Thursday, November 8, 2012

"He Wasn't Good Enough to Fold Pocket Kings"

My first night of poker in Vegas last month got off to a rather interesting start.  I got to BSC in late afternoon, played a few hours before taking a dinner break.  The best hand before dinner was when I had Q-10 suited in the big blind and called a raise to $12 (there were already three callers to the raise, that’s why I decided to call).  The flop was AKJ, two diamonds (not my suit).  So I had flopped Broadway (Ace high straight), but of course had to worry about the flush.  I don’t usually slow play a straight anyway, but with that flush draw out there, it was especially important to bet out.  I put out $40 and the preflop raiser went all in.  He had about $100 and I had him covered.  I insta-called.  I thought he might be shoving with the draw, but no, he had flopped a set of Jacks.  He didn’t fill up and I took down a nice pot.
By the time I took that dinner break, I was down a little.  I cashed out and thus when I returned the room was assigned a new table.  I recognized one player at this table—Willie.  Willie is a BCS regular I’ve mentioned in a few posts.  My first encounter with him was when he took some money off me by slowplaying Aces (see here).  Since then, I’ve probably seen him at BSC every night I play there.  This is obviously his job and he’s good at it.  Willie is the key player in this story.
I was in Seat 2 and was just getting settled into my seat when, on my second or third hand there, I looked down at pocket Queens in early position.  To me that’s sort of a good news/bad news situation.  Always nice to get a premium starting hand, right?  Except, well, if I had my druthers, I’d rather not get it before I had a read on anyone at the table (except for Willie).  I had no idea what kind of raise to make, or what anyone’s reaction to my raise would mean.  Of course, if I waited two hours to get dealt a premium starting hand, yeah, I’d be bitching even more about that.
So I made it $8, first into the pot.  Two people called and then Seat 7 re-raised to $28.  Seat 7 was to the immediate right of Willie in Seat 8.  It folds to me.  What to do?
Now I really wished I had been at the table for awhile.  I had no idea if Seat 7 had played every hand, had three-bet a lot, or if this was the first hand he’d played in an hour.  Damn.
As I’m getting more comfortable playing NL, I’m trying, forcing myself really, to play a little less tight, a little less conservatively.  Up until this point, I don’t think I’d ever actually 3-betted with Queens.  Yeah, that’s how tight I’ve been.  It’s been only Aces and (the dreaded) Kings until now.  But now, I was actually thinking of re-raising.
Yes, I was.  I mean, to call there, you’re basically set-mining.  Even without an overcard on the flop, how safe would I feel with my Queens?  I could be up against Ace-King that missed the flop, but…..I could be up against a bigger pair.  So do I just call his raise and plan to fold the flop if I don’t luck into a set?
No, no… was my first night in town, and I didn’t want to get off on a wimpy foot.  Of course I wished I had some idea of how this guy played.  On the other hand, he had no read on me, either.  So I just figured, well, I have the third best starting hand in Hold’em, I’m gonna take a chance.
So, showing guts I probably never displayed before in a poker game.  I put out half my starting stack, making the bet $100.  Seat 7 had me covered, but not by much.  Was his hand good enough to play for stacks?  I was about to find out.
It folded back to him.  That’s when the fun began.  The guy looks at me for awhile and finally says, directly to me, “You just got here, huh?  Where ya from?”
I just laughed.
“No, where ya from?”
I guess I’m supposed to just sit there stone faced in that situation.  But this was kind of a first for me, hearing that particular question, so I couldn’t stop myself from chuckling a little.  Then I decided to engage him.
“Where am I from?”
“Yeah, where are you from?  Oh….you’re from here?”
Again, I laughed.  I dunno exactly why, but I decided to answer him.  But not seriously.
“I’m from Outer Slovonia.”
“Outer Slovonia?  Well the hell is that?”
He took me seriously (!?!)
I laughed again.  “I was kidding.  I made that up.”
He pressed on.  “You must be from here.  You must be a regular.” 
I should mention that I don’t think I had really interacted with any of my BSC pals in his presence, so he was just guessing.        
He continued, “I don’t know.  I’ve got a good hand.  I really like this hand.  I almost never fold this hand.”
The fact that he didn’t insta-shove, was proof that he didn’t have pocket Aces.  I was also eliminating pocket Kings in my mind.  Almost anyone would have shoved then with Kings.  Unless he really, really thought I had Aces.  I was thinking Ace-King, or a smaller pocket pair than mine.  So I wouldn’t have minded at all if he called.  Unless he was Hollywooding. 
He kept talking.  “You want me to call don’t you?  You’ve already got it, don’t you?  You want a call, right?  You don’t really care what I’ve got, do you?  You’ve already have it, don’t you?”
By now I was trying hard to stop laughing and was trying my best to stare into space, expressionless.  But I’m not sure I was that successful in keeping a straight face, to be honest.
He kept talking for awhile, saying these same things over and over again, and adding a couple of more times that he almost never folds this hand.  And then, just as I was sure he was about to call (or shove)…..he folded. 
He asked what I had and I said nothing.  But the guy next to him, in Seat 6, not Willie, also asked what I had.  I just shrugged as I stacked my chips.  Seat 6 pressed the issue.
“What did you have?  You know he folded pocket Kings.  What did you have?”
Hmm, that was interesting.  I really had no idea if the Seat 6 had seen Seat 7’s hand or not.  Or if maybe Seat 7 had told him what he had.  But I had to say, if I had gotten a guy with pocket Kings to fold to my pocket Queens, I was impressed. 
As play continued, I couldn’t stop thinking about the hand, and wondering if the guy was right that his neighbor had folded Kings.  Seat 6 left the game soon thereafter.  An hour or so later, Seat 7 cashed out.  Willie was still there, and I was dying to ask him if the guy folded Kings.
Now, I dunno if Willie knows my name, but he knows me.  We’ve run into each enough times at BSC that we always say hi to each other when we see each other.  So I figured I could prevail on our “relationship”—such as it is—to ask if he knew what the guy folded.  So when we were both out of a hand, I asked him about it.
He remembered the hand of course, but he didn’t know what the guy had   He hadn’t seen it and the guy didn’t tell him.  “I don’t know, but I guess he had Queens.  He probably had Queens.”
Now, in asking Willie, I was prepared to tell him what I had.  I had already considered whether it was ok to reveal to him what I had and decided it was. For one thing, Willie’s real good about putting people on hands anyway (see here, where he put a guy on pocket Jacks, and the guy folded face up….pocket Jacks.  And since he’s played against me numerous times, I think he’s already got a pretty good handle on my game.  Since I have so much respect for him, I try to stay out of his way when we’re at the same table, unless I have a monster, like the straight flush I had against him here.
But I figured, knowing how tight I am, Willie never would have put me on Queens there. And in the long run, I figured letting him know that I could make that move with only Queens would actually be to my advantage one day down the road.  Maybe I can get him to pay me off some day because he has to put me on a larger range than he used to?
So when Willie said he probably had Queens, I told him.  “I doubt that. I had Queens.”
“You had Queens?”  I could tell he was quite surprised.  “I don’t know then.  I don’t know what he had.
“Well, I was thinking AK, but the guy on the other side told me he had pocket Kings, so I was wondering if you saw.  Do you think he had Kings?”
“Kings?  Hmm….. He folded pocket Kings?”
“Well, that’s the other guy said, I don’t know if he knew or was just guessing.”
“King, huh?  I don’t know.  I don’t think he was a good enough player to fold pocket Kings.  Nah, he didn’t fold Kings.  He wasn’t that good.”
Now that was an interesting line.  Not good enough to fold pocket Kings huh?  Interesting.  So you have to be a really good player, not just a very timid one, to fold pocket Kings preflop?  Of course, I’ve already blogged about the time I folded pocket Kings preflop in a tournament, see here.  But I had an exceptionally good read then.
I went back to my seat and now I couldn’t stop thinking about Willie’s comment that the guy wasn’t good enough to fold pocket Kings.  And it didn’t take long for that comment to become extremely relevant. 
Within an orbit or two, Willie made his usual preflop raise in early position of $7.  I folded whatever garbage I had, there were a few callers, and then the guy on the button shoved.  He hadn’t been there that long and hadn’t played many hands.  And the shove was around $300.  Willie had him covered.
Willie went into the tank for a long time.  He didn’t say much as he was thinking, but he was in agony.  He looked the guy up and down, and the guy was relatively stonefaced.   Finally, Willie folded.  But to my surprise, he folded face up.  And to my greater surprise, his hand was…..pocket Kings.
Yes, Willie had folded pocket Kings, preflop.  And all I could think of was the line he had given me not that long before.  “He wasn’t a good enough player to fold pocket Kings.”
Well, Willie just showed me he was “good enough” to fold pocket Kings. 
I would like to tell you that the guy who shoved turned over pocket Aces, but alas, he mucked face down, and said nothing as he stacked his chips.  So I’ll never know for sure if Willie made the right read.  But I can tell you that, for the rest of the time he was at the table, the guy played very few hands, raised very seldom, never made another 3-bet.  So I’m thinking yeah, he had Aces.  Of course, Willie was looking at the guy’s stack, $300.  Does he fold those Kings if it’s only $100?  Doubtful.
Willie wasn’t through with my poker lesson, as it turned out.  A while later, a guy with a stack of a little over $100 raises preflop ($10 or so) and Willie calls.  Flop comes 2-4-5, rainbow.
Preflop raiser bets out, around $20 I think.  Willie shoves.  He has the guy covered.
Folds back to preflop raiser and he tanks.  This time, Willie is talking.
“You’ve still got outs.  You can call.  You still got outs.”
The other guy is still thinking.  He looks quite hesitant, and I’m sure he’s gonna fold.
Willie keeps talking.  “Come on, you got outs.  What do you have, Ace-Jack?”  Since it was heads up, in this house, you can talk, as long as you don’t expose your cards.  “You got Ace-Jack?  You got outs.”  He repeated that once or twice more, and the guy is still thinking, still tanking…..and finally calls.
They didn’t show their cards.  But the turn card was a 3.  So if the guy had an Ace—any Ace—he had just made his straight.  Nothing was said, and then…..the river card paired the board, another 4.
Willie flips over pocket 5’s, for a full house.  And the other guy?  In disbelief, he flips over…Ace-Jack.
Which of course, was exactly what Willie put him on when he was goading him into calling his shove.
In fact, the guy said, when he flipped over his hand….”You called my hand.  The only reason I called you was that you called my hand.  You said I had Ace-Jack and I had Ace-Jack.  So I called.
Just like in the post I linked to earlier, where Willie told a guy he had pocket Jacks….and he had pocket Jacks. 
Of course, Willie got lucky, catching that boat on the river.  But the other guy was lucky first, catching his gut-shot on the turn.  And what wasn’t lucky was Willie getting the guy to call his bet on the flop when he wasn’t getting anywhere near the right odds to call.  Which he did by telling him what his hand was.
Willie knew what the other guy’s hand was, and even knew how to use that read to induce the guy to make a bad call.  Because he’s that good.
And also, he’s good enough to fold pocket Kings.


  1. Great read, Rob. Frankly, I still don't understand the guy who 3-bet shoves $300 after a $7 raise. And, certainly I don't understand why the hell AA would make that play. Are people really THAT scared to go heads up to a flop with Aces? Or, are there enough people that will actually call that bet to make it a profitable move? I've been really trying to understand the preflop over bet. Usually, my initial reaction is a vulnerable hand, like TT or JJ. Yet, so many times you see someone table AA after it folds around. I find it interesting!

    1. Thanks, Pete. Yeah, it was a weird move, and I have seen it before. It's very possible he didn't have Aces but...He got a pot of I guess $28, which doesn't seem like getting value, does it? But.....well, really almost hand you put him on, it doesn't make sense. If he had 10's or Jacks, it's high risk if Willie has Aces (or Kings and doesn't fold). You could take down the pot with a much smaller raise, and then get away from it if there's a lot of resistance.

      But you know, I do kinda trust Willie's read. Also, maybe the guy who did it put Willie on Kings and assumed he'd call, and did indeed shove with Aces? Who knows?