Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The One That Got Away

Or did it?

I sometimes find that, after a good poker session—and by good, I mean profitable—I find myself thinking more about the one that got away than the hands that I won the big money with.  Now, “the one that got away” is actually a fishing reference, and of course, all poker players love it when fish come to the table.  In poker, of course, you seldom know if you let one get away or if in fact, you made a money-saving laydown.

This happened on Christmas Eve just a couple of nights ago, after a week of getting abused at the poker table. I will be talking about some of those bad sessions at a future date.  Finally on this night, I was getting the better of it, and it looked like I was going to have only my second successful day of poker for this particular visit.
It started slowly, with a few chip ups, nothing too earth-shattering.  I recall a hand where I had the dreaded pocket Kings, had two callers to my raise and actually hit my set.  I am no longer in the business of slow playing sets, so I bet out about ½ the pot and didn’t get a caller.  Actually, I have been hitting a lot of sets this trip.  But more often than not I’ve been running into straights with them, so it hasn’t been a particular pleasant experience. 
I guess I had gotten close to up $100 when the big hand hit me.  I raised preflop with pocket 10’s and caught my set on the flop.  But there was a straight draw out there and when a Queen hit the turn, I thought I was gonna lose a big pot to a set vs a straight for the umpteenth time this trip.  I had bet the flop with my set and gotten two callers.  The turn got one guy to re-raise me all in and another guy shoved as well. I had them both covered.  With the two of them in there and having to risk less than an additional $100 to call, I thought it was a pretty easy call.  Even if I was behind to a straight—or two straights—with the two of them having similar amounts bet and what was already in the pot, I was getting good odds to fill up.  After all, I had 10 outs to improve.  No one showed their hand but I was quite delighted to see a second Queen on the river, giving me the boat.  The one guy showed his turned straight and, disgusted, left the table.  I don’t remember the details, but that was his second all-in suck out loss of the evening (not to me, to someone else).  Tough night for him.  The other guy didn’t show, I’m guessing he only had 2 pair before the river or he would have shown his straight.
That put me up over well over a buy in and just a few hands later, with the same dealer, I caught two pair with my Ace-10.  My flop bet was called by two guys making me fear a straight, but a blank on the turn hit, and this time my bet was not called.  Now I had over $300 over my buy in front of me.
I was quite happy, and also determined not to play it too safe, as I have a tendency to do when I get up a nice amount (see the post here).  I kept to that for awhile, but never had another good opportunity to win anything significant, and managed to chip down in the process.  But I still had a tiny bit over $300 profit in front of me when the hand that is the subject of this post happened. 
I was dealt Ace-Queen off suit in late position.  A/Q is a tricky hand to be sure.  I tend to raise with it more often than not, but I do sometimes just limp with it.  This time, I decided to limp after there were a few other limpers.  At the time, I didn’t think it was a sign that I was playing too tight because of my successful night thus far, but maybe it was.  Anyway, three or four of us saw the flop, which was Q-10-3, rainbow.  The first guy bet $6, and the next guy called the $6.  The next guy folded it to me, and I had last action.
I raised to $30.  I didn’t want to give anyone good odds to call if they were on draw.  The first guy folded promptly but the second guy, just as promptly, put his entire stack out in front of him.  It was $201.
Shit.  What the hell did that mean?  I recalled that in either the first or second hand he had when he came to the table, he put out $100 (half his buy in) on the river with a pair of Kings and a lousy kicker.  A guy called him with his entire stack, which was slightly less than the $100 with 2 pair.  He also had a King with a lousy kicker but his kicker had paired as well.
I certainly made a mental note of that play, which I thought was a pretty weak play on his part, but I couldn’t recall him doing anything else I found questionable for the next 45 minutes.  He chipped back up a bet with some raises that weren’t called, but the few showdowns I saw, he always had the goods; he had a reasonable hand, unlike the first hand I had seen.
So I definitely thought it was possible he was making the move with just a Queen and a worse kicker than I had.  But risking his entire stack—$200 no less—seemed well beyond any move I’d seen him make.  Maybe he had the straight draw, but more likely to me was either a set of 3’s or Q-10 for two pair.
You could argue that he was really trying to get me to fold a better hand, and certainly that is a possibility.  But it was a high risk move if that was his plan.  More likely, to me, was that he was eying the big stack I had and felt it was quite possible I would call him with second best hand.  He had only called until he saw that the big stack at the table--me--had shown interest in the hand by raising.
I decided I really didn’t want to risk $200—and 2/3’s of the evening’s profits—on just top pair, top kicker.  So I folded.  And cursed myself for not raising preflop.  But I’m not sure that would have made a difference.  I was sure he wouldn’t have folded pocket 3’s to my raise, and he might not even have folded Q-10 to a raise.  Of course, I’ll never know.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the hand, and my laydown, and realized that I was no longer capable of playing my best game.  I was too distracted by that hand, playing it over in my mind, trying to figure out what he had.  Plus I began to become concerned that I was falling back into being too protective of my winnings to play correctly.  So I picked up my chips and booked a win of $270 before I could do any more damage.
But on the way back to my room, instead of focusing on the very successful night, all I could think about was the laydown I had made, and whether or not it was the right move.


  1. Good fold. Lose the angst.

    Yeah, he overbet and gave a look you'll always wonder about. No biggy. You'll get bluffed and bluff yourself.

    My guess is bottom set. He then overplayed it or feared a suckout by a JK or such. He probably remembered the Q pairing more than he should have. People remember your hands too.

    1. Thanks, Ken. Bottom set was my first thought, and maybe he figured he could get me to put that much of my stack in play. I'm sure he knew I would have raised pre with pocket Queens or pocket 10's. A lot of times if I think a guy may have bluffed me off a hand, I prefer not knowing, but in this case, if he showed me a bluff I think I would have thought, "well played" and moved on easier. I guess what I really want to know is that he did indeed have a set and he actually misplayed it, and that I made a very good laydown indeed.

  2. About 10 years ago when the Bike first began offering no limit cash games David Sklansky gave a lecture there on some key points in playing the game. The one I have always remembered is "Never get married to top pair top kicker." Over the years I have discovered that laying these down against high pressure and waiting for a better spot has been much more profitable than being stubborn, which most of us are from time to time. Based on your description of the circumstances your fold was quite reasonable. And even though it is a form of tilt there is probably no question that your having booked a nice session profit entered into your decision.

    1. Thanks, Dave.I believe I've mentioned here, and certianly on the AVP forums, that reading Dan Harrington's books on poker had convinced me of the folly of risking a big stack on top pair, top kicker. So I'm always careful not to risk too much there.

  3. Pat yourself on the back Bro, your laydown was a good one.

    1. Thanks, FD, I think you're right. And if you are, the guy cost himself some money by playing it that way. A smooth call there, or even a min raise, probably would have gotten extra money from me.

      Unless he was bluffing....... :)

  4. Hi Rob
    Merry Christmas from an old pal in UK whose main claim to fame is winning a £100 free roll one Friday night online. 542 starters and I did turn up the dreaded pocket kings at the final heads up shoving 1.8 million chips as his Ace wasn't matched. Kept me smiling for weeks .
    Hope to get to Vegas and maybe meet for a beer maybe next year .

    All the best

    Chris W
    New Business Mag

    1. Thanks, Chris, let me know when you're coming to Vegas.

  5. Rob: You were beat. He either hit a set (most likely) or had top two. If he was a shorty I could see a bluff, but not in this case.

    If you think you get too hesitant once your stack starts getting bigger, maybe you should just cash out at that point, take a decent break, and buy back in. It doesn't seem like ratholing unless you do it time and time again.

    1. Thanks Lightning. I'm pretty sure you're right that he was way ahead, but if he wants to make such a bold, ballsy bluff to win my thirty bucks, more power to him.

      I really didn't think I was playing too conservatively until I folded there and started second guessing myself. Since I was having a hard time conentrating on anything else after his move, and it was late anyway, I knew it was time to call it a nite.