a gutshot, I have to tread lightly if the flop is ten high or bigger, but in this case, with all babies, I'm in great shape.

Yes, he can wake up with AA in that spot, and I get my money in as a 36% underdog. But, going back to the hands he likely to have, given his preflop action and flop lead, he's a 1-to-11 underdog (about 8%) to have specifically AA. So, 8% of the time, I'm a 36% underdog. Another 8% of the time (when he has QQ), I'm a 44% dog. Meanwhile when he has KK (18% of the time), I'm a 51% favorite. Against the rest of the likely pairs (TT, JJ), which he holds 36% of the time, I'm about 58% favorite. I'm of course crushing AK (the extra 30%), but if his flop lead was actually a feeler bet with AK, he folds any AK when I raise.)

Anyway, I'll even set aside my read that he didn't hold AA. I'll just do the pure EV calculation that his lead bet gives us no new information (i.e., it may be an AK feeler), and that he gets all the money in with any pair (i.e., we assume no fold equity). I do the calculation by assuming I win right there when he holds AK, and that I have to face the odds with all my chips when he has any other holdings.

With these assumptions, my flop EV (when I raise on the flop, expecting him to reraise and we get it all in) is as follows:

HandProbability of HoldingEV formulaEV component
AA 8% 36% × $271 + 64% × $-250$-5
KK 18% 51% × $271 + 49% × $-250$3
QQ 8% 44% × $271 + 56% × $-250$-2
TT, JJ 36% 58% × 271 + 42% × $-250$19
AK holdings 30% $36$11
TOTAL: 100%$26
(The EV “component” field is the “percent he has it” column multiplied by the “EV formula” for that situation.)

Now, I agree that introducing $250 of variance for $26 of EV is nowhere near the best spot I can get find in these tight-weak games online. But, it's still a good spot that I'd take every day for $250! I believe in keeping a large bankroll (larger than most proposed recommendations), in part so you can take these tight marginal edges.

There are also meta-game considerations here to think about. I have chosen to play short handed NL HE tables precisely because the players there tend to be tight-weak preflop and play one pair too loosely after the flop. I play best in NL HE against tight-weak players who overplay one pair.

When playing against these players, I want to sometimes take these tight-edge gambles. I want them to know they are going to get action when they overplay one pair. More importantly, I want them to know that sometimes they won't be a huge underdog against me when I give them such action. (Indeed, I engaged readysteady in chat window discussion about the odds precisely to make sure he realized that I'd pushed an extremely tight edge.)

You see, I want readysteady (even his username exudes tight-weak play, did you notice that?) to overplay that KK every time. I want him to continue to believe that folding an overpair is impossible. I want everyone at the table to feel the same way. I want readysteady to call up his poker buddies, and tell him about the huge fish who pushed in with AQs with “only” 15 outs. I want them all to react this way, because, if I didn't have straight draw outs as well, I wouldn't have played the hand the way I did. I would have called with 2-to-1 direct odds on the flop, seen if I made the flush on the turn, and folded for a pot-sized bet if I didn't. It would have been a little mundane pot that wouldn't even have made it to my blog. But, I had at least three extra outs, and went for it. Sure, the math shows I'm risking $259 to chase $26 in EV. But, most of the time when I get the money in with him, I have a set of fives, not the nut flush draw with one (maybe two) overcards and a gutshot.

Some might argue this is a reckless way to play NL HE when I could sit and wait for more of lock. I'm going to ask my coach to read this one, but I'll probably need a lot convincing from him that I made the wrong move. I watch these tight-weak players bleed away money playing ultra tight and making themselves like textbooks. I want them to fear me at the table; to worry that they can't fold because maybe I have some big draw, not a set. I don't move in every time with AQs in that spot with every player. It felt right in this situation, with that board, against that player.

We can argue about “risk vs. volatility”. We can disagree that introducing $259 of variance into one's bankroll for $26 of EV is too much variance. (Although please consider that the limit HE player frequently puts 30 BBs at risk to win at most 2 BBs for a given evening — and that this situation is much better.) But, I think that's the most important point of this hand: varying a little bit from playing “by the book” (i.e., calling with AQs after a preflop raise, moving in with a big draw that may be at best a coin flip) builds a complicated table image that keeps your opponents guessing and forces them to respond to you.

We'll see what Bob says when I ask him to read this — if I'm full of crap, I'm happy to eat my words if he tells me to. :)

Update:Bob finally answered me on it.

shipitfish: (u-club-stack-2006-03)

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Work Dan and I were playing at the U Club when a fellow dumped a nearly $500 stack to me. He rebought for around $200, and played for a while when the following hand came up between him and Work Dan.

Work Dan (W.D.) called behind this guy, let's call him Stack Dumper (S.D.) (in honor of his earlier dump to me), in late position when S.D. had raised to $10. They saw the flop five handed with $50 and with Dan in position (some earlier limpers called the raise when it came back around to them). S.D. had about $250 behind and W.D. had about $350.

The flop was Ks Qc 9h. S.D. bet $5. He'd never bet so little into a big pot like this. Dan made it $30 to go, the rest of the field folded, and S.D. min-reraised making it $60 to go. W.D. thought for a while and called. There was $170 in the pot and the saw the turn 2d, which left the board without a flush draw.

S.D. thought for a moment and bet $55. Dan thought for nearly a minute and called. At this moment, I was beginning to feel that S.D. had JT. His play was extremely strange and didn't match up with his past behavior. I had no visual read on him that told me anything, but the betting sequence, especially given that it was so different from his past actions, seemed to shout JT.

On the river, which fell Ad, S.D. quickly grabbed the $5 chip covering his cards, put it on his remaining stack and pushed for $127 total into a $280 pot. W.D. thought for a long time. He looked at S.D. and said you have Broadway, don't you? You flopped the nuts, didn't you?. S.D. tried his best to look away, and finally met W.D.'s eyes and grinned and pushed his eyebrows up a few times. This, too, was out of character; he was a very serious player who didn't make faces like this and goof off like that. The only visual tell I noticed was that S.D. seemed pretty calm — which I usually read as a bluffer's tell — but I had no visual read when he bet the nuts to compare it to. I continued to think JT and was rooting for W.D. to fold what I thought was KQ.

W.D. thought and thought and finally called, very reluctantly. I just kept saying in my head that S.D. had the nuts. At the moment of the call, I figured W.D. must have had a set; I figured he'd fold KQ. S.D. showed the Qh 7h for a middle pair bluff, and W.D. won with 9s 9d for bottom set (on the flop).

W.D. and I debated for a long time about how he should have played it. I felt that he needed to decided on the flop or the turn if the guy had JT. If he felt there was a good chance a set was good, he had to move in on the flop or the turn. S.D. would overplay one pair for sure, but he might give up if a third straight card fell, or if the board paired, and he only held a good K. Also, if S.D. has AK, W.D. needed to charge S.D. to draw to a T.

But, after much debate, I realized I wasn't sure how to play it. I wondered some if W.D. could make it $120 to go on the flop and fold to a fourth raise, but that didn't make sense either; the hand seems too strong to fold even on a problematic board. Still, I don't think he's in a good spot when the turn blanks at him and he has to face a bet. Sure, he has position, but he's still trying to decide if the guy has the nuts or not. In the end, I don't know W.D.'s right move here.

shipitfish: (poker-strategy-books)

A while back I posted about abusive use of the semibluff. As I mentioned, using it too often simply makes your opponents realize that when you raise on a draw-centric board, you usually have the draw and not a strong made hand.

The semibluff is however a powerful poker weapon when used with restraint. One place where it can be very useful is live game situations where players have many tells and varied stack sizes and you have a tight table image.

What follows is an example from a hand I played last summer at the old R Club here in NYC. It was interesting situation, since, as was often the case at the R Club, there were people who had very different stack sizes. The players in question for this particular hand were Mike and Pappy.

By this point in the summer, I had logged about 40 hours of play with Mike and had a very good read on his game. He was absolutely incapable of folding any flush draw, and any top pair with an overcard kicker. He usually put in good sized raises with top pair on the flop (i.e., he knew it needed to be protected), but often raised a bit too much, and couldn't fold to a reraise. (By way of example, I once got an entire $400 stack from him on the flop, in a limped pot with the flop T43, where he held QT and I had 44. He just kept reraising!) With draws, Mike played a classic loose-passive style willing to call huge bets to see the next card and try to get there. The one type of draw, however, that he really loved and played aggressively was “a pair and a flush draw”, with which he'd often back with his whole stack on the flop.

I knew Pappy less; I'd only logged about 5 hours of play with him. However, I'd listened carefully to chit-chat about him, and that chat was extensive. Pappy was primarily a tight-aggressive player, although he occasionally was known to put a lot of pressure (i.e., hyperaggressive) preflop and on the flop. He wouldn't commit his whole stack with one pair, and he was even capable of folding two pair when deep enough. He assumed other people played as he did, and he always played his sets cagey. If you made a cagey play, he'd put you on a set and throw away two pair. The joke about him was that he often raised with two random cards, flopped two pair, and then would lay it down to a raise on the turn.

Now, to make a successful semibluff, I needed all this information as the hand progressed. The hand started with Pappy raising from early position to $10, a standard preflop raise in this $1/$2 NL HE game. Usually, a $10 raise here yielded four callers. I was the first to call from middle position with Ac 8c, and Mike called behind me on the button. The blinds folded and we saw the flop three-handed with $33 in the pot. Mike had about $180 behind; I and Pappy each had around $300.

The flop came Tc 3c 7h. Pappy bet out strongly for $25. I knew he wouldn't bet here without a pair, but he didn't seem to have an overpair. I figured he probably had AT, but, as he sometimes raised with random cards, he might have T7. I felt my best bet, with Mike still to act behind me, was to call. I didn't have direct odds to draw, but I felt that I should stay and had some minimal implied odds. (Pappy would still bet once more if the flush card came, for example, and Mike would pay off with a variety of hands should he see the turn.) I felt that I might be able to make a move on the turn if I ended up heads-up with Pappy. However, semibluffing on the flop was a bad idea, because Pappy might reraise with two pair here and I'd have to put in the third raise as a semibluff to get him off it. (Usually, Pappy made his “big laydowns” on the turn.)

Mike called instantly behind me, and I was approaching certainty that he had a mere flush draw, obviously weaker than mine. He didn't usually play straight draws on two-tone boards, and since he didn't raise, I didn't think he had a pair at all. His call swelled the pot to $108.

The turn came 2d. I felt this was a good card for me. It didn't change much about the hand, and when Pappy bet out $50, I felt that he was getting concerned with two callers. Pappy assumed that others played like he did, and with two callers, he probably was worried that only one had the flush draw while the other might be beating him. I saw the $50 as a defensive bet. I knew Pappy could lay down two pair sometimes, and would certainly lay down just one pair, even if I had under-read him and he'd started with KK or something like that.

I decided to “put myself” on a set of threes for Pappy's sake. I figured that he wouldn't be suspicious of the “just call” on the flop, because that's how he'd play a set of threes. Pappy would think, that since Mike acted after me, that on the flop I thought that Mike would fold. And, since I knew Pappy didn't have a draw, calling with my “set” would be — in Pappy's view — a safe play. The pot was $158, and I had just enough for about a pot-sized raise. Since I knew that Mike had a flush draw and no pair on the flop, I figured it was unlikely Mike had me beat at the moment. If I raised here, Mike would certainly commit the rest of his $145 stack on a flush draw; he always called with flush draws if he had less than $200 in front of him.

So, I saw this great opportunity. Pappy would get terrified, even with two pair, that someone who had a stack as big as his had bet all-in, and that someone else called. He wouldn't commit his whole stack on an all-in overcall with two pair or less. I moved all-in with my best “set face”. Mike instantly called. Pappy sighed loudly, shook his head, and tossed his hand to the muck.

His eyes got huge when I turned over my hand. I looked at Mike and said: I'm drawing better than you, I think. He tabled Jc 6c. He had more outs than he might expect — thanks to Pappy's fold the three jacks and three sixes were good. Sadly, the river came 6s. I was sad to see the money shipped the wrong way, but I was very happy with the play! I had gotten the best hand to fold, and gotten a call by a hand with only six outs with one card to come!

Someone whose attention had waned momentarily right after I'd gone all in looked down as the chips shipped to Mike and said: a pair of sixes won that huge hand!?! and Pappy looked ready to fall out of his chair. I had protected the pot for Mike, of course, but it was well worth it to semibluff, get called by the player I was beating, and have the best of it with one card to come!

Plus, if I had to pick between Pappy and Mike getting the chips, I'd pick Mike since he was such a weaker player. If I'm going to protect a pot for someone, I want it to be for the weakest player at the table, and Mike was surely in the running for that at the old R Club.

shipitfish: (clueless-donkey by phantompanther)

My illness broke my posting routine, and I apologize to my readers who had gotten used to very regular posts. I'll strive to get regular posting going again.

I was sick from last Wednesday, missed two days of work at the end of last week, and didn't start feeling better until Saturday morning. But, by Saturday evening, I was ready to play poker again.

Dan and I went to the H Club in NYC. Dan is a relatively new player who came to me about one year ago asking for advice to learn NL HE. His game has improved a lot over the past year, and he is now a reasonable tight-aggressive player. However, I know quite a bit about his game, which was a factor in the hand I'm about to describe.

I bought in for the $500 maximum in the $1/$2 NL HE game. I saw a ton of flops with reasonable multiway hands — I was dealt about a dozen pocket pairs which I took to multiway flops and failed to flop any sets. I took a number of flops with suited connecting cards and other surprise hands, but failed to connect there as well. I rebought for another hundred and but was still struggling to keep my stack at $400.

Dan, meanwhile, was playing very well. He was raising frequently preflop, and was making good choices about raise sizes. It took a $20 (!) preflop raise to get just one caller. Dan was carefully doing that with his big unconnected cards and big pairs. He was using position very well to win pots uncontested, and was properly value-betting his holdings to protect strong but vulnerable holdings. I felt he was really playing well.

It was in this context that the following hand came up. From middle position, Dan raised to $20 after one limper ahead of him. From watching his play and knowing his game, I knew that he had two big unconnected cards (AK, AQ or maybe AJ or KQ), or he had a big pair (JJ or better, maybe TT). I was on the button and it was folded between us.

At this point, I simply decided to call regardless of my holding. The limper looked annoyed enough at the raise, and even if I generated 1-to-2 for him, he'd fold. The blinds were distracted and probably folding. I'd be able to take a flop heads up with position, and really felt I might be able to outplay Dan on the right flop. I was correct about the first part, at least — we saw the flop heads-up with $45 in the pot. (BTW, even though it doesn't matter at all for the telling of the hand, I held Kd 6d. I had no hand/no draw and on ever street Dan was winning by far.)

The flop was As 8s 3s. Dan relatively quickly bet $40. I considered my options of what hand I could represent. I felt very strongly that Dan had an Ace by his mannerism of betting and by the amount. I felt if he was to bet the flop with something else, he'd bet less with non-Ace hands (say, Ks Kh). The question was whether or not he had a big spade to go with the his "red ace". I couldn't know for sure if he was drawing well, so I felt I had to represent a made flush.

The question was: how would Dan think I would play such a hand? Well, I figured it was good I was taking some time to act. I figured if I called automatically, Dan would be inclined to think "draw", not only because quick calls often indicate draws, but also because he knows I've told him that. In other words, he might easily think I'd try to "throw him off" by doing the obvious "weak play" with a draw. I waited a few more seconds, and decided that an immediate raise would be the exact play to look like a pure bluff to him, so I called. The pot was $125 into the turn.

The turn was a blank, a 4h or something like that. Dan thought only briefly and bet $40 again. I read this clearly as Dan backing off. If he really had read me for a spade draw, he'd have bet the pot size again. I really felt strongly at this point that he had AQ or AK and no spade. I decided now was the time to carry through and represent a relatively strong (but not the nut) flush. I raised just $60 more, hoping he would see it as a value raise from a flush against someone I thought had no flush draw. I really expected Dan to reluctantly fold.

He began saying to the dealer, strangely and out of character, just $60 more. $60 more; that's it?. He quickly called. At this moment, I had to reconsider my read. The $60 more? thing was obviously representing a big spade, and at this point I had to really consider it. AQo with Qs was a serious possibility. I pondered and watched Dan as the river fell. I knew if he checked the river, I'd have to bet at least $100 of my depleted chips and hoped he didn't call with his Ace.

Dan saw the river card, glanced back at his stack and said one hundred. I took a peak at the 7s and refocused on Dan as he pulled out a stack of chips. I began to put Dan on that Qs, as the dealer confirmed the count of his bet. After all, why would he bet one third of the pot on the river?

Then came "the glance". Dan's eyes met mine for much less than a second, but I read something there. He had no spade. There was almost no doubt in my mind. He had decided to represent that flush if the spade fell; that's what the out-of-character just $60 more? stuff meant. He was overselling the bluff.

However, I thought I saw something else. I got this distinct feeling that he had read me as well. I looked down at my stack; I had a mere $215 left, which meant a raise would be basically a min-raise. I felt that Dan was telling me something like: I don't think you have a single spade at all and I'm going to call you with this ace. I felt very confident he didn't have spade; not totally sure, but well over 70%. But, when I added to that the likelihood that he'd call anyway with an Ace because he suspected a bluff, I decided that I'd have to fold. For show, I said: Well, Dan, I have a small flush but I had you on the Ks. I can't call.

Later, Dan and I talked in detail about the hand. Dan had decided to represent the flush draw on the turn, but obviously had failed to execute perfectly because of the look on the river. He confirmed that what was really going on is he hadn't realized that $100 was such a large bet (relatively to my stack) on the river, but that he wouldn't have called a river raise. He actually had me on a weak flush draw, not a made flush, so the 7s was, in some sense, as scary for him as it was for me, but thought I could make a good laydown of, say, the naked Ts.

It's not often I try to set up a pure bluff and play someone else's hand. I usually try to do it against players whom I play a lot with and with who I have a long history of talking about poker strategy. I used to feel somewhat safe doing this, but I wonder if this was simply a mistake. Should I be trying to set up plays like this? Am I picking the wrong players; should I instead chose tight-weak players whose game I know well? I figure I eventually have to learn how to make these complicated plays, and who better to try than those whose game I know well and whom I know are working hard to play correctly?

Anyway, I have to say that I think Dan played the hand very well. He suspected that something might be going on. I think my biggest mistake was not raising just a bit more on the turn. Dan confirmed that he would have folded to a raise of even $80 more instead of $60 more. Also, I should have given more consideration to going all-in on the river. I would have bet $215 to win $425, which is almost 2-to-1. I only have to be right one out of three times to make that high variance play profitable.

shipitfish: (poker-strategy-books)

As I discussed in my first post about the PL mixed game at the club in Boston, I was already down a full buy-in ($300) to Josh. Although I wasn't as sure then as I am now (after discussing the PL stud hand with all of you), I did have a strong feeling that I had played well against Josh in the PL stud hand. I felt I was basically somewhat of a favorite to the game, or at least able to break even and get some experience with PL mixed games. I decided to buy-in again for another $300.

As it turned out, I would play only one more big hand that night, again against Josh. My description of it is quite long; the details are behind this link. )

Anyway, so much for my foray into PL mixed games. I'm down about $1,000 overall playing such situations (that is, between Ashley Adams' games in Boston and this one — I actually won about €150 in Paris at the Aviation Club). Of course, I'd be up lots if my Sklansky dollars were fungible. If I could get some more practice, somewhere, playing mixed game big-bet poker, I might be a force in such games! Hey, what's the deal all these overspecialized players in the USA, anyway?!?

shipitfish: (l-club-stack-2006-02)

On Friday, I played at a few clubs in NYC. Originally, I was supposed to attend a home game in Queens, but the host never returned my email or phone calls. I decided to go to the L Club, which was reopening after the busts, and head to the H Club afterwards.

I'll say more in a full review, but I am usually not a fan of the L Club. However, there are few clubs left around NYC, so I will have to put up with it.

I spent about two hours at the L club. I was glad that the staff was was a bit better than usual. They had two $1/$2 NL HE games running, and a small tournament. I played $1/$2 at a table that drifted between tight-weak and loose-passive.

I made most of my profit for the night on one hand at the L club. A fellow holding what I clearly read to be a "reasonable pair" 88-JJ raised to only $6 preflop, and I called $4 from the BB with 46s, after the small blind also called. I like taking flops with this kind of hand, particularly against players who likely will overplay one pair, and even more so when the flop comes 462 rainbow. The SB, holding what I think was A6, bet out too much, around $30. I immediately made it $100 to go. I'd been running over the table 15-20 minutes before when they were playing tight-weak. I knew the pair-holder behind me was glad to finally have a "hand" against me. He immediately under-raised for his whole $101 stack with 99. While I did have to explain to the dealer that not all board pairs counterfeit flopped two pair (the river came a 4, and she start shipping to 9s and 4s), I won a substantial pot. My opponent walked out in disgust; they always do when you take their stack with 64s. When will they learn about implied odds, and how to give up on one pair when it is clearly beat? Hopefully never.

I eventually moved onto the H Club, which I hadn't been to since its recent relocation. After some minor difficult getting into the club, I found they had the same nice setup as before, although the smoking room — like it is in so many clubs now — is far too close to the table. I played another coupled of hours there and lost a mere $6.

I played two hands poorly, one at the L and the other at the H. At the L club, when our table was full and still a bit tight weak, I held AKo and made it $10 to go after a couple of people limped. I got one caller and saw the flop heads up with position with $28 in the pot and lots behind. We checked through a rainbow flop of JT8 and when the J turned, he quickly checked again. I bet out $30 after thinking for a moment. I felt that he would have bet a J or T on the turn (or perhaps the flop), and didn't think he had much of a hand. This player was pretty tight and was unlikely to call. I was surprised when he check-raised. I actually think he had a hand that he inappropriately slow-played. I think, for example, that he may have had JT, Q9, or AJ on the flop, and then checked again to induce a bet from me, an aggressive player.

However, it was really stupid to bet out there, because I'm not representing a hand that makes sense. I don't think he outplayed me, but he may have, and it was a good spot to do it. If I am going to bluff in that hand, it has to be on the flop for half the pot.

At the H Club, I won a pot with As Ah that I could have easily lost. I reraised a min-raise of $4 preflop to $12, and got two callers behind me, as well as the original raiser. Behind me, one player was a very loose, and usually passive (but capable of making plays when holding flush draws, which he loved). The other, on the button, was a young "grinder" type who thought he was better than he was. However, I didn't have the kid figured out completely yet. The min-raiser, to my immediate right, was a tight-aggressive player who knew a bit about the game. The two behind me had stacks of about $300 or so; I and the min-raiser had about $500.

I got worried about the KJ8 rainbow flop, and I bet a mere $35 into the $52 pot and was called by the two behind me, and the min-raiser folded. I realized immediately after that I probably should have bet more. I was making it a bit too cheap for their likely straight draws. OTOH, I was hoping to avoid getting to involved in a big pot. I doubt they would raise without at least two pair, so I wanted to muck the aces if they raised. Without a flush draw on board, I didn't expect a raise behind me from a draw.

The turn fell 2c, putting two clubs on the board. I decided I had the best but vulnerable hand I decided to take the pot with $100 bet into the $157 pot. It did as expected, but I still think somehow that I should have played stronger on the flop to avoid giving the straight draws an easy call.

At the H club, I meet two friendly players named Jeff and Ryan. Jeff seems to be a bit of insider on the NYC poker scene, and was able to tell me that the O Club has reopened, and that another club (the T Club) has also opened. I've got some visits and reviews to do.

I took some pictures of my stacks at the clubs.

shipitfish: (clueless-donkey by phantompanther)

While I was in Boston in January, I visited a downtown poker club. It's run by a fellow who used to work at The E. Club in NYC. As I understand it, he commutes down to Boston a few times a week and has some locals who help him run it.

I discovered that folks from the old River Street crowd, such as Ken come by there occasionally. I saw none of the old group on the two nights I played there, except for [livejournal.com profile] nick_marden who joined me the second night.

The club was small, with only three tables. As is typical on weekend nights at these sorts of clubs, the one running game was short-handed on this Saturday. I arrived and they were playing $2/$4 limit mixed games, which was great fun and I was happy to play.

The local fish, a fellow named Josh, arrived a while later and immediately bought two grand in chips, hoping a big game would get started. He sat down in our little limit game, which was comprised mostly of off-duty dealers and that night's floorman. Josh got "bored" and asked for the stakes to be changed.

We agreed, after some argument between a newbie dealer and the floorman that PL is too complicated for this n00b to deal. It was settled; we would play PL mixed games, including Stud, O/8, and HE, with $1/$2 blinds. I was excited to work on my mixed game PL play. It's frankly my preferred form of poker, but something that's tough to find in the USA and online on a regular basis.

We moved blinds and small pots around for about half an hour, when the following hand came up during a stud round. I'd be curious to hear from anyone who has some PL stud experience to tell me if I simply misplayed this hand. After much thought and input from [livejournal.com profile] nick_marden, I decided that I played it correctly, but I'd appreciate hearing arguments on the subject. Details of the hand are behind this link, if you are interested. )

Anyway, whether I played it right or not, I lost a quick $300+ in this hand. In a later post, I'll describe how I rebought and lost another $300 to Josh just few hands later in O/8.

shipitfish: (clueless-donkey by phantompanther)

As I mentioned in an earlier article, I went Wednesday night looking for a game at the O Club and found the place gone. I've sent out some emails looking for information, but some Internet searches indicated that there have probably been another round of busts.

I went to the E. Club, which isn't that far away (at least for a non-New-Yorker; most New Yorkers would probably be appalled at what I consider close, but the are both below of 14th street, anyway), instead. I'll post a review soon, but the E Club is quite small. I arrived to find an 8-handed NL HE tournament in progress and no cash game.

I convinced a cocky young player to begin playing heads up to build the game. If I didn't know better, I would have said he played on Ultimate Bet, because his "tight weak, overplay one pair" style was classic of what's found there. I won $50 from him quickly by bluffing and value betting middle pair correctly, and a third player, who had returned from a "tilt walk" after busting from the tournament, joined us to make a three handed game.

This third player was a fellow I knew well. At the old R Club (before it closed and reopened elsewhere), I had played with him a few times. He's a kind and friendly hasidic Jewish fellow. He understands the very basics of the game reasonably well, but like Big John at River Street, he calls down with draws and no odds too often, and cannot give up top pair easily. The advantage, however, is that reading him is very straightforward. If only I had remembered this and paid attention, I'd be $500 richer.

The game went well three-handed and as more players busted and one cash game player showed up, our game doubled in size. Because of my preference for short-handed games online, I have gotten very comfortable with such games. And, this one moved from that tight-weak style to very loose quite quickly. A few real gamblers joined the game and there were some chips moving from some crazy preflop all-ins (I'll have more about this in a future post).

But, having only brought $500 with me (the maximum buy-in in this $1/$2 NL game), my night would end early. My hand of doom had me beating myself up for 24 hours; there was no reason I needed to lose a dime on the hand, and on nearly ever street, I had an opportunity to make a better play that would have saved me money. I give a full play-by-play of my stupidity. )

There are some lessons to be learned from my horrible mistake. The most frustrating thing is that I already knew some of these rules and ignored them temporarily:

  • When you get a "little too much" action with flopped open trips from a passive player, you are almost always beat. Give it up quickly and easily, only thing hard about whether it is good if you have the nut kicker. (I made this "golden rule" up a long time ago, and used to follow it well, but not so well this week.)
  • Classic loose-passive players basically don't bluff, and they often don't value-bet enough. If there is only two choices, namely "they are either crushing you or drawing thin to beat you", you can check streets out of position and not fear being blown out of the pot when you are winning. (Indeed, a check-and-call strategy in this spot, I probably would have paid merely the $25 on the turn and another $75 at most on the river, instead of my whole $500 stack. Plus, I might have been more inclinded to read his strength better if I wasn't focused on value-betting myself.)
  • Tells from weak players aren't nuanced. I convinced myself that the strength was a hand similar but just weaker than mine, rather than a monster. He was shedding more tells on this hand than he had all night. He had a monster, and it's obvious when I review it.
  • Even weak players know when they are a little bit vulnerable. When weak, loose-passive players make a pot-sized raise on the river, it's not a bluff. You have to be really strong.

shipitfish: (Default)

I watched Episode 3 of High Stakes Poker on GSN last night (I note that I am behind on these, so perhaps you all saw it already; it repeats enough that I can pick my night for viewing). As I wrote about before, this show continues to live up to its promise: "real poker", in a cash game format, on television. It's funny, actually, how the announcers have to explain how cash games work (e.g., players being able to leave any time they like). They must assume an audience familiar only with tournament poker!

On the topic of announcers, I want to take a moment to note about Gabe Kaplan. I firmly believe that he is the best poker announcer that I've ever seen on television. It's clear that before (or after?) he played Mr. Kotter, he gained some broadcasting experience. I've seen him do some older WSoP broadcasts (late 1990s), and the National Heads-Up Championship on NBC, and his skill as an announcer is far above the rest. The main reason is that he doesn't usually over-dramatize the situations (ala Mike Sexton), and he explains in reasonable details why players might make decisions that they do. It's actually considered and well-thought-out commentary on what is happening, rather than empty verbiage designed primarily to induce a false sense of excitement.

I should note, however, that even he was unable to explain on of the strangest hands I've seen yet on the show. Perhaps one of you can help me understand the thinking behind it. Since it is, without a doubt, a full spoiler for one of the hands aired in the third episode, you'll have to click through if you want to see the discussion about it. )

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