Monday, December 31, 2012

How The Grump Stole Christmas

Sunday I drove home from Vegas, so this is the first chance I've had to do a post about the last night of poker in Vegas (Saturday night) for my 2012 Christmas Vegas trip.  Actually, I won’t have time to discuss all the festivities from that night, including winning a nice pot playing The Spanish Inquisition, winning an even nicer pot from the table maniac at the same session with a set of 3’s (“I thought you had high cards”) and witnessing the girl-on-girl fist fight that occurred at BSC very late into the evening (or was it early morning?) in this post.   That will have to wait.  (Edited to add, those stories have now been told, see here and here)  But I did want to share my thoughts on the most memorable hand of the evening, which has already been discussed by Poker Grump since the hand involved the two of us.
If there’s anyone reading this who hasn’t read Grump’s description of the hand, it would be best if you read that first (see here).  This post is a very lengthy comment on his description of the hand we had together.
It was no coincidence that Grump, Prudence and I ended up at the same poker table at Planet Hollywood this particular Saturday night.  As I was about to get busted out fairly early from the Binions tournament I was playing in, Grump sent a tweet to Prudence and I asking if we were playing that night, the implication being that if we were, he was interested in joining us.  Now, a cynical person might conclude that his interest in playing with us was that he was familiar enough with our games that might feel he would have an advantage.
I am not that cynical.  Grump is so good, he has the advantage over pretty much any player he’s going to be up against, at least at at 1/2 No Limit game in Vegas.  I’m sure he was just being sociable.  Additionally, he had been the following the tweets of our friend Grange from the night before.  Grange had had the experience of running into—and playing with—Prudence, who was at her absolute most uninhibited on that particular occasion.  No doubt Grump felt he had missed out on something special and wanted a chance to experience the wonder first hand.
Being the sociable guy he is, he even gave up his famous, preferred seat at the table (seat 1) to sit next to me and just one seat away from Prudence as the night progressed.  It was there that he witnessed my favorite hand of the night—the one where the aforementioned table maniac paid me off handsomely.  We both had a nice chuckle about the play of the maniac, and as I said, more about that hand will told in a future post.  Of course, I was chuckling more, as I was the one who had collected all those chips, which had turned a stack of about $150 into a stack of somewhat under $400 (from a starting buy-in of $200). 
I was still in a good move from that hand when I looked down at the dreaded pocket Kings. Now, since Grump had moved to my immediate right, we had seen a number of players win pots with KK.  And every time that happened, I said to Grump something like, “Everyone wins with pocket Kings but me.”  He would laugh and tell me that I just don’t know how to play them, all in good fun.  What he didn’t know was that I had already won a hand with pocket Kings right in front of him.  I don’t recall whether it was my flop bet or my turn bet that wasn’t called, but I didn’t show that the hand I had there was KK.
Now I had them again and Grump had limped in right before me.  I raised and hoped he would fold. After all, he knew me well enough to have known I must have had a pretty good hand to raise there, and he didn’t like his own hand enough to raise.  But of course, that level of thinking is way too simple when you’re dealing with Grump.
With a flop of 10-9-6, I had a nice overpair to the board, but with two diamonds and the straight possibly out there already, I had a lot be concerned about.  To my chagrin, Grump check-called my $20 bet.  The turn card put a low diamond on the board, so now both a straight and a flush were conceivably already made hands.  One of my Kings was a diamond, giving me a draw to the 2nd nut flush.  Grump on his post described how he deliberately hesitated before checking, just to give me some more to think about.  I noticed it, but because Grump is so hard to read, I didn’t really know how to interpret it.  I bet out $40 and waited for a response.
It came in the form of a check-raise to $110.  Gulp.  As Grump describes, it took at least three minutes for me to decide what to do, and I went over every bit of information I had during that time.
I knew that Grump was perfectly capable of making a totally naked bluff there.  I would have known that even if he hadn’t texted me to tell me about the total naked bluff he had already pulled off at that very table just an hour or so early.  I read his blog.  I’ve seen him play.
And I surely knew he was capable of making that move as a semi-bluff, that he had something and that even if I was ahead, he had enough of a hand so that he had outs if I just called.  I only had the King of diamonds, did he have the Ace?  Did he have a pair with some kind of draw?  Yeah, that was sure possible.
Or maybe he already had me, which of course was the story he was trying to sell.  Did he flop a straight?  I could easily see him playing the way he did preflop with 8-7, especially if it was suited.  What if it was suited diamonds?  What if he already had the straight and hit the flush on the turn and now had a draw to a straight flush?
OK, that’s monsters under the bed thinking.  But the straight concerned me.  If he already had it, it meant he flopped it and then slow-played it.  To me, slow playing a straight is dangerous, but that’s me.  I tried to think if I could remember any post of Grump’s where he talked about slow-playing a straight.  None came to mind.  I believe it would have been bad form to take out my cell phone and start searching his blog for entries about flopped straights.
I did have another thought as I was deciding.  If I shoved there, no matter what happened, I would have a great blog post.  Imagine, if he called and I stacked him (or close to it), I could blog about stacking Grump—with pocket Kings, no less!  What an awesome post that would be.
If he folded to my shove, that would be a pretty good story to, getting Grump to lay down a hand there (whether he had a good hand, or it was a bluff, still a good story).
Even if he snap-called and stacked me, well, I’d be out some money but I’d still have a good story to write about.  I thought then of this post here, where Grump was also present at the table but it was actually grrouchie that stacked me.  I got a two part post for my $200 there.  What’s a good blog post worth?
But I quickly got that thought out of my head—not a good enough reason to make a near $400 decision.  I went back to considering every action, and everything I knew about Grump.
I never really considered just calling there.  If I called, there’s only one card I want to see on the river, the Ace of diamonds.  Anything else, if Grump moves all in, I have no idea where I stand.  Might as well get all the money in there, on the turn, if I decide to continue.
Of course, as Grump pointed out, he had some “insider” information about me, which he was only too happy to apply.  He remembered the post I recently did about playing scared once I get up a nice sum—especially since I had referenced one of his own posts in my post!
I should point out that every time I do a post and I explain my thought process on how I played a hand, I do actually realize that I’m potentially giving away valuable ammunition to a future opponent.  It comes with the territory and I have to hope that I’ll rarely be at a poker table with someone who has read and analyzed my blog.  In making the decision to play with Grump, I knew he knows a lot about my game and my tendencies; I know he reads my blog and am grateful for some of the valuable advice he has given me as to how to play certain hands.  I also know he’s not going to soft-play me.  But I read his blog too and I am always looking for a way to use some things about his play to use against him, because I’m not going to soft-play him either.  The problem is though, that at our current levels of play, he is much better suited to use his knowledge about me to his advantage than vice versa. 
Anyway, I can honestly say that the decision I made did not have to do with the “playing scared” issue that I had blogged about and that he remembered.  Really.  I was definitely willing to put chips in play to win more money.  It was my last night in Vegas, I had at least three buy-ins I was willing to invest on this night.  If he took all my chips right there, I’d really be out only $200 and would rebuy.   I was not playing timidly—as I proved not long after when I shoved with a baby flush. 
No, my thought process was affected by another “rule” I have.  It was one of the first pieces of advice I picked up when I switched to No Limit.  You see, the bottom line was, all I had there was an overpair.  And so the question becomes, how much money do I want to risk with just top pair (even with top kicker) or an overpair?    I mean, there’s too many things that can beat you, especially on this hand.  Risk nearly $300 (more) with an overpair (whether it was the dreaded pocket Kings or even Aces) on this particular board?  I’d lost stacks three times earlier in the week when I had a set against a straight.  Now I didn’t even the set. 
Another post of mine Grump might have been thinking of was this one where I agonized over a fold I made with top pair/top kicker to a $200 shove.  And while I agonized over that one after the fact—mostly because it was driving me crazy thinking about what the guy had—I didn’t really regret not risking a lot of money with a medium strength hand.
So bottom line, as much as it was in my head that I was up against a player who could very easily be bluffing or semi-bluffing, putting that much money at risk right there didn’t make sense to me.  Not with just an overpair, not when my best draw wasn’t even to the nut flush.  Not with a possible straight and a possible flush already out there.  And not with the thought that the text he sent me earlier was done with the intention of reminding me how capable he was of bluffing, so I would call his bluff there only to see a made hand I was way behind.
Now having said that, I know that anyone reading this—especially Grump—will find it quite enticing to try a naked bluff against me when he or she thinks I’ve just got top pair or an overpair.  So be it.  I’m risking that as long as I continue to blog.
So I folded.  And as Grump turned in his cards, he turned up one of them.  Just one.  It was the 8 of diamonds.  So, did he have the straight?  Did he have the flush?  Did he have the straight flush draw?  I didn’t know.
Grump says I left the table soon after to clear my head, but it was really more to empty my bladder.  But It didn’t hurt to get away from the table for a bit.  I didn’t stay away any longer than necessary though.
I can’t recall if I won another big pot before or after Grump offered the information exchange he described.  His other card was the 6 of hearts.  He had a pair and draws to the flush (which would have been no good) and the straight.  But you know, when he reminded me of the “playing scared” post I did and how it helped him set me up, I’m sure some of the color drained from my face.  Although I must admit, I did have to admire his attention to detail, and his ability to put every single bit of information he could access into his own game plan.
And yes, it dawned on me that he called my raise, out of position, with 8-6 off.  In a good mood, he joked, “Why, is that an unconventional move?”  I said I was pretty sure it wasn’t a play recommended by Sklansky.  But he pointed out that generally, you win the biggest pots by making plays that other players don’t expect.
That’s advice I’ll remember.  Maybe it was worth the money I lost on this hand.
Or not.

1/2/13 edited to add:  Grump now has more to say about this hand, including reactions to some of the comments I received.  You should definitely go read them here.


  1. terrible fold...he is almost never ahead there....he was playing you, and you should hve known that. my 2 cents.

  2. I would make him buy me dinner -- at a place at least a notch or two above fast food!

    1. You're right. I was thinking of that really nice steakhouse that he took Josie to. At least that. Although, he will be disappointed with my cleavage as compared to hers.

  3. Rob, I think your better play would have been to take advantage of your position and use some pot control by checking the turn. This way you can turn your hand into a bluff catcher on the river or bet for value if they check again. ohcowboy12go

    1. Well, ohcowboy, I never really considered that. With so many draws out there, giving a free card seemed way too dangerous. Of course, if he already had made his draw, that wouldn't matter, but, I thought protecting my hand was the way to go.

      Thanks for the comment.

    2. it's actually a valid suggestion by ohcowboy. Here's why!

      If you're planning on folding to a check raise knowing that Grump is highly capable of making this play with a wide range of hands that include a lot of semi-bluffs then basically you are making your own hand meaningless.

      Thus your bet now becomes a bluff if you are willing to fold in a spot where grump is often going to check/raise his draws.

      Against this particular crafty opponent it might be better for you to outcraft him. Go for pot control on the turn here (which makes your hand look like AK/AQ) and be prepared to call almost any river bet.

      Sure you might give him some free river cards to his outs but if he is so likely to bluff then it's worth it. You can also bet the river for value if he checks.

      Against clever opponents you need to mix up your plays and go another level. don't let grump put you on a polarized range of hands.

      Don't be predictable against him. Of course make sure you keep these plays to those spots where you are mostly heads up against him. Other players will not comply.

      In other words, go a level up. Think about what he thinks you might have based on your play and take a step higher. If you do this every once in a while then Grump will not be able to read you as easily and make plays like this.

      cat and mouse.

      PS. I look forward to a blog post where you try this and it fails and you curse my name. There are no rebates on my silly advice.

    3. Thanks for the great insight, Vook. I will definitely try to learn from your advice. I know there's no refunds, but at least a blog post titled "Vook doesn't know shit" will be worth something!


    4. Nice. Sounds like a good title for my autobiography

    5. I better copyright it before you do......

  4. Getting to play with and learning from someone who has a hand named after them is cheap at any price.

    What would you pay to play a session with Doyle?

    Maybe the lesson is to start opening up even a little more..

    1. Itchy, thanks. I'm sure Grump will appreciate the comparison to Brunson!

      But which one is better looking?

    2. Welcome back,'s been a long time. And you came back just to defend Grump's looks? How touching.

      But seriously, VJ, couldn't you have at least called one of us "WHORE"???

  5. Once, in a blogger tournament, I raised and it folded to the Grumpster in the big blind. He min-raised! WTF? The flop was nothing and he moved all in.

    What do you put him on?

    I folded and he rubbed my nose in it by showing a complete bluff! Don't mess with me, boy, was the message.

  6. I have written about flopping straights, though not slow-playing them, as far as I can recall. But after 6 years of posts, who knows what might be lurking in the archives somewhere?

    1. Interesting posts, as yours always are. Thanks.

  7. The Grump is definitely better looking than Doyle. Just sayin'.

    1. Thanks NT, welcome to my blog. I hope that the money your boyfriend stole from me will be put to good use. He should buy you something nice.

  8. "But he pointed out that generally, you win the biggest pots by making plays that other players don’t expect."

    Actually, what I said was that the most profitable situations in poker happen when your actual hand is outside the range that your opponent will put you on.

    A good example is earlier in that session when I raised preflop with J-9, flopped a straight draw, and hit the nut straight on the turn. That same card gave my opponent two pair, and he called my shove. Or when at Aria a few weeks ago I raised with 6-3 offsuit (in honor of Grange), flopped a full house, and doubled up through a guy who was slow-playing QQ. In both cases, the other player would never consider my preflop raising range to include the cards I actually held--because it usually doesn't.

    1. Yes indeed, I need to expand my horizons. But you did see me limp in early position (after "our" hand) with the Spanish Inquisition and thus stack that guy. I don't think he expected that.

      Hmmm....didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition, huh? Oh, I get it.