Thursday, September 5, 2013

I Should Never Play Poker With Someone Who Reads My Blog

I introduced you to Abe in this recent post here.  Abe is a BSC regular who has been reading my blog for at least a few months (sometimes right in the poker room, while I’m at the next table).  We’ve become pals.  Abe expressed a desire to become an entry in my spreadsheet, meaning he wanted me to blog about him.  And on the night I previously posted about, he even complained to me about not having made it onto the blog yet.

This post will prove there is much to be learned from that old proverb, “Be careful what you wish for.  You may get it.”
This story takes place the very next night.  By then I had already figured out how to make sure Abe made it onto the blog, but even if that hadn’t been the case, what happened on this night guaranteed that Abe would become immortalized in these pages. 
For the second straight night, Abe and I were at the same table.  Although we’d played at the same table a few times before, including the night before, we had never really gotten into any significant hands together.  On this night, I hadn’t played a lot of hands when I looked down at pocket Aces in late position.  This was my second night in town and the first time I’d been dealt pocket rockets since arriving.  I watched the action to see how many limpers would be in front of me when Abe raised in front of me, to $15.
I made it $45 and it folded back to Abe.  He thought for a good long while.  Finally, he folded.  Even from just playing with me a few times, he would probably know that I’m not three-betting many hands, but knowing that he reads my blog, I wondered if he might have actually folded a really big hand.  I mean, was he good enough to fold the dreaded pocket kings?  I don’t think he’d normally fold KK but maybe against me?  Had he read enough blog posts to limit my range enough to where folding KK was a good play?  I wondered.
A few orbits later, with a little more than my original starting stack of $200 in front of me, I looked down at the aforementioned dreaded hand.  It was the first time this visit that I had pocket Kings.  So of course, before it got to me, Abe raised to $12.
Grrr.  This was going to be only the second time all night I’d three-bet, and once again I was three-betting against Abe’s raise.  But what could I do?  Despite my pocketkingsaphobia, I haven’t started just snap-folding them.

So I raised to $36, three times his bet, just like when I had the Aces.  It folded back to him and he took a long time to think about it again.  That was good.  At least I could be pretty sure he didn’t have pocket Aces.  He wouldn’t have thought long about it if he had.
But this time, finally, he called.  It was just the two of us to see the flop, which was Jack-7-3, rainbow.  Pretty good flop for my dreaded hand, right?  Other than the Jack being a King, I couldn’t ask for much more.
The pot was around $70 so I bet $60, about 1/3 of my stack.  Abe thought about it for a bit and then slid his entire stack forward!  He had me covered.  And as he bet, he said to me, from across the table, “I know what books you read, Rob.”
OK, that was a reference to the Ed Miller book he had lent me on the last day of my previous Vegas visit.  I mentioned it in the post I linked to above where I introduced Abe.  But my first reaction—in my head, mind you—to his comment was, “Forget about books you know I’ve read—you’ve read my blog.  You read my blog.  You know exactly how I play.  You can put me on a very, very narrow range here."
Shit.  My first thought was the infamous hand I had against Poker Grump last year, around Xmas time.  My version of the story was called “How the Grump Stole Christmas” (see here).  It was a hand against Grump where he semi-bluffed me off a hand where I had—of course—the very same dreaded pocket Kings.  In the first post he himself did about the hand (here), Grump explained how he used his knowledge of my game that he learned from reading my blog to exploit my weaknesses.  In essence, through my blog, I had given Grump an instruction manual as to how to best play against me.  One of the posts he used against me was based on one of his own old posts, so it really stuck in his head.
As Yogi Berra might have said, it was déjà vu all over again, at least in my mind.  I couldn’t just act here as if Abe was a normal, solid opponent.  I had to think about how Abe was using his knowledge from reading my blog to take advantage of me the way Grump had.
So I thought, Abe must know how narrow my three-betting range is, especially against a solid player like himself.   If he’d been reading long enough—and carefully enough—he’d know that I would be unlikely to three-bet against him with Ace-King.  At least in a cash game.  I usually only three-bet with Ace-King and pairs less than Queens against really aggressive players who raise preflop a lot.  That isn’t Abe.  I actually discussed the first time I could remember three-betting with AK in a cash game in this post here and it was against a guy who raised all the time and loved to show off the fact that he was frequently raising with garbage.
If Abe remembered that, he wouldn’t think I was just making a continuation bet with overcards there.  And I couldn’t imagine him putting me on a pocket pair lower than Jacks.  So, if he thought his hand was good enough to play for stacks there, he couldn’t have just a pair of Jacks.  He must be ahead of pocket Queens, or Kings or Aces, right?  That was my thought.  And with no good draws on the board, what hand was beating mine? 
Pocket Jacks. 
He could have a smaller set, but I didn’t think he’d both raise and call my re-raise with 7-7 or 3-3. 
But J-J?
It made perfect sense.  That was his hesitation preflop.  He knew I had a bigger pocket pair than his Jacks, and called my three-bet hoping to hit his set.
Which he did.
That was all I could think of at first.  It made perfect sense.  It seemed right.
So I had to fold, right?  I can’t risk my stack hoping to hit a two-outer.
But wait, I kept thinking (thankfully!).  I had just bet 1/3 of my stack, and now the pot was big.  You can’t bet 1/3 of your stack and then fold.  I mean, I know I read that somewhere.
Oh yeah, I remember where.  In the Ed Miller book Abe had just lent me.  Yeah, that’s right, in the very book he had just lent me, it talks specifically about that.  Not that I didn’t already know the concept, but I’m sure I’ve violated that “rule” in the past, based on other, not-so-good poker books I’ve read.  The first book I read that was devoted exclusively to NL cash games talked about never risking your stack (if it was of significant size) with just top pair or an over pair.  I’ve probably made some terrible laydowns following that advice (and maybe some good ones, too). 
So there I was, having gone beyond the “commitment threshold” that Miller talks about, knowing—yes knowing—that I was drawing to a two-outer.
But wait a minute.  I had just heard Abe tell me that he knows what books I read, meaning the book that was telling me that I can’t fold there.  Why would Abe say that when he bet?  Well, duh, obviously because he wanted me to call!  He was reminding me about the book, basically telling me, “You know you can’t fold, Rob.”
It made perfect sense.  He has my Queens/Kings/Aces beat with his set of Jacks, and wants me to stack off to him.
So now for sure I have to fold.
But wait.  Remember Grump.  Maybe there was another level to this.  He knew I had to call there, based on what I’d already bet.  He was reminding me of that with his comment, making me think even more certainly that he wanted a call because he was ahead. So, maybe he was just saying that to convince me he was ahead, so I would fold the best hand?
I was starting to get a headache.

I actually starting playing back old blogposts in my mind, trying to recall everything I said that he might be using there, the way Grump had, and then I wondered if he had read a lot of my old posts, the ones I published before he started reading my blog.
Every time I processed it all in my mind, I came up with the same conclusion.  He had a set of Jacks and was daring me to call.
There were two other elements that played into this.
One was the hand I had, my Kryptonite hand.  Pocket Kings.  And in fact, in the Grump hand, he actually hoped that I had KK as it would play into my “pre-existing belief system.”  Well, here I was again with that dreaded hand, the hand that has been so bad to me so many times before.  And if there was one thing I could be sure that Abe knew about from the blog, it was my history with pocket Kings.  Was he exploiting that as Grump had?  Did he assume I had KK and knew it would be harder for me to call with them than with Aces or maybe even Queens?
And since I did have the dreaded hand, was I predisposed to folding them anyway when I met this kind of resistance?  Did the fact that it was Kings make me think it was more likely that I was beat than if I had Queens or Aces?  Yeah, probably.
The other issue was the dealer, Michelle.  Michelle is the dealer who never pushes me a pot.   At least that’s the running gag we have (see here).  She even once referred to herself as the “Robert-Killer.” I keep a mental tally of how many pots she “owes” me (counting down from 100.  So at least on some level, that fact that she was dealing probably helped convince me just a little bit more that I couldn’t win this pot.
With all that against me, I folded, right?
Not quite.  Despite all the reasons to fold, I decided that I just couldn’t fold my overpair there when I had put 1/3 of my stack in the pot (on that street, that is….all told I had put in almost half of the stack I started the hand with by now).  It was strictly a numbers game.  Forget about how many blogposts Abe had read, or which ones, or what he was trying to tell me with his comment about the book.  It just didn’t make sense to fold.  So, after tanking for what seemed like an eternity, I did what I would have done instantly if the same action had unfolded against a player who I didn’t know read my blog, and said, “Call.”
I have no idea what the next two cards were, but they didn’t look significant.  Michelle asked us to show our hands and Abe flipped over pocket Jacks, just as I thought.
At least that’s what it looked like from the other side of the table.  I saw one black Jack for sure, and the other black card looked like another Jack.  It was definitely a face card.  Since I was expecting pocket Jacks, that’s what I saw.
I fumbled to grab my hole cards.  I hadn’t decided whether to show them or not.  I was sure that Abe had put me on exactly pocket Kings anyway, was I gonna give him the courtesy of showing him my losing hand? 
Just then, I heard Michelle say, “Pair of Jacks.”
“Set of Jacks,” I thought.  Just as I thought.
Wait, wait, what?
Did she say “Pair of Jacks” Pair of Jacks?  I actually stood up because Abe’s exposed cards were over on the other side of the table, and I needed a better look.  I think I dropped my hole cards (face down) at this point. 
He had two black face cards alright.  But only one of them was a Jack.  The other was a King.  Good thing they both weren’t Jacks because they were both spades.
I said to Michelle, in disbelief, “Pair of Jacks?”
“Yes, pair of Jacks.”  I believe Michelle, having seen me play a zillion times, was sure I could beat Jacks and was just waiting for me to show the winning hand.
I was still fumbling with my cards and I think I dropped them yet again.  At this point, Abe said, “Oh come on, you’re not going to slow roll me now, are you?”
I’m afraid I was doing just that, totally accidentally, of course.
I finally managed to get those dreaded Kings face up in front of me.  I then put out my stack so Michelle could count it.  It was $122 or so.  She got the money from Abe and pushed a big pot to me.  I said, “79!” which I believed was the right countdown of pots she owed me.  And I gave her a big tip.
Abe was laughing and pissed at the same time.
“Why did it take you so long to call there?  You put in 1/3 your stack, you can’t fold.  I’m going to revoke your poker license.”
And then he said, “I can’t believe you slow rolled me.  You slow rolled the nicest guy in the poker room.”
I used to think I was the nicest guy in that poker room, but I think he’s right. He is nicer.
I apologized for the slow roll and explained that it was totally accidental.  I said I thought he had pocket Jacks and that’s what I thought I saw when he first showed.
I also mentioned that I had would have a long story to tell him about why it took me so long to call.
And then I said, “Well, you definitely made it onto the spreadsheet now!”
It was the weirdest feeling I ever had winning a bit pot. Oh, I was ok winning a big pot from my friend.  That’s poker.  It’s just that I was kind of embarrassed.  In hindsight, it looked like I was the worst poker player in the world (almost folding).  I felt like explaining my entire thought process right there at the table to everyone.  You know, all about my blog and how the fact that Abe reads the blog made me think about the hand four extra levels.
And there was Abe, getting what little revenge he could, ribbing me about almost folding in that situation.
As I was stacking my chips, one or two hands later, I got Ace-Queen and raised.  One caller, an older gentleman who had about $100-$120 in front of him.  The flop was Queen high and he checked/called my bet.  A second Queen on the turn and he shoved!  Of course I snapped called.  From the other side of the table, Abe yelled, “Oh, him you snap call!  You snap call him but me, you take a half an hour to decide!”
I just laughed.  The old guy had had Queen-10 and lost to my better kicker.  “I knew you had a Queen, I just didn’t know if your kicker was better than mine,” he said.  I stopped myself from saying, “I did raise preflop sir, do you think I’d do that with Queen-9 or less?”  It was another nice pot and this was turning into a very profitable session.
I was dying to explain everything to Abe, and also get his explanation of how he played the hand.  I almost suggested we take a break so we could discuss it.  No point in not telling him; I knew by now he was going to read about it right here soon enough.
But I didn’t do that.  Meanwhile, he was playing with his phone and came over to me to show me some calculations he had done on a poker odds calculator program.  He showed me that, on the flop, based on the range he put me on, he had over 50% equity in the hand.  Interesting.
The range he put me on was pocket Jacks or better, Ace-King & Ace-Queen.  That’s too big a range, I was lucky he hadn’t read enough of my blog posts!  Since he had two spades he a back-door flush draw in addition to top pair.  Note: when I tried using the same program to check it myself, I came up with much lower equity for him, so one of us made a mistake.
Later, as I was starting to think about leaving, he raised to $15 and I had pocket 9’s.  Hmm….since I knew he thinks I don’t three-bet anything less than JJ, should I take advantage of that and re-raise there?  Nah, I didn’t really consider that.  I called, as did two others.  The flop was really low, something like 5-4-2.  Abe checked, as did one other player, so I bet out $40 into a $60 pot.  The next guy called and this woman check-raised to $110.  This woman is a regular in the room even tho she lives in the Midwest.  All night she had been slowplaying pocket Aces and collecting big pots with them.  She never raised preflop with them.  She also had flopped a straight against me with 8-7 and was pissed that I didn’t bet so she could check-raise.
I was sure she had either caught a straight or was slowplaying Aces again.  Maybe this time she only had Kings or Queens?  I’d never seen her check-raise on a bluff.  I folded, as did the guy behind me, who showed his hand, pocket Jacks.  Abe shouted out, “What did you have, Rob, pocket 9’s?”
Shit.  How the hell did he know that?  I wanted to yell back, “Yes, so how the hell did you know that and yet you didn’t know I had pocket Kings before?”  Of course I didn’t say that.  But he might have caught something in my reaction because he teased me about having pocket 9’s there several times.  I said I’d tell him later and he said, “You had pocket 9’s there, didn’t you?”
About ready to call it a night, I got Ace-Queen and raised to $8.  Abe was one of two or three callers.  The flop came Ace-3-3.   I bet it and he was the only caller.  We both checked the turn.  On the river, he led out with a shove.  He was short stacked, it was about $50-$60.  I really couldn’t put him on much.  I didn’t think he’d be slowplaying a 3 that way.  So I called.  He showed his hand face up and said, “You’re good.”  He had a busted flush draw.
I suppose seeing how close I came to folding my Kings made him think I was susceptible to a bluff on the river there.  Not quite, Abe, not quite.
He left immediately and I only played a few more hands.  I had a nice session but it felt a little weird that I made most of my money off Abe.
The next day I used my comps to take Abe out to dinner so we could discuss the big hand.  I knew I shouldn’t apologize for taking his money, but I felt I owed him an explanation of why I looked so lame in doing it.  I didn’t want to wait until he read it here.  Besides, I wanted to hear his side of it.
But his side was mostly that he hadn’t read enough of my blog posts to narrow my range more than he did.  He did tell me that in the first hand, when he folded to the Aces I three-bet with, he had pocket 9’s.  Maybe that’s why he guessed I had pocket 9’s hours later.  And it was just a guess.  I suppose he might have said Jacks if the guy next to me hadn’t shown Jacks.
A few days later, he told me that Michelle had been given him a hard time about the hand.  “How could you go all in against Robert?  He’d already bet $60.  He only bets the nuts!”
Hmm, I have too tight an image, methinks.
Even though I won the big hand of the night, and a couple of other big pots, I couldn’t help wonder if it was not a good idea to play against readers of my blog.  It was very stressful.  I think the big hand may have taken a year off my life.
As for Abe, he got his wish, an entry on my spreadsheet, and the starring role in this blog post.  It cost him over $200 though.  I wonder if he thinks it was worth it?


  1. Next time tell him to call you Boob Rob, it's a lot cheaper way to make the blog. Well done Rob and nice to see you turned it around at the poker table.

    1. Thanks, Neo.

      You know, if a guy called me "Boob Rob" I don't think it would have made the blog.

      It had to be a woman...a classic "woman said."

      But yeah, that would have been a lot cheaper for Abe.

  2. Great post as usual Rob. Showing a bit of class taking Abe out as well ! Well played Sir.

    1. Thanks very much mrben, appreciate it.

      As for the class taking Abe to dinner, well, as I mentioned, it was on my poker comps, so it didn't cost me anything--more importantly, it didn't cost me any of the money that I won from him the night before!

      Actually,. he has plenty of comps too, and I suppose if we keep playing at the same table, it's inevitable that one day, he'll return the favor and take all my money, and then it'll be his turn to use his comps.

  3. Rob,

    Unless you have a very specific read on your opponent, you can never, ever, ever....ever...lay down KK on that flop for two reasons:

    1. As you said, you had 1/3 of your stack in there with the 2nd best hand in Hold Them Poker on a non Ace flop. This alone dictates you go with the hand.

    2. You are a nit....and people who play with you won't take long to figure that out. They will use any opportunity to run you off the best hand. You can't allow that to happen....or the Bullies will be lining up for blocks around.

    Let's assume he had JJ and look at the math preflop. He made it $12 and you made it $ he has to call $24 when the pot is $48. He is getting 2-1 on a 7-1 shot! Implied odds will compensate for that somewhat (if he hits his J he gets your stack in most cases...but he is only going to do that 1 in 8 tries) you created bad odds for him to call...job well done. You created a situation where your opponent is making a mistake calling.

    The rest is easy. Snap call and win the money 7 out of 8 times.

    Stop being so damn nitty or people are going to test you constantly!

    1. Thanks bill, but I did point out in the post that, if it was pretty much any other player I was up against, I would have indeed snap-called there. But I did have a "read" on this player--I knew he read my blog. That made me think he was putting me on a much more accurate range for my hands than he did.

  4. Couple of thoughts popped to mind here.

    1. Start 3-betting suited aces in position, either against players who know you or 2 hours into a session. It'll make a great blog post.

    2. You played this hand correctly for the reasons you and bill give, but I want to be pedantic about your statement of Ed's rule. I think a better statement is that if you put in > 1/3 your stack and then fold, you made a mistake somewhere in the hand. The mistake isn't always the fold, although in this case it would have been.

    1. Thanks, Kat.

      I like the idea of the 3 betting suited Aces. I do start trying to take advantage of my tight image when I've been at a table for awhile. That's sometimes gotten me some nice, small steals. But other times I meet resistance from the one new player at the table who hasn't seen me play tight for the past two hours.

      You are right about Miller's rule and he does explain that in his book. It goes into his whole theme of "planning your hand." If making the $60 bet on the flop was correct there, it was a foregone conclusion that I was ready to get the rest of my money in. (but my post was all about why it wasn't a foregone conclusion in this specific case)

      Of course, sometimes another card can change the plan, right? Suppose Abe had just called the $60 and the turn card was another Jack (or the third or even fourth card of a suit, on a different flop). Would calling his lead out shove on the turn been the right play?

      Another thing I'm thinking is, Abe assumed I would have played it the same way with either AK or AQ. Surely a lot of players three-bet with those hands, and I MIGHT too against some players. If that's what I had, would I still have been willing to make the standard c-bet, knowing that I was committing my stick with just overcards? Hmm.

    2. Right, like nearly everything in poker the real skill is understanding the exceptions to the rules. I think that's what makes the game interesting. Exceptions here include sick board run-outs and c-betting as a bluff. I had a hand last night where I was trapping with AA, calling flop and turn bets in position. When the high flop card paired on the end combined with a fairly reliable tell from villain I abandoned ship despite committing 40% effective.

    3. Ugh. But that's always the danger of slowplaying Aces.

  5. Here's what I find most interesting about that hand: His thinking seems to have been not much deeper than "I have top pair, Rob might have missed with AK or AQ, so I'll shove." On that level, he made the classic mistake of putting out a raise that will only get called if he is beat. I guess his comment about the book was his hope that you would call needing to hit one of just a few outs.

    In theory, he COULD have been doing some interesting, creative, dastardly mind games, involving what he knew about your play, what you would think he knew about your play, what Miller's advice would be, a speech hinting at what Miller's advice would be, and, finally, whether the true meaning of that speech was "you have to call here, which is good for me," or "I want you to think that I want a call here, so that you'll fold."

    But as far as I can tell from the post here, none of that deeper, interesting stuff was actually going on--except inside your own head! He wasn't leveling you; you were leveling yourself, and almost did it to the point of folding a hand that was 90+% to win.

    Moral of the story: Giving an opponent too much credit for craftiness and deceptive play can be just as hazardous as giving him too little.

    1. Thanks, Grump.

      I definitely was over thinking there, based on the circumstances I described.

      As for Abe, perhaps I didn't emphasize it enough in the post, but he really felt he a lot of equity there. He showed me the calculations the hand simulator made indicating he had over 50% equity on the flop against what he perceived my range to be. I think he made a slight error on the calculator, because when I used the same program to duplicate, he had a lot less equity (but still more than 1/3).

      But that doesn't matter, since he wasn't using the calculator during the hand. Based on the math he was doing in his hand, giving me a wider range that I actually had, he really did think he had a lot of equity there, plus of course some fold equity.

      Your "moral" is a good one. I overthought it because I knew he was a blog reader--and because of what YOU did to me back in December.

  6. Poker fans: