Friday, February 15, 2013

I Think I Played My Hand Face Up

What’s worse than a bad beat?  How about not winning enough as much money as you think you should have when you have a big hand?  You know what I mean.  The guy with a really good second best hand just doesn’t pay you off like you feel he should have when you have the nuts.
Ok, maybe that’s not as bad as a bad beat, but it can be frustrating.  I admit, it can also be frustrating hearing someone complain about it.  I recall a night at BSC when Prudence and I were playing with a friend of hers.  I don’t remember the details, but I think he had a full house, he assumed the other player had a lesser full house, and didn’t call his river bet.  He spent the rest of the night pissing and moaning about it.  I would be a rich man if I had a dollar for every time I heard him say a variation of “How could he not call there?” from him that night.
So I hope you’ll bear with me for this little gripe session.  At least by the next day I think I figured out why the guy didn’t pay me off more.
This was from a particularly fun session last month at BSC.  There was a guy at the table who was the table clown.  I don’t mean that in a bad way.  He was the table clown like a kid in school was the class clown.  Just a friendly, funny guy.  Early in my session I won a pot where I had to show my pair of Queens.  Thereafter, every time I won a pot where I didn’t have to show my hand, he teased me about having Queens again.  One pair of Queens and I was marked for life. 
He was teasing everyone gently and it was all in good fun.  What he didn’t know was that one of the times he accused me of having Queens—I raised preflop, bet the flop and did not get a call on the turn—I actually had pocket Kings.  Yeah, you know it’s a good session for me when I actually win with those things.
I was in seat 1 and in seat 9 (the table is 9 handed) was a guy from Australia.  This was before the story I told here so I hadn’t yet declared war on the entire country yet.  So on this hand, I woke up with pocket Aces on the button.  There were lots of limpers so I made a pretty big raise.  It folded to the Aussie who announced all-in.  He had about $100, give or take.  Of course I snap-called.
We both showed and he had pocket 10’s.  Of course, with his stack, he might have done that anyway, but there was talk around the table as to how they were a bit surprised by my hand.  Since I had position, a lot of folks—probably the Aussie too—felt I just might be trying to steal the pot there.  The board was all blanks and I won a nice pot. 
I chipped up and down a bit for awhile and then was dealt pocket Queens again.  Damn, the table clown was right about me!  There were again a bunch of limpers, so I made a big raise and only one limper called.  The flop was Queen-8-2.  Yahtzee!  But there were two hearts. 
To my surprise, the other guy led out with a $15 bet.  Hmm….what could he have?  I had the nuts at that point.  Was he betting a draw?  Did I have him set over set?
I wasn’t about to smooth call with those two hearts on the board, so I made it $45.  He called.  The turn was a 10 of diamonds and once again, the guy bet out.  Hmm……I was perplexed.  He was a young guy, and seemed like a solid player.  Not especially loose or aggro.  I realized there was a straight possible, but that means he would have called my preflop raise with Jack-9, and I thought that was unlikely.  Was he really pressing his set or two pair….or his heart draw?
I shoved.  If he had the heart draw, I wanted to make it costly for him to run it down.  I also considered that if the 10 didn’t make him a straight, it might have given him a draw to it (AK, KJ?) .  I had him covered by about $100.  Here’s the good news, my move proved I wasn’t playing too conservatively—trying to book my win.  I was up over $100 and if I lost that hand now, I would be suddenly be in negative territory for the night.
Now the bad news.  He snap called and showed his hand. I was wrong, he did indeed call my preflop raise with Jack-9.  He showed Jack-9 of hearts.  So he flopped the flush draw and the gutshot.  And hit his gutshot on the turn.  Gulp.
For my last three Vegas visits, I’d been running into an unusually high number of flushes and straights when I flopped sets.  And never once in those three visits had I gotten the help I needed to win the pot.
Until this time.  The dealer put down a beautiful 8 of something on the river, giving me a boat.  I won a huge pot and the guy had a sick expression on his face as he reached for his wallet to rebuy.  I survived my bad read.
Now I was up over $300 and realized I had to start monitoring myself to make sure I wasn’t going to play too scared to win any more money (see post here).  I didn’t notice any problems so I continued to play.  I didn’t really want to leave, as I said, it was a fun table.  We were talking about prostitution and Harry Potter books, not a combination that you normally think of together.
Some guy made a joke as he was raking in a pot, “I’m ready for a prostitute now,” and another player said he’d need at least $500.  Then a third guy said, “$500 only gets you in the room with her.  You need more money if you actually plan on getting laid.”
I asked how he knew that.  “First hand experience, huh?”  He just laughed and said “I know a little bit about a lot of things.”  Someone mentioned that they had legal prostitution in Windsor, Ontario, just on the other side of the border from Detroit, something I did not know (and I have no plans to visit there, in case you’re wondering).
And someone said he was just now getting into reading the Harry Potter books, which prompted a lengthy discussion of the books.  Now, I’ve heard the Harry Potter movies discussed at a poker table, usually around the time one of them comes out.  But this was a discussion of the novels, and there was some serious discussion about the books taking place among thee or four players.  My buddy Jack was the dealer, and he said, “You realized this a poker table in a Las Vegas casino, and you’re discussing Harry Potter?”  I wondered if this was a first.  Then Jack actually joined the discussion and starting making jokes about one of the characters being questioned for terrorism.
I didn’t really follow the discussion, but they were having such a good time with it I was actually enjoying listening to it.  Then Jack dealt me the hand which is actually the subject of this post.
In the big blind I was dealt—can you guess?  Yeah, the dreaded pocket kings.  And proof that I wasn’t playing too scared with my $300 profit was that I didn’t immediately muck them.  Three people limped, so I raised to $14.  Only one person called.  It was the Aussie that I had stacked with my Aces vs his 10’s.  Yeah, he was still there.
The flop was King-8-2, rainbow.  Double Yahtzee!  Wow, Earlier I had flopped a set of Queens, now I had flopped a set of Kings.  A good night indeed. I've mentioned all the times that my sets have run into straights and flushes. I have vowed never to slow play a set again.
But this time….this time…..I did it.  I slow played it.  I saw that there were no draws out there.  It would be hard to find a drier board.  My set looked incredibly safe.  I wasn’t playing scared, I was playing greedy.  I wanted to make as much money as I could from my dreaded hand, just once.  So I checked.  The Aussie checked behind me.
The turn was a 9 of hearts, the second heart on the board.  Since I gave him a free card, I couldn’t dismiss the possibility that he now had a flush draw, but I wasn’t overly concerned about it.  I knew at this point I needed to try to put some money in the pot to try to win something.  I bet $20 and really expected him to fold.  But no, he called.
The river was another 8, and thus I had a full house.  No worries about the flush.  The only hand that could beat me was pocket 8’s, and if he had that, well that’s poker, take my money sir.
I assumed he wouldn’t call a big bet, or any bet at all.  I only put out $25, hoping that would be small enough to call if he had a little something.  I was sure a big bet would not get called.
He snap called and showed his hand.  He had pocket deuces!  He had flopped a set and filled up on the river, just as I had. 
Wow.  He lost as little money as he possible could have on that hand.  Which meant I won as little money as I could have on that hand.
Everyone was amazed, and couldn’t believe he never bet or raised with his set.  He explained that he actually put me on pocket Kings and thus felt he was behind the whole way.  That’s why he didn’t raise.
I was not all that happy with the win, I had won way too little.  I mean, if the flop missed him, fine, I win a small pot.  But he flops a set?  A lower set than mine?  I should be stacking all—or at least most—of his chips.
Jack couldn’t believe it.  He whispered to me, “How did he not raise you?”  I agreed, I should have had a huge payday there.  “He played it like a small pair,” he added.
It was still a nice session, and I cashed out soon after Jack’s down was finished.  I wasn’t exactly on tilt, but I did notice I was spending too much time thinking about how much money I didn’t win there to be paying enough attention to the poker.  So it was time to book the win and leave.
On my way out, I saw Jack dealing at another table and I leaned in and whispered to him, “How did I not stack that guy?”  He shook his head, “I don’t know.”
But sleeping on it, I think I figured it out.  First, I think maybe the hand hours earlier where I stacked him with my Aces vs his 10’s may have played into it somewhat.  His instinct there was I was trying to steal, then it turned out I really had the goods.
However, the key thing I did wrong, the big mistake I made, was checking the flop.  Normally I don’t check there because I don’t want to give a free card.  That’s the main reason I don’t slow play sets. 
But this time, my check was basically showing him my hand.  You see, when I raise preflop, I almost always make a continuation bet on the flop, especially if there’s only 2 or 3 of us seeing a flop.  The guy had been playing attention.  He saw that. 
If I had raised with AK there, I flop top pair, top kicker and of course I’m gonna bet out.  No one would slow play that hand.  If I raise with AQ, and the flop missed me, I’m gonna bet there too, based on what I’d done all night.  The Aussie had played with me for over 4 hours.  So if I had just a pair, or if the flop missed me, he knows I would bet there.
The only hand I wouldn’t bet there was the hand I had, KK.  Only with a hand that strong would I have checked (8-8 was less likely since he probably wouldn’t expect me to raise with it, but also possible).   I had gone against my own rule about not slow playing sets…..and sure enough, it had cost me.  Not the pot, but a lot of money I could have won.
If I had bet the flop, he isn’t going anywhere with his set of deuces.  He puts me on AK (or maybe KQ), and calls or raises then.  If he just calls the flop, he raises me on the turn and I re-raise and probably get all his chips.  But I got greedy and lost money for it.
I suppose it’s possible that even if I bet out on the flop, he’s too afraid of KK to ever raise me.  I’ll never know.  But if he keeps calling, I still get more money, if not all his chips.
Two lessons learned.  First, don’t make a continuation bet every damn time.  Mix it up more.
Second, never slow play a set.  I thought I learned that before, but apparently not.
I guess the reason I didn’t get a better pay off there was that I basically played my hand face up.


  1. It folded to the Aussie who announced all-in.

    There's not too many sweeter words to hear than the villain announcing all in when you have aces!

    1. Yes. Indeed. Although I suppose one famous, semi-retired blogger might say it would be even better to hear those words when holding the most powerful hand in poker, the mighty deuce-four!

      And speaking of deuce-four and said semi-retired blogger, lookie here, below!

  2. Good analysis. I think you're right in your main conclusion.

    But as usual, I'm going to make a point of something you said just in passing:

    "I wasn’t about to smooth call with those two hearts on the board"

    Here's a one-question quiz for you: What percentage of flops contain exactly two of a suit? Note your off-the-cuff answer before you get serious about finding the exact answer.

    Of course you could Google this, but I suggest that you work it out with pen and paper. It's not that hard, it's a good brain exercise, every serious poker player should be able to do such calculations, and you'll remember the answer a lot better that way than if you just look it up. Hint: It's easiest to calculate the percentage of flops that are all one suit, and the percentage of flops that are rainbow. Flops with two suits make up the rest.

    Now make an estimate of the probability that your lone opponent had a starting hand that contained two hearts. This won't be and needn't be precise, because it depends on how much he likes suited hands, which is variable among players. But take a stab at it.

    When you've done those two things (if you want to; there's no coercion here), I'll come back and try to make a point about them.

    1. Oh my gosh! I LOVE it when someone comments on my blog and gives me homework! I just woke up and I'm back in high school! :)

      Seriously, Grump, it's great to hear from the newest resident of North Carolina, and because I value you're opinion and input so much, I'll play along. I'll know I'll get a FREE poker lesson out of it....unlike the one I paid for at Planet Hollywood in December.

      Ignoring the suits of my own two cards (cuz that just makes it more complicated and I think this will be close enough for the point you're going for), I estimated that it's 12/49 x 11/48 for all of one suit, approx 5.6%

      For all different suits, I came up with 39/49 x 26/48, about 43.1%.

      So, about 51.3% of the time,the flop will have 2 cards of one suit (100 - 5.6 - 43.1). Am I close?

      As for my opponent, well, it's got be less than 1 in 4. It would be 1 in 4 if no one ever played anything but suited cards against me. That's clearly not the case. They're gonna play pocket pairs (which better NOT be suited), high cards, unsuited connectors, or maybe I run into some guy who likes to play deuce-four whether suited or not.

      I gonna ballpark 15%, tho I could be way off. Obviously people play the exact same sooooted cards when they wouldn't play them unsuited. And the fact that I raised preflop should have eliminated the lowest of the suited connectors, tho not necessarily.

      Ok, professor, my homework is done, however good a job I did.

      Please use your red pen to correct my mistakes, and then proceed with today's lesson.


  3. I would do it by ignoring the fact that I have two cards, since I'm just looking for a generally applicable answer, not one that is dependent on what I was dealt. If you do that, you find that 5.2% of flops are one suit, 39.8% are rainbow, leaving 55.0% showing two suits.

    So MORE THAN HALF OF THE TIME there will be a flush draw on the flop. But as you estimated, when facing a single opponent, it is really quite unlikely that he holds two cards of the flush draw suit.

    So should you base your approach to bet sizing more than half of the time when it is quite unlikely that the things you're worried about it actually happening?

    I think this is especially so in a $1/2 game, where most opponents will not bet out with a flush draw into a preflop raiser. That suggests a player being worried about the flush himself, not one trying to hit it.

    1. Thanks, Grump. Great advice, as always. I could have phrased it, "I don't slow play sets" but I guess the thinking behind it is the same. In this case, I think the hand would have played out the same no matter what, but that's results-oriented thinking.

      Of course, again results-oriented thinking, but he DID bet out against a preflop raiser with just a draw. But it was a combo draw (it was a great flop for him) and he hit the least likely part of it on the turn.

  4. If your opponent put you on KK and felt he was behind the whole time, then why did he even call? Could have made a hero laydown.

    1. Thanks for the comment, NB. Well, you're right, but the bet was so small, I'm sure he felt it was worth a call with his full house. I've been in his shoes and would have called for $25. That's why I only bet $25, so a lesser hand would call. I just didn't expect it be such a BIG lesser hand.

    2. Yeah i would also definately would have called.