September 2008
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Why I went broke with one pair in level 1

I guess I should talk about this.

For one thing, I can’t leave that embarassing ski-slope graph as the top entry on my blog.  I only need 14 more posts to push it off the bottom completely…

I lost my stack with one pair in the first level of a major tournament.  I completely suck.

It was actually the very last hand of level 1, for what that’s worth, and I had realised this as I’d posted my small blind for 25 just before the clock ticked over.

That’s only significant, because I’m not sure whether or not the villian has also realised this as he made an early position raise to 300.  Was he looking at the clock to see how much to raise, or at the blinds on the table?  Did he think that 300 was three or six times the big blind?  I really can’t be sure.

There were two callers ahead of me before I looked down at pocket queens.  I’d already lost a couple of small pots and was down to 8600 in chips.  Everyone else involved covered me.

I didn’t like the idea of just calling out of position in a four-way pot with a hand that is very vulnerable, but still probably best.  With a nice chunk of cash in the pot already, I made it 1500 to go, hoping to take it down – or be able to lay my queens down if a better hand did decide to speak up.

No such luck (well, obviously).  Villian just called and the player on the button also called.

The flop couldn’t give me a tougher decision to make: 852, all different suits.

First to act, what to do?  The pot is already way too big (4,850) for a pair of queens.  I really hate the spot.

I can’t check/fold.  I just can’t.  But check/raise might not even be an option, and if it is I’m only called if beaten.  That leaves taking a stab at the pot, and I fired 3,000 – leaving me with 4,000 and a remote possibility of getting away from the hand if the other two players go nuts.

The original raiser immediately moved all-in and the button got out of the way.

So I have an overpair to a very low, uncoordinated flop.  I only have to call 4,000 to win about 15,000 but surely I can’t be ahead?  I really really hate the spot now.

So what does Villian have?  The game’s only been going an hour and I don’t have much information, but he seems to know what he’s doing.  And he has a pair of sunglasses.

Pocket 8s, 5s and 2s are all crushing me and would be glad to get it all in right now, but I give him enough credit to be able to pass those hands to my pre-flop re-raise, even if he had raised with them in early position.

OK, there is a possibility but only a very small one, and any set here is a huge enough hand that just calling to try to keep the 3rd player around would be a better play anyway.

Bigger overpairs have me in big trouble too.  Aces and kings would all raise from early position, and may over-raise (if he did so knowingly).  But in this pot, I would expect him to put in a third raise to force out the other two players.

Why would he want to take either of those hands against three other players, especially when he only has position on one of them?

Could he have pocket 9s, 10s or jacks?  The big pre-flop raise is a particularly popular weak-ass move with pocket jacks, and those hands all look pretty good here.  But are they worth going broke with?  Not really.  Maybe if he gets to do the betting or raising, but they’re certainly not worth a call all-in.

But he might figure I can fold some hands that beat his, or factor in the chance that I’m making a play with AK (which I would often play exactly the same way).  He could even be making a move with AK himself.

The pot is simply too big and what I thought was a worthwhile pre-flop stab and a compulsory continuation bet has turned the hand into a disaster.  I should have just mucked those queens, or just called to try to flop a set, then waited another couple of hours for a better spot.

But what matters now is this decision.  Can I be ahead often enough to justify calling for the nearly 4-1 pot odds I’ve ended up with?

Obviously I decided yes, and I obviously was wrong.  He had two kings.

I blame the other players in the hand.  If they hadn’t called along pre-flop, I could have made my re-raise smaller and the pot would stay under control.  Also, if they hadn’t been involved I’d have given villian much more credit for a big pocket pair.

Oh my god it’s an awesome trap.  Oh noes he got me.  He got me good.

But although he won my chips which clearly makes it genius, I hate the smooth call with KK there.  Talk about giving yourself the best possible chance of losing.  Either I have pocket aces or I don’t, and the flop made no difference to whether his hand is best or second best so why wait until then to get the money in, after giving two other players a chance to catch up?

He has much more information pre-flop about my hand than I have about his.  With some certainty he should know that I don’t have 2s, 5s or 8s and so, by that reasoning, I should have been able to narrow his range for making this play down to almost exclusively AA.  If that was the case, I’d gracefully admit that I got it wrong and fell for a clever trap and write "nice hand".

As it is, I’m just going to say "Kings? What the fuck?".

It’s not a great deal of consolation to be honest though.