Sunday, March 31, 2013

Three-Betting Pocket 4's

This is the story of the last Binions tournament I played in my January trip—even though it was February by the time this took place.  In fact, it was the very next tournament I played in after the min cash the weekend before that I described here.

This was also the day before the Super Bowl and that may have had something to do with the fact that the tournament was huge.  I think it was the best turnout they ever had, Usually they get a bit over 100 players, sometimes close to 150.  This time, they had 175 entrants!  It was amazing.
The problem for me was that I arrived late.  Not my fault.  Traffic on the I-15 was dreadful, practically a parking lot.  It took me forever to get off early and maneuver my way to downtown.
I arrived at the poker room with a minute or two to spare, but because of the unexpectedly large turnout, there was a huge line of people waiting to buy in.  The tournament was well underway by the time I got seated.  And I got seated in like a corner table that I don’t remember them using before, every table in the tournament room was in use, they were using tables in the nearby cash room for overflow, and even with that, they actually had to start an alternate list, I don’t think I’d ever seen that before there.
You see, they might have had enough tables but they actually ran out of dealers!  Seriously, they simply did not have enough dealers to handle this crowd.  In fact, they were unable to do a “push”—the dealers all stayed at their first table for about three or four downs because there was no dealer not dealing.  On the first break, in order to give the dealers a break if they needed it, and also in order to rotate them, they asked all the players to exit the tournament room so that they could leave the chips unprotected while they rotated.
This was another bad draw for me.  As I’ve explained before (see here), there’s an unusual high number of really attractive female dealers working this tournament.  It would have been great to have one of those ladies stuck at my table for three or four downs.  But no, we had one of the guys dealing to us.  True, he was a nice guy and a fine dealer, but for some reason, I really would have preferred a fine looking lady dealer getting stuck there for so long.
Another bad draw was the cocktail service.  Ordinarily the waitress, although overworked, does a damn fine job of keeping up with us.  And like every good cocktail waitress in town, she knows my drink order without having to be told.  But this time, there were way too many people for her to keep up with.  Worse, the location of our table, and the fact that it is rarely used, made it easy for her to skip us.  I know at least two or three times she ignored us because she was just so swamped.  This was especially rough on me as I had woken up with a dry throat (Vegas throat, I guess) and really needed to keep it lubricated. 
Oh, and maybe there was another reason (other than it being Super Bowl weekend) that such a big crowd showed up.  This was the first tournament they had since my Ante Up column had appeared, the one mentioning this very tournament (see here).  Clearly that was the reason for the big turnout!
In fact, a regular told Paul, the tournament director, that he had read the column in Ante Up and liked it.  Paul was only too happy to point me out to the guy as the guy who had written it (Since I mentioned Paul in the Ante Up column, I think it’s ok to use Paul’s real name).  I later tweeted to Paul that I was taking credit for the big turnout and he jokingly agreed.
On to the poker.  I had missed a number of hands before getting seated, but it was still in the first level.  A guy on the other side of the table immediately caught my attention.  Initially, it was his look.  He had a scraggly, faint beard & moustache, do-rag, headphones, and sunglasses. He was definitely attention-getting.  I’m going to call him PIA, as in pain in the ass.  He was a pain in the ass not just because of the look but because he liked to raise every single hand.
Every freakin’ hand.
At least that’s what it seemed like when I first got to the table.  Seriously, the first four or five hands I played, he raised preflop every single time.  I started to get the feeling he might be raising a bit light.
After four or five of these, I was dealt pocket fours in middle position.  I knew PIA was going to raise and I figured I’d call hoping to catch a set.
 Then I thought about it some more.  No one had really offered this guy with all his preflop raises any resistance.
I’d never in my life three-bet with pocket 4’s but I thought maybe this was the time.  I still had my full starting stack of 20K and the blinds were 25/50.  I decided if the guy raised again, I was going to re-raise him and see how he liked that.  His raises had been called sometimes since I’d been there, but no one ever re-popped him.  Let’s see how he reacts when his aggression is met with even more aggression.
Sure enough, he raised it to 250.  Folded to me and I made it 750.  I had no idea if he’d fold, re-raise or just call.
It folded back to him and he just called.  As part of my plan, I was going to c-bet the flop (if he didn’t lead out) no matter what it was.  If I missed and he raised, I would probably be done with the hand.  And I couldn’t see myself firing any more barrels if the flop missed me.  This was kind of an experiment.
But the flop didn’t miss me.  On an otherwise dry board, there was a 4.  I hit my set!  He checked and I rethought my plan.  I decided to take a bit of a risk and check behind him.  I didn’t think the flop had likely hit him and I didn’t want him folding just yet.
The turn was a 7, which made for two of them, giving me the full house.  He checked, this time I bet, and I expected him to fold.  Nope, he called.
The river card sucked.  It was a second 9, meaning the board had double-paired.  I still had the boat, but now if he had either a 9 or a 7 he had me beat.  I was tempted to check, but I managed to put out a bet instead, and he folded.  So that was a nice little pot and I managed to stand up to the guy who was auditioning for the role of the table bully.
Anyway, I came in with the same attitude I had the week before (see here) when I played 8-1/2 hour for the min cash.  I was going to start out more aggressive to try to chip up or make it a short day.  But PIA made it a bit difficult as he continued his aggressive ways.  But I picked my spots against him and also picked a few spots when he wasn’t in a hand, which happened occasionally.  I hadn’t made any big scores, but I had added at last $5k to my stack when we got to the last hand before the break.
In late position I looked down at pocket Queens.  A few people limped until PIA raised, of course.  So I made a big three-bet.  And then this old fart, who hadn’t been heard from much all day, who had initially limped into the pot, freaking shoved.  Yeah, the ol’ limp/shove. Everyone folded, including PIA.
I had the old fart covered, but not by much, maybe 3500 more than him.  I suppose a few months ago I would have considered folding my Queens.  This guy had gotten into a few hands by now, but he hadn’t raised too much.  It was easy to put him on a small range there.
But I wasn’t going anywhere with my Queens this time.  No, sir.  If he had me beat, so be it.  I wanted to chip up big or bust, so I was fine taking my chances there with the third best starting hand in Hold’em.
I called and he flipped over what people tell me is the second best hand in Hold’em—yes, the dreaded pocket Kings.  At the time, I was really pissed at his limp/raise move, but now that I think about it, it was a good play on his part.  He had good reason to assume someone would raise behind him, most likely PIA, so it was kind of a safe play.  If he had raised initially, it’s possible all he would have gotten for his cowboys were the blinds.
One of us hit our set—and it wasn’t me.  So I entered the break down big, from over 25k to about 3500.  Pretty close to desperation time.
But I still had a little play left.  I found some hands to make moves with, and got some chips with some well timed raises.  No big pots, but this gave me enough chips to play with without having to shove.
Then I looked down at King-jack off suit on the button.  It was just the kind of hand I’d been raising with.  There were a whole bunch of limpers, putting enough into the pot so that I really wouldn’t have had much fold equity there with any raise other than a shove.  OK, let’s roll the dice, I said to myself.  I shoved.
Guess who called?  No, not PIA.  It was the old fart who limped/raised with the Kings.  No one else called and old fart turns over Ace-King (which, of course, he limped with).  It looked pretty bad for me, having only one live card.  The flop included a Queen and a 10, giving me the straight draw, but the turn was a blank.  I stood up and started to gather my things.  The dealer kiddingly said, “No standing up.” And then put a 9 on the river to complete my straight.  So I got a bit of revenge on the old fart.
The dealer kept teasing me about standing up, “You’re not supposed to stand up.”  I said, “No, no, standing up was what did it.  If I had stayed seated, you would have out a 6 down there.”
He kept going on.  “No standing up, next time, there’s a penalty.”
Well that was a nice double up and now I actually had some chips to play with, and made through the next break in semi-decent shape.
So at one point, not having to shove, I was on the button with Ace-5 diamonds.  A bunch of limpers, and so I made a nice big raise.  Folded to this woman who had been playing rather conservatively.  And she shoved.  Yeah, she too tried the ol’ limp/shove.  She had me covered.
Well, I had enough chips there so it was a pretty easy laydown, especially with only Ace-5.  As I folded, a couple of the players around me noted that I’d already faced that move (limp/shove) before.
Then I had pocket 10’s under the gun.  I probably didn’t have to shove there, and I might not have with a bigger pocket pair, but I thought shoving was a better move than just raising.  So I shoved and it folded to the big blind, a lady who had become a hero at the table earlier for busting out PIA by hitting runner runner quads.  She thought long and hard, asked for a count of my chips, and then finally called.  And turned over pocket Jacks.
Nothing hit, and I was done.  So in the same tournament, I had Queens lose to Kings and 10’s lose to Jacks.  Ugh.
I decided to do something different and play a little cash at Binions.  For playing one hour of cash after playing in the tournament, they’ll give you a $10 food comp.  Also, Saturday night, they have hourly drawings where they give away seats to the tournament the next day.  So I figured I’d try to get lucky.
I didn’t win any drawings, although I came close.  They had different people drawing seat cards out of a bag, and one time it was my pal Heather (right before she was going to leave for her second shift over at BSC).  She picked the seat to my immediate right.  Darn.
There was one hand of the cash game worth re-telling.  In the small blind, I had pocket 7’s.  Almost everyone limped in. J-7-x on the flop.  I bet out $10 and the big blind calls.  Turn looks harmless, I bet out $30, and big blind calls.  The river put a straight out there, it was a little scary.  I thought about checking, but I decided no, I’m going to value bet.  So I put out $60. Big Blind is very hesitant, takes a long time but reluctantly calls.
He flips over pocket Jacks for set over set.
Huh?  He did say to me he was worried about the straight, that’s why he didn’t raise.  Ok, but why didn’t he raise me on the turn (or the flop)?  For that matter, why didn’t he raise preflop?  That’s the move I really don’t understand.  All those limpers, it was a perfect place to raise big there on the big blind.  I mean, you know a couple of them have Aces, there’s probably a King out there too.  Unless you hit your set, your Jacks are worthless after the flop.
Of course, he did hit is set, as did I.  I lost a fair number of chips, but I was lucky not to have gotten stacked there.  Had he been a better player, I would have been.
I soon thereafter picked up my remaining chips and enjoyed my comped dinner.  All the while, thinking of three hands.  Queens losing to Kings, 10’s losing to Jacks, and a set of 7’s losing to a set of Jacks.
Poker is a silly game.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

It Might Have Been

“Of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’”

---John Greenleaf Whittier

How appropriate that this post will appear immediately after my post entitled, “A Frustrating Day of Poker.”  Because this post might well be called, “A Frustrating Night of Poker.”  This will be the first post about my current Vegas visit, and also the first one written during the trip.  The session took place a couple of nights ago (as I publish this), at good ol’ BSC.
You see, at said session, I made the worst fold I ever made in my brief poker history.  Now, to be clear, in saying that, I’m evaluating the fold by results, not by whether I made the “right play.”  The right play is the one that yields the greatest “expected value” in the long run, the one you should make every time a certain situation presents itself (assuming the situation is the exact same, every time, which of course, it rarely is).  So the move won’t always work out—there is always an element of luck involved—not to mention that different opponents may act differently in response to your actions.
But in this case, the way the hand played out, I made a terrible fold.  A case can be made that in the long run, the fold I made was right, and I will, in the long run, profit from making this exact fold every time I face this exact situation.
Screw the long run.
Actually, I believe a case can be made that the fold wasn’t right even by the standards of “expected value” (or “EV” in poker shorthand).  So, while I’m still crying in my beer, I’d welcome some feedback on the fold, as if you didn’t know how the hand played out.  Note, of course I know how self-defeating it is to dwell on fold based on the result, but what I'm haunted by is that I was actually in the hand--albeit briefly--and considered calling.  It's not like I insta-folded 7-deuce and the flop came 7-2-7.
As it happens, the night before, I had made some money being uncharacteristically aggressive at a rather passive table.  I was proud of myself for adjusting my game to the conditions and really felt that, unlike the discussion I had in my previous post, where I felt my game wasn’t progressing, I was growing as a poker player.  I hope to discuss a bit more about that previous night in a future post.
But the table conditions could not have been more different on this night.  There were quite a few really big stacks at the table, and there were three or four fairly aggressive players for most of my session.  There were some limped pots, but they were exceptions to the rule.  Preflop raises were often $17-$18 and higher.
The big stacks were quite alluring.  I felt if I could adjust to the conditions, I could have a good night.
Ok, the table wasn’t quite as wild and loose as the table conditions I described in this post here, but it wasn’t that far off.  As I learned from the comments to that post, and from the excellent response post from Poker Grump (see here), the right to way to play in this situation is not to tighten up, but to loosen up. No, not to get as crazy as everyone else, but to play some hands you might not play at a “normal” table to take advantage of all the money that will be flying back and forth across the felt.
The trouble was, I was ridiculously, stupendously, card dead.  Very few hands were playable unless I lowered my starting hand standards to play hands like Jack-4, 8-3, 7-2 out of position and in the face of a raise (and possibly a re-raise).  I wasn’t ready to do that.  Most of the wild players would call down anything so making moves or trying a big bluff would have been in all likely costly.
Somehow, without getting cards, after about 45 minutes of not getting cards, I had more or less my $200 starting stack.  I must have found at least one hand to play and won a small pot with it, but I honestly don’t remember.
With my buddy Jack dealing, I looked down at 10-9 of spades in early position.  I limped in, hoping I could see a flop with it fairly cheaply.  I actually considered raising with it, but I felt it was too likely that I’d be re-raised and have to let it go. 
After another limper, the aggro Euro at the table made it $16.  Ugh. He was in middle position and thus I thought it was more likely he had a decent hand instead of him just making a move. There was only $7 in the pot so far when he made that raise.
The next guy called the bet but then it folded back to me.  I thought about for awhile and decided to fold.  It is such a speculative hand to play in the face of the a mid-position raise, I thought I should let it go.  It was still early in the evening and there was still time for either my cards or the table conditions to change.  I was hoping it would be my cards, as there were all those juicy stacks staring at me.
The guy who limped behind me also called.  If I knew he was gonna call, I would have been more tempted to call myself, but my mind reading skills are lacking.
So three of them saw the flop in the pot that was around $50.
The fact that I didn’t vomit on the table when I saw the flop is a minor miracle.  There was a 10 on the flop.  No check that, there were two 10’s on the flop.  Oh shit, let’s face it, there were three freaking 10’s on the flop.
Yeah, there were three goddamn 10’s on the flop.  And I knew damn well where the case 10 was, didn’t I?  It was right in the muck, by Jack’s hand.  I’d put it there myself, fool that I am.
I actually had to walk away from the table at that point, I was so ill.  Based on the commentary that ensued, no one read my getting up and taking a little walk as I sign that I had thrown away quads.  When I told Jack about it much later, he was surprised, so he hadn’t figured it out either.
What was further sickening was, there was a lot of action on that hand after the flop.  Surprising, because so often when you see trips flopped like that, there’s very little betting.  Not this time.  The guy who acted before the preflop raiser led out with a bet, all three saw the turn.  I believe one player dropped out on the turn.  But a river bet was made and called.
I guess I should point out that the aggro Euro who started the action with the big raise had about $500-$600 in front of him.  The other two players in the hand had stacks similar to me.  By the end, no one was all in, but it was still a huge pot.  Which would have been bigger if I’d been in it, obviously.
I was too ill to follow the action closely, I can’t tell you if the preflop raiser made the river bet or called it.  But when he turned over his hand, he said, “I had the second nuts, I’m not folding it.  Never.  I’m calling any bet there.  There’s only one card that beats me.”
Yes, and I threw it away.
So he flipped over his pocket Aces and took in that huge pot.  I don’t think the other guy showed. I think there might have been a King on the board and he probably had one in his hand.
And I was sitting there trying not to commit suicide right at the table.  It would have played out somewhat differently if I had stayed in. Perhaps the Euro would have rethought his “I’m calling any bet there” if I’d stayed in.  I’d played so few hands he would have had to have figured it was very likely I had the 10.  But then, if I had just called the bets on the flop and the turn, I wouldn’t have had that much left on the river, and I think it would have been reasonable for me to shove there, without it being too big a bet.  Otherwise, I would have had to have figured out how big a bet anyone would call.  Doesn’t matter, I didn’t get that wonderful puzzle to try to solve.
I seriously considered just picking up my chips right then and calling it a night.  I wondered if I could play good poker while rehashing that hand over and over in my mind, as I did.  But I felt this was a test of my growth as a player to see if I could overcome this and try to make something out of the night.
Within 15 minutes, the Euro took his chips—a lot of which should have been mine—and left.  No chance for me to win them now.  The other aggressive players stayed.  My cards never, ever changed.  It was truly one of the most card-dead sessions I can ever recall.
Seriously.  The 10-9 I folded was the last suited connector I got, other than a 3-2.  I had pocket 7’s twice, 8’s once, called raises with them every time and missed.  I got pocket deuces once, limped, and then faced a raise to twenty-five friggin’ dollars, so I folded.
OK, Ok, I did get the dreaded pocket Kings once. I was in the big blind.  The lady under-the-gun raised to $5 (there were some $5-$6 raises mixed in with the $18-$25 raises).  Two people called her and then one of the more aggro types made it $10.  What do I do there?
I didn’t want anyone with a crummy Ace to have decent odds to call.  So, I just folded.
No, no, just kidding, I didn’t do that.  I bet $50.  Too big?  I actually thought there was a good chance I’d get a caller, particularly the guy who made it $10.  But they all folded.  No problem, it was Kings, right?  I’ll take it down there, thanks.
I got two paint cards only two or three times and couldn’t do anything with them.
Then there were two times I got Ace-Queen.  Both times I was in the blind, both times I made pretty big raises, both times I got multiple callers.  Both times the flop missed me, but both times my c-bets were not called.  That, and the hand with Kings were pretty much the only pots I won.
Somehow, that was a enough to keep my in the black.  I just wasn’t getting hands even mediocre enough to put chips into play with.
I decided to play until the big blind came around to me, after four hours of card-death.  My very last hand I looked at Ace-King suited, first time I’d seen AK all night.  I made it $8.  The guy to my immediate left popped it to $26!
Huh?  He was fairly new at the table, and tho I’d seen him 3-bet one other time, I hadn’t seen him being aggressive otherwise.  I had to assume that other time and now this time he three-bet, he had a big hand.  I know some people love AK, but I fail to see the need to risk too much with it.  I thought about it a bit, then mucked.
The guy showed his hand, it was pocket Queens.  I was ok with that. I was behind and didn’t really relish the coin flip. 
I suppose I should be looking at this session as a positive one.  Surviving such a card-dead four hours and still showing a profit (a quite meager, $10 profit, but still a profit) is a good thing, right?
But all I’ll remember about this night is throwing away quad 10’s and a huge, huge pot I didn’t win, that was right out there waiting for me.  I’ll bet I’ll be seeing those four 10’s in my dreams.  Or, my nightmares, I should say.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Frustrating Day of Poker

I'm still in Vegas, and so far, I've been too busy working and playing poker to write any fresh blog posts.  It's kinda frustrating because, as usual, there's already been much to report about this current trip, and it's only half over.  Fortunately, as I indicated previously, I still have a few posts in the pipeline that I wrote up before leaving L.A. This entry was actually written a while ago, right after the last session I had at the Bike before heading to Vegas.

That session left me feeling quite frustrated.  Second straight losing session there (see here) and the time before that, when I did win (see here), I had a rather meager profit considering I had a rather nice string of luck.  Two sessions is not a trend, but based on the circumstances I left feeling I really should have taken home some money with me, instead of leaving a buy-in behind.

The thing is, for most of the time I was there, I didn’t really feel that there was a better player at the table than me.  Maybe one or two were more or less at my level, but no one was better.  And there were plenty of weak players.  Of course, if I’m starting to question my game, maybe I need to question my ability to judge the other players.  Maybe they were better than I thought.
One thing for sure was that, of all the times I’ve played the $2/$3 game at the Bike, this was the tightest table I’d ever seen.  That being the case, I knew I should loosen up and be more aggressive.  The trouble with that is, because the rake is so high, and because they take the rake right off the top, stealing the blinds isn’t really very profitable.  You still have to split with the house.  Maybe I should try it more often anyway, but I preferred to wait for there to be some limpers money to steal, and didn’t find that many opportunities.  Although I was able to win hands preflop raising on the button with King-9 and 9-7 (both were soooooted, tho).
A couple of other times I tried similar moves, got a few callers, made some continuation bets, was raised, and because the flop missed me, I had to let it go.  Maybe I just have to do that more times for it to be profitable.  But again, even when it works, because of the rake, you don’t get much.
The session got off to a bad start very early.  My second hand, I was the small blind and had 10-4 offsuit.  There were a number of limpers.  Since the small blind is $2, and the big blind is $3, in that situation, I almost always call with just about anything….it’s only a buck, right?  In a 1/2 game or a 1/3 game, I wouldn’t call.  Maybe I need to rethink this.  Especially at this point, having just sat down, not knowing any of the players.  I always say I prefer not getting a hand to play too early in the session, before I have a clue as to how anyone plays. 

The flop came 10-10-5.  Good for me, you would think.  I led out for $15, one caller.  King on the turn, I bet $25, he calls.  Damn.  I was wondering if I was outkicked.  Would have love to have seen a 4 on the river, but it came out a 6.  I thought about checking, but then thought, that’s too cowardly.  I’ve got trips, I should value bet.  I bet $35 and he called.
He had Jack/10, and of course, the Jack played.  Off to a great freaking start.
Didn’t play another hand until the big blind came to me.  The guy to my left straddled for $6.  I looked down at pocket Queens.  It folded to me.  Yeah, the under-the-gun straddle is a great pot builder, isn’t it?
I made it $20.  A bit of an overbet, but I thought if the guy was a straddler he was probably going to call that big a bet.  I was right.  The flop comes 9-8-6, two diamonds.   I bet $30, and he called.  Grrr.
Another 6 on the turn, I bet again, $50 this time.  He called again.  Damn.  I was thinking I’d already put too much money in the pot for a stinking overpair.  Then the river paired the 9, and also put a third diamond on the board.  So it was a double paired board with flush draw to boot.
I checked and the guy announces all in.  He had me covered, but not by much.  I thought I was through with the hand, but that did make me think he might be bluffing, making such a big bet there.  Or he thought I’d pay him for his full house.  I thought about calling but decided, again, I had already invested too much for an overpair.  I didn’t want to lose my stack if that’s all I had.  I folded.
So the guy shows his hand as he is pushed the pot.  He had King-10 of hearts.  In other words, he had zilch.  It was a total bluff, and I was rather displeased, to put it mildly.
Now I was short stacked and I decided I would wait for the button to buy some more chips.  But before the button got to me, I was dealt pocket Jacks.  I raised and the guy who had just bluffed me was the only caller.  The flop was 9 high, so I bet almost the size of the pot.  He called. 
When the turn card was low, I just decided to shove.  The turn card had put both straight draws and flush draws out there, and I kind of thought he had called me on the flop with nothing or next to nothing and might have picked up a draw on the turn.  If I was wrong, ok, I’d rebuy and start over.
He thought a long, long time and then folded.  He told me he had top pair (9’s) but didn’t think it was good enough.
He left a little later to move to a table with more action, so I didn’t have to worry about him any more. 
For the rest of the day, I was pretty card dead.  I got pocket Aces twice, won both times (once on the flop, once on the turn, neither time improving on them).  So, small pots.  Never caught a set with the few other pocket pairs I received.  Never was dealt the dreaded pocket Kings. Second week in a row I didn’t get them, after winning three straight times with them the week before.  So I don’t know whether the curse is over or not.
I was never dealt Ace-Queen, or Ace-Jack or even Ace-10.  I did get Ace-King three times.  Once, no one called my preflop raise.  Once, no one called my continuation bet.  The third time was more interesting.
I was dealt Ace-King under the gun and raised to $12. Only the small blind called.  He had a big stack, at least compared to mine.  The flop was Queen high, and all hearts.  Yeah.  He checked and I made a continuation bet of $20, which he called.
Well, that was it for me.  I had done my due diligence, making the c-bet on a flop that totally missed me and had three freaking hearts on it.  Did I mention that my Ace and my King, although not suited, were both black?
The small blind then checked in the dark on the turn, which I found interesting, I don’t remember him having done that before.  The turn was a low black card, a three, I think, and I checked behind him.  I was not about to fire any more barrels with that board.
The river was yet another heart.  This time he led out with a $40 or $50 bet.  Didn’t matter, he could have put out a quarter and I wouldn’t have called.  For laughs, I said, as I was about to fold, “Gee, I don’t suppose you have a heart, do you?“
He too showed his hand when he didn’t have to.  It was Ace-King of hearts!  He had flopped the nut flush and slowplayed it.  Also interesting that he didn’t re-raise preflop.  Maybe he doesn’t three-bet  AK.  And he’d played with me long enough to know that I wasn’t raising under-the-gun without a pretty good hand. 
I laughed at his hand and said, “Gee, that wasn’t too good a flop for you, was it?  I guess a bluff wouldn’t have worked for me there?”
This guy had an interesting day of poker, perhaps more frustrating than mine.  When I got to the table he was very short stacked.  In fact, one of the first hands after I got there, he went all in preflop for $21.  Now that’s short-stacked.
He won that hand and a few more, all with shoves and double-ups.  He had a really nice run for about 45 minutes or so and had run that $21 up to over $300!  At first, every time he won a shove, he’d say, “Well, I guess the poker gods don’t want me to leave yet.” 
Once he had a decent stack, he just started playing normal, solid poker.  I noticed his stack fluctuating between about $225 and $350 for several hours.  His short stackedness earlier was seemingly forgotten, and by now, I was one of the few players left at the table that knew he had pulled off that miracle comeback.
And then…..with his stack down a bit under $300, he called an all-in to a new player who had just come to the table on a board of 9-8-8.  The turn was a 9 and I think that’s when the both got it all in.  I don’t know what the former short-stacker had, he mucked when he saw that the other guy had 9-8.  So he flopped a boat and turned a bigger boat.  He took everyone of the guy’s chips, and he left without saying a word.  All that hard work—and luck too, of course—to build up a stack from $21 to over $300….and now he had nothing to show for it.  I felt bad for him, but he got a lot of play out of that $21.  I had no idea how much he initially bought in for.  Poker is a cruel game.
I did win two or three small pots playing the mighty deuce-four.  One time I bet with bottom pair and took it down, another time I bluffed with nothing on the turn (nobody had bet the flop) and took it down, and then one time I hit my straight on the turn, and no one called my bet (there, I would have liked a call).
But the most interesting hand involving the deuce-four didn’t involve me.  At one point, the guy next to me folded his hand preflop and somehow his cards were turned face up by accident.  Everyone saw that he folded deuce-four (offsuit).  I refrained from explaining to him that he had just folded the most powerful hand in poker.  I’m not giving free lessons to my opponents.
Anyway, there were other people in the hand that saw the flop come out A-5-3.  The dealer of course was only too happy to point the flop out to the guy, and that if he had played the most powerful hand in poker, he’d have flopped a wheel.
My last hand of the day was pocket Jacks, under the gun.  My raise was met with two callers, including the guy who had just had the double up with the 9-8.  The flop was pretty horrific for my two black jacks.  King high, all hearts.  This time I checked, the next guy checked and 9-8 guy put out a pot sized bet.  Tell me if this is too timid, but I folded.  The other guy called.  I started gathering my things (this was going to be my last hand no matter what) but I did stay to see the hand play out.  There was a 9 on the turn and some more betting, but I don’t think they got it all in until the river, which was a second King.  The other guy showed pocket 9’s for a boat.  The 9-8 guy had King Queen for trip Kings. 
Which means the guy who won the pot and doubled up called the flop bet with a worse hand than I had and yet he somehow won the pot.  I try not to be results-oriented in my thinking, so I think he made a bad call and got extremely lucky.  The guy who lost even commented on the call on the flop, and the other guy said nothing as he stacked his chips.   Of course, my calling the flop wouldn’t have caused me to win it….I was behind one player at the time and behind both players at the end.  But I wonder if I played that hand too tight?
And I wonder if by now if I should be good enough to win at a table under the conditions I faced there, even without getting much in the way of cards.  What do you think?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Aces vs. Kings

Everyone who plays hold’em has no doubt had the experience multiple times. Kings vs. Aces.  Aces vs. Kings.  Sometimes you’re the one the Aces, and the other poor sap has the Kings (definitely the dreaded pocket Kings in this case).  Of course, sometimes you’re on the wrong end of it and you’re stuck with those Kings, and a big underdog to suck out on those pocket rockets.

As I commented in this post here, it seems to me like it happens more often than it should by the probabilities.  I speculated that it seems that way because it’s always so memorable.  Even when you’re not in the hand—and unless you’re the one with the Aces, you pray you’re not in the hand—you remember it later, right?
Well, for this post I did some Googling and I came up with this page here,  If their math is right, when you get pocket Kings (which you should get once every 221 hands), and you’re playing against a full 9 or 10 handed table, there’s about a 1 in 25 chance one of your opponents has 2 Aces.   Yeah, it seems like, in reality, it happens more often than that.  Memory playing tricks, I guess.
The question then becomes, in a cash game, are you ever sure enough that your opponent has Aces that you fold Kings preflop?  Ever?  I have no answer for that.  I’m actually asking for input, when can you be sure enough to do that?  Even if the guy who’s re-raising you is 85 years old and hasn’t played a hand in the past three hours, do you fold them?  Or do you at least consider it if your stacks are really big?  If you’re in a 1/2 game and you and the other guy each have over $1000 in front of you, do you play it safe and refuse to get it all in against the guy who obviously wants to do just that?
I actually did a post about another player I saw fold Kings face up, here.  In that case, we never saw what the other guy had, so maybe he had Queens.  Maybe he had Ace-King.  We’ll never know.  And in a very unique tournament situation once, where I had a really good read, I did fold Kings to Aces once myself (see here).  But generally, until I figure it out, yeah, I’m gonna probably lose my stack that 1 in 25 times my cowboys meet the bullets.  I hope though, that every time I’m the one with Aces, those Kings stack off to me as well.
So late into my January visit, I’m at BSC and my buddy Mike dealing.  I had just gotten to the table.  A few hands in, in early position, he dealt me pocket 3’s.  I meant to limp, but accidently picked up one $5 chip along with the $1 chip, so I inadvertently raised to $6.  Oh well.
Three people called my accidental raise and lo and behold, I flopped a set of 3’s.  Which makes me wonder if I should always raise with a low pocket pair?  Or will it only work if i accidentally raise with them?
Anyway, no one called my flop bet, so my accidental raise got me a bigger pot than if I had limped.  Maybe.  If I had limped, perhaps someone who folded would have called and had enough of the flop to pay me off on the flop and maybe thereafter?  Of course, maybe that limper catches a straight or a flush draw and hits it and I lose a big pot?  Who knows?
I was amused at the success of my accidental raised, and stayed amused until a few hands later, Mike delivers me a couple of Kings.  I should point out that back in the days when I was playing 2/4, it seemed like Mike dealt me pocket Kings almost every down he dealt to me.  Not quite true, but it happened so often we had a running gag about it.
Of course, KK is not nearly as good as hand in 2/4 as in a NL game (holy shit, did I just imply KK is a good hand?  Who the hell am I?).  Very few players will fold to your measly $2 preflop raise, especially if they have an Ace, even an Ace with a crappy kicker. Pots in 2/4 almost always go to showdown and the odds of a pair of Kings being the best hand at the end are slim.  You really better catch a set of Kings in 2/4 if you expect to win with them.
Oddly enough, since I started playing NL, I don’t think Mike has dealt me that dreaded hand any more often (or less often) than any other dealer who deals to me as often as Mike does.
I was in late position at this point.  An older guy limped in, then a guy who was wearing a baseball cap that was too small for his head (but at least it wasn’t backward, like the guy in the post here) made it $10.  Looked promising.  It folded to me and I made it $25.  The old guy, who had originally limped, shocked me by making it $60.

(Note, the girl in the picture above looks nothing like the guy in the too-small baseball cap in my story, obviously. But since I don’t have a picture of that guy, she seems like a worthy substitute.  And maybe the Red Sox cap and shirt will get Josie to show up and prove she's still alive and well.)
It was hard to put him on a hand.  I had been at the table less than two orbits, so I didn’t really have a feel for any of the players.  But from what I’d seen, it wasn’t the kind of table where you could be sure that someone would always raise preflop.  So limping in with a big hand under the assumption you’d have a chance to limp/raise, as he did, would be very risky.
Baseball cap guy thought for a bit and then folded.  I didn’t really think about it very long.  Only one hand beats me there and I can’t limit his range to that one hand.  Maybe if I’d played with him longer, I could have.  I shove.  When he snap-called I knew I was in trouble.  Especially since he had more chips than I did.
I flipped over my Kings and asked him if he had Aces.  He didn’t say a word but turned over his cards and of course he had AA.  I reached in my pocket for my wallet to reload while Mike dealt out a board that didn’t hit either one of us.  Of course, it didn’t have to hit him.
Grrr.  I don’t think I played that wrong, but please let me know if you feel otherwise.
That was the start of a bad night.  No more big disasters, just a steady drip, drip, drip.  I was down to about half my second $200 buy-in when I was dealt 8-5 in the small blind.  A number of limpers made it fairly easy for me to toss in another buck to see the flop.  Good call.  The flop came 9-7-6. 
I led out and the old guy who stacked me made a pretty big raise.  So I shoved.  He snap-called again.  I showed my straight but this time he didn’t show his cards.  After the board was dealt out, he looked at for a few seconds and folded.  So I got a little bit of revenge.
That got me my second buy-in back, I played a bit longer, lost a little bit more (drip, drip, drip) and left down a little more than a buy-in.
And with one more story to tell about the dreaded pocket Kings.
I  should point out that since this story took place, I’ve encountered the ol’ Aces vs King scenario quite a few more times.  Some of those times will be blogged about in the future.  More evidence to justify my gut feeling that this situation seems to happen a lot more than the law of averages would dictate.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Riviera Poker Room Offers a New Spread

My latest column for Ante Up Magazine is online and you can read it here.

It will probably be another week or two before it starts appearing in poker rooms around the country.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Comeback Kid

As I publish this post, I'm currently back in Vegas, having returned on Saturday (3/16).  I'll be here thru the first two weekends of March Madness.  I'll try to find time to do some posts from here during the trip, but I might just end up having too much fun getting new stories to find the time to write them up until I get back home.  Not to worry, I have a few posts that I prepared before hitting the road that are ready to roll out.  These posts are mostly from my January trip, tho I do have a Bike session to report on.

I wasn't sure I was going to post this particular tale next, but after what happened to me last night, it seems incredibly appropriate.  Last night's story was similar to this one here, only more dramatic.  That's called foreshadowing, folks.  The story of last nite will have to wait, but this will give you a taste.....

A $100 winning session if nice for a 1/2 game, of course.  Not great, not earth-shattering, but nice.  But some $100 wins are better than others.  This one was really, really sweet. 

This was another night at BSC in January, and it started out with me being anything but card dead.  I only wished I was card dead.  When you’re card dead, at least you don’t lose much, and you lose slowly.  What’s worse is to always be hitting the second best hand.  That will cost you a lot of money.
I bought in for the usual $200, added $100 to it at one point and soon all of that was gone.  I had a set run into a straight, a straight run into a full house and trip Kings (I had AK) run into a boat (he flopped a set of deuces, so the paired King on the turn filled him up).
So, another $200 buy in, and I was now in for $500.  This was early in my trip, and that was definitely my last buy in of the night.  If I lost that, I was done for the evening.
I played for a bit and slowly chipped down.  I had about $150-$160 left when a new player came to the table and raised preflop his very first hand.  No one called his bet on the flop, and I had a slight feeling he was an aggro.  Of course, with a sample size that small, you really don’t know much, he might have been dealt a good first hand; it happens.
Two or three hands later, I wake up with pocket Aces in early position.  Folded to the aforementioned new player who re-raises me three times my bet.  Folded back to me.  I do a min re-raise, and he calls.
The flop is Queen high without a lot of draws.  I lead out, and he thought about it for awhile, finally raising about 2 -1/2 times my bet  I suppose he could have been Hollywooding, but I took his hesitancy to indicate he didn’t have a set of Queens, the one hand I really feared.  If he was acting, so be it, I fell for it.  But I guess at that point, my luck having been so bad, I decided to just take a shot there and if I busted out, I’d call it an early night.
So I shoved.  He took a really long time to call.  I definitely knew then he didn’t have the set of Queens.  I suppose he could have had a smaller set and was hesitant because he was worried that I might have the set of Queens, but when he called my shove I thought I was probably good.
We didn’t show and there were two seeming blanks on the turn and the river.  I flipped over my Aces and he flipped over….the dreaded pocket kings.
Apparently, this guy doesn’t read my blog.
I also wondered about his play there.  Why not just get it all in preflop if you’re prepared to shove (or call a shove) on the flop?  I suppose his play gives him the opportunity to walk away from his hand if an Ace hits the flop.  I dunno if that’s a good strategy though.  He hadn’t seen me play long enough to have a clue as to whether I was likely to four-bet with AK, but most 1/2  players don’t. 
Whatever, it was a great double up for me and although I was still down for the session, I suddenly had a nice stack of chips in front of me and had the nice feeling of not having the second best hand for once that night.
I still had most of those chips sometime later when I was dealt Ace-Jack of hearts.  I raised with it and had two callers.  The flop was something like 8-7-5, two hearts.   I made the continuation bet ($25).  The first guy raised to $65 and the other guy folded.  I called (probably a bad call).
The turn was the King of hearts, a beautiful card for me.  I put out $100, which was a little more than he had left.  He snap called.  Blank on the river and I flipped over my nut flush.  I thought he might have flopped a straight the way he played it but no, he had Q-x of hearts.  So he had the draw to the flush on the flop and played it very aggressively,  A lot of times there he might have taken the pot with his flop raise—and maybe he should have, there—but not this time.  I guess my luck had turned around from the early part of the session.
Now I was actually ahead for the session, which I was absolutely thrilled with.
A few orbits later I raised preflop with a pair of Queens.  Two callers.  The flop was King high, but otherwise not scary.  But a player in early position, who originally limped in and then called my raise, led out with a bet.  This guy was the tightest player at that table (no, that wasn’t me).  I was sure he had top pair at an absolute minimum, so I folded the ladies.
I should point out that once I had actually gotten ahead for the session, after such a rough start, I knew I had to watch myself for “playing scared syndrome”—for being too concerned about wanting to “book the win” that I’d play too tight to play well (see this post here).
Well, on the last hand I want to talk about, I proved I wasn’t playing scared.  There was an aggressive person at the table at this point—ok, just to be politically incorrect, I’ll mention that he was indeed Asian (see here).  He had been raising preflop a fair amount, maybe more than a fair amount.  And on this hand he did just that.
I looked down at pocket Jacks.  I have to be honest, never in my life had I ever three-bet pocket Jacks in a cash game before.  And that surely was my first instinct there.  I started to call.  You know, go for the set, and then, if I miss it and if there are overcards on the board, it’s cheap to get away from.  But I caught myself.  I realized that pocket Jacks was a better hand than well over half this guy’s raising range.  So, I went ahead and made the bet three times what the aggro guy had bet.
He thought for awhile, then folded.  I have no idea what he had, of course.  But just as I had been playing with him long enough to peg him as an aggro player, he had played with me long enough to peg me as a tight player.  I dunno if he had a better hand than pocket Jacks (I doubt it), but I bet he would have been shocked to find out that’s what he folded to.
So, if I three-bet with JJ for the first time, I guess I wasn’t playing too conservatively, I wasn’t playing scared just trying to book the win.
By now, it was around the time I had planned to leave, so I racked up my chips and was able to book a $100 profit.  On a night where I started out $350 in the hole, I considered that a major, major success.

And I got to feel what it’s like to three-bet pocket Jacks for the first time.