Thursday, February 23, 2017

And Then I Got Pocket Kings

Last Saturday I once again returned to PC Ventura for another session of 2/3. 

When I got there, I was surprised to see the place was really packed.  I expected things to be slow.  It was the Saturday of President’s Day Weekend.  Since this is a locals room and has no hotel—and is certainly not a destination poker room—I expected a lot of the usual suspects to be out of town on little vacations.  Perhaps a lot of the regs would even be in Vegas for the weekend.  And if anyone had come to Southern California for poker this weekend, they most likely would be at Commerce (which is a destination poker room), where they are having a big tournament series going on.

Plus the weather was bad.  The day before, we’d just had the worst storm in many years come thru, and it was still gloomy and somewhat showery. It has been an exceptionally wet winter.  So if anyone tries to tell you that there is still a drought in California, call it what it is—fake news.  But perhaps the rain actually made it busier, as people were forced to stay indoors to find entertainment.

Whatever, I had to wait nearly an hour to get into a game (PC does not take call-ins for the list). And perhaps it was a bad omen that when I finally got called into a game I was sent to the exact same table and same seat as the one I had the previous Saturday.  But it was an entirely different cast of characters, I really didn’t recognize anyone initially.  I finally realized that there were a couple of unremarkable players I’d encountered before.

Very first hand I was dealt pocket 3’s and called a $10 bet preflop.  I whiffed and folded to a bet.

A bit later, I had Ace-King. I bet $15 after a limp and was called in two spots. The flop missed me but it did have two spades and I had the King of spades.  I c-bet for $25 and the lady on my left made it $50, the other guy called and so did I.  The turn was a blank and it was checked around (I would have folded to any bet).  A third spade hit the river.  The guy on my right, a senior citizen, checked, I checked and so did the lady who raised me on the flop.  The guy on my right showed Ace-10 of spades for the nuts.  Huh?  Why didn’t he bet?  Was he going for a check-raise?  I’ll never know.

Then I went incredibly card dead.  I had two more pocket pairs over the next 90 minutes—4’s and 7’s—and missed.  No more big cards. And can someone remind me what a suited connector is?  I hadn’t seen one all day. I was down over $100 and it was only that little because I didn’t get any cards to play.  So when I was dealt 7-6 off on the button, and there were a bunch of limpers, I limped too.  Yes, I actually did consider raising and I should have, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.  Seven of us saw a flop of Queen-5-4.  Those last two cards were hearts, my 6 was the heart.  I called a $13 bet and we were down to five players.  It checked around on a blank turn.  The river was the 8 of diamonds, giving me the nuts.  There was a bet for $10 and a call.  I made it just $25 hoping I could get both to call, or at least one of them.  The first guy called, the other guy folded and the first guy didn’t show when I turned over my straight.

That it was it for a long while.  I limped in with Ace-9 of clubs under-the-gun (when I’m running bad I revert to bad habits like limping instead of raising).  Six of us saw a Queen-high flop with two clubs. I checked/called $12 and it was three-way.  The turn was a brick and the player who bet the flop checked, but the other guy bet $25.  I called and it was now heads up.  The river was an Ace of spades.  I checked and he checked behind me.  He had a Queen.  That was the second pot I’d won all day.

I finally got Ace-King again and made it $18.  Only one caller and the flop came Jack-10-9, rainbow.  I bet $25 and he called.  The turn was a blank, no betting.  The river was a King, but with all those Broadway cards out there I was afraid to bet it.  The King was good; he said he had a smaller pair.

I had played few enough hands to start thinking I could get away with some things. So I tried to force myself to look for ways to be aggressive with marginal hands, at least from late position.  I even vowed to myself to really try to find hands to raise with from late position.  Every time the cutoff came around, I would study my hand carefully and see if I could raise with it.  But I swear, the best hand I had during this time was 10-2 suited.  And I just couldn’t find the “raise” button.

I still had nearly $200 left of my original $300 buy-in.  And I was seriously thinking of calling it a day.  The sun was now out, and at least I could get home before it started pouring again.

Meanwhile, someone I definitely recognized had joined the table.  It was Cookie, the lady who had run so hot one day that I did a post about it (here).  This day she was not running so hot—she had already had to re-buy once.  But she was still a tough player and a hard one to read.

And so I looked down at my fourth pocket pair of the day.  Can you guess which pair it was?  If you said the dreaded pocket Kings you are correct!  Before it got to me, Cookie opened to $12.  I was thinking about my three-bet when another player made it $32.  Well now, that was interesting.

My $180-$190ish stack had Cookie covered, but the raiser had in excess of $300.  He had come to the table before Cookie, and when I first saw him, I figured he’d be aggressive. He was by far the youngest person at the table.  And as soon as he sat down, the older, Asian gentleman across from him said, “You bluffed me the other night, didn’t you?”  The younger fellow didn’t respond.  The Asian man brought it up a few times and the guy wasn’t giving anything away.  One time, in response to the bluffing question, he said, “Maybe.”

But in fact, he turned out to be a pretty tight player.  Never saw him do anything out of line.  I had to assume he had a premium hand.

I had noticed that Cookie limped into a lot of pots—most of them.  I’d say she played well over 60% of the hands she was dealt.  And called most, if not all, reasonable preflop raises.  She didn’t raise preflop too much more than the average nit.  It was obvious she liked to see flops.  So her raise indicated she likely had a pretty decent hand.

Of course, my default would be to four-bet.  Yes, even I’ll four-bet with Kings.  But I thought about it.  If I re-raise, I’m basically playing my hand face-up, right?  Especially with my image being so tight.  I mean, even if I had Aces there, perhaps just a flat call might be the best play.  Am I wrong?

So mostly because I didn’t want to give my hand away, I decided to just flat his three-bet.  I guess, if I’m being totally honest, my luck with pocket Kings may have played a bit into my decision.  But honestly, it was mostly to disguise my hand at least a little.

Well, as soon as I started to put chips out, the three-bettor groaned.  “Oh no.”  Then he added something like, “If he calls…..”  It was pretty clear my tight image was very apparent to him. I suppose it could have just been my appearance that made him wary, but I doubt it, I was far from the oldest looking geezer at the table.  No, he had been very aware of how little I was playing. Damn.  I should have raised with that 10-2 suited earlier.

Cookie called and the three of saw the flop.  It was lovely.  King-2-x, two spades.  The “x” was a middle card, like a 6 or 7.  So I wasn’t worried about a straight, but I was very much aware of the flush possibility.  The King of spades was on the board.

Cookie checked and I kind of expected the young fellow to check too.  I figured he was scared of me being in the hand.  But no, he counted out chips and bet $45.

Well, I’m not sure slow-playing a set is ever a good play, but with those two spades out there, I sure wasn’t going to slow-play this one.  The trouble was, when I looked at my remaining stack, I realized that my standard raise here—three times the bet I’m facing—would leave me almost nothing behind.  I mean, a bet to $135 would leave me like $15-$25 behind, I figured.  I started to count, then realized that it made absolutely no sense to raise if I wasn’t going to shove.  So I announced all-in.

Somewhat surprisingly, Cookie called almost immediately.  As I said, it looked like she had slightly less than me. She probably said “all-in” just so there was no need to count.  Unless the young fellow wanted to call.  But he wanted no part of this.  He folded instantly.  I’m sure he folded in his mind as soon as he heard me say “all-in.”

We didn’t show.  I almost said, “Are you on a flush draw?” and flipped over my hand, but I didn’t.  I was 99% sure she had the flush draw.  The only other possibility was a set-over-set situation and those are rare.  But I could easily see her risking her entire stack on the flush draw with two cards to come.  I’d seen her play enough to think that.

I was not happy when the turn was a spade.  I immediately thought, “Oh well, another disaster with pocket Kings.  Even a set of Kings isn’t good enough.”  But the river was the most beautiful deuce of clubs you could imagine, pairing the board and filling me up.  Top boat is a wonderful thing.

Even before I flipped over my hand, she flipped over hers and kind of threw her cards in disgust, so sure she was beat.  She had Jack-9 of spades.  She was quite upset, asked the dealer to hold her seat while she got more money for another re-buy.

I actually hadn’t seen her cards.  I mean I knew she had the flush, but wasn’t sure what the ranks were.  So I asked the fellow who had three-bet pre, who was sitting right in front of where her cards had landed, exactly what her hand was.  He told me, and he also said that he had pocket Jacks.  “I knew I was in trouble when you called.”

So I said to him, while Cookie was still away, “Do you think she calls my four-bet preflop?” He said no way.  “She would fold, it’d be heads up.  Well, maybe. I might not have called you there.”

I have spent some time wondering if I liked Cookie’s play there.  I mean, she was getting pretty close to the right odds with two cards to come.  But her flush would have been only Jack-high.  Would it have been out of the question for one of the other two players to have had, say, Ace-Queen of spades?  I mean I could have called the three-bet pre with that hand.  Of course, it would be hard for her to imagine me shoving all my chips with just the nut flush draw, I admit.  What about the preflop raiser?  Is Ace-Queen of spades in his three-bet range?  Maybe not.  Maybe it was a good call on her part.  It almost worked, after all. But what about calling a three-bet preflop with Jack-9 suited?  Good play?  Like I said, she liked to see flops.

The pot was close to $500, biggest I’ve won in a while.  And with Kings yet!  Miracles do happen.

I was still stacking my chips when the next hand was dealt and I looked down at Ace-Queen of clubs.  I was just too busy enjoying the moment to think about raising there, so I mindlessly limped in.  That older Asian fellow I mentioned raised to $21. It folded back to me. Out of position, that’s an easy fold, but was suddenly flush with chips. I figured what the hell, I just caught a boat, let’s go for the flush this time and I called. The Asian groaned, just like the young fellow had the hand before. He too was afraid of my image. It was heads up. 

The flop was pretty damn nice.  Ace-high, and two clubs.  I thought about donk betting, but I wanted to see what his bet would be and then consider a check-raise.  But I should have paid heed to his displeasure at my preflop call.  He was wary of me and he checked behind.

The turn was not a club but a Queen, giving me top two.  This time I grabbed chips.  Before I bet, he asked, “How much?”  It sounded like he was gonna call, so maybe I should have bet more, but I said, “$30.”  He did indeed call.  The river was a blank and I bet $50.  He didn’t call. Instead, he folded face up—two Kings!  Ordinarily I wouldn’t do this but I made an exception and showed my hand.  “Top two and the flush draw…I had everything.”

I stuck around a few more orbits, but I went back to being card dead, and didn’t have quite the same incentive to look for marginal hands to raise with.

But it’s obviously time to take advantage of my tight image and loosen up with preflop raises (and three-bets).  I’m actually thinking that—just as an exercise—I should try raising in late position a few times without even looking at my hand.  Because if I look and see how bad it is, I’ll get cold feet.  The thing is, I’d rather try that in a 1/2 game in Vegas than at a 2/3 game in L.A.  But we’ll see. 

I left up $200 with a great story about the beloved pocket Kings.  A good day indeed.

(Edited to Add:  The following Saturday I returned to the poker room. Did I try to raise blind?  How did it work out?  See the follow-up post here)


  1. In my opinion calling 160 with 306 in the middle with a non nut draw is horrible. Even with a nut draw you are not getting the right price assuming that the 3 better is folding given his reaction. Pre flop I think there is nothing wrong with calling 20 more to see the flop with 81 in there.
    Just my 2 cents worth.


    1. Thanks, Mike. Appreciate it.

      Well, my mental math is that, use the rule of 2 & 4, she had 9 outs. With two cards to come, that's ~36%. She needs close to 2 to 1 and she's getting close to that (but somewhat short). So not such a bad call on the flop--if she had the nut flush draw or could be 100% sure neither one of us had a better flush draw--or she could be drawing dead.

      Of course that doesn't take into account that anyone with a set had outs to the boat that could also beat her even if she caught, which of course is exactly what happened.

  2. what did I tell you? Kings full makes everything better.