Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Deep down, I knew it was a dumb idea, but I did it anyway. And in the end, it was bad luck that hurt me more than my decisions. At least, I think so...

Last Saturday, there was a $25 tournament at 2 pm (which turned into a $50 tournament when you consider my rebuy -- I ran KK into AA). Then, at 7 pm, I had my usual $1/2 NLHE game. Yes, that's back to back, unless I went deep in the tourney (and was too tired to play the cash game) or busted quickly in the tournament (and had time to recover in between).

Of course, I lasted exactly until 7 pm in the tournament (going out 20-something -- the tourney has a great structure), then headed straight to the cash game, getting a little food on the way.

Thanks to four years of poker, I know a few things to protect myself in situations like this. For instance, in this case, I decided I'd limit myself to two $100 buy-ins and 11 pm as an end time (more like midnight, since I always leave later than I want). The biggest danger of a marathon session is playing tired and going off for a big number.

My first buy-in was dissolved when my AA got cracked by TT. No, I know you are thinking this is going to be an overpair vs set story, but actually, I got it all-in pre-flop. In the past few hands I'd raised twice with semi-trashy hands, so when I picked up aces I raised to the same amount ($9) hoping someone would come after me. The host of the game bumped it to $32, it folded to me, and I pushed for about $110 total. He tanked and took a long time with the decision, saying that he had his favorite hand. I suggested it was AQ, and he laughed at me: that's his least favorite hand. Oops...

During this time I seriously considered just flipping my cards up to get him to fold; not because I wanted to avoid a bad beat, but because I wanted to avoid tilting the host. Ultimately, though, I couldn't do it in a situation where his call is so +EV (if the odds were closer to 3:1, I might have done it). He finally called (which is why he's been losing money in the game) and flipped TT and I showed my aces. A ten was the first card off the deck.

After that, I was feeling pretty tired and tightened up a decent bit. Partially because I had taken the beat and didn't want to tilt, but mostly because we were playing 11-handed and I was getting crap for cards. Full table live no-limit is so boring! And the table was pretty active too, so my few limps invariably got punished.

Ultimately, over the next two hours, I lost a second buy-in. I don't have a lot of regrets except for two hands. Oddly enough, the one I regret the most didn't cost me much, but it is such a common occurrence that I feel like I should know better.

A reasonably tight/passive guy opened in middle position for $7 and I called in late position with suited connectors. The flop was all below a 9, giving me a flush draw with a gutshot. He bet $10, and I bumped it to $25, expecting to take the pot there. But he surprised me and called after a bit of thought. Originally, I had him on a big ace with the length of thought but didn't expect him to call there with overcards because I wouldn't have called there. One of my classic mistakes...

Turn came a queen, he checked, and I checked after considering firing another bullet. I felt like he was weak, but I couldn't rule out some sort of pair, possibly even TT or JJ. The river was a blank, it went check-check, and I told him he won. He showed AKo.

My disappointment in this hand was that I knew he was weak, but I got a little confused and froze up. He wasn't a calling station, so I should have fired again. I was just blind to the fact that he might be taking one off on the flop with AK. Alternatively, a slightly larger raise on the flop would have ended the hand too. That's one of my biggest weaknesses; if I'm going to bet, I need to really bet near the pot, not lean toward the half-pot side like I usually do.

The second hand is kind of the opposite mistake as the above hand. Although, actually, I'm still debating if it was a mistake.

There's one limper UTG and I raise to $8 with AJo in middle position. BB calls and limper calls. Flop comes QQ8 with two spades, it checks to me, and I bet $15 into the $25 pot. BB folds and limper calls. The limper is not a fish, but he's lost a decent amount of money in the game and tends to be very loose preflop, pretty loose on the flop, but can let go of hands in the face of obvious strength. In other words, he doesn't just play his cards, but tends to call. At this point, I figure he could have a flush draw, a pair 99 or lower (TT+ he'd raise UTG, I think), or a queen or full house. The queen is less likely because I'd think he'd check-raise the flop.

The turn comes an offsuit king, and he checks quickly. At this point, I think a little bit, and decide to bet out to get him off of a small pair. And I can't bet a little, because he could have a flush draw, so I decide on about $40 or so (into the $55 pot) but realize I only have about $65 left, so I push it. He asks me: "Why so much?" I tell him, "Because a smaller bet would commit me anyway." He still called near instantly, though, so I don't think he cared about my response to the comment.

Turns out, he had K5 of spades, for top pair and the flush draw and I don't catch my three outs to a gutshot or 2 (or 3?) outs to a better pair.

At first, I immediately started lamenting my overaggressive play. Often, in that spot, I'd just take the free card on the turn after he calls. But since then, I've thought about it more, and I think it is a nice solid bet against that kind of opponent. Obviously, if he's got a queen, I'm toast (to four outs, which soften the blow quite a bit). But a lot of the time he'll have a small pair there, and I think the king is a great scare card to knock him off. And unless he has exactly the king of spades, the big bet should price him out of the flush draw (he might still call, but at least he'd be doing it with bad odds).

The hard part is putting numbers on the outcomes and the chance of each outcome. I tried running it through poker stove, but it doesn't really take into consideration the frequencies and fold equity.

So, anybody have any thoughts?

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