Friday, June 4, 2010

stay-puff softness

My cash game crowd ballooned to 11 players for a bit last night (worst number of players possible - too many for one table, not enough for two), and stayed around 9 for most of the evening.

It was also the softest table I have ever hosted. Mostly neighborhood guys who enjoy playing but don't study or work on their game.

My strategy was simple - hit a hand and bet it hard. Stay away from Mr. Pietzak and Tony (both on my immediate right) - the two guys who can outplay me. Play lots of hands in position. Stab at a couple limped pots in position.

Example 1 - followed a trail of limpers on the button with the indefensively bad Q7o. I'm not sure I've ever played this hand in my life, and I'm pretty sure playing it, even at this table, is a -EV play. Flop is Q-Q-5. Nice flop of course, but I stand to lose a zillion dollars now on my kicker. One of the guys leads out and I raise right away - I want to know who has the fourth queen. He is the only caller.

Turn helps nobody and he checks. I haven't played with this player very often, but the few times I have sat with him I have witnessed some awful play. He can easily have me outkicked, but he can also have a pocket pair under the queens, or lots of other stuff. I know I should bet my trips for value, based on his range, but I can't bring myself to do it. I can't imagine the embarrassment of getting stacked with Q-7. I check. Let's play a small pot with a small hand.

I am bailed out by the river - a five. My kicker problem has vanished on the double paired board. He checks and I announce a bet of $25 into the $32-ish pot. My opponent calls, stands up, and triumphantly flips over.... a five, announcing "FULL HOUSE". I toss over my queen and say "bigger full house" - and my opponent looks into the sky, amazed. I truly believe that he hadn't considered the possibility of me having a bigger full house until that very moment. Tony (correctly) asks to see my other card (need to show two cards to win a showdown), and raises his eyebrows pretty high at the seven kicker. Nobody else notices.

It's funny how two different players can take the exact same line in a hand but for totally different reasons. I played a suited ace-three-of-clubs in early position during the limpfest portion of last night's game, then hit my ace and a single club. When Mr. Pietzak lead out with a bet from the blinds, I folded this hand with lots to act behind me - my kicker was worthless and the chances of runner-runner clubs is damn low. As it turned out, the hand did end up running club-club, and I would have held the nuts. I chuckled out loud and told Mr. Pietzak he dodged a bullet from me.

After this hand, I considered how I might have played this same hand had Mr. Pietzak and I have been heads up. I would have played much differently - maybe even raised the flop, knowing his ability to stab at pots with nothing. At minimum, I would have floated his lead-out in position with top pair, and then have gotten to see the turn card, which would have given me the nut flush draw and the reason to stay until the river. Then it would have just been a matter of how much I would have won with the nuts (Mr. Pietzak doesn't give up much value).

Back to my original point, I finally hit my pocket aces in the last hour, and got several callers to my $3.50 bet, all from the soft side of the table. The board came Jack-Four-Three, two diamonds. My $10 flop bet folded everyone except Mr. CB - a no-doubt-about-it-No-Fold-em-Hold-em player. To say my aces were ahead of his range is a large understatement here.

The turn brought a third diamond - a bit scary as usual (no Ad in my hand), but I am working very hard on focusing on opponents range of hands, and I am still way ahead of this range. Another solid bet for value from me, another call from him.

And... the awful river card, a fourth diamond. I know now that the third diamond gave him a draw to a fourth, and I am almost assuredly beaten. I am also out of position. I check and fold to a $12 bet (into a nearly $60 pot). He is not betting this "large" amount (large in absolute terms) without his flush, and he gives me the pleasure of showing me the ace of diamonds as he drags the pot. I am more interested in his other card, though - the ten of hearts.

I rewind the hand - he floated a $10 flop bet with AhTd on a Jd4c3d board. He had one overcard, no pair, and only runner-runner straight or runner-runner-flush possibilities.

A wildly awful play, but nearly the same play I would make against Mr. Pietzak with my A3s. Same play for different reasons, mind you. I would float (or raise) Mr. Pietzak to apply pressure - put him to the test, not allow him to keep stabbing with pairs lower than top pair or weak draws. Here, CB called the big bet from me not because he is thinking about my holdings (he's not) - he's only interested in what he can make. He needed to see a flop with his AT - and when it didn't quite give him anything of value - he needed to see the turn as well. Only that turn card gave him the solid draw he needed to continue. (and it was still just a draw).

I was pleased with my play of the aces, and with my attitude after getting runner-runners. No biggie. I was even able to play another, somewhat similar hand with CB and get a bit of that money back. I raised up 3 limpers with ace-queen, only CB came along. The flop came K-Q-x - I had my middle pair. Remembering what CB was capable of calling with, middle pair was ahead of that range. I bet for value. He called - he needed to see that turn card.

The turn was a brick, and I bet second pair for value again. This time, he thought and folded, half-flipping his hand over for all to see - ace-six. I don't even think he had the backdoor flush this time, just the runner-runner straight possibility and the ace overcard. Yikes.

I booked a 30 BB win on the night - getting the aces cracked hurt, and I played another top pair hand very badly (not mentioned here) that cost me $29 or so, so I won enough other pots to overcome those two bad hands and stay in the black. A soft table will do that for you - make some mistakes, lose with a premium hand, still book a win.

Note to self after re-reading this post: Q7o? A3s UTG? Please review your starting hand requirements, meathead.

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