A Couple of Back-to-Back No Limit Hands

So I’ve been running poorly and am down a bit in a $200 buy-in NL game. I’ve been there for hours. The people there know I’m only playing the good hands. I pick up Ah Kd with $270 in from of me and decide to isolate a early limper. I raise to $20 (BB is $5), and get one caller after me, the SB, and the limper. Together the 4 of us see the flop with $80 in the pot.

Flop is As Qc 8h.

It’s checked to me and I bet out $35 into $80. That flop hits my raising range and these players, fishy as they are, realize it. There’s not much to draw to, so I feel a relatively small bet is in order. The player after me folds, and the SB (who has me covered) raises to $110. The player in the middle folds and it’s back to me.

My instincts and experience tell me that my hand is no good here, but I saw this flop with an SPR of just over 3, and at some point I feel the SPR just demands that you get it in. Should I fold here with an SPR of 3? I guess in hindsight, maybe I should.

Anyway, I put the money in bad versus the small blinds AQ and suck out a King on the river.

The SB had $47 left after paying me off. So that brings us to the next hand. A grinder with $200 in front of him raises to $20 from UTG. I look down at JJ. I pretty much flat my entire range against him because I want the weaker players to take the flop with me, because I feel I make my money from the soft spots in the game and not the good players. So I call. It folds to the button, the guy I just beat, and he’s steaming. He puts in his $47 all-in. The blinds fold, and the grinder makes it $110.

This feels like an AK move. He wants to shut me out and take his hand heads up against a weak hand with my money as a sweetener. I ponder if he could be making this move with AA or KK, and it just doesn’t seem likely. I feel like he’d want me in the pot in that case. So I move all-in. He calls with AQ. The button has 69 of clubs. My Jacks hold up, and now I’m up for the day.

I’d make the moves I did willy nilly. I had reasons for why I did them, but I am open to discussing them if you have any questions or comments.

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.”

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.

Rough Day at the New NL Table

For a time, my employer was trying to get a yellow chip limit Hold’em game going, so I ended up getting paid to play $15-30 Limit Hold’em with a kill. I loved this because I had already logged over 1000 hours of experience in that specific game. The game helped my bottom line for the time period that my casino was actively encouraging it, and I’m sorry to see them give up on it.

Still, it’s hard to deny the appeal of no limit. It’s what everyone sees on TV and what everyone wants to play. I feel I’m developing some skill at the game, but I miss the protection of limit where the bets and calls are fairly automatic most of the time and where your liability when you get drawn out of is just one more bet. So here are a couple of hands where I lost some money today.

I had about $500 in front of me, and I pick up AK of diamonds in early position. I raise it to 3 big blinds (my standard preflop raise) and get called by Tom, a somewhat reckless prop who can sometimes be easy to read, and a lose called who’s be playing a lot of hands and has more chips than I do. It was hard for me to imagine a better flop for my hand when I saw Ac 10s 7h. An ace high flop without a flush draw. The loose player checked to me, and I checked as well since the board was fairly safe. Tom bet $30 into the $45 pot and got called from the loose player, I raised the bet another $70 when it was my turn, to make it an even $100. Tom shoved all in for the rest of his stack, which was another $150 over my bet. The loose player folded. I felt obligated to call give the strength of my hand and the fact that I was now getting pod odds of $150 to $450 or three to 1. As it turns out, Tom had flopped bottom set.

I get sucked into the pot odds and the strength of the hand, but Tom is a donkey and I should not have paid it off. I’ve played with enough donkey’s to have mastered certain axioms of have they play. For one thing, a donkey may make a bet with nothing to steal the pot, but I’ve never seen one raise with nothing after the flop. A donkey can see the ace on the board, and figure that my check raise (particularly combined with my preflop raise) equated to a big ace. If they are still giving you action, you’re in trouble. I should have just laid it down there.

The other hand I played was against the loose player. He tended to play most every hand, and sometimes come in for a big raise preflop. He raised it to $30 preflop and I called him with Ah Js. It was a loose call, but he was a loose player and I had position on him. The flop came Ks 10h 8h. He checked to me, and I bet $30 which he called. The turn can with another rag heart. I checked it to me and I bet $50, he check raise me $100. Going back to the first rule of donkey poker, if they are raising you after the flop, they have a hand. That much I knew, but I also knew that I had the Ace of hearts, so he couldn’t have the nut flush, so I had some outs. It was possible that he could have had a flush, but since I had the Ace of hearts I couldn’t imagine that many suited hands he would make it $30 with before the flop, so I figured my straight draw was good too. Nine hearts in the deck, plus the 3 extra queens is giving me 12 outs. I wasn’t sure if my hand would have been good if an Ace hit, but I did figure that those extra ace outs had to figure for something. I decided that the hand was good enough to continue, and the pot odds offered on the call were three to one on odds of roughly three to one. But I figured, mistakenly, that this might be a good opportunity for a semibluff. So I shoved all in for the rest of my stack, a raise of another $250 which he called.

He had a set of 10s and I get no help on the record. This has led me to not the second rule of donkey poker: if a donkey could make a good laydown, he wouldn’t be a donkey. It’s OK to make a bet as a semibluff because they might not have much of a hand, but if they are raising you they not only have a hand, they have a hand that they are not going to let go of. Do not attempt any fancy plays from that point on. If the odds are there to try to draw out on them do so knowing that you have the implied odds of the rest of their entire stack because the simply can’t let go of the hand at that point.

Anyway, what a rotten run of cards. Still, it is nice to play a game that demands my attention. A worthy investment of my time.

A wild player in the $40 No Limit Game

So I was sitting in the $40 NL Hold’Em game with a guy who was making some bizarre plays. The first hand I saw him in, he limps in under the gun for $2, then calls a $8 raise. When the flop comes a King with two blanks, the check raises most of his stack (some $50 or so) then blindly bets the remainder of his stack on the turn. He turns over KT and loses to AK. A couple of hands later he calls an all in bet preflop with AQ and manages to beat QQ. His play was simply bizarre.

I wait to get a premium hand against him and eventually find myself with two red Kings. I raise it to $6 and get four calls, including the wild guy. Flop is Qs 10s and a blank. They check it to me and I bet $10. I get two callers including the wild guy. Turn is the Ace of spades, the absolutely worst card for me. They check it to me and I bet $15, the wild guy goes all in and I fold.

In a later hand I pick up Q7 of hearts in the small blind. It’s raised $5 so I call $4 to see the flop along with five other players (including the wild guy). Flop is Jh 9s 5h. I check and wild guy makes it $25, there’s one caller after him, so I figure I’ll call two and hope to catch a heart or a queen. Turn is the 4 of clubs. I check and wild guy goes all in. I fold and wild guy shows J5 off suit for two pair. A couple of hands later he stands up to leave. It’s after my quiting time as well, so I’m playing my last round. I get pocket 10s in middle position. Under the gun raises it to $6 and gets a caller after him, I raise it to $20 and get of the original callers calling to see the flop which is Qd 2d2s. They check it to me and I go all in for the rest of my $40 or so. Under the gun calls me and we turn over our hands and he has JJ. Fortunately, I suck out a 10 on the turn to win.

I think this last hand is the one I have the most questions about. He raised under the gun, but did not four bet my $20 raise. I mentally eliminated AA KK and QQ from his range and put him on AK or pocket pairs lows than queens (which is what he had). With that flop, and my preflop aggression, I’m good against AK and pocket pairs under me, JJ is my only real weakness, and it’s possible that I could have gotten him to fold the better hand with my bet. I think I did the right play, but, in retrospect, I’m thinking I was better off calling preflop or checking on flop and waiting to catch a 10 or fold.