Thursday, July 2, 2015

I Guess There's a Reason I Lose with Pocket Kings

I haven’t done a post about a really bad result with my “favorite” hand in a while, so I guess it’s about time for one.

My original intention, when I started writing this post, was for it to be a “woe is me” post…”see what happens when I play pocket Kings?”

But writing up the hand made me realized that what I thought was bad luck for me was really bad play by me.  It wasn’t until I put the words down on paper (or in a word processor) that it really hit me how badly I butchered this. 

I should probably be too embarrassed to post this, but since I found it so helpful to me to write it up, I figured that by actually posting this, it will penetrate my brain even better so I don’t duplicate this type of play.  Plus, getting additional feedback from my readers could also be helpful.  And maybe others can learn from it.

The other night at 1/2, I was in for $300 and down to about $180 (I had bought in for $200 and had to add another $100, if you must know).  So it wasn’t a good night.  Nothing out of the ordinary, just could not get anywhere.

So in the big blind, I looked down at the dreaded pocket Kings.  The under-the-gun player opened for $6, a rather small raise.  Two others called the $6 and then it was on me.  I probably should have raised more, but I put out $27.  I think $30 would have been better, in hindsight (3X the bet, plus the extra two calls) I wish I could tell you how I came up with $27 but I can’t.

The preflop raiser called, the others folded so we were heads up, and the flop was 10-9-5, rainbow.  Pretty good flop for Kings, and with a stack-to-pot ratio of less than 2.5, my thought was I should be willing to get my entire stack in if I could.

I bet $40 and got a call.  The turn was the 4 of diamonds, the second diamond on the board.  I thought about putting it all in there.  I guess I should have.  But I decided it would be better to get half in then and put the rest in on the river.  The too-small flop re-raise was a minor error.  But I think my bet on the turn was a major, major error. 

The pot was over $140 on the turn, and my remaining stack was only around $110 or so.  So there was really no good reason not to get it all in on the turn.  Damn that was stupid to put only half in and save half for the river.  I really should have known better.

He called and we saw a 5 of diamonds on the river.  Despite the three diamonds and the paired board, I went ahead with my plan of getting the rest of my stack into the pot.  Well you know, I didn’t have to do that either.  I might have saved myself $55 if I had just checked.  But you know, I was planning to put all the money in when I saw the flop, so why stop now?

He called and asked if I had a boat.  Then he said, “I have a flush.”  He turned over Jack-8 of diamonds.  So it was runner-runner flush.  But of course, he had flopped an open-ender.  That, coupled with the fact that I didn’t bet enough, made all of his post flop play perfectly understandable.

Less understandable was his preflop play.  I personally don’t get making such a small preflop raise, under-the-gun, with such a crappy hand.  Jack-8 sooooted?  That’s not a limping hand in early position, let alone a raising one.  And the raise size is too small to get as many folds as you’d probably want.  You’re building a big pot for a crappy hand you have to play out of position.

But what I really don’t get is his calling my re-raise.  Ok, I should have bet a little more, but even so, calling $21 with such a weak hand?  True, he’s going to have position on me, but his call makes it more likely someone behind him will call with position on both of us.

But who am I to criticize his play?  I butchered the hand pretty good, and didn’t even realize it until I started writing about it.  My initial reaction was more like, “Oh, just another typical pocket Kings hand for me.”  But I’m glad I documented the hand so I was able to realize my own errors vividly.

Note:  If the guy was willing to call $22 preflop with that hand, I’m not sure if anything I could have differently after the flop could have changed the outcome.  But that doesn’t matter.  I should have played it better, whether it would have made a difference this time or not.

That’s it…..getting my Kings bested by Jack-8 suited convinced me to stop playing for the evening.  I quit so I wouldn’t be playing on tilt.

Now, the cartoon below….I’m borrowing it because no less an expert than Poker Grump thought of me when he saw it.  I must admit that it does appear that the creator might just be familiar with this blog.  Also want to give shout outs to Robbie of for tweeting the cartoon and, the original source of the cartoon.

And to finish off, it’s been called to my attention that the last couple of posts of been lacking in pictures of lovely ladies that some of my readers have come to expect.  And after losing my stack (so-to-speak) and realizing I played the hand badly, I need something to cheer myself up.  So these pics might just do it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Check Raise That Wasn't

Those of you who follow me on Twitter (and if you don’t, why the heck not?) saw my tweet last night about a questionable interpretation of the rules for raising in No Limit Hold’em that I witnessed at the Aria.  Since it normally takes me 1,000 words to tell a 150-word story, there was no way I could tweet out the issue, but fortunately I have this very blog where no one can limit the amount of words I use to tell a story.

In doing so, I want to make clear that I think Aria is one of the premier poker rooms in Vegas and what I witnessed in no way affected that  opinion.  If, as I suspect, I witnessed an incorrect ruling, I chalk it up to the fact that the ruling was made by a human (well, two, actually, counting the dealer) and that to the best of my knowledge, we have yet to discover the human being who has never made a mistake.

The game at Aria is 1/3 and I had only recently taken my seat.  The player on my immediate right limped in to the pot, and I raised to $15 with Ace-Queen of clubs.  A player behind me called, the blinds both called, and the limper called.

The flop was King-7-3, two spades and a red card.  Not exactly a great flop to me.  I figured I was done with the hand but it checked to me, with only one player who hadn’t acted left.  The manner in which everyone checked—very quickly—made me consider a continuation bet.  Ordinarily with that many players I wouldn’t do it, but it was early, I had my full $300 starting stack, and I have seen such a bet work on occasion…..and if it didn’t work, I’d have time to get it back.  So I put out $40 with nothing more than one overcard and a backdoor straight draw.

The last player folded but one of the blinds, a woman, put all her chips in, but it was $49 total, just nine bucks more than my bet.  The last player left, the guy to my immediate right, asked if he could re-raise.  Note:  At the time, I wasn’t sure if he had asked if he could re-raise or if he was asking if I would be allowed to re-raise if he merely called.  The second question was certainly legitimate—not knowing what he had, he might want to call if he knew it was just $49 but would think twice if the preflop raiser was allowed to bump it up some more.  However, it soon became apparent that he was specifically asking if he could raise the $49 bet he was now facing.

The dealer said no, he couldn’t raise. His explanation was that her raise was not at least 50% of my bet.  It had to be at least half of my bet again in order to re-open the action.

I’ll refrain from my own commentary until I finish the story.  But I said nothing.  Other players insisted that he could raise.  I’m not sure if the player facing the bet questioned it all that much but two other players not in the hand were adamant that he could raise.  The dealer called the floor, and received the full explanation of the situation from the dealer.

The floor said that he couldn’t raise because the bet wasn’t more than half the bet she was facing.  In other words, if she had been able to go all-in for $61, he would have been able to raise.  That’s my own example for illustration, not what the floor said, but that was the clear interpretation of what both the floor and the dealer were saying. The other players pointed out that she hadn’t raised the player facing the bet, she had raised me, and that he hadn’t put any money into the pot at this point on this street.

The floor asked if the player facing the bet had acted at all on this street.  When told he had, but that he had checked, the floor ruled that since he had had a chance to act on this street, and had checked, he couldn’t re-opening the betting because the lady’s all-in was not large enough to re-open the betting.

And so, that was the ruling.  The player to my right could only call.

I swear this is a completely accurate retelling of what occurred at the table last night.

OK, so what do you think of this ruling?  How many mistakes do you see made by the floor and the dealer?

I count two. 

The player to my right was not trying to raise the lady, he was trying to raise me.  The fact that he had initially checked means nothing, unless this is the first poker room I’ve ever played in that doesn’t allow check-raising!  But in fact, the lady herself had checked-raised me!  So, of course he could raise…he could raise me.  The only thing that was a question in my mind was what his minimum bet would have to be.  Would he be allowed to bet only $80 (double my bet) or would he have to bet at least $98 (double the lady’s bet)?  I’m assuming that $98 is the right answer.

But seriously, how could he not be allowed to check-raise there?  How was the fact that he had initially checked the flop relevant to whether or not he could raise?  Check-raising is a key part of poker.  He had obviously checked hoping that I would c-bet and I had totally fallen into his trap.  

Note: clearly if he had just called (as he ended up doing), the betting would be closed to me, I would not have been able to re-raise.  But that brings me to the second mistaken ruling at the table by the dealer and the floor.

Both of them stated that the action could only be re-opened if the lady’s all-in was 50% or more of the bet she was facing.  For the player to my right, that was irrelevant, as I’ve just explained.  But for me, if he had just (voluntarily) called, it was totally incorrect.  The 50% rule applies to limit games.  In No Limit hold-em, it’s 100%.  Many dealers—and even floor people—get this wrong.  I did a post not long ago covering this very topic.  You can find it here.

Say I had hit the flop, and would have been more than happy to re-raise there.  I couldn’t have because her bet was only $9 more than my bet.  But even if her all-in was $79, not $49, I wouldn’t have been able to raise, because this is No Limit, not limit hold-em.

Note, in that post I just linked, there was some back and forth, and it was determined that there are actually some poker rooms across the country that do have it as a house rule that re-opening of a NL betting is the same as in a limit game.  But I would be totally shocked if Aria was one of the rooms with that particular house rule.

Anyway, to finish off the story with the results of the hand, for those curious, the guy called the $49.  I knew I was badly beat, but for the size of the pot, I couldn’t fold for a measly $9.  The pot was over $200!  So I threw away another nine bucks on a gazillion-to-one chance I still had a shot at the pot.

The turn card was another 7, and the guy on my right shoved all-in for about $200.  I folded like a cheap suit.

Turns out he had flopped a set of 3’s and turned the full house.  The lady had a weak flush draw.

Note….I think the shove was not a great play on his part, but I think because he couldn’t raise the flop he was already in shove mentality (because of the flush draw) and couldn’t stop himself when he turned the boat.  Not that it made any difference, I wouldn’t have put another penny into that pot at that point.

I should point out though, that the error did cost me $9.  If he had been allowed to raise on the flop, a real raise, not just nine bucks, I would never have called it, and saved myself the nine bucks.

After the hand, we were all discussing how absurd it was that the floor ruled the guy couldn’t check-raise.  But I was the only one noting that the 50% interpretation was incorrect as well.

Unless I’m wrong?  So, dealers, floor people, poker room managers…..please let me know.  Have I gotten anything wrong?

Or did I just witness what humans sometimes do….make mistakes?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Vegas Poker Scene (July Ante Up Column)

Here's my newest column for Ante Up.  The link for it on the Ante Up website is here.   Remember, my contribution is embedded in the entire West Coast report.  So below is just my Vegas report.  The magazine should be in your local poker room by now.

MIRAGE: Just in time for the WSOP, the Mirage opened its newly remodeled poker room in late May. The room had been closed since January but is now a beautiful 12-table facility in the same area as the old room, near the sportsbook.
Though the main game spread is $1-$2 no-limit hold’em ($100-$300 buy-in), the room also spreads a popular $3-$6 limit game with a $30 minimum buy-in. Promotions include high-hand bonuses of up to $500 for royals, Aces Cracked and a bad-beat jackpot. Players earn $2 an hour in comps, there’s free wi-fi and you can charge your mobile devices at the tables.
The Mirage has two daily tournaments (11 a.m. and 7 p.m.). The morning tournament offers an 8K starting stack and 20-minute blinds, except on Saturdays when the popular “Stack” tournament is held. This one features 25K starting stack for $120 and 25-minute levels. Friday evening is the $100 bounty tournament with a 15K stack and 20-minute levels. The rest of the week the tournament is the same $65 tournament held in the morning.
SUNCOAST: The locals room in Summerlin just started running a $100 stud/8 tournament on the last Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. The starting stack is 7K and a $10 dealer bonus gets you 3K more chips. The levels are 30 minutes. The first one drew 40-plus players.
Suncoast features daily $45 tournaments at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. On the first Friday of every month, there is a $100 deepstack at 6 p.m. with a 10K stack and an optional $20 add-on for another 5K chips. This tournament has 30-minute levels and the winner gets a watch valued at $180.
On Wednesdays, the Suncoast spreads a $4-$8 dealer’s choice game for a $40 minimum buy-in. There are 17 games to choose from, including 2-7 triple-draw, badugi, badeucey, razz, pineapple and Omaha/8.
Suncoast still hosts the long-running “Hoggy” $2-$8 stud/8 game Mondays and Fridays at 11 a.m. The qualifying low hand is eight or better and a pair of jacks or better is the minimum high hand.
PLAZA: The downtown room with five electronic tables has named Gary Vickery as its manager. Vickery comes from Philadelphia, where he ran a poker league. He moved to Vegas last August to work in table games at the new SLS casino (formerly the Sahara) but is happy to get back into poker.
The Plaza specializes in affordable buy-in tournaments, as cheap as $5 at 10:30 a.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. The 2 p.m. and
9 p.m. tournaments are $12, except for the Thursday night $35 deepstack. Mondays at 10 p.m. is a $12 stud tournament and Tuesdays at 10 p.m. is a $12 PLO event. These tournaments are great for beginners, but many experienced players who play these and have a blast with them, not having to worry about losing much. All of these tournaments have guarantees.
POST WSOP: With the WSOP closing shop for another year, players will miss the big buy-in tournaments that were all over town. As things return to normal, assuming anything in Vegas can be described that way, players still have a multitude of great options, though the buy-ins and the prize pools will be a lot smaller.
The Aria’s $125 tournament is one of the most popular dailies in town. It runs twice a day, at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m., and costs $125 for 10K chips and 30-minute levels. Players who bust out early are allowed one re-entry.
The Venetian also has two tournaments a day at noon and 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays at noon it’s a $150 event that starts with a 12K stack and 30-minute levels. Re-entry is unlimited. The Friday and Sunday tournaments are $200 bounty events. Same levels and starting stack and the bounty is $50.
Saturday is a $100 bounty tournament with a $300 buy-in and the same details otherwise.
The evening tournaments are $125 on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays and $200 on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The Friday tournament is a rebuy event, players are allowed a $200 rebuy for 12K more chips and that can be taken for the first two hours any time the stack is at 6K or worse. All of the rebuy goes into the prize pool with no rake and all of the tournaments have guarantees between $5K and $20K.
The Wynn offers a popular $140 tournament Mondays through Thursdays with a 10K stack and 30-minute levels. On Fridays and Sundays, there’s a $10K guarantee and it’s $200 with a $100 add-on for an extra 5K chips. Saturday offers a $25K guarantee with 40-minute levels and unlimited $200 rebuys through the first two hours. The starting stack and the rebuy chips are 10K.
The Orleans features two tournaments a day at noon and 7 p.m., but the can’t-miss event for tournament lovers is the Friday-night event. The $125 buy-in has a 12.5K starting stack and 30-minute levels. This is the most popular regular tournament in town and regularly attracts 225-plus entrants. Though re-entry is allowed for the first 90 minutes, there are usually so many alternates that those wishing to re-enter are frequently shut out. With a prize pool that exceeds $22K regularly, a winner is seldom declared before the wee hours of Saturday morning.
And don’t forget the Binion’s Saturday deepstack with its $10K guarantee. The $140 buy-in brings a 20K starting stack with 30-minute levels. It starts at 2 p.m. and the last few entrants are usually battling it out past midnight.
No bracelets on the line, but as you can see, there’s always great tournament action in Vegas.