Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Pair the Board

I played some 2/5 NL at the Rio. The action doesn't seem as crazy to me as it was last year.

Perhaps poker players are collectively getting smarter. This has to be true in terms of what starting cards to play. But plenty of weaknesses still exist. Alot of these guys are unable to control their emotions. They've just busted out of a tournament and they're wearing tilt on their faces.

I've also seen plenty of bad post flop play. That seems to be where the money is made at these games. Like most people, playing post flop was always my fear in the beginning. Gotta get all the chips in preflop so I don't have to make any decisions post flop. But now I'm starting to love it.

I'm getting better at having a read or feel for where I'm at in the hand. So I'm folding hands that might seem absurd. (ie. I flop an ace with ace jack from the blinds but lay it down after a flop bet). And yet I'm also calling with crap like bottom pair when I think the other player is betting because it's the only way for him to win the pot.

These (my) moves appear fishlike to some. But of course it's the players who don't get what I'm doing that are the exact same players that I'm winning money from.

I'm choosing to have less variance by engaging in fewer coinflips. I must be playing with bad players because despite playing pretty damn tight I'm still getting paid off most of the time when I hit.

Most of the money I'm make tends to be from players calling me down with hands like top pair top kicker.

Here are a few of the hands:

Very early I end up in a decent sized pot ($229) calling down a 60 dollar bet on the river with 10,7 on a jack,10,6,3,2 board. I thought I was ahead on the river and that he had been on a draw but I checked it to him because I really didn't want to bet and get reraised.

By checking to him I figured I only had to take one punch. I don't want to bet 50 there and get raised to 150 by a guy putting me to the test and suddenly forcing me to make a bigger decision. If I check and he pushes all in I fold. But his betting 60 fit my profile of him, which was someone betting because they missed their draw and it's the only way they can win the hand. I guess you can also say I gave him the chance to bluff since he can't call with a busted draw if I bet.

Despite the good start my stack dropped all the way down to 375 after I flopped top two pair with my ace nine suited in the big blind and doubled up a dude under the gun who simultaneously flopped a set of 6's.

It was a hard hand for me in that he limped in from under the gun. So when the board came ace 9, 6 there was even a chance he held pocket aces and I was drawing dead. I of course hoped he was holding ace anything. Ace king would be great. Ace suited anything would be fine too. Ace 6 would be best of all.

He led out for 15 on the flop and two of us called. The turn was a rag. He bet 60. Guy to my right folds. I made it 160. He went all in for only 104 more. At this point the pot was too big to fold for 104. This hand cost me a total of $284. I was mainly grateful he was a smaller stack.

NOTE TO SELF: As I think back on the Vegas Year I can definitely recall losing multiple big pots at cash games with two pair. They're hard to play. Two pair wins a lot of money against those top pair, top kicker guys. But two pair also gives it back against the flopped a set crowd.

Things brightened up quickly. My 375 more than doubled to 792 after I flopped an ace high flush. Interestingly I wasn't holding the nuts after the 5,6,7 of diamonds came. I obviously could have lost to a straight flush but I certainly wasn't folding. And neither was the guy to my right with his king high flush. Crazy thing was he only held one diamond. But the 4th diamond came on the turn. I thought it was gonna kill my action. Instead it heightened it.

In what was a dream sequence, he bet out on every street and I called the whole way. Then on the river after he bet $100, I raised all in for $3oo. The fun part was the $300 was in bills and not chips. Who knew it was much more fun to toss cash rather than chips into the middle? He called and paid me off with his king. (I know it's hard to lay down a king high flush but when I reraise him there what else could I have besides the ace? What have I been calling the whole way with? In other words- I can't reraise him there with the queen.)

Suddenly on a rush I pick up aces. Old guy under the gun makes it 10. French guy next to him in early position calls. I've seen that both these guys love to defend. So I make it 50.

Looking back on the hand part of me wishes I had just called the 10 so that someone could reraise behind me. Limping continues to seem like my best strategy with aces. The only way I win big pots. Limp, reraise and try to get another player to commit his stack to the preflop. Cause once that flop hits all chaos ensues.

The old guy who raised it under the gun to 10 folds. But the French guy calls me. He was playing alot of hands. In my head I put him on something like king queen suited.

So what flop comes?

Queen, queen, rag.

Come on universe! Let me win one time when I raise preflop with aces.

I can only seem to win with aces when I limp and lay low. The benefits are twofold. If I don't get it raised behind me it becomes MUCH easier to fold aces on the flop when the board looks scary. And of course quite often someone raises behind me preflop and hand turns into party time.

Nothing is more fun in poker than the reraise. And limping with aces is a great way to do it.

But at this moment in time I raise with the aces because I decide I don't want to play the hand against two opponents so at least let me isolate. That's what I'm supposed to do right? And of course the universe mocks me and my play with the paired board.

He checks the two queens. I check. No great poker here. I check because I'm not going broke with aces on a paired board. It's that simple.

He checks again on the turn.

Okay. Fine. I 'll take a shot. I bet 25 dollars.

It's such a small bet into a $110 pot. But it's an amount I could bet if I held a queen. I expect him to call me here with a hand like pocket 9's.

Now here's where I did something silly. I had bet that $25 knowing that if he calls or raises me I'm not going to put another cent into the pot.

That's an important part of why I bet. To gain information.

So when the French guy announced "raise" I should have beaten his chips into the middle with my cards being thrown into the muck.

But I waited to see how much he was gonna bet. And the way life works, he screwed up his piles after he said raise and put out 50 instead of 25 as his initial call. So when he reached back for more chips (or what he believed to be the raise part) the dealer called string bet on him.

This should still be an easy fold. But I decided to gamble.

Now I only had to pay 25 to call. Only 25 to stick around in a pot worth 185.

There would be 210 total in the middle if I call with my aces. Yes there are 2 queens out there. That hasn't changed. So I'm still either way ahead or most likely way behind. But 25 doesn't seem so bad. Maybe I suck out and hit an ace. Or maybe he checks the river.

Yet what pains me here is I would have instantly folded for 50. So this guy gets an extra 25 out me for under betting the turn.

And I hate to use even use this as an excuse or reason for my call but as the French guy was arguing with the dealer about his turn raise not being a string bet, I started to think that the way life works I really am going to hit an ace on the river and take his whole stack. It's one of those unfair life moments where if he had just raised correctly he would have won the pot on the turn. But because the turn ends with him fighting with the dealer, of course destiny is going to screw him.

Well so much for destiny. The rivers misses me with a rag. This time he bets 50.

Again, easy fold. A chance for me to save 50 bucks. It's what pros do all the time. Saving 50 bucks now is just as good as winning 50 bucks later.


It's "only" 50 to win 260. My brain ballparks I'm getting more 5 to 1 on my money. I think to myself that if I can win this thing only 20% of the time it's actually a profitable call.

So even though deep in my bones I know he has a queen (this specific player lacked the courage to bluff at the turn and the river) I talk myself into calling.

Among the reasons that sway me:

1- I pretend he's put me on ace king and thinks he has the best hand with pocket 8,9,10, jacks.

2- I've "saved" money because of his turn string bet. The 50 I'm putting in now on the river should have come on the turn. So basically I'm getting to showdown and see his cards at a "discounted price."

3- There was that time last month when I folded a hand that would have cost me around $450 dollars to see my opponents cards. And as readers of this blog you guys suffered because of it. This time I figured I 'd try to make it up to you by "buying" the blog a hand. A hand I could afford. This way we could all see his hole cards and learn from how he played the hand.

So I pay him off to see his queen. The only real question is what was his kicker?

He turns over queen nine suited. Which incidentally is the same hand that knocked me out of a Mirage event in May. In that tournament I held aces and a guy on the button called my under the gun raise with queen nine suited. He also flopped trips.

Queen nine suited gives me the creeps. Obviously I'm never folding it again.

You know it's taking me some time but I'm finally learning the secrets of poker.

Mostly I'm just surprised that more poker authors haven't written about the power of the queen nine.

But then check out this payback: A few hands later I'm in the big blind. Old guy makes it 10 again. This time from the cutoff. A 5 dollar raise is so absurd at the 2/5 table. Don't get me started.

The French guy who just took 150 from me with the queen nine, calls the 10 from the button.

Small blind folds. I look down in BB and see 10, 4 off.

I am so folding this hand. At least that's probably what I do in a tournament. But in cash world I'm being offered an opportunity. That's right. For only $5 I can enter a pot that already contains $27. For this to be a profitable play I only need to win the hand 18.5% of the time.

Now lets say hypothetically that the Old guy has king queen off and the French guy has ace 8 off. My 10,4 wins almost 23% of the time against those two hands. So against these card holdings it would technically be a mistake for me to fold here.

However the real benefit of my calling is that when I hit something (ie two pair) I can win a much bigger pot than I will lose when I miss. When I miss the flop with 10,4 it's real easy to fold. But when 10,4 hits it will be hard for my opponents to know I'm strong.

So I call the 5 bucks, It feels like I'm throwing money away. But I trust the math.

Flop comes 4,6,8.

I check my 4's. Old guy bets 10. French guy calls. I call.

10 dollars to see if the old guy bets again on the turn.

10 dollars to see if I can hit a miracle 4 or 10.

If I miss on the turn and the old guy bets again I'm done with the hand.

But then turn is a 4.

I check. Old guy bets 20. French guy makes it 40.

I might sometimes reraise here but these are top pair top kicker kind of players. I don't want to scare them away. Unless someone has 5,7, I have the best hand. I call the 40. Old guy calls too.

River is a king.

Both of my opponents have around 130 in front of them.

I pick up a $100 bill and toss it out there.

Old guy folds. French guy calls.

I turn over 4,10. He mucks his ace 8. He's incredulous.

I've taken 9 years of French but I couldn't really understand much of what this man said to me.

I think the best translation might be to say he was surprised by the 10,4. Of course he either didn't get or wouldn't acknowledge that I was the big blind. He also didn't seem to recall that it was only 5 dollars for me to see the flop.

However he made it real clear that he was shocked that I called his raise to 40. It was fascinating to hear his description of the hand. I really think his mind protected his sanity by remembering the hand differently than it actually occurred .

He kept insisting he made it 40 on the flop when in fact he had just called the old guy's $10 bet.
This is important because if he raises the flop I fold. But I can understand why his brain did this. It's gotta be too painful to accept that you called a $100 bet on the river after the board paired and neither guy folded when you raised the turn.

Sticking with my what's becoming my WSOP side game theme: you can't really still think your top pair top kicker is good there.

Of course this was just how he beat my aces. Out flopping me on a paired board. My 10,4 takes down his top pair top kicker. And his queen,9 takes out my aces. That's poker.

I think someone might wanna tell him he's overplaying the ace 8 there.

How do you say that in French?

Tu joue le ace huit toute de temps!

One more hand worth mentioning:

Older man sits down to my right. In the first orbit he folds every hand but then when he makes it 10 on the button he announces that his bet is "a nuisance raise."

I cold call from the small blind with ace jack. Big blind calls too as does an early limper. 40 dollars in pot.

Flop is ace, 7,8. Two to a flush.

We all check to the nuisance. He bets 40 dollars.

I reach for my chips. He has around 500 in front of him.

Then I reach for my cards and throw them right into the muck.

I couldn't call a 40 bet in that spot. I could definitely raise it to 100. But I couldn't call there. So I folded.

I think there was a very good chance I was ahead in the hand. Yet I still felt good about my fold. I didn't need to get involved out of position in a hand where I could easily be dominated.

If the flop is jack,2,3 I ain't going anywhere. But it's just too easy for this guy to have ace king or ace queen. Ace 7 or Ace 8. As I folded I thought about how weak that fold must appear to some players. But not to me.

I know where my money comes from. It comes from guys who call down tight players with hands like ace jack after they make top pair. And so I folded. And waited for a better spot.

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