Friday, May 28, 2010

Sublimate your ego

Thursday night cash game, my ego and stack are both smarting after Mr. Pietzak has outplayed me twice now in one orbit. In the first hand, he bet his flush draw on the come and zeroed in on the exact correct value bet when it got there. In the second, his checkraise on the perfect scare card got me off a pocket pair I was sure was good just one card ago, then flashed a card as he dragged the pot to show his bluff.

Ego is a dangerous thing in poker. Had I sat for the next hour trying to plot my revenge on Mr. Pietzak, I would have lost focus on the correct strategy - targeting the weaker players at the table, and getting your money from them. In all honesty, at this table, I should probably just avoid butting heads with Mr. Pietzak altogether without the goods to back it up.

There were soft spots to be had. An infrequent player to our game was there last night - he plays waaaaay too many hands and then bets postflop like he's flopped two pair+ every time. He bets and bets and bets again with third pair, or a draw, or nothing. Not a terrible strategy overall, but this player doesn't seem to ever consider his opponent's holdings, and therefore can be trapped into huge postflop mistakes - building big pots with small hands, then somehow convincing himself that everyone else is bluffing like he is.

Early on, he was up to his old tricks and raised some limpers from the big blind. But he was out of turn- the button hadn't even acted yet, so he had to pull his bet back. Knowing a raise was coming, the button folded.

I was in the small blind, and hadn't looked at my cards yet. So now it's my turn to look and... what do you know, two aces. A goofy situation. If I raise into someone I know is going to raise, that will look pretty odd and give off lots of warning bells, so I limp in (I already know we're going to be heads up), and pretend like maybe I wasn't paying attention before and didn't know he had raised out of turn. When he repeats his raise, I call.

It was the most obvious, worst ploy I had ever attempted. I was nearly red from embarrassment. I caught Mr. Pietzak and Wiley across the table flash eyes at each other - they had seen it. They knew.

But my opponent didn't catch on. I checked a 358 garbage board, and I was just praying he had A8 or pocket nines, because I knew he couldn't fold them. He made the bet I knew was coming and I checkraised big (enough slowplaying for one hand), which scared him off. I had won a small pot, which was good enough.

This player later paid off an all-in bet to Wiley on a ten-ten-seven-seven-nine board. We all assumed a chop was coming, but no - he only had a seven for the underfull, and his chip drain continued.

In tuning into the table dynamic, I could feel the shift after the full house hand. A palpable refocusing by all the good players at the table. They were all gunning for this guy's stack.

Tony got his piece by flopping a set of nines and getting paid off by top pair. The villain's hand was jack-six. Mr. Pietzak used his position and postflop edge to raise lots of flops against this player and play big pots against a weak range - actually getting him to lay down a few pairs. I wasn't sure about this strategy - I felt like I needed a hand to get paid off, but it was working for Mr. Pietzak.

My piece came very late - my villain raised from under the gun. His raise was small so I knew his hand wasn't very big. I called in the big blind with ace-queen, and I hit my ace on a fairly dry board (ten/three I believe were the other cards, and two were diamonds).

I lead out with pair of aces and got raised. This raise, in my estimation, was most likely an attempt to re-take the betting lead. I'm behind two pairs and sets - but I can rule out a set of aces and I think even tens would have been a different preflop bet size. I rule out ace-king for the same reason. Ace-ten is worrisome, and pocket threes, that's about all.

Should I reraise? If he's got ace-jack, he probably goes to the wall with it. The most likely hand he has is nothing, though - or something that can't beat the ace on the board - and there's no way he calls that raise. Plus, this player is simply not thinking about what I have - he's going to bet and bet and bet to the river, even though I just called a raise on a dry board. That's the best way to extract the most money from him. I make the call.

The turn is a third diamond. I check. My opponent does not raise draws, so I'm not worried about this diamond - a fourth one on the river will not be friendly though. I continue with my plan and check. My opponent bets $5 into what's now a $25 pot - a standard blocker bet. No flush. I call.

The river bricks out some low card. I check, with the intention of calling a normal bet. My opponent nervously says "$20" but flips out two red chips, which is only $10. Had I wanted to call the bigger bet, I would hold him to his verbal commitment, but I only want to call the smaller bet. I ask him "20 or 10?, pointing to the two chips, giving him the option to change it. He corrects himself, saying "sorry, ten". I make the call once again, and outkick my opponent's ace-seven.

He eventually drains away his entire big stack and walks out empty handed. I end up +$60 on the night, not bad considering I was down about the same amount earlier in the evening.

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