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 K 6. I had no hand/no draw and on ever street Dan was winning by far.)
The flop was A 8 3. 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, K K). 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 4 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,
$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 Q 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
Dan saw the river card, glanced back at his stack and said
hundred. I took a peak at the 7 and refocused on Dan as he pulled out a stack of chips. I
began to put Dan on that Q, 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 K. 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 7 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 T.
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.