Friday, March 5, 2010

Moving people off their hands

As my skills improve, I'm finding that sometimes I have a pretty good idea of what a player is holding, but I don't always take the necessary action to do something about it.

In my live game last night, a player limped in early position. This guy limps into too many pots, but can play postflop aggressively. I checked my option in the big blind with Jh9h, and hit a pretty big flop, a jack for second pair, along with an ace and a rag, both hearts. Middle pair, flush draw, but out of position.

I lead out the betting, trying to set my price, but the limper raised. I have seen him raise in position twice before this evening. Once he had top pair (but no real kicker), and the other time he had a set.

The chances of the set were very remote - pocket aces and pocket jacks are raising preflop, not limping from early position. He would have to have the rag in order to have a set. Only one two-pair combination makes solid sense - the ace-rag two pair (ace-jack maybe, but again, more of a raising hand).

So my gut tells me most combinations of hands he could hold are some medium ace, who can't love his kicker. I've got a strong draw to beat that - 14 outs including 9 hearts, 2 jacks, and 3 nines, and I've got fold equity to make a re-re-raise a +EV play.

But I don't pull the trigger. I call the raise, hoping to hit an out. I do not hit one on the turn or river, and meekly give up the pot at showdown.

"I play so bad" I say out loud as I collect the deck to start shuffling as the small blind.

I correct my mistake later, against a different player. This guy is pretty straightforward, though he did take a large pot from me earlier tonight simply calling with aces in the blind and crushing my pocket jacks that stayed an overpair.

In this hand, the player min-raises to $2, under the gun. This is an unusual play for anyone at our table, so my radar is up for a big hand. This guy folds almost all of his early position hands. We get one more caller and it comes to me in the big blind, where I sit with six of diamonds, nine of diamonds. I call with great pot odds and the chance to crack what I figure might be a monster preflop hand.

A nice flop for me - seven, eight, four, with two diamonds. Flush draw, open-ended straight draw. If my read is right, this player has aces or kings and will definitely bet this board. I check. He fires out for $3, and I become the aggressor with a checkraise. He doesn't look like he's ready to go to the wall, but he's not ready to fold, either. He calls the extra seven bucks.

The turn card is an eight, which pairs the high card on the board. The draws never seen to come when you need them, but I quickly re-adjust my strategy and realize that this is a great bluffing card for a guy that just checkraised with "top pair", who now has trips. The only danger is if he somehow is holding an eight himself, but I can't think of many hands that this player minraised under the gun that contain an eight in them. This tight, positionally-aware player is simply folding every eight (except pocket eights) I can conceive.

If my read is wrong and he somehow ends up with top pair, now trips, then God love him, he won't be folding, but I need a chance to win this pot without hitting one of my 15 outs. I lead into the pot for $12. His reply is interesting - something like "I'm going to lay this down, I just don't feel comfortable right now", and he flashes pocket queens.

The rabbit-hunted river reveals that I would have hit my flush with the ace of diamonds, but the ace would have prevented the queens from paying me off with a stack. So I did ok for myself there, winning 14 blinds with what amounted to nine high.

A valuable lesson re-learned - I made someone feel "not comfortable", and dragged a pot for my efforts. This pot helped me stay afloat with my second buy-in - my night ended with me down the exact amount of my big jacks-vs.-aces cooler, so I broke even otherwise. There were lots of ways I could have made this money up at the table last night, but the cards didn't cooperate.