Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Am I Just Spinning My Wheels?

(Before I get to the post, I just want to mention that, less than 3 days after my post ranting about Time Warner Cable appeared (see here), they settled with CBS.  I have no doubt that it was my post that played the deciding factor in getting them to settle.  So.....don't mess with me!)

This past Saturday (Labor Day Weekend), I spent 5-1/2 hours playing poker at The Bike (in Bell Gardens, CA) and I figure I should get a blog post out of that session.  Trouble is, if I do a post about it, I might end up looking I’m not a very good poker player.

But maybe that’s because I’m not a very good poker player.
It was a frustrating session and I’ve had a lot of those lately, and it’s starting to shake my confidence.  Maybe I’m just going through a rough patch….or maybe I just dunno what the heck I’m doing?
I guess he biggest issue was that conditions at the table kept changing, and maybe I didn’t do a very good job of adjusting.
It was a brand new game that was starting just as I arrived, around Noon.  Now, at this time of the day, there’s often a lot of players moving around, not staying at a table very long.  Part of this is due to people playing the $2/$3 game (my game) until a bigger game opens.  The next biggest game, I think is $3-$5 NL where the buy in is from $200-$500.  So a lot of those players play some at the 2/3 game waiting for a spot to open at the bigger game.  This happens all the time but the early afternoon is especially vulnerable to that.
On the very first hand at this table, after we drew for the button, A guy opened the pot for $15 and the next guy made it $40 or $45.  Only the original raiser called.  The flop was King-9-9. The original raiser bet about half the pot, and the three-better shoved.  He had bought in for $300, the other guy had bought in for $200.  The guy who initially bet the flop thought about it for awhile and then called.  They didn’t show and by the time the board played out, there were a lot of other high cards on it and a straight looked possible.  I think the only big cards missing were the Ace and the Queen.  The guy who shoved and had three-bet showed Ace-King.  That’s all, I thought?  He shoved with that on a board with two 9’s on it?  Not two deuces or 3’s on it, mind you, but two 9’s.  People love playing Ace-9, 10-9, even Jack-9 and 9-8.  It seemed like a lot to risk with top pair on that board. 
The other guy didn’t even show both cards.  He showed a King and didn’t show the other card.  It wasn’t a Queen because if it was he’d have had a straight.  And if it was any other high card, he would have had 2 pair or a boat.  So he called with top pair, weak kicker for basically $200.
That was the first hand, and usually, usually, at a brand new game, players play a bit tight for a couple of orbits.
I thought to myself, “Just give me a hand, one hand, and I can make a big score here.”
But the guy who lost bought in and exhibited no further overly aggressive action.  The guy who scored there with his aggressive play lasted an orbit or two before moving to the bigger game he had been waiting for.
And then something you don’t expect at the Bike happened.  The game completely tightened up.  I swear, for about an hour so, this was tighter than any game I’d been in since I stopped playing 2/4!  The blinds were chopped frequently.  Preflop raises were rare and almost never called.  And there weren’t enough limpers to make it worthwhile to try to steal preflop.  The way they take the rake at the Bike—off the top—if no one calls a preflop raise and there are no limpers, you get so little money it isn’t worth it.  I even raised with the dreaded pocket Kings and got no callers.  I won four bucks.  And I raised preflop with a lot worse hands, and usually got four bucks.  Everyone once in awhile I’d get caught, get called, and have to let it go with my c-bet met with resistance.  But it was a super tight table for a long time.
I had one decent hand.  I limped in late position with King-10 offsuit.  Three of us saw the flop.  It was K-K-2.  First action led out for $7.  The next guy shoved with a short stack, $54.  I had over $200 at this point (more than the first guy to bet had), so I shoved.  Maybe that was too aggressive, but I thought against two shoves maybe the original better would lay down King-Jack or maybe even King-Queen.  Whatever, he folded.
The short-stack had King-9, so obviously the first better didn’t have a King.  Doubtful he would have called if I had just called there.  Anyway, I was ahead and for good measure I caught a 10 on the turn to give me a boat. 
I played pocket 10’s aggressively and won a little pot.  I raised to $12 with them, only one caller, an older guy who had just lost most of his stack and had just reloaded.  Queen high flop, 2 hearts, no 10.  I bet $18, he called.  Blank on the turn, I bet $25 and he called.  Another blank on the river, I bet $35 and he folded.
I still thought it was a tight table when I got King-Queen in middle position and, first in, I raised to $12.  A guy who was fairly new to the table made it $45.  Wow, that was some three-bet.   With a marginal hand, I wasn’t inclined to call, especially since this was the first time this guy had three-bet.  I could not even remember him raising preflop before.    With no one else in the pot, it was an easy fold.
But the table was changing.  I didn’t see the hand but when I got back from the Men’s Room I saw a hand with two all-ins and the guy who won it had just pocket Aces.  One guy had shoved or called with the flush draw and it was assumed the other person (who left immediately) also had a flush draw, or maybe he was overplaying top pair (it was a King high flop).
I hadn’t lost any big pots but I was drip, drip, dripping down, mostly calling preflop raises with low pocket pairs and never once hitting a set. 
The guy who three-bet me and seemed tight was becoming more aggressive and chipping up, and then won some decent size pots with big bets that weren’t called. He also chopped a pot on a board with a 5-card straight.  The thing about this hand though was that, he had two pair with his 6-2.  He had called a preflop raise with that hand.  But it was sooooted.  I should have made more of that hand than I did at the time.  The guy had an I-pad at the table so we’ll call him I-pad guy.
So then the hand I’m still thinking about happened.  For a brief time a guy sat immediately to my left who was an absolute maniac.  He raised preflop several times as soon as he got to the table.  In early position the I-pot guy led out with a $15 preflop bet.  It folded to me and I had pocket 4’s in the small blind.  I had about $185 left and thought if I hit my set I would get a nice payoff, so I called.
The maniac, in the big blind, made it $35.  I-pad guy called, so I thought in a three way pot I was still getting good odds to hit my set.  I called.
I didn’t get my set, but the flop was 5-6-7, rainbow, giving me the open ender.  First to act, I checked.  Maybe I should have bet my draw there?  In the face of a raiser and a three-better, betting didn’t feel right.  Maybe that was my first (or second, or third) mistake.
The maniac bet out $60, which wasn’t that much considering the pot was around $100 preflop.  I was wondering whether to call.  I had the low-end of the straight, I could be drawing dead there.  And hitting my set on the turn would be really scary.
Then the I-pad guy, after thinking for awhile, announced “all-in.”  Shit.
He had me covered by a lot.  The maniac had me covered, but not by much.  So it would cost me about $150 to call.  I was getting about 2 to 1.  The only implied odds, since I’d be all in, would be if the maniac called behind me.  In the face of two shoves, he would likely fold unless he really had a good hand, at least I assumed that.
My thinking was that if my draw was to the nut straight it would be worth it, but I could be facing a big draw or even 9-8 for the made straight.  The guy who shoved had called a preflop raise with 6-2 so he could have 9-8 or even 8-4 or who knows what.  But…..if he had the straight already, would he have shoved?
Against me, probably not.  But against the maniac, he might have felt said maniac would call light and that he could get paid off by him with his flopped straight.
So I folded.  The maniac thought for just a few seconds, then said, “OK, I’ll gamble.” And called.
The turn card was the 8, giving me the straight.  Well, I would have had the straight if I had called.  So I was hoping an 8 high straight wasn’t going to be good enough.
The river paired 7’s.  The I-pad guy flipped over…..7-3.  Yeah it was suited.  No, he didn’t have a flush, nor did he come close.  He shoved on the flop with top pair, no kicker, and a gut-shot.  That’s it.
He didn’t need the second 7.  The maniac flipped over Ace-Jack, offsuit.  He had nothing on the flop, caught nothing after.  He had over cards and called a shove with that.  Really. 
The I-pad guy took in a nice pot, the maniac left, and I sat there thinking about what a nice pot I would have won if I had called.
Now, I know that is results-oriented thinking, and you can’t think like that.  But I kept thinking about the hand, wondering if I should have realized that my draw was likely good there and that I should have made the call. 
You see, what I was thinking was: this I-pad guy was capable of raising and calling a three-bet with 9-8.  What I should have been thinking was, this guy was capable of raising and calling a three-bet with 7-3.
At least I was right in that, if I had caught my set, I would have been in trouble.
But where I really screwed up was not realizing that I was ahead of both of these players’ ranges, which for both of them was….any two cards.
But still, against two players, not one, even maniacs, was my draw good enough to call there?  I think if my hand been pocket 8’s, and I was drawing to the nut straight, I would have called.  But I couldn’t stop thinking about the possibility that I was drawing dead.
I just kept dripping chips away after that.  I did finally catch a set (of 3’s) when I was short-stacked, and I even slowplayed it.  I caught a boat on the turn when I just smooth-called the preflop raiser.  I check-shoved on the turn and he didn’t call, putting me on the boat (so-to-speak).
I left losing a good chunk of my buy-in, wondering if I’m just spinning my wheels. 
Grrr.  Shouldn’t I be better at this by now?


  1. I don't know - you were behind the 7's at the time, right? Doesn't seem like a horrible fold...

    1. Thanks, Coach.

      Yeah, I was behind. But I had equity with the straight draw.

  2. First time poster, long time reader here. I've always thought from your post you may play a little bit timidly, especially at an aggressive table, but here goes my two cents.

    Are you ahead or behind for the year? And if you are behind, how much of the loss can be consider the 'entertainment' tax? Seems to me you are suffering from 'monsters under the bed' syndrome. If I remember right Grump had an excellent post some time ago that addressed that syndrome. Why do think everyone else at the table is getting any better cards than you? Here's a tip..they're not. It is how they play those cards that is the difference between you and them.

    Now strap a pair on and sit down with the mindset that you are just as good as anybody at the table and go get 'em tiger!

    1. Thanks for the kick in the ass, itchy, I think I need it!

      Some of my losses can definitely be considered "entertainment tax" because I sometimes choose tables--or choose to stay at them--based on getting a blog post rather than scoring the most profitable session possible.

      I actually think I'm a better player than a lot of the players I see take down big pots, which I find very frustrating.

      Gotta find that Grump post.....

  3. I have seen some of your hand write ups that made me cringe (nut flush on an unpaired board betting into someone who led into you on the flop)...but in this case:

    I think you made a good fold. You had the ass end of the straight and as you said Mr Maniac can be playing any two...so this board could have hit him relatively hard (58,68,78,35 and obviously 73 soooted)...and 89 soooted is a monster to this guy.

    Given that info....if you were just against the "normal" player...you put him on two overcards or a med/biggish pair and figure you have 10 outs if he doesn't have a set...and 8 outs if he does...and you are ahead if he only has two overs....so heads up this is probably a call.

    But with Mr Maniac in the mix....I think this is an easy fold...you don't know what you want to hit here..except a 3 ...which would be good against anything but 98 and 84.

    Now if you have 88 for example in this spot....I get all the money in and close my eyes.

  4. Also, I think in alot of spots you do play too timidly. I don't think this was one of those spots though. Selective Aggression. Well timed aggression...the key words being Selective and Well timed.

    If you have a big draw for example and smell weakness....take a stand....it gives you two ways to win the pot...and one of them doesn't require hitting your hand. Playing passively in some spots is a losing proposition. Playing passively against a Maniac can be very profitable....you just wait for him to overplay his rags and show him a hand.

    1. Thanks very much bill, appreciate the input.

      The key is learning when to be aggressive, right?

  5. Concerning the K99-flop hand... The post-flop play here is absolutely standard with AK. We've all heard the mantra that you don't want to stack off with top pair, but sometimes it's a huge error not to. In this case there is about 90 in the pot with 155 behind. With such a low SPR, TPTK should always get it in here.

    1. Thanks, Kat. I just didn't do the math. I get stuck on the very mantra you reference. I need to unlearn that. Because it was three-bet before flop, he was pretty much committed there once got the flop he wanted.

      Suppose instead it was a King high flop with three of a suit, a suit he didn't have in his hand? Would he still be right getting it in there?

      The other thing I didn't consider....I was assuming the two guys didn't know how the other played, since it was the first hand at the table. For all I know, they are long-time rivals and knew each other's game.

      What do you think of the play of the guy who lost? He had a weak King, maybe he shouldn't have raised pre with it a brand new table? And then, maybe he shouldn't have bet out there on the flop?

    2. The guy who lost shouldn't have been raising with a weak K pre, and he certainly shouldn't be flatting the 3b, so yeah agreed that is wild play. But having flopped top pair I think the bet-call is reasonable. As to the hypothetical of a monotone flop, it's more read-dependent, but I think the default with that SPR would still be to shove AK over a flop lead. Low-limit NLHE players are often more likely to lead with the flush draw than the made flush.

    3. Thanks again, Kat. I suppose there are table conditions when raising with a weak King is a good play. But first hand at a brand new table? Maybe he was trying to set an image as a wild agro and planned to raise pre most of the time until challenged?

    4. Since he didn't table his hand he may have had K4 and mistaken the 4 for an A. I've done it.

    5. ha. I suppose its possible. He obviously figured it out before tabling his hand for the chop!

  6. IMO...yes...timing is everything in poker today.

    In the past (let's call it the good old days)....the game was much diffferent. Now you have the vast majority of players playing uber aggressive....so you can't just sit back and get run over. I don't play for a living...I am just a rec player too...but it's been my experience that you have to push edges these days to keep people from trying to run you over...and that involves taking a stand when you think you are a favorite.

    Obviously everything is game and opponent dependent....but that's how I look at it.

    1. Thanks again, bill.

      With poker and life, timing is everything.