Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Siren


If I’m ever going to improve as a poker player, I need to play hands like this much better, I think.  I dunno, maybe it’s just a cooler hand, but I kind of think I played it wrong and should know better.  So I’m asking you for help.

This is another session from December in Vegas and I’m only going to talk about one hand because it’s the only hand that mattered. I was having a pretty good session. I was up about $60 from my $200 buy-in.  In early position, with Ace-King offsuit. I opened to $10.  Only five players called.  So it was an inflated pot preflop.

Well, I caught the worst looking two pair you could imagine.  The flop was Ace-King-Jack.  All spades.  Every last one of them.

What to do?  I mean, seriously, what should I have done?  I didn’t want to check.  There’s no guarantee someone has a made flush (or for that matter, a made straight).  I thought I had to make anyone with a single spade pay to see another card.

But the more I think about it, the more I feel I should have checked.  No one with the Queen of spades—or even the 10 of spades—is going to fold anyway, right?  Maybe someone with a medium spade is calling too.  Or a Queen or a 10 of another suit.  And of course, no one with a flush or a straight is folding.  And there’s the slim but greater than zero possibility that someone’s flopped a Royal and I’m drawing dead.

So I bet $40.  Bad play?  Horrible play?  Defensible play?

The next guy made it $80.  It looked like he had $100 left after his bet.  And then, a truly bad player called the $80.  He was an older guy who had convinced me that he was a bad player.  Unfortunately, my voice notes don’t give me any further clue about how this guy was bad.  And I don’t remember.  I just noted that he was a bad player.  I felt like he could be sticking around with almost anything.  Of course, even really bad players flop Royal Flushes once every 649,740 hands, right?  But, the $80 he had was more than double the chips he had left after calling.  So maybe one of the reasons I thought he was a bad player was that, if he was gonna stay in the hand, he should have gone all-in there and not called.

Everyone else folded and it was back to me.  The pot was now ~$260 and it was only $40 to call.  Even so, should I have folded?  Surely one of them had me beat.  Of course, unless one o of them had the Royal, I still had outs if I was indeed behind.

I just couldn’t see folding for $40.  Is that wrong?

The turn didn’t help me at all.  It was a red 3.  I checked and the guy who min-raised on the flop shoved for his last $107.  The older guy called for less—it was like $30-$40. 

The pot was now like $450.  And it was “only” $107 to call.  And, unless someone had the Royal, I had 4 outs. 

I knew I didn’t have the right odds to call, but still, I couldn’t stop thinking about how big the pot was.  It was like a siren calling out to me—trying to seduce me. 

 And of course, my call would end the betting for the hand.  I didn’t have to worry about putting more money in on the river.

So, I let that big pot—the Siren—seduce me.  I called.

The river was a blank.

The first guy showed the nuts, Queen-9 of spades.  I am calling that the nuts even though if you just look at the board, the nuts is clearly Queen-10 of spades for the Royal.  But he had the Queen blocker.  So he knew no one had the Royal.  He knew he had the nuts even if no one else did.  Is it fair to call his hand the nuts then?

Anyway, the other guy didn’t show.  I suppose he could have had a smaller flush, or a straight.  But I think it is just as likely he had just a pair.

So that was it.  Should I have played it different?  Was it just a cooler hand?  My gut tells me I played it poorly and gave money away, but I would love to hear some of your thoughts on how and why (and especially where) I went wrong.


  1. I would check call that flop looking to full up on the turn then reluctantly fold on the inevitable turn shove and live for another day (or hand).

    And not that it would matter but my early position raise would have been $15.

    1. Thanks, westfred. What is that raise to $15 based on? Position? Or the strength of AK? I always raise the same regardless of my hand strength, only affected by number of limpers. I have seen people routinely open to $15 but it is the exception, not the rule. My raise works for most games in Vegas. In hindsight, I should have raised more to get that Queen-9 to fold pre, if he would have (probably not).

      As for checking the flop, I think that's the right play the more I think of it. Just hard for me to accept checking when you catch two pair and there are draws galore out there. But I wasn't looking at correctly, I suppose.

    2. "I always raise the same regardless of my hand strength, only affected by number of limpers."

      Rob, let me ask you this: you say, you might raise more based on how many limpers are in the pot before you. What about hands when you are UTG or early position? I think position and how loose the table is should factor in. If you are in early position with AK and the table is loose, you might even raise to $20 to get players out of the hand. Q9ss might not fold if one or two players call before him even if it's $15 or $20. But if he is the first to act, would he fold to $20? I know, I'm not folding to $10.

    3. Position really. AK in general does not play well out of position with 3-4 callers.

    4. @Ace: I do make adjustments for what the table is doing, yes. Sometimes I have to open for more and I do. Othertimes, even an $8 or $10 open is too much to get any callers. You probably want to move away from that table though.

      @Westfred & @Ace--again, I don't want to take the strength of my own starting hand into account as a good player would figure that out. As for raising more from earlier position, I don't think I've ever seen that suggestion any of the strategy books I've read. I suppose it is something to think about.

      However, this particular table had not been playing like one where five people were going to call an open from EP. It must have been a fluke that everyone had playable hands then.

      Thanks to both for your comments.

  2. Of course if you are results oriented then we know what you should have done. Unless you were going for the full house. I always look for cards that can beat me. If it is any spade then being the coward that I am I fold. You know part of poker is being able to make laydowns even two pair laydowns. Hey Rob did you see they announced they are going to raise parking rates even higher. I guess Vegas wants to get rid of people that like to drive around Vegas from Hotel to Hotel.

    1. Well, it would have taken two spades, not "any" spade to beat me. And of course I had outs to the boat. But yes, I know you have to make laydowns of big hands sometimes. But also, I can remember many times I've made those big laydowns, because there were two other people in the pot, only to see that I had them both beat. And that is so frustrating.

      Yes, I know that MGM is upping the parking rates after little more than a year that they've been in effect. I think it was timed with Caesars starting their own pay for parking plan. Since it's almost impossible to find free parking on the Strip, at least south of the Venetian, they felt they could get away with it.

      They really are doing their best to kill Vegas.

  3. Rob, when you bet $40 on the flop and he raises it to $80 and you get one more me this screams strength. Is the 1st guy raising to $80 doing it with AJ or KJ? Those are the only hands that you beat that would raise in that spot. Most of the draws are only calling your $40. The 2nd guy calls. You just built a big pot out of position. At this point, I would reluctantly call and wave the white flag to future bets.

    I would have bet $15-$20 pre-flop to try and get players out. Let's say we have 4 players in the pot. On the flop, I would check since I'm first to act. I think the bet would be half pot, $30 to $40 range and I would call. On the turn, I would check again and the bet might be around $80, I would fold.

    1. Thanks, Ace, I think that's a really good line. That, or checking the flop would have been preferable. I think I was just some what on autopilot there: You raise pre and catch two pair, you bet 2/3's the pot. I didn't think it thru.

    2. I also play hands one way and later when I write them up in my blog realize they could have been played differently.

    3. Absolutely. I actually usually figure out where I went wrong when I record my voice notes the next day, even before I write the post. But it's always nice to get feedback from my readers.

  4. You're $40 flop bet being good or bad depends upon your intention. If you had any intention to do any sort of pot size control skip the $40 flop bet. If you had made the decision that you were going to war with your hand and wanted a large pot then the $40 flop bet was a good bet. I might have tried to pay as little as possible to see the turn and maybe hit the boat. Unless the action player switch was flipped inside my head then all of my chips are going in one way or the other and I am paying to see the river. Also depends on how much I am stuck for the day as well (just kidding).

    1. Good input, Lester, thanks.

      I wasn't really thinking much beyond, well with all those draws you have to charge them. I wasn't paying enough intention to the bigger picture.

  5. I've been thinking a lot about SPR lately (stack to pot ratio) The bad player was correct in his calling all in and you had a borderline decision. I think the min raise on the flop should have given you an abundance of information. Probably the Omaha player in me. But the guy made it $80 to go with three more players behind left to act. It wasn't a heads up pot. It was a multi-way pot and people who are willing to min raise an early position bettor with others left to act is screaming at the very least a straight. The bad player probably had one of the aces you needed. In a deeper stacked game, where the SPR would be different, how would you have played this?

    1. Thanks, Alysia.

      Let's see, the SPR was about 3 (little bit more). So basically, I should be willing to get it all in if I hit the flop, and I actually smashed it with 2 pair. I mean, top pair should have been enough for me to get it all in with.

      Of course that doesn't take into account the coordinated nature of the flop, which maybe merits a re-think.

      If the SPR was bigger, if there were bigger stacks in play, I definitely wouldn't have committed there. I mean, say we both had $200 left after the guy put in $100 on the turn. I'm out of there. I was "seduced" by the fact that my call of $107 closed the action.

  6. You call too much; generally your passive response to avoiding making hard decisions.

    The post-flop decision after being raised should have been raise or fold, and if you did not want to raise, then fold. I have said this before in the comments - if you want to fight then raise, if not then fold.

    I think you should try a couple of sessions where you ban yourself from calling. It is almost always the wrong indecision.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I appreciate your input.