Thursday, August 18, 2016

Poker is Fun When You Bet the Nuts and Get Raised

If history repeats itself, this surely was a good history to repeat.

But my most recent session here in Southern California wasn’t exactly a duplicate of the session I had the Saturday before at the Bike (see here).  This one had a really bad start.  But the end result was close enough to the prior week's result to make me happy.  And yes, again, it all came down to two big hands.

This time I headed back to Ventura to hit the Player’s Casino.  No, the incredible success I had the Saturday before at the Bike didn’t convince me to return there.  I figured lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place.  Besides, as I mentioned in this post, I have come to really enjoy playing at PC.

You know those sessions where you sit there for an hour or two without getting a decent hand to play?  This was the complete opposite of that.

Unlike my last few times there, I didn’t get to start a new table.  After a few minutes of waiting, I was sent to a game in progress.  I was surprised that I didn’t recognize a single player in the game, that’s the first time that’s happened at PC in quite some time. 

Perhaps that explains why, on the very first hand I was dealt, I choked.  Well, “choked” may be too strong a word (or, perhaps not).  But I’m not proud of my play.

That first hand I was dealt Ace-King of clubs.  And I just limped in.  I kind of have a thing about raising my first hand or two at a table—I don’t do it.  Oh, I’ll do it if I have Aces or Kings or Queens, but most hands I’d ordinarily be inclined to raise with, I’ll just limp in, because I have zero feel for the table, and I don’t really want to introduce myself to the table by raising right off the bat.  I know some people like raising their first hand to try to convey a certain image. They’ll even do it with garbage. I should probably try it sometime.  But it’s just not natural for me.  And since I had no “book” on anyone at the table, I just wanted to see what developed.

It was 4 or 5 of us seeing a flop, which was King-high and had two diamonds.  A guy led out for $10 and I just called.  Another bad play, but I was trying to ease into the game.  A third player called.  The turn was a blank and no one bet (apparently I was committed to playing this hand as meekly as possible). The river was the Ace of diamonds, giving me top two with the flush out there.  This time the guy who had called the flop bet led out for $20.  The other guy folded and I made the call.  Twenty bucks wasn’t enough to get me to fold two pair.  But of course he showed a baby flush.  It was something like 10-3 of diamonds (he was one of the blinds).  Of course I realized he most likely isn’t in the hand if I had done the right thing and raised preflop.  Ugh.

The very next hand I had pocket Queens.  Lesson learned, I raised to $18 because there was a $6 straddle (the game is 2/3, so the under-the-gun straddle is $6).  Actually, I’m never quite sure how to adjust my opening raise when there is a straddle.  Do I just add the amount of the straddle to my bet, or make another adjustment?  In other words, if I would have normally opened the pot to $12 there (as I would have), should I just make it $15 for the three extra bucks of the straddle?  Or do I go four times the straddle amount of $6, since that is effectively the big blind amount on this hand?  I ended up betting three times what a call would have been.  I never have figured out what the right amount is.  Suggestions?

Anyway, there was a caller and then one of the blinds made it $55.  Ugh.  It folded back to me.  This guy had folded preflop the last hand—the only hand I’d ever played with him.  I sure didn’t like the idea of folding my Queens.  But four-betting with them seemed too dangerous with a guy I didn’t know. My default read is that a 1/2, 1/3, 2/3 player is only three-betting with AA or KK (maybe, just maybe Ace-King).  I had bought in for $300 as usual and he had me covered.  I called hoping for a Queen-high flop.  The other guy called too.  What do you think of my call there?

The flop was Ace-high and the preflop raiser checked.  Hmm…..I narrowed his range down to pocket Kings and that the Ace had scared him.  Yeah, he could be slow-playing a set of Aces, but I thought that unlikely. I checked as did the other guy. Against a player I was more familiar with, I might have considered betting when he checked, hoping that the Ace scared him enough to fold his Kings, if that’s what he had.  But I didn’t know this guy. I saw paint come out on the turn and for a nano-second I thought it was a Queen, but no, it was a Jack.  This time the preflop raiser put out $65 and I folded, sure I was losing to his Kings.  The other guy called.  The river was another Ace and they both checked.  The caller said something about having a Jack (really?) but didn’t show before the preflop raiser showed two Kings.  Well, at least my hand reading skills were good on that hand.

Very soon after that, I had Ace-Queen of clubs.  I sure couldn’t complain about being card dead.  I’ve had four-hour sessions where I didn’t get three hands as good as QQ, AKs, AQs.  I opened to $12 and merely had four callers.  The flop was Jack-high with two clubs.  I wouldn’t normally c-bet there with four other players in the hand, but having the nut-flush draw, I felt it was the right thing to do.  Agree or disagree?

I put out $35.  The guy to my immediate left called.  He was short stacked and didn’t have much left, maybe another $40-$50.  It probably didn’t make any sense for him to call instead of shoving, but whatever.  The next guy thought for a bit and then shoved.  I had him covered too, and it looked like his stack was in the $100 vicinity.  It folded to me.  I asked for a count.  While the dealer was counting, the guy to my left put the rest of his chips out, acting out of turn.  Interestingly, the dealer didn’t admonish him for doing that.  Anyway, it was $61 more to me.  It seemed like the right odds, so I called.

No one showed.  I sure liked the turn card, it was the King of clubs.  The river card was not as nice.  It was a 6 that paired the board.  I was first to show, and the shortest stack instantly mucked when he saw my hand.  The other guy, the one who had shoved his $100-ish stack, initially groaned when he saw my hand.  It was like “Ugh….a flush…..oh wait, I have a boat.”  He missed that the board had paired.  So the set of Jacks he’d flopped was now a full house.  And he took down all the chips.

I’d been there less than two orbits and had about $100 left out of my $300 buy-in.  Sort of the exact reverse of the session the week before.  Not at all the way I had hoped things would go.  I was a bit demoralized.

I think two things made that hand affect my mental state harder than it otherwise would have.  There were two "teases" there. I mean the turn gave me the nuts, if only for a few seconds. So to think I'd won a big pot only to have the rug pulled out from under me made it worse for me. Yes, when I got it in I was behind. I knew that but I also had a lot of equity. I think I would have been less upset if the flush never came and I had just whiffed. This was much crueler. I understand “that’s poker" and it happens all the time, but that doesn't mean it doesn't suck.

And then it didn't help that guy basically said he had lost before he noticed the paired board. It wasn't a slowroll, I'm sure he just didn't see the paired 6. But I was looking for a pair as the only thing that could beat me and inwardly cursed when I saw it. So when he initially reacted like he lost, I got another bit of false joy before it went south.

I dwelled on it a few hands. It was then I made a critical decision.  Now typically at that point, I would add on some chips, because $100 is a short stack in a 2/3 game.  But sometimes I play on a bit to see how it goes.  Sometimes I decide to just work the short stack for awhile and see if the runbad continues.  This had all happened so fast.  And as I said, I was far from card dead.  But getting the second best hand in poker is a lot worse than being card dead.

When the button got to me, I decided to go ahead and buy $100 more chips.  It was just too soon to throw in the towel.  Boy was I glad I did.  Of course, you could argue that I should have bought $200 more to bring my stack back to the original $300 I started with.  But just another $100 in play with the way I started out seemed like enough for me.

A hand or two later I limped in with pocket 8’s and then called $17.  It was five of us seeing the flop.  It came 10-8-5, rainbow.  The preflop raiser (one of the blinds) checked but before it got to me another guy bet $20.  He had a big stack, the biggest at the table.  I thought about it for a bit and then decided to just call. The flop looked rather dry.  And that small bet felt like he just had a tiny piece of the flop and was less likely to call a raise. The preflop raiser also called, the others went away.

The turn was another 10.  Cool, this time I had the boat.  The same guy, the big stack bet again, this time $25.  OK, that was too small a bet. I decided to raise and see if I could get more value for my boat.  I made it $70.  The other guy folded.  Big stack thought for a bit and then announced “all-in.”  He didn’t have a bigger boat than I did, did he?  Of course, I’m never folding there.  I announced call, and the dealer put out a blank and then we showed our hands. 

He said, “I have a 10.”  Meanwhile the dealer said, “full house” and for a second I thought he was referring to the big stack.  His other card was like a 4—was there a 4 on the board?  Nope, the full house he was referring to was mine.  All he had was trip 10’s with a very crappy kicker.  The dealer collected ~$200 from him.  When I finished stacking, I had about $445 in front of me.  In one hand, I had gone from down $200 to up well over $100.  That’s no limit hold’em for you.  And I was real glad I’d added on that $100 when I did, that’s for sure.

And then….really just a few hands later…I had Ace-3 of hearts.  By the time I entered this hand in my notes, I had forgotten how the hand started.  I might have limped in, I might have been one of the blinds.  I was in early position for sure.  I don’t think there was a preflop raise, but there might have been.  Sorry.  All I know for sure is that there were 3 or 4 of us seeing a flop that had two hearts on it.  A guy led out for $20 and I called, it was three-way now.  The turn was a brick and he bet $35 and I called, it was now heads up.  The river was a heart, giving me the stone-cold nuts.  No pair on the board.  A straight was possible, a low straight, but since the highest heart on the board was a Jack, no straight flush was possible.

The guy had bet two streets and I thought about checking to see if he would bet so I could check-raise.  But I figured the heart had to be a scare card for him.  Whatever he had, he might just be content to check behind.  I didn’t really think a straight was very likely as it would have been a gutshot on the river.  I didn’t know if he even had anything.  The guy had a big stack but not quite as big as mine after that big pot I’d just won with the boat.

Thus, I figured I better bet something.  But what would he call?  The pot was at least $140-$145, so I bet $60 and just prayed he’d make the crying call with his top pair or two pair or whatever.

He tanked for a bit, counted out the chips.  I still thought he’d likely fold.  But then, after counting out the $60, he said something beautiful.  He said, “Make it $160.”

I double checked the board to make sure I wasn’t missing something.  Nope, I had still had the absolute nuts.  So I said, “all-in.”

He tanked a bit, but not that much.  And then he said, “Call.”  How sweet is that?

I showed my hand.  And he showed his, it was Queen-8 of hearts.  The dealer counted our chips and confirmed I had him covered and thus all his chips were pushed to me.

Meanwhile. The player next to him said, “Nothing you could do.” (???) I assume he was just trying to encourage him to stay in the game.  Nothing he could do?  Well let’s see.  My line screams of a flush.  He didn’t even have the second nut flush, it was the third nuts.  How about just calling my $60 bet, a crying call at that?  Would have saved him a lot of money.

Does he really think I’m betting there with less than a flush, or a flush worse than his Queen-high?

Not to complain, mind you.  I was very happy to take his money.

And then take a picture of my new stack of over $800. 

I didn’t consider taking off with my nice profit just then, at least not right away.  But suddenly the poker gods remembered it was me and that I’m supposed to get garbage hands.  And thus I went totally card dead. 

Side note:  you could argue of course that the Ace-3 suited that led to my biggest win of the session isn’t exactly a premium hand, and you’d be correct.  Perhaps my card-deadedness started there?  But as per Ed Miller, I do play suited hands a lot, especially suited Aces.  One of the reasons Miller recommends them is that although being suited only increases a starting hand’s value by a percent or two, when you hit that flush, you can often win a big pot.  Thanks, Ed.

I went several orbits without playing a hand.  The table emptied out a bit and most of the players left were on the nitty side.  The two worst players at the table, who were, not coincidentally, the two players who had given me that big stack I had, were now short stacked.  The Queen-hi flush guy had only re-bought for $100 and never got over that amount.  The guy with three 10’s lost the rest of his big stack to various players and was struggling to stay in the game.  Glad I got to him first. 

Then two of the empty seats were taken by a husband and a wife, two regs I recognized.  The husband is probably the regular in this room I consider the toughest player I’ve faced there.  Real solid, somewhat loose aggressive, puts a lot of pressure on you.  Hard to read.  His wife plays a similar style, though tighter.  I realized they were going to have the next biggest stacks after mine and it would be hard to get chips from them.

I mean, generally, you get your money at poker from the weaker players, right?  These are not weaker players.  So when I realized the game had just gotten a lot tougher, and I still had a $400 profit from the bad players, I decided to call it a day.  I suppose I could have found another table, but booking back-to-back big wins was sounding real good.

I ended up cashing out almost the same amount of chips as last time, although I was in for $100 more so not quite as profitable (a $400 win)Still, considering I was down $200 within just a few minutes of getting there, it kind of felt like an even better win than the week before.


  1. In the 2014 Main Event, I rivered a Royal Flush. I checked and the villain bet into me! It doesn't get much better than that.

    1. Wow, great story.

      But you must have really, really, REALLY sure he was gonna bet if you checked your Royal there!

    2. Heh heh....guess you are being sarcastic there, Steve. Thanks!

  2. Lucy Pinder's boobiest shoot ever!!!!!!! like ever ever A++++

    1. were just supposed to notice the title "Nuts" there cuz it was about my having the "Nuts". Lucy's boobs are irrelevant. In fact, I tried to photoshop them out. but I don't know how to use the program.

  3. Hey Rob, great article as always. Just want to thanks for writing such a great blog. I've been out in the Persian gulf stationed in the middle of a desert for the past 6 months and reading it has helped pass the time in some of the quieter moments. Looking forward to getting back to playing live in the UK and also my Vegas trip in November.

    Oh and Lucy Pinder. Bravo

    1. Stationed in the Persian Gulf? THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE!!!!

      And thanks for the kind words, it was great waking up to your comment, you got my day off to a great start.

      Stay safe, and good luck on the felt when you return to it. Enjoy your Vegas trip, you've earned it.

      And yes....Lucy is truly amazing.

  4. Great story Rob... I'm glad to read about some nice sessions.

    I think you did make an error though, if I'm not mistaken when you doubled up to get to $445 you were in for $400 so you were not up well over $100. arguing with that outcome. Also i think you have to bet your nut flush draw. The short stacks might be nursing their money and may even get out of the way on a hand where you're behind. Also, I know you were against a set there but your over cards could be good

    1. Ooops, you are correct, thanks for the correction. I was only up the $45 or so, was thinking of my original $300 buy in.

      And thanks for the input on the nut flush draw hand. I did wonder if that was the right play, got lucky then unlucky on the last two cards.

  5. I was down against a set of queens with my set of jacks once. The river hit another jack!! We had been checking the whole time when he then bet to me. I made my all in look like a shove and got called. He instantly celebrated but realised what a bad beat that was.

    1. Oh wow..hitting a one-outer, awesome for you, devastating for the person you one-outed. Thanks for sharing that.