Saturday, August 27, 2005

Poker Abby: Hamlet's Kings

Dear Poker Abby,
I show up on Saturday at a local B&M card room around noon. I put my name on the lists and pretty quickly they are starting a new 4/8, so I have a seat. It’s the first time I’ve ever set foot in this cardroom, so I don’t know any of the players and don’t know how this game usually plays.
We draw for the button and I start with the big blind. The first hand is fairly uneventful. On the second hand, an early position player raises and the cutoff calls. I make it three bets in my SB with KK. EP caps and we both call. Again, I really don’t know anything about these players.
The flop is 862r. I bet out. EP calls, CO raises and I make it three bets. Both call.

The turn is an offsuit 8. I bet out and both call.

The river is a third 8. What should I do?

Given that I wasn’t raised on the turn (I probably would have folded to a turn raise, btw), do I have a value bet here? How would you play this against unknown opponents in a game you’ve never played in before? If you dislike the way I played the flop or turn, I’d like to hear that as well.

Kings for a Play
____________________________________Dear Kings,
You know you will get comments on all parts of your play, whether you ask or not.

You most certainly have a value bet here. There’s no reason to think there’s a bigger hand out against you. AA probably doesn’t slow down on the flop, and a set (and possible AA) would have raised on the turn (unless the set was held by EP, and that’s just not very likely – raising with 66 or 22 OOP?)
One of them probably has a big pair, but even with that you’re better than 50/50 to beat that big pair (AA, QQ, JJ). One of them *may* have called with a small pair like 66 and spiked a set, but they’re now behind in that case. You’ll probably get called by any overpair, maybe that busted 66, and even a hand as weak as AK may call for the size of the pot. Somebody could have been betting a straight draw or overcards on the flop – all of that raising doesn’t mean a whole lot.

Here are the hands that I can see that might legitimately call you that you can beat: QQ, JJ, TT, 99, 66, 22, AK (52 hands).
Here are the hands that I can see still being in the pot that you can’t beat: 87, 8s9s, A8s, AA (11 hands).
So you’re 1:5 on being behind on a bet that will pay off 1:1 or 2:1. Those are great odds.

Reasons to bet:- The case 8 is almost certainly not in play. First, it is unlikely from a pure Bayesian perspective. On top of that, the betting action of both players is inconsistent with any holding involving an 8. EP likely would have not capped preflop with hands containing an 8 and if he is capable of that, he would have been fairly likely to have raised the flop or at least the turn. If CO had it, he would almost certainly have raised the turn. In addition, the fact that he coldcalled an early position preflop raise without other people in the pot makes him less likely to hold hands containing a single 8.
- If EP has AA, the fact that he didn’t raise the turn (or flop) indicates that he might not raise the river either. He will almost certainly bet that hand if checked to. So, there is a reasonable chance that if EP has AA (the only realistic scenario where I’m beaten, in my opinion), I will lose the same $8 by betting that I would by checking (since I’m obviously going to call his bet).
- If one or both opponents holds a pocket pair smaller than mine (the most likely scenario where I’m ahead, based on the board and betting), at least one of them will call my river bet. If I check, worse pocket pairs may well check behind.
- Inducing a bluff seems very unlikely both because it’s hard to imagine someone getting this far with a bluffing hand (maybe 79s for CO, but this still seems fairly remote) and because they would probably have the sense to realize that at least one of their opponents has a pocket pair and will call.
Reasons to check:- Based on his preflop play, EP could be very likely to hold AA. Even though (as Justin points out) some players, especially in 4/8 are capable of fooling around and capping with goofy hands, in my experience they tend to do this in multiway hands to build a large pot. Since he was guaranteed to have no more than two opponents at the time he capped, he is much more likely to hold a legitimate capping hand. Further, he was in early position which means that his initial raise (and thus his cap) were less likely to occur with weak hand. On top of that, my three-bet came from the blinds, which is more likely to indicate a strong hand than a three-bet from (for example) the button, so he would need a better hand to cap. A lot of 4/8 players are quite passive and would only cap, especially in this scenario, with AA or KK.
- If EP has AA, he might raise my river bet, even though he didn’t raise the turn. It is quite realistic to imagine that he would have called on the turn because he feared that the player behind him had just made trips (the CO’s flop play is highly consistent with top pair). Now that he has seen that CO didn’t raise the turn and thus is unlikely to have quads, he will raise the river since quads is now the only hand that beats him and it doesn’t look to be out, giving him the virtual nuts.
- Since both players look to have pocket pairs of some sort, there is some chance that at least one of them will bet when checked to and I will pick up the same bet I would win by betting if I happen to be ahead.
The last thing to consider is whether you think you’ll get a bluff or bet from a lesser hand if you check. If so, then it might be better to check (FOR VALUE, not for fear). But given those odds, I say bet, bet, bet.

Poker Abby
Dear Poker Abby,

Here is what happened:

For me, the deciding factor in whether to raise is how likely EP is to hold AA, since that’s the only realistic scenario where I’m beat. Again, I would be able to gauge this against known players, but I had a hard time assessing how likely an unknown 4/8 player was to hold AA here given the way the hand played out. On the one hand, his preflop play is extremely consistent with AA. On the other, it seems probable that he would have raised somewhere postflop with that. But still, he has withstood a lot of heat, which means he probably doesn’t hold a hand like AK. I decided to bet it. EP raised. CO folded. I cried. I called. EP had AA. Meh. Thanks again for all the helpful comments.

Dear Kings,

I knew he had AA. I can't believe you bet that. You know Wil Wheaton (Hamlet) looses with KK every time. What makes you think you are better? Please be more careful next time.

Abby :)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Poker Abby: How best to kick a loser?

Dear Poker Abby:

Playing in a 1/2 NL home game (in a state other than NC), the game is fairly passive before the flop, lots of limpers, occasionally a random non-sensical raise (raise to $20). I've got 98s in the BB. about 6 people limp to me, i check. Flop is AKQ, two spades. I check, checked around. turn is the 4 of spades, giving me a flush. There is about $10 in the pot. I check, another player checks, its now on a player who plays decently but has been getting beat all night. He grabs a stack of greens and throws it out with a flare saying "this much." Now, greens are $25. His stack he threw was $150. all fold to me. He has about $40 left. I have him covered. Call, raise or fold?

Flushed in Philly


Dear Flushed,

Weak means strong, strong means weak. He’s acting weak (“I dunno, I guess I’ll just bet these” as opposed to “I raise you $136.57!”), therefore he’s strong. Fold.
People generally don’t talk when they’re bluffing, but they do when they’ve got a big hand. Some players get chatty when they make a big hand with bad cards. If you think your opponent is this sort of player, then you’re still in trouble, as there are more two-card flush hands bigger than yours than smaller, so you’re still not really getting odds. Remember too you can still get drawn out on.
Now, if you REALLY think he’s on tilt, it’s possible that he’s betting his straight, disgusted that he’s been drawn out on just again. But as a general rule, don’t call the chatty bettor.
if you want to risk your stack and roll the dice call and hope he's holding a strong hand that he slow-played on the flop (e.g. set or straight) and he's trying to insanely protect once he sees the scare card (3rd spade.) Obviously the safer play is to fold and risk your money when you have more of a clue about where people are at. So unless he has thrown out chips like this before, get out of the way.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Real World Intrudes II

Eight days into the post-thyroid days are things are not bad. I don't feel like the Synthroid has kicked in, but the doctor said that it would take a few weeks and it is only 25 micrograms which may not be enough. I have been without caffene for 8 days now and that is not a problem. I've been able to find good substitutes like Ginger Ale, Lemonade, water, and beer. My diet has been better, but the weekends are difficult to hold down the fat intake. I hope to get back to exercising soon, but with my up coming travel schedule, that is going to be a very difficult task. It may just have to wait until October.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Poker Abby: My Set just Flopped!

I was in… “Canada” the other night playing cash NL. Here’s a fun little situation, I think. Just to avoid the loonie conversion factor, I’m going to express everything in BB (Big Blind) units.

I’m sitting in the BB with around 150 BB, big stack at the table. Next biggest stack is two to my left with around 100 BB - s/he’s a decent player (it’s hard to tell gender in Canada), with a couple moves. Everyone else is probably in the 20-50 BB range, and no one else impresses me. On this hand, UTG+1 (player mentioned above), limps in along with 4 other players, SB calls, I have 9s9d. I choose to decline my option (I won’t always in this situation).

Flop: 9c3h2c (Despite what Vince Van Patton might say, I had neither showtunes nor the Star Spangled Banner going through my head, “Tonight, tonight, I’ll check my set tonight…”). I check, and it gets checked all the way around the table.

Turn: Qh

I bet out the size of the pot (6 BB). UTG+1 raises to 12 BB, and 3 players, including the SB cold call. It’s now on me. I’m facing a 6 BB raise, there are 60 BB in the pot, I’ve got around 150 BB in front of me, UTG+1 has around 95, and everyone else in the hand is probably in the 30 BB range. What should I do?

Dear Setboy,
First of all, find a place where the other Canadians can’t hear you and exclaim to yourself, “What the heck was that action about?!?”. Next, re-raise to about 30 BB or so.

It’s very difficult to guess what 4 of your opponents have right now that is suddenly worth 12 BB (but checked around on the flop). It’s certainly possible that some of them are drawing to a wheel, drawing to a straight with JT, or drawing to a heart or club flush. Another may have slowplayed a big hand on the flop (such as a small set or two pair). These players are probably going to call your raise anyway for the size of the pot (as they should), but you can’t let them see the river for cheap. If they get to see the river without putting in their last 30 BB, they’ll surely dump their hand if they miss.

The reason for making it 30 is this: The other big stack is the one who raised it to 12 BB… the short stacks then called. It’s far more likely that the other big stack has a made hand (top pair Q, two pair, small set, etc…) than the short stacks unless this player is very creative with raising semi-bluff draws on the turn. With top pair the big stack will be drawing dead (so you want their call) but the short stacks may actually have draws that can beat you (so you want them all in on the turn, such that they can’t save money when they miss the river). A 30 BB bet should accomplish both of these, and also make it very difficult for the other big stack to fold on the river. Pushing all in will get the same result from the small stacks but may cause the other big stack to fold a hand which is likely drawing dead.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Poker Abby: NLHE Starting Hands

Dear Poker Abby,
I've been reading some books on low-limit games and have created a doc to use as a guide for which starting hands to play in .50/1 & 1/2 games at a canadian casino. Mostly this is lifted from that book by Sklansky and Miller and ?. I keep this open while I'm playing because I don't fully have it internalized yet. Anyway, I haven't been having much success with it over the last 500 or so hands at .5/1 and 1/2 on a canadian casino (I've lost 30% using these guidelines and before I adopted them I was winning). The problem may very well be my post-flop play as opposed to the starting list, but the truth is that the plays that have really cost me money are the ones where I raised pre-flop following the recommendations (e.g. ATs, KQ, AJ) and then don't get anything good in the flop (I also get rivered to death at a canadian casino and it's killing me). What do you guys think of this starting hand guideline doc for low-limit games? (BTW, I've been tracking and I lose more money raising with AK preflop than I make from doing it for sure--except in SNG NL tournament games). BTW, I almost never use the recommendations from the loose table, but instead use the ones from the tight table. Despite the claims of a lot of loose passive playing at low limits, I'm not finding it on pp. There are usually 4-5 players to the flop (9-10 people at the table) with frequent raising by people with mediocre hands (mediocre to me is some like AT, KJ, QT).
Rivered in Reno

Dear Reno,
In Hold’em for Advanced Players Sklansky recommends limping with a hand like AK or AQ if raising is unlikely to trim the field (this is mentioned in the loose game section). So, for instance, if you’re in late position and there are already a lot of players in. The reasoning is that when you hit your hand, the pot is still small enough to make it a mistake for your opponent to draw. Another interesting recommendation is waiting for the turn to bet if you’ve been checked to after hitting the flop in this situation. The reasoning here is that many people are likely to call your flop bet and some will get close to proper odds. On the turn, your opponent will be making a large mistake if they are still on the draw, since they will be calling a big bet with only one card left to come. Of course, this can put you in a pretty awkward position if a draw hits on the turn. Another gain here is that someone may very well bet out a mediocre hand at this point just because the flop checked around, allowing you to make your opponents call two big bets when you’re still ahead.

With that said, we very much agree with raising AK and AQ in loose games. The thing to remember is a typical loose game isn’t loose because players are correctly playing lots of good drawing hands while folding hands that play poorly multi-way. They are loose because the opponents don’t know how to play the game correctly and play too many hands of all kinds, including completely worthless ones. If all of your opponents were limping with legitimately strong multi-way hands like 78s and 44, and if they can really never be driven out with a raise, we might agree with not raising with AK. But they aren’t just playing those hands. They are playing hands like 94s and J3o, as well as hands you dominate like AXo and KXo. Further, there are often people sitting on the same draw (two guys with JT of different suits, two guys holding spades, etc.), so some players are just dead money. Even though I agree that AKo and AQo would prefer a smaller field if possible, you are still going to win more than your fair share of pots and are giving up way too much equity in general by not raising with these hands.

And the book that you are referring to is Small Stakes Hold'em by Miller, Sklansky, and Malmuth. It is commonly referred to as SSH. We started a big losing streak when we took it's advice, too.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The real world intrudes

Man, I didn't know 44 would feel so much older than 43. That has been my feeling for pretty much the last 10 months or so. It got to be such a strong feeling that I got off my butt and went to the doctor for a slightly overdue physical. Well guess what, like a paranoid with enemies, I may be lazy but it is not the only problem.

It seems that my thyroid gland has been underachieving. That goes a long way toward why I haven't felt like working on my house, running, working, traveling, etc, for months. I've been able to do a busy day, but it really wipes me out. Hopefully, help is on the way.

Tomorrow I am starting a synthroid program at 25 micrograms per day for 10 weeks. I'm also going to give a go to cutting out caffine and getting a bit of a better diet. I'll try to update this site with the progress.

Thanks for all of the prayers. Now the work begins.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Greer, SC Police raid a $100 buy-in poker tourney

Here is the full story:

Notice that they placed the club house under surveillance and getting a search warrent, the went in a busted these threats to society. They don't want these guys getting off on a technicality, do they? Could they not have just walked in and asked the guys to break up the game? Do they have to fine them over $1k a piece and take the computer? This seems abusive to say the least.

As the AG's spokesman stated, there is no gray area in the law when it comes to playing poker for money. I wonder, did any of these officers drive any faster than the posted speed limit on the way to the bust? Is the law gray in this area? Don't they think speeding is more of a public hazard than $100 poker?

No, the truth is probably that their bosses saw an opportunity to make some easy headlines and make expample of these guys. Maybe the chief lives in that neighborhood and dosn't like the extra 10 cars on his street. Who knows.

But there are much better things that the Greer police and State Law Enforcement officers could be doing with tax money. How many girls under the age of 15 gave birth at South Carolina hospitals last year? I'll bet the number was in the hundreds or thousands. How much more evidence of alleged criminal activity do they need, or are there shades of gray when it comes to raping young girls? Why don't they track down these rapists and lock them up? The girls probably know who got them pregnant. Do they even ask?

I am sure that these officers are good folks and most are heros individually, but if they ask themselves questions like these, they probably have troble sleeping some nights. I would.

Friday, August 12, 2005

New Feature: Dear Poker Abby

Everyone hears bad beat stories from friends, family, straingers and more. Seems like everyone has one. When was the last time someone busted out from a table and said "I was such a doofus. I knew he had a straight flush and I called it all in just to be sure" ? It just doesn't happen.

Well, I tired of all the bad beat stories and it is time to analyze some of them, card by card, bet by bet. So here and now, I'm starting a new feature where the question gets posted with insightful commentary and analysis from a team of geeks who have nothing better to do. We will refer to the geeks collectively as Poker Abby.

On to the first question:

Dear Poker Abby:
I am relatively new to the world of hold-em and I was playing tonight at a canadian casino (reminder: on line poker is probably an illegal activity) at a $1-2 table, I mean I would have been had that been legal in this state, ummm anyways I took one particularly bad beat and was wondering if I did anything wrong or if I was just very unlucky. The hand history is below

Seat 2 is the buttonTotal number of players : 4Seat 1: clbabis ( $50)Seat 2: goodbyenick ( $57)Seat 3: OurHero ( $98) //started with $ play money of courseSeat 4: HotChick44 ( $32.25)OurHero posts small blind (0.50)HotChick44 posts big blind (1)clbabis posts big blind (1) ** Dealing down cards **Dealt to OurHero [ 5s, 6h ] clbabis checks.goodbyenick calls (1)OurHero calls (0.50) //Okay I probably shouldn't even be in this one but it is only .50 moreHotChick44 checks.** Dealing Flop ** : [ Jc, 6s, 6c ] //HalleluiahOurHero bets (1)HotChick44 folds.clbabis calls (1) goodbyenick calls (1)
** Dealing Turn ** : [ 7h ] OurHero bets (2)clbabis raises (4) to 4 //okay at this point I put him on Jx or perhaps a pocket pair of face cardsgoodbyenick calls (4) OurHero raises (4) to 6clbabis calls (2)goodbyenick calls (2)** Dealing River ** : [ Qs ] OurHero bets (2)clbabis raises (4) to 4 //Little nervous here, thinking he might have had pocket queens, but he has been playing kinda loosegoodbyenick folds.OurHero raises (4) to 6clbabis calls (2)** Summary **Board: [ Jc 6s 6c 7h Qs ]clbabis won $36 [ Kh 6d ] [ three of a kind, sixes with king kicker -- Kh,Qs,6d,6s,6c ]OurHero lost $14 [ 5s 6h ] [ three of a kind, sixes -- Qs,Jc,6h,6s,6c ]

So as you can see he had K6, so should I have picked this up somewhere or is this just a horrible beat? The thing that got me, and maybe he did this intentionally is that when I bet 2 and he raised to 4 then I re-raised to 6 he could have re-raised again to 8, but he didn't either time, so did he screw up or do you think he was trying to keep me playing (not that I would have folded). Any feedback would be appreciated as I said I am very new to the game.


Preflop: I am probably overly tight in my small blind, and even I won’t say that you should have folded here. For half a bet against three opponents, two of whom are blinds and thus have random cards, this hand is good enough to play here. Generally speaking, what you want to play out of the SB for cheap are drawing hands, and unsuited connectors are good enough.

Flop: I think betting out is fine here. I don’t think you need to slowplay because your opponents probably aren’t going to give you credit for a 6 just because you bet this flop, and they will probably find lots of ways to call with hands they shouldn’t. There are other reasonable ways to play this hand, but there is nothing wrong with betting.

Turn: Given that you bet the flop, it is sensible to continue to bet. Your opponents still won’t (and probably shouldn’t) be convinced you have a 6, so betting may get raised, as it did, and allow you to three-bet. Once you are raised, I think you are right to reraise. I agree with your analysis that he could easily have a J or a slowplayed big pair. The 7 could have given him extra draw possibilities with something like 9cTc or 8c9c. A lot of players in short-handed games are over-aggressive, so with a hand this strong, I don’t think one raise should be enough to slow you down.

River: Having three-bet the turn, I think that leading the river is the right thing to do. Although he sometimes has a draw that missed (and that would bluff if checked to, but can’t call your bet) and he sometimes has you beat (and will raise, costing you an extra bet), the most likely scenario is that you are ahead and will get paid off. However, when he raises you again, I would probably just call. With all the strength you’ve shown, I don’t think you are going to have the best hand when you are raised here often enough to profitably reraise, especially because you might get four-bet by something like JJ or QQ (although he probably would have reraised JJ on the turn instead of waiting). If he has a six (fairly likely), you either chop or lose, but never win, so that is another reason not to reraise. It just doesn’t seem that likely that he would raise here with something you beat, but you obviously aren’t going to fold for one more bet.

If you are new to hold ‘em (as you say), I would recommend that you are better off starting in full-table games rather than shorthanded, btw. One big thing to remember about play money tables is that play there is much MUCH looser than anything you’ll find in the real world. I’ve heard play money and penny limit games called Texas No’fold’em for this very reason – even an all-in bet with the nuts will get callers.

Bad Beat? Absolutely Not!

Monday, August 08, 2005

A Really Fun Poker Hand

This past weekend, I’m playing in a ‘penny ante’ (since that amount is legal in NC) NLHE winner-take-all tourney. There are currently four players with the blinds getting to the stress level for all players. I’m on the big blind with a medium stack. UTG folds, UTG+1 calls, SB folds. I look down at AJs and raise it up to 3 or 4 times the blind. My opponent, we’ll call him Batman (which is a story in itself), thinks for a while and goes all in with about 2/3 the number of chips I have. Before he gets the last L out, I call.

To my horror, Batman flips over JJ making the rest of my night look like a troll, short and grim. Perhaps I was mistaken in my call? J

Then the flop starts with a Jack and the house erupts as my heart falls into my shoes. Batman starts grinning from ear to ear and I feel like Robin when the Batmobile needs a push start (legs are weak, can’t get a breath, and pissed at the Batman). Can you believe that this hand was actually over before we got to the turn - and I had the nuts. It’s not hard to figure out that the next 2 cards were AA. “You have no outs, Bat-breath!”

The next two cards were QQ so that I improved to As full of Qs. And I thought hands like that only happened in Canada. I just love a happy ending.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Poker in Cripple Creek Colorado

One thing that I have not mentioned about myself is that I travel on business quiet a bit. Sometimes I know that I am headed some where weeks in advance and sometimes it can be on a moments notice. I usually travel alone.

Last week was an occasion when I knew that I would be in Colorado Springs, Colorado for a week. I'm not real big on traveling. I've been at it pretty hard for 3 years now. The excitement has worn off. There are two ways I like to entertain myself. One it to go to a local pool hall to have dinner. I don't like sitting in a restaurant all by myself reading or playing with my laptop or cell phone until my food arrives. At the pool hall, they usually have good food and something to do. It is usually very easy to meet a local or two since all you have to say is "wanna play a game?" I'm the kind of person who can get along with guys and girls, bikers and business folk. I find that what people think about their home town is interesting and they usually have an opinion on the subject. Most times I end up just shooting and eating.

Other times I find the local casino or poker room. Since the 2003 WSOP, I've been swimming upstream in the school of new poker players. I usually resreve the poker for after the business part of the trip is over for as you know, it is real easy to while away the entire night at the poker table. Being a very tight player, it can be cheap entertainment, too. My work let's me schedule flights and hotel reservations so I can usually stay over a night after my business is done (don't want to run out on a customer just to catch the last flight). That is prime poker time.

So last Friday night, I made the one hour drive from CO Springs to Cripple Creek. (I'll save the Wednesday night bar poker story for another post) The drive has its pretty sights. From Springs, you are only driving about 20 miles, but you have to go around Pike's Peak, adding a little bit of time. The approach to CC is a sight. You over look the little town down in the valley. Very post-cardy.

The town looks to have been brand new about 100 years ago. Little birck building tightly line the main street. Closer inspection shows that each shop is a casino, some more flashy than other, but all with door wide open and ready for action. I had done my homework and knew that one of the few poker rooms was located at the Midnight Star Casino.

Parking was a breeze and was finding the poker room. It has its own entrance to the street. I had to wait about 10 munutes for a table at 6:00 pm. The games were full of locals with a tourist here and there. I was hungry on arrival so I ordered dinner by asking the local in the next chair what was good (chicken fried steak) so I never looked at the menu. The food came in about 30 minutes and was excellent. The waitress was busy with other orders and didn't come back around for payment. I stopped her later to find out that food is comped. I've never seen that anywhere else. (Commerce is cheap and good, but not free). I did tip her at this point.

The action was good, but this old fart two chairs to my left was getting every draw on the table. He cracked my nut flush with a boat on the river, my straight with a better straight, my set with a flush, and on, and on. Otherwise, I didn't get any cards. I think I did well to only loose $80 in 7 hours of play.

On the whole, I liked Cripple Creek OK, but the drive is tedious and the surrounding are better in Black Hawk (CO).