Monday, March 12, 2012

The Check-Shove From Hell

This happened last week, on my second to last night in Vegas.  I got to BSC early, too early to have dinner.  I didn’t like the 1/2 table I was at.  There was a guy at the table with a ton of chips and was acting every bit the table bully.  Once I realized he was raising and 3 betting a lot with marginal hands, I just waited for a hand where I could take advantage of his LAGy tendencies.  But I didn’t get the opportunity, and lost about $70 of my $200 buy trying to play a few hands that didn’t pan out.  I didn’t bother to ask for a table change; instead I just picked up my remaining chips and cashed out when I took a dinner break.  If I liked the table I would have left my chips and held my seat, I knew I would back in well less than an hour, but since I wanted a table change anyway I cashed out so I could start fresh after dinner.
Back a little later and now well fed, I looked over and the table bully was still there, so when I asked for a seat I told them any table but that one.  I soon got a new seat and saw a guy over in Seat 9 with over $700 in chips, most of which he must have won since the maximum buy-in is $300.  I started over with $200 in seat 5.  I concentrated on Seat 9 as the hands were dealt to see if he was someone I wanted to get away from or perhaps someone whose stack I could go after.  It didn’t take me long to find out.
After just a few hands UTG makes the absolute min raise of $4.  I was so new to the table I wondered if that had been happening a lot there (it was anomaly as it turned out).  Seat 9 made it $14.  Folded back to me on the button and I wake up with pocket Aces.  How nice.  I figured the original raiser would fold to the $14 so I wasn’t worried about him.  There was no small blind in this hand, so I figured it would be likely just be Seat 9 and me to see the flop no matter what I did.  I thought therefore it was safe to only make it $25.  I figured that might take down the pot there, but if not, I was in good shape.
BB and UTG insta-folded.  Seat 9 called without thinking much. I don’t recall the flop but it was low cards and not at all scary.  Seat 9 checked and I bet $40.  I expected him to fold but instead he check-raised me to $80.
Here’s where I’ve grown as a No Limit player.  A month or two before I would have folded or perhaps called.  Not this time.  “All in” I said.  I actually had read his check-raise as a move or a test and thought he’d fold, but he snap-called me with his huge stack.  He didn’t show his hand and neither did I.
A Queen on the turn scared me a bit, he would like that flop if he had a pocket Queens. The river paired the board with 4’s which may have saved me.  I suppose he could have flopped 2 pair if he raised with low connectors.  I showed my Ace’s and he looked for a couple of seconds, said nice hand, and mucked his cards.  So, a nice early double up for me and I have no idea what he check-raised me with.  But watching him play after this, he could have had anything.  I saw him give away all his chips over the next hour, unfortunately no more to me.  He bought in again and then chipped back up, getting close to the $700 he had again.  My opinion is that he wasn’t a very good player, called way too often with weak hands, and had gotten lucky on some suck outs.
Anyway, with a nice stack of around $400 in front of me, I was happy and enjoying the game.  Then my dealer buddy Barry joined the table.  You can read about the time Barry made a huge goof and cost me a pot here. As I mentioned at the end of that post, we were now “pals” and we always have a nice chat whenever we see each other in the poker room or he deals to me.  Barry was not joining the table to deal, he was there to play.  I had seen Barry play there a lot, but had only played with him once for just a few minutes at a 2/4 game while he was waiting to be called to the 1/2 game.  Point being I had no idea how he played.
About the same time Barry took Seat 9 another new player took Seat 7.  Barry knew this player, I’m not sure how.  He might have been a friend of his, or he might have been just another regular at BSC he’s played with and dealt to, like me.  They said hi and of course Barry and I exchanged pleasantries as well.
I don’t recall how much he bought in for or whether he had lost or won to get to this point, but for this hand he had about $130 in front of him.  I was still flush with chips tho possibly a little less than the $400 I had after doubling up with my Aces.  UTG, Barry made it $9, a fairly average raise for the table, perhaps a little smaller than most.  It folded to me and I looked down at pocket Queens.  Here’s where I made my big mistake.  I am still uncomfortable 3 betting pre-flop, and usually only do it with Aces or Kings.  I knew Barry’s raising range included an awful lot of hands I was ahead of.  But I chickened out and just called.  Bad move.
Seat 7, Barry’s friend, was the only other caller. The flop was all low cards, two diamonds.  I figured if Barry had a pocket pair, medium or higher, he would like that flop, otherwise, not so much.  When Barry checked the flop, I thought my Queens were good.  I bet $30, maybe a little more than the pot, trying to scare off anyone who had a couple of diamonds.  But Seat 7 didn’t go anywhere, he called.  Then Barry shoved.
Yeah.  He freakin’ shoved.  After checking.  A check-shove on that board?  Seriously?  Now I had to consider a draw or possibly a set.  A small raise with a low to medium pocket pair, then a check raise when he hit his set made sense.  Plus he had to bet big to scare away a flush draw if he indeed had a set. 
But a check-raise only works if you are sure there’s gonna be a bet behind you.  He was the pre-flop raiser, I just called, he didn’t know I had pocket Queens.  He couldn’t be sure either one of us would bet, so it was kind of a risky move. 
I gave Barry a dirty look and thought long and hard.  My problem here was that there was another player behind me.  He had called my $30 bet so he had something too.  I couldn’t really call, my best play if I stayed was to shove and try to get Seat 7 out.  I had him covered too, but he had over $200 as I recall, and thus I’d be risking $200 on a lousy pair of Queens.  Rightly or wrongly, I thought it wasn’t worth the risk and folded.  Seat 7 thought about it even longer than I had….and folded as well.  Barry mucked his cards and took down the pot.
I had lost the hand, but I had won something much more important—something to hold over Barry’s head and tease him about!  And don’t for a second think I didn’t.  As he stacked his chips, I said, “Nice bet” in the most sarcastic voice I could muster.  I said to him, “You can forget about ever getting a tip from me again!”  I was kidding and I think Barry knew that, but he probably wasn’t 100% sure about that.  He looked over to Seat 7 and kind of whispered to me, “I’ll tell you what I had, but later, not now.”  It was clear he didn’t want everyone to know what he had, or perhaps he just didn’t want his other buddy in Seat 7 to know.  I must have said something like, “I thought we were friends.”  At one point I actually joked, “You better hope I don’t see you in the parking lot.”  I was laughing and smiling when I said these things, but Barry kept apologizing and acting like he might have been taking me seriously.  And I told every new dealer that came to the table about the hand, about how Barry played it, and told them all I was never going to tip Barry again.  They all laughed at that. 
Finally when I came back from the Mens Room, he caught me and tried to tell me what he had, I had a hard time understanding.  He said he had like 36 outs!  As best I could follow, he had raised with 2-5 diamonds and flopped a double gutter straight draw, a flush draw, and of course a straight flush draw.  So it was somewhat a semi-bluff.  The shove was designed to take the pot down there, but if called, he had a lot of chances to make his hand.  Of course, if he hits his straight and then another diamond hits, he has to worry about losing to a bigger flush.  My flop bet and Seat 7’s call could easily have meant one of us had A-x of diamonds.
“You raised with 2-5?”
“It’s my favorite hand.”  I thought he was gonna say, “It was soooooted."
Now for sure I see how badly I played it pre-flop. I think if I’d re-raised him with my Queens he would have folded his favorite hand.  Of course, I only had his word for it that that’s what he had.
Back at the table, I teased him one more time about not tipping him ever again, then I said, “You know, I’m only kidding.”  He said he knew that, but I’m not sure. Then I said, “Hey, all’s fair at the poker table, right?  I mean, you shouldn’t be sitting down at a poker table unless you’re prepared to check-raise your own grandmother!”  This brought chuckles from almost everyone at the table.
I ended up leaving the game with a $250 profit, despite that hand.  The next night, Barry was playing again but this time at the 2/5 game.  When I saw him playing as I walked passed him, I couldn’t resist giving him just a little more shit.  I just pointed to him and said, loudly, “You!”  He immediately got him and tried again to explain the hand to me again.  But then I remembered something I had yet to give him a hard time about.  Why did he check the flop and then shove?  That was really the nasty part of his play, the check-raise (check-shove).  That was what really hurt.
So he says to me that it was a mistake.  He was talking to the cocktail waitress when he was supposed to bet and was distracted.  Yeah, right.  “No, no, I would never check-raise you, Robert.”  I said ok, I was just kidding anyway.  When I got back to the game I was at, I asked a couple of the dealers I’d told the story if they bought the story about accidentally check-shoving. They all laughed and were non-committal.
All kidding aside, I really am fine with his play, whether he was telling the truth about accidentally check-raising me or not.  Poker ain’t for sissies.  I really meant it about check-raising your own grandmother.
But this does point out a problem that dealers have when they play in their own casino (sometimes on the clock, sometimes not).  Do they play differently because they are sometimes playing against regulars?  A couple of dealers I’ve played against at the 2/4 game back in the day seemed to indicate to me that they either felt guilty winning a pot I was involved in or wouldn’t play the same way if I was in a hand, i.e., they would prefer not to take my money. They don’t want to take “regular’s” money because by coming in so much we help keep the room busy, help them keep their jobs and help them financially by being generally good tippers. 
Anyway, fellow blogger Ron B, who deals at Bally’s, recently had a couple of posts talking about his poker playing and how he prefers not to play where he works.  Money quote: “I generally have a personal rule that I try not to play in the same room I deal...In my opinion, it's a conflict of interest...I don't like playing with ‘my’ customers. I don't like playing against them, who help me pay my bills (By Tipping), and then taking their money...It fall under the moniker, ‘Don't bite the hand that feeds you.’”
Links to the those posts are below, you can even see my comment about it in one.
Anyway, all kidding aside, it was probably worth losing that hand to Barry just for the blog post.  Holy shit, did I really say that?  Anyway, no hard feelings, Barry and next time we play, I promise to check raise you!


  1. I'm not sure that makes a lot of sense. A good poker player (and many dealers do indeed make good poker players) can win hundreds at a time; why would they worry about taking a hundred off of me in one hand when in a normal shift I might give you five or six bucks as tokes at most?

    I'm not a dealer, but from where I sit that rationale doesn't add up...

    1. The rational is this (my opinion).
      If I am playing in a game where I deal, against some of my regular customers and I happen to make a few hundred off of them they might decide to hold a grudge against me and thus reduce the money I am making my not tipping like they normally would because they already "gave me" money in the pots I have taken off of them.

      We all know poker players are already superstitious by listening to them bitch about how certain dealers never give them a hand or how "YOU" always river me when I'm in a big hand.
      I have even seen players take a walk for a full down because dealer X sat and that dealer has "screwed me over too many times."

      So, in that regards it makes sense that you don't want to play and bust your regulars - it's counter productive.

      If they are a true "poker player" they won't care and it won't make a difference to them. When you play you are the enemy and when you deal you are doing your job and I will act accordingly.
      However, there aren't a whole lot of that type of player who plays the 1/2 games in Vegas (and elsewhere I imagine).

  2. Well, you can go over to Ron's blog and ask him directly, he is a dealer. But if I had to guess, they are talking about REGULARS they don't like beating, so these are people who come in the room a lot, spread around a lot of tips. They might think if they piss them off not only will they reduce (or eliminate) ALL future tips from this regular, but perhaps even make him consider playing somewhere else, huRting the overall room and thus their income.

    And I know it is hard to believe, but I believe some of the dealers where I play so much actually like me and might even feel guilty taking my money. I know a poker plahyer should never feel that way but when they know the person they like is also helping pay their salary at their day job, I could see where it might give them a conflict.

  3. I figured the original raiser would fold to the $14 so I wasn’t worried about him.....I thought therefore it was safe to only make it $25. I figured that might take down the pot there, but if not, I was in good shape.

    If you do not mind, I would like to comment on this part of the post.

    I actually had read his check-raise as a move or a test and thought he’d fold

    You have to go with a read if you have it above all else. Nice hand and nice win.

    That said, as far as your min preflop raise there. Not only do I call you 100% of the time, but I auto put you on AA without other information about you. Really, no one should fold in that case as implied pot odds are always way in your favor, unless either of the stacks is short. My basic plan in this situation is to flop two pair or set, then raise or check-raise you all-in on flop (or very large overbet depending on stack sizes) thinking that a large fraction of players will call me with AA. God, I have made so much money in that exact same situation.

    I just really hate that min raise AA for a player, and think it is a recipe for disaster more times than it doubles you up. For me, I would rather see someone flat call, than make a min 3 bet.

    1. WEC, I don't mind you criticizing my play at all, in fact I encourage it. I've made it clear I'm just learning how to play No Limit and need all the help I can get!

      Seriously, thanks for the feedback. You know, I guess I was feeling greedy when I saw those Aces staring at me (and so relieved they weren't Kings)
      Not knowing the other players well yet, I feard a 3-4 time raise might get everyone to fold and I'd win a measly twenty bucks or so. Obviously that beats losing your stack but I really wanted a call there, and of course I know what the risk was.

      Had that been two orbits later, I would have realized the big stack was gonna call no matter what I bet and I would have made a bigger 3-bet, but I suspect the hand would have played out the same way. If you are saying I got lucky, I can live with that!

    2. I really do not like the word criticize there :) Not meant that way at all. Just wanted to give you a feeling about how I view it as a player across the table from you and how I would play it as an opponent. I have found over many years of playing that you can play cards just about any way, and be a long-term winner.

      And no, was not saying you got lucky at all. You said you made a read, that you were best at the time, and it paid off. I have found if you can read players and be right a large majority of the time, you will be a big winner no matter how you play the cards.

      Best of Luck

    3. OK, WEC, I withdraw the word "criticizing"! I want feedback, positive or negative, whenever I talk about poker, though.

      Since the guy never showed his hand, I guess we can't say for sure whether or not I got lucky, but whatever it was, I'll take it.

  4. Rob, You lost me at the "lack of" vaginal mucus. Sorry

    1. No mucus but I suspect you will like my next post better!

  5. @grrouch, interesting take on the whole grudge thing; hadn't thought of that.

    @Rob, I suppose you've got a point with regulars and all; I don't know if I'd ever feel guilty taking a big pot off a friend but I'll allow as it might lead to some awkward moments afterwards. If you're a dealer it's probably a good policy not to shit where you eat after all.

    If I were wearing a cap, I would doff it to you for having changed my mind.

    1. Oh wow, thanks. Glad to hear that. Since I was so convincing, maybe I should change my policy about avoiding politics on the blog! heh heh.

      But definitely, if dealers don't like playing in the room they work, it is because they are thinking long term with regards to the regulars who tip them, well, regularly.