Thursday, November 26, 2009

There's a difference...

There's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.
-Morpheus, the Matrix

I've read the books, studied hands, watched videos, listened to podcasts. I know how to play poker, at some intermediate level. I'm no math wiz, but I can usually figure out when I have equity in a hand. I often know the right play is to be aggressive, sometimes without the cards to back them up.

But I don't always make the correct move, even when I know I should. Call it fear of getting stacked, or fear of failure, or just some generalized fear. It's not the money - I've got a little separate live poker fund in the dresser drawer, and if I blow it all chasing flushes - the mortgage still gets paid, the kids still get dinner.

I have felt the need to start working the correct +EV plays into my live game. Not waiting until I know I'm ahead, or even pretty sure I'm ahead. To a small extent, I started tonight.

There is a new player at the table tonight, a guy from the neighborhood that I've tangled with in the monthly tourney, but never in the cash game. I think he's solid and straightforward, perhaps a bit too loose with his king-nines and ace-sevens. Another player, a non-regular, is also in the game, and I think I've got him pegged as fairly weak-tight. Tony can outplay me, as can
Mr. Pietzak, but I think I can handle the other 4 at our 7 handed table. I should be able to make money here.

AJ in early position. Not a fun hand to play, but I raise it up. Mr. Pietzak cold calls me. The board is jack-rag-rag, and I lead out for pure value, knowing he will call if he's got cards around the rags. He does. The turn brings a 7 - only a gutshot or a weird two pair is ahead now, or a flopped set. I bet big again, Mr. Pietzak goes all in, but my call is mandatory with his little remaining stack. He's still on a draw and misses the river, and I vault over my starting amount early. Normally I would be a bit hesitant to build a big pot with a pair, even top/top, but my read was true and I stuck it in there, ahead the whole time.

CS raises to 3 - that's his standard raise, and it means he has a face card. J6 will do just fine. Ace-rag is golden. Connectors, sure. I peek at pocket queens and pop it back up to $11. He thinks a long time and calls. He likes his hand, but he doesn't love it.

The dreaded overcard hits - K 5 6. CS donks into me for $10. That's a big bet for him - his bet sizes tend to telegraph his hand. I think he has a king now. But I remember how he thought long and hard about calling- he doesn't think hard about AK, KQ, KQ, even KT. With two broadway cards in his hand, he will see a flop without hesitation. Nope, I think he likes his king but not his kicker.

I make it $25. I'm not sure I can push him off any top pair, but I have been playing pretty tight and I have shown tremendous strength now on the flop and turn. He likes to hang around in small pots and chase two pairs and gutshots, but I'm not sure he'll do it in a pot that looks like it might end up all in. This is what I think - I don't know it, but the right way to play this hand is to continue the aggression when you feel he's week. Taking a call/call/call line when you think you're behind ain't gonna get it done.

"Fifteen more?" he asks in a surprised tone, and I think I have him. He finally gives it up, saying "if I had two pair, I'd call, but I think you've got aces". He confirms my read later and tells the table he had the king.

I try walking the path a couple more times in the evening, but it doesn't work out for me. I raise up a bunch of limpers on the button with T4s, but CS has plenty of chips in front of him and wants to see flops now. He donks into me again on the flop, this time for $15. This is a HUGE bet by him - and he's not one to make big bluffs. This bet tells me that he thinks he has the best hand, and I'm not getting him to fold this time.

I raise up a few more buttons, sometimes with cards, sometimes not. I win a few standard hands at the flop, but the sledding is tough.

I'm don't think I show a hand down on the river for the last two hours, until the very last hand. I'm at about $100 from a starting stack of 60. I limp with A2s in early position - not aggressive, but the cold-callers come out more and more as the hours get later. We get the free flop and I hit two pair, with a jack in between. Tony's brother Fred goes all in for his last $21 - having taken a brutal hit to his large stack a couple hands ago by pushing into the nuts. I don't feel like AJ is here - Fred is aggressive enough to have raised up limpers with AJ preflop. The hidden sets are always out there, but otherwise I'm good. I make the call and he shows J2 for the big blind special two pair, and I've got him dead to a jack. I stack him and the night ends as Fred leaves the game, leaving us with too few players to play.

$125 on the night - double my buy in. Good enough.

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