Archive for the ‘Individual Hands’ Category

Back in the higher stakes days my hunches and reads tended to be pretty good. Actually following through on these hunches and reads was another story.

A little hand in Reno a few weeks ago demonstrated that old habits die hard. I was playing 1-2 at El Dorado – the first public cardroom I ever played poker in. A small game – but so good that its likely worth more than an average 2-5.

The hand: effective stacks are about $300. I have 10 10 in MP and three bet an early raise. Boisterous but amicable BB calls, as does the early raiser.

Flop comes 7 4 3 rainbow. BB snap leads, EP folds, I raise, BB instantly moves in for his last 200 or so. I am generally quiet while playing, but here I am talking. I think about the hand, publicly announce I believe he has 99 but I am not sure I will call. In the back of my mind I am thinking small chance JJ, but he likely would have been more aggressive preflop. So I tank, all the while talking about his 99.

Eventually I decide its not a serious game, and state I will fold hoping he shows his 99. I do, and he does.

Table is freaked out by the read. I had been winning to start, and this sort of confirmed what a great player I was.

Thing is: what it really confirmed is how bad I can be. A real player would have called.


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I am trained not to believe in streaks.  Streaks have less to do with the run of cards than the perception people have of you (and you have of yourself) when you are winning hands.  Or so I tell myself.

But then there are nights, like last night, where I can be in full control, when I can read hands, where I can manipulate the table and the betting, where I can exude a completely misleading message about my style and my ability….and still can’t catch a break, win a race.

The last hand I played last night really could (should) have been a masterpiece.  I waited until the third round of pre-flop betting to make a big move with QQ–in middle/late position–because I KNEW who would raise, and how much they would raise, and who would go away.

At the end of the day I ended up all-in pre-flop with only one opponent…exactly what I was aiming for…but looking at about a 3.5-1 return had the QQ held up.

But it was one of those nights where there wasn’t a chance in hell my opponent wouldn’t hit his AK.

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I have a wonderful river tell I now watch for in certain spots.

It applies to average to slightly-above average players, and how to respond to a big decision they put you to on the river.  It relates to mannerisms and behavior.

I’ve looked for it 4-5 times over the past year, and picked off 4-5 big river bluffs in the process.

I’ve never read about it, at least not specifically, in any poker book, and I’ve read my share.

It is so completely great that I am not ever going to share what it is here.  And nobody is even reading this!

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Like any proper poker player I tend to remember those that suck out on me with ridiculous draws, while forgetting those (very rare) times that I happen to catch a long shot.  So I will remind myself about the hand below next time I get hit.  We were in Vegas last week, so, per the norm these days, scrounged together a bit of money to play with.

I have started and stopped a post several times recently on my latest complaint about not having a roll: your entire session really comes down to that first significant hand you get involved in.  Win, and suddenly you have a real stack and can play.  Lose, and you grind and grind and hope that one spot comes up.  And most of the time it doesn’t seem to, at least in my case lately.  The post was crap.  So I never finished.

But in THIS case I got lucky in that hand, and it enabled a nice trip with a decent profit.

2/5 NL at Bellagio.  I am the effective stack with about $550.  The villain in the hand was the table captain.  From this point on we’ll refer to him as, say, the table captain.

The table captain raises in EP.  A couple callers.  I re-raise with AA.  One caller, table captain calls.

Before the hand continues, a bit about the table history to that point.  I had been there for less than an hour, and had been forced into playing more hands than I like during that initial time, because somebody put a gun to my head and said “play more hand than you normally like.”  Plus, my cards were pretty good.  I originally bought in short ($300), lost half of it the first hand when I raised with AK and continued on the flop, only to have the table captain insta-push, apparently not overly intimidated by the $150 I had left in front of me.   First error: pre-flop he had asked me how much I had left, knowing exactly what he had in mind.  Rather than maintaining my standard stoic, unflappable posture, I decided to be funny and said “$300,000.”  He wasn’t impressed.

Next hand I double up against a weak player.  Went like that for a while, but in a net positive way.  I was starting to feel comfortable.

Meanwhile, I am paying attention to the table captain the whole time.  He’s got the biggest stack, and he’s not-so-subtly looking for all the weak spots at the table to push them around.  A little while later I rivered a nut flush that wasn’t as hidden as I suspected.  I checked in EP to two players including him.  They checked behind.  Like the true amateur I am I tapped the table, said “good check” or something to that effect.  He loudly said “I’M NOT A MORON!”

I think he was starting not to like me.

Now my stack was getting a little bigger and his a little smaller.  By the time the big hand came around I think he had both a.) accepted that I wasn’t a fish and b.) decided that he really, really, REALLY wanted to stack me.  And, in retrospect, I think he knew I knew that’s what he wanted.  More on that in a bit.

Returning to the hand: the flop comes a rather tame looking 9 6 3 rainbow.  He checks,  I continue with an overbet, trying to make it look like I am just continuing, because I know he’s looking to push me off the hand, and here’s where I’ll make my stand.  He calls.  Bingo!

Turn is a Q, no draw helped.  He thinks for a minute, and checks.  I bet.  He raises, but not all that much.  Now I stop to think.  Although not that clearly.  There is no obvious draw out there, and he is playing back at me.  Is he just getting ready to blow me off the hand?  Does he actually have something?  I dunno.  So I just call and decide to see how I feel at the end.

And the river is an absolutely gorgeous A.  Or did it matter?  Suddenly I am lost in my own hand, and get even more lost when he bets out.  Now: there was no way I wasn’t going to push in this spot, but I took my time trying to figure out if there was something I missed along the way.  Eventually I push, adding another $200 or so to a $1000 pot.   He starts bitching and moaning about my Hollywood act.  Shows a set of 6’s (appropriate).  Waits and waits.  I try and look like the 66 made me sick.  He calls.  I turn over the AA.  He bitches more.  Save the response to the 66 I was not acting, of course, but I was happy to have him think I was, as it got him even more flustered, and he lost the rest of his stack shortly thereafter (albeit not to me, unfortunately).  No doubt he had great things to say about me to his friends later on.

But here’s the thing I have to admit: he played me like a fiddle.  Not that the hand would have necessarily gone down differently, but I should have known.  Once I knew he accepted I was a decent player, I should have realized that he HAD to be strong there.  He KNEW I was itching to make a stand, he waited for the perfect spot, and he got it.  Unfortunately it didn’t work out as he planned it.  Pity.


Among the(poker)  highlights of the trip: met Tommy Angelo at the Rio on Thursday, and he took me on a tour around the World Series facilities.  Bumped into several authors whose books I have read in the process.  Increased the pain factor at not being able to play, but good times nonetheless.

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Played three sessions at Lucky Chances a couple weeks ago, all 3/5.  Net very positive, two winning sessions, one small loser.  Very controlled and comfortable, despite lack of bankroll.

The only real problem: the financial situation mandates conservative play, most evident on the river, where I made a point of not taking chances, rarely value betting or raising  in position, out of fear of going bust.  Not optimal in terms of long-run EV, but I think an acceptable way to play provided I am consistent (and not obvious about it).  In fact, the loss resulted from just one hand where I did make a thin value bet and then was check raised.

Followed up by a 3-3 positive in Tahoe and Reno last weekend.  Two nights at the 2/3 at Harveys, which seems to play really, really small.  Truly a grind, but was in Tahoe so could be worse.  The fun game was at Harrahs in Reno.  They only spread a 1/2, but with no cap on the buy in.  I decided I would try it for a little while, and eventually leave to try and find a bigger game.

Next thing I know its a big bet fest, driven by an old drunk guy who was doing his best impression of Sam C.  Within a few hands I’m being pushed into big all-in decisions, and several hundred dollars are being exchanged on every hand, highly unusual for 1/2 (the old days of 25/50 and swings in the thousands seem to be waaaaaay in the past).  Wild.  Fun wild when it goes well.  Ended up more than twice what I took home in Tahoe after two sessions.  This, combined with some successful sports bets and the kids having an absolute blast made for an excellent weekend.  Made more excellent by all the rooms being comped through my wife.  She’s good at that.  If only she’d stop losing when she gambles.

Feeling great about the trip, I decided to hit Lucky Chances on Monday night, with the stated goal of leaving at 12:15 sharp.  I was SO satisfied with myself when 12:15 came: absolutely terrible cards, yet I picked my spots and grinded and was up slightly.  For whatever reason I was unable to get up at 12:15.  Naturally, at 12:20 I am dealt AA, I check planning to raise, two callers (SB and BB) with no raise.  Flop is K 9 10 with two spades.  SB bets 20, BB calls.  I raise to 60.  SB immediately pushes for 300.  BB folds.

Fucking goddamn piss shit fuck crap, I mutter to myself.  Why didn’t I just leave at 12:15 as planned?  Now I am faced with this bullshit.

And that bullshit should have been EASY.  First, because I am supposed to be playing conservatively, meaning I should fold in a spot like this.  Second, barring any further information, a call in this spot would likely be breakeven at best.  Third, and worst of all, there WAS further information, namely the opponent screaming strength, right down to the shaky hands.

Yet I call, and he happily turns over his set of Kings.  Meh.

Two hands later I lose the rest of my (short) stack when my AJ suited flops an A but runs into a slow played AK.  Then I buy in really short, and lose that when my AQ suited runs into AA pre-flop.  Bonehead.

Overall still very much net positive over the past few weeks, but that whole discipline thingie…

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Played Friday night.  First time in a while.  Slow session, until…

Hyper-aggro (but decent) Asian player raises in EP, I call with 99 in the hijack, button calls, blinds fold.  I’ve got about $550 in front of me, and I am the effective stack.  Flop comes A 8 7 rainbow.  Hyper Aggro continues for $75.  I call.  Why?  I’m just not folding in that spot most of the time.  So there.  Button, a quiet passive Asian player, calls behind.  Hmmmmmm.

Turn is a magical 9.    Hyper Aggro continues again, $200.  I push my remaining stack.  Button calls.  Huh?  Hyper Aggro puts button all in.  Uh-oh.  AA, I think.  Button calls.

Hyper Aggro turns over…5 6 OFFSUIT.  Oops.  Button flashes 88.  I mutter “pair the board” but don’t show anybody.  Board doesn’t pair.  Hyper takes a big pot with his lame 5 6 offsuit.

So here’s the thing: OK, he made a play with 56, OK, and he hit it, OK.

But he hits it against TWO monsters!  I swear I am never that lucky.  Whaaaaaaaaaaaa.

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The 3/5 no limit game at Lucky Chances has been phenomenally good lately.  One must remember that if you are in a game that is phenomenally good, what happened on Saturday night is an occasional inevitability.

QQ in the BB.  I have a little more than $700, ends up being the effective stack size.  One raiser and a couple callers.  I pop it to $100 and get 3 callers.

Flop is Q 2 4 with two diamonds.  I bet small, $125, hoping to look weak and draw a raise.  End up with two callers.  Turn is a 3, not a diamond.  Board now reads Q 2 3 4 with two diamonds.

I push my remaining $500.  First guy slowly calls.  I feel pretty good.  Next guy, a young Asian, takes forever.  Obviously I know I am good.  FINALLY he shrugs and calls.

I turn over the set.  And, of course, the river is a 5 (not a diamond).  The Asian guy hesitates, and then shouts “all right!” and quickly turns over AK.  Not even AK diamonds, just AK.


Now: of course I am happy there are people out there that are willing to play like this, to make calls like this.  Ultimately any hope of long term profit comes from them.  And I stayed calm, much calmer than anyone else at the table, which was buzzing in confusion.  I was ALMOST ok with it, no meltdown.  Fairly at peace.

However, the presence of an anonymous blog that almost nobody reads allows me to vent some of my true feelings about the AK caller:


You fucking dolt.  You idiot.  How could you possibly go all the way with that hand?  How fucking STOOOOOOOOOOPID are you?  What were you thinking?  There were two players in front of you!!!!  What did you possibly think AK was good against?  Two diamond draws?  AJ?

A mean, how do you get through the day being such a complete fucko?  Do you realize how stupid you are?  I hope you choke on that pot.  Not fatally, mind you, just enough to suffer a bit.  Before we play again.


OK, now I am calm, and off to Vegas tomorrow.

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