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 Café  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.


  1. Based on his play I would have either called, like you did, or re-raised. After the flop, the hand play out like it should and nothing you can do. Better luck!!

  2. I agree with cb88. Nothing you could do. However, I do have a bone to pick with you about The Dreaded Pocket Kings. I got them Saturday and ran them into AA. Bah!

  3. Hi Rob You did nothing wrong. You put a read on him based on his aggressive play and he woke up with a real hand. It happens. You could have drawn out on him but the poker gods did not let it happen this time. On to the next hand.

    1. Thanks, Ed. That seems to be the consensus.

  4. I think this is a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation.

    It’s far too nitty to be folding Jacks preflop against this sort of player but you don’t really gain anything by 4 betting preflop apart from folding out all his bluffs. He’s calling with nearly all Ace-x hands and presumably shoving anyway given the situation. And what do you do to a shove? Probably a crying call hoping for an AK sort of hand.

    His downsized bet on the flop is either an overpair, set or nothing - which is obviously no help!! If it’s nothing then it’s an attempt to see a cheap turn if you don’t raise. If you minraise the flop then you’ve still got $170ish left and therefore could possibly fold if he shoves / raises, which given his hand I would have thought he would. But if he’s capable of shoving AK as a 3 bet bluff on the flop then you have to call anyway.

    But - is he a thinking sort of player? If he is then your UTG raising range has to be pretty snug and therefore his 3 bet should be only with top of the range hands as well. I’m guessing he’s not a thinking player though - him not liking your call on the turn suggests this - you’re probably not holding aces and you’d have snap called with a set or 2 pair and there are really no straight or maybe even 2 pair hands in your UTG range here so your hesitation in calling would suggest he’s ahead if he’s thinking about it properly.

    Not really much else you could have done - I would have been reaching for my wallet to rebuy as well!!

    Makes me wonder why I can’t think this lucidly at my own sessions - maybe beer is not the elixir I’d been led to believe 😂

    PS - thanks for including a link to my blog on your site - much appreciated

    1. Thanks for the great analysis. Consider my read on his play, almost all the possibilities you considered were very possible.

      Glad to add your fine blog to my blogroll.

  5. It is hard to get away from over pairs. But what is harder is limit your variance against a couple of aggros at your table. It was just bad luck you had the jack's and he had the king's. Also, sometimes it is nice to know what the other guy had and not spend the rest of the night wondering what if I had called.

    1. You make a great point. In similar situations in the past, I have folded somewhere along the line and yes, it has absolutely driven me crazy wondering if I made a good fold or just let go of the best hand. That is maddening and maybe even more distracting than just taken the big loss as I did.

    2. When people go all in, I have never run up against a stone cold bluff. Most people will try to bluff with a little bit bigger than a value bet. They want to show strength but also limit their loss if the other guy has a monster. I would never go all in as a bluff. You don't need to spend that much money to get a guy to lay down a weak hand.

    3. Great point, but honestly I have seen people go all in on a bluff. Happens more in a tournament than in a cash game, but I know I've seen it in a cash game. If they don't get called, they will show and wipe their forehead in relief. If they do get called, they usually leave embarrassed. But it is fairly rare.

  6. Consider that it cost you 1/3 of your stack to see the flop and up to that point all play was pretty standard and there were no moves you could make to change the outcome of the hand. Then you face an ALL-IN. Presenting the classic decision that I coin as "do I want to go to war on this hand?". Going to war means of course calling the ALL-IN. You only had $45-50 on top of your initial $300 buy-in so it's not like you were in a position where you were risking a $600 stack. You went to war and missed 6 outs. I would have done the same thing.

    1. Thanks, Lester. I didn't really want to go to war with those damn fish hooks, but that was the hand I was dealt.

  7. I've had a session or two where a player appeared to be betting/raising frequently and my instinct made me think he was an aggro. But after few hours, I realized the villain was catching an above avg amount of good starting hands and/or hitting flops.

    If you hadn't played with him before that session, could it be that he was catching a lot of good starting hands/hitting flops? You wrote that you never saw him show a bluff.

    That is the only reason I could come up with why you might want to fold pocket jacks. I'm not saying you misplayed the hand.

    1. Well, he might have been running well for sure, but was definitely aggressive, and liked to bully people.

      There were people at the table that might have gotten me to lay down those Jacks preflop to a preflop I think. I mean there were definitely some players whose 3-bet range was QQ+ and maybe AK. Maybe on the AK. Against that range you are not in good shape with those Jacks. Of course with a reasonable three-bet it might be worth a call anyway. But this guy....I knew for sure at the very least I needed to see the flop.