December 2022
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Carnt Fold

Here’s a hand from a PokerDome satellite I played today.

Blinds are 75/150 and I have 2250.  I am dealt Ah Ad on the button.  Lovely.  A middle position player who has about twice as many chips as me raises to 300.  A fantastic minimum raise.  I strongly suspect he doesn’t have aces here, and if he does well that’s just the way cards are falling for me lately.

I reraise, making it 900 to go.  If he’d made a proper raise I could think about smooth calling here in position, but I can’t let the blinds see a cheap flop.  So far so good I think.

He makes the call and I see a horrible flop: Jh Qd Kc.

The only good thing I can say about this flop is that it’s unsuited.  It’s still about the worst flop ever for pocket aces in a pot that saw two raises pre-flop.  All those big pairs that you had crushed have suddenly caught up.  I figure two Kings would want to apply more pressure pre-flop, but can’t count on it.  Two Jacks could get away from this but, in the hands of a big stack, could very likely wait for a low board before hanging themselves.

There are also legitimate two-pair threats, and I haven’t been paying enough attention to know whether this guy would call a reraise with KQ, KJ or QJ out of position.  You’d hope not.  Of course, what I’m really hoping for is to run into AK here, but there’s only two aces and three kings left.  It’s unlikely.

There’s even the possibility of a maniac with KT who is not going to go anywhere, and would be just about correct to call for pot odds if I move all in.  I’d still be a 2-1 favourite, but I wouldn’t like it.  TT would have a hard time folding here too, figuring he may have 10 outs, when in fact a ten is no help and two of his straight cards are in my hand.  Of all the likely hands that just got much stronger, TT is probably the least dangerous.  But you’re still going home against it one time in four.

The stacks are nowhere near deep enough to have any chance of finding out where I stand.  And not only is the other guy wearing shades, he’s also playing on the Internet – no tells here.  I have one pot-sized bet left in me, which I think is probably going in the middle whatever happens.  So I’ve decided I’m not folding.  I mean, really, how can I?

Villian checks the scary flop.  Doesn’t matter.  He checks if he’s strong.  He checks if he’s as scared as I am.  There’s no more information to be had.

Now here’s the reason I’m posting this hand.  I’ve don’t ever remember being in this situation before, and if I have been I certainly didn’t think about it this way.  I’m in position, with a hand that could very well not be best any more but unable to find a way to fold.  I check, and check with a reason.  I’m ever so briefly a little bit smug.  If I’m beat I’m beat.  I’m losing my stack.  If I’m winning and I move all in here, he’s going to be able to fold anything I beat, except maybe AK.  He’s not folding anything that beats me, but will also be hating that board with any strong hand.  By checking I bring on a free card that probably won’t matter, and encourage him to bet the turn.  Which he will now probably do with any hand that pisses on mine, but me may also take the opportunity to push with that AK, which suddenly looks more attractive, or bluff with an underpair or a straight draw, or perhaps AQ or AJ.

I’m not saying this thinking is perfect.  It probably isn’t.  I need to find a way to get away from my aces if they’re no good, and maybe I could have controlled the pot size pre-flop better in order to be able to do that now.  I’m also not saying that I put him on a hand I beat and checked to induce a bluff.  That’s not possible here.  All I can do is make sure that I get as many chips in the middle the times I’m actually ahead as I do the times when I’m toast.

It’s the wrong decision.  He moves all in on the turn (couldn’t be more of a brick: 2s) and I call.  He flips KQo, I hit a second deuce on the river and survive.  I eventually bubbled.

I’m going to be thinking about this one for a while.  It’s a peculiar decision with a reason that’s based on a negative attitude.  The decision is not that unusual really.  It’s easy to check there out of fear, just as it’s easy to shove your chips in out of panic.

I don’t ever recall being in such a horrible situation and having a clear plan.  Now I just have to figure out whether the plan was any good.  Feel free to chime in anytime.

Then three come along at once..

I often worry when I’m multi-tabling and all of a sudden there’s a rush of hands that I want to stop and take a minute to think about whether I played them right. You can be folding away for ages then suddenly three big hands come along at once, just like these. Long entry, bear with me.

Hand 1:

PokerRoom 2/4 Hold’em (10 handed) Hand History Converter Tool from (Format: HTML)
Preflop: Hero is MP3 with Jh, Js.
1 fold, UTG+1 calls, 2 folds, MP2 calls, Hero raises, 3 folds, BB calls, UTG+1 calls, MP2 calls.
Flop: (8.50 SB) 3h, 6s, 5c (4 players)
BB bets, UTG+1 calls, MP2 raises, Hero 3-bets, BB folds, UTG+1 calls, MP2 calls.
Turn: (9.25 BB) Qh (3 players)
UTG+1 checks, MP2 checks, Hero bets, UTG+1 calls, MP2 folds.
River: (11.25 BB) 2h (2 players)
UTG+1 checks, Hero checks.
UTG+1 has 8d 9d (high card, queen).
Hero has Jh Js (one pair, jacks).
Outcome: Hero wins 11.25 BB.

So should I put in one more bet on the river here? Clearly it’s not going to get called by the busted gutshot draw but should I be betting here for value? The 2h completes just about every sensible draw going and UTG+1 has not shown any aggression at any point, he’s just calling along looking like he needs another card to be happy. Plus, I still only have one pair, smaller than the highest card on board. It’s hard to figure a Q is out there, but you never know. I didn’t see any value betting here, but I could only think about it for a split second whilst other tables were flashing at me. I still think I like the check.

Hand 2:

PokerRoom 2/4 Hold’em (10 handed) Hand History Converter Tool from (Format: HTML)
Preflop: Hero is UTG+1 with 4h, Ah. CO posts a blind of $2.
1 fold, Hero calls, UTG+2 calls, 1 fold, MP2 calls, 1 fold, CO (poster) checks, 1 fold, SB completes, BB checks.
Flop: (6 SB) 2h, 8h, Ts (6 players)
SB checks, BB bets, Hero calls, UTG+2 calls, MP2 calls, CO folds, SB calls.
Turn: (5.50 BB) 9d (5 players)
SB checks, BB bets, Hero calls, UTG+2 calls, MP2 raises, SB 3-bets, BB folds, Hero calls, UTG+2 folds, MP2 caps, SB calls, Hero calls.
River: (19.50 BB) 6s (3 players)
SB bets, Hero folds, MP2 raises, SB 3-bets, MP2 caps, SB calls.
SB has Jh Qc (straight, queen high).
MP2 has Js Qs (straight, queen high).
Outcome: MP2 wins 13.75 BB. SB wins 13.75 BB.

All is good until the turn. I decide to call the flop rather than raise with 5 players in, hoping to make my draw and then get paid off by at least one player. My first turn call gives me 6.5-1 on a 4.5-1 flush draw. In all honesty I couldn’t think fast enough to work out whether the second call was good, so I hoped it would be profitable with implied odds, if not immediately. I was calling 2 big bets to win 13.5 – plenty for my draw still. If it’s capped behind me (which it was, and which I should expect to happen quite often in this spot) it becomes 3BB to win 17.5. OK that still sounds good. All in all on the turn I paid 4 BBs for a shot at a 19.5 BB pot, which was just enough to make the flush draw profitable. The call was OK, I just didn’t know it at the time!

Hand 3:

PokerRoom 2/4 Hold’em (10 handed) Hand History Converter Tool from (Format: HTML)
Preflop: Hero is BB with Jh, 3d.
8 folds, SB completes, Hero checks.
Flop: (2 SB) 2c, Qs, Js (2 players)
SB bets, BB raises, SB calls.
Turn: (3 BB) 9d (2 players)
SB checks, BB bets, SB calls.
River: (5 BB) 2d (2 players)
SB checks, Hero checks.
SB has Qc Ts (two pair, queens and twos).
Hero has Jh 3d (two pair, jacks and twos).
Outcome: SB wins 5 BB.

I don’t really know what to make of this because my blind play sucks. Right now I think I played it OK, it’s just one of those horrible SB vs BB situations where it looks like you probably got lucky but didn’t. I could check the turn but the signs are that I’m probably good so betting is best. Then after he calls the flop raise and turn bet, I figure a river bet will only be called by a hand that beats me, and I probably can’t get a better hand to fold. If only they let you chop the blinds…

Losing with a flopped straight

I’ll try not to turn this into a bad beat whinge.  I got beat, but it wasn’t particularly bad.  I just want to write the hand down to help me think about how I played it.

Party Poker No-Limit Hold’em, $ BB (10 handed) Hand History Converter Tool from (Format: HTML)

Hero ($20)
BB ($24.75)
UTG ($26.05)
UTG+1 ($37.55)
UTG+2 ($13.65)
MP1 ($36.54)
MP2 ($6.20)
MP3 ($24.15)
CO ($31.85)
Button ($27.24)

Preflop: Hero is SB with Tc, 7h. Hero posts a blind of $0.10.
3 folds, MP1 calls $0.25, 1 fold, MP3 calls $0.25, CO calls $0.25, 1 fold, Hero completes, BB checks.

So this call is a bit loose with a poor hand and no position. However this game was playing pretty weak-tight and I’d been able to take down a lot of four- or five-way pots with a single flop bet when the board came low or paired. I was in a seeing-the-flop kind of mood, and this was probably about the worst hand I’d be completing the small blind with.

Flop: ($1.25) 9s, 8c, 6d (5 players)
Hero checks

Mmmm looks good. Let’s make sure. My staight is the nuts. and the board is a rainbow. All good. I don’t need to show any strength here, with a low board I might not get any action anyway so let’s either allow someone else to take a stab or if nobody wants to bet then someone might catch a decent second-best hand on the turn.

BB checks, MP1 checks, MP3 bets $0.75, CO calls $0.75, Hero calls $0.75

OK, two people with chips to give me and two still to act. I like to call here. Make me look weak, nobody will really pay attention and encourage the other two to join in with the calling and the donating 🙂

BB calls $0.75, MP1 raises to $1.5, MP3 calls $0.75, CO calls $0.75, Hero calls $0.75, BB calls $0.75.

Now it gets interesting. A minimum raise as a check-raise from MP1 – what the hell does that mean? Does he have a huge hand? Or is he trying to build a pot with a big draw? The hand I’ve not considered so far – and at the time didn’t consider until it was to late – was the mighty TJ. This hand has a decent draw, and pumping the pot vs 4 opponents is profitable as long as nobody comes over the top. Would he do this, though, and risk a reraise from MP3 which might price out his draw completely?

There’s a wide range of hands for the min-raiser, most likely a set that thinks it’s the best or possibly a limped overpair that wants to know if it’s good. Right now there’s no hand that I’m behind. It is this bet that I just don’t know whether to call or raise. On the one hand, I want to keep everyone around when I have the nuts, but I want to make sure I know that I either still have the best hand after the next card, or that it moves me back to second place so I can get out.

Like I said, I hadn’t really considered JT as a threat. I’d decided that I’d slow down to a pair on board, although this is silly. If I figure someone for a set, let’s raise it up now because they’re never folding it. But what do I do when a Q or 7 falls… I needed to know, and didn’t.

So guess what…

Turn: ($8.75) Qc (5 players)
Hero checks, BB checks, MP1 checks, MP3 checks, CO bets $4, Hero raises $14.25 (all in) BB folds, MP1 folds, MP3 folds, CO calls $14.25.

So is my hand good? Maybe… Can I lay it down? Almost certainly not. So I think I have to push now. Against the made straight with JT I’m toast. Against a set I’m still in pretty good shape. If I just call, again I’m possibly giving an inferior hand a chance to catch up before making a difficult decision, and a quarter of the deck will pair the board to give me that decision. The pot’s big enough that I’m probably going to have to call even if it pairs, unless I can convince myself there’s really nothing I’m beating.

Then again, that $4 bet doesn’t really show any great strength. CO has limped along the whole way so far, now everyone checks to him and he bets in position on the first high card to hit the board. Maybe he just has a Q and suddenly likes the look of it, or maybe Qx two pair.

I panic-push, and this isn’t a great situation to be in or a great move to be making. The one hand that has me crushed is a distinct possibility, and I’m throwing money away to that hand, whilst if the bettor only has top pair he might well get away from it. I can’t really see many better alternatives right now though.

River: ($27) 9d (2 players)

Final Pot: $27
Main Pot: $27, between Hero and CO.

Hero has Tc 7h (straight, ten high).
CO has 6h 6s (full house, sixes full of nines).
Outcome: CO wins $27.

So I got lucky, and was against a set. Then I got unlucky and he boated to beat me.

What did I do wrong? I think I got too greedy early on. The first flop call was probably best, as long as I was prepared to react to a possible better straight getting there as well as a full house. But after the min raise, and another call I guess it’s time to start asking for information, even if I do have the current nuts. I needed to bet big enough to make a straight draw make a mistake and force any made hand to decide whether they are good.

Given a second chance, I sandbag the flop and reraise to $8. I get it all in against CO and still lose. In fact this way I’m giving him twice as much pot equity by putting my money in earlier, but I just don’t think I’m good enough to play the hand any slower and confidently make the right decision.

Why don’t you just give me your chips then?

PokerRoom 2/4 Hold’em (8 handed)
Hand History Converter Tool from (Format: HTML)
Preflop: is SB with As, Qh.
3 folds, MP2 calls, 2 folds, lucky_donut raises, 1 fold, MP2 calls.
Flop: (4.50 SB) Kc, Kd, 4d (2 players)
lucky_donut bets, MP2 calls.
Turn: (3.25 BB) Td (2 players)
lucky_donut checks, MP2 folds.
Final Pot: 3.25 BB
Main Pot: 3.25 BB, returned to SB.
No showdown. SB wins 3.25 BB.

Well I certainly can’t complain. I just don’t understand what hand he could have had here though to fold like that, on the turn and in position to take a free card. If it’s worth $2 to call the flop, it’s worth $0 to see one last card, surely? This wasn’t a disconnect either, it was a pretty quick fold but he was around next hand and not sitting out.

I was in check-fold mode here, perhaps a little weak but thinking that there’s not much I’m beating that can could call the flop bet – you have to expect a pair or better or a flush draw, which just hit. Best case is AJ or A9, which is pretty unlikely. For the size of the pot, I’m not going to throw chips away trying to take this one by force a second time. I can’t call any bet with one overcard and a gutshot draw, none of which are clean outs.

I can’t see a small pocket pair folding here to no bet – nothing to be embarassed about, and it feels like he was drawing to something, missed and then decided he didn’t want to show. Occasionally you see this, however daft it is, just so players don’t have to reveal their cards but it’s always on the river – this was a card too early. It would have to be two cards lower than a K, which is a muppet call on the flop, but not QJ (which now has a straight draw), QT or JT (which now has a pair) – so what, Q9 or J9 calling a flop bet here and hoping to catch something?

I don’t get it, but tyvm anyway 🙂

When marginal hands go good

Nice to be on the receiving end of hands like this for a change. Twice today as well, with back-to-back big blinds having poor hands turn into winners…

PokerRoom $2/$4 Hold’em (9 handed)
Hand History Converter Tool from (Format: HTML)
Preflop: lucky_donut is BB with Jc, 9c.
1 fold, UTG+1 calls, 2 folds, MP3 calls, 1 fold, Button raises, SB calls, UTG+1 calls, MP3 calls.
Flop: (8 SB) Ks, 2h, 9s (5 players)
SB bets, lucky_donut calls, UTG+1 folds, MP3 calls, Button raises, SB calls, MP3 calls.
Turn: (7 BB) 9h (4 players)
SB bets, lucky_donut raises, MP3 folds, Button calls, SB calls.
River: (13 BB) 7c (3 players)
SB checks, lucky_donut bets, Button calls, SB calls.
Final Pot: 16 BB
SB has 8h Kh (two pair, kings and nines).
lucky_donut has Jc 9c (three of a kind, nines).
Button has As Kc (two pair, kings and nines).
Outcome: lucky_donut wins 16 BB.

Nice bit of fishing – yay me. It’s close, but the pot’s a bit too big here to give up second pair on the flop even with the two-suited board. After the raise though, I figure I need to improve (unless he’s raising a spade draw), but boy do I… The overcall on the river from the small blind holding top pair and no kicker is pretty nice – he can surely only hope to be splitting this pot three ways?

Preflop: lucky_donut is BB with 7s, Qs.
2 folds, MP1 raises, MP2 calls, MP3 calls, 3 folds, lucky_donut calls.
Flop: (7.50 SB) 9d, 5s, 6c (4 players)
lucky_donut checks, MP1 checks, MP2 checks, MP3 bets, lucky_donut calls, MP1 calls, MP2 calls.
Turn: (5.75 BB) 3d (4 players)
lucky_donut checks, MP1 checks, MP2 checks, MP3 bets, lucky_donut calls, MP1 folds, MP2 calls.
River: (8.75 BB) Qh (3 players)
lucky_donut checks, MP2 checks, MP3 checks.
Final Pot: 8.75 BB
BB has 7s Qs (one pair, queens).
MP2 has Ad 4s (high card, ace).
MP3 has 8c 8d (one pair, eights).
Outcome: lucky_donut wins 8.75 BB.

Little draw, slightly better draw, oh ok then, top pair will do. I’m getting 8.5-1 on the inside draw, a bit low but with 4 players still in I figure a straight on the turn would be good for at least 2 more big bets. The double-gutshot on the turn has plenty of pot odds though. However when the hand I made was just a pair of queens, I really didn’t know whether to bet this out of position so I craply check – I’m happily calling one bet here but if I bet and get raised things get expensive with a very mediocre hand, totally weak. Figure I probably lost a bet from 88, who might well make a crying call.

Well wouldn’t you know it…

Coincidence?  First hand I play on PokerStars today and my premium hand loses to connected garbage.

PokerStars 2/4 Hold’em (8 handed) Hand History Converter Tool from (Format: HTML)
Preflop: Hero is BB with Qh, Qd. MP1 posts a blind of $2. UTG raises, 1 fold, MP1 (poster) calls, 3 folds, SB calls, BB 3-bets, UTG calls, MP1 calls, SB calls.
Flop: (12 SB) 5d, 4s, 7s (4 players) SB checks, BB bets, UTG calls, MP1 calls, SB calls.
Turn: (8 BB) 7c (4 players) SB checks, BB bets, UTG calls, MP1 calls, SB folds.
River: (11 BB) Ac (3 players)Hero checks, UTG checks, MP1 bets, Hero calls, UTG calls.
Final Pot: 14 BB
Main Pot: 14 BB, between Hero, UTG and MP1. Pot won by MP1 (14 BB).
Results: Hero has Qh Qd (two pair, queens and sevens). UTG has 6s 6h (two pair, sevens and sixes). MP1 has 7d 8s (three of a kind, sevens).
Outcome: MP1 wins 14 BB.

OK so he’d posted to play and it was only one bet to call.  But with 78 offsuit.  Out of position.  And to an early position raise.  I have to be pleased about having this player at the table though really, and what’s more pleasing is that he didn’t raise when his hand improved to a certain winner, giving me a much cheaper showdown than I should have had, and letting me check-call the scary river.  Admittedly, with any card other than an Ace on the river and I’d be coming out firing, allowing him to raise but surely the smooth call – particularly vs two opponents – was a big mistake.

I don’t think you can fold for one bet on the river here as many players would bet regardless after I check the scare card.  Leading out might be better to gain extra bets from worse hands (in this case, a juicy 66 makes a crying call).  However I still don’t know if it’s an easy fold for one more bet and a big pot – can we be sure a raiser actually has a pair of aces or better, or is just taking a stab thinking I probably do not have an ace after betting all the way so far.

I must not talk back to my superiors. I must not…

Below is the transcript of a post I made to the UK Poker Info forums, which somehow actually resulted in me getting banned from the site and the entire thread being deleted – it was only my 3rd ever post!

Whilst there is clearly an element of smugness in my being able to find fault with the original poster’s strategy hints (notably, this is one of the players who used to come to our home game, and now thinks that he is too good for us) I really did enjoy writing this and found it very satisfying to be able to create what I think is a well-reasoned analysis.

I’ll let you judge for yourself.  I’ve colour coded this for your viewing pleasure – my response is in blue, original poster is red and too-good-for-home-game is in green.

The thread began with someone asking for advice on how to play a live satellite tournament, and initial responses advised her to play tight in the early stages…

knowing u always only play prem hands and if I had a good chipstack I would call your raise with anything like 67 suited

ok how come u would call my raises with 67 suited????

if flop comes low cards which gives me some str8 options it would be hard 4 u to call a bet or a raise with cards like AK A10 etc unless u had an overpair but even so if I had an open ended  str8 I would be 2 /1 to hit it.

There are just so many things wrong with this logic…

For starters, let’s face it – you’re calling a raise with garbage.  You know you are behind in the hand and are – at best – a 2:1 dog.  Assuming the raiser’s range from early or mid position is AK-AJ and pairs AA-99 then you are actually going to be a 4:1 dog about 40% of the time (36 ace-hands vs 24 pairs).  Therefore the preflop action is serious negative equity.

(Note: I’ve since realised I miscounted here, there are 48 ace-hands – 12 suited and 36 unsuited – making you a 4:1 dog 33% of the time.).

Then by smooth calling you just keep adding to your problems.  You not only don’t make any attempt to win the pot yet, or to define your hand, you also encourage other well-stacked players to join in and create a pot that becomes very difficult to get away from when you do catch some kind of donkey draw.  You might get the odds to keep going which would be great in a cash game when going bust is not a problem.  But in a tournament you could be risking your future with 4-1 shot after the turn, or have to make another mistake by folding when you actually have the correct odds to draw.

Once you are in this pot, suddenly calling with suited connectors starts to become attractive – but not for you, for the next guy to act, and the next one, and only because of your mistake.  You’re just stuck in the middle not knowing where the hell you are at.

But as you didn’t mention position at all, lets assume that you are on the button and have great reads on both the blinds and know they are going to fold.  So you smooth-called a raise from a solid player who only plays big hands, and expect them not to bet at almost any flop? Now you’re going to raise then back to try and find out how much they like their hand?  The price for this information just went up.

The times your opponent missed, if you’ve got the balls to raise you’ll win a fair pot, probably 3-4 times your investment pre-flop.  The times you’re wrong (I can’t see why we shouldn’t still use the 40% 33% number here) you’re making a huge mistake, spewing chips and digging a very deep hole for yourself on the next street.  You are investing much more than you can ever hope to win.

On the other hand if you are talking about a "first to the pot wins" move on a low board you are in much better shape to make this play out of position, which means limping in early position with a shit hand and then calling a raise, or stubbornly defending a blind.  Or maybe you know that the player is transparent and will bet if they hit the flop (or still like their overpair) and check if they miss.  This is about the only opportunity you will have to bet and make it hard for her to call.

The problem here though is that your implied odds are a big fat zero. Whilst no-limit poker allows you to play hands with a negative pre-flop expectation because of the potentially huge payoff you can get when you make a monster hand, calling a raise and playing heads up against a premium hand is not the way to do this.  Your pre-flop call is dead money, and then you’re having to make a large bet to win it back, along with the other player’s initial raise.  Net profit is what – 3 big blinds?

Finally, if your intention is to outplay Little Miss BigCards when the board comes low and you think she’s missed, the hand selection is irrelevant.  You don’t have to have a small hand do it – any two will do.

Basically, (original poster), don’t be afraid of getting calls like this.  You need ’em.

Apologies for the amazing technicolor dreampost – it seemed a better idea before I painted it up.  Hope it’s readable!