Thursday, March 19, 2009

your job - make the right decision - every time

Poker can be broken down into a series of decisions. Your skill level, your available tools, and your powers of observation can make your decisions more or less well-informed, but every player tries to make decisions to the best of his ability, and the long-term quality of those decisions decide how good of a player you are.

In the short term - say the span of one sit-n-go tourney, you can make the correct decision each and every time, and not get rewarded. Tonight, in my first SNG, the correct decision was to fold/fold/fold. My cards were not good, the table was aggressive, and there were very few times for me to take a shot at the blinds. I did manage one or two, and these raises kept my stats at around 17/10, but this was not a good indicator of the quality of my cards.

We got to 5 players - there was no giant stack. I was the small stack but big enough to jump into second with one big hand (and less than a double up). The table had tightened up and preflop raises were taking it down most of the time. I kept even with the blinds but not much more.

My break came with AKo on the button. I only had 9 big blinds left and would certainly get it all in if I could. I checked the big blind- he was a mediocre player. Instead of shoving 9 BB, I put half my stack into the pot - hoping it looks weak to a bad player, rather than strong. I was glad when he shoved over me and called instantly. He had A3 and I got my double up.

This was about it. My cards turned into a stream of J5/94 type hands again, and my stack went back down. I kept making the right decision - folding, folding, folding.

I hit AQ at around the 100 hand mark. There were still 5 of us - the player I nailed with AK had built back up to just under me. I had 8 BB and there was no time to be funny anymore. I shoved, content to win the blinds, but the big called me right away with 77. We went racing and I lost, not hitting either of my cards.

No bad decisions, no mistakes, but it came down to a 55-45 race in which I didn't catch up. Certainly irritating ("why not just flip a coin once for $20 and save the drama?" was one thought I immediately had after the bustout)- but if all poker boils down to is the quality of your decisions, then this SNG was not a total loss.

Tourney #2 tonight, on the other hand, was the exact opposite. I got knocked out 8th when a bad player called my raise with QQ and I took his flop check for weakness. His check meant 2 pair (AT), and I was out in short order when his checkraise gave me like 3-1 odds with my small stack, almost forcing a call. My turn bet was the killer - had I just checked it down, I would have either gotten away when the bad player revealed his strength later in the hand, or he would have value bet too little and I would have gotten away cheaper, but alive.

Tourney #3, I won! And in the strangest way ever, too. When three handed, I had Q7. The flop came Q99. I bet and the villain called. The turn came another Queen, giving my top boat. I checked, he bet, I raised, we got it all in - he had a 9. I basically hit a 2 outer to break his trips.

Very next hand, we're heads up. I raise it up with AK and he calls. Flop comes K55. I bet and he calls. Turn comes - a King! We get it all in again, and he had trip fives! I 2 outed a different player with trips two hands in a row to overboat them.

Now that's lucky. Not many decisions to be made with top boat.

Edit - on later reflection, though - I realize that these crazy hands DO highlight a decision I made earlier in the same tourney - because the same thing happened to me and I didn't go broke!

I got a free play from the big with my friend Freddie's favorite hand - 34o (lol). Flop comes 33J and I check my trips. The limper villain bets and I call. The turn doesn't hit anything, and I build the pot with a nice bet, which he calls. The river pairs the Jack. Let's see - he bet the flop and called my turn bet on a brick. He's either got a 3 like me, some pocket pair, or he had a Jack and has now overtaken me. I check, deciding that I'd be happy to take a free showdown with my one card underboat, or I might call a small river bet. His near-instantaneous value bet of 3/4 pot sealed my read. I fold and type into the chat "nice Jack". He replies "thx, guess it was obvious?". When I typed "I folded a 3", his reply was "good fold".

He might have been gaming me - he was a good player, capable of representing a card on a dangerous board, but I felt pretty good about my read through the entire hand, and it seemed like he had over-boated me. Whether he did or didn't, my decision to fold a strong hand kept me alive and gave me the opportunity to win later.

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