Opponent Makes an Unbelievable Laydown

An interesting series of hands happened today that culminated in one of my opponents making a laydown I just couldn’t believe. The opponent in this question is another house player named Mary Sue. She doesn’t seem to have a lot of No Limit experience and, in my estimation, she tends to make a lot of bet sizing errors by making her average bet too large.

Here are a few hands we played together to give you some context for our big hand. All hands were played with a big blind of $5 and a small blind of $2. Hand 1: She started with about $150 and I had her covered. I raised it to $12 with AK off suit and she called out of the big blind. Flop comes KQ7 rainbow. She bets $30 into me and I call. Turn comes another spade to give two spades on the board and she goes all in for $100 more with JT of spades. I call and she misses her draw.

Hand #2: She and a couple of other players limp in. I’m on the button and limp with K4 of hearts. Flop comes Jh 10c 6h. Checks to her and she bets $60 into a $20 pot. I fold my hand, but she does get one caller. She puts him all in on the turn for another $100 and wins with a set of sixes.

Hand #3: She has about $600 in front of her and I have her covered. It folds down to her on the button and she raises it to $15. The small blind calls and I raise it to $45 with Ad Ks. Both players call. Flop comes: As 7s 5h. I check to her because I feel she tends to bet too large and will freely commit more chips to the pot than I would in the same round of betting and I want her to continue to make that error. Surprisingly, she bets a rather rational amount of $70 into a pot of $135. The small blind folds and I call.

The turn comes the 10h to make two separate flush draws on the board. I check and she tanks for a good minute. I’m trying to put her on a hand and her general uncertainty tells me she doesn’t have a monster. She bets $100 into a pot of $275, since that will leave her only with a pot sized bet of $350 or so, and since I feel I have the best hand, I put her all in. She thinks and thinks about this for a couple of minutes and then folds, face up, pocket 7s! She said she was sure I had a set of Aces or I wouldn’t have checked the flop with a flush draw out. All I had to say was, “Wow.”

Letter from a Magic: the Gathering Fan

I received this letter today from a 24 year old man in Brazil who is, apparently, a fan of mine. I don’t often get fan mail, so I thought I’d reproduce it here. Note that it is hand written in cursive, and I can’t quite decipher a few words. I also think that English may not be Pedro’s native language, so there are a few grammatical errors, but what the hey. How many fan letters to do you get?

Hello Mr. Preston Poulter,

My name is Pedro. I’m 24 and a big fan of the Magic: the Gathering card game. I enjoy this game so much as I enjoy legendary players like you, man. I don’t know if it’s your correct address. I’ve been trying to find duelist’s addresses I admire to write to them (like you) but it’s so hard to find. The only 1 I found (I guess) is yours.

All of you contributed to build my love for this game and have a happier life playing it with friends and family. I used to build my own personal decks, but I used to copy the strongest duelists decks to make me feel more powerful. With movies and rock-n-roll, Magic is the one thing that’s part of my life and people like you make us, our fans, see you as idols and people that transform the game in serious ways. So I’d like to congratulate you, first because I love your 1996 deck, and, second, because I write to everyone that takes part and contributes for the expansion of this lifestyle everyday, since my brother, the players that are more close to me, until Mr. Richard Garfield, that answered to me twice (always kindly).

And, as a great appreciator of this funny game, I’d wanna ask you something: could you please sign these 06 cards and give them back to me?? I’ve included $3 for it. Because of the work (I’m a safety technician) and the family (I got married in Oct. 2009) I don’t have much time to play now, but when I can, I do it. So, because of it I review my Magic collection of signed cards, a practice that makes me happy to get exclusive cards and, more than this, bring to you, artists of this game, my admiration and attention to thank you for all you do for your fans.

When you can/ have time/ want to answer, my address is: REDACTED

Thanks again, now for opening my letter and reading it. Now my goal is almost finished, only waiting for your answer when you wish.

All the best from your Brazilian fan,

It’s always weird getting these letters from the past. They’re addressed to me, but really, the person they’re written to doesn’t exist any more. He was a 22 year old Graduate Student in Chemistry who’s only real love seemed to be hanging out with his friends (none of whom I talk to anymore) and playing Magic: the Gathering. Still, it always makes me smile to get them and to think back on that time. My life is a lot happier now. Fame is a strange thing and I’ve always considered myself lucky to have found that out by having it in so limited a capacity.

Might Have Shove’d Too Soon

An interesting situation came up today. I was in a hand against Lizette, a house player who has little no limit experience. She sat down with a stack of $200 or so in the $100-500 NL game (with blinds of $2 and $5). She seemed to be playing a relatively straight forward short stack strategy reraising preflop for $60 or so, presumably in anticipation of an on-flop shove.

There was a hand we had played earlier where I raised her blind to $12 with J8 of diamonds. She had about a $200 stack when she called. The flop came 3s 4d 10d. She checked to me and I bet $12. She raised me to $60. I was pondering a shove her, because if a pair of jacks was good then I would have had 12 outs or so plus the fold equity of my all in move, but ultimately I folded. I later regretted this decision.

I picked up pocket nines and raised her big blind my traditional $12 raise. We both had about $400 at this point. She called and the flop came 89J rainbow. She checked and I bet out $12. Lizette raised my bet to $25. I stopped to ponder what she had here. There was about $50 in the pot and with my set I would like to put it all in hoping that she didn’t have a straight. I felt that she had some kind of hand that would prompt her to further action, so I hoped a min raise would prompt her to become pot committed, so I raised her to $50. She raised an additional $70. There was $170 in the pot now, and I felt that she was pot committed at that point, so I shoved. Much to my dismay, she folded.

In thinking about the hand, I think she had a 10 in her hand and had an open end straight draw that she chose to play aggressively. My going all in ruined the pot odds for her straight draw and she threw it away. This has left me wondering if I maybe should have raised her $70 another $140 or so. She would have had to call $140 to win $380, plus the implied odds of the rest of my stack for another $200 or so. I think that would be a correct call to make, so I think my shoving on the flop was correct in hindsight.

The Death of the “Big Hand, Big Pot” Rule

I’ve been listening to the “Deuce Plays” Podcast (which can be found at iTunes) and I think it’s really helped my game. The host, Bart Hanson, brings in a lot of people to interview and one of his guests recently commented that “Pot control was overrated.” Pot control, is basically a corollary of the old poker maxim, “Big hand, big pot. Small hand, small pot.”

That’s to say that, in no limit, you don’t want to put your whole stack at risk with a hand like AK on a board of A 10 7. If you’re a 100 big blinds deep or so, and you raise it 3 big blinds before the flop and get called and flop top pair, top kicker, you’ve made a good hand. However, it’s not good enough to put all your chips in according to conventional theory because a smart opponent can just call you with pocket pairs, hope to turn a set, on the same flop you make top pair, and take your whole stack. That’s why a lot of players play the small pocket pairs and “set mine.” So the “big hand, big pot” rule is there to protect players from getting all of their stack in with a hand as bad as top pair. According to this rule, you should seek to put all of your stack in when you get the “big hands” such as three of a kind, straights, flushes, and maybe, at the bottom end, two pair against a lone opponent.

The thing is that, for me, I’ve already had a sense of self preservation. I didn’t need some guidelines to tell me my hand wasn’t big enough for a given amount of action. For the most part, what I’ve learned with playing with donkeys is that if they’re putting money into the pot, they can only have one of two rationals:
1. They think your hand is weak and they can win the pot right now, OR
2. They think their hand is strong and they can win the pot right now.

That’s it. Now more sophisticated players have reasons for betting that include the idea that they think your hand is better than theirs and so they want to bet to knock you off your hand. That’s the kind of betting that we always suspect and want to call, but it only comes from more sophisticated players. Strangely, I’m able to play better against the more sophisticated players because I can am better able to put myself in their shoes.

The “big hand, big pot” rule works well against sophisticated players. If you’ve made a good hand, but a reasonably sophisticated opponent is giving you action, it’s probably not because they’re expecting you to fold a good hand. More likely is that they’ve made a bigger hand. So then, it seems logical to say that you should not put in more action than a given hand warrants. My problem is that it doesn’t work with a damn for donkeys. Let me run through a couple of hands than cost me some money over the last few weeks. Both of these hands are in the $100-$500 no limit game where the blinds are $2 and $5.

Hand #1: I’m in a six handed game with A9 offsuit. I enter the pot with a $12 raise (my traditional raise) and the big blind reraises me to $20. I call. The flop comes 4 5 9, so I have top pair, ace kicker. The big blind goes all in for $80. There’s already 40 in the pot, and the big pot big hand rule would say that having top pair, top kicker is sufficient to play a pot that’s only 20 big bets. But it wasn’t, he had a pair of jacks.

Hand #2: Another $12 raise with QQ and I get called by just the big blind. The flop is KQ6 rainbow. The big blind bets $15 into me and I raise it to $45, he calls. The turn is an Ace, and the big blind goes all in for $420. The big pot big hand rule would say that I’ve got a set in a headsup pot and to put the money in, but the problem is that I’m playing a donkey here and he’s probably not going to be putting that much money in all of the sudden on 2-pair. A straight is all he could have, so I should have folded.

I think I’m just going to go with the approach a lot of internet players use and that’s to trust my read on my opponent. It would have saved me a lot of money versus rationalizing why I should put the money in because my hand is X strong.

The Current Contents of my “Barbed Wire” Decks

Total 420 $85.45
Card Title Value Total Line Value
.44 Magnum/Sawed Off Shotgun $0.05 5 $0.25
4th Tradition $0.50 3 $1.50
Animal Magnetism $0.25 2 $0.50
Arson $0.05 3 $0.15
Bewitching Oration $0.25 3 $0.75
Blood Dolls $0.75 8 $6.00
Blow Torch $0.25 2 $0.50
Bonding $0.25 7 $1.75
Bribes $0.05 4 $0.20
Cat’s Guidance $0.05 4 $0.20
Celerity Strikes $0.05 14 $0.70
Chantry $0.25 1 $0.25
Computer Hacking $0.10 5 $0.50
Con Agg/KRC $0.10 16 $1.60
Con Boon $0.05 6 $0.30
Concealed Weapon $0.25 7 $1.75
Conditioning/Threats $0.25 7 $1.75
Cryptic Rider $0.15 2 $0.30
Deflection $0.75 6 $6.00
Disguised Weapon $0.05 4 $0.20
Disputed Territory $0.05 3 $0.15
Dodge $0.05 2 $0.10
Drawing out the Beast $0.10 2 $0.20
Elder Library $0.05 1 $0.05
Elysium: the Arboretum $0.15 1 $0.15
Fame $0.25 1 $0.25
Flak Jackets $0.05 2 $0.10
Fast Hands $0.25 2 $0.50
Flash $0.05 5 $0.25
Form of the Ghost/Gleam $0.05 2 $0.10
Govern the Unaligned $0.25 6 $1.50
Haven Uncovered $0.25 7 $1.75
Hawg $0.10 1 $0.10
Homunculus $0.50 1 $0.50
Hunting Ground $0.50 4 $2.00
Indomitability $0.05 4 $0.20
Intercept Cards $0.05 16 $0.80
IR Goggles $0.10 2 $0.20
KRCG News Radio $0.25 1 $0.25
Laptop Computer $0.10 4 $0.40
Lextaleonix $0.10 1 $0.10
Loyal Street Gangs $0.25 3 $0.75
Majesty $0.25 5 $1.25
Major Boon $0.25 1 $0.25
Malkavian Prank/Game of Malkav $0.15 1 $0.15
Melee Weapons $0.25 4 $1.00
Metro Underground $0.25 1 $0.25
Mob Connections $0.50 1 $0.50
Minion Taps $0.25 8 $2.00
Misdirection $0.05 2 $0.10
Obfuscate Modifiers $0.05 20 $1.00
Pack Alpha $4.00 1 $4.00
Pier 13, Port of Baltimore $1.50 1 $1.50
Phased Motion Detector $0.10 3 $0.30
Poison Pill $0.25 2 $0.50
Political Flux $0.05 1 $0.05
Police Station $0.25 1 $0.25
Powerbases $0.25 2 $0.50
Praxis Seisures $0.25 4 $1.00
Presence Bleeds $0.05 10 $0.50
Protean Agg Hand $0.05 7 $0.35
Protracted Investments $0.05 7 $0.35
Pulse of the Canaille $0.50 1 $0.50
Rat’s Warning $0.05 4 $0.20
Raven Spy $0.50 2 $1.00
Read Intentions $0.05 2 $0.10
Redirection $0.25 4 $1.00
Restoration $0.10 5 $0.50
Rumours of Gehenna $0.25 1 $0.25
Rush Actions $0.10 2 $0.20
Rutor’s Hand $1.50 1 $1.50
Seduction $0.10 3 $0.30
Shattering Blow $0.05 2 $0.10
Short Term Investment $0.05 3 $0.15
Sideslip $0.05 9 $0.45
Skill Cards $0.05 19 $0.95
Skin of Rock $0.05 4 $0.20
Skin of Steel $0.05 2 $0.10
Sports Bike $0.25 2 $0.50
Spying Mission/Change of Target $0.25 4 $1.00
Table Hating Votes $0.05 4 $0.20
Taste of Vitae $1.50 1 $2.00
Telepathic Counter $0.10 8 $0.80
Telepathic Misdirection $0.25 10 $2.50
Thaumaturgy Strikes $0.05 5 $0.25
The Barrens $0.05 2 $0.10
The Labyrinth $0.50 1 $0.50
The Rack $1.00 1 $1.00
Theft of Vitae $0.25 5 $1.25
Thrown Gate $0.25 5 $1.25
Thrown Sewer Lid $0.25 4 $1.00
Trap $0.25 4 $1.00
Undead Strength $0.05 2 $0.10
Unflinching Persistence $0.05 4 $0.20
Ventrue Headquarters $0.25 1 $0.25
Voter Captivation $1.50 2 $3.00
Walk of Flames $0.25 3 $0.75
Wolf Companion $0.10 4 $.40
WWEF $0.25 18 $4.50
Crypt Vampires for 7 Decks $0.05 18 $4.50

An Indispensable Book on Poker

My friend (and blog reader) Taylor called me yesterday to ask me questions about what constituted an out and when he would know that he was getting odds to draw. I started to explain the “rule of two” (where you treat each out as 2%) and how to convert 1 in 3 to 2 to 1.

Then I realized that what he really needed to read was the Theory of Poker by David Sklansky. It’s a book that contains concepts that a professional player keeps coming back to over and over again, without realizing that they are coming out of this book. Taylor said he wanted to buy a copy, so I decided to write this little blog post and provide a link for him.