Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Eventually, Even I Can Win With Pocket Kings

Saturday I returned to Ventura for the first time in several weeks. It was kind of a brutal session.

I got into a 2/3 game with a $300 buy-in and at first, I really only recognized one player.  It was the guy who looks like Stan Lee (see here). Eventually I decided that the nice looking British lady on my left looked familiar as well, especially when she mentioned where she lived. I knew what city she was going to say before she said it, so I guess I have played with her before.  She was quite aggressive and did a good job of annoying me by straddling my big blind.  She eventually stopped straddling me. 

She was quite the aggro, doing a lot of preflop raising and stayed in most hands to the river if she couldn’t bet everyone out.  Her chip stack was up and down, getting over $600 for awhile and dropping below $300 sometimes too.  Actually, I realized almost immediately this was a fairly wild game, despite the fact that there were only two people at the table I would actually consider “young.”  Mid-30’s is young, right? Some of those old-timers were not shy about putting chips in play.

I figured this was going to be a pretty high variance game and that I would need to make a hand or two to come out ahead.  I widened my calling range somewhat and tried to catch a flop. But it didn’t work out too well.  I was losing chips and then I looked down at two red Aces in the big blind.  The British lady on my left had straddled.  There were a bunch of callers to her straddle, so when it got to me I added $40 to my $3 big blind.  There was only caller, a white-haired guy who was wearing one of those white, sleeveless muscle-shirts.  Note: they are often referred to as “wife-beaters” but I really hate that term, it’s so offensive. Although he was in good shape for his age, I’m not really sure anyone wanted to see him exposing that much flesh—or that many tats. 

The flop was low and had two diamonds on it.  I led out for $75 and he tanked and then shoved.  I didn’t even ask for a count, I could tell it was only about $30 or so more than my bet.  I snap called.  We didn’t show.  Of course a third diamond hit the river and he flipped over Jack-10 of diamonds for the flush.  I needed one more diamond.

There was something unusual about what this guy did much later in the day…and what the dealer allowed.  He was about to be the big blind, he put out his $3, said something to the dealer (who he was sitting next to) and left the table.  This hand there was no raise.  So the dealer had his cards remain in front of his stack.  Even after he put the flop out.  The lady next to me asked and the dealer said since there was no raise, his hand was still alive.  No one bet the flop or the turn.  When someone bet the river, he took the guy’s cards and mucked them.

The dealer explained that until there was a bet, his hand was not dead.  I asked and he confirmed—if the player had returned to the table before a bet was made, his hand would still be alive.  He also said that this was a cash game rule only.  Of course, in a tournament, his hand would have been long dead.  It must be a unique house rule, I’ve never seen that one before.  Also, the dealer posted the small blind for him.  This time his hand was dead before the flop since he wasn’t there to call the big blind.  The dealer said this guy does this (and they bet for him) all the time, he doesn’t like to miss the blinds.

We jokingly asked if he ever has the dealer put out a straddle for him when he‘s away from the table.

Seriously, anyone ever see that before?

I finally won a hand—with deuce-four.  I was the big blind, there was no raise, and 4 was bottom pair.  No one bet until the river, which was another 4.  I bet $5, got called by two players and took it.

Eventually my stack got low enough that I added $100 to it. 

I raised with Ace-9 of clubs and had four callers.  There was an Ace on the flop and no clubs.  One of the tight players at the table (there were some) donked out $15.  The tatted guy called and so did I.  Same guy led out for another $15 on the turn, but tatted guy made a big raise and I folded.  It turned out that first guy had Ace-Queen and the tatted guy turned a straight.

Then I got pocket Kings. I really should leave the rest of this paragraph blank—you can write it yourself, can’t you?  I raised to $15 and Stan Lee was the only caller.  Now to this point Stan had been playing like a typical Vegas nit.  He saw a lot of flops—most of them—but never made an aggressive move either before or after the flop.  I recalled that the earlier time I played with him he was having an incredible rush and hitting everything so I didn’t think that was a good indicator of how he played.  Anyway, he checked dark and the flop came something like 10-7-5, two hearts. My Kings were both black.

I bet $25 and he announced raise immediately and put out $100.  I couldn’t see his stack, if he had one, his hands were in the way.  I asked the dealer if he had more chips behind.  Yes, he did. In addition to a few $1 chips he had three white chips.  In this casino, white chips are $100.  Based on his play to this point today, I felt there was no way he had anything less than a set.  I didn’t think it was possible he was betting like that with just a 10 or even a good draw.  He had me beat, I was sure.  I folded.  He didn’t show, but I felt it was a good laydown.

By this time, I had folded two gut-shots on the flop to big bets.  In both cases, I would have caught the straight and won the pot.  But I wasn’t getting anywhere close to good odds to chase the gut-shots.  Also, whenever I had two suited cards, the flop would almost always come out monotone in the color I needed, but not the right suit.  I’ve noticed this before.  It seems so often when you have two hearts, for example, the flop is all diamonds.  Anyone else notice this?  Or am I crazy?

Then, I got pocket Queens.  It had been raised to $10, there were a couple of a callers and I just called.  I was recently admonished by a reader about not three-betting Queens.  And I did consider it this time.  But having been burned with Aces and Kings, I just couldn’t find the intestinal fortitude to do it.  It was five ways to the flop, which had a big shiny Ace on it.  When Stan made a pot sized bet, I let it go.

Now at this point, in addition to the Aces, Kings, and Queens, I had only had one other pocket pair—4’s, which was the first one I’d gotten (and totally whiffed the flop). So, having seen Aces, Kings and Queens in order, I was waiting to get Jacks.  And of course, lose with them.  But I never saw Jacks the entire session.

My stack got low enough to add yet another $100 to it.  In the big blind, I had 9-5 offsuit and no one raised.  The flop came 6-7-8, two hearts.  I bet $12 and got two callers (I think there were six in pre).  The turn was a black 4 and I bet $40 and took the pot.

My stack continued to dwindle to low enough where I should have added another $100.  But by this time I was getting close to wrapping it up.  It sure wasn’t my day.  And I felt I’d lost enough for this session.  So, under $100, I didn’t buy more chips.  I finally got another pocket pair.  It was the dreaded Kings again.  This time, the tatted guy had straddled. By this time, that guy had used the double-up he got from me to grow his stack to about $500-$600. I raised to $25.  Honestly, I probably should have just shoved there.  The British lady called and so did the tatted guy.  The flop was Jack-9-x.  The lady checked, and the tatted guy made a donk bet.  I wasn’t sure the amount, looked like $30 or $40.  Actually, he made a point of putting two dollar chips on top of his bet.  I thought it was a little less than I had left.  It didn’t matter.  With my stack, I had already decided I was gonna live or die with those Kings, unless the flop had been a lot scarier than it was.  I shoved.  The lady folded.  When asked, the dealer counted my bet and told the guy it was $15 more to call.

Of course he called.  As he was about to put his chips out, I said, “Are you sure you don’t want to take some time to think about it?”  I was obviously joking but the guy was oblivious to it.

I just assumed that I was already beat, or that if he needed to hit something he would hit it.  I was totally resigned to busting out there and leaving.  So I didn’t even really pay attention to the next two cards.  I just showed my Kings when it was over and to my surprise, he said, “I missed.”  Now, I know that one of his cards was a 9 for middle pair and the other one was—I thought—a 5.  So I dunno what kind of draw he could have had.  It wasn’t a flush draw, the flop was all red (but not monotone) and his 9 was black.  Whatever—maybe he expected to hit his other card or a 9.  But I was shocked that I actually won the pot.  Not because it was Kings—well, ok, yes, because it was Kings—but mostly because of the luck I was having this day.

That gave me some chips to work with for awhile, and after a few more orbits where I hadn’t seen another hand to play, I called it a day.  But at least I actually won a hand with pocket Kings.

The pic below serves a dual purpose.  The shirt is (sorta) like the tatted guy’s shirt.  The girl here is wearing it a helluva lot better than he did.  Also, it says “England” on it, representing the lady on my left.  She didn't resemble this girl either, but, to be fair, she wasn't wearing a shirt like this, unfortunately.


  1. "I figured this was going to be a pretty high variance game and that I would need to make a hand or two to come out ahead. I widened my calling range somewhat and tried to catch a flop."

    I feel like this is the wrong way to play a game like this. In fact, I think it's one of the worst as you are just going to bleed chips, and then run ten high flushes into jack high flushes.

    In loose games with a maniac or two, I tighten my preflop range and prepare to go to war pre-flop with a bit wider range, like AQs+ and TT+. Attack your opponents with your hand range that is by definition stronger than theirs, and play with no fear. TPTK is huge in this type of game. Do this and let the chips fall where they may.

    1. Thanks, stesser. That is the complete opposite of what Poker Grump advised a few years ago when talked about a wild game and I had tightened up, as you suggested. I think he even did his own blog post about it. Basically, all that money being tossed around and you gotta play to get any of it.

      But there was a lot of debate about it. I see both sides.

    2. My rule of thumb, and it's pretty standard in most poker circles is to play opposite the way the game is. Super tight game LAG it up, super loose game TAG it up.

    3. That was always my rule too....until the reaction to one of my posts. If you want to read more about this type of game, read the post and especially the comments (from "Rakewell" and others) in the post here:


      Rakewell, aka Poker Grump, even did his own post about it, the link is in one of his comments.

  2. "She eventually stopped straddling me."

    This is probably the only context that this could be considered a good thing.

    Long time reader, first time commenter

    1. Great to hear from you TDiddlez, thanks.

      Yeah. I chose my words very carefully for that sentence, of course! Appreciate that you caught it.

  3. Being straddled by the lady in that pic would help anyone forget a losing session quickly.


    Big L

    1. I would agree. But the lady in question, while very nice looking, didn't quite resemble the lady in the pic, and she wasn't straddling me the right way, sadly.