Friday, December 14, 2012

The Meaning of "Three"

The title of the this blog post is a take off on a recent post by pkrdlr (-S) .  His post was called “The Meaning of Two” and was about a poker player who didn’t seem to understand the meaning of the number two.  But the actual inspiration, as it were, for this post was a recent post by Poker Grump, about a couple of errors—one his own—in putting chips out for a bet.  He actually caught himself making an illegal string bet, and then another player accidentally made a raise he didn’t intend by putting out the wrong color chips.  This is just another lesson in making your intentions clear when you make a bet (see my previous posts, here and here.)
That reminded me of a strange goof and subsequent ruling from the floor at the recent AVP XVII Meet & Tournament at the Stratoshpere that I wrote about in my previous post.  The hand I’m about to describe happened a level before the killer hand I blogged about last time. 
With the blinds at 100/200, no ante, a woman under the gun raised 3X the big blind to 600.  Surprisingly, she got a ton of callers.  That hadn’t been the way the table had been running, but apparently a lot of people liked their hand.  Five people called, including me, but I’ll get to my part of this later.  Thus the pot was $3600 when the flop came out. It was a low, uncoordinated flop, the highest card was a 9, I believe. 
The preflop bettor was first to act and put out a $5,000 chip and said, “Three.”
The dealer announced a bet of $3,000.  Then he thought about it for a second.  Was the bet $3,000 or $300?  I’m not sure if he questioned the woman or the woman saw the dealer mentally struggling with this, but she immediately clarified that she meant $3,000.  It was obvious to everyone she meant to bet $3,000, for a couple of reasons.
For one thing, the pot was already $3,600.  A bet of only $300 would have been a rather ridiculously small bet to have made at that point.
Further, the woman had smaller chips than the $5,000 chip that could have been used to make a $300 hundred bet.  She couldn’t have made a $3,000 bet unless she used the one $5,000 chip in her possession, but she had several $100 chips and a $500 chip that she could have used to make a $300 bet.
Still, she hadn’t made her intentions clear by only say “3” and not “3,000.”  And since the level had a big blind of $200, a $300 bet was a perfectly legal bet to make. 
The woman of course insisted she meant $3k, but the dealer stopped the action and called the floor.  The floor came over and heard the story, and ruled that the bet was only $300.  I believe the rule is that, when the intentions of the bettor aren’t 100% clear, the smallest legitimate bet is the one that is accepted.  It’s sort of the flip side of the “single chip” rule.  If, for instance, someone had bet $500 before her, and she had put out the $5000 chip without saying anything, that would be considered a call, not a raise.  If she just said “raise” and didn’t clarify, it would be considered the smallest raise allowed (in this case, another $500 to $1000).  Beginners get confused on this a lot. 
This woman was no beginner, she just didn’t realize that in that particular situation, just saying “three” was  not sufficient.  In most cases, it would be.  If the blinds had been bigger, too big for a $300 bet at that level, there would have been no problem.  And it’s very unusual to see so many people in a raised pot in a No Limit tournament.  But even if she had only gotten one caller, she would have, in all likelihood, made a bet of more than $300 if she wanted to bet.
Anyway, the ruling stood that she made only a $300 bet.  Of course, calling $300 with the pot that large, everyone called.  Any overpair, any overcards, even the weakest draw was getting good odds to call.
As soon as the turn card hit, whatever it was, she announced all in and got one caller.  The rest of us folded.  She had pocket Queens, and the other player had pocket Jacks.  The river missed both of them, as had the other cards, and the guy with the Jacks was crippled.  He shoved light a few hands later, and busted out.  I only point that out because in his place came the guy who refused to bet his pocket Kings, the guy who was the subject of my previous post. 
Now I mentioned that I called her preflop raise of $600.  I guess I should amplify on that.  Originally, I wasn’t planning on telling this story on the blog, because I was really trying to forget it—it was poor play on my part, and I didn’t want to fess up to it.  But in hindsight, I find it interesting enough to talk about.  I just don’t want anyone to think that I have tilt issues, or that I am refusing to take accountability for my bad play.
On that hand, just like the woman who first raised. I had pocket Queens. Yeah.  Of course, I didn’t know that she had the other two Queens at the time.  I was in late position, so there were already five people willing to see a flop for $600 by the time it got to me.  Wow.  I had no idea what to do there, I admit.  I suppose a big three bet would have been the right move.  But raising that pot would have meant putting a lot of chips out there.  My gut reaction was that with so many paying that price (and it had not been a crazy aggro table), at least one of them had a bigger pocket pair than mine. 
As an aside, I find it odd how many times I’ve seen hands where multiple people have pocket pairs, sometimes big pocket pairs.  I vividly recall two such incidents from my limit days.  Once, there were four of us with big pocket pairs, and my Jacks were in fourth place.  Another time, I had Queens, one person had Jacks, one person had Kings and two—yes two–players had pocket Aces.  In both those hands, the pots got ridiculously huge for a low limit game.  I don’t remember who won the first hand (but it wasn’t me) but I recall the second hand was taken by the guy with Kings when he was the only one to hit his set. 
So I didn’t really think my Queens were good there.  I think I should have folded or shoved there (preflop), but I just called, hoping for a set that I had no chance of hitting.  I really put the preflop raiser on Kings or Aces when she a)wanted to bet $3000 and then b)shoved on the turn.
Anyway, if anyone cares to offer a thought as to how I should have played my Queens, feel free to comment.  And if you think the ruling about “the meaning of three” was in error, let me hear that, too.


  1. I don't really think I can offer much here but this might help you play Kings better:

    Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a great king from history:

    Spades - King David

    Hearts - Charlemagne

    Clubs - Alexander, the Great

    Diamonds - Julius Caesar

    The fact they are all dead may contribute to your ongoing conundrum.

    1. Thanks for the history lesson, Ken.

      Or as Mel Brooks taught us, "it's good to be the King."

      Just not so good to have two of them, sometimes.

  2. Beyond reading Poker Grump's blog, I do not claim to be a poker expert. However, something that strikes me as a recurring theme is that you keep calling in tricky situations. Stop letting others take the initiative. If you are ready to fight, raise, and if not, fold. Calling is just being indecisive.

    1. If you read Grump's blog, you ARE a poker expert, Sebs, no two ways about it :).

      That's actually good advice. Thanks.

  3. I think you prob play a little too tight or snug in general.

    Remember to put people on a likely range of hands not an exact hand. It truly is a tough spot with QQ against an UTG raiser. To give you proper advice wed need more info on stack sizes for you and her. Also what do you think her entire range was? This is prob a spot where u shove and hope not to run into the top end of her range. Folding preflop can't ever be good. U at least could set mine (unless she shows you the QQs before u act)

    If you find yourself busting out too often with only 1/3 of the players left and rarely better or worse then you prob are plying things too safe and missing spots to chip up at the risk of busting out

    This is just a generic comment without any evidence. I expect you still win more than you lose overall. In just speculating you could do better if you took bigger chances in tourneys. It's far different than cash and requires more risk

    Of course I could be wrong and talking out my butt a little (happens). Just a thought as I used to lean towards being too snug myself

    1. Thanks, Vook. I do take more risks in tournaments, but probably still not enough.

      Just had this my current game, I should probably play cash games at the risk level I take in tournaments, and then take a few more chances--or maybe more than a few--in tourns.

      One thing I do now is maybe overthink things. When I said maybe I should have folded preflop, I was thinking, well, if I just call, I won't know where I stand (unless I flop a set) after the flop. obviously if there's an Ace or even a King, I'd have to fold. But with undercards, I'm still worrying about all those who called the raise, and especially the preflop raiser UTG.

      But a shove was probably the right move.

      You know, poker is hard.

  4. Poker is def hard. When you solve it, please give me a call and share ;)

    1. Damn. Vook, I was counting on you solving it first and sharing it with me!