Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Pair of Huge Pots

This is from a very long evening at BSC, and will concentrate on just two hands, one early and one late.  As it played out, it was one night but two different sessions.

Very early in the first session, I was dealt Ace-Jack offsuit in the hijack seat.  There were a number of limpers, so I made it $14.  The guy behind me, in the cut off seat, had missed his blind and had to post.  He called.  And so did everyone else.  Even a few players over at the next table called.  Three players at Harrah’s Laughlin called.  At least two players playing (legally) online at Ultimate Poker called me.
Well, it seemed like that.  In fact, there were five us seeing the flop, not exactly what I wanted with my Ace-Jack.  And since I was very new to the table, I didn’t have a read on anyone.  Thinking about it, with no reads on anyone, I probably should have folded Ace-Jack there.
As I waited for the flop, I figured that I really couldn’t make a continuation bet.  The flop would have to hit someone, and the pot was huge for preflop.  A c-bet would have to be something like $50, and it was doubtful it could win the pot.
But then I saw the flop.  It was Ace-9-8, two hearts (I had zero hearts).  So I flopped top pair, ok kicker.  Since I was the preflop raiser, there was a good chance my kicker was good, though without any experience at this table, it was no sure thing.
It folded to me and I put out $50.  The guy on my immediate left called, and so did two others.
Wow.  The pot was now around $170.
So three other people liked their hands enough to put $50 in on that flop.  And that pot is looking awfully big to me against three other players with just my top pair.
I’ve mentioned this before, but I try to be careful—perhaps too careful—about risking too much money with “just” top pair.  I got this from one of the first books I read about NL when I switch from limit, the cash book by Dan Harrington.  He makes a point that you shouldn’t put a lot of money into a pot with just top pair--you shouldn’t “play for stacks” with such a hand. I’ve always followed that advice, perhaps too well.  I’ve heard criticism of the book recently that poker has changed and his book is outdated.  I know these things are very situational.  The problem here was that I had no read on anyone.
I had started the hand with pretty much my $200 buy-in.  With the pot now at $270 and my stack less than that, any bet I would make there would almost have to be a shove.  I’d be putting my entire $200 stack at risk for a top pair hand.  What would Harrington say about that?
The turn card was a low black card that didn’t seem likely to help anyone.  It checked to me, and, mindful that I only had top pair, I checked too.  I suppose that was a weak play?  I should have shoved there and tried to take it down?  I just couldn’t stop thinking that it was “only” top pair. 
As I checked, I wasn’t sure what I’d do in response to a bet by the last player.  But he checked too.
The river was another low black card.  No flush was possible, no pair on the board.  A straight could only be made with low hole cards, something I figured was unlikely.  Check, check to me, and I thought a bit about betting there, but I checked too.
The player behind me announced, “all in.”  Damn.  Now I’d have to make a decision.  He had me covered, so calling would be for everything I’d bought in for, not more than 10 minutes earlier.  I didn’t really relish the thought of buying in again so soon after getting started.
The other two players folded instantly and I went into the tank.  There was a voice in my head telling me, “You’ve just got top pair.  You don’t want to lose a whole buy-in with just top pair.”
But there was another voice too. “What could he have?  That river card couldn’t have helped him, and if he already had you beat, he wouldn’t have checked the turn.  If he had a set or two pair, he might have flatted the flop but he would have bet the turn.  He must have been on a draw.  Probably a flush draw.  He missed.  He’s trying to steal the pot.”
The more I thought about it, the more I leaned towards calling.  My logic made sense, and if I was wrong, if he had me—if he had something like Ace-Queen or even Ace-King—well, that’s why there’s two more buy-ins in my pocket.  The night is young, and I have plenty of time to win it back.
So I called.
The guy said, “Good call, I missed.”  He flipped over King-something of hearts.  The something was low, so I had to wonder why he called my preflop raise in the first place.  Oh yeah, it was soooooted.  So he had the nut flush draw and missed. 
I couldn’t believe the size of the pot I was sweeping in.  I’ve won bigger pots, but never with such a marginal hand.  I mean top pair, so-so kicker gets you a $540 pot?  Definitely the biggest one pair pot I’d ever won—at least that didn’t get it all in preflop.  Plus it was Ace-Jack, a hand everyone hates.
As I stacked my chips, I realized I had inadvertently made a great play.  Since he missed his draw, if I had bet out there before him, he folds instantly.  By checking I induced a bet from him, and got an extra $135 that I wouldn’t have gotten if I had tried to value-bet.  I wish I could say I had done it on purpose and impress you all with my brilliant play, but honestly, I didn’t.  But hopefully I’ll learn from it.
That was very satisfying to say the least.  And for awhile, I was able to add to my stack, a little at a time.  No more big pots, but I won a few small ones and had over $600 in front of me.
But then things started to change, and the chips started leaving my stack.  Still, I was doing great.  I had gotten such an early start that I was going to take a dinner break at some point.  Since I was doing so well, I originally figured I’d keep the seat, just leave my chips while I took a quick break for a bite.  My only concern was that I actually had so many chips there I was a little concerned about leaving so much money unattended.
But then conditions at the table changed.  As I said, it had stopped being a “hot” seat.  Then, a group of Germans came to the table.  There were not the stereotypical “aggro Euro’s” you may have expected.  Actually, there were fairly inexperienced players and were very passive in their play.  I saw one guy win a pot that had been limped preflop with pocket Queens.
The problem was they just wouldn’t shut up.  There were three or four of them and they not only talked with each other, they were talking with the other players near them.  Even when they had cards.  Even when the action was on them.  Especially when the action was on them.
The dealer had to constantly interrupt their conversations to tell them it was on them.  Additionally, when they were talking to each other, they kept lapsing into speaking German.  No matter how many times the dealer or the other players told them, they kept speaking German even though their English was more than adequate.
It was annoying and was ruining the game.  We got fewer hands in because of their total inattentiveness.  So that made the decision easy for me.  I picked up my chips, cashed out and went off to dinner.  So I booked a bit over $300 profit for the session.
When I finally returned to the poker room, I saw that the Germans were still there.  I made sure I wasn’t sent to that table, no way did I want to be stuck with them.  In fact, there had been a shift change and the new floor person was spending most of her time at that table warning them.  They were still speaking in their native tongue, and holding up the game.  I think she encouraged them to call it a night.  I saw them leave, I’m not sure if they left willingly or not.
At my new table, I had started back with a $200 buy-in.  For most of this session, I was completely card-dead.  Which was especially frustrating because it was a wild, action table.  There were quite a few aggressive players there, led by two Dutch guys who each had huge stacks in front of them and straddled every chance they got.  Unlike the Germans, they had no problem speaking English and the more aggressive of the two was quite friendly—but never held up the game like the Germans had.  Unlike the Germans, they were experienced players and very tough to play against.
There were very few pots that were not raised preflop.  The friendlier of the two Dutch guys played 90% of the hands, and raised about 90% of those hands.  But if it was raised to him, he wasn’t afraid to fold, although he did call a far number of preflop raises.  The other Dutch guy, who is a key part of this tale, was about 20% less aggressive than his friend, and about 75% quieter.
I tried to look for spots but my hands weren’t cooperating.  It was usually raised before it got to me, and I couldn’t lower my standards enough to play the junk I was getting in a raised pot.  I made some raises myself, and managed to win a few small pots, but couldn’t ever get even a $100 profit at any point, and then started losing my meager profits whenever I tried to loosen up against the aggro Dutch boys, or some of the other aggros at the table.
After several hours, I was pretty much where I started.  When the button came to me, I had $192 in front of me.  I’d probably tipped for close to 8 drinks, so it was a break even session.  I decided to play one more orbit and call it a night when the big blind came to me.  If I didn’t get a hand to play in that orbit, I’d have won $300 for the night.
I got garbage a few more times, and then, with the button at the 3 seat (I was in seat 1), I found pocket fours, both black.  The less aggro of the two Dutch boys in seat 6 had straddled of course.  Several folks before me called the straddle and so did I.
A few more called and the Dutch guy had the option.  He looked at his cards and threw out four redbirds, making the bet $24.  With his play, it was entirely possible he was just raising there to try to take all the limpers money.  There was no guarantee he actually had a hand.
So much for this being a break even session.  Dutch had about four times my stack, if not more.  The guy to his left had a smaller stack than mine but still well over $100.  Folded to me.  Only one player in behind me, the guy to my immediate left, and I was pretty sure he’d call, especially if I did. I figured I was getting pretty good odds to set mine there, even though putting in $24 with a low pocket pair was ordinarily too much.  So I thought to myself, “Well, a $275 profit is still pretty good,” and called.  I was right, the last guy called behind me.  With the limpers who didn’t call the raise, the pot was over $100 before the flop.
Now,the good thing about playing a low pocket pair is that you know where you stand after the flop.  You either hit your set or you don’t, and then it’s an easy check/fold.
I hit my set.
The flop was 10-6-4, all red.  I don’t recall whether it was two hearts or two diamonds but it was definitely two different suits.  OK, this was not going to be an ordinary hand.
First action was on the straddling Dutch boy, and he counted out a bunch of chips and placed them across the betting line.  I wasn’t sure from my distance how much it was, but it was at least $50, maybe $60, maybe a bit more.  I didn’t ask because the action wasn’t on me yet.  But I had already figured out that it didn’t much matter.  I wasn’t slow playing my bottom set, and with the size of his bet, the size of the pot, and the size of my stack, I didn’t think anything other than a shove was going to make any sense.
But I was still thinking about it when I heard the guy next to the Dutch boy announce, “all in.”
OK, that was scary.  Did he have a bigger set than me?  I should mention that this guy hadn’t been at the table very long, but I knew him.  I recognized when he sat down as a BSC reg I’d played with multiple times. My recollection was that he was a pretty solid player, but nothing out of the ordinary, not wildly aggro, not especially tricky.  I thought he played ABC poker and was kind of glad that he came to the table, hoping he’d be one of the saner players.  He was good, but in my mind, although he might make an occasional bluff, you could usually be pretty sure if he made a bet or a raise he had something.

But this night he was acting differently from the get-go.  He was more talkative than usual, and he kept talking about “needing a double up” and “this is the hand I get my double up.”  He was raising preflop more often and in larger amounts than my memory told me was normal for him.  I’d seen him make one really weird play.  On the turn, he put out a big bet into a big pot.  His opponent went all in for just a little bit more, no more than $20 more.  And he folded!  I couldn’t believe it.  Even if he had virtually no chance at the pot, it was too big to fold there for so little.  Truth be told, the guy he was against probably didn’t have enough chips to fold to his bluff, if he had thought it through.  I had started to think the guy was either drunk or on tilt….or both.
Anyway, even if he was sober and playing the way I remembered, I wouldn’t have gone anywhere.  I’m not folding a set there.  If I lose my stack in a set-over-set situation, hey that’s poker.  I get up and I’m still up a $100 for the night, I can live with that.
So without any hesitation, I put my entire stack over the line.
The guy to my left folded instantly, and then Dutch went into the tank.  He asked for counts of both our stacks.  Mine was $167 and the reg’s was $135 or so.  It took a long time for him to decide, but eventually Dutch announced “call.”
Even before his call, I assumed I was ahead of him.  The most likely hand that he could have there that beat me was a set of 10’s, and I wasn’t sure he would have led out if he had flopped a set.   But his hesitation made it obvious I was ahead.
And it didn’t take long for me to figure out I was ahead of the other guy too.  When Dutch announced his call, the other guy started whopping it up like he’d already won.  He was so happy.
Shit.  He had a bigger set.
But no, no, then he started saying, “Alright, I’ve got a chance for triple up.   Here comes my triple up.  Just put a black 3 out there.  Come on, put out a black 3!”
A black three?  That’s what he wanted?  There was no 3 on the board.  So he was on a draw?  Well if it was only a three that would help him, he had 5-2.  Did he really shove there with only a gutshot?
Anyway, the betting was over and the dealer dealt out the next two cards.  No one showed their cards, and all I knew for sure was that I didn’t want to see a 3 hit the board.
The last two cards were both 7’s.  I don’t recall the suits, but it didn’t matter since I now had a boat.
I flipped over my hand.  Dutch boy looked the board up and down and just mucked face down.  The reg flipped over his cards in his hands.  I saw only one card, a 7.  “I have a seven but….” And then mucked.
OK, he had a 7.  So he must have had 7-5 and shoved with an open-ender.  An 8 would have helped him too, even if he didn’t ask for it.  I understand the shove on the flop, he had a good draw, and with his stack he’d be committed anyway, no sense just calling there.
What made less sense was calling both the straddle and the raise preflop with 7-5.  This wasn’t the player I remembered.
I did ask Dutch what he had, and he said, “Kings.”  I believed him.  It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve seen a player lose a huge pot with pocket Kings, now would it?
This was probably the biggest pot I’d have won to date, though I suppose I should read all my other poker posts to be sure.  The dealer was a woman who has been dealing poker to me for over 6 years and knows me well.  As I tipped her generously, I said to her, “Can I kiss you?”
She said, “No, don’t kiss me.  You can kiss me, but don’t.”
Anway, it was over a $600 pot and made me a winner of $400 for that session and $700 for the night.  I played a few more hands than I intended  just so I couldn’t be accused of “hit and run” and then called it a night.
As I was thinking over the hand, I realized how much the odd-behaving reg had helped me out there.  Not just by contributing his chips to my stack.  My guess is, the Dutch guy might very well have not called my shove if the other guy hadn’t shoved first.  Heads up against me, he wouldn’t   have been getting anywhere near as good odds.  Plus, he’d played with me for three hours.  I had a pretty tight image, to say the least.  He had to have known I wouldn’t have shoved there if I couldn’t beat his pathetic pocket Kings.
But with the other guy in, the pot was just too damn big for him to let it go easily.
I thought I caught the hand of the night in the first 10 minutes when I won a huge pot with just top pair.
Little did I know I’d end the night with an even bigger bang.


  1. ur post is a perfect example of why its not a good idea for someone like me to be playing $1-2 NL live with such a low roll, instead of something like low limit omaha8

    1. Thanks, Tony. Yes, you do need a bankroll to play NL in Vegas. I hope you get yours to a point where you can play it soon.

  2. I DARE YOU to read all of your other poker posts to make sure that's the biggest pot that you've won to date... :) Congratulations Rob!

    1. If I did, Coach, it would take up enough time to kill two future blog posts, so I'll pass.


  3. That's two posts this week in which you call an all-in, then unnecessarily show first, thus never learning what your opponent had.

    Cut that shit out! Bad habit. I don't care if I have the stone-cold nuts, the other guy is going to either show or muck first.

    1. Yeah, Grump. it is a bad habit. However, in this case, unlike the other one, I wasn't looking at it as if I had called an all-in. To me, I had raised (both the original bettor and the guy who had shoved first), and then the original bettor had called me, so it was on me to show first.

      And now that I think about it, you're actually wrong. Since there was a side pot, and they always resolve the side pot first, the dealer asked me and the Dutch guy to show our hands first to determine the side pot. So the guy who shoved first didn't have to show his hand at that time, and then, when he saw I had him beat, he had no obligation to show his hand, since he saw that he didn't beat mine.

      But your greater point is well taken.