Friday, December 12, 2008

Thursday night game - new strategy

I was finalizing my new strategy in the car on the way to the live Thursday game - coming from my third kids Christmas recital in three days. How can you have 3 recitals with only two kids? Oh year, 6th grade choir, 6th grade band, and 4th grade choir. I suppose I should be thankful little Sophie hasn't found an instrument she likes yet.

As I drove to the game, I went over my new strategy in my head - I wanted to be more aggressive on the flop, when in position. I have noticed in this game that flop raises get a lot of credit. I have also noticed that it's customary to take shots on the flop with nothing. I felt like I could get many of those players to fold, as well as some of the good players who might even have caught a pair on scary boards.

I did this 3 times early, and I got a fold in 2 of them. In the first, I
limped into a multiway pot with AT . The flop reveals T92. An early position player bets, I raise in position with top pair/top kicker, and I get a fold. The second hand, I played 79s, the flop came 678 - someone bet and I raised with middle pair and an open-ender. Another fold. In the third, my flop raise was called, the turn was checked, and the villain fired out a bet on the river. I had third pair and let it go.

Later in the game, I did it one more time. I limped into a multiway with TT, got a flop of Q 2 4, and someone fires out a bet. There's no guarantee he's a got a queen in a
multiway pot, so I raise. I get a fold. This guy is someone who always shows his cards, and always wants to know what his opponents had. He said "what'd you have?" I told him "I had a pair" and when he pressed, I revealed that it was a pocket pair under the Queen.

I think maybe this was too much information. Late in the tourney, I raised from early position with AT (probably should have folded to begin with). One of the better players at the table called my raise. The flop came A Q x, and I lead out with a bet on my pair of Aces. The good player raised me right away. Well, let's see - he could have AK/AK/AJ, all ahead of me. He didn't seem like the type to call with a lower ace, but it was late in the evening and maybe he had loosened up and was playing soooted Ax. Or, alternately, he might not have had an Ace at all. Maybe he was employing my new strategy and simply raising the flop bet in position, making it tough on the out of position player to play with a mediocre hand. In the end, I felt like I didn't want to continue on and pay $20 to find out, so I folded and kept my stack slightly above my starting $40.

My early success with my aggressive strategy served me well, because my cards turned to crap in the middle hours of the short night, and I tightened up. I tried a few limps that didn't hit or were raised preflop and let them go. My stack dwindled down to $25 from $40. I considered buying back in for $40, but before I could do this I won a few interesting hands to bring me back to even.

In the first, I limped again into a multiway pot, this time with a pretty decent AJs. I considered raising with this hand, but knew I'd get a couple callers and might get into a tricky spot with a trouble hand. The flop was all unders and completely uncoordinated - something like T 7 3 rainbow. After 2 checks, I made a little feeler bet just based on the board texture. I figured there were no draws for anyone to hang around with. My only caller was Tony.

The turn helped me quite a bit - a jack. I was out of position and bet again, this time a decent half pot bet. Tony looked confused - he's usually quite good at putting people on hands, but I had stumped him on this one. He even started talking out loud "that Jack helped you?". "Two Pair?", "Did you limp with Jacks and have a set?" "Maybe Queens?". He called again. A thought crossed my mind that perhaps he was playing me with a set of tens or something (he had flopped quad tens earlier in the night), but my read was that he was honestly flummoxed and simply didn't think I had anything. My guess for him, on this board, that he had a T - maybe 9Ts or AT. (JT would have 2 pair and Tony would have easily checkraised me on the turn).

The river was a blank - I knew that if I was ahead on the turn, I was still ahead. A thought crossed my mind, though - I had played this hand strangely and had him genuinely stumped - let's see if I could mess with him some more. I made a final bet of $5 - into a big pot. His eyes boggled. "$5 into a $35 pot? What in God's name is that?". I figured he would look me up with his T and I'd get a bit more value from the hand, but perhaps my tiny bet worked in reverse - he ended up folding. He told me after the hand that he had AT - confirming my read. Because it was Tony, I revealed my hand to him as well. I think this reveal came into play later.

It occurred to me later that if our positions were reversed - and I had AT on a T high flop, my new strategy would have had me raising - and someone with 2 overs would most likely fold. The "standard" strategy in this game is to call that flop lead when you catch a piece - basically a "I don't believe you, let's see if you fire again on the turn" call. My new strategy is more "I don't believe you, let's see if you want to play a big pot with an average hand" raise.

My last decent win of the night was also against Tony - he had lost to my AJ and another hand or two and looked a bit frustrated.
I was playing 9cTc from small blind. The flop comes Q 9 4, with two clubs - middle pair and a flush draw for me, but out of position. I check, and everyone checks behind me. Nice! The turn is red 7, and I figure my 9 is good, so I bet. Tony calls again.

The river is the Ace of spades. No flush for me, and an overcard to my pair. Could Tony have an Ace, though? It wouldn't be a good ace - he would have raised out the limpers with that. Also, because of my Ace-Jack reveal earlier, I'm thinking it's in his head that I'm capable of betting with nothing but overs - so there's no way he can discount me from having an Ace. I bet and he folds with a frustrated look on his face.

Soon after I got AK and hit the flop hard but didn't get much for it. I raised it up early, got two callers - and hit two pair - A K 2. Nice flop. Do I check with the intention of raising, or lead out and hope someone called with an Ace? I chose the latter and lead out, chasing both villains away. Damn! Mr. Show Everything showed a pair of 7s.

That last hand I played was a limp in the small blind with A8 of clubs, behind other limpers. The flop showed some promise - 6 7 9 with one club. I checked, not wanting to get raised out of a decent draw. The big blind bet a nice size and everyone else folded to me. Should I raise like I've been doing? A consideration, but this time I'm out of position. I call and look for a good turn card.

It's not the 5 or 10 I was hoping for, but it is another club - the three of clubs to be exact. I check. My opponent thinks for a moment and checks behind. My guess is that he hit a pair from that flop but doesn't like the straight potential, and also doesn't like that I might checkraise him. C'mon river!

Nope, no good. Queen of spades. Can I push him off this hand? I strongly consider it, but wimp out in the end. My stack is still above my initial buy in, and I really want to go home with a win tonight. This will be my first game where I both play well and win some money to boot. Most of my net gains in the Thursday game have been misplayed hands where I suck out. And several of my losing nights have been in well-played games. I would like tonight to be the night I play well and post a net positive for the effort.

Final tally on the night - $47, a $7 profit. It feels like a $100 win, though. I'm slowing making the transition to higher level thinking - I'm thinking well beyond my own cards into what opponents have. In a few cases, I have even been considering what my opponents think I have. And I'm making adjustments based on the table.

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