Sunday, January 29, 2017

Stop Me if You've Heard This One Before

Commerce Casino is currently running their L.A. Poker Classic.  I’ve been checking the Saturday events to see if they have a tournament I like.  Usually, they are either out of my price range or sometimes have a second (or final) day at a inconvenient time/day for me.  Or I’ll think that the first flight will play too long to be acceptable to me since they (almost) never have a dinner break.  I know it’s hard to believe, because clearly I never complain much about anything, but I can usually find a fault with pretty much anything.  But when I looked at the event for yesterday, I was intrigued.

There was a Noon starting time for a $350 NLH event that had a $300K guarantee.  Ok, that got my attention.  I studied the details and couldn’t find a reason to veto the idea.  It was a $10K starting stack, with 30-minute levels on the first day.  If you made it to Day 2, the levels were 40-minutes.  Cool.  Plus the money bubble would break before each Day 1 completed.  I really like that. I studied the structure and it was very player friendly, lots of play, a slow progression. They were paying 12.5% of each flight and then approximately the top 8% would advance to Day 2.  And Day 2 was the next day, Sunday, at 1PM, and they would play until a winner was declared.

So I set my alarm to wake up earlier enough to make sure I got to Commerce in plenty of time to register and get settled in before the tournament started.  I didn’t really like setting the alarm to wake up early to play a poker tournament, but what can you do?  Also it was a beautiful Southern California day.  Couldn’t I think of anything better do to enjoy the perfect weather that be stuck all day inside a poker room?  Sadly, I could not. 

Oh, the other thing I had to do was pack a lunch—which I ate in the Commerce parking lot because I arrived early enough that I didn’t have to go inside right away.  But it turned out I really didn’t need to pack a lunch.  You see my only experience playing a tournament at Commerce was last Labor Day weekend (a story told here).  But as I pointed in that post, on the particular day I was there the tournament was held in a different place from usual, as the usual tournament area was reserved for a wedding. 

This time I got to see what the actual tournament area is like and it was a much better set up than what I had experienced last year.  It was actually in a big ballroom in the hotel part of the complex.  And it had its own snack bar.  That was the best part.  Getting a soft drink is always so difficult at Commerce.  This time I could go get it myself.  And since they don’t provide free soft drinks at Commerce anyway, it didn’t matter much that I’d have to pay for one.  And it was away from all the cash games and all the other casino activates.

When I saw the set up, I realized I’d played in the ballroom before.  A long, long, long time ago.  I recognized it and realized that the first (or second?) time I played at Commerce, I was playing in that very room.  It was long before I was playing NL.  In fact, it was when I was just starting out learning the game.  Believe it or not, I’m pretty sure it was $1-$2 limit game, with blinds of 50¢ and $1!  Why they were spreading that game in the ballroom, I have no idea, but they were.  This was probably 2005 or 2006.

But I didn’t know about the snack bar so I brown bagged it (is that still an expression?).  Oh well, I’d be able to take advantage of the snack bar if I lasted long enough (and the flight lasted long enough) to have to grab some dinner there.

The very first hand I was the big blind (blinds were 25/50).  I had 9-6 offsuit.  There was a raise to $150 and two callers.  I decided the odds were good enough to call for $100 more. Except that I got confused with the chips.  Not being very familiar with the Commerce chipset, I saw the “1” on the $1K chip and put that out next to my big blind.  Oops.  The dealer was about to ask me what I was intending when I said, “Oh that’s just a call, I grabbed the wrong chip.”  He let me take back the $1K and I promptly replaced it with a $500 chip.  Oops again. I pulled that back and finally put a $100 chip out.  I’m actually not sure if the dealer was right to let me only call there.  I think by rule, I did raise, whether I intended to or not.  And by the way, isn’t it time that all chipsets at all casinos across the US be standardized?  It’s so confusing that different colors mean different things in different poker rooms.  Anyway, I was embarrassed so I said, “I’ve never actually played this game before.”  And by the end of the hand, I think the preflop raiser believed that was possible.

The flop was King-9-2, two diamonds (both my cards were black).  The preflop raiser led out for $300, and it folded to me.  How I played this hand was based on a feeling I had picked up from some pre-tournament conversation.  The preflop raiser a youngish guy with a baseball cap (worn the proper way, fortunately), had mentioned to the guy next to him that he had been playing a lot at Hollywood Park casino (located in the same lot where the L.A. Rams are building their new stadium).  And he said he had been doing very well there.  So I kind of figured he was the L.A. version of a Vegas grinder and might be fairly aggressive.  With middle pair, knowing that there was a good chance he was betting with nothing, I decided to call.

The turn card was a low diamond and he bet $450.  I was about to fold when I thought better of it.  I just figured there was a good chance he didn’t have a King or a pocket pair that beat 9’s.  Or two diamonds.  I called. He barreled again when the river was another deuce.  This time $1K.  Again, I almost folded but my gut told me this guy was weak.  So I called.  And he turned over Ace-10 off for Ace-high.  I showed my 9-6 to take the pot.  The guy was shaking his head at my bad play.

HP (for Hollywood Park guy) was by far the most aggressive player at the table, I was right about that.  In fact, he was the first player from the table to bust out.   Still in the first level, he called my open (with Ace-Jack off) to $125.  There was another caller.  The flop had two spades on it and I had the Ace of spades.  HP donked out $350, the other guy folded but I called.  The turn was an 8 that paired the board.  We both checked.  A blank on the river and we both checked again.  So he showed 8-4 off for trips.  Weird.  I couldn’t figure out why he donk-bet the flop (8 was middle pair) and I really can’t figure out why he never bet his trips (I’ve played poker too long to even question why he called my raise with 8-4 offsuit).  I guess that’s the way they do it at Hollywood Park.

I chopped a pot with a guy when we both had Ace-Jack (but mine was soooted) and took some of HP’s chips.  Then, I completed from the small blind with King-10 off, it was 4-way.  The flop was King-Jack-10.  I bet $300 and HP called.  There was a Queen on the turn, I checked and called his $500 bet.  An Ace on the river put Broadway on the board and there was no flush possible.  I knew we were both playing the board.  We both checked; he showed Queen-10.  Damn.

There was another hand or two I was involved in with minimal results.  What’s important is that late in the fourth level, the first level with antes (it was 25/75/150) I was sitting around $11K.  And in the small blind, I looked down at a couple of Kings.  Yeah, the dreaded pocket Kings.  it was the first pocket pair I’d seen all day.  Recall from the previous week at PC Ventura, I didn’t get a pocket pair all session (see here) save the time I had deuces and we chopped the blinds.  So this was essentially my first pocket pair in three sessions.  And of course it was Kings.

Well, an early position player raised to something like $500, there was a call, and then a guy made it $1950.  Hmm….This guy had struck me as one of the better players at the table, though he hadn’t played many pots.  It was more the way he carried himself at the table that gave me that impression.

What should I have done?  I didn’t really consider just calling and I surely wasn’t folding.  I made it $6100 (I just put six $1000 chips next to the $100 chip I had there for the small blind). That was a bit more than half my stack, I was pot committed. It folded back to the guy who had three-bet and he just called.

The flop was Jack-high.  I announced “all-in” and he snap-called and showed two Aces, of course.  The turn and the river were no help and since he had me covered, I was out of the tournament in slightly less than two hours.

I get my Kings cracked all the time, but oddly enough, not usually by Aces.  I can even remember a time when I ran my Kings into Aces and flopped a set for the suckout. 

Afterwards, I kept thinking about if I could have played it better.  I mean, you can’t just assume that a guy is only three-betting with pocket Aces, can you?  Maybe at a 1/2 game, but at a $350 tournament?  Surely his three-betting range is wider than that.  If I just call, am I just set-mining with the (allegedly) second best starting hand in hold’em?

And once I bet half my stack pre, I can’t see checking that flop. Maybe I should have raised smaller?  A min-raise instead of essentially 3X the previous bet? Now if there was an Ace on the flop, maybe I try to get away from it.  Of course, his calling my four bet is a strong move, maybe that’s what I should be thinking of?  I still can’t see folding and if I check, he’s betting.

Should I just call his flop bet and try to get to showdown as cheaply as possible?
Or is it one of those Aces vs. Kings situations where I’m supposed to lose my stack?  That’s certainly how it played out.

Anyway, I’d welcome your feedback on how I should have played the hand differently.

Or maybe I should do what I always joke about doing and just muck those Kings the moment I see them?

BTW, what do you think of his call instead of shoving over my 4-bet?  Good play?  Sure, a shove there screams Aces, but am I ever folding preflop?  Was it a good play on his part?

Note:  The pic above has nothing to do with this post, pocket Kings, or poker.  In fact it makes me forget about poker and pocket Kings. So that’s why I’m running it.


  1. On putting a single chip next to your big blind...unless you verbally say raise, I'm pretty sure that's just a call. Single chip rule should still apply, although it may depend upon room rules.

    1. Actually, Nick, I think that's right and it was my mistake. I was confused because my big blind was out. But I believe the single chip rule would apply. The thing was, this was the very first hand of the tournament, I had the full complement of all the dominations of chips. There was no reason for me to use a $1K chip to call when I had 8 $100 chips in front of. In fact, I could have taken four more $25 chips that I had and called with that. But it doesn't really matter. It was a call.

  2. I have seen the KK's versus AA's a few times. I have also seen the KK's lay down a big re raise on the flop. The raiser was flabbergasted his Aces were sniffed out. It is brilliant when it works. However, who is going to raise a big bet all in on the flop? As far as your hand, I don't know. Cowboys are pretty pre-flop. But, they don't like family pots. I play cash games and usually treat then like a medium strength hand. Trying to win a big pot with a pair is something I avoid.

    1. Thanks, Darryl. You know, in tournaments, I gotta say, trying to win a big pot with a pair, not even top pair, happens all the time. Yeah, it is different from cash games. When you get a premium starting hand, you really need to try to get chips with it.

  3. I don't mind the 4 bet with KK. I like the sizing given you are Oop (you could reraise smaller in position). Also, in that situation, I think you go broke anyway on a J high flop. If you just flat, you check the flop, with ~5500 in pot, he c bets 2-3000, you going tonfold? No chance. That sets up his shove on turn, so you still call.

    The only way you don't go broke is if an ace flops, especially if you check.

    Also, if he 5 bets you pre, do you really fold KK there?

    1. Thanks, genomeboy. I appreciate the confirmation. I had already determined, when I made my big flop bet, that I was willing to put the rest of my chips in preflop if he came over the top. I mean, my bet was a bit over half my stack, That's not a raise/fold situation. I had the second best hand in the game, and if he was ahead of me, well, sucks to be me (as it did)>

  4. Please stop even thinking of "what if" about your KK hand....or stop playing if you even consider laying it down with this stack depth (<100bb).
    KK200 bb deep).
    By the way your 4-bet is terrible as you turn your hand totally face up (KK+). Either flat and trap (not perfect with the PFR having odds) or shove to keep TT+ in your range. Oh and considering folding if an ace flop with your stack-to-pot ratio is burning money and exploitable.

    1. Thanks, Alexandre. Never considering folding it pre, that was a joke.

      I did consider shoving rather than just raising prelop, but I felt it was too much of an overbet. But I see the wisdom in your idea of doing to make my range wider.