Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Paying Off Sets

I was up in Summerlin with some extra time between two appointments, and as I drove past the Red Rocks Casino, I remembered that I play poker.

I could go to work!

The only game with an open seat was 2/5 no limit. Perfect.

I was the only non-regular at the table. It was entertaining to watch the exchange of pleasantries each time one of the old guys sat down. They obviously knew each other well and must sit there all day.

As was to be expected, these guys were real tight and their play was pretty straight forward. At a table like this it's real easy for me to be the aggressor. They respect raises, so there I was betting and raising. Basically hoping that the one time I got looked up, I would actually have something strong.

Not too much action ensued and it was eventually time for me to go.

My final hand, I picked up pocket aces under the gun. I limped in. The hand before there had been fireworks preflop, and I was hoping history would repeat itself.

It didn't. No one raised behind me and the flop came out 7,8,10, with two of a suit.

I checked, anticipating that I'd be calling a flop bet.

However when a certain gentleman bet behind me, I immediately threw my cards into the muck.

I'm not so sure that I fold here on the internet, but sitting live in person, I was positive he wasn't bluffing. That much I was sure of.

Now where it gets hard for me is that he could have a hand as weak as jack 10 or ace 10, and still make the exact same bet here to protect it. Even though it would be a weaker holding than my aces.

But there are also plenty of hands I'm losing to here. With the flop bringing a flush draw, he'd also make this same bet with two pair, a set, a straight.

Perhaps even if he's holding just a 9.

So I'm beating top pair here. If that's what he's got. I'm also beating a draw.
But I'm sure not itching to play a big pot with just a big pair. I can call and see if he bets again on the turn. I can also reraise him to see where I'm at. But if he calls my reraise (which I'm guessing he will) I'm suddenly playing the rest of the hand out of position, with top pair, scared to put more money in, and still unsure if I'm facing a draw or made hand.

This is one of those moments in poker where it doesn't matter to me if I lay down the best hand. What matters more is I don't go broke against a tight player trying to defend a big pair in a hand where I didn't even raise preflop. All I've lost here is 5 bucks. Do I really want to play a big pot on a 7,8,10 board with pocket aces?

Not against this guy. So my big pair went into the muck. Yet what I find really interesting is if I was playing something like ace 10 suited, and hit top pair on this exact 7,8,10, flop, then I'm probably not going away on the flop. I'm either betting, raising or calling a bet.

Yet with a stronger hand than top pair, a more powerful overpair, I sometimes get overly cautious. It's an illogical strategy in that I'm playing the stronger hand (an over pair like aces) weaker and the weaker hand (ace 10 hitting top pair 10 on the flop) stronger.

To balance this inconsistency out, I could adjust my play. I could hold onto my big pairs a little deeper into hands. Play them more aggressively. Not go away so easily on the flop. Similarly I could play my top pairs a little weaker. Muck them more often when I get a read that I'm beat.

This is a big poker issue for me to resolve because I don't usually make my money with big pairs or top pair. Mainly I try not to LOSE alot of money in these spots.

In psychology, they say we fear the thing that has already happened. I've seen thousands of hands. Mathematically speaking, I know pocket aces is a better hand than ace 10 on a 10,8,7 flop. Yet it often seems that a hand like ace 10 holds up and top pair wins. While pocket aces run into something like two pair. I know this isn't always true. But that's what it feels like.

I'm sharing this concept because it's something I've thought about. I'm certainly aware that it's possible I made a great laydown and that my aces were beat. I don't need to make some sort of grand proclamation set in stone of how to play big pairs post flop. I can acknowledge that each situation is unique.

You want a grand proclamation?

How about:

Just because I see big pairs lose to sets every single night, doesn't mean I always have to fold my big pair post flop.

Just because I've folded a big pair when it was the best hand, doesn't mean I always have to play it post flop.

How far to go with top pair is a very tough question in poker. This topic is actually why limit poker can often be less stressful. Sure people stick around and chase draws and suck out on you. But at least you can happily pay off someone's set with top pair and not lose your stack.

1 comment:

lj said...

great post, as usual. hope to meet you in vegas -- ck has been talking you up since i met her.