Friday, July 10, 2009

Licking a Toad

My wife got me out of bed yesterday morning - telling me that Carmine, our newest pooch, was sick. I went downstairs and indeed, he looked bad. Mouth foaming, weak, shaking, he looked like he had trouble picking his head up just to greet me. No morning tail wag for me, either - he was hurting.

She called the vet emergency line. The woman asked a few basic questions, and then one out of left field. "Do you have toads in your yard?". We do - actually - a fair amount of little toads. The woman told us that it's fairly common for dogs to pick up a toad in their mouth and ingest a poison that makes the them sick. She said to keep an eye on him, and if he stays bad, to bring him in at 9:00am when the vet is available.

All turned out ok. Within about 15 minutes, the big Ragoo was up on all four legs and walking around. A few minutes later, he went racing to the front door to join his brother Enzo in barking at some passerby. By 30 minutes he looked as good as new, Hopefully, he learned that there are consequences to licking a toad.

I licked a few toads myself in the Thursday night cash game. Early on, I tried out a little Jack-Eight soooted with a limp. The two spades on the board were a welcome site, as they matched the two in my hand. When Wiley, the self-ascribed "solid player", lead into the pot, I raised him up to $12 to see if I could buy my river card cheaply. His reply - a reraise all-in - told me I would have to pay for that third spade with my whole stack. I folded as an obvious 2-1 dog. "I appreciate what you're trying to do, but I have a real hand this time" he tells me. - a top two pair KQ in fact. There are consequences for the old "raising a draw for a cheap river" play - just like licking a toad. My
consequences were an early $20 loss and a quick rebuy top-up.

Some other toad licking fun - I was
preflop 3-bet an unusual number of times last night. Three separate times I raised up a weak ace and got reraised. All three times I let them go, in fear of drawing to three outs (if they have a higher ace, I've got to hit my weak kicker to win, and if they have a pair in between my ace/rag, I've got to hit the ace). One other time I got three-bet as well on a naked steal. I probably need to defend against these three bets once in awhile, especially in position, but I would rather play 7-8 than a weak ace in a big pot.

I'm not sure yet if the three betting (from different people) is an adjustment to deal with my play, or if people just woke up with big hands at my table. We'll keep an eye on it.

One preflop raise that was not 3-bet was another blind steal with an absolutely worthless hand - Jack-Three. (not even suited mind you). The big blind defended my raise and I felt that sinking feeling for a moment.

An ace hit the board, along with a 6 and 7 that were both diamonds. The villain checked to me, and I dropped the old $4 continuation bet into the pot. He called rather quickly - he must like that diamond draw, or a straight draw around that 6/7 area.

The turn, a black low card, didn't help either of those draws, and he checked again. I bet my ace one more time - for $8, and one more time he called quickly. Prospects were not good.

The river bricked all the draws and didn't pair any card, my 2 garbage cards included. One more time he checked. My instincts told me to check behind and sheepishly show my bluff. Could I even win the pot with jack high? Sure, if he's on a pure 89 straight draw, maybe. Then again, he might have a medium pair/draw combo - or an ace with a kicker he wasn't fond of, or a higher card flush draw, or even a medium pair in the hole.

Nope, the chance of me winning this hand in a showdown were very low, and I had built this pot up big enough that I needed to try and win it one more time. I three barrel - $13 this time - bigger than the turn bet, but small enough to "extract value" from my AK/AQ. His first move is to his chips and it looks like I'm dead, but then he reconsiders, reaches for his cards, and tosses them, saying "I've got to stop being so stubborn". I would agree, sir!

I played an interesting pot with an Ace-Queen suited from the big blind. There was a preflop and I chose to call it instead of threebetting to see if I could win a hand with some deception. I hit my queen, along with a 6 and a 7, all different suits. Mr. Pietzak shot a bet into the pot. The standard play was the checkraise, but the board was not too draw-filled, and I had another player behind me and I wanted to see if he would stay in. I called.

The turn brought another seven, and another club, giving me a club flush draw and top pair. This was a checkraising hand if I ever saw it. I checked and both players checked behind. Damn! This wasn't going well. I had gotten too cute playing this hand in a non-standard way, and now people were drawing to all kinds of crap around me.

The river brought a second board pair - a six - so the board was Q7676. I had three pair, and was dead to a 6 or 7. I didn't feel it likely that either player had a 6 or 7, though, based on the action so far. I think either player in this hand would have bet the turn with trips to build up the pot, or with a 6 to "see where they were at". I made a half-value-half-defensive $7 bet. One player folded but Mr. Pietzak sat and thought. I considered what he was thinking about - a 6 or 7 would raise instantly (or at least call). Big overpairs seemed wrong - no reason to check the turn then sit thinking here. Small pairs are worthlessly counterfeited by the 6677 board. That left medium pairs 88/99/TT. "Whaddaya got over there, Pietzak, a pair of nines?". He nodded. "That's exactly what I have".

"Look at me reading your hand!" I beamed, and confidently turned my back to take a sip of my drink. I was winning this pot and had a bead (for once) on a tricky player (though this hand wasn't exactly rocket science to read). In the end, my bet was small enough that he had to pay it off - he correctly reasoned that I could have been betting on a busted flush draw, which was true, but I had top pair to go along with that.

My lone pocket pair of aces of the night got a scare. I was on a little roll and winning several small pots in a row when I got them under the gun. I raised them up and got an immediate caller from Crane. We saw a QQx board. Could Crane have a Queen? I suppose so. What hands would he call a raise with (but not reraise) from early position that contain a queen? AQ might reraise, especially with my toad-licking raise/folds . KQs/QJs, perhaps. I felt like there were many more hands without a queen than with one, though. Medium pairs, looking to set up. Connectors taking a shot. Lower, suited aces (A 2-5, looking for the wheel draw and flush).

I checked, out of position and either way ahead in the hand or way behind. He bet $10 into an $12 pot, which I thought told me all I needed to know. No queen. A queen checks or bets small. My read was a pocket pair under the queens and I was ahead. However, there's a chance I could be licking another toad here, and if I am, then I'm drawing to 2 outs. I didn't want to play for stacks in that circumstance.

If my read was correct and he had a medium pair, then he couldn't call a raise here. I didn't need to make it a big raise, either. I bet $25, just over a minraise. Crane cursed and tossed his hand away - he has been second best all evening.

I won a few other decent pots with a pair/flushdraw combo that flushed out (catching Crane's top pair), and an Ace/King that hit my ace on the flop and a king on the turn, with me trying to bet out a monster flush/wheel draw combo. I failed to bet out the draws, but they didn't come in and I siphoned heavy value from that opponent.

Another good night of poker. Again we reached enough players to play on two tables - six and six this week. I extracted a $50 profit - not the biggest at the table, but a fine night's work. I licked a few toads but my losses were mostly small pots and several of my wins were big ones.

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