Friday, May 6, 2016

How to not play Aces

I can't really complain about the session I had last night.  I had a lot of suckouts against me, but also got good value for the hands I was dealt and generally played well up until the very last hand of the night.

In my ~8 hour session, I got my AA cracked by KTss when I opened to $16 from the SB against a single limper.  Flop comes K 4 2 - 2 spades.  I bet, he raises / I shove he calls off for $126 total and spikes a King on the turn.  A bit later, I'm dealt QQ, raise to $25 in the SB, get a loose player to limp / shove $65 from the CO and I snap him off.  I'm up against AT - Ace on the turn and I'm now 0 fer 2 with my premiums.

Finally, the last hand of the night.  I'll set the stage.  I'm in the UTG sitting on $625 and all I want to do is go home.  I'm tired at this point, and am done playing around.  I open to $25 from UTG.  UTG+1, a very tight, unimaginative, ABC player who overalues overpairs 3bets to $65.  He has me covered.  Folds around to same player from above that spiked the Ace - he shoves for less - ~$52.  Action to me.  I think for a good while - I distinctly put my opponent on KK and absolutely nothing else.  What to do?  The normal play is to raise to $160 or so...  I think this may have been the second best option, but I have to choose this option if I want to get full stacks in.  The good play here is to just call his raise and mask my hand strength - and check / raise or check / call a non-King (or non-Queen but I'm 99.99% sure it's KK here) flop.  The worst option is to open shove the $600.  Well, as you can probably guess, I open shoved.  I didn't want to deal with a flop / turn / river decision and I was tired.  I know... no excuse for the play, but still, this was my thinking coupled with being sick of the suckouts (which is an even poorer excuse since I know my opponent's cards and I should be folding to a K board).  Well, he thought for what seemed like 5 minutes before finally folding KK and I scooped against my suckout buddy's KTo who couldn't spike 2 of his 5 outs or so.  My honest thinking was that my opponent could never fold KK and would likely happily get KK in PF...  Oh well...  still a good session, though coulda shoulda woulda...

Friday, April 22, 2016

What's the definition of insanity? Oh yeah... right...

I once again had the pleasure of playing against my new favorite whale last night... the one featured in my prior post here.  Now I'm admittedly not much of a table selector, but tonight I became a bum hunter extraordinaire.  I'm not above turning down a free meal because the pickins' are too easy, so I requested a table change immediately upon sitting down.  When I saw a seat become available, I jumped on it only to find out that the floor had inadvertently sat someone new at my requested table.  I talked with the new player, tried to convince him to switch with me, and bought him a beer to swap.  He happily accepted and just like that, I had the Jesus seat on our whale.  Needless, last night did not disappoint - this guy has predictably not changed his game at all, hence the title of the post.  The purchase of a beer was money well spent because the whole table was very profitable.

I was going through the hand history that I mentally filed away last night, because there were quite a few interesting spots:
  • Hand 1: I call an EP raise to $8 with 77 in MP, as do around 2 players including the whale.  We see a flop of 7h 9d Qh.  Checks to me and I lead for $20.  Whale insta-raises to $55 and folds the table back around to me.  I hesitate for a bit before calling the raise.  Turn comes a blank and I check to the raiser.  He leads out a smooth $100 on the turn and I flat.  River is an 8 and I decide to check.  He checks through and flips over AA.  I feel a little sick that I should have stacked him for around $400+ but got 0 value on the river.  I was half-afraid of set over set given his aggression, but I was also thinking he'd bet the river - but I should have thought about it more and perceived that he would be afraid of JT.
  • Hand 2: I wind up calling [smallish] flop / turn / river bet from a fishy player with JT on a K 9  x T 9 board.  When I call his river bet he hesitates for a while, looks at me and asks "Do you think you're good here?"  When I say "I sure do hope so," he flips over QJ and scoops.  I think he was just a fish and didn't realize he held the straight, intending on just going for a gag bluff, but still - what an ass.
  • Hand 3: Our whale got involved in a hand where his opponent shoved the river on a Q 9 T x Q board.  Our whale (I'm guessing he was tilting majorly since he claimed to be in for $1900+ AT A 1/3 GAME!!!) shook his head and claimed "I can't believe I let you get there on me..." before waiting 30 seconds to call with the nuts - QT vs. his opponent's KJ straight.  Really?  He knows better than that...  WTF?
  • Hand 4: I raise to $15 with 88.  Our whale and one other see a flop of K 9 4.  We check to whale who bets $15.  Folds to me and I call, not believing.  Turn is a blank.  I check again and he bets $20.  Call.  River: 8.  I check again expecting a bet (theme of title of post), yet he fails to bet and I'm shown KT vs. my river suckout...  Again, 0 value on the river.
  • Hand 5: Tighter player raises to $10 (a very small bet) and I look down at KK.  I raise to $35.  Folds around to original raiser who puts out $100.  Uh oh!  I start thinking about AA and try to stifle those thoughts...  I'm like 1 and 1 for laying down KK correctly - last time I did it I was up against AQ and would have been way ahead.  That memory is still burning in my head so I just call the 4bet.  He shoves in the dark for $140 on a 3 3 6 or so board.  I even say, "This is a HUGE cooler," but somehow can't find the fold button - I call.  Board runs clean and I'm up against AA.  Bummer.  Do I get extra points for being very very close to folding pre flop or flop?
  • Hand 6: I raise $15 with KQo and get called in 2 spots.  Flop is Q 2 4.  I bet $25 and am called by a nittier retiree.  Retiree fiddles with his chips a bit - looking like he's deciding between raising, calling or folding.  The tell I had was deciding between calling / folding.  Turn is an 8.  I bet $35 and nit again fiddles with his chips before raising to $75.  Was my read wrong?  I wind up folding.  A few hours later,  I ask him about the hand and he stares at me without blinking - eyeballs fixed - and says he had 33, claiming he put me squarely on AK.  He was planning on shutting down if I called the raise.  Not quite sure what the fixed eyeball thing was all about, but had the distinct feeling of being lied to while trying to appear truthful.  I felt much more like he had 22 or 44.  Maybe I tell that to myself to escape the bad laydown...
  • Hand 7: I look down at AQo on the BTN, facing a $15 raise from the best player at the table - TAG Asian dude who knows what's up.  One caller between us & I 3bet to $45.  Asian guy flats and monkey-in-the-middle folds.  Flop comes J high.  He checks and I cbet $60 (he has about $200 behind).  He raises $100 to $160 to go.  I think for a while and can't help but put him on QQ, JJ so I fold.
  • Hand 8: I raise to $15 with AKss in EP.  2 callers between aforementioned Asian dude and me.  Asian dude raises to $55 and it folds to me.  I flat, all else fold.  Flop comes K Q high.  I check to aggressor and he bets $65.  I call.  Turn is a blank.  He bets $150 and I try to shove but wind up calling because I didn't put enough of my stack out (I miscalculated the size of villain's bet).  River is a blank and I check since I gave away my check/raise.  He winds up betting after a long pause - $60 all in.  I snap and am shown AKo for the chop.
  • Hand 9: I raise to $15 with 88.  Get called in 2 spots and have position.  Flop comes 8 9 4 - 2 clubs.  I lead for $35 and get called in both spots (one is the fishy player from Hand 2, one is a decent reg).  Turn is a Qd putting 2 diamonds, 2 clubs out there.  Checks to me and I lead for $75.  Fishy player folds and reg thinks a bit and calls.  River is a 2c completing the flush draw.  Reg checks to me and I weakly check through.  Reg shows TT (oddly played, sir) and I scoop.
  • Hand 10: I limp / call $10 with K2dd as do 4 other players.  Flop is K 2 3 with 2 spades.  The fishy player mentioned in Hand 2 leads for $15.  I raise to $45.  Fishy player calls.  Turn is an off suit 9.  Fishy player leads for $100 with $70 or so behind.  I shove all in [correctly this time] and am snapped off my fishy player.  River is of no consequence and fishy player proudly flips over AKo.  I flip over K2 for the flopped 2 pair and scoop.  It was nice getting a bit of karma.
Overall, I had a solid session.  These kinds of sessions are nice because the cards fell into place, rather than me playing well.  What I beat myself up about is the lack of value obtained on the river in multiple spots.  I hit a miracle set and got nothing for it.  I  should have stacked the whale with my set of 7's but only got around 1/2 stacks...  Towards the end of the night, I became more fearless and tenacious, but I definitely missed opportunities for stackage.  I don't know why earlier in the night I was so gun shy.  I kept on feeling like I was going to be set over set - and ironically, I was KK over AA and didn't shy away when I should have!  Get 'em next time!

Friday, April 15, 2016

A quick brag post...

I played Thursday night 1/3 at the 'Shoe and then was able to come back and play a session today, Friday.  Both sessions were very successful.  One hand was a particular standout as one of my opponents so poorly played their hand that I was just stunned.  I guess I have so many hands under my belt at this point that nothing should surprise me, but still, I'm always amazed...

A little background: 65-75 year old gentleman, always well dressed, likes to splash around a bit and does not have a fold button.  Usually, if he calls for $3 and someone raises, so long as there's money in the pot, he's calling the raise.  I've hit him up a number of times where he'll limp and I raise to between $20-25 eliciting a call followed by a check / fold.

A bit more background on our fish of the day:  I played with him last night where the board turned a 4 flush with me holding the Ace.  I lead out a monotone flop for $10 or something (limped pot) and he called from one of the blinds.  Turn completed my flush and I led out for another $10 or so - he c/r'ed me to $30 and I thought for a bit --- called.  River was another flush card so the board was a flush.  It was something like Q 2 3 6 9 so a straight flush was possible with the 4 5, buy I wasn't too worried.  Any who, our friendly scamp leads out for $100 with like $90 behind.  I raise all in and then he starts talking about how I have the Ace and how bad he runs, etc.  He ends up calling and I stack him.

Fast forward to today: I raise A Q hh from EP.  I get called in about 5 spots and we see a flop of... ho hum...  K J 3 - all hearts.  Easy game, I know...  Well, old man in SB checks, BB leads for $35 and my read is precisely that he flopped a flush too.  Action is on me and I waffle between check and raise - the last thing I want to see on the turn is another heart so he can be scared away, after all.  I come to my senses, though, thinking about the pending 4 other players yet to act and decide to call the $35.  Alas, it folds around to our lovable loser in the SB who decides to execute an ill-timed check / raise... except he c/r's all in for about $170.  BB thinks for about 5 seconds and verbalizes a call.  The whole time, I'm thinking: "I want him to think that I am pondering a call, but all I'm really think'in about it Vegas and the fuckin' Mirage."

Action to me and I have the BB covered (he has around $350).  Is there any point of screwing around with so much in the middle already - he's committed almost half his stack and the last thing I want is the board to pair or another heart to drop?  I do my best Matt Damon and verbalize all in.  BB is now in a panic... he wasn't thinking I had already flopped the flush, and went through the stages of grief right before my very eyes in the span of about 10 seconds: surprise, then disbelief, then finally acceptance with the call!  Well, what do you think old man holds?  Go on!  Take a guess - what do old men have when the c/r all in?  AA of course - drawing nearly dead to runner runner with 1 Ace and / or running trips on the board.  Needless to say, my hand holds for the 98% favorite and I scoop a nice pot!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Beware the Ides of March... into April?

I thought I was happy the month of March was over.  I played 7 sessions and had my first losing month since June of 2015.  I guess I shouldn't complain; it's bound to happen that I'll run bad over an "extended" period of time - and by extended, I mean 5 out of 7 losing sessions with 4 in a row.  I was very happy to break that aforementioned 4 session loser on the 1st of April, when I settled for a modest 1/2 buy in plus up.  It served to restore a bit of my confidence in my game, but I wasn't feeling 100% healed.  Stuff was still going south on my at a rapid rate, though I did not feel like my play was suffering.  Worst part was I had a killer start to the year, but March pretty much undid all the winning - my hourly rate dropped to below 1/2 levels!  I know... I know...  sample size - 21 total sessions is too small of a sample size to really make judgements and get upset.

Needless to say, I played last night and felt like April had become more of the same that I've come to expect from my sessions lately.  The night started off well enough; I spiked an open-ender with the "Grump" - 2 4ss (his favorite hand).  Mind you, I've never won with that  hand - but I called a SB $15 raise while in position with 5 other callers to see a flop of 3 5 T (one spade, rainbow).  The original raiser had $50-60 left and open shoved the flop.  I was the only caller and saw a spade on the turn and a 6 on the river for the nice, early $160 winner.  I chipped up little by little on my way to +$300 before the doomswitch got turned on.

Note: Skip to below if you don't want to read about whining and bad beats

I went on to flop a set of Aces on an all hearts board only to be shown a JT flush by the river (-$300).  I 3bet to $55 with JJ and flopped mid set only to be shown a 46hh flush on the river (he had $~200 to start the hand, called one bet and then called the 3bet LOL... -$200).  I flopped a 53 flush only to be shown a 95 flopped flush (-$100).  I flopped top 2 pair (T8) only to be 4 straighted on the river (-$65).  I flopped top 2 pair (QT) again only to be flushed on the river (-$65).

Note:  End of whining and bad beats

Despite my string of nauseously poor luck, I found myself out no more than $200 on the night and continually working my way back into the game.  As you can probably gather above, the table was juicy and primed for the pumping if only I could get my hands to hold up.  There were a few guys on total tilt, with the key player sitting on a peak of around $1700.  I could only watch it dwindle away drip drip drip when I finally caught a hand at around 2:30AM:

As I said, I'm no more than in for $200, so in this hand, I'm sitting on approx. $400.  Facing a mid position raise to $15, I look down at 55 on the BTN and opt to just call.  I actually consider 3betting here, but figure with position, sitting on a decent stack, and the looseness of the table, if I hit I can really get paid without giving the strength of my hand away pre-flop.  The player mentioned above is now sitting on around $1100 and is involved in the hand, as are around 5 others.

Flop comes 5 6 Qr, and action checks to villain.  Before we get into it, I want to provide a bit of background on our villain.  He's very active, frequently continuing with hands where he's clearly beat, only to have sucked out continually on the river... and get okay value.  A few examples are calling a turn $75 bet on a 7 A x x board with K7, betting $150 on the river when he hits his K and getting paid.  He'll call $75 on a turn bet with $60 behind when he hits his flush.  You know the type.  He's a middle-aged Asian dude who likes to gamble gabol!  He obviously will not lay down a draw... like EVER.  Finally, I'm seething from this guy - he's the most rude, inconsiderate and questionable rule breaker I've seen in a LONG time.  He'll talk about the hand whether he's involved or not - for example, he bet into a small flopped set and got raised, and starts talking about hands that he puts the raiser on while other players are still involved.  He'll regularly fold out of turn.  He'll act inappropriately like laughing at other players, berating them, slamming his hand down when he folded a flop that he would have hit.  This guy's a regular, and has clearly been warned for his behavior before, but the dealers nor the floor have taken any action against him.  In other words, he couldn't give two craps about the hand or the game if he's not involved.  In one word, he was an asshole - I almost felt sorry for him because I thought he may be on the spectrum (that's how poorly behaved he was).

Anywho, back to my flopped bottom set.  His pattern du jour is to bet smallish (~$15 into $60) with probing bets on hands that he has some equity, but continually will bet 2 or 3 streets as a bluff when other players just call his bets.  Contrary to prior action, this time he bet $47, a large bet for him to be bluffing or drawing.  Another player calls his largish bet and action folds to me.  Around $75 + $47 + $47 in the pot and I'm sitting on $385.  I read his hand as clearly - NOT A BLUFF.  I don't think I want the mid position player just calling - and I'm not sure where I'm at with our villain; he's betting so often that he's very difficult to read.  In fact, with our villain, I've opted to take a straight forward play-my-cards-face-up approach with him, because he's paying off so often and/or bluffing so often that I get more value because he so infrequently likes to fold.  Therefore, I decide I will raise large - and spike $175 into the $~170 pot.  He thinks for a few seconds and calls.  Our monkey-in-the-middle player folds.  Turn is a 3 completing the rainbow.  He checks to be again - actually I bet out of turn but realize that I incorrectly did so - and he check / calls my shove of $210 after some deliberation.  I don't remember the river, but he shows down KQo and I scoop a nice and much needed double up to end my night to the decent positive.  After a whipsaw night, I'm pleased with the results.

Friday, March 11, 2016

It's like kissing your sister...

I had a "long" session last night - played until about 2:30 AM.  I was having too good of a time, playing with the young'ins whom I've become friendly with at the 'Shoe.  A 7 hour session yielded a $50 gain...  puke.  I'm happy with the turnaround from down $300 early on, but still - breaking even for all those hours is a crappy result.  Breaking even is like kissing your sister.  I guess there's something to be said about the entertainment factor of having fun conversations the whole night.

At risk of becoming a Rob-like post, the first table featured a regular who was totally drunk.  He was the chattiest I've ever seen.  There was one lady, an older - maybe late 60's woman - who was mixing it up with us in the conversation.  The conversation started out as folding out of turn and the rules (whether or not you can call after you've folded out of turn but pulled your cards back) spawned from my "brilliant" call down of AJ high vs. AQ high on the river for $100 when the AQ threw his cards towards the muck in a forward motion but did not muck the cards.  Long story, about the latter, but regardless, the conversation quickly turned to "what would you do for a million bucks."

It stayed within the poker realm at first - would you mis-call your hand to illicit a fold from your opponent for $3k, then $1M, then $10M.  There was a particularly honest individual who would not do it.  Then it turned to - well, what WOULD YOU DO for $1M.  Apparently, there's a Facebook post trending about this - and the question was would you step on puppies for $1M or more.  I said I would, and my end of the table started talking about it.  The dude to my left claimed he would step on 10 puppies...  hell, for the money, he'd step on his own dog's puppies!  The dealer, who's an animal lover, was telling us to stop it, but the aforementioned lady got so upset she called floor over to us for a reprimand while also requesting a table change.  I couldn't believe her reaction / outrage at what I felt was a silly hypothetical conversation.  The dude to my left continued to talk about how he puts his lhaso apso in the dog ring ala Michael Vick and watches him tear the fur off of random poodles.  This sent her over the edge.  I think we all made an enemy for life last night.  Some people can't take a joke I guess...

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Raising out of turn... a lesson in how not to play

As I was watching Tim "The Trooper 97" 's vlog, I was reminded of a hand I played in the other day.  Playing in my usual Thursday night session at the 'Shoe, I'm sitting on a pretty good session.  There's a guy to my immediate left who's straddling every hand from every position (which I'm loving, because I'm almost always acting second to last).  Action [in]frequently gets to him and he'll shove his stack of almost a full buy in.  It seems to be a random occurrence.  I'm fairly certain he's not drunk, but he seems to be pushing his stack to get a rise out of everyone else at the table.  One hand, he took down a $400 pot with 85dd vs. KK when he flopped trips, but he'll take down other hands when he raises the limpers (who haven't learned) all in.  Again, it's random, so he's not doing this 100% of the time -- making limping a premium hand somewhat dangerous.

To date, I raised KQo to $26 against 1-2 limpers and he open shoved / 3bet me to $250.  Action folded to me and after a long pause, I folded, not wanting to commit stacks with KQ high.  I realize there's a lot of hands I'm ahead of - a TON of hands, in fact - but I just can't logically call in that spot with that hand.

A few orbits pass before the following comes up:

My Huckleberry straddles from the cutoff, and his neighbor calls the $6 from the BTN (he's sitting on roughly $80).  They start talking as action arrives at me.  I have AQdd and am considering a raise when the conversation between the two guys leads the guy to announce (to the table, directed at the BTN limper), "I raise you to $100," without realizing that I have yet to act.  Looking over, I think he became sort of mortified, realizing his mistake of acting out of turn.  He had the look that he did not realize I was still active in the hand (I think it folded around to me for this particular hand, besides the BTN who he intended to raise).  Mind you, I've been in this spot many many times before - wanting to raise myself but getting raised ahead prior to my action.

With no straddle, the rule at the Horseshoe is that out of turn actions are binding assuming there have been no changes prior to action (i.e. if I announced raise instead, it would void his raise and he could act anew).  However, this hand had a straddle element, so I was unsure whether that rule would apply.  Wanting clarification on the rules, I asked the dealer, who called floor and would not give me an answer on the ruling.  The floor, echoing the dealer, simply told me action was to me.  Floor would not give me an answer as to the ruling for the out of turn player.  Action was to me, and reasonably certain that the rule would play whether the hand was straddled or unstraddled, I decided to call the straddle bet and see what would unfold (pun intended?).  As soon as I called, floor announced a raise by the cutoff to $100.  BTN hesitated and called, unhappy with me still being in the hand, and kinda realizing what was going to happen when I called the straddle: I shipped all in over his $100 raise, which amounted to around $275 effective.  Cutoff called without much hesitation, which did not mean a lot to me, since he didn't seem to care about the cards he held.

I have no idea what our table maniac held (he didn't show, but I think he had 97o) but the BTN held JJ for a 42/43/15 for the main pot and a ~65/35 flip for the much larger side pot.

To me, there were 2 takeaways from the hand:
1.  The goal of poker is to get others to make mistakes that you wouldn't make.  Make sure to use those mistakes to your advantage.  Acting out of turn... especially raising out of turn... opens up a world of possibilities that would not have ordinarily been there.  When you have guaranteed action ahead of you if you just call, you have a pretty golden opportunity to get a nice check raise in, with the advantage of trapping all that dead money that isn't thinking about you check / raising.  Punish the players who make mistakes against you!
2.  Wait for good spots to get your money in.  Take those bets that put you at a greater than 50% advantage!  Who knows what would have happened in the KQ hand?  I'm a better player than the maniac who can be shoving a wide range, but includes a ton of Ax hands.  Why not wait for a spot until I'm fairly certain I'm ahead or at least a coin flip?  I do think about whether I would have been ahead with that hand, and whether that was the correct fold, but I'm far more certain about AQs than KQo!

Oh yeah!  Q in the window sealed the hand for me!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The pros and cons of buying in short...

I've been talking poker with a few friends this weekend. We've been texting back and forth as well as talking one-on-one about strategies and ideas.  I'm curious whether any of my readers have any insight with the following premise:

My friend (and I swear this isn't an "I have a friend who..." when it's really me, 'cause this is not about me) was talking about his poker sessions being few and far between.  When he (or she, to keep it completely anonymous) gets to finally play, it's usually a massive series of sessions (i.e. 6-7 nights and days of poker), so I'd best describe his discussion as "rust" on the poker game.  However, his complaint was that during his first and/or second session, he's so eager and excited, he quickly finds himself behind a buy in or 3.

I've had this happen to me when I first started playing live poker, so I can relate to his predicament.  I thought about his issue for a while and started to discuss possible solutions.  The one solution I really focused on was trying to buy in short.  At a 1/2 game, this means buying in for the $60 or so minimum... or even starting with $100 if he must.  We talked through the pros and cons and here's what we came up with:


  • Limited down side.  Buying in 3 times and shooting that off can be less than a full buy in of $200.
  • Gives him time to get a feel for the table and top off later.
  • Gives him time to get a feel for his own game and top off when his heartbeat has baselined and the rust has been shaken off.
  • Forces him to play on the tighter side because he knows full well that he shouldn't be calling raises with suited connectors and broadway, nor should he be calling raises with non premium pocket pairs since set mining is unprofitable.
  • He can ship over raises (i.e. squeeze) more frequently as a short stack; 3-4 callers @ $8-10 a pop; he can cavalierly 3bet all in to $60 and be profitable a helluva lot!
  • Limited up side.  If he hits a nut hand, he won't get a maximum payoff.
  • He may forget to top off (I don't know if this is really a con though)
  • He's playing less than 10% of the range, which is kinda boring ABC poker.
Do my readers have any other suggestions?  Any other pros / cons that we're not considering?  How do you approach live poker when it's been a month [or longer] since your last session?  Does that approach differ if it's around a month until each session that you play?

Monday, February 1, 2016

What would you do from the archives

This is a simple spot from a few weeks ago - I captured it because it was interesting at the time:

I'm dealt KQo UTG, and raise to $11.  I can limp or raise in that spot but this time, I opt to raise.  Tightish older black guy calls in UTG+1, as do 5 others.

We see a KK8o flop (BINGO).  I decide to check since there's not much that can call my lead bet and the UTG+1 bets $15.  As expected, it folds around to me and I call.

Turn is an 8, giving me the second nuts to quads.  I check again, and he checks behind.

Here's where the action falls: River is an A and I lead for $45 - hoping to salvage some action out of the top boat.  I do get action - perhaps more than I wanted (side note: careful what you wish for...) and he raises a step above min to $95.

As I see them, the options are: Raise all in (probably around $300 to start the hand), call the $50 raise, or fold.

Thoughts?  Why?

Click to see results

Can I ever fold here with top boat?  (Stupid question; I can fold as I choose; if I want to fold quads here, I can fold quads...)  Realistically, can I fold top boat?  For $50?  What beats me?  2 hands: AK, 88.  It may be wrong to discount a fold here, but I just can't seem to find the fold button.

The argument for re-raising: Is a tightish player raising 8's full?  Probably not.  Is a tightish player raising King's full?  Perhaps.  Is a tightish player flatting AK from early position and raising the river?  Very strong possibility.  Is a tightish player raising quad 8's?  Absolutely.  So what value am I getting by re-raising?  I probably fold out 8's full.  I'm almost never folding out the King's full.  So I'm probably not accomplishing anything by re-raising here; only chops and better hands are calling / re-re-raising.

The argument for calling:  Much of the arguments above should be recycled here; I'm concerned about AK, 88 and that's it.  Is my opponent raising as a bluff or a hand he believes has value given the way the hand played out?  Sometimes he shows up with AA, QQ, etc.  But I think a tightish player is very rarely raising the river - the traditionally most expensive and costly street.

Therefore, given the above, I opt to call and am shown AKo. Oh well... I still scratch my head as to whether I can find the fold for $50...

One quick edit / addition: If you find yourself in this situation with the tables reversed; i.e. you're sitting on the AK, raise *MUCH* larger than a min raise. You may want to consider shoving in this spot since it is rare that people can fold a full house. I think overall, you get a ton of value from worse hands by raising much larger.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

"Thin value" and a What Would You Do?

It's been a few months since I've had multiple posts in the same month...  I guess that's a sign of the times for me: I'm past the honeymoon phase with poker, settling into a marriage that while rocky at times, has given me a competitive outlet where money is the major scoreboard.  On the point of competition though, there hasn't been a ton of challenge because over the years, I've refined my pre- and post- session process to the point where I'll evaluate significant hands and categorize them into a few categories: coolers, poor [and good] play from which I learn, standard play and out-of-the-box thinking hands.  Moreover, I'm getting in around one session per week - approximately 7 hours of play which, because it's live, means that I'm only getting around 210 hands in...  not a very big sample size for anomalous hand histories.

The coolers and learning hands (good or bad) are good experience and discussion, but they're generally filed away mentally and don't make it to this blog.  The standard play hands generally never even makes it to a discussion topic.  However, the out-of-the-box thinking hands come few and far between these days, and are more extensive discussion topics.  Upon discussion, they usually result in differing opinions and more extensive conversation.  I had 2 hands last Sunday afternoon that were out-of-the-box, anomalous hands, both of which I'll share with you:

Hand 1, "Thin Value", 1/3 at the 'Shoe with $150 effective stacks:

I put quotes around the "thin value," because I'm not entirely sure it's thin.  I do recognize, though, that many people would just call in the following spot, which is wrong for many reasons, which I'll discuss below.

I limp A7o in late position against a host of limpers.  I am at a fairly passive table, with one really good player.  It's a mid-day, weekend game, so the table is mixed with older men and younger men - most of whom are watching the Seahawks / Vikings playoff game.  I don't ordinarily limp bad Aces, and if I do, I raise it PF, especially with position.  However, in this case, I felt the table to be really passive, always letting me know when I'm behind with strong "protection" bets, both pre- and post- flop.  Therefore, I'm not all that worried about going to showdown and being outkicked, etc.

We wind up with 5 players seeing an A 5 9 rainbow flop.  There are 2 obvious gutter draws: 5-9 and A-5, but no one looks interested in this flop.  It is checked to me and at this point, I have the optiont o close out the action in my late position (BTN folded PF).  My read is this flop did not connect with anyone.  Something I've been doing lately is checking my Aces in order to let my opponent(s) catch up.  I'm all too often betting in this spot and taking down just the limps - which is nice, but do I really want the minimum win here?  I feel comfortable with my checks on many dry board Aces, which yields a lot heftier pot by the river - the other players simply don't believe you have an Ace.  You frequently see this with a call down of the turn card (or river card) to an overcard board...  players (maybe even I'm one of them) are frequently willing to put money into the pot after only investing 1BB just to avoid the feeling of "folding a winner," or curiosity calling...  Please note, though, that I recognize I am checking to 4 other players rather than thinning the field - not a hugely great idea, but I have $3 at risk here against turning a bigger profit.

As a corollary, I started re-thinking the goals here: yes, checking a pair of Aces is somewhat dangerous; players can turn 2 pair, sets, etc.  You have to be comfortable with folding top pair in order to check the flop...  but is the goal to take down limps when you have the winning hand?  Or is the goal to get others to pay for what they believe to hold the winning hand when in reality the winning hand is yours?  I think it's the latter rather than the former.

Therefore, I check the flop and the turn reveals an off suit 4, completing a rainbow board.  Once again, it checks to me, and I lead for $10.  The SB folds and the BB, an ABC, straightforward player, decides to check / raise to $21.  It folds back around to me and I start thinking...  Odd play...  Basically a min raise.  An ABC player with flopped 2 pair or set is probably leading the turn after it had checked through the flop.  Is a turned straight (2 3) check /raising here and killing the action?  I run through the hands in my head and decide that semi bluffs are unlikely for this ABC player (i.e. 3 4), but vulnerable turned 2 pairs are very possible: 4 5, A 5, A 4, funky 9 5 or 9 4...  though I discount the Ace combos.  There's always the possibility of a set: 44, 55, even 99 (since he was in the BB) which is very bad for me, but I just can't fold a min raise.  For $11 and position, I opt to call the check/raise.  It should be noted that if he bombs the river, I have to fold - I have to fold all bets greater than ~$20 assuming my hand doesn't improve.

River is a big, beautiful 7.  Our villain leads for $35, clearly confident in his hand.  I'm 95% certain he has 2 pair by the river (and in all likelihood, by the turn).  With my rivered 2 pair, there are a TON of hands that I beat, against one hand that I don't.  But here's the point of the commentary: I think far too many people are just snap calling here, relieved that they spiked 2 pair on the river with a potential showdown worthy hand.  Instead of snap calling, stop & think about what you're doing!  Is a raise in order?  If you're ahead of almost all of his range in this spot, can you get value from a raise?  How much can you raise and get away with?  He has 2 pair, so he's likely calling reasonable raises, since he's an ABC player.  I decide to raise $55 on top, which seemed to be the perfect amount - a min raise and he'll snap call without a thought.  I need to make him more than snap call, though - I want him to think but call regardless.  He tanked for what seemed like forever, before finally making the call and mucking 45o.

Adding to the point of the commentary, I call the turn knowing that in all likelihood I'm behind.  If I catch up by the river, I need to show a profit for that turn call in order to make it a profitable one.  I had 8 outs (2 Aces, 3 7's and 3 9's), roughly 16%.  I need to make at least $60 in implied odds to show a profit on my 8 outter...

Note: My math is a bit dicey here, so perhaps someone mathier than I can help me out / verify, but: $11 * 5.375 = $59  (100%-16% = 86; 86 / 16 = 5.375 to 1)  From wikipedia: To convert any percentage or fraction to the equivalent odds, we subtract the numerator from the denominator and then divide this difference by the numerator. For example, to convert 25%, or 1/4, we subtract 1 from 4 to get 3 (or 25 from 100 to get 75) and then divide 3 by 1 (or 75 by 25), giving us 3, or 3:1.

I think I followed the instructions, though during the live hand, I figured I needed to show at least a 7x profit (between 9x and 4x the bet since a 5 outter = 10%, or 9:1 and 10 outter = 20%, or 4:1).

Hand 2, Zeebo Theorem, 1/3 at the 'Shoe, $430 deep effective:

Again, the theme of the day is think. Don't make impulsive decisions... just think about what you're doing and piece together the hand.  I'm dealt 64o in the BB and just call with around 5 players.  Flop comes 7 4 9d rainbow with 5-6 players.

I check and it checks through the flop.  Turn is a 6d, putting a 2 flush out there and giving me bottom 2 pair.  Having no idea of the range of anyone's hands, and one card to go, there's straight and flush draw possibilities so I lead for $10.  It folds around to the best player at the table, a thinking, late-20's Asian guy who drops out $25 for a $15 raise.  I could see him doing this with a flush draw, combo straight draw (98, 45, as well as 2 pair 97, 96, 76, and straights T8, 85) but again, this is such a light raise I opt to call and see a river (I see him raising larger with sets... or even leading the flop with a set since there were ~5 to the flop, so I discount sets).

River is a 4d, putting the 3 flush out.  I check my low boat, intending to check / raise the river.  He puts out $60 and I think about the hand.  If he has a flush, I can get paid here nicely.  He could also have a straight turned flush which will pay out.  I check/raise to $200 straight and he insta-shoves $400 which sends me into the tank.  This was not per plan.  He should not be raising all in.  He is not the type of player who raises non-nut hands, and he is good enough to know that a straight (and even a flush) are far from the nuts now...

Here's what's dancing through my head - and I start to talk through it aloud.  I can't fold for $200 more - I'm confident he has a boat, and I have the nut low boat.  I tell him that top set is good - does he have top set?  I see genuine cringing on his face as if this was a terrible question to ask - he did not expect me to ask about boats and better boats.  I finally talk myself into calling after receiving that reaction and he flips 64s for the chop...  Wow - close call!  He later told me he was freaked out by my question: he thought he read me wrong that I had a mid-set or a boat as well (which was true) and he made a huge mistake...  he otherwise had me on a flush or straight which had me beat.

I'm still on the fence as to whether this is a good call or not - I was so close to folding my rivered boat...

Monday, January 4, 2016

Trip report: bestbet / Jacksonville, FL

Merry Christmas / Happy Hanukkah / Happy Kwanzaa / Happy New Year!

I hope I did not alienate any of my readers [if there are any remaining].  For the remainder of 2015 and on through the weekend of 2016, the Meister family, as has been tradition, vacationed on a cruise with another family.  This year, we left out of Port Canaveral, Florida, in the northern part of the state.  The weather was wonderfully warm - 80 degrees consistently.  There was no rain to speak of, the ocean was calm, and the food was great.  I was able to catch up on my sleep and spend quality time with my family.  I also had the opportunity to visit a local poker room, as we stayed overnight in Jacksonville prior to our cruise departure.

It turns out that bestbet Jacksonville was less than 15 minutes from our hotel, and after getting the kids situated in bed, my wife agreed to me "checking out" the local poker scene.  Off I went - around 9 pm on Christmas Friday after verifying that it was open, which it was indeed.  It was evident the place was a poker room first; there were no slots nor other obvious table gaming and non-poker play, though I was told they do indeed offer a variety of table games: Two-card poker, Three-card poker, Ultimate Texas Hold Em, Casino War, and Pai Gow.  However, the non-poker gaming was not direct and in-your-face, it was more subtle and off to the side.  I was able to walk right in from the huge parking lot and get my bearings immediately; poker room in the big area immediately to my left.

I checked in at the front desk and found open seating for the $2/2 game (yes, the big blind is equal to the small blind) - $200 max buy in.  After taking my seat, the floor took my money and brought me chips, and I settled down to what would be a shortish 3 hour session.  The table and the room was more of an older crowd, around 55 years of age was the norm - and they seemed to all know each other.  The dealers were mostly experienced, quick and friendly.  No posting is necessary, UTG straddles are the only straddles allowed.  Rake was kinda steep if I recall correctly - 10% up to $5, but rake taken on no flops, $1 at $5 pot, $2 at $10 pots and so forth [I'm not 100% sure of the rake structure, but it did strike me as expensive].  Chopping was allowed and in this case, made particular sense since the players involved would avoid the almost immediate rake.  The seats were decent, the tables were 10 person tables, and though they did not have cup holders built in, the tables were large enough that one could spread out fairly comfortably.

Finally, the play was fairly poor.  I saw a lot of limping premium hands, and in some cases (twice in my 3 hours, if that's any indication), overcalling with premium hands.  For example, I raised QQ and got flatted by KK, and raised 88 and got flatted by KK (on the BTN).  This was play I was not used to, but I saw numerous players not getting good value (and in some instances, any value) for their hands.  Flopped trips with a rainbow board had a pot of maybe $40 total by showdown (due to lack of competent betting).  These players were willing to call of stacks but never bet stacks.

Overall, I had a really good session, and would love to come back to play more.  The Jacksonville poker scene was consistent with my observations of the other places I've played in Florida (i.e. Tampa, St. Petersburg, etc.); weak, loose play with players backing into the best hand (by runner runner or otherwise) and being surprised at showdown to be the winner.  I give bestbet Jacksonville two thumbs up!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Something I hold onto - Maryland Live! terrible runs

I generally never forget bad memories or confrontations.  I can forgive, but never forget.  I tend to dwell on these things - keep constant reminders, which keeps the fire going inside of me for self-contained rage.

Typically, when I sit down to the poker table, I bring out my iPhone, open up my built-in Notes app, and register the date and time along with how many chips I purchased.  This way, I can have a tally of what I started with and then when the night ends, the time and count of what I ended with.  I also keep any notes from the session in there.  I've been holding a particular note since January of this year and wanted to get it out on the virtual ink for all to see and feel sorry for.  Well, maybe you don't need to read it, and definitely don't feel sorry - it is indeed a multitude of bat beat stories by the same guy, but perhaps writing them out will help me get over what is now going on a year's past memory.

So I'm sitting at 1/2 Live! all the way back in January.  I'm continually abused by the deck there, and I'm finally starting to get cards during my session.  A guy sitting across from me - mid 50's - has been somewhat aggro, opening a bunch of pots, looking pretty smarmy.  As he's been doing, he opens to $7.  One caller and it folds to me.  I'm sitting with $225 and look down at AA. I act / move to fold my hand and then "pretend realize" that dude opened for $7.  I pull back my cards and "think" for awhile.  I carve out some chips and put out $40 - yes, from $7 to $40 3bet.  The act that I was trying to perform was looking at him, seeing who is doing the raising, then trying to bluff 3bet him off his supposed better hand...  He takes the bait and calls the $40 out of position.  Flop comes a perfect JJ8cc and he leads for $30.  Happily, I raise to $100 and he shoves.  I snap call and am shown JTo.  H even has the nerve to say to me "What did you think I had!??!?!??!"  Seriously?  I. hate. this. guy.

Probably 15 hands later, he raises to $9, and Iopt to just call with 9h7h from the BTN - 4 others do as well.  Flop comes A 9 7r and a mid position player open shoves for $52.  He snap calls the $52 and action is to me.  I reshove for $121 more and he again snaps that off.  I'm shown AK vs. A8 vs my 2 pair.  Do I need to tell you that K on the turn seals the deal for me?  Of course!  Like clockwork!  I. now. hate. this. place. and. hate. him.

I keep these two hand histories in my notes as a reminder of three things:
1.  I am not owed anything from poker.  Just because I get my money in (or in the first case, my implied money) as a strong favorite (I also think of Josie's session last week with Tony where she 3bet to $80 with AA and Tony called with 45s whose play angers me by proxy) doesn't mean that I'm the winner.  In fact, if that statement were the case, the fish would not play the game anymore.
2.  Remember the good times and the times when my hands held.  Statistically, those hands occur far more often, but they're far more difficult to remember.  Let those bad beat hands simmer within me and drive me to continue to never be on the opposite end; i.e. be the shark and not the fish.
3.  Don't feel bad when I am on the opposite end; when I'm the one doing performing the suck out.  Sometimes, I'm going to get my money in bad.  When I do, I typically feel dirty about it - as if it's acceptable for everyone else, but not for me.  Get over that feeling - one simply cannot play perfect poker and always get the money in ahead.  So long as it's the exception and not the rule, keep playing.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Odds & ends - nothing much to write about

In no order of importance, only items that I'm remembering:

  • Had my biggest session ever last night - a session on the shorter side, but very profitable!
  • Went through a streak of 9 winning sessions in a row (longest streak ever) from around my trip to Vegas through mid-August.
  • Lost 1 or 2 sessions after that streak, and then had a streak of 7 winning sessions.
  • It's pretty cool that seemingly no matter what happens with poker, there's always regression to the mean:
    • 62% of my sessions are winning sessions - 2 plus 2 reports ~60% of sessions should be winners.
    • My hourly rate at 1/2 is ~$19/hr, my hourly rate at 1/3 is ~$33/hr - 2 plus 2 reports ~10x BB / hr is handily beating the game.
    • The hourly rates for 1/2 include a terrible run at Maryland Live! where I average a measly $1.49 / hr.
  • I've put in more hours this year than any other year, with less sessions than the prior years' maximums.  In other words, I'm averaging more hours per session.  If I keep to the pace I'm on right now, I should end the year with the most sessions eve
  • It's pretty cool (or pathetic depending on which side of the coin you're on) that we play and win at a game that requires no formal degree nor education, no resume nor any job interview, yet we can make more per hour than a skilled laborer or degree'd career job.
    • It's a nice fallback plan that if the economy goes to the dumper, there's always gambling and poker!
  • I've been thinking about moving back into the 2/5 games, yet the 1/3 games are so juicy it's tough to justify an additional $200 on the table.
  • I met a few regs that I've seen around the room since I've been playing at the 'Shoe, yet never sat down at the same table with them.  Nice folks!
  • I think I got labeled a 1/3 donk because I called 3 streets + checked a river against an aggro 2/5 player who: PF raised $25 (called with 99), bet $35 on a Ts 7s 2 board (I called), bet $75 on a 5 turn (call) and checked the J river - I was shown AQo.  I was checking for value the whole way and debated betting the river, figuring she could potentially call A high as a bluff catcher against my missed spade draw, but in the end, couldn't find the fortitude to bet it (it would have been for naught since she claimed she would have folded any bet there).
Finally, 3 hand histories for thought:
  •  This one is from last night and deals with a mega aggro (maniac) at 1/3:

    He's at my table for around 14 hands and has straddled at every chance.  He's on my left, so that's nice so far as straddles are concerned, but he's totally unpredictable, and within the 8 hands, he's shown QQ and KK as well as a ton of bluffs and non-value hands.  Outside of me, he's running the table over with his $300 buy in because he's forcing folds out of discomfort from the rest of them - his stack is up to around $360.  I don't remember the details, but I took a pot off him by raising one of his straddles and cbetting which nets him back down to $320 to start the hand (I have him easily covered as this is my all time winningest session).

    He's straddling the BTN for $8 and I'm in the hijack with KQo.  Not normally a hand I'd limp a straddle (that's a raise IMO, particularly from late position like that), but I suspect he'll raise on queue with 3 other limpers and perceived dead money.  Well, this Yogi may be smarter than the average bear since he checks through the option - perhaps thinking one of the limpers is laying in wait to limp / raise him.

    Well, all that said, we see a flop of K 8 2 - rainbow.  All check to the aggro who leads for $20 into the $40 pot.  He gets 2 calls and action is to me - $100 in the middle now.  I'm debating thinning the herd:
    1.  I don't know what kinds of hands the callers have, so I'm not going to be happy with any turn card - particularly a non-King board pairing.
    2.  I think Mr. Aggro will take my move as an indicator that I'm trying to "make a move on him."  He's somewhat scared of me - if nothing else he respects me, and wouldn't expect me to check / raise such a dry board.  After all, "what am I scared of?"
    3.  I don't want to raise too much here; I want action because I'm likely way ahead here - Mr. Aggro and the rest of the field are drawing to 25% hands most likely, since there aren't any draws and very few backdoors (mainly T9s).  I want value out of at least one person so Mr. Aggro is my target.

    $100 is too much to check / raise, from a limped pot - as I think it's too dissuasive for seeing another card if I'm looking for my 2 pair / 3 of a kind outs...  Min raise ($40) is a snap call from all parties, so that's too little.  Therefore, I decide on between $60-70 - I check / raise to $65.  Mr. Aggro snaps it off and lets me know that he "hopes I have better than just 1 pair, because I'm gonna need it!"  Turn is an off suit 4 completing the rainbow.

    I debate going for a check / raise once again, but just go with the most direct route: I lead for $100 and he folds, showing 2 5 and lecturing me that the 4 missed him by a 'pip and how lucky I was...  Critical thought to the hand: Should I be trying for a c/r again, or should I have bet less?  More?  Thought at the time was he can call a c/r to $65 and the pot now has close to $200 - half pot on the turn should be a snap call, no?  Guess not...
  • A few nights ago, again 1/3:

    I'm dealt 88h as my first hand, facing a $15 raise from an early position raiser.  No data on the guy except he's in his late 30's / early 40's.  I call along with one full time player who's always at the 'Shoe.

    Flop comes As 4h 5h - EP cbets $20.  It seems like such a weak cbet - to the tune of nuts or air.  $20 into $45?  Weak sauce.  I call to take one off and take it away on the turn, and the reg to my left folds.

    Turn is an 8s.  EP now checks to me.  It's annoying to hit a nut card on the turn and now "value bet" instead of bluff take it away as planned.  $85 in the pot and I know he's not calling any bet unless he turned a flush draw / flopped a flush draw.  Unless he's extremely tricky (unlikely for 1/3), he's signaled the classic "give up" on the turn by checking the A high board.  How do you get value out of a board that you planned to bluff but now want value?  I felt compelled to bet here, but I don't know if I did the right thing; perhaps checking nets a small value bet on the river - but I bet $40 and he snap folded.
  • Last night, 1/3 - pressing up against my session maximums (winningest session ever):

    Not entirely happy with this hand, though I don't know if I'm going to take a lesson learned.  I'm effectively running the table over by combinations of value and bluffs.  $11 cbets on limped pots (non- Ace high, in position) seem to continually take it down.  These dogs won't hunt without top pair minimum.  Good for me.  Limp more often, bet more often.

    I'm dealt 66 from mid position with a 50's woman (weak / tight) who limped to my right.  I raise to $16 and get a 2-3 callers.  Moves around to a short stack who shoves for $43.  Lady to my right thinks for a while and just calls.

    Action to me:

    Lady has flat called twice now and betting is re-opened.  I want to capture dead money and get heads up with the all in.  I think the lady is always raising QQ+, most of the time JJ+.  I can mostly exclude that from her range.  The part I'm not thinking about is that she's super frustrated with taking a beating the whole night.  I want her to fold, so I put $100 on top for $143 to go which folds out everyone except for the woman (and the all-in).  She thinks for a very long time before sighing and finally shoves her remaining $170 total.  I snap call and am shown 88 (lady) vs. J9.  88 holds to scoop a nice sized pot.  I gave her too much credit that she could fold her hand - she had showed a prior fold for $20 on the turn with a flopped trip Aces, deuce kicker against another player (with $50 in front of her), she had continually folded out of fear of kicker problems, etc.

    Again, don't know if there's a lesson learned here.  Flatting $3, then $43?  Perhaps I need to expand her range even though her range was exactly what I suspected it would be...?
Alright - too long of a post after not posting for about a month...  Hope you enjoy :-)

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