Friday, January 23, 2009

it only takes one.

Last 20 minutes - Thursday night "shallow stack" game. (my new name for Thurday since the starting buy-in is only 40BB).

I'm down $5 and wondering how I got there. I've felt like I played well - very well, in fact. I've won several small pots with nothing but position or the guts to throw some money out there.

Like this hand - I limp behind one limper with JTo on the button. Not a great starting hand, but I'm making an effort to play more hands in position, regardless of what I'm holding. The flop comes KK4, and the earlier limper leads out. He's aggressive, and the best he can have at this point is Ace high or a small pair. Well, I've got something better - I've got position. I raise. He looks me over and gives up the pot, telling me he thinks I've got a pair better than his.

Or this hand - Tony raises my big blind for the 1000th time. It looks like our regular seats at the Thursday shortstack game are such that I'll be the big for Tony's deal a fair amount of the time. I need to start defending a bit or he'll chip away at my stack week after week. I look down and have a decent hand, too - AJ0. I could 3 bet here - actually, this is probably the better play - but I elect to call. The flop is 9 high, and not drawy. I check my overs, expecting Tony to bet, and he does not disappoint me. Well, folding is certainly an option, but doesn't help my long-term goal of defending my blind any. I could checkraise him if I'm feeling frisky, or I could simply float his C-Bet. I choose the latter - there's no guarantee that Tony has any piece of this garbage flop, and I could have the best hand right now. Honestly, though, I don't have a great plan going forward.

The turn comes a Queen - no help for my AJ. However, a new thought comes to mind - the Johnny Chan play! Check/call the flop - bet the turn. If he did have a small piece of that garbage flop, then that Queen hits many hands in my range and puts me ahead. Sure, the Queen hits many hands in his raising range, too - but my bet will tell me right away if he's afraid of that Queen or not. I lead out. Tony shakes his head and says he had top pair on the flop (89/9T, I'm guessing), but deduces out loud that I called the flop bet with overs and hit that Queen. (he was half right!). He folds.

Or, an interesting hand with AK suited. The action before me went limp, then a minraise to $2. The minraise is not a regular move at our table, so I looked over to the raiser to get confirmation. He confirmed - "yup, minraise". Not sure why I did this, but I laughed a hearty "HA" and made it $7. In truth, I was scared of the obvious - a hidden monster.

No help on the flop - a paired board of jacks and a smaller card. The minraiser checked and so did I. The one thing I managed to pick up from Negraneau's "small ball" book (need to reread that, really) was that paired boards represent "way-ahead/way-behind" situations, and there's often no point for a bet.

I did like the turn card, though - a king. It was still way ahead/way behind, but now my chances of being ahead were much better. The minraiser checked again. I thought it over for a second - if he had aces, he would bet here - the king puts some draws on the board, and he needs to get money into the pot. I also figured he would bet his trip jacks now for the same reasons. Furthermore, I couldn't think of a hand with a jack that he would minraise in middle position. (JJ?, AJ? QJs?). I decided his most likely hands were AK (which he would have lead out with), AQ, or a small pair. I was ahead of most of this and lead out. He folded right away, saying "AK, huh?", and later told me he had eights.

I've also won some small pots with big starting hands that never saw a flop. Raised up limpers twice with QQ and got folds. Both times we rabbit-hunted the board and I would have hit trip queens. Fun, but probably nobody to pay me off, as there were no overs for anyone else to hit. Managed to get AA once, but chased everyone out with my preflop bet. Oh well.

Then there were two hands against Fred (Tony's brother) where my aggression got me into a bit of trouble. One time, after folding for 30+ minutes, I decided I was going to play one hand strong no matter what the cards were. I peeked at the edges of my cards after the deal and saw a stellar 24 suited. Ugh. Ok, why was I doing this again? I raised it to $3.50. Fred called my raise, with position, and I figured I was pretty well dead meat, unless I could hit the unlikely hidden straight or two pair and win a ton based on his inability to put me on deuce-four-frikkin-suited.

That joy didn't come, but the next best thing did - an unconnected Ace-high flop. I had showed strength preflop, so I could bet that ace now. I did so - putting $5 more into the pot. Fred replied "you bastard" which briefly lifted my spirits, but then he started talking through his thought process and "speechifying" - an indicator for this player of a big hand. He then concluded "I don't believe you" and called my bet. I quickly lost interest in the hand. The turn came and I check/folded, out around $9.

In my second encounter with Fred, I limped into a multiway pot from the small blind with a medium Ace (8 kicker). The flop came Ace-3-5 and I checked my top pair. I almost never bet a hand from the small blind - especially in a multiway pot - I would rather see what everyone else is going to do instead. Everyone else checked, except Fred, who lead out. Fred wouldn't necessarily be afraid of that Ace, so I decided it was time to see if he had one. I checkraised to $12. He mulled it over for a few seconds and then called.

I put him on an ace, now, or better - I don't think he would have called a checkraise with a pocket pair. He's got to think there's a shot he's ahead - and the only way he thinks this is if he has an Ace. So now it's a kicker war - I've got Ace 8, and with all the 3-5 on the board, I'm only ahead of A2, A4, A6, and A7. My kicker is making me feel queasy.

The turn came a 2 - a really bad card for my hand, because it knocked out not only A2 as a hand I could beat, but A4 just turned a straight as well. Now the only aces I'm beating are A6 and A7. I checked and Fred confidently lead out $10 into me, and I was about 80% sure I was beat. The niggling 20% wasn't worth calling another value bet or hoping for a miracle 8, it was time to bail. He later told me the 2 turn gave him the straight - meaning he had A4. I was ahead when I raised, but would have had a tough time getting to the river out of position without donking off a lot of money, and not knowing where I was at.

So that's basically how we got here to the end - some fine play to make some money when I didn't hit, and some aggressive play that backfired to bring me back to near-even. We were in the last round of the table before calling it quits, and I was happy with my play despite nothing to show for it.

From the big blind, I got KQo. There were 2 limpers and I considered raising (Nate suggested that I even flinched to appear like I was going to raise), but in the end decided to call and hope for a big hand. I didn't want to donk off another $12 on more bluffed aggression.

The flop brought possibilities for both glory and peril - Jack Ten Ten. I had a nice top-end open-ended straight draw on a paired board. I liked the idea of an Ace coming so someone might pay me off with Ace rag (though Ace ten wouldn't be so pleasant). As is my norm, I checked out of position to see what everyone else would do.

Fred, still gabbing away, threw a bet in. He was hitting hands all night, this bet could easily be a jack, or a ten, or a pair. I didn't quite have pot odds to call for the straight, but it was the end of the night, and Fred's stack was big enough that he might pay me off in the right situation. I called the nearly pot sized bet.

The turn card gave me my first big hand of the night - a nine, giving me the big-end straight. Fred, still happily going through running commentary, said "oooo, look at that, you might like that card, no?".

I liked it indeed. However, the board was paired, meaning I could already be dead to a JT/JJ boat (I considered the latter unlikely), or I might have to dodge a boat draw if Fred had an unpaired ten. The nine also brought two clubs on the board, giving someone the likelyhood of an "aw, what the fuck" call hoping for the flush (although I had the K of clubs). I thought Fred had something, though I wasn't sure what, so I checked hoping to checkraise. My wish was granted when he lead out again, for $10. Now was not the time to slowplay myself out of a club flush or free draw at a boat - I checkraised all in, $17.50 more.

Fred's chatter stopped. He wasn't smiling, which was a relief - his boat wasn't in. He was thinking hard about calling, though, which made me think he had a Ten. If that was true, I would have to dodge his other card to avoid the boat. Or, maybe he had the flush draw now and I had to avoid the 8 remaining clubs. Either way, I was pretty sure I was ahead, and I had gotten my money in as a favorite. While he was pondering and counting chips, I decided that even if he called and drew out on me, I could live with the play.

He finally decided "ok - let's see 'em" and threw in his pre-counted $17.50. I flipped my straight and he didn't like what he saw. He had the Ten, along with a Queen. I had to dodge that queen and another king (which would have given him the straight hand as I). As the river flipped, I saw a lot of white background and knew I was ok. It was a deuce and I doubled up.

I was ready to go home down $8, but instead took home $20 - a fine reward for a night of well-played cards.


Memphis MOJO said...

"I raise. He looks me over and gives up the pot, telling me he thinks I've got a pair better than his."

He's right, but it's not a pair of cards.

Memphis MOJO said...

"I managed to pick up from Negraneau's "small ball" book (need to reread that, really) was that paired boards represent "way-ahead/way-behind" situations, and there's often no point for a bet."

I'm not saying you should, but a bet still has value here. 1. it might pick up the pot, 2. it might let you find out 'where you are' (if he makes a big reraise)

Memphis MOJO said...

"but then he started talking through his thought process and 'speechifying' - an indicator for this player of a big hand."

great read and nice post.

matt tag said...

thanks for the compliment and for being a loyal reader.