Archive for the ‘Beginner’s Night’ Category

Tricky strikes again

Posted: July 6, 2006 in Beginner's Night

What follows is an email discussion on a hand from one of our home poker games way back in Aug 2002. This was the time most of us had just started playing poker regularly and, as you will see, could discuss poker hands for days on end, no matter how trivial. This was also the time we had poker aliases – Shree was Tricky, Taiji was the Rock, Luke was Fluke and Albert was the Guru! Not sure the analysis holds, but take a trip down memory lane and remember the good old days. The content has been edited for readability.

[Albert] I thought I’d share my thoughts. One of my problems is that I’m too temperamental, bad beats really piss me off and I go on tilt. I know exactly when I cracked on Saturday.

I was doing quite well to start of with, betting at the right times and even pulling off a few bluffs. Then we had the first really big hand. Luke was small blind and I was big blind. I believe it was just myself, Luke and Shree in for the flop [Ed. this is not certain, there may have been other callers, but what is certain is that there were no pre-flop raises and only Albert, Shree and Luke stayed in to see the turn], and it came down A, 2, 5. Luke checked, I bet (I had a 4 giving me a gut-shot straight draw, but I was trying to represent a pair of aces and drive the other two out). Both Shree and Luke called. The turn card was a 3 giving me the straight. Luke bet, I raised, Shree called, followed by Luke.

At this point I’m thinking someone else also has the straight. I suspected it was Luke and Shree had the aces. The only cards that could beat me at this point were a 46 giving a higher straight, but it was a chance I was willing to take. The river card came down, a 2. No possible flush, obvious low straight. Luke checked, I bet, Shree raised. Luke thinks hard and commented that he doesn’t want to miss out on a split pot. This confirmed that he had the low straight. But what did Shree have? 46? Unlikely. Possibly two pair or trips or maybe a 4 for the low straight as well. I call, and Luke and I show the straight, and Shree shows 52 for the full-house and takes the pot.

I did not even consider the possibility of a full-house. I remember thinking why did he call pre-flop with a 52? Why did he call a fairly large raise with bottom two pair and an obvious straight on the board? Did he actually play the hand correctly? ‘Tricky’ [Ed. ‘Tricky’ is Shree’s poker alias] strikes again! Anyway, it pissed me off and I went on tilt for the rest of the evening, until eventually I lost another big pot to Tak in a hand I shouldn’t even have been in (he flopped trip 8’s which turned into a full-house, I had a pair of 6’s which became trips on the river).

[Luke] Agree with your thinking on the big pot we gave to Shree. In terms of ‘correct’ play, Shree did play his hand badly. However in terms of inconsistent/tricky/measured-risk play he played it well. I’m happy that I can reliably laugh these events off at the stakes we’re playing. I haven’t been excessively bothered by any bad beats so far.

I judged my play on Saturday to be uniformly poor though, I had planned to experiment with a much looser style, but continually found myself deep into pots I really shouldn’t have been in. Whenever I tried to bluff and steal a pot with an aggressive raise on the flop, and a raise on the turn, I’d get called by what I suspect to be rubbish and be forced to throw it away on the river. We were all generally playing much looser than normal throughout the night (although there were tight half hours it seemed), in hindsight I should have realised this and tightened-up to take advantage.

Writing this email it springs to mind that the whole loose ambience was probably generated by Taiji. His surprise change in tactics for the night (which clearly paid-off nicely) seemed to cause everyone to loosen up accordingly. My final mistake was to simply pick the wrong pot to try to take Tak down on, I had second pair with an Ace kicker heads-up from the flop, bet, raised and re-raised it on the flop, bet it on the turn, and called him on the river only to find that he really did have the other two pair (from the flop). I had been in similar situations against him twice previously and had backed-down on the flop after a raise, this time I decided to take it to the end to see what he was really up to. Just got bad luck on the pot I picked (or he was getting genuine better cards in all three hands and I should’ve folded them all instead of just two of them).

In the end I decided to drop out and watch Tak’s play from behind for a few hands to get an insight into his play. From what I saw it seemed like he was consistently getting great pocket cards, so if that was the trend through the night perhaps he wasn’t over-betting his hands. I’ll just have to keep playing him for another million hands so it can all even out. So where did everyone finish? I was down a flat £50, which I’m happy with, as it was completely deserved.

[Shree] As usual your recollection is excellent, but not perfect methinks. Here was how I saw it… I was on the button and everyone called the antes so I thought what the hell – it’ll only cost me 25p to see the flop and there is £1.25 in there already. The flop gave me two-pair, 5’s and 2’s, which could only be beaten by pocket AA/55/22, A5 or A2. As I was holding 52 myself, the chances of someone having pocket 55 & 22 were very low. No one raised before the flop, so I thought AA unlikely, but Albert’s bet after the flop raised my suspicions. The straight draw was also avail so I thought he might be semi-bluffing.

Everyone after Albert folded but again it was only £1 to stay so I called as did Luke. As Luke was calling but not betting, I suspected he was after the straight but had nothing else. The turn came with a likely straight. Luke bet, Albert called, I should have folded, but sometimes I just carried away and forget to 🙂 I suspected a bluff as I thought it unlikely anyone would have a 4 (how wrong can you be!) to make the straight, so I called. The river settled it and the gamble paid off but I could (should?) have lost a fair bit of cash to at least one of you. Sometimes you just get lucky!

[Luke] Agreed, the ‘mistake’ was to call the big bet on the turn, as I recall it; I made a pot sized bet which Albert and you both called. With only four cards that could help, you had 3:1 money with ~12:1 from the cards. You were getting the worst of it, but the gamble paid-off. It’s tough to throw away two-pair when you suspect a bluff, but when there are 4 cards to a straight on the board and one of us bets and the other calls there’s not much chance that one of us doesn’t have it. In the end though no complaints from me, it was a good hand. I think it’s good that we analyse the key hands from the night, as we all become better players for it.

[Ed. the pot odds were 3:1 but if he makes a full-house on the river, it is likely that one of the other two players will bet, allowing him to raise (and assuming the both the other players call) giving him implied odds of 43:1, which more than compensates for the 12:1 odds of making the full-house. Even if only one other player called, the implied odds are 19:1]

[Shree] Seeing the flop was cheap enough with 5:1 odds even when holding 46 (or 52) when you consider that I was on the button so I had position. Obviously, if I’d been in early position I would have folded immediately… probably 🙂 After that point my play would have been correct. The point is occasionally, you DONT have to play “correctly” to win. I KNEW I had a trash pocket but that works in my favour as it disguises any hand I might make. I decided it was cheap enough to play a trash hand and see if I got lucky and this time, I did. Taiji is right in that I think I do this too often (playing loose rather than playing trash hands).

[Taiji] It is interesting that there has been a lot of discussion because Shree won on with a full-house. If he’d won with a higher straight, I don’t think there would have been so much interest in how Shree played. This leads me to believe that we expect players to play predictably and we are shocked when they don’t. Apart from Shree’s large call on the turn, most of it seems reasonable as he had two pairs, with the potential of a full-house. Although I might have done exactly the same as Luke and Albert, I think we take too much from examining the play beforehand and the player we’re against. You could have all lost to a four of a kind.

Luke’s looser style reminds me of when I went to the casino. I lost most of money by being drawn into a big hand pre-flop and on the flop. I was hoping for the straight nuts. We checked until the last card, where the remaining player raised. At which point I bottled it, even though I think the other player was bluffing and had a high pair it would have beaten my ace. I think the reason why this happened and why Shree tends to slowly lose his money, is because we take more chances pre-flop and on the flop. I’ve noticed that when I’m up, I call more often pre-flop and hence lose my money more quickly. Tak’s play is interesting, as he hides his hand, trying to give a mystique about it. However the number of hands he wins on showdown versus loses, and the hands he shows probably demonstrates an aggressive play style.

[Tak] I ended up being exactly flat after working myself back up from the £25 beating I got from Taiji. I only lost 2 financially significant hands, and in both cases to Taiji. In both I got the same type of hand as Taiji (full-house + two-pair) but in both instances, I had lower cards. Again if I hadn’t been one of the blinds, I would not have been in either! (yes, I know this is no excuse)

One point to note for the group is that whereas the group was previously predictable in its play (because only good hands were played, and consequently you had a reasonably good picture of what was held if a player continues to the play), play on Saturday was looser, but the hands being played are still relatively predictable due to the betting pre-flop. I see Taiji’s point about me hiding my cards – I generally make it a point not to show my cards (certainly during mid-game) although I have no issues discussing my cards post game. If you want to see my cards mid-game since you expect a bluff or misrepresentation, it’s easy, you put your chips into the pot!

One of the things that makes Late Night Poker [Ed. a television programme] so interesting is the fact that you get to see how people bet AND see their hand, and hence get insight into their betting strategy. Poker is a game of psychology and mathematics – for Shree the fact that he won a big hand on a seemingly wrong ‘odds-wise’ bet will stick in a lot of minds (certainly Luke’s and Albert’s) for a long time, and will probably make us a little bit wearier next time we play heads-up against him.

[Albert] If everybody called the antes, calling with a 52 on the button is a reasonable play. Flopping the two-pair is exactly what you wanted. [Ed. trips would be nicer though…] When I bet representing the aces, I would have raised in Shree’s position, especially with a possible straight draw on the board. By not raising, you fooled me into not considering anything higher than a pair. If you had raised, Luke and myself would have probably folded – I wouldn’t continue with a gut-shot straight draw against a hand that looks to be better than a pair of aces. When the perfect turn card came up giving me and Luke the straight, I’m sure Luke bet and I called, so it was expensive for you to stay in (obviously not expensive enough). I agree, you should have folded at this point. The 2 blinds (more likely to be holding low cards) betting heavily surely mean there’s a straight out there. Now, on the river, I distinctly remember Luke checking and me betting 20, which you then made 40, because Luke took a while to call to the 40. So I would say you played badly on the flop and the turn, but your bad play confused us and caused us to pay you off, which when considered as part of an overall strategy, is good play!

[Luke] I think there’s a good learning point in your reply: “Seeing the flop was cheap enough with 5:1 odds even when…” In the long run, it’s this attitude that results in a steadily diminishing stack. Giving away just a few chips at a time at the wrong odds is what’s probably resulting in your gradual decline throughout a long session.

Albert and I went to the £20 game at Gala Casino last night. It was about twice as fast as a Wednesday, and very slick. The crowd was about the best half of Wed night people plus a bunch I’d not seen before. I did play on tables with at least two other bad players, but that’s all, out of sixty. On my table’s first three hands one bloke went all-in every time (unlimited rebuys at £20 a time), after dumping £60, he seemed to calm down, although he was short-stacked at the point when they broke up my table as the numbers declined. I got two pretty lucky breaks, beating the same bloke on the river both times when heads-up against him, which gave me a good holding (~1400 in chips – you start with 700 on a Monday). I was close to second chip count (~1400) on my table as it broke up, but got unlucky on my new table where I went in with joint last chips.

They must’ve been rebuying like crazy, there were at least two or three times as many chips on their table that my old one. I’d thought my start table was aggressive during the rebuy period, but these guys must’ve had on average of three/four rebuys each. Things went well and I managed to hold my own by playing tight with measured aggression. Out of about 20 hands I managed to steal one pot and win another decent one, leaving me with around 3500 in chips when I picked-up my key hand of the night. Blinds at this point are 100/200 – I’m in the small blind with KK, middle position limps in, I call, big blind raises 600, I immediately re-raise 1600 which puts him all-in. I’m dreading the AA that took me down in just this position last tournament, but you’ve got to make your play against the short-stacks in tournaments. After the raise I’m left with ~1000 so even if I lose I’m still a player (just), he on the other hand is put to a decision for his whole stack.

After some deliberation and a comment of “I don’t like this hand much anymore” he reluctantly pushes his chips into the pot and shows AQ. He winces at my KK, knowing that there are only three cards that can save him. The rest doesn’t matter really, I think I made the right decision by going for the kill pre-flop so I was still reasonably happy when the A dropped as the river card. He apologised and raked-up the 4K, making him chip leader on the table.

In retrospect I’m still happy that this was the right move. The table was loose, with one caller mid-table it could’ve been a steal in the big blind, but if not, his 600 raise was still unlikely to be the only hand that had better odds against my KK, namely AA. I could have called and waited until the flop (trash) to make my play, but that would’ve given him three free cards. In his position with a genuine strong (but not great) hand against an all-in re-raise, it was pretty risky. I had been playing quite tight and really could only have had AA, KK or QQ against him. With all of those he can only hit an Ace to win it (and that’s if I don’t have the rockets), so it’s got to be a tough decision. Anyhow, a la Shree he went for the tough call, and hit it.

I hung-in for another round of the table, but didn’t really come-good again – especially as the blinds doubled to 200/400 just I got the big blind back. In summary, I was pretty nervy for the first half-hour. Play was fast and efficient, with me losing track of the chips and change being made by the dealer during several raise, re-raise hands (I was on a long table). Everyone else seemed very comfortable with the speed, so I guess we’ll have to crank it up a bit if we really want to graduate from Wednesday nights. Albert said he enjoyed it, but I felt that the competition was about twice as stiff (didn’t have the 10/20 fishes from a Wednesday night, so you’re up against 60 real players), and cost twice as much, with a larger upside if you don’t hit your cards during the rebuy period. Think I’ll stick to Wednesdays until a make the final table a few times.