Friday, February 13, 2009

got the stones this time, buddy?

An up and down Thursday night. I win a few small pots early, but then lose two medium-sized ones by...

1. Raising with AQ from the button. Pietzak defends his blinds (as he often does). The flop comes uncoordinated and ace high - A 9 5.
Pietzak checks. He's a supreme hand reader, and I need to vary my game to throw him off the scent. I check behind the dry board - not many draws to protect against. The turn comes another 9 and Pietzak bets. He is easily capable of representing the 9 - in fact, this is almost the only thing he could represent here. Should I raise or call? If I raise and he folds, I won't get another bet from him, but if he reraises I put myself in a tricky situation. I decide to call here and hope he fires again on the river to win another bet from him. He does fire again on a blank river - a perfect half pot size. I'm ahead unless he has a 9. He does - Q9. Ouch. He hit the two outer on me - his queen was no good.

2. Two limpers before me - I'm in middle position with QQ. I raise it big - to $9 - and get a few raised eyebrows from the crowd. I want to end the hand here - too many people behind calling with Ace rag and KT for my taste.

Then Fred, on my immediate left, makes it $20. Ouch. He's not a tricky player - I take this bet to mean just what it looks like. Do I need to race AK or be crushed here? Nah. I let it go. I find out later he also had QQ. Craaaaap. Oh well, we had the same hand, but he had position. Nice bet, sir.

Fred gives me back all that money and more later in the night. I complete from the small blind with A8o. My cards have been crappy for a couple hours now, and I'm thinking to myself "c'mon one time, gimme eight-eight-King or something". Tony turns over the first card of the flop - the eight of hearts. Then the second - the eight of clubs! A fine start. The river misses my prediction by one rank - the Queen of hearts completes the board.

I check my trips and it checks around. No checkraise for me.

The turn is the four of diamonds. Should I lead out here? In theory, I should be protecting against the heart draw and the gutshot possibilities, but Fred is aggressive enough to take a stab at the pot here. Plus, what could he put me on if I bet on the 4 of diamonds? I feel like I totally give away my hand with a bet here, unless he thinks I'm simply bluffing at it. If he has nothing, my bet will chase him away. I check again, thinking about how I'll kick myself in the head if I just gave away two cards to a heart flush. Luckily for me, he fires out $5 and I get to raise it up to $12. He thinks out loud for a long time wondering what I have, but then calls. Oh no, is he on the heart draw?

I'm all set for the heart on the river, but it doesn't come. A black King instead. I almost positive I'm ahead, and I'm not sure if my opponent has anything, but I fire $12 more into the pot. I'm a bit shocked when he calls. He says "well, I have no idea what you have". Tony, the more experienced brother, snipes at his brother in a bickering tone "well, I think he's got on 8" as I reveal his prectiction to be correct. Fred had a queen and didn't believe I would check trips twice, and his disbelief costs him about $25.

This hand puts me slightly ahead on the night, and it's getting on the late side. However, there's a ton of money on the table tontght from multiple bustouts, and I'm feeling a bit frisky. I limp in with the nine and seven of diamonds. The big blind raises it up. He's a decent, straightforward player and he wouldn't do this with nothing here. I'm ready to fold but I get a caller in front of me and decide to play the hand with position.

We see a flop of Jack, Six, Four, with two diamonds. My flush draw is there, not much else. The big blind bets out at the pot. The player between us folds, and I try my "raise it up with position" ploy. He looks at the board for a long time - long enough that I think he might fold, but he calls the bet. There is $40 in the pot.

The turn blanks and he checks. I check behind, feeling a bit smug knowing that I bought a look at the river cheaply, and that my hand was pretty well disguised. The word "diamond" repeats on an endless loop in my head.... luck. The King of clubs. My opponent, apparently scared of my kamakazee flop raise, checks again. My first thought is to sheepishly check behind and laugh as I show my busted draw, but I stop and reconsider the facts:

There is $40 sitting on the table - that's one buy-in at this game.
My opponent isn't showing much aggression.

Well, Mattdork, do you have the stones to bluff this river?

I faced a similar situation in this same game last month - I even wrote about it. In that hand, I failed to bluff the river and found out my opponent had bottom pair with a flush draw - a solid bluff might have chased him away. That hand came into my memory as I considered what to do here, and I finally decided I wanted to take the shot this time. I couldn't bet $12 into this $40 pot, though - I had to make a solid "value" bet. I settled on a half pot $20 bet, pumping the pot up to $60.

The villain looked at the board again, then yet again. My mind and body seized up - I didn't want to give anything away so I just stared at the board cards. He went over my possible holdings out loud, coming to the conclusion that I either had a Jack or a fast-played Ace King that paired up on the river. He didn't sound like he liked this last possibility, but in the end he pushed two tall stacks of .50 chips into the pot.

"Nice call". I congratulated him as I flipped over my busted draw, knowing I was behind without knowing what he held. He revealed two queens.

My daring bluff prompted some conversation. Wiley, an old coworker who initially introduced me to this second group of players, claimed to know I was on a busted draw. Pietzak - the master hand reader - was dutifully impressed and complimented my line - not once but twice.

It wasn't the perfect bluff, to be sure. Once again, I didn't pay enough attention to what my opponent might be holding as I geared up to play my strong draw. His range was fairly narrow on this board with this action. Remembering that he raised limpers and then called my flop raise, his holdings are probably limited to AJ (top pair), an overpair, or a higher flush draw than mine, like AK/AQ/AT. (AdJd isn't a possibility b/c the JD is on the board). I don't think this player raises up limpers with a smaller ace from the big blind. I think I could discount AA because he would shove all in against my flop raise on this board, and might do so with KK as well. (I very well likely would have went all-in with his QQ holding myself, it is interesting that he did not). He's obviously shoving with JJ and top set (and probably wouldn't have bet the flop anyway).

Had I thought harder about his range, I may have been more inclined to make my original play - checking behind and showing my semi-bluff. I'm not sure if his "I gotta call you" hands outnumber his "I gotta fold" hands. (This is a good hand for the bizarre/ultra powerful StoxEV program to analyze).

Another reason I call the bluff
imperfect is the check on the turn. A truly strong hand (like a set) would bet for value there and protect against the flush draw. If I bet the turn, though, there isn't enough left in our stacks to fire again on the river (he would have had only a few bucks back). Maybe I could have put him all-in on the turn and put him to the test, and his decision would have been a bit harder. My goal of raising the flop, though, was to get a free/cheap river card, and I accomplished this goal, but perhaps my complete line looked fishy enough to alert my opponent and ultimately call with his queens, even in the face of a river king.

He made a very good, tough call, to be sure. And I lost a big pot, but I was proud of the way I had played it. And, I have added a valuable tool to my arsenel.

I end the night down $25 - less than the amount of money I bluffed away on this one hand. It was worth it.

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