Friday, October 2, 2009

shuffling chips

I've been working on shuffling poker chips for weeks now. I can easily shuffle two stacks of three, but when I add the fourth chip to each stack, the last two on the left side seem to want to stick together. Every once in awhile, maybe one time in 5, I get my hand just perfect, the chips at just the right angle, and the correct pressure on them, and the eight chips all fall perfectly into place.

Winning a giant pot often goes the same way. The perfect confluence of your cards, your prior actions, your opponent's cards, and the flop come together every so often for that rare event - stacking a really good opponent.

Thursday night cash game - another weak turnout - only 6 players. I tried to recruit some new blood but it didn't come to pass this week.

I got to play the part of "card rack" this evening. Big hands that held up. The first of the night was pocket kings in the hole. I raise and get a caller who has position on me. The board is queen high, a bit scary but not terribly so. I play the value game, as I've been doing lately, and lead out. Let your strong hands protect your weak ones, so they say. My opponent with position raises me. He's a good player and his read is probably perfectly logical - why would I lead out with a strong hand here? More likely I have a second pair type hand and I'm seeing where I stand. His hand smells like AQ/KQ/QJ to me - top pair, decent kicker, and now he's seeing where he stands. There isn't a logical
two-pair combo out there, and no big draw to raise on, and this opponent isn't the "raising with draws" type anyway. I could be dead to a set, as always, but you're not going to win much money in the long run playing scared of sets. Nope, you need to go with your read (even if your reading skills are still a work in progress) and take the step off the ledge.

I push all in with my overpair, and my opponent folds. Looks like my read was true.

Very soon after this hand (maybe even the hand right afterwards, but I can't recall), Tony raises the pot preflop. I'm sitting to his left, so I check my cards right away, and glory-be - two black aces in the hole.

The most logical play of course is to three-bet the aces. I've been blogging about light three betting for a couple weeks now, and how the play is most successful when you've been doing it over and over, and then you finally show up with the bullets on the hand where someone decides to take a stand and shove all in with pocket nines or Ace-Queen. You also never want to play a multiway pot with pocket aces, as your chances of getting them cracked rises precipitously.

One problem with this logic, though - I've been thinking and writing about light three betting lately, but I really haven't actually done it. It's more likely that Tony would see the three bet for what it is - a value raise with a strong hand.

The alternative is to simply call preflop with the aces, for deception. You run the risk of letting multiple people in the pot behind you, as I mentioned. You also might get lucky and have one of the blinds try the old squeeze play - hoping to force the original raiser out of the pot, and then you pounce back. I recently learned that this play is called the "New York Back Raise".

One thing about Tony - he's one of the best hand readers in our cash game. He is always considering what his opponent holds, what is he drawing to, can he be pushed off the hand. These skills win him pots without the cards to do so, and keep him out of trouble. Against most opponents, the right play is to reraise here and hope the original raiser has a big enough hand to go to the wall. But against Tony, simply calling with pocket aces should throw a wrench into his "range finder" and just might lure him into a big mistake.

As I said, it's a risk. But sometimes you need to accept a bit more risk to for the potential for more reward. I call the raise with the pocket aces. It's probably the first time in my life I had ever done so, short of occasionally doing so when heads up in a tourney.

We get one caller behind us - Mr. Pietzak - the other master hand reader. His cards are more worrisome - he gets mixed up in lots of pots - lots of pots - and he could easily crack aces with an impossible-to-consider K4 two pair or somesuch.

I have made my deceptive play, and now I need a flop plan. The plan is to take my hand to the wall unless the board is drop-dead scary, like all one suit, and/or 9TJ-connected.

The three of us get a board of Queen of Diamonds, Eight of Diamonds, and a black rag (5?). One flush draw and one straight draw. No obvious two pairs. Since the flush draw is at the top end of the cards, combo hands like top pair + flush draw aren't available. (someone can't have AdQd since the queens of diamonds is on the board). The scariest combo draw is something like 5d6d - bottom pair + flush draw.

Nope, the board is dry enough. Time to go the wall.

Tony leads out for $8, into a $11 pot. He would do this with top pair, an overpair, any pocket pair, and complete air. His larger bet size here usually indicates a weaker holding, but I'm staying with my plan. I made a big re-re-raise on the flop a few hands ago with my kings, and I need to continue that aggression and hope someone has the cards and inclination to play sheriff. I make it $20 more. That bet commits us if he wants to continue.

Mr Pietzak folds behind (whew), and Tony takes his time considering. I know that he's going through the hand in his mind, and after all his consideration, he decides to go all-in.

It's always a scary proposition calling an all-in, but like the pocket kings before, I need to go with my read now and step off the ledge. My biggest read, of course, is that I'm 99% sure that Tony has not considered aces in my hand, and therefore has many more hands in his holdings that can beat this board. I call - Tony shows pocket kings - and predictably gives out a yell and looks at the ceiling when I reveal the bullets. We run the turn and river, and I have stacked Tony for what I believe might be the first time ever.

You might say "big whoop - just another aces vs. kings hand". And, in most cases, you would be right. But I'll tell you exactly how this hand would have went had we played it the standard way:

Tony raises to $3.50 preflop.
I make it $10.
He makes it $25.
I shove.
He folds face up, saying "I guess you have the aces".
I win a $40 pot.

Tony won't play an all-in pot preflop with anything but aces. He'll fold kings, he'll fold queens, he'll certainly fold Ace-King. Why guess preflop when he can usually outplay people postflop? Nope, my little tricky call bloated this pot from $40 to $140.

A nice start to the evening, but look how fragile luck can be in poker. In the space of two hands, I had to go all-in with pocket kings on a queen high board, and got a fold from an opponent who didn't have the cards to nail them. Then my opponent Tony made the exact same play - with the exact same hand - on a nearly identical board, but this time I did have the cards he didn't want to see. My first opponent could have called with aces against me and nailed me just as easily, or I could have slowplayed my aces into a set of eights or queens against Tony. Everything went right this time - just like my occasional eight-chip-shuffle.

The rest of the night went well, too. I won a few small pots and lost a couple, also. I rivered quad-freaking-kings but my opponent couldn't call a river bet with a pair of aces on a paired and three-to-a-flush board. $147 profit on the night, 2.5 buy-ins.


Memphis MOJO said...

Nice playing, nice write-uP.

I've played in casinos fairly regularly for five years now, and can't chip shuffle for sh*t.

diverjoules said...

Wow, what a great night for you. And as always great write-up. I can shuffle ships, but find I gain nothing from doing it. So I don't.

bastinptc said...

Well done, and again, always a good read.