Friday, August 10, 2012

The Secret to Winning With Pocket Kings--Foul Smelling Chinese Food

Last night I was having a bad session at the 1/2 table.  First hand, I flopped a flush draw and decided to call an all-in for a little more than half my buy-in hoping to hit it (I think the odds were right, or at least close).  I missed.  Downhill from there, drip, drip, drip went the chips.  I never officially busted out, but when the stack was too low to do anything with I added another $100, making my investment $300 for the night.

Still my stack dwindled, couldn’t make a hand to save my life.  Suddenly a guy took the seat to my immediate right with a bag full of Chinese food and started eating.  Ugh.  I have no idea what he was eating.  I don’t like Chinese food generally but I’ve never had a problem with the smell of it, until now. For some reason, this particular meal the guy was eating had an extremely offensive odor to me.  It was really bad, and I had to start breathing through my mouth to survive.
I considered a table change, but looking around the room, I thought it would probably take awhile before they could move me, and the guy might be finished by the time I could move.  Instead, I just decided that, since the cards were treating me like a baby treats a diaper on this night, I would just leave a little earlier than usual.  I figured I could survive one last orbit if I concentrated on breathing thru my mouth.
So I was gonna play until the big blind came to me—in other words, only “free” hands—and then take whatever was left with me.  It was about $60-$70.  I wasn’t looking to make a silly move because of being short-stacked; I was perfectly willing to take those last few chips to the cashier’s cage to save for tomorrow.
So it came to what was to be my last hand. Under the gun, I looked at my very good friends, a couple of cowboys.  Yeah, my all time favorite hand, pocket Kings.  Both of them red.  I chuckled (hopefully just to myself).  Ok, fine.  If I was gonna lose the last of my buy-in with my own personal hand from hell, so be it.  I could live with that.
I actually thought of open-shoving there with my short stack.  I might have gotten a caller, but the most likely result was that I would just win the blinds, and adding three bucks to my stack on my last hand of the night didn’t seem to make sense.  So, I made it $8, my standard raise this night.  There were two or three callers.
I didn’t like the flop very much.  A65.  The Ace and one of the rags were hearts.  I’m first to act, so what to do?  Generally I’m going to bet there.  A lot of times no one has an Ace, or someone with a weak Ace lays it down, putting me on AK or AQ.  A bet pretty much makes me pot-committed, so in hindsight, I probably should have just shoved.  I’m not sure why I didn’t, but instead I played it like I normally would and put out a bet of $20, hoping that would scare away a weak Ace, a weak draw, or a smaller pair.
Instead a guy with a short stack—but somewhat bigger than mine—shoved.  Uh oh.  Then a guy with a much bigger stack shoved as well.  Next guy folds and it’s back to me.  Both of these guys have me covered, so my options are to risk the last few chips I had or walk away and cash out my last $30-$35 in chips.
As I said, my flop bet pretty much had me pot committed.  I knew I was behind now; one of both of these guys had an Ace for sure, and one of them may have had better than that.  I seriously doubted that both of them were semi-bluffing with a draw or a weak pair.  So I had two outs, the remaining Kings.  And then I thought to myself, “Well, there’s already 2 hearts on the board, I’ve also got runner-runner hearts going for me.”  Remember, both of my Kings were red.  So I swear I actually did think of that.  But again, I chuckled to myself as I thought of it, knowing how much of a long shot that was.  I was never really factoring that into my decision making process, nor would I ever do that.  It was mostly a thought I had to amuse myself.
So I called, thinking I was a) saving myself from a trip to the cashier and b) adding one more “dreaded pocket Kings” story my already overfilled duffle bag of them.  The dealer spent some time counting the pots, to sort the main pot from the side pot.  Turned out most of the money was in the main pot (the only pot I was in); there was less the $20 in the side pot.  All betting action was over.
Finally the dealer continued to deal.  Instead of the King I was praying for, the turn was low heart.  I had only a nano-second to absorb this, but I did say a really quick prayer for one more heart.  The only black card I wanted to see was a King.
And so, to my sheer astonishment and delight, the dealer did indeed put one last heart on the board!  Since the Ace of hearts was already out there, I had the stone-called nuts!  I laughed and said something like, “Oh wow, that’s incredible!”  And flipped over my Kings.  The other two guys couldn’t believe it.  One guy said, “Wow, that was well disguised, I never would have put you on that.”  Then the two of them took turns criticizing my play.  “Two all-ins in front of him and he calls with that?”  Comments like that used to bother me, but now I usually just let myself be amused by them.
I was chuckling as I stacked my chips.  BTW, short stack had AQ and big stack had actually flopped two pair and took the small side pot.  The two of them kept consoling themselves with how badly I played the hand.  Although I didn’t have to say anything, I couldn’t resist the temptation to defend myself a little.  “I was short stacked.  I wouldn’t have done it played it like that if I had a couple of hundred chips at risk.  I’m not a complete idiot.”  And I laughed.
Now, although I know there is nothing wrong with it, I almost never leave a table immediately after winning a decent sized pot.  And now that I had about half of my total buy-in sitting in front of me, I decided to keep playing a bit longer.  As I said, it was early for me.  And you know, with all those chips sitting in front of me, suddenly that Chinese food didn’t smell quite as bad any longer.  Besides, he was almost done eating.
I actually won the next pot, when I was the big blind.  I got some garbage hand, no one raised, I hit the flop, bet, got one caller who folded when I also bet the turn. Back in business!
I did give back a few chips a few hands later when I chased down a gut-shot straight flush draw and hit nothing, but I still had close to $150 in front of me now.
So…..same dealer, his last hand of the down.  I’m under the gun plus one and get pocket 6’s.  I limp.  A whole bunch of limpers until it gets to the big blind, who bumps it up another $10.
Now I had seen this guy do this before in that situation. A whole bunch of limpers, he raises.  Once when he was on the button, he made a bigger raise and it turned out he had 10-8 offsuit.  He actually won that pot when he hit two 8’s on the board (and yes, Coach, that was trips, not a set).  I had him pegged as an aggressive but not very good player. So I didn’t really assume he had a great hand. Besides, with 6’s, I’m only looking to hit a set or fold on the flop.  And I assumed a lot of the limpers would call, so I was willing to risk another $10  I threw two redbirds in front of me. In fact, all the limpers called so it was a pretty nice pot to see the flop.
I did indeed hit my set.  762, two clubs.  Big blind/preflop raiser led out for $15.  I wasn’t about to slow play this.  In both of my last two cash sessions, I had sets that lost to straights (details to follow).  I knew I had to play this fast.  I actually thought of shoving, but thought that might be excessive. I made it $45 and it folded back to preflop raiser who thought for a good while and then called. 
Turn was Ace of hearts, which was fine by me.  He checked, I put out $60.  He tanked for a long time.  I was sure he was gonna fold.  I would have been quite satisfied taking down the pot right then and there.  But to my surprise, after a good long session in the tank, he announced, “all in.”
He had me covered, but if I was gonna go home empty handed with a set, so be it.  I snap-called.  We didn’t show. 
The river was a Jack of diamonds, a seemingly meaningless card.  There was no straight or flush out there.  Only thing that could beat me was a bigger set.  I showed mine, and he stared out, in shock, in total amazement, and kindly showed his Ace-7 (off suit) for two pair.  Really?  He called my re-raise on the flop with a lousy pair of 7’s? Maybe I had convinced him that I was a really bad player by the way I played those Kings.  And also, raising from the Big Blind with Ace-7 off?  I mean, if you’re not gonna raise enough to chase every limper out of there, why do you do that?
Whatever, I was all too happy to take his chips. I now had a bit more than I bought in for.  I played another 15-20 minutes and left up around $25.  That’s a win when you consider I came thisclose to leaving down three bills.  And I owe it all to bad smelling Chinese food—or pocket Kings—or both.


  1. Well, I have never been one to keep restating the obvious, obviously, But the outs are obviously obvious -- even to the oblivious. That would be your critics.

    I'll let you total up the pot for various individual odds but the simple ways for your hand is 3:1. You are behind but outs are obviously obvious -- 2K 10H for 12 outs. It obvious you used the obvious rule of 42, you with 48% on the turn and 24% on the river.

    It is obvious that you had to put in those last few chips with the pot offering you those odds with those outs, obviously.

    Well played sir. Your play should be considered obviously sound.

    1. Thanks Ken. I have to admit I'm always a little confused as to how to count outs when you need two cards, not one. You say I had 10 outs from the backdoor flush draw, but is that accurate? I needed to have hearts on both the turn and the river to make a flush (which, thankfully, I did).

      Or say you flop a set against a flopped straight or flush. Right then you have 7 outs, 3 from each of the other two cards for the boat and one from your card for quads. But if the turn misses, you have three more outs, that turn card pairing. Is it accurate to say you have 10 outs on the flop?

      I've gotten a lot better at ignoring people criticize my play the past few months. Now I almost enjoy it!

  2. P.S. Of course the 12 outs are a fourflusher's lie; but hell, they wouldn't have figured that out. ;)-

    1. Yeah, once the heart hit the turn, I had 9 more outs on the river. But if the turn is heartless, I'm down to 2. So since there's a one in four chance (more or less) of the turn being a heart, do we call that 2 and a half outs?

    2. Had they checked the flop, you would have had solid ground on the turn based on pot vs outs. Do it a lot without the outs and it is a long term loser. But, we all do things when we are frustrated and this one worked out.

      We've all sat there folded and watched the low odds play hit. But, it is better to see such a hand played by the other guy. It a trait we appreciate in an opponent.

      The people you were playing didn't have the right to kick sand or tap glass. It was your standard loose game. Next time you write about such a hand, don't use outs but blame it on your read -- works for the rest of us. ;)

      Neither opponent should have played the way they did. At least your frustration provided a semi-legit response. The guys with big stacks were the dumbest getting it in without even TPTK.

      When you learn to fold TPTK at the right times, you find your way to the cashier's cage and to final tables. But, in the ring games you play, determining that fold can be a real challenge. (obviously...)

      Truthfully, there isn't a player here who hasn't made a worse play. But, when the blood pressure has gone back down, we don't blog it. Your blog honesty is refreshing.

      I've written a lot about my not being able to play much tournament Hold'em these days. Tilt happens and it has affected that for me. Disclaimers aside, you were darn close to that mindset on the hand.

      P.S. I am with Mojo on Sklansky. When you nitpick one more out and use just outs like he mostly does, that isn't poker. That works to a point. As Dave has shown in his late play, you need flexibility in your approach. In ring adjusting to table style is the equivalent.

      (I talked too much and this is way too disjointed.)

    3. Thanks Ken....I think. Your comment was actually as long as some of my posts, and I have to say I like that, even if I'm not sure what you are saying :) But I wasn't really upset at all at the criticism I got, and I don't feel I played the hand badly UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES. Now if I had risked a couple of hundred bucks on that draw with those odds, that would have been a donkey play. But for a few bucks as I was ready to call it a nite, I'm fine with my play. I thought others would find their comments amusing.

  3. You can count any runner-runner straight or flush draw as about 1 extra out.

    In this case, you need one of 9 hearts to hit out of 47 unseen cards. THEN, you need one of 8 hearts to hit out of 46 unseen cards. So (9/47)*(8/46) = .033, or 3%.

    3% is roughly one and a half "outs". An eight out runner-runner straight draw is a little less, I round them down and treat both as 1 out.

    So you can count 2 kings as 1 runner-runner for a total of 3 outs when counting your pot odds. Since you're all in, you'll hit by the river about 12% of the time. (rule of 4 with 3 outs).

    1. Thanks very much for the info, Matt.

      I know I got lucky, but hey, that's poker, right?

  4. Matt is right that the flush possibility should be one out (according to Sklansky). I usually, however, discount it as it doesn't seem to work for me (being one extra out).

    I put the hands in Poker Stove giving one guy AQ another AJ and another a random hand. It says you have 13.783% equity in the deal. Now it's reduced to a math problem. You can add up the pot, what it would take you to call and decide if you should have made the call or not. (I'm not doing the math, but guessing not.)

    1. Thanks MOJO. I'm sure it was a bad call, pot odds wise, but I'd rather make a bad call for a few bucks than for a couple of hundred. And I'm sure it won't be the last bad call I make--this week, even.

  5. The problem is that you could already be up against a set of A's, which would lower your odds. However, this is fairly unlikely when you have two all-in callers.

    1. I think I would have been 3-bet before the flop if anyone had Aces. Never considered that as a strong possibility. And thanks for the comment, Makarschuk!

  6. Ken P's comments are getting as long as your posts ...

    btw -- Have you considered that maybe what you smelled was not bad Chinese food?

    1. was defnitely the Chinese food, but the real question is, had it been, um, "reprocessed" by the time I smelled it?

  7. next time we play together I'm bringing some Panda Express - just ask them for whatever smells strongest at the time.
    Won't even eat the shit, just open it up and sit it between us.


    1. Yeah, but you missed the point. It would make me start playing "What the hell poker" and thus I'd get a suck out and stack you! Works everytime! :)