I guess I’ve become a decent NL player. Of course, I want to keep improving, and one of the ways I’d like to improve is to expand my game, play more outside my comfort zone. When I play strictly by doing what’s comfortable for me, I frequently have decent results, but I know by playing so tight and unimaginatively, I am leaving money on the table. I’d like to get some of that money into my stack and then, into my wallet.
But it seems whenever I expand my horizons, whenever I try something different, it blows up in my face and costs me money. Now that’s not always true, I’ve done a few posts about times I tried something different—for me, that is—and it worked out well, see here and here, for example. But mostly it doesn’t work, and the sad fact is, a lot of the times this has happened, I’ve been too embarrassed to blog about those attempts to expand my game. The great thing about doing your own blog is you don’t have to tell embarrassing stories on yourself if you don’t want to.
But I want to talk about this hand last night and try to get some feedback from my readers. I tried something a little different, and came away thinking I made a total donk move and got what I deserved. But maybe what I did wasn’t so bad, and I’m just judging from the results, a mistake poker players make all the time.
By the time I got to the poker table last night, Prudence was already there. I wasn’t sitting near her so she texted me her lowdown the table. The key was that she said Seat 5 was the only solid player at the table. After a few orbits, I agreed he was a good player, and not just because he had $500-$600 in chips in front of him (most of which I had not seen him win). I did notice what I thought was a kind of a loose call, but I don’t recall the details.
Meanwhile, I had chipped up and down a bit, winning small pots and losing small amounts. Nothing dramatic. But I’d been there long enough for a solid player to have noticed I was playing fairly tight. I point this out because by now I’ve had enough experience in NL to realize that a lot of the players there have no clue who is playing tight. They are so bad that the will have played with me for three hours and not realized that when I three bet pre-flop I probably have their King-Jack offsuit crushed. But I expected this guy to realize when I bet or raise, it means something.
I had pretty much my buy in of $200 in front of me when I was dealt Ace-10 suited (spades) in late position. I don’t recall whether I limped in first, or if he was raising from the blind, but he made it $12 I believe and it folded back to me. No one was else was in the hand, and I usually fold there, but I decided to call and see a flop. I think that was a questionable play, but that’s not really what this post is about. Ace-10, even when its soooooted isn’t a great hand. And this guy didn’t seem to be taking advantage of his huge stack to bully people around. I had to assume his raise indicated he had a pretty good hand.
The flop was Jack high I believe, but what was important was that it was all black. Two spades, one club. So I flopped the nut flush draw. Pretty much what I was hoping for when I called. Seat 5 led out with a $15 bet.
Here’s where I decided to get cute, at least for me. Ordinarily there I would just call and hope to hit the flush, right? I mean, that’s my default, boring (but often profitable) play. Not this time.
I decided to raise. I made it $45, a semi-bluff. I had nothing, but I had 9 outs to the nut flush. I thought that move from me would give him pause. Again, because I considered him a good player, he wouldn’t expect me to just be making a move. It’s much easier to bluff a good player than a bad one since a bad player will call with almost anything. I figured one of two things were likely. He could easily fold and I’d take the pot right there, which would have been fine. This was especially likely if he had AK, AQ, something like that, and was just making a continuation bet.
Or he could just call, more likely if had a big pocket pair. If he flopped a set of Jacks, he might have checked instead of bet (though maybe not, since there two spades on the board). That’s ok too. If he calls, he checks the turn unless he really likes that card, and I check behind him (if it’s not a spade), getting a free river card. I don’t call on the river unless I make my flush.
But no, he re-raised me. He put out a stack of around $100. As he was fiddling with his chips, I made the decision to shove if I had to, I thought he might be putting me all in anyway. As I said, this was an intentional move on my part to move out of my comfort zone. So when he put out the stack, I took less than a second to say “all in.”
He groaned. “Oh, you’ve got a set already?” He was quite concerned. Neither of us showed our cards. Unfortunately, the last two card were both red, and even the fact that river card was a 10 didn’t help me. He showed his pocket Aces and waited for me to flip over my set. I’m not sure why I showed my losing hand; I usually don’t. Oddly enough, I think it was because Prudence was there and also that her boyfriend Tom was the dealer that I decided to show my unusual play.
Prudence looked surprised, Tom didn’t react (he never does) and the player in Seat 5 was of course relieved as he took all my money. He actually was complaining that I had scared him with my shove and that he was sure I had a set. But I have to admit I was surprised that he didn’t put me on a head that he was behind when I raised there the first time, based on my play to that point.
I spent a lot of the rest of the evening obsessing over that hand. I kept telling myself that I shouldn’t play out of my comfort zone, it so often blows up in my face (you remember the times it doesn’t work a lot more than the times it does). I thought of how easy it would have been to just call the flop and then probably fold if he made a big turn bet. Hell, before I knew he had Aces, it was entirely possible he had air too and wouldn’t fire another barrel on the turn.
I should point out that the move I made would have been unquestionably a good move to make in many, many tournament situations. In fact, in a tournament, depending on my chip position, just shoving on the flop initially would have been an excellent play. But you can’t afford to be patient in a tournament. In a cash game, you can certainly afford to be patient and that’s usually how I make my money—with patience.
I was just getting over this play when the guy in Seat 5—on two different occasions—brought up that hand. He once again mentioned how I had scared him with my move. I personally think there should be a special place in hell for anyone who goes out of their way to remind you of the time he took your stack. Also, the bastard was basically complaining that I scared him—in a hand where he got $200 from me. So f*ck him.
A few hours later I had a much better poker session, a session I will blog about eventually. So I was no longer beating myself over that hand. But then I had a little chat with Prudence, and we discussed that hand. She told me, to my surprise, that Tom thought it was a great play on my part. I was stunned. But he pointed out something that only was in the back of my mind at the time; that should have been in the forefront. That guy wasn’t going to pay me off if I had my flush. If I call the flop there, and a third spade hits the turn, he’s not going to bet, and even if he does, he won’t call my raise. The only way to get a double up there is to get it all in on the flop and hope to hit it. It wasn’t a bad percentage play with 9 outs to the nut flush.
So, I would love some feedback—was that a decent play or not? Obviously the results sucked, but that’s poker.