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.


  1. I do like the all-in flop shove to rep a set and get kk to lay down. There is a chance it might have worked given your nit image. Even when losing in the end you would have at least tried to make a move with the inferior hand.

    1. Thanks, Lester. Don said there was ZERO chance he would have folded his Kings. I think there was some chance, a very very small one.

      Oh well, we'll never know.

  2. I made an older lady once lay down KK after the flop when I held QQ. After I check shoved on the flop she put me on a set folded KK face up. Everyone at the table was in disbelief, including me as I was hoping she had JJ or 2 overs. I never showed my hand. She also just flatted my pre-flop raise as well. It happens one in a million times.

    1. Yeah, great story. Of course, not to stereotype, but an "older lady" is much different than a young aggro, whose ego probably wouldn't have let him fold even if he did fear I had him beat.

    2. My guess....he would martingale VBJ until he lost at least $10K.