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 :)

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