Thursday, October 15, 2009

Every Hand Tells a Story

Poker is about making the best decisions with the greatest frequency. Anybody can play the nuts or fold with 3 high when facing a bet on the river. It is everything in between which defines our style of play and success. We will constantly be faced with scenarios where we really don't know whether we're way ahead or way behind, we just know it's one or the other. Getting back to our orinigal premise of making the most correct decisions is where we become long-term focused as opposed to results-oriented.

Our opponents can be just as sneaky as we are. They can limp with AA, min-raise us with the nuts or take many different lines to bluff us. Often times we won't have the nuts and we enter into scenarios where we could be putting our entire stack on the line if we continue with our hand. However, when in a difficult spot without the nuts we need to always evaluate the storyboard of a hand or session.

Recently, I was involved in a hand where an opponent put me in a difficult spot at the river. Now some may say that this spot wasn't at all difficult and that my move was to insta-call. However, in the games that I play ($25NL) more often than not, players over-bet the nuts as opposed to over-bet bluff. Based on this I am generally cautious when someone has shoved or over-bet me.

Here is the hand:

CO: $25.37
BTN: $19.78
SB: $29.50
Hero (BB): $24.65
UTG: $5.12
UTG+1: $25.00
MP1: $11.12
MP2: $8.32
Pre Flop: ($0.35) Hero is BB with 4d 8d
5 folds, BTN calls $0.25, 1 fold, Hero checks

Flop: ($0.60) 9s 7c Jd (2 players)
Hero checks, BTN bets $0.25, Hero calls $0.25

I flop a gut-shot straight draw that could be counterfeited by KQ, but I would expect the button to raise pre-flop with KQ. I rationalize that floating for one BB is worthwhile to see a turn because there are many cards that could help my hand including any diamond or a 10.

Turn: ($1.10) 2d (2 players)
Hero bets $0.50, BTN raises to $1, Hero calls $0.50

I turn a 4-flush and still have my gut-shot straight draw which I'm now assuming would be good if I hit it. I elect to make a blocking bet which achieves the following:
1) I take the pot down right there with '8' high
2) I get called and make a nice 3/4 pot bet on the river if I hit or 2/3 pot if an overcard comes
3) I get raised off my hand and know that I'm most likely way behind and cannot continue because of the poor price I'm getting out of position.

Villain decides to min-raise me, which solidifies my assumption that my outs are most likely live. If the villain had KQ or a 4-flush I'd expect him to flat-call while in position so he doesn't get run out of the pot with a hand with good showdown value. I happily call his min raise.

River: ($3.10) Ts (2 players)
Hero bets $0.75, BTN raises to $18.28 all in, Hero requests TIME

Not quite the nuts, but still gives me a hand that can beat a lot of other hands like two pair or a set. I decided that a small bet designed to look like a bluff would yield the greatest expectation from this hand because it allows the villain to try to raise me off my hand. This is exactly what occurred and the button shoved all in.

This is where I need to get as much information as I possibly can about my opponent before making a fatal error. Is it possible for my opponent to have KQ or Q8--the two hands that beat me? Yes, it certainly is. Would my opponent bet the flop with either of these hands? A min bet--probably. Would my opponent raise the turn with either one of these hands? Most likely not. Would he shove the river as he did? My gut feeling is probably not and that he would go for a big bet but not a complete shove here. However, not wanting to get stacked with 3rd nuts when it is entirely possible for the villain to have 1st or 2nd nuts, I resorted to the last piece of information I had --> 'Last Hand'.

Because I did not have PokerTracker installed on my machine, I didn't have the luxury of seeing statistics of the villain. So I quickly scrolled through the 12 hands that I've observed while at the table. Here is a brief transcript:

Hand No. 1: Villain was active but no HH
Hand No. 2: Villain was active but no HH
Hand No. 5: Villain gets it all-in pre-flop with AKo and loses to 88. Total Pot = $14
Hand No. 7: Villain limped pre-flop, bet the flop and took down the pot = $0.81
Hand No. 8: Villain flat-called a 4x pre-flop and folded when two players got it all in on the flop
Hand No. 9: Villain limped and folded to a bet on the flop
Hand No. 11: Villain limps pre-flop, calls a pot size bet on the flop and folds to a bet on the turn
Hand No. 12: The current hand

So my read is this is an active player who recently flipped with AK and lost 28BB. While he showed a premium hand in defeat, he has shown activity recently, most likely due to tilt or steaming. He has been limping frequently and looking to find a spot to quickly 'win it all back'. Based on all of these factors, I reason that he is capable of bluffing or overplaying many hands here. I don't think his story makes sense and I elect to call the huge over-bet shove on the river.

Hero calls $17.53

Final Pot: $39.66
BTN shows 3s Ah (Ace Jack high)
Hero shows 4d 8d (a straight, Jack high)
Hero wins $37.68
(Rake: $1.98)

1 comment:

  1. "So I quickly scrolled through the 12 hands that I've observed while at the table. Here is a brief transcript:"

    Great insight. Here's my question: I am on Full Tilt with the same tools available (plus PT3) as you; i.e. I have the hand history tracker. How are you quickly determining the rundown of events from this player? I realize you only had 12 hands, but I've seen you do this before, with a much greater hand history. How are you quickly seeing what player was involved with what hands? Is there a filter? I think this method could be pretty powerful combined with PT3 (I realize PT3 has the same ability, but it can be a slow process to do this history regression on a particular player).


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