Saturday, October 13, 2007

The 100 Minute Exit

9:35 PM. It's Friday night at the Bellagio and I'm seated at 2/5.

I buy in for 300. It's exactly what happens to be in my wallet.

I could go to an ATM to ensure I start out with 500. But there's something fun and challenging about trying to rebuild the money in my pocket without hitting the bank machine.

And tonight it happens easily. I win two nice pots in the first hour at the table. My pocket jacks hit a set. My king jack hits trips.

Alot of my poker thinking lately has revolved around "feel" at the table.

The way different situations (with the exact same cards) can require much different responses.

This theme came up again for me on Friday night when I held ace jack on a 9,10,jack flop.

My opponent led out for a 2/3rd's the pot bet and in this scenario pretty much every possible response from me could be correct:

-I could call and see what they do on the turn.

-I could fold. It may seem weak but I'm only holding top pair on a board where someone may already have a straight. I'd certainly have no idea where I was at if an 8 or queen comes on the turn.

-I could raise to find out where I'm at. I may certainly be holding the best hand here. But if I raise and get called what do I do on the turn?

Against loose opponents I may call on this flop. Against tight opponents I may raise. However on this particular evening against this particular opponent I folded my top pair top kicker.

My opponent bet his chips in a way that seemed to me like the way you might bet chips if you just flopped a straight but didn't want it to seem like you had flopped a straight. And it just didn't seem worth it for me to go to war here.

So I make this fold. And it makes me feel confident.

11:15 PM. I make another borderline laydown. Pocket 5's on a queen, 7,7, flop. I checked to the preflop raiser and he only bet 15. I was going to call or raise here but the player to my right called in front of me and I didn't want to play a multi-way pot with my underpair. So I folded my 5's despite my radar beeping away trying to tell me that I was beating the first guy.

11:30 PM. I flop two pair with my ace queen and take all the chips from some guy who called down with ace 2. Not two pair ace two. Pair of aces, 2 kicker. That kind of ace,2. Oh dear.

11:45 PM. I flop set of 7's on 6,7,9 flop. 3rd heart comes on turn. I call one bet here but fold to his river bet when the board doesn't pair. And he shows his ace suited flush.

I wait so patiently for those sets. It stinks when they get counterfeited. At least I didn't lose too much on the hand. In past months I may have gone broke trying to stop anyone from seeing the turn. These days I usually prefer to see it and then get away from the hand if need be.

11:50 PM bathroom break. I've doubled up to exactly 600 in chips.

There was a fellow to my right who seemed pretty experienced. He didn't play many hands but when he did enter a pot it was always for a healthy raise.

Around midnight he raises to 30 after I've limped in front of him with pocket 3's. Unfortunately everyone else mucks. I'm going to muck too.

There are weird moments in poker. Sometimes I am sitting on a big pair preflop but just have the worst feeling about what is about to happen. Kind of like I already know it's going to be a disaster.

And after watching these feelings come true, it actually starts to feel reasonable to lay down a strong hand when you have this feeling.

Now in this case with my pocket 3's the opposite feeling occurred. Something inside told me to call. Not sure if this is ridiculous to read but it sure feels ridiculous to type. However a feeling is a feeling. So I call the 25 dollars and see a flop. Heck at least he has a large chip stack so if I can hit my set maybe I will get paid off well.

Flop comes out 4,5,queen. Two hearts. I check and my opponent bets 30.

Now earlier in this very same session you've witnessed me muck my top pair top kicker on the flop. And here my holdings are even weaker. I'm not even bottom pair on the board. But this situation just felt different.

His flop bet didn't seem confident. It felt more like someone with an ace trying to buy the pot. He was betting and just hoping I went away. And if I had a flush draw here he's not betting big enough to get rid of me. So I call.

Turn is a 2. I check again. I expect him to check behind me. He doesn't. This time he bets 60.

Tough decision especially if we consider that he may fire another big bet on the river. Am I really prepared to call 2 more bets here?

If I stick with my read I'm still ahead. I think he has big ace or ace suited. The 2 on the turn was harmless. I really think I still have him. So I call.

River is a 2. Other than a 3 coming out it's probably the best I could ask for.

I could lead out with a bet here but there isn't a ton of value. If I bet I'm probably not getting called by ace high. But I am getting called if I'm beat.

Thus I don't mind checking it down. I suppose I am also giving him the chance to bluff with a worse hand.

He plays with his chips for a moment and then slides 150 out there.

It's definitely more than I wanted to call.

But I can't fold now. If I'm going to fold now then I had no business calling on flop and turn.

I can still beat the same hands I could beat on the flop. And I'm still losing to same hands that were beating me on the flop. Nothing has changed.

The other big thought here is that if he has ace high and he's a good player, he knows that the only way he can win the pot is with a healthy bet. So his betting 150 makes sense. It fits the story. The irony here is he may be scared to bet as much as 150 if he actually has the queen for top pair. In other words 150 is a large bet for top pair. But not necessarily such a large bet if you've got to bluff to win the pot.

One final piece of info: he was from Arizona and the Diamondbacks had just lost game 2 in extra innings to the Rockies. It was subtle but seemed to put him on mild tilt.

So I stick to my gut and call the 150. He turns over ace suited. Ace high. He did have the flush draw the whole way but missed and bluffed on the river.

I show my pocket 3's and it genuinely shocked the table. No one said "nice hand" or "nice call." In fact my sense of the situation is that the other players were more supportive to the guy with ace suited. As if I had gotten lucky and sucked out on him. As if my call was amateurish. The irony of course is that it was the complete opposite for me. I made that call based on playing hundreds of thousands of hands the past 4 years. I made that call because I didn't believe him.

1221 AM. I win with queen jack hitting two pair on a jack queen king scary flop. This hand is significant mostly because it was the last one I will win on this evening.

12:52 AM. Folded all hands for last 31 minutes.

12:53 AM. I call preflop raise to 25 with Ace queen suited. Flop is jack, 10, 8 rainbow. Preflop raiser bets 100 (pot sized). If I knew that the player behind me was going to call then I might call here with my open ended straight draw getting 3 to 1. But I fold not knowing what's going to happen behind me.

My read was also that the preflop raiser had actually hit the flop hard. Perhaps a set. What this meant was I still wouldn't win here even if an ace or queen came. Losing these 6 potential outs (going from 14 to 8) made this an easy fold for me.

And of course the king comes on the turn and I would have hit the straight. The preflop raiser (who did have a set of 10's) pushed all in. I obviously would have called.

If the board didn't pair on the river I could have doubled up. If the board paired on the river I'd have lost my stack.

Sure I'd like my chances here. But I'm also happy to say that for the most part I've avoided playing big pots lately without being well ahead way when the money goes in.

I've been earning my money without the risk involved of shoving my entire stack into the middle. If I don't bet my entire stack, I can't lose it. I was much more willing to shove earlier in the year. Now I really smell out situations before proceeding. I would call this adjustment the #1 improvement in my game.

I ended up staying at this table for over another hour.

I finally left at 2:01 AM not having won a hand since 12:21 AM.

100 dry minutes.

The usual.

No one folds like I do.

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