Friday, December 19, 2008

wild finish

At the end of last week's Thursday game, I offered the possibility of hosting at my house occasionally. When our organizer sent out the weekly email to see if enough people could make it to play, he explained how this week, Matt would be the host of the game. I wasn't aware that I was hosting it this week, but no matter, I straightened up the basement and we got 7 people in to play our normal shallow stack, no limit game.

The game was wild early - featuring 3 early bustouts, two by E.H who overvalued his top pair, top kicker on both occasions - and one two pair vs. a flopped straight with KJ on a AQT board. Ouch. I had some medium hands early and lost a few close showdowns, along with a couple failed steal attempts, which together put me slightly in the hole for the night.

I made up for these small losses in part by continuing my flop aggression strategy from last week. In one early hand I raised a flop bet on a low-paint, straightening board and got a fold immediately. I had two overs, nothing more. In another, I got a free play with the powerhouse 84o in the big blind - the flop came 223 - and I checkraised a middle position limper and got a fold. A checkraise bluff with air, nice!

I had another checkraise opportunity fail when I defended my big blind with A9 suited, and the flop came 9 high. I checked to Tony with the intention of checkraising - he is capable of stabbing at almost any pot - but he checked behind. Tony had already gotten stacked by his brother with the KJ straight I mentioned earlier, so I thought maybe his aggression might be toned down a bit now. His check told me I was ahead, but also left me in a dangerous position if some non-Ace broadway came on the turn. My intention was to bet the turn with any card, but then a lovely second 9 came, so I checked again with the intention of checkraising an even stronger hand. Tony checked behind again, damn! Maybe he was slowplaying aces or kings and I was going to get him....

The river blanked and I had to get some value for my hand if I could, so I lead out with a smallish-bet, but Tony sniffed it out immediately and folded, showing AT. I returned the favor and showed my dominated preflop hand.

(an aside - I realized this morning that I'm showing WAY too much in this game - and always with a good hand to "prove" I'm playing decent cards and not bluffing. The trouble now is that I've mixed in enough not-so-good hands with my flop raises and such, and I'm never showing those, of course, so I think I'm giving away too much information. In short, I AM BLUFFING now, at least a bit more than before. I need to avow to a "never show, EVER" pledge, immediately. This is a semi-friendly game, sure, but everyone is there to win money, including me.

I had two run-ins with Tony's brother Fred, one on each side of the ledger. Fred is a self-taught player that isn't interested in the study of the game like I am - but he has a good feel for the table and his opponents and can make money by playing them more than his cards. In the first hand, I raised up a pair of Kings from under the gun. Fred was the big blind, and looked at his cards and raised his eyebrows, like he was happy with what he saw, then made the call. The flop was the worst possible flop for KK - Ace Ten x, all diamonds. Fred immediately looked down at his cards and I joked - "see any diamonds under there on that second look?".
He laughed and checked. My joke was as much about myself as it was about him - I didn't know if I had the king of diamonds or not! And, I didn't want to look and make it obvious that I couldn't remember, so I left my cards under my protector, and checked behind.

The turn was garbage and Fred lead out with a decent bet. This gave me time to think, and to recheck my cards, where I was happy to see the king of diamonds. This gave me enough reason to call - I could have perhaps even raised, but I was behind many hands and didn't want to get pushed off of the nut flush draw.

The river didn't help anyone and Fred checked again. This told me that Fred didn't have flush, but he could have had some type of Ace that he would call, so I didn't see any value in a river bet. I checked and showed my cowboys - Fred turned over QJ with the queen of diamonds and a gutshot straight draw, but nothing else. His turn bet was a stab at the pot, and a good one at that. Someone else at the table commented that had Fred made a decent river bet, I would have had a tough decision. He was right, I may have had to lay down Kings or make a squirming, hero call.

Later in the night, Fred raised and I decided to call with KJo. The safe play here is to simply fold - one can lose a lot of money being dominated in a raised pot with KJ - but I feel like I'm strong enough to get away from this trouble hand in the sense of danger. Plus, I feel like my new flop game can win me some pots when I miss, so I can play a few more hands in position now. We were heads up to the flop, which came with and Ace and two lower cards. Fred checked. I could have stabbed at this pot myself, but checked behind. The turn paired my king, and Fred bet. A raise was an option here, using my new aggressive principals, but I don't think this occurred to me on this hand. I called my pair of kings.

The river blanked and Fred bet again, not very big. I went through what he might have. He raised preflop - so an Ace was a possibility, but then he checked the flop. Either he missed the ace, or maybe he hit it and wanted to checkraise me? Hmmm. Then he bet the turn king. If he has a king - it's probably better than mine - I don't see him raising preflop with KT or below. He might also have a pair from, say nines up - some of which I'm ahead of, some of which I'm behind.

Finally, I thought back to our earlier hand, and the stab he took on the turn with nothing, but then checked the river. Maybe he was doing the same here, except double-barreling - knowing that he couldn't win the pot by checking the river, after my call on the turn. A distinct possibility, and enough of one to get me to call here. He turned over a very-well-disguised AK. I immediately complimented him on the play of his hand - especially checking the flop. This helped to discount the possibility of an ace in his hand in my review, and got me to call 2 bets. In the end, I lost a fair amount of money by calling a raise with KJo to a hand that dominated me, so maybe I'm not quite strong enough to get away.....

I played two draws very differently. One was a limped 77 on a 689 board. There was a bet and a raise before me, and I decided it would be too expensive to hit my straight or set, so I folded on the flop there. In the second, I played QT (what's with playing the garbage broadway hands?) on the button, then reraised an opening bet on a QJ9 board - this time with a straight draw and top pair. I got a call on that raise, which smelled dangerous. The turn paired the 9, and the caller checked to me. I decided to bet again and fold to a checkraise, which could be a boat or a baby straight, but the villain folded, telling me he had JT. He had the same straight draw as I, plus middle pair - a decent hand and a good laydown, in my opinion.

At about 1:30, we announced 2 more orbits around the table, ending on my deal. My original $40 had at one point trickled down to under $20 and I had bought back in, and was currently down $10, making a decent comeback. I decided to tighten up in raised pots and avoid the big mistake, and maybe play a few limped pots in position to end the night. Nothing playable really came my way in these last orbits, though. We got to the last hand, on my deal. I dealt myself A9 offsuit. With a limper before me, I limped behind hoping the blinds would let us get a cheap one in. They did and we were multiway...

I had to do a doubletake on the flop, because it hit me hard - Ace Ten Nine, top and bottom pair, with position. Better still, the small blind lead out with a $5 bet into a $5 pot. This wasn't a stab - he had something he liked. Was it better than me (a set or Ace-Ten), or not? (ace-x). I was about to find out - I bumped it to $15. He called right away, leaving me thinking "uh-oh".

I briefly thought about shutting down and not going broke on the last hand of the night, but this week I have been reading Mike Caro's new book "Caro's Most Profitable Hold'em Advice". In this book, he describes in great detail how you should never change your style of play based on achieving "a winning session". His advice is to treat all your poker play as one long session and not worry about winning days and losing days. After all, if you have 5 losing days in a row where you lose $10 each day, then one winning day where you win $100, you're ahead $50, right? "Sessions" are an artificial block of time, in his mind, and we shouldn't judge our wins and losses on these
artificial block of time.

Based on this advice, I couldn't play last this hand timidly in the hopes of getting away with a good night- I had to play it to the best of my ability. If I went broke, oh well - it's not like I'm playing with the mortgage money or anything.

The turn came and didn't look like it helped anyone, and the small blind bet $10. This bet seemed small to me - the flop had been raised to $15, so there was at over $30 in the pot. My opponent is a decent player, Tony's younger nephew
Nate (his whole family will be in this game before long) - and I didn't know how to read the smaller bet. Does he love his hand and is trying to draw me in, or is this a pot control feeler bet for a pair or a gutshot draw? I didn't know, and in the end called the bet.

I was rewarded for guarding against playing too cautiously when the river brought another 9 and boated me up, nines over aces. I was ahead of just about everything now except for AA and TT. Nathaniel is an aggressive player - I have seen him three bet with smaller pocket pairs than tens, and I thought that he would have tried to take down the pot preflop with either of these hands, especially on the last hand of the night. I discounted these possibilities and made the vow to go broke - if he had either of these hand - then hats off to him fooling me. He bet one more time, and I raised all in - $29 more bucks into the pot.

The table collectively straitened up. What was a sleepy, 2am, ready-to-call-it-quits poker game 2 minutes ago got a monster pot on the last hand of the night. Nathaniel had a pained look on his face and I knew I had him - he would have beat my chips into the pot with AA or TT. He started going through what I might have out loud, and in this discussion said "you got A9? I've got everything beat except A9". That's exactly what I had, of course, so I locked up tighter than a drum, staring straight down at the felt of the table, afraid to breathe. Caro's book mentioned that players doing this are often holding monsters, so I figured he would fold if he could read my body language. I wanted to peek at the board one more time and try to figure out what he had, what he might be pained in calling that only could be beaten by my A9, but the board was over to my left and I didn't even want to shift my eyes that way. I was a statue. He finally said- "I can't fold it, show me your A9 - I call", and I happily did. He flipped over 9T - he had a boat himself! Bad luck, to be sure - smells like the several second-best hands I've played in this same game, to monster losses. The table agreed there was no way he could fold it - just bad luck for him and great luck for me. I dragged in a $65-ish pot on the night and turned a small loss into a big win, not that I'm supposed to be counting that way, as I now know...

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