Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Happy New Year!!

Wishing all my loyal blog readers (and even the disloyal ones) a Happy and Healthy New Year!

By the way, the decade of the 2010's does not end tonight as many are saying.  We don't start counting years at "zero."  We start counting at "1."  So the first year of this current decade was 2011, not 2010. This decade lasts one more year. Just so you know.

Edited to add, my pal Lightning said they did this bit in a Seinfeld episode that I had long forgotten.  You can see the punchline here and be sure to read the comments for some further explanation and debate!.  Thanks, Lightning.


In case your Christmas was a bust....

Monday, December 23, 2019

Two Boats, But One Capsized

On paper, my session from Saturday in Ventura sounds pretty good.  I flopped a full house not once, but twice.  On top of that, I had my unimproved pocket Aces shoved into and the Aces held.  Sounds like I should have made some decent money in such a session, right?  Well…..

After about 45-minutes of card deadness at the 2/3 game (I bought in for the max, $300), I looked down at a couple of Aces.  I was in early position, so I opened to $15.  I got three callers, not quite ideal.  The flop was something like Jack-9-3.  I bet $35 and only one guy called.  He was one of the blinds. The turn was a blank and we both checked. On a King river, he lead out for $80.  I called.  He said "Ace-high."  Well then, I guess my two Aces were good, huh?  It was a nice pot and suddenly I was up around $130.

A while later, I got pocket 8's.  In early position, I limped and after a few more callers, one of the blinds made it $17.  I called because I knew most of the limpers likely would.  Sure enough, it was five of us seeing the flop.

And what a flop.  Jack-Jack-8 to be exact.  Easy game, right?  Well the preflop raiser checked.  I checked too, as one tends to do when one flops a monster.  No one bet.  The turn was a harmless looking 5.  This time the preflop raiser bet, but only $25.  I was going to raise but I noticed the guy on my immediate left was already grabbing chips.  Hmmm.  I decided I could maybe make more money just calling and not scaring anyone away.  So I called.  The guy on my left did indeed bet—but it wasn't a call, it was a raise.  He made it $75.  It folded back to the initial bettor who tanked a bit and then folded.  Here's where I made my mistake.

The guy on my left had a bit less than his $300 buy-in, so I had him covered.  I decided that since he wasn't going anywhere, I could get more money from him on the river.  So I just called.  It was really dumb move, especially when I saw the river card, another damn 5.  Damn it.

I checked and he put out $100.  I figured he likely had a Jack and my goose was cooked. But, the pot seemed too damn big for me to fold a flopped boat for "just" a hundred bucks.  I shrugged and made the crying call. He might just show up with Queens or Kings or even a total bluff at least some of the time. Of course, he showed me Jack-10 and I had gotten rivered.  Yuck.

Now in my opinion, there was no way he was going to fold trip Jacks at any point in this hand.  So had I been more aggressive earlier, I don't think the outcome would have been any different, except that maybe I would have lost even more money.  But I know that is not the lesson to learn from this little misadventure.  Raising on the turn was always the right play.  In fact, I should have raised the original bet of $25 and made it $75 myself.  The guy with the Jack might have raised but he also might have just called.  But no matter what, I was destined to lose a big pot there.  Of course, I have written many times about how you don't get a lot of practice playing monsters.  I should have played this one better, though.

My poker odds calculator tells me I was an 84% to 16% favorite heading into the river.  That's poker.

Later, now down to around $165, I limped in with pocket 10's.  My buddy Don keeps telling me I need to raise with pocket 10's, but I seldom can bring myself to do it.  This was another one of those times when I couldn't do it.  There might have another caller or two and then one of the blinds made it $20.  He didn't have a big stack, much less than mine, and I probably should have let it go, but having made the mistake of limping with the 10's, I wanted to continue making mistakes on this hand, so I called.  Well guess what?  I flopped another boat!  This time it was 10-4-4. 

We were heads up and he just shoved.  I didn't even bother asking for a count, it looked like slightly less than $100. It seemed like he was going to expose his hand so I flipped my cards over.  He froze in his tracks and kept his cards face down.  The last two cards didn't help him and he just slid his cards face down to the dealer and actually left the table.  I'm assuming he had an overpair. 

I commented to anyone who was interested (and probably no one was), "That's the second boat I've flopped today, but the first time I won with it."  One or two of the other players nodded.

That got me close to even but I never could get over the hump.  I had a few hands that required me to call raises preflop and never went anywhere.  By the time I was finished, I ended up dropping $75 for the day.  Not a great result for flopping two boats, huh?

Monday, December 16, 2019

Ace on the River

A tip of the hat to Barry Greenstein for the title I'm stealing from him.

Another session at Ventura, the 2/3 game with the $300 max buy-in.  I buy in for the max.

It doesn't go well.  I am just not quite card dead enough to keep from losing money.  I miss everything. My first pot was when, from late position, I open to $15 with King-Queen of spades.  No one called.

Much later I had pocket Jacks under-the-gun.  I opened to $15.  The lady at the table made it $45.  I call, another guy called.  The flop is Queen-high.  I check and it checks around.  Ace on the turn.  I checked, the lady bet $60, I fold, the other guy folded.  Although she didn't have to, the lady showed us Ace-King.  I wonder if she would have folded to a bet from me on the flop?  But of course, I was out of position.

From the cut-off I decided to limp in with Jack-9 of clubs.  It was four-way.  The flop was 6-5-4, all clubs.  I bet $10, there was one call.  The Queen of spades hit the turn.  I bet $20.  He folded two high diamonds face up.

Well that was it.  It was getting close to quitting time and I was down to $129.  There were a few open seats at the table that they couldn't fill.  The last player to come to the table had been quite active.  Didn't seem like a total maniac but he'd played a lot of hands.  Won a big pot early, then lost a big pot, then won another big pot.  He was putting chips in play, that's for sure.  He had well over the $300 he'd bought in for when this hand happened.

In early position I had Ace-King of spades.  There had been a $6 UTG straddle.  The next player folded and the action was on me.  I made it $20.  In hindsight, I think $25 is a better raise there, but for this hand it made no difference.  It folded to this aforementioned new player, who was in the small blind.  He bet $67 and it folded back to me.

What to do?  With my stack, I couldn't see just calling.  Right?  I mean, it was either fold or shove. A call made no sense as far as I was concerned.

In a tournament, you want these kind of situations (depending on your chip-stack).  With a short-stack, you will get it all-in anytime with Ace-King, suited or not.  You'll gladly take your chances on a coin flip.  But in a cash game, you don't need to chip up.  You don't have to risk all your chips unless the situation is likely favorable.  I searched my memory bank and couldn't think of one time when shoving in a similar situation had ever worked out for me.  I mean in a cash game.  In a tournament, yeah, it's worked many a time. Not enough, but yeah, I've had my decent run outs.  But in cash games, not so much.

Of course I had to consider how my hand fared against his likely range.  I could only guess at his three-bet range.  But if it was only AA and KK, I was crushed.  Even if I throw in AK, I'm still behind that range.

Based on his activity level, I was sure his range was wider than that.  I figured for sure I could include at least QQ and JJ.  Maybe even pocket 10's and 9's.  Possibly (but not likely) lower pairs.  I also thought Ace-Queen was probably in his range, suited almost for sure and offsuit likely.  Maybe even Ace-Jack suited?

So if I was on the mark about his range, my hand was looking pretty good against it.  Now if I had a full $300 stack I could call or even just three-bet, but it was shove or nothing with that stack. I was almost near my last hand anyway, and so if I did shove and lose, well, time to head home for sure.

So I said "all-in."  Fortunately, he didn't snap call.  He actually asked for a count.  As soon as he saw that I didn't even have double his bet, he started counting out his chips to make the call.  It was $62 for him to call and he counted out $62.  We didn't show.

The asking for a count instead of snap-calling told me he didn't have Aces or Kings.  It was likely a flip against Queens or Jacks (or less).  If I was really lucky, it was Ace-Queen.

The flop came Jack-high, with two spades.  I liked the spades of course but I sure didn’t like that Jack.  Pocket Jacks was one of the most likeliest hands I put him on. Sometimes in that situation, if a player hits his set on the flop, he immediately shows his hand, excitedly.  But I didn't figure this guy for that play.  I assumed he would be stoic whether the flop hit him or not.  I just wanted another spade on the turn, thinking I might have to beat a set.  It was a red 5 instead.

The river was not the spade I was looking for.  In fact it was another red card.  But it was a red Ace, and the groan I heard from the guy told me that was good enough.

Before I had a chance to flip over my hand, he said, "Pocket Queens and he gets his Ace on the river." Well, he had my hand read right. And as I turned my cards over, he showed his two Queens. One of those Queens was a spade, for the record.

Damn, I thought this trick never worked!

This time it did.  And I was able to cash out not long after for $250.  It was a $50 loss, but it was almost a lot more. Kind of felt like a win. Nice Ace on the river.

Monday, December 9, 2019

A Strange Start and a Nice Finish

A recent session in Ventura.  We got the most interesting hand of the session out of the way early.  I'd only been in the game for an orbit or two.  There was a guy who had lost an all-in and just had a few bucks left.  He added on but only $100 so he had like $110 in front of him.  This other guy had tried to straddle for $6 under-the-gun, but he was too late.  So he left the six bucks out there, didn't look at his cards and just did a blind raise for $6.  I decided to call the $6 with Ace-6 of clubs.  Then that guy who had just bumped up his stack to $110 went ahead and shoved the $110.  It folded back to the guy who tried to straddle and he shoved—over $200.  The next guy said, "You stole my move, I was gonna do that."  He tanked for awhile but folded.  I of course folded my A-6 of clubs.  They didn't show.  The flop was 10-10-x, one club.  But the next two cards were clubs.  In other words, I would have had the nut flush if only I'd called the guy's $200+ shove.  I just laughed inwardly.  No way would it have made sense for me to call that bet with such a mediocre hand, of course.

Anyway, the guy who shoved for $110 says, "I missed," and turns over Ace-Jack, off.  All he had was Ace-high.  Surely the other guy could beat that, right?  Nope.  He said not a word and just mucked!

Whenever I see something like that, I can't help wondering what the hell he had.  Even if he was 100% sure his shove would get the last two players to fold, he was still risking $110.  Even if he suspected the other guy might have been shoving light, he couldn't be doing that with nothing, right?  You'd think at least a pocket pair—but no.  Ace-King or Ace-Queen would have won the pot.  A crummier Ace? King-Queen?  Just so strange.

In late position I limped in with Ace-6 of diamonds.  No raise and six of us saw a flop that was Queen-high, but all diamonds. Sweet.  A guy bet $10 and I just called. I dunno why I slow-played that, I guess I figured no one would call my raise on an all diamond board.  As it was, I was the only caller. The board paired the queen and the guy shoved his last $35 or so.  Of course I snap-called.  The river was a brick and he showed King-Queen for trips, my flush was good.

I had Jack-8 in the big blind and there was no raise.  Only seven of us saw a flop of Jack-Jack-9.  I bet $10 and got one call.  The turn was a Queen and I bet $15, he called.  The river was a 5.  I bet $25 but no call.

I raised to $15 with Ace-Jack of diamonds and had four callers.  So when I completely missed the flop, I just check-folded.  Then I got pocket Jacks. I raised to $15 and it was four-way.  The flop was Queen-Queen-5.  A lady lead out for $50.  Now this lady, early in the session, had flopped a boat with pocket 5's and won a big pot.  I'm pretty sure she hadn't played a pot since .  So when she led out like that, I was pretty sure she had a Queen.  I folded as did everyone else.

Now I was down a little from my $300 buy-in.  In the big blind, I had pocket 7's.  A woman who had recently joined the table opened to $23.  Apparently she didn't get the memo that we didn't open that big in this game.  She had a $300 or so stack.  Then another player called the $23.  He had a big stack too, more than the $300.  He had been very willing to put chips in play.  So I figured it was worth putting another $20 out there to close the action and see the flop.  The flop was Jack-8-7, rainbow.  I checked but unfortunately it checked around.  The turn was a Queen, no flush possible.  I bet $35 and they both called.  The river was an 8, giving me a boat.  I bet $100, but didn't get a call.  Did I bet too much or did they both miss draws?  Oh well, it was still a pretty nice pot.

And that was I for the session.  I ended up leaving up exactly $100. Not bad for the amount of hands I actually played.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Vegas Poker Scene -- December, 2019

Here's my latest column for Ante Up. You can find it embedded in the entire West region report here.  Remember, I just write the Vegas part.  You can find it in your local poker room now.


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Bob Shao of Texas won the Wynn Fall Classic’s main event in October, receiving $223K. Eugene Tito of Los Angeles scored $165K for second and Ping Liu of Michigan earned $140K for third. The $1,600 event had 1,024 entrants, resulting in a $1.5M prize pool.
The series hosted a $3,200 event with a $200K guarantee as Tucson’s Adnan Aidi earned $100K for first, while two Las Vegans, Mitch Garshofsky and Alexander Condon, claimed $88K and $44K, respectively. The prize pool of $409K more than doubled the guarantee, as the event drew 128 players. 
The inaugural Wynn Winter Classic runs Dec. 2-22. The $5,300 championship is a three-day event with one starting flight Dec. 18.  The guarantee is $1.5M. Players get a 50K stack and 60-minute levels. A $1,100 NLHE event starts Dec. 12 with a $500K guarantee. Players get 40K chips and 40-minute levels. There are plenty of $400 events, too.
VENETIAN LAS VEGAS: The October Deep Stack Showdown saw Eric Baldwin of Las Vegas win the $400 monster stack for $52K. Andrew Campbell, also of Vegas, took $33K for second and Maine’s Daniel Pickering earned $24K for third. More than 800 players created a prize pool of $275K.
Later in October, Diogo Goncalves Bento of Portugal was the big winner in the $225K Lucky Shot Series and Drawing, taking home $31K for first in the $250 main event. New Zealand’s Paul Hockin earned $19K for second and Shadd Baudoin of Vegas received $14K for third. This unique event had a fixed prize pool of $150K regardless of the size of the field. There were 645 players.
The next Deep Stack Extravaganza runs Dec. 12-Jan. 12. The biggest tournament is a three-day $3,500 event that starts Dec. 21 with one starting flight. Players start with 40K chips and play 60-minute levels. The guarantee is $500K.
A $600 doublestack has the first of its two starting flights Dec. 17.  Players get 30K stacks and 40-minute levels.  The guarantee is $150K.
The $600 monster stack is Dec. 27 with three starting flights and a $300K guarantee. Players get 35K chips and 30-minute levels on Day 1, 40-minute levels on Day 2.
The series guarantees $1.8M-plus.
SOUTH POINT: The new schedule features a 10 p.m. tournament and has guarantees for all tournaments.
The $60 NLHE tournament runs daily at 10 a.m. and
10 p.m. It also runs Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m., as well as Monday, Tuesday, Thursday at 6 p.m. Players start with 10K chips and play 20-minute levels. The guarantee is $2K for the 10 a.m., $1K for the 6 p.m., and $500 for the 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. offerings.
Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 6 p.m., a $125 deepstack. Players get 15K chips and 20-minute levels. Wednesday the guarantee is $5K, Friday and Saturday it’s $7,500 and Sunday it’s $10K.
Fans of Omaha/8 get their chance Tuesday and Friday at
2 p.m. The $60 buy-in starts players with 10K chips. The levels are 20 minutes and the guarantee is $500.
Cash games include a busy $1-$2 NLHE game with a $100 minimum buy-in and a $300 maximum. Recently, the room has been spreading a $2-$3 game ($200-$600 min-max). The room has become a popular location for the meet-up games of vloggers Andrew Neeme and Brad Owen. When they are there, there are multiple tables of $3-$5 NLHE, which has a $300-$1,500 min-max. 
Limit players will find multiple tables of $2-$4 with a $20 buy-in and there’s $3-$6 limit with a $30 minimum.
GOLDEN NUGGET: The Moose International series runs Jan. 10-15. All events, with the exception of the main event Jan. 13, are open to the public. Buy-ins are $75-$200 and a portion of each buy-in is donated to a Moose charity. Traditionally, these events are wild and loose affairs, with the juicy action spilling over into the cash games.
M RESORT: The HPT event scheduled for mid December has been postponed with an eye toward a return next year.
THE STRAT: After rebranding the casino and moving the poker room, the Strat abruptly closed its poker room in October.

Monday, November 25, 2019

"You Are Going to Go Broke on That Runout"

As promised, this is the follow-up to my previous post (here), with the pocket Jacks.  As I made clear, I was really bummed by the hand, and my reaction at the time was that I had badly misplayed the hand.  I spent way too much time obsessing over the hand for the next few hours, and then did my best to just forget about it after that.  As I said last time I promised myself at the time that I not only wouldn't blog about it, I wouldn't mention it to anyone.

Of course, if you read the comments I got to my write-up on the hand, you will notice that it is the consensus that I didn't misplay the hand at all (at least not in any way that would have changed the ultimate result) and that it was just bad luck.  Given the other player and the cards and the way they played out, there was nothing I could have done.  I was supposed to go broke on that hand.

Which brings me to the question, why didn't I realize this at the time?

It's a good question.  I've certainly played enough poker by now to have had hands like that before.  It was far from the first time I've been kicked in the pants by the poker gods.  If it was so obvious to everyone else, why wasn't it obvious to me?  For whatever reason, I wasn't able to look at it objectively.  I'd like to think if that exact hand had happened to one of my poker buddies and it was related to me, I'd have been able to recognize that it was just one of those tough hands that there's no way to get away from.

One thing that may have played in to it was that I was having a nice run since I'd arrived in Vegas.  Which is unusual.  For some reason, usually when I start a Vegas trip I tend to run bad to start, then spend the rest of the trip digging out of a hole.  This time I started out winning and had never looked back.  I had left every session ahead until the session the night before this one.  And even then, I didn't lose much.  And to this point, I had never been down a buy-in (or anywhere close to a buy-in) in any session.  So I guess I'd maybe almost forgotten what it was like to have a rough session.

Whatever, I had been back in L.A. for at least a week before my brain returned to that hand.  And it no longer gave me a pain in my gut to think about it.  I still wasn’t ready to analyze it myself, but at least I figured I could talk about it.  So I did what I usually do when I have tough hand to work through.  I discussed it with my buddy Don.  Don is not only a real student of the game, but he is being coached by top poker pro.  When I run hands by him, I get his take (it's sort of a good quiz for him), which is influenced by the coaching he's getting.  Then he often runs it by the coach to see if he's on the right track.  So I get some great input.

I texted him the hand history.  I did preface it with a confession that I was really bothered by how I played it and at the end I said, "I was really pissed at my play." 

After reading through the hand, Don replied, "I don’t think you should be pissed at your play. I think you are going to go broke on that runout."

He went on.  "Preflop, you’ve got the 4th (or 5th depending upon where you rank AK) best hand. You make a normal raise and a guy who is really aggressive repops it big, which is his standard play. Honestly, I’m never folding there."

I reiterated that I never considered folding preflop.

"Let’s say he is playing the top 25% of hands and 3-betting the top 1/4 of that range. That would mean his 3-bet range is something like 6% of hands. That would be basically something like 10-10 plus, AJ suited plus, AQ off plus, and KQ suited. Running that range through Equilab, JJ is a slight underdog to the range. Honestly, I might have 4-bet him right there. But, looking at that Equilab result, I think flatting is the better play preflop.

"So, let’s go with that call. The other guy folds and you go to a flop with a pot of $132 (his $63, your $63, the flat call of $12 and the small blind, minus $7 in rake and jackpot). You have about $280 behind so, you are a little over 2-1 stack to pot. The guy bets $53, making the pot $185. Honestly, given what you’ve told me, I rip it in right there. You have an overpair, and the flop connects with none of his range. If his range is as I laid out, then it contains 60 hands and against his entire range JJ is a 53% to 49% favorite. So, push the edge and get it in there.

"Out of the 60 hands in his range, 21 (the combos of AA, KK, QQ and 10-10 which flopped a set) have you crushed and you are most likely going to get called by all of them. Although, he could conceivably consider a fold with QQ if he thinks you are that nitty. If he folds that, it’s a HUGE HUGE win for you. The remaining 38 hands in his range, you are crushing as a whole. However, most of those hands have a lot of equity against you. For example, AK suited with a backdoor flush draw has 27% equity against your hand but is going to have a hell of a time calling a shove. KQ suited with a flush draw has 32% equity against you and also has a hell of a time calling.

"So, to get to the question that my coach always asks me to think about 'What part of his range are you attacking with your bet?' The answer is that by shoving you are attacking the 38 hands in his range that have decent equity against you and shoving to deny them that equity. In addition, there is one hand in his range (the other combo of JJ) that you chop with and are trying to deny the chop to. Furthermore, there are 6 hands in his range (the combos of QQ), that have you crushed, but that could potentially find a fold versus a shove.

"The reason that I think shoving the flop is better than calling the flop is that once you call, you are basically committed. The pot becomes $238 and you have about pot left behind. Therefore, if you are already beat, (aka, you ran into the top of his range), then you are almost certainly going broke anyhow. So, the better play is to deny equity to the remainder of his range.

"As a bonus, you put tremendous pressure on the weakest part of the top of his range (QQ and JJ) and could get a fold from them."

I responded, "So as played, I pretty much have to call the turn even without the extra equity I picked up?"

Don replied, "As played, with that turn, you have to stack off"

Yep.  I wish I could have justified my play myself.

He did ask his coach if his own take was indeed correct.  Here is what his coach said.  "Yup that all looks good, although since he’s in position I do think flatting (on the flop) is ok here as well since we only give him one free card, but I also like just shoving to deny equity to all his 2 overcard hands. But maybe it’s best to raise JJ and flat the slightly stronger hands like QQ/KK that have less vulnerability. Then we call almost any turn (we have to consider folding to an ace on the turn) in order to trap his bluffs."

So Don really had a great take, as confirmed by his excellent coach.  I was just destined to lose my stack there.

Well then.  I didn't butcher the hand (as you all told me).  But I probably should have just shoved the flop.  In this case, it wouldn't have made any difference.  Although I did consider the possibility that the guy had me pegged as so big a nit that he might have folded his Kings to a shove on the flop, thinking I either flopped a set or had Aces (and didn't four-bet them preflop).  Don said he is never folding Kings there.  Probably not….but I do think there is a greater than zero possibility that he might have.  OK, maybe just a 0.0015% chance?

Anyway, I'm glad I reached out to Don and I thank him (and his coach) for his feedback.  And thanks to all you guys for the feedback too.  I wanted to include Don's comments because of the excellent mathematical analysis.  Really valuable.

The session has a somewhat happy ending, but I'll save that for a future post.

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Dreaded Pocket.....Jacks?

This is going to be a multi-part post.  This first part will mainly about one hand from my Vegas trip.  I will explain my thought process at the time.  I would like feedback as to how I played it and how I should have played it.  Then in the next part I will tell about some feedback I did get back about it later.  Then in that part or perhaps a third part I will talk about the rest of the session.

This was a session at the Venetian, my evening cash session after playing the Wynn tournament that I discussed here.  I had driven over to the Venetian from the Wynn and after dinner at CafĂ©  Lux, I got into a 1/3 game, buying in for the usual $300.  The high hand promo was still going on.  As I've mentioned, the games sometimes get real nitty when they have that promo, but this game was anything but that.

I should mention that up until the evening before, my trip had consisted of nothing but winning sessions.  Then I had a losing cash session at the Wynn the night before this where I was just totally card dead and probably lost the minimum.  Not anywhere close to a full buy-in.  And on this day I had lost the tournament buy-in for the Wynn tourney.  But in none of the previous cash game sessions had I ever been down even a buy-in before turning a profit for the session.

There were a few loose cannons at the table, the loosest of them were the two characters directly to my right.  Now I made a bad read initially and thought these two clowns were buddies.  Only after this big hand played out did I figure out that they had just met that very night at the table.  But I swear based on their conversation you would have thought they had been lifelong pals. However, it turned out they had bonded, I guess, over their mutual enjoyment over each other's aggressive game. About the same age (20's, maybe early 30's), the only notable difference was that one was Asian and the other was Caucasian. The latter was on my immediate right, and the Asian was on his immediate right.

Both were aggros who were clearly not playing just to hit a high hand.  At the risk of shocking you, I will tell you that the Asian was the more aggressive of the two.  But the other guy, who I'm going to call "Pinto" for this tale, was plenty aggro.  It turned out that Pinto was a local and a reg in the room and the Asian was just visiting from L.A., usually played at the Bike and was staying across the street at the Mirage.  But this I didn't know at the time.

They both liked to three-bet and when they raised, or when they three-bet, they bet big.  No min-raises or anything close to that for these guys, no sir.  Although the other guy three-bet or raised preflop with slightly more frequency than Pinto, Pinto always raised bigger when he did raise.  His three-bets were much larger than standard.  By the time I'd arrived at the table, he had already accumulated a ton of chips, and had I guess nearly $1K in front of him (remember, $300 is the max buy-in).

Here's the note I wrote on Pinto:  "He played a fair amount of hands, but he wasn't a total maniac, he had a fold button. I never saw him show a bluff, but he usually got folds before the showdown. I assumed based on his frequency he was not always playing good cards."

I had started the session on the positive side and after winning several small, not particularly noteworthy pots, was up to around $340-$345.  Under-the-gun, I looked down at pocket Jacks.  I opened to $12.  I got a call from probably the third most aggro player at the table.  It folded to Pinto who counted out a bunch of chips and pushed them out in front of him.  It was $63.  I told you he liked to three-bet big when he three-bet.

Hmmm… Well I never really considered folding.  Not to this guy.  There were a few others at the table who might have gotten me to fold those Jacks to a big three-bet, but Pinto was none of those players.  My only question was, do I re-raise or just call?  I figured a raise to $150 or so would commit me and I didn't really want to risk my entire stack with Jacks.  OTOH, I couldn't get the feeling out of my mind that Pinto was full of shit, or at least that there was a good chance he was.  By this time he might have seen me as a nit and that I would likely fold my Ace-King, my Jack-Jack or possibly even my Queen-Queen to a big three-bet.  No way I was going to give into that.  Of course maniacs get dealt Ace-Ace or King-King just as often as nits do.  And he would certainly do that with Ace-King or even Ace-Queen. If that were the case here, seeing a flop would be most interesting.

So after tanking for a bit, I called.  The other guy folded.  The flop was 10-9-5, rainbow.  Pinto, being the big blind, was first to act and he bet $53. Well now, that seemed like a rather small bet for the size of the pot.  With an overpair, I couldn't possibly fold to that bet.  And I was thinking it was now even more likely he had an Ace-King type hand and was just c-betting, trying to get a fold.  I just thought if the flop hit him he'd have bet more.  I considered raising—or at this point shoving—but just called.

The turn was a 7, no flush possible.  So I had picked up a gut shot.  Honestly, I thought he would most likely check.  But he did the opposite of that.  He announced, "all-in."

Well that was a fine kettle of fish.  A part of me still thought he was trying to bully me, he was just trying to bluff me off the pot.  After all, a bet that big does kind of scream "bluff" right?  I'd seen him buy pots doing that before.  OTOH, seeing how sticky I'd been to this point, he could have had a big hand and thought he could get all my chips. 

I tanked for a long time.  My Jacks could be good right there.  If I needed help though, I had six outs, the other two Jacks and the four 8's.  The nit in me was saying , "fold, fold, fold."  But I couldn't shake the feeling this guy was full of crap.  And then I was thinking that I just had to overcome my nittiness.  There was a decent chance I was good (I still thought Ace-King was a good possibility and he was just barreling) and if not, I'd picked up those extra four outs.

Reluctantly, I called.

Pinto wasn't exactly happy, but he wasn't miserable, either.  He said to me, as he showed me his cards, "I don't know if I'm good here or not."  The two cards he showed me?  The dreaded pocket Kings.  Yuck.

I looked for one of my six outs on the river but none of them showed up.  It was a harmless. Queen, the bitch.

For some reason, I showed my hand, and slid all my chips over to Pinto.

At that moment, I thought, well, I'm never going to discuss this hand on the blog, I'm never going to tell anyone about it.  I will never speak of this hand.  I thought I really butchered the hand and had just cost myself a $300 buy-in.  I just couldn't figure out where I should have folded.

Before I say anything more, I'm going to end this post.  Please let me know what you think.  Is it perhaps just a cooler and was I destined to lose my stack based on the cards and the image of Pinto?   If not, where should I have folded?  Or should I just have played it more aggressively, which wouldn't have made a difference in this hand but would have at least been the "right way" to play?

Appreciate your thoughts.

NOTE:  As promised, the follow-up to this post is now post and can be found here.

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything

My session at Ventura was a real roller coaster ride, full of craziness. I mean flopping quads should make for a profitable session, right?  Except—then I got pocket Kings.

After a few weeks of high winds and deadly fires, it was an absolutely picture perfect day in Southern California.  In fact, it was actually too hot.  Definitely unseasonably warm for November.  I mean, I made my usual pre-poker session stop at the Costco food court, which was extremely crowded.  This food court is outside, and the lines were backed up into the parking lot, highly unusual.  I was standing in the direct sunlight, and the sun beating down on my back was actually bothersome.  Still, I was able to obtain my traditional pre-game meal (call it my version of a tailgate party, if you will) of a jumbo hot dog and a slice of pizza.

The poker room was weird.  The parking lot was fairly empty.  There were a bunch of games going and long lists but they weren't opening any new tables.  My thought was that they had sent too many dealers home because it was quiet, then got busier, but I overheard  them say that five dealers had called in "sick". I bet they were just sick of staying inside and wanted to enjoy the great weather.  I guess maybe unlike Vegas they can't call in extra board dealers.  So I had to wait over 45 minutes to get seated.

The table I finally made it to was a rather fun table.  I got a big surprise from one of the dealers—a dealer I was seeing for the first time, I believe—early in his down.  A player had put out a bunch of chips to bet, which included some $5 chips and a couple of $1 chips.  The other player asked for a count.  The dealer broke it down and said, "42—The answer to life, the universe, and everything."  OMG.  I couldn't help cracking up and smiling at the reference.  In all the times I've played poker, I never heard anyone—dealer, player, anyone—make that reference about a $42 bet before.  Admittedly, $42 is not a very common bet, but still.

If you don't know that reference, you need to familiarize yourself with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by the late, great Douglas Adams, in at least one of its many forms (radio series, TV series, movie, novels, you name it).  Just brilliant science fiction humor.  I have to give a shout out to my long-time pal Norm, who I made infinite Vegas trips with back in the day, for introducing me to this brilliant series.  At least one of our drives to Vegas was taken up with the two of us listening to the original radio series of Hitchhiker's Guide (it's original format).  We laughed all the way to Vegas, I assure you.

The dealer gave me an acknowledgement for getting the joke, and said, "Only one gets it huh?"  The player on my right had initially acted like he didn't get it, and questioned how 42 could be the answer to the ultimate question and the dealer, while smiling at me, just repeated that 42 is the answer to life, the universe and everything, and made some reference to the other guy not knowing the origin.  Then the guy said he did get it, he was just protesting that the it wasn't really the answer.  But I suspect he was just trying not to look ignorant, since no one who knew the reference would dispute it.

Another time, a player was about to get up to use the restroom.  "I have to pee," he said as he stood up.  But the dealer slid a "missed small blind" button to him.  So he said, "Well, I better wait then."   But he reiterated that he really did have to go and it was not easy.  So a few players and the dealer started making amusing references.  "Did I ever tell you about the time I went to Niagra Falls?"  "Yeah that water is really impressive." Other players having been to Niagra  Falls too.  "There was the time I couldn't fall asleep because of this really bad leak in the bathroom.  Drip, drip, drip."  One guy made "woooshing' sounds.The guy was struggling to laugh while he strained to hold out….and unfortunately for him, he liked his hand and played it all the way through.  But he managed to avoid having an accident at least.

There was one other funny thing at the table.  At one point (still the same dealer this whole time), a player made a big bet on the turn.  The King-Queen-Jack of spades were all on the board, with some offsuit low card.  The other player tanked and then folded.  I said to the guy who won the pot, "Show the Royal."  He ignored me and slid his cards to the dealer face down.  I said, "No Royal?"  He said, "I wouldn't show even if I did have it."  The dealer said, "You wouldn't show a Royal flush?"  "No, why should I?  There's no bonus for it."  I said I would show it for sure….and take a picture of it.  I mean, I've still never had a Royal flush.  Another player said he'd had a couple but not in many years.  The dealer said he'd never had one and he plays poker nearly every day.  I asked him how many he's dealt.  He wasn't sure, but he had dealt some.

Well, I swear, the very next hand, after the turn, there was a possible Royal out there.  The dealer and I started laughing (after the hand was over).  He said, "Can you imagine if I dealt a Royal right after we were just talking about it?"  I agreed that would be sensational.  And I swear, for the at least three more consecutive hands, there was a possible Royal on the board.  It was incredible.

Anyway, on to the poker.  I was definitely not card dead. I called $15 with pocket Queens.  When the flop came Ace-high I called a c-bet but then there was big raise so I let it go.

Then I got pocket Jacks.  There was one limper so I made it $15. There was a call and a short stack shoved $39. I called and the other guy called.  The board bricked out for me—and everyone else.  The flop was King-high and both of us with chips just checked it down.  My Jacks held up against Ace-Jack (the short stack) and Queen-Jack.  Well, for sure I wasn't going to catch any more Jacks on that hand—but hold that thought.

I had Ace-10 off on the button—but because of the way they do it in CA rooms, I was also the small blind for this hand.  I just completed and six of saw a flop of King-King-Queen.  There was no betting.  An Ace on the turn caused someone to bet $15, which I called and we were heads up.  The river was a Jack giving me Broadway. It checked to me and I bet $30 but didn't get a call.

I was now up to about $340-$350 (from my $300 buy-in in this 2/3 game).  Then I got pocket 10's.  It folded to me in late position so I made it $12 and got a couple of calls.  The flop was 10-5-4, two clubs. It checked to me and I bet $25, both players called.  Another club hit the turn.  It checked to me again and I bet $45.  The next guy folded but the short stack (same guy who shoved into my JJ hand—he kept rebuying for $100) called.  He didn't have many chips left and I thought it was odd that he didn't just put them all in there.  I hated the river card which was another damn club.  Of course the guy put all the rest of his chips in.  It was only around $30 or so and I just couldn't fold for that small a bet, considering the size of the pot.  Besides, I did have the 10 of clubs, so I actually did have a flush.  Maybe it was good?

Nope.  He showed the Ace of clubs (and some other highish card, not a club).  Yuck.

I had been up some before that hand and now I was down to around $240 or so.

Then I got pocket Jacks again.  Before it got to me, a guy raised to $30.  He had a huge stack, had me well covered and hadn't really been playing crazy so his making a big bet like that seemed odd.  Then another guy with a somewhat smaller stack (but more than me) called.  Well it seemed like I had a pretty good reason to call so I did.  Another guy called as well and it was a $120 pot preflop.

So imagine my reaction when I saw the flop.  Jack-Jack-9.  Bingo!  Yahtzee!  Yabba-Yabba-Do!  I guess you could say the flop hit me.  I tried to act disinterested.  Now, I just had to double check my cards to make sure I hadn't made a ghastly mistake.  As nonchalantly as possible I sneaked another look at my hole cards, just to make sure I hadn't mistaken QQ for Jacks, or perhaps I was thinking of my last hand.  Nope, those two other Jacks were still there. I've flopped quads before but it is very rare and very wonderful thing. Before I could give it much more thought, the preflop raiser kindly put out a $35 bet.  And the next guy called the $35!  Oh lucky day.  I of course just called.  The other guy folded.

Now at this point I had to start wondering if the bad beat jackpot was in play.  Maybe the first guy was just c-betting with an Ace-King type hand, but for sure the guy who called him must have something?  Something good enough to turn into a jackpot?  One could only hope.

Not sure if I've explained how they've changed the BBJ in this room.  Used to be it was always Aces full of Jacks or better beaten by quads or better.  It still is, but at odd hours, they make it a super-jackpot.  If quads are beaten by quads during those hours, the total payout is $100K.  It has to be quads vs quads.  If quads are beaten by a straight flush, no super-jackpot.  Of course, the "regular" jackpot is always on, which is a progressive that starts at $10K.  It was up to $23K when I got there this day.

And at this point in time, the super-jackpot was in effect.

So if someone had pocket 9's….well if somehow they hit their one outer, they'd still lose the pot but win $50K for the super-jackpot.  I'd settle for $25K (and the pot).  Now let's say the guy who opened to $30 had pocket Aces.  If he caught an Ace on the turn or the river, Ace's full of Jacks would qualify us for the regular BBJ.  And if by some total miracle, he caught runner runner Aces, I'd actually be on the losing side of the super-jackpot for a cool $50K.

Of course that was all just fantasy.  I certainly couldn't count on that and it really didn't affect my play, because if someone had a hand that potentially could mean a BBJ I really didn't have to worry about them folding.

Anyway, the river was a 10.  Wouldn't it be nice of one of those guys had King-Queen at least?  But they both checked.  Now I wasn't sure what to do.  As I've commented before, you don't get a lot of practice playing out-and-out monsters.  I decided to just check and make sure I gave them both a chance to catch up.  Was that wrong?  In hindsight, I think maybe a very small bet might have been better.  But I dunno—if I put out $35-$40, considering the size of the pot, it would sure look suspicious.

The river was another 9.  Now it truly was possible for that BBJ to be in play, if one of those guys had pocket 9's. But wouldn't someone with 9's full of Jacks on the flop and turn have bet the turn?  You would think so.  Or at least bet the river?  Because they checked to me, sadly.  I tried to come up with a bet they could call that would get me some chips but wouldn't look too suspect.  I put out $65.  The first guy (the preflop raiser) folded quickly but the other guy tanked for awhile….but folded.  Damn.

Well, unlike that guy who said he wouldn't show a Royal, I proudly (though somewhat disappointedly) flipped over my cards.  There was a lot of oohs and ahhs with everyone talking about the possibility of the BBJ, all the things I've mentioned already. Neither of the other players with cards revealed their hand.  I suspect the raiser had Ace-King, and the other guy had a pocket pair.  Maybe Kings or Queens?  But would he have folded Kings or Queens for $65?  Maybe a smaller pair, 8's or 7's?  I'll never know.

That gave me a nice $120-$130 profit.  So of course, I had to get the dreaded pocket Kings. I opened to $12 and it was three-way.  The flop was ugly.  Not only was it Ace high, but it was all hearts.  However, I was holding the King of hearts, giving me the nut flush draw.  I bet $25 and the next guy made it $50.  The other guy folded and I called.  The turn was a blank and I checked, the other guy bet $65.  Jeez.  My Kings were likely no good, but I still had the draw to the nuts.  I called.  No heart on the river, it was another brick.  I checked and so did the other guy.  He showed Ace-7 of diamonds.  So he didn't beat me with a flush, just Aces.

In the big blind, I got 7-deuce.  No one raised, six of us saw the flop.  It was Jack-7-7.  I checked and called $6, down to three-way.  I bet $20 on a blank turn and didn't get a call.

That was the last hand I played.  The trip 7's got me a little bit over break-even.  A profit of $10.  Seems like you ought have a better overall result on a day where you flop quad Jacks.  Oh well.