Sunday, September 9, 2018

Calling the Clock on Kings

No Vegas for me this Labor Day Weekend.  As I've made clear in numerous posts, the folks who run Vegas are giving me less and less incentive to go there all the time.  So I just could not find the motivation to make the trek.

Instead I played a big tournament at Commerce, part of their Commerce Poker Series, the Saturday of the holiday weekend.  It was a $350, $100K guarantee, two-day tourney. They called it a Triple Stack because the starting stack was 30K.  The levels were 30-minutes on day 1, 40-minutes on day 2. It had the big blind ante which is great and which every single NLH hold'em tournament from now on should use—seriously, Tournament Directors, what are you waiting for?  One out of every 8 entrants made it to day 2 and if you made it to day 2 you were in the money.

I played for a long time—8 hours in fact—but (spoiler!!!) didn't make it to day 2 or the money.  Still I want to talk about some hands and one hand in particular that kind of perturbed me the more I thought about it.  A player not in the hand may have affected the result of a potentially big hand I was involved in by doing something he had every right to do….but still, I wonder if I got a bad break.  I dunno, when I get to it, I will lay it out for you.

It's amazing I lasted so long because of course I was extremely card dead.  But a few times along the way when I really need a miracle to survive, I got one (until the last time, when I didn't).  And that makes it so frustrating. I mean I pulled a few horseshoes out of my ass and still wasn't able to make the money. What hope do I have when I don't get these miracles?

Early on the first pocket pair I saw was Aces. I raised and bet all three streets and some clown hit a gutshot on the river to take the pot.

I started level 4 (300/200/300) down to $15,500.  There was a hand where I probably made a bad fold poker wise but results wise it was correct.  I was in late position with King-Queen off.  A fairly conservative player opened to $800 and I called.  So did this Aggro-Russian who played a lot of hands and liked to raise and re-raise.  The flop was King-Queen-10, two hearts.  The preflop raiser bet $1,400 or something like that.  I made it $3,800.  The Russian snap called, no surprise.  The preflop bettor announced all-in and he had me covered (so did the Russian).  I tanked.  Based on his play, I would have been shocked if he had done that with just the flush draw, or even a pair and a flush draw.  But of course I could be wrong.  My thought was he likely had a set, most probably a set of Jacks since I had blockers to the other two sets.  Of course Ace-Jack was also possible and if he had flopped Broadway then jamming there to protect against the flush would make sense.  I finally folded.

The Russian laughed and talked a bit and finally folded face up—King-Jack.  Wow, I'm surprised he folded such a good hand.  But he asked the guy (who he was sitting next to), "You have Ace-Jack?"  And sure enough the guy nodded, laughed and did us the favor of showing his hand—Ace-Jack.  Wow.  Then Russian started giving me a hard time.  "How could raise and then fold?"  I said, "Because I knew he had me beat."  Of course I never told him what I had.  I'm not sure if a poker coach would approve of that fold there, if the numbers were in my favor or not (I mean if you give the guy a range and matched up your hand against the range).  But in real life, it was an excellent fold and kept me alive, barring a suck out (and one of my outs was obviously out of play, so I had just one King and two Queens as outs).

Now we move to level 8 (800/400/800), down to $16,300.  By this time I'd had only one other pocket pair—10's.  I raised with them, got several callers and folded to a donk bet on the Ace-high flop. So now I looked at pocket deuces and decided it was time to take some risks.  I shoved, under-the-gun.  At this table, it was almost impossible not to get a call.  A few players would call almost any bet.  I didn't expect to get it through but I figured I'd take my chances if someone would call with big cards.  And maybe medium pairs that had me beat would fold.  Whatever, I was shocked that I didn't get a call.  Oh did I mention that the Russian had busted by this point?  That partially explains it.

Same level I got another pair, pocket 8's.  There were a few limpers and I almost shoved again.  But I decided that after my last move, and with a bunch of people at least interested enough to limp, that wasn't such a good idea.  I just limped in myself and no one raised.  The flop was Ace-8-X.  The table luckbox with a big stack led out for a bet and I shoved.  He snapped called and showed Ace-King.  Huh?  I can't believe he only limped with that. He hadn't been shy about raising preflop before this.  Whatever, my set held up.  Nice double up.

Level 10 (1200/60001200) $18,800.  In late position, I open shoved Jack-10.  The big blind who had me covered snap called and showed two Queens.  Ugh. It's over, right?  Well the flop was King-Queen-X, giving him a set and me an open-ender. The turn was a 10 which didn't really help me.  But the river was a miracle Ace and I was alive and kicking with a nice double-up.  I was up to around 40K.

Now we come to the hand I alluded earlier, the one I really want to discuss. Late in that same level, I finally meet up with my old friends, pocket Kings.  First time this tournament.  And a guy with a big stack who was fairly aggro (he'd taken over the seat from the Russian and this new guy was Asian) opened to $3,800.  It folded to me and I made it $10,400.  This guy was opening a lot and I'm ahead of most of his range….unless this is the time he actually has Aces.

It folded back to him and he tanked.  Phew!  Once he didn't snap call or shove I knew I was ahead.  Now at that point, I of course want him to re-raise or at least call.  If he has to think about it, I'm in great shape.  And yeah, taking down the pot there is ok, but I need chips and a double up is what I really need to get to day 2. If he has Ace-King or Queens or Jacks and sucks out on me, well, I'll be out but the consolation prize is I'll have one more dreaded pocket Kings story for the blog and I'll know I got the money in good.  So when he goes into the tank, I am hoping he calls and I'll just take my chances (knowing if I bust I'll be driving home shouting "dreaded pocket Kings"  at the top of my lungs all the way home.

As I said, this was late in the level and also right before the next break.  And he's apologizing and saying "Sorry, but this is a tough decision."  And yeah, he's taking his time but it didn't seem to me like he was taking too much time.  I think at one point he was counting chips and it looked like he was gonna continue one way or the other and I was happy about that.  I tried to remain stone-faced of course.  So maybe I lost track of time but suddenly the guy on my immediate right, who hadn't been at the table all that long, said something about "clock."  And it turns out that there was a floor person out of nowhere who was saying "Thirty seconds."  And the guy was on the clock.  I really didn't need that.

The guy was a little unhappy the clock had been called on him and I was too, because I didn't want it to affect his decision and I think he would have talked himself into playing on (probably just a call as you'll see).  But as he was running out of time, he picked up his cards and mucked them. Face down.  But he said soon after that he had Jacks.  And I have no reason not to believe him.

Before the level ended, he kept agonizing over his decision.  "I think it was Ace-King.  I think I should have played.  He had Ace-King.  It feels like Ace-King."  Well I could do a whole separate post on whether or not he should have been willing to take a flip against Ace-King with his Jacks in his position.  But let's get back to the guy calling the clock.

The guy was upset about the clock (and of course I never said anything, never discussed what I had or anything like that).  But he started giving the guy a hard time for calling the clock on him.  "Was it really that long?"  Obviously I didn't think so.  The guy next to me said it was, it had been at least a few minutes. Then I found out what really happened.  It just so happened that the clock-caller had noticed a floorman walking by as the other guy was tanking, and just called out to him to start a clock.  Well that's not the way it's supposed to happen. A player has every right to call the clock, but he has to tell the dealer, and the dealer calls the floor.  Players aren't supposed to go to the floor as the first remedy.  And since I was concentrating on keeping my poker face, I may not have heard everything—I certainly didn't hear if the floor even asked the dealer if he thought the player had had enough time to decide, which is what the floor is supposed to do.  So this may or may not have been handled by the book.

But regardless, we all know that any player at the table has a right to call for the clock, no question.  The guy said it was taking so long that he didn't want the whole level to run out without any more hands.  But so what?  There'd be more hands the next level.  And the button was on the other side of the table.  There was no chance he was going to be able to post his big blind (and the big blind ante) before the level changed and the blinds increased.  In other words, it was no big deal for him if the clock ran out before the level ended. I think we had about 4 minutes left when the hand ended.  I doubt the guy had take more than a minute before the guy called the clock (and it was only a 30-second clock, not a 60-second clock). 

Well, I guess I'm always happy to win chips with the dreaded hand, but I can't help thinking a player not in the hand affected the outcome.  Oh and get this, seeing the guy was pissed at him, he said, "You know, sometimes the clock makes you think clearly, maybe make a better decision than you otherwise would have. Makes you more focused."  Well thanks for helping him out, buddy (although I suspect he was just saying that to get the guy off his back).  The other thing he said a few times was, "It's no big deal, you’d either have 30K more chips or 30K less."  Yeah, I'm sure that made him feel better.

Anyway, the guy who folded spent the rest of the level fuming about it, mostly because he thought he made a bad fold.  He was still thinking I had Ace-King.  I did nothing to dissuade him from that notion.  After we got back from break, before the guy who folded got back to the table, the guy next to me said, "You should tell that guy you had pocket 10's.  Really put him on tilt."  Yeah nice.  I wanted him to be on tilt cuz he called me with Jacks and lost a huge pot.

So there it is, wanted to get that off my chest.  Any thoughts?  I know it's in the rules but….I should also point out that the guy who had the Jacks had never tanked before, or after. He wasn't abusing the clock.

So level 12 (2K/1K/2K), $30,500.  Ace-King and there was a shove in front of me from a shorter stack.  I shoved.  A big stack called.  The short stack had two Queens.  The big stack had two 10's.  There was a King on the flop.  And another one on the turn.  Trip Kings hold.  Not quite a triple-up but a really nice pot. Still alive.  Oh, the guy whose QQ I'd crushed earlier with my rivered Broadway noted that this was the second time I'd cracked Queens.

The tournament ran on and I just couldn't get any momentum from the few really good pots I'd taken.  I swear I was looking for spots to make moves and there weren't any.  Our table broke and the new one had the same dynamic…..there was almost always a raise before it got to me.  And I didn't have enough to shove over a raise.  Or I'd be in early position with no raise in front of me and I'd have some total garbage hand that I couldn't shove with—because it was almost impossible to get a raise through.

I got to level 15 (4K/2K/4K) with 51K.  There had been 398 total players (prize pool $120K) and according to the clock we were down to 99.  But I knew they weren't updating the clock promptly.  Most likely they were updating every time they broke a table. Fifty would make day 2 (and the money). 

So we were probably down to 90 when I got Ace-10.  First really playable hand I'd seen in about two or three levels.  The guy on my right, who was the luckbox from the first table I was at, opened to 3X or so.  I shoved.  It folded back to him and he snap called (he had me covered of course).  I'd played with him most of the tournament and knew my Ace-10 was mostly likely ahead of anything he could have.  Sure enough he showed Queen-Jack.  Cool, I was almost a 60/40 favorite.  But he flopped a Jack and that was all I was out, probably about 40 away from the money.  After 8 hours of poker.  Note:  the min-cash for the bottom five who had to return to Commerce for day 2 was a measly $550.  You know how I feel about that, but this isn't the post about increasing the min-cash payouts.

Anyway, I did get a lot of play for my money.  Money would be better.  And I'll always wonder what would have happened if that impatient guy hadn't jumped the gun and called the clock so fast.


  1. I assume that flop came KQ 10? (You wrote KQJ)

    1. Yes thanks, Dan. I've corrected the post.

    2. As for the clock - It seems like BS but it’s hard to have much perspective on how long the guy took considering you are locked into what’s happening.

      The last $400 event I played at Venetian I recall I wanted to call the clock on someone just to try to get my big blind out of the way because this was a big blind ante tournament. I did not do so but it is frustrating in that position when you were just hoping someone will hurry up and make a decision. I know that was not this guys motivation which is weird

    3. Yeah, he wasn't going to save himself some money on the big blind, I dunno why he was so impatient. Weill never know of course if it made a difference.

    4. Using the nearby floor guy removes all doubt that calling the clock in that instance you described was a dick move.

    5. Hmmm.....good point, Lester.

  2. Calling the clock is always an awkward situation. In recent years, stalling as a standard tactic on every decision on every hand has been abused by enough players that calling the clock quicker is the only countermeasure. Eventually I think the solution will be widespread adoption of shot clocks at bigger buy-in events.

    1. I am definitely seeing more and more large buy-in events using a shot clock. Wonder if it will ever filter down to the lower buy in events?

  3. I’d love to play in a shot clock type tournament.

    1. Me too. Never have though, so far they only use it in bigger events.

  4. I've only ever called the clock on somebody in a cash game because they were repeatedly taking much longer than necessary to make simple decisions. It was like they wanted the whole table to think they always had a hand that was worth considering a call or raise and would take 30 seconds to a minute for every single action. The whole table started kind of taking turns calling a clock on them almost instantly. The dealers didn't mind becausse he was costing them money by slowing down the action and preventing them from getting more hands in during their down at our table.

    In a tournament setting I feel like the shot clock should be the norm in smaller buy-in events with a little more leeway given for more expensive bigger stacked tournaments. That said, it shouldn't take more than a minute or two to consider the previous action, piece together a possible range for your opponent, and do the necessary math to decide what your correct action should be. Those blinds and antes aren't getting any smaller and those super deliverate players are potentially affecting the play of everyone at the table by agonizing over pretty standard decisions. I'm guessing you don't 3-bet a lot and show winners a large percentage of the time at showdown, so he can probably narrow your range to things like AA, KK, QQ, and things like AK and AQ suited. So he's flipping against about 40 percent of your range and way behind the other 60 percent. Pretty easy lay down in my opinion.

    1. Thanks, Jeff. I'd like to see the shot clock in the tournies I play. In this case, I don't think the guy was talking too long but I certainly wasn't looking at the clock myself, maybe he was taking too long. You're right about what should have been his assessment of my range, I don't think he'd seen me play more than one or two hands.

      The thing I will say is, he had never tanked before and the rest of the time I was playing with him he didn't tank either. That was the one hand where he was befuddled and the guy next to me had to jump in there.

      And then maybe only because he happened to see the floor person walk by.