One of the leaks in my game is value betting. I know I don’t do it enough. Especially on the river, I’ve got a good hand, it’s mostly likely the winning hand. But I don’t have the nuts. And I start to think, “Well, if I bet, I’ll only get called by hands that beat me. If he can’t beat my hand, he won’t call anyway. Play it safe and just check.”
I know I’ve probably left a lot of money on the table not betting (or raising) on the river.
This goes back to near the end of my Super Bowl trip. I was having a good run. In fact, this session took place the next night after I had that really big score in the wildest cash game I’d ever been in (see here). And the session this night started out ok. I played for a couple of hours and was up about $85. Nothing dramatic. Just a few small pots here and there, no big losses. I had gotten a couple of drawing tickets for flushes—but again, smallish pots.
There was a guy two seats to my left who used to be a reg in the room. I definitely recognized him. He said he had attended school in Vegas and had then taken a job in the Midwest. He was back in town this weekend for a bachelor party. He had a pretty aggressive style, a good, tough player in my mind.
With that small profit, I looked down at Ace-King offsuit and raised to $10. The former reg made it $25. I called and it was heads up. The flop was King-high, all clubs. The Ace in my hand was a club. Pretty good flop for me. I checked, and he bet $40. Being too cautious, I just called. The turn was another club. I checked again, hoping for a check-raise. But he checked behind me.
The river paired the King, which I didn’t like. None-the-less, just from watching him play all night, and from the way he played this hand, I really didn’t think the King had given him the full house. I went ahead and put out $100. He groaned a lot. He didn’t take too long though to call and he said, “I have the Queen.” He had Ace-Queen, the Queen being the club, giving him the second nut flush. I took down a nice pot (and got another drawing ticket) and was now sitting on a $250 profit for the night.
I was happy with that. I was tired, it was getting close to Midnight, and all I had to do was stay awake for the drawing. I had three tickets and there was a 50/50 chance they would give away $1,000 (1 ticket for $400, 6 tickets for $100 each).
As such, I kind of mentally checked out of the game, and was just enjoying my conversation with the dealer, Jack, who was dealing what was going to be the last down of my night.
I didn’t get a hand to play until I was dealt a pair of 6’s. I limped in, and five of us saw the flop. It was Jack-6-5, rainbow. A guy bet $10, another player called, and I got cute and just called. It was rainbow and the 6-5 didn’t scare me. A player behind me called and we were four-handed. The turn was a King of hearts—the second heart on the board—and it was checked to me. This time I bet $40. Only one player called, the under-the-gun player.
The river was a 3 of diamonds, and I was relieved to see it wasn’t a heart. Sure, there was a possible straight now, but who the heck would play 7-4? I thought I was pretty safe.
But still, there was a straight possible. And when the other guy checked, I just totally dismissed the straight possibility and confidently bet $60. I assumed I would just take down the pot there but the other player took a few moments and then announced, “all-in.” WTF?
I dismissed the straight. I was concerned that maybe he had slow-played a set and I was on the wrong end of a set-over-set situation. Or maybe he was slow-playing a set of 5’s? But eyeing his stack, I had him well covered and I didn’t ask for a count. I still thought I was good. I called and he announced he had a straight. Sure enough, he showed 7-4. But hey, it was suited.
Jack counted his stack and after the $60 I’d already put in, I had to come up with exactly $100 more. The damn hand had cost me $212.
But the part that pissed me off—that really, really upset me—was that I bet the river and I didn’t have to. He checked the river and trapped me. I could have checked behind and saved myself $160, and still had a damn nice session.
I was really angry with myself. I mean, what I had done was so out of character. You know, 99% of the time, I don’t value bet there. With a possible straight out there, I check. I dunno if my play was theoretically correct or not, I was just steamed that I played the hand differently than my normal play and gotten burned.
For the next half-hour, all that was going through my mind was, “Check you idiot, check! Why didn’t you check?” Did I say for the next half-hour? More like the next 48 hours. Maybe more. I know I was still thinking about when I played the next night (and something eerily similar happened, perhaps I’ll get to that next time).
A few minutes later they announced they were indeed giving away $1,000. I had to wait a few minutes as they kept picking tickets for people who weren’t there. But they never picked one of my tickets. In the meantime, I got pocket Queens and almost folded them. But no, I called a raise to $14, it was three way. The flop was Queen-high, two diamonds. I bet $40. No call. I was done.
I left with a $45 profit that should have been over $200. I didn’t sleep well that night.
Now here’s the funny thing. All this time since, whenever I’ve been thinking of that session, all I could think about was that freakish (for me) decision to value bet the river. And it wasn’t until I listened through my voice-notes just now to write this post that I realized the other big hand from this night—the good hand—was one where I also had made a value-bet on the river. I had completely forgotten that until writing this. That value bet probably got me an extra $100. I don’t think the guy would have bet his Queen-high flush, he would have been happy to show down for free. And on that hand, I probably played it too weak before the river.
So maybe I’ve been taking the wrong lesson away from that session this whole time. I dunno if this is that interesting a post, but I’m glad I did it to remind myself of the other time I value-bet the river when I didn’t have the nuts.
And I don’t mean to imply that I never, ever bet the river unless I have the stone-cold nuts, either. It’s just that there are certain situations where I’m less inclined to bet, and both of these would normally fit those circumstances. I see a paired board, I slow down. I see a possible straight, same thing.
Damn, poker is a devilishly tough game. ((Note: Follow up to this post, similar happenings the next night can be found here.))