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.


  1. The fact that you thought about it so much and decided to blog about it, and you still think about it tells me you don't get to play enough....what you experienced is completely standard, happens all the time...if not that exact situation, ones that are just as interesting and confounding.

    1. Definitely true; I don't play poker enough. :)

      I've had many similiar experiences, but this one was the most extreme ever, because 1)I originally entered the pot 2) I might have stayed if the raise had been small and/or there were more callers, 3)I would have flopped an absolute moster and 4) unlike most of those situations, there was huge action after the flop. Normally with a trips flop, there's no or little betting after. Perhaps you don't play enough either to have realied that! :)

      Thanks for the comment Anony.

  2. I don't play as much cash as I do tournaments and sit-n-gos, but those odds look pretty good, especially the implied odds. With a deep enough stack, I'd call with those odds. I think that with that flop your best bet would be to check raise or lead on the turn, to get all your money in the pot.

    1. Yeah, I was afraid someone would say that. The trouble with it is, you're playing a drawing hand and if the flop hits you with a draw (the most likely way it would hit you), you could be putting in a lot of money in along the way for a draw that doesn't come (or is second best, which would be worse). Top pair in that situation is no good, and even two pair means you have to worry about a straight. In order for this to have paid off, the flop has to hit you hard. Of course, the flop hit me like a ton of bricks in this case.

      Thanks for the comment, Herb.

  3. Rob you have my deepest sympathy for not getting paid off with your chance for quad tens. It happens to all of us. It seems to me you want it both ways. You criticize yourself for not playing 10-9 suited and then you say it was a good idea not to get involved in the hand because the guys had much bigger stacks then you and you did not want to get sucked in. I mean are you upset cause you did not play the hand or are you upset because you should have played the hand. I do not get it.

    1. Thanks for the comment edh!

      A poker player who wants it both ways? Shocking, just shocking! :)

      I just tell the story for entertainment purposes, and to get it off my chest. Doesn't every poker player get some solace in telling bad beat stories?

      And I was interested in feedback about whether or not I should have stayed in the hand, although that opinion is somewhat skewed by knowing how it played out.

      As for sympathy, I'm not really looking for it, it is up to the reader to decide if I merit any.

  4. You made 1 mistake in that hand, and it was limping from EP with 109 sooted. I frankly thought you were a better player than that to be so upset when the hand played out as it did. But, in reading your description of how u felt, I'm starting to wonder if you really understand cash game poker at all.

    If you wanted to balance your range, maybe you can raise with 109 in EP. But even then, why are you putting a lot of money in the pot pre flop with a marginal holding. Most of the time, you will flop middle pair shit kicker. Even if you flop top pair,you have serious kicker issues and are liky forced to play oop for the rest of the hand.

    If you were at a very weak table, you could maybe limp and hope to hit Yahtzee, but this is not the table to have that happen.

    Come on Rob. Stop being so results oriented. You made the right play after a terribad play. That hand was over for you, move on.

    After that rant, I half expect you to start blogging About asking the dealer for a new setup, or to give the cards a good wash...