Monday, December 18, 2017

If a gift horse hits you in the mouth...

Quick post because although it's been a month or two since my last post, I don't have much to report on the poker front.  Things are moving along both online and live, with no major hand histories or review-worthy items.  However, I had an odd occurrence happen to me last Saturday, when I had one of my more rare opportunities to get some time in at the tables:

I'm moving along, my stack is roughly $1000, but I'm into the game for about $500.  It's my standard $1/$3 game at the Horseshoe.  I've had one rough decision thus far, where I opened to $15 with T9s, flopped two pair on a Q T 9 board and got all in against KJ for a flopped straight for about $220 between the flop / turn / river.  That's most of the $500 I'm in for.  Maybe I can delve into that hand a little as a segue because it was mildly interesting:

We see a flop 4-way, with the SB & BB having called and the lone limper calling.  It checks to me and I cbet $30 - the BB calls.

The turn is an Ace and the BB checks; I throw out a second barrel of $45 and get check / raised to $95 (he has $~90 behind).  Decision time: I'm behind all two pair hands better than mine, plus the obvious straight.  He could have flop slow played AK, but he could also have called AT / AJ / AQ / QT.  This guy is fairly passive overall.  I'm not sure if he semi bluffs a hand like AJ or just flats looking to get to a cheap showdown or what.  I guess if he is fairly passive, he's rarely semi bluffing, but he could believe that his Ax just sucked out and is now the nuts -- again, AK is a possibility.  Also factoring into the decision is if I call the turn raise, I have to call the river barring an obvious change to the board (4 straight Ten or Queen, namely).  In retrospect, I'm not sure I like my decision in calling here, but I do make the call --- and call the blank 3 on the river.  I'm shown KJ for the nuts, as I described earlier.  I think there's room for improvement on that hand sequence.  I think there's too much information telling me to fold on the turn when I:
  1. Get check raised by a more passive player and
  2. Don't even hold close to the nuttiest 2 pair hand.
Anyway, enough with the segue; onto the hand of the night which is fairly unexciting.  The overall table is fairly passive, habitually limping, calling reasonably outsized bets and check / folding flops.  I've been taking down a lot of missed opened pots with cbets by taking advantage of the passivity to this point.  I look down at AA in mid position after 3 limps.  I raise to $25, $15 + 3 limps x $3 per limp.  It folds around to the original limper who decides to limp / raise to $50.  I've been playing against this guy for the past 2 sessions, around 12 hours of time, so I'm fairly familiar with his game.  I know that he's only raising the top 5-10% of hands, and I've *NEVER* seen him limp / raise before.  I think it's fair to estimate he has a good hand.  It folds back to me and I have a decision of flat vs. 4 bet -- and how much to 4 bet.  Let's throw some percentages out and say it's 5% bluff and 95% premium hand.  Therefore, I decide on the 4 bet rather than a flat.

Given that he has about $800 to start the hand, I think flatting is a poor option since I'm looking to play a large pot and no matter the flop, even if he himself has Aces or Kings, it's going to be hard to get all the money in the middle because he'll be in constant fear of a set (unless, of course, he himself flops a set) or an overpair on the flop.  I take my time, debating between a smaller raise ($125), or a larger raise ($200).  Given the action, I think he's never folding any hand here -- if he is, then his limp / raise was a simple bluff, which again, I've never seen him do and it wouldn't fit his profile.  Since I'm pretty sure he's never folding, I opt to raise big and go with the $200 option, not settling in the middle or anything.  I'm going for broke, quite literally.

He processes my 4bet and announces "all in."  Hmmm...  Damn...  Does he also have AA?  I think a fairly standard play here (for most of these players) is to just call the $200 with KK and hope to get away from the hand on the flop.  When I'm seeing a push for almost 3 buy ins, I feel like I have to be up against the other two Aces.  However, I waste no time in calling and he shows KK.  I show him the bad news [for him] and he is totally bummed out.  The board runs clean and I scoop one of the bigger pots I've scooped this year for +$800.

In considering the hand, a couple of thoughts come to mind:
  1. If you can get more money into the pot with the nuts, don't hesitate and shovel whatever you can into it while you know you're on top.
  2. Coolers will happen and KK will run into AA from time to time.  It's hard to fold KK pre flop, and when you're sitting on 100BB, it's even harder.  However, when you're sitting on almost 300BB, shoveling it all in with KK after you've been 4bet is a HUGE error against a reasonable player (which fits my image).
  3. It's probably an error to just call 66BB with 200BB behind after getting 4bet with KK, and although it's a tough fold if your opponent is threatening stacks on the flop / turn, you can probably comfortably save ~100BB by folding at some point or simply taking a flop and folding to an Ace high board.
  4. Don't shove ~300BB into a 4bet against a reasonable player when you yourself have been a very tight player -- especially at these stakes.  It accomplishes nothing because you can only be called by hands that beat you and fold out the hands that you crush.
Note that I keep using the word "reasonable."  The rule set above changes quite dramatically when you have an unpredictable opponent or if you yourself are "unpredictable."  Raising and calling ranges change quite a bit when you or your opponent are casually 3- and 4- betting.  To be more clear, if you figure your opponent could 4bet you with QQ, JJ, straight bluffs, etc., which is much more of a rarity at these stakes, then it may very well be correct to shove KK and get a call from a lesser hand.  However, that 4bet that I put in pretty clearly defines me to have only the very very top of my range: AA, KK.  Calling a shove keeps me in the same range, but skewed way more towards AA.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Is live poker rigged?

Two hands to share - both interesting in their own way.  I'm back to playing at the Horseshoe, at least for the time being, so all hands are from the $1/$3 table:

  1. I'm on the BTN, facing a $6 open from an UTG tighter player while looking down at K4o.  I think the opener's range is very limited, but $6 is just too tempting of a price to open fold after 6 callers are already in, coupled with position.  Therefore, I make the call as do the SB & BB.

    We see an ~8 way flop of A K 4 dd.  Checks to the original raiser who leads for $20 into $50; there are 2 callers and it folds to me.  I think for a while, fully considering the possibility that I may be up against AK.  I think a raise is in order with the SB & BB getting an excellent price to draw, as well as the two callers who may or may not be drawing.  I want to raise to see how my opponents react -- I'm going to call this a semi-bluff, since I'm not sure what my bottom two are worth and I'm over $500 deep.  I don't want to get to the river having just called down 3 streets; I'd rather define the hand right up front.  I think for a bit and raise to $80.  The SB shoves her $125 stack and UTG fairly quickly re-shoves $325.  One of the players folds, but the other re-re-shoves $650.  Action's on me to close out the hand - what do I do?

    I think this is a fairly trivial fold; UTG has to at least have AK, if not AA or KK.  I have no idea about the big stack nor the short stack, but I'm pretty certain the big stack isn't drawing since he's smart enough to know he wants players in the pot for additional money rather than forcing them to fold out of the hand.  I conclude that as a minimum, UTG or the big stack have me beat and I fold.  I'm shown J6dd by the short stack, AK by the original raiser and 44 by the big stack.  Of course, since poker is rigged, J6 wins with a diamond on the turn and the big stack picks up a few extra dollars.

    AK v K4 v 44 v dd on an AK4dd board?  Poker is rigged!
  2. Different session, same place.  I've been at my table for a few hours and there's a guy on my left just dumping money onto the table.  Every chance he gets, he bluffs.  Every chance he gets, he's in the hand - I think his VPIP was something like 100%.  He's losing a lot of money -- at this point, he's down close to $1500!  I can't get any piece of him since I'm utterly card dead.  On my literal other hand (my right side), there's a guy who can't miss.  He's the recipient of most of the money the guy on my left has dumped.  He's sitting on around $1300.  He's a character in and of himself; he'll open to $40 with any and all pairs, but open to $11 with marginal 2nd and 3rd tier type hands like suited Aces and broadways.

    Anyway, my right side opens to $11.  I look down at A2dd and flat, as does my left side.  I think we get one caller in between, but take a flop of A Kd 7.  The guy on my right leads for $25, which is called by both me and the guy to my left.  I'm pretty happy with the flop, I'm not loving that my right is leading.  I want to give my left a chance to bluff a few chips and stab away at the pot.

    I eventually do get my chance to let my left side hand himself when the turn is a K.  My right side checks, I check and my left leads for $35 or so.  The right calls, and I think for a bit, worried that I'm beat by my right side, but eventually make the call.  Adding to my confidence on the right side player is the fact that whenever he believes he has the nuts (and he's flopped 4 or 5 sets on the night), he's shoving his stack independent of the pot size.  This kind of aggression has single-handedly killed the guy on my left, a large part of the reason he's down so much money.  Anyway, my right side has gone from being aggressive to shy, so I'm more comfortable with my play.

    The river is a Ten and we both check to my donkish left sided friend.  Without fail, he bets $75, a large-ish bet.  The guy on my right folds and I snap it off.  I'm shown Q6dd for a total bluff and take down a decent pot.  Guy on my right claims he had AT but thought the bluffer had a King and "had to fold."  I still don't understand his action, especially given that he'd been taking the guy's money all night.  Whatever; nice pot for me!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Flipping your cards when you close out action strikes again

Long story short: My wife's relatives from Florida are staying with us for the foreseeable future, attempting to ride out the hurricane.  They live in Miami, 4 blocks from the beach, in a place that at this point is likely now consider "beach front" - if not "in the ocean" - property.  The last time they stayed with us was over 7 years ago, where I wrote about him in a post from a home game that I held.  In the 7 years since he's been to our house, Maryland has legalized poker & gambling, and 3 ensuing casinos have opened within a 45 minute trip from my home.  Saturday night, I took him to go check out the MGM Grand in National Harbor.

I was card dead for most of the night.  I ran a bad bluff where the short of it is that my opponent looked me up with KTo on a King high board, but I basically walked away break-even for the session.  Close to the end of the session, I get moved to my wife's cousin's table because my table broke.  The open seat is on his left, good spot because I know he's pretty recklessly aggressive.  True to form, he's betting and raising.  Mixing it up pretty good, and definitely hitting his cards.  I'm seeing a bunch of questionable plays, but he seems to be scooping pretty consistently.

DISCLAIMER: I'm not particularly proud of the following, because there's some questionable activities below by me, mainly violating the "one player per hand" rule.  Still, it's worthy of writing a blog post despite my violation of the rule.

I've been playing at the new table for around an hour when an early position (EP) player raises to $12 (1/3 game).  It gets called in 2 spots and my wife's cousin (WC) 3bets to $30.  I haven't seen him 3bet, but I've seen him raise somewhat often.  Regardless, it's a small raise compared to the pot size of $36 + $12 = $48 before the $18 raise.  All players call and I fold 56o.

Flop comes 3 4 T and I think original raiser leads for $~40(????).  I wasn't paying very close attention until the river, unfortunately.  The cbet clears out the cold callers who fold, and WC just calls.  Turn is a 2 which would have been my nut card(!!!!!).  I think it checks through.  River is a 7 which would have given me up & down, but original raiser leads for all in (approximately $240).  His bet is an overbet; not huge, but the bet feels enormous given the action.  WC looks at me and whispers, "What should I do?" as he shows me pocket Queens.  My first reaction is to shrug and mime "no clue."  Then, as WC starts to tank, I whisper to him: "flip your cards up and see what happens."  I know full well that the casino rule is to disallow overturned cards, but nothing will happen except a warning and a "stern talking-to," and not to do it again "or else!"  He listens to my advice and flips up the Queens, much to the chagrin of the dealer who scolds him not to do that.  However, the damage is done - the cat's out of the bag - the horse has left the barn - whatever other cliches you can think of.  The reaction on his opponent's face is priceless; it's all in the eyes... his reaction is almost as audible as a groan, but this is a 100% genuine reaction.  His eyes flutter and look up in disbelief, signaling that he knows he's in trouble.

WC calls pretty quickly after turning his cards back over such that they're no longer exposed.  After 10 seconds, WC throws in chips for the call and flips up his QQ for the win.  The dealer starts pooling the bet into the main pot and his opponent starts getting loud.  He contests the pot, saying that the rules were broken, and WC should forfeit his hand since his cards were exposed before action was closed.  He's holding onto any thread of hope that the pot can be returned to him, but to no avail.  Floor comes over, instructs the dealer to ship the pot to WC and a 10 minute discussion by floor and the opponent continues about how what's the point of a rule if it's not enforced, etc.  However, pot is awarded and we rack up to leave at 3 a.m.

To be honest, it is a pretty dumb rule; if I want to flip my hand over at any point throughout, why can't I?  Obviously, one could argue that I gain an unfair information advantage by getting the reaction, but one could argue the opposite: if I incorrectly [or even correctly] fold, my opponent now knows that he/she can push me off of hands of that particular strength in the future.  More to the point, if this hand flipping rule is in effect, what is the actual penalty?  Is there a difference between accidentally exposed cards vs. purposely?  Because the penalty should be the same regardless, just like an accidental string bet that seems to be very strictly enforced as a string bet, or acting out of turn accidentally. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Playin' with the cow pokes at the WinStar in Oklahoma

The outside of the WinStar in Thackerville, OK
Unless I write down a hand of particular significance, I usually go off memory when retelling the hand histories for this blog.  Therefore, I may get some details confused or cards mislabeled, but the overall essence of the hand retelling is, for the most part, accurate.  That said, earlier this week, I had business travel to Ft. Worth, Texas.  I arrived in Texas in the early evening, without enough time to go check in at work, but too much time to go to the hotel and call it a night.  Already knowing the time I was scheduled to arrive, I figured I would cross the border to OK to get a feel for the "local" poker scene.  The reason I put local in quotes is because the WinStar is about 1 hour from Fort Worth and 1 and a half hours from Dallas.  I digress.

Upon arrival, I tried to take a few pictures (as evidenced above), but was largely unsuccessful, as I was anxious to get seated & get in what would likely be my only time to play until next week.  Therefore, I tried a panoramic shot to get the true feel for the casino's varied architecture.  I was impressed that the architects went with a Vegas feel for the outside; if you can't see the picture, the architecture varies from London (Big Ben / Parliament) to Saxony (nondescript castle) to Roman colonnades and amphitheater, all the way over to Japanese pagoda(?).  Although the inside of the building was not nearly as meaningful of a presence as the outside, at least they're trying in the middle of nowhere in Thackerville!

Inside the poker room
I got myself situated and wait listed myself for the 2/5 & 1/3 games.  After briefly discussing the game layouts with a few dealers just starting their shift, I decided to stick with the 1/3, as they reported that the 1/3 games were very loose, but the 2/5 games were more on the "pro" "tight" side.  I'm always up for a loose game.  Of note, the casino spreads a 1/2 game as well, which did not seem particularly interesting.

The games definitely felt like 1/3 at the 'Shoe in Baltimore; very loose pre-flop calls somewhat home game, followed by check / folds and/or folds on the turn.  People were continually paying for draws and bottom pairs hoping to suck out.

There was one particularly memorable player - a late 70's farmer type - who would call any and every "reasonable" raise PF, only to fold on the flop as described above.  (I use quotes around reasonable because although he wouldn't call a $50 open, he had no problem throwing in $30 or $35).  If he hit his top pair, he'd either bet or raise, making him very easy to play against.  A few uninteresting hands with him are detailed as follows:
I open with KQ after a limper to $15.  He calls as do 3-4 others.  Flop comes K 5 2.  He ships $58.  I call as the only player and he flips over K9.  I hold and scoop.  He rebuys $200.
I open $35 (to try isolate him) with QQ from the BB after a ton of limps and he's the only caller.  Flop comes 6 2 3.  He checks and I bet $35 - he ships for $60 and I call; he hits a J on the turn for 2 pair (J6o) and scoops.  GG sir.
I isolate AQo for $35 and take down a blank flop with a cbet.  FWIW that happened numerous times, so I don't remember all the particulars.  On and on...

The two hands of the night were as follows:
  • I open to $17 after a limper with AJo.  Two callers - Mr. Farmer and a loose Asian guy with about $400 in front of him.  Flop comes A 9 5cc.  I cbet $45 with my TP OK kicker.  Mr. Farmer folds and Asian dude just calls.  Turn is an offsuit 2 and he checks over to me; I lead for $75 and he flats again.  River is an offsuit Q.  He checks again.  In retrospect, I think I can make a small value bet on the river here: $50-75, but I weigh that against the issue that too often if I bet 3 streets, my opponent is only calling when they have me beat.  The logic I'm balancing though is if they're calling $75 on the turn, they're calling a $75 or less bet on the river if they hold a worse Ace.  I don't know; I could go either way, but I need to think about it more closely when I'm in that situation since in this case, I pretty quickly checked through.  Perhaps I'm being results-oriented, but he shows ATo and I win a sizable pot.
  • The other hand of note was against another older guy who, to my knowledge, had not raised or been aggressive all night.  He sat down with $500+, coming from a 2/5 game, and was slowly bleeding away until this hand came up with him sitting on maybe $350.  It limps to me in the SB and I look down at QQ again.  Mr. Farmer is in the hand, so I again try what didn't work last time by raising to $35 - trying to isolate him.  This time, the other older guy wakes up and limp / raises to $100 flat by tossing in a $100 chip on an announced raise.  It folds back to me and I tank.  Does an old guy limp raise with anything but AA / KK?  Is it reasonable?  AK?  I eventually wind up folding after he tells me he'd show, but he only shows me an Ace.  Claims he had AK.  Not sure whether I believe him, but AA / KK / AK is a coin flip for a call (i.e. equal number of combos for AK as for AA & KK combined).  Oh well; tough spot for $35.
I wind up with an okay session, but I'm happy to report that the games are super easy there!  If you find yourself in the DFW area, definitely make WinStar a stop on your tour!

Post-script: A few short notes on quirky rules at the WinStar.
  1. When transferring from one game to another of the same stakes, you have an option of taking chips off the table.
  2. When facing a bet and another player announces all in, that all in bet must be double the bet being called in order for action to be reopened.  For example, if I raise to $10 in a 1/3 game, my raise is $7.  If another player goes all in for $18 total, betting is not reopened to me since the all in player's raise is not $20 or more, double the bet being faced.
  3. Betting lines are observed; moreover if you cross the betting line with a stack of chips, all of those chips are the bet.  In other words, you cannot take a stack of chips across the line and only bet a portion of them; the entire stack that you take across the line is the standing bet.
I didn't have an issue with any of those rules, but throughout the night, there were situations where they became important.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The ongoing saga of pocket Kings, or "Is it wrong to set mine?" -- oh yeah, and an angle shoot (sorta)!

I am still befuddled that my Kings never hold up.  Over the past 8-10 months, it seems as though every time I am dealt KK, I have no problem getting my money in WAY good, only to have my opponent win the pot once all cards are dealt.  I don't get it; whether I'm a 90% favorite or "as little" as a 75% favorite, my Kings simply do not hold'em.  During my most recent session, instead of getting all in only to be sucked out on, I paid off -- and paid off size-ably.

Some background, first.  I got in a rare Friday night session.  I've been vacationing recently, 2 and a half weeks in Israel with my wife's extended family (15 of us in total) traveling throughout the countryside.  Then, we had a week of work before last week journeying off to Playa del Carmen along the Mayan Riviera off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.  Although there have been some problems with a few resorts using spiked alcohol, the resort we stayed in only offers top shelf alcohol and very high end food.  If any of my readers are interested in a 5 star vacation, I highly recommend El Dorado Royale, where we stayed (it was our 3rd or 4th time staying at the series of properties).  I digress; we got back late Thursday night and I was set for a Friday session.

I was seated fairly quickly; there was a "long-ish" waitlist for both the 1/3 and 2/5 games, but I saw a few empty spots sprinkled throughout the room on the 1/3 tables.  The floor was being fairly inefficient in announcing the open seating, so I asked for permission to find a seat and sit down.  The floor granted me the privilege and I found a decent looking 1/3 table, letting them know to take me off the list.  At my table were a list of characters: a 60 -ish gentleman who I nicknamed "nuts," because he was only showing down the nuts and only raising PF with the nuts.  His bet sizing was terrible, so I felt it was only a matter of time before his AA or KK gets cracked by draws or otherwise.  There was another competent player, who I'll nickname "angle" for reasons evident later in this post.  Another player, "red" was a red-headed guy who was fairly competent, and then there was a pretender who thought he was a pro but I thought was suspect because I caught him numerous times limping where he should have thrown in a standard raise, and played far too timidly to appear to turn a regular profit.

I quickly opened my range, realizing that the table was on the tight side; they were mostly the type who would limp in and try to see flops for cheap.  If I raised (my standard raise is typically $15 + ~$3 per limper), the players would fold and I'd see and instant profit for no sweat.  In a more rare case where someone was emboldened to call, I'd simply cbet a K high flop with my missed AQ, or cbet a 2 8 6 board with my pocket 5's to take down a decent pot.  These players started the night playing tight.

Red started establishing himself as a bit of a station; he seemed to commit that if he limped, he was calling a reasonable raise to see a flop.  That reasonable raise consisted of some logical amount between $15 and $25.  At the time of this hand, I'm sitting on around $500 and he has me covered.  I look down at KK and after one limper, I raise to $17.  It folds around to Red who calls, and everyone else folds.  Heads up, we see a 2 9 Qhhh flop.  I do not hold the Kh.  Out of position, I cbet $35 which he flats.  The turn is an offsuit 5 or something, and I lead for $75.  He flats once again.  The river is an offsuit Ace, which I'm very unhappy about.  I check to him, and he thinks for a bit before betting $100.  Given the odds I'm getting here, $100 into a $220+ pot, I begrudgingly call... especially when he seemed to size up and think about why I would check an Ace river before deciding to bet and potentially represent an Ah flush draw.  I think I gave away my hand on the river by not making a blocking bet, but I think my blocking bet is going to be around $75-100, the same it costs to call his bet.  Anyway, I call and am shown T2hh for a flopped ten high flush.  Good game for a first in call of $17.

I reload $100 and wait.  I'm playing from behind most of the rest of the night when I limp my Q9 in late position after a host of limpers.  The flop comes 7 8 T, rainbow.  Decent flop, with a draw and redraw to the nuttiest of nuts.  Angle is out of position to me and bets $15 -- I'm one of 2-3 callers for my open ender.  Turn fills me in with a 6 and he bets large this time: $65 or so.  A heart draw is also put out there as the 6 and 8(?) are now hearts).  I'm left as the only caller.  I consider a raise, but figure it's very obvious with the 4 straight.  The river is a 2 (can't remember whether it was a heart) and he stacks chips ($105 to be exact) in his hand and starts to move them forward and over the line.  He holds them there for a second without releasing and I toss in a chip for the call after believing he has bet (forward motion and over the line).  He sees my somewhat snap call and then starts claiming he did not bet.  The dealer, who is a competent dealer, tells me the rule at MGM: forward motion with a carve out is considered a bet.  He did not release, therefore it is not a bet.  I did not get all upset, did not throw my drink, did not start yelling or causing a ruckus.  I was visibly unhappy, and definitely had a few unpleasant words to the tune of, "whatever, you have to look at yourself in the mirror every day.  If you're comfortable, good for you."  That was the end of it; he had an obnoxious comment back, but a few hands later racked up and left.  Ho hum; lesson learned.  I'm going to have to be more obnoxious in the future when calling with the 2nd nuts and truly wait patiently, and ask "is that a bet?" before making a call.  Again, lesson learned.

The final hand of the night involves Red.  He's got rolled up Aces.  He raises to $10.  Mid position re-re-raises to $25, reopening the betting.  Player to my right calls, I call with 88, player to my left calls.  Back to Red.  I 4bets to $135.  I have $500 effective.  Original 3bettor ships for $129.  Player to my right calls.  I think for a bit, but I believe this to be an unprofitable call, as I'm folding all non-8 boards.  Player to my left thinks for a long time before calling.  Flop comes 8 6 2hh and I'm not too happy.  Red bets $125 and gets 1 caller.  He checks the non heart turn and bets $125 on the river to get a fold.  He shows (obviously, given the action) AA and scoops a nice pot.  It shoulda been me...  I should have gotten revenge for his earlier T2hh bullshit.

Despite the crap above, I turn a decent profit.  It should have been a bigger night, but I'll take what I got.

Friday, July 21, 2017

The need for topping off your stack

As I was waiting for a 1/3 seat to open to start my regular Thursday night session, I decided to sit down at an open 2/5 in order to be included with the ongoing hot seat drawing.  I was seated at 6:05, and the drawing is held on the quarter hour.  Unfortunately, I didn’t hit the hot seat, but I bought in for the minimum ($300) and proceeded to win two nice pots during my short stay, walking away +$368.

The game at 2/5 was good.  I actually considered forgoing my 1/3 seat when it became available, but I quickly concluded that the games are far easier at the lower stakes and the money is very similar.  Less risk, similar reward makes the move a more logical choice.  A quick recap of the one hand of note which I was floored:

Straddled to $10, I find myself in the BB with 99 with my initial $300 effective.  There are a host of limps when action gets to me.  I’m definitely raising here and looking to get it in if need be.  With around $60 of dead money in the pot already, this seems like a prime opportunity for an easy pick up.  I raise to $75.  I’m surprised when 2 callers – one very loose player, and another unknown, make the call.  Flop comes 9 2 7.  Easy game.  I check and it checks through.  Turn is a 2.  I decide to try to get some money in, but want to make my bet appear weak and stab-like.  I bet $75 and they both fold.  Boo!  Perhaps if I see the river, maybe they hit top pair or any pair?  Meh.  I still stand by the play; the loose player can have a wide range here.

I get called for the 1/3 game, and pocket the winnings, sitting down to the new table with $313 to start.  It’s a mixed table with 2 regulars who recognize me, and I tread water for the first few hours.
One hand of note: Prior hand plays in, where I raised to $18 with AJo, get 3bet to $60 and fold.  Regs have definitely seen this, know I can lay down to a 3bet, and view me to be reasonably tight / aggressive.  Anyway, I’m sitting on $245 and I raise one limper to $15 with AQcc.  I think there may have been one or two calls between the more aggressive / somewhat creative reg who looks down, thinks and 3bets to $75.  Folds around to me.  I’ve already decided that this is a good squeeze spot for the reg to pick up some dead money – a move he’s capable of doing – so I shove over pretty quickly for the remainder and it folds back to him.  He folds JJ face up.  Nice pickup of a decent pot with no flop.  I start on the road to building my stack to around $620 without many confrontations.  I’m getting a lot of respect and players are folding to my cbets / raises.  I’m not hitting anything mind blowing, just playing my regular game.

Another hand of note:  I limp A5hh from the BTN after 3 other players.  Action closes and we see a beautiful flop of 2 3h 4h.  Checks to me and I bet $6 into $13.  A mid-60’s, somewhat loose middle-Eastern gentlemen calls as does another player.  Turn is a 2, pairing the board.  Checks to me and I bet $15.  Call from the middle-Eastern guy and I’m heads up.  River is an interesting 3.  It’s a smallish pot and I’m not happy with the runout.  He leads for $40.  I make an awfuckit call and he shows 95o for a missed straight draw / chop.  Go me.

Anyway, table drops down to 4 players and I debate packing it in.  A group of guys who’ve never played before sit down, as does an annoying drunk guy.  Drunk guy proceeds to turn his starting stack (no clue what it was) to ~$400 when the following happens:

3 limps and an average 1/3 player raises to $7.  Caller and drunk guy from SB calls after a speech.  I look down at QQ and decide to 3bet to $45.  Folds around to original raiser who calls, as does drunk guy.  We’re playing $328 effective, as the drunk guy is the only noteworthy player.  We see a 3 7 9 hhh flop.  Sucky, as I don’t have a Qh blocker, but certainly workable.  Drunk guy checks to me, and I want to value bet any heart draws.  I carve out $125.  Folds to the drunk guy who fumbles around for a bit and raises to $250.  I think he can have a very wide range here including top pair and redraw hands, so I don’t want to just call.  I shove over and he snaps me off with the mighty A6hh.  Drawing dead, my stack is now down to about $185.

I’ve been pondering this hand, thinking about whether I can truly put him on a flopped flush, and I’m still mixed in my analysis.  To the negative of my thoughts, drunk guy has not been particularly aggressive, he’s somewhat aware of his hand strength.  We also talked about what he was going to do when he raises me, which I think should have been a huge tell.  However, to the positive, we’re talking about a drunk guy who previously bet me $5 that a Porsche 928 was a rear-engine car – a bet I won immediately thanks to a quick Wikipedia lookup (FWIW, the 928 was Porsche’s first front engine car, and the company has since offered the 924 / 944, 968, Cayenne, Macon, Panamera).  I think I discounted his tells on account of his drunkenness.

I was able to get retribution when I top off $100 a few hands after the aforementioned hand (hence the title of the post) and open from the BB [again] to ~$22 with KK.  I get around 3-4 callers including the drunk guy.  I can’t remember the exact details, and they’re not all that important.  Flop comes T T 4dd.  Drunk guy checks to me and I cbet $65.  He’s the only caller.  Turn is a 6 or something.  I shove my remaining $186 and he hems and haws.  He starts talking about how he wants to make the call to give me back my money and that if he hadn’t won such a big pot from me in the prior hands, he’d definitely fold his hand.  He makes the call and shows QQ.  Clean river (noteworthy too, since I haven’t been doing very well over the past few months with KK) and I’m almost back to where I was prior to the QQ hand. 

In summary, quite a rollercoaster, but I eke out a decent profit at the 1/3 game to close out my session.  Had I not topped off, I would have missed out on an additional $100, and the profit for the session would have been 33 big blinds less.  In an eight hour session like the one I played, that $100 top off was worth $12.50 / hour.  These little edges make a world of difference to the hourly rate.  If you’re not topping off, you better have a good reason for not doing so (i.e. tougher competition, consistently getting your money in at high variance spots, etc.).  Otherwise, you’re missing out on additional profit that surely makes a difference to the bottom line.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Surprise! Pocket Kings fails again!

It's funny how one hand - albeit a hand with worse equity when the money goes in - holds up, but a dominating hand when the money goes in never seems to hold'em.  I feel like I'm becoming a bit of a broken record (perhaps even sounding like fellow blogger Rob and the dreaded pocket Kings) posting about crappy beats with KK but it's my blog and I can do what I want, right?

So I'm riding along nicely - a few hours into my session when the table breaks as it reaches 4 people.  I get switched over to the table I'd been eyeing all night - a table of non-regs.  I haven't been following the table closely as it's across the room, but I'm playing in Baltimore, don't recognize the players, and figure it's a tourist table.  I was correct in my assumptions.

I sit down and watch an immediate all-in and call with weakish holdings, a 3bet with KJs (noted) and a short stack shove repeatedly.  Oh yeah, straddles galore - $6, $10, $15 - all by various players.  Hmmmm...  I'm probably going to like this table...

Meanwhile, my stack gets dribbled down to roughly a starting stack, as I can't hit a hand.  I'm covering the involved parties when the following happens:

There's a $10 straddle on when UTG open ships $86 all in.  A guy in MP re-ships for $97.  I look down at KK and debate.  I know I'm facing two short stacks, so do I want to close the pot out by re-shipping the $300?  I decide on pushing rather than flatting and praying that someone else deeper just calls too.  Turns out we're 3 way and action is closed.  Flop is a glorious K 8 J.  Turn is a 3 putting a two flush and the river is a rainbow T.  I proudly flip my top set and wait until I get semi slow rollled by AQ.  GG sir.  Puke in the mouth.  Why the hell wont my Kings hold up anymore?!?!?!

Anyway, I get retribution a few hands later from the MP above.  For some reason, I don't rebuy which definitely is a factor in the hand.  I'm sitting on $215 and look down at JJ from late position -- probably hijack - after 3 limps.  I [only] get called in 5 spots and we see a flop of 5 8 T -- two clubs.  A very loose short stack open ships $125, the MP above re-pushed $300+ (which covers me) and the action is on me.  Is this go time or am I crushed?  I feel like I'm the hour or so I've been playing, the short stacker can push with any equity, but the MP would just call with a draw.  So is he closing out action against other draws?  Or does he have a set / two pair?  I eventually come to the conclusion that I'm getting too good of a price to fold and call for my remaining stack.  It folds around and I'm once again 3 way to see a turn/ river.

Well the foreshadowing above should already have indicated to you that I held; turns out I'm up against Q8hh and K4cc.  I wind up fading the K,Q,8 and clubs FTW.  A far worse equity hand for a far bigger pot.

Poker is such a strange beast...

Some final notes:

Congratulations to Memphis MOJO for his final table at the WSOP seniors event!  It's truly spectacular to see the blogger world represented proudly!

Happy Fourth of July to all of my [United States of] American readers!

I won't be posting for a few weeks (not that anyone will notice) since I won't be able to play.  I'm on a tour internationally for the next two weeks.  In fact, I'm posting this blog entry 35,000 feet up!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Just a simple complaint about overpairs...

If you don't like complaining / bad beat stories, move along.  This post is a gripe post about the umpteen times I've had a solid winner (i.e. KK, AA, QQ, JJ), gotten it all in WAY good, only to be on the losing end by the showdown.

Most recent in my memory banks:
Last week, I 3bet JJ to $45 and got no less than 3 callers.  The game was wild.  I get it.  Flop comes 9 4 2 two spades and I cbet $120.  Everyone folds except the luckbox to my right.  We have $175 effective and I auto ship the turn 8.  He snaps me off with 82o FTW.  LOL WUT?

This week, I open $25 from the SB with KK after a host of limpers.  I get a very loose call out of mid position.  Flop comes J T 2.  I cbet $65 and he jams for $150.  I snap it off and am shown QTcc for second pair, no redraw.  Turn?  Ten of course.

It seems that ever since the beginning of the year, this kind of pattern has been happening.  Get it in good -- real good -- and get sucked out on.  Rinse.  Repeat.  In the past few months, it's probably happened once every other session, which leads to a significant loss of EV.

The results finally affected my play last night.  Fortunately, I recognized the bad play, and will work to make adjustments and get value rather than shutting out value to take down the pot:

I raised to $25 with JJ in the BB and the same guy from above with the QT vs. my KK calls.  Flop comes 2 2 2.  I cbet $45 and he snap folds.  Bad cbet.  I need to size my bet more like $30-35 to get him thinking about my cbet rather than snap folding.  I maybe need to consider checking but I want to charge for an overcard.  Small mistakes cost money, and the above potentially cost me since it's against a guy who does not fold a pair.

Mental note: don't let results get in the way of maximizing value.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Decent night, interesting hands...

Last night was an interesting night; I'm not running great, but I'm definitely playing better and feel like I'm more in tune with the game.  I felt like helping my last night's results was the fact that my table had more fish than usual.  I'd say 7 out of the 10 players were fairly fishy, with a constant 1 or 2 being extremely fishy.  I ended up stacking one poor guy around 4 times... he kept donking away despite the actions / game flow.

First hand is from said guy from above.  He sits down and is aggro from the start...  I'm like - "look out; strap in and get ready!"  He starts out by raising his first 3 hands, one of which was a 3bet, taking all down without a flop.  He's opening with exploitative raise sizes, consistently ($20 opens, $30 opens, etc. and bombing all 3 streets)  I actually think I saw him go to showdown with very weak holdings - 84 or something - prior to the first hand where I get into it.

I limp QJo from UTG and as scheduled, he raises to $18.  All fold to me and I call.  Flop is Q 8 3.  He leads for $40 and I call.  Turn is a 7 or something; I check / he leads for $65.  I call again.  River is a blank and he shoves all in for $150 or close to.  I snap and he shows QTcc; I scoop and he's mystified, not understanding how my kicker played for my scoop.

Next hand, I raise ATo for $23 from the BTN into 6 limpers, including the aforementioned guy.  He calls along side a loose player who's getting extremely lucky; we'll get into that loose player in a moment.  Anyway, flop comes A J 9 and it checks to me.  I lead for $40 and get calls from both spots.  Turn is a K and it checks to me again.  I put out $75 which the fish snaps off, but the loose player folds (what he later claimed to be A5o).  River is a blank and I'm sure this fish is calling any bet, so I ship which may have been around $120 effective.  He snaps it off and I flip my pair of Aces; he auto mucks (I assume he didn't even have an Ace).

3rd hand against him, I limp / call 34cc along side 3 others against his $18 raise.  I call for a host of reasons, though mainly, he's spewing and I want to be in as many pots as I can against him.  Clearly the other cold callers feel the same way, and since I close the action with my call, I am getting a nice price to see a flop.  Flop comes all rags: 3 2 7 rainbow.  He leads for $40 and I'm 85% certain I have the best hand so I call.  Turn is a 7, completing the rainbow board, and like a clock, he ticks away to $65 on the turn.  My certainty of the best hand has now improved to 95% in my mind, but I don't want to raise him off his bluffs, so I call again.  River is a 3 improving me to bottom boat (3's full of 7's) and now I have a snap call situation if he opts to bluff his third street.  Without fail, he does - $120 or so - and I snap; he shows 95dd for a missed(?) pair draw(?).  He cannot comprehend how I call the flop and turn with a pair of 3's.  I cannot comprehend how he can't comprehend my play...

4th and final hand is a bit dirty, I have to admit.  I think I'm making a so-so call, but I'll present the evidence first:  I again raise to $25 from the BTN with ATo.  I'm facing 6 limpers - and the fish is one of 'em!  I get called in around 3 spots; we see a flop of J 9 3ss.  I hold the Ace of spades.  It checks to me and I cbet $65.  The fish is in EP and he thinks for awhile before shoving $160 effective.  It folds back to me; $325 in the pot facing a $100 call.  It's close; I have 2 backdoor draws - the straight draw + flush draw, in addition to very possibly having the best hand against this particular player.  He's spewy and dumping chips right & left - to me in particular!  He wants to get me.  After it's all said and done, it's $100 to win $325, so I make the call.  Board runs 8 7 rainbow and I'm shown J 8 for the turned 2 pair.  I flip the ATo straight and he's through the roof.  He immediately exits the table in disgust.

Long post, sorry.  However, here's the hand of the night; a "what would you do moment."  I look down at KK UTG and open to $15.  2 callers; a tight straight forward player and the aforementioned loose player (both in the blinds).  This loose player calls a wide range PF, but tightens up a bit post flop; he's not a maniac and generally knows where is in the hand after post flop play. Still, he calls wide with poor odds, but he's been rewarded quite frequently, stacking with hands like 97o against $20+ PF raises, etc.  Anyway, the flop comes 3 6 9 dd and it checks to me.  I lead for $30, the tight player calls for less ($28) and the loose player calls.  He has me covered, playing $250 effectively.  The turn is a 7 and he checks again.  I lead for $60, putting him on a flush draw, but he check/raises me to $150.  What would you do?  Shove or fold?  Thoughts? 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Double play at the MGM

I had a rare opportunity to play two sessions in a week!  Checking in with my wife, I found our schedule to be open over the weekend.  We spent Friday night together, but I decided to go play some poker after dinner on Saturday.  Each of the kids had an activity planned, and my wife was exhausted, so I figured I'd head on over to the MGM to see if I could continue my streak.

The wait list on a Saturday night was around 30-40 deep for a 1/3 table, but ultimately, I was seated within 30 minutes.  I made my way over to the table and found it to be fairly loose / passive.  The common raise seemed to be around $6, with someone getting "out of line" coming in for $10.  There weren't frequent raises, so if a raise did occur, it meant a player had a hand.  FWIW, I did not follow that trend; if I had a hand, I raised at least $15, but my larger raises did not get the table's attention.  If there were limps, those limpers were absolutely seeing a flop -- regardless the cost.  On the other hand, if I was facing a raise to $6, I generally saw a flop, regardless my holdings, hoping to cooler the AA / KK / QQ / AK / etc.

Midway through, I found myself down about 2/3 of a 100BB stack on the following hands (the third hand kept me from putting additional money on the table, fortunately):

  1. KQo, I raise to $18 after 2 limps; one of the limps, a weak / loose player calls, and the other limp folds.  This guy is in every hand, and by the river has the best of it.  He's getting lucky as hell, not playing well.  Anyway, the flop is K 2 4cc.  I cbet for $25 and he calls; he can show up very often with clubs here and I want to get value.  Best case, he has a worse K, but either way, he likes his hand.

    Turn is an off suit 8.  No reason to slow down; I lead for $55 and he calls once again.

    River is an off suit 9.  My thought is a fairly straight-forward line: if he's on clubs, he's always folding to a bet, but there's a chance of a bluff.  I don't feel like there's too many Kings that call for $18 but beat KQ, and if he slow played a set, good on him, I think I'll have to pay him off if he bets.  I just don't see a huge gain in leading for a 3rd barrel with a 1 pair hand.  Finally, I feel like his body language signaled that the 9 helped him.  I'm watching him while the community cards are dealt, and he definitely sat up straighter in his chair.  Out of concern / pot control / inducement, I check.  He stacks $50 and puts it out.  Perhaps I need to think about calling more in the future rather than just snap calling like I did, because he shows me K9 for the rivered 3 outter top two pair.  Yuck.
  2. I tread water for a bit and am dealt Ks7c in the BB.  I check my option into around 7 players.  The flop comes K Qs 7s - Kings up!  I lead for $15 and get called in two spots; another weak passive player and a new player who I read for tight.

    Turn is the Ts.  I check / call the $30 turn bet from the weak passive player, as does the new player.

    River is the 8s.  I check once again; the passive player checks to the new player who leads for $50.  I think for a bit, with my Ks backdoor flush and finally make the call.  The passive player folds AJo face up, and the new player shows As4s for the nut flush.  Another yuck.  This night is turning out not to be my night.
  3. I'm dealt 78ss on the CO.  I've been experimenting with widening my opening range from late position, so I open to $12 from the BTN with no limpers.  I get both blinds to call, the SB is a mouth breather, and the BB is the guy from the first hand above.

    We see a flop of 2h 5d 6d.  They check to me and I cbet $25.  Only the SB mouth breather calls.  No specific reads; he can have anything here - he's limped KK, etc. the whole night & when he opens, it's to around $6.  I can't really assign him a range at this point, but if I were to guess, it'd be an overpair -- 88+, but 6x is in the range as well.

    Turn comes a 9h and the SB checks to me.  See the nuts, be the nuts.  2 flush draws out there & I have an interested caller.  Continue to build that pot!  I put out $55 and without much hesitation, SB calls.  I think he's solidly on an overpair.

    The river completes backdoor hearts with the Ah and the SB checks again.  Unless he hit a backdoor heart draw with something like 6x hh, 3x hh, 4x hh looking for a gutter to fill in, I have the bona fide nuts.  I'm 99.99% confident here - how much value?  $180 in the pot, and I want him to have a thoughtful call, not too hard, but not too easy.  I settle on $125, which seems to be right in the middle.  He hems and haws for a seemingly minutes, mumbling about that terrible Ace on the river.  He asks me if I'll show if he folds, and I say absolutely not.  Only way I'm showing is if he calls.  I start to get the sense that he is moving towards a fold, so I start to talk with him.  I tell him, "the Ace 100% did not help me - I swear on my children!"  This puzzles him even further.  I consider showing him one card to reinforce confidence in his call, but I feel like I'd give too much of my hand away by exposing.  I also feel like he & the table would start re-thinking my raises if I show them a 7 or 8 that I raised with, although in retrospect, they could put me on pocket 7's or 8's.  On the other hand, what is my goal in showing a card?  To get him to call.  Does willfully showing him a 7 or 8 induce him to call me, given my aggressive action on all 3 streets with a straight out there?  He can certainly discount a rivered flush, but I feel like showing a 7 or 8 pretty clearly points to A7 / A8, 77, 88, or 78, with a healthy slant towards 78.  Therefore, I decide not show.  Unfortunately, he eventually mucks and we move on to the next hand.
I continue to balance delicately, wondering whether I'll ever pick up a hand instead of a constant stream of second bests...  Close to the end of my session, I look down at 6 6 in the SB and complete to 6 limpers; the BB checks and we see a bingo flop of Kd 6d K [finally!].  I have no doubt at least one of the 7 players in the hand (excluding me) has a King, or, at minimum, drawing dead to a diamond flush.  I want to flush both parties out; see who's betting & who's calling.  Then I can get a grasp for my target audience.  Therefore, I check my flopped boat to a mid position player who leads for $10 into the $20+ pot.  It gets called by the weak / loose player described in hand #1 above; all else fold.  Now, I read one of these guys for a K, and one for a diamond draw...  I think with 2 players in, this is a good spot to check / raise the nuts for the following reasons:
  • I'm getting additional money in with both players drawing semi dead, coupled with a high likelihood that they'll be paying me off.
  • It would be a disaster for the diamond draw to miss by the river, shutting out value, without setting up for stacks by the river.
  • With 20/20 hindsight, if the original bettor is bluffing / feeling out the table and does not have a King, he will likely shut down by the turn, fearing a King by one or both of his flop calling opponents.
  • Raising and getting more money in the pot will push my agenda.
Therefore, with action facing me, I want to put out a bet that's not too much, but not too light.  Somewhere between $30-40 should do the trick; I raise to $40 with about $40 in the pot (excluding my raise).  Unfortunately, the original raiser folds but the weak passive player thinks for a minute before making the call.  Booyah!  He's on the diamond draw... come on diamond diamond diamond.  Come on diamond diamond diamond!
I get my wish when the 8d drops on the turn.  I feign annoyance and check; the weak passive player becomes aggressive, but not over the top.  He leads for $25 into the $90 pot...  Too little for me!  Gotta keep to my agenda.  I again check raise; this time to $75.  Without hesitation, he calls.

We see the Tc on the river and I have a decision: do I go for big value on the river by leading out, or do I try to go for the ego trifecta badge (in the days gone by of online poker, the online tracking website would give players a trifecta badge for an online player check/raising 3 streets) by check raising 3 streets?  I'm so tempted to try for the live trifecta (in fact, I've only seen in once in live poker), but in the end, I can't bring myself to do it.  Seeing a nutted hand go to showdown without a river bet would be so terrible, and I can't count on my opponent to bet river after he's been check / raised every time.  Therefore, I count out what I intended to be $175, but someone ended up being $225 with about $60 behind (he has me covered) -- not quite stacks, but not too far away.  Honestly, I did not realize I made a close to pot sized bet on the river; I wanted him to be able to snap it off without much thought.  After much hemming and hawing, and verbalizing that he has a flush, he decides he cannot fold and tosses in the $225.  It was funny to watch his reaction; I could see the light bulb go off - as if he said, "of course, a full house!"

In retrospect, playing perfect poker, if I had raised to $100 on the turn, I could have gotten stacks in by the river.  Also in retrospect, though, I was worried that if I was wrong about his diamond draw and my opponent had trip Kings instead of a turned flush, he'd be very fearful of that I instead turned the flush and he would consider a fold right then & there.  Therefore, I don't know if there was any way in getting the last $60 to double up...

Final hand of note was within my last few orbits of play:
A competent player opens to [if memory serves] $17 from the SB with one limper.  I look down at QQ and 3bet to $55.  Limper folds and SB 4 bets to $120.  At this point, I flat; we're about $800 deep and I don't want to get it in, therefore I flat the $65 raise.  I think I'm set mining here but not entirely sure - but I'm like 80% behind when facing a 4bet.

Flop comes K J 4 ss and he checks to me.  He's not getting another dollar outta me unless I hit my set on the turn... and even then, I'm not sure I'm going to pay him off.  I happily check behind.  Turn is a blank and he leads for $80.  I snap fold.  I can't envision any hand he holds that doesn't have me beat after 4betting PF.  AA, AK (not so much), KK and remotely JJ.  Thoughts?  I probably should fold to the 4bet?  I spoke with him afterwards to discuss the hand...

For what it's worth, the flopped boat hand was the one hand I needed to push me into the black for the session, to end my ~6 hour session with a come-from-behind win.  One hand can be the make or break for the entire day.  Funny how that works.

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