Friday, October 15, 2010

Poker Mastermind

First, I'll get the accounting out of the way - down 120 big blinds in the cash game last night. I don't think I had a hand bigger than bottom pair more than three times in the 120 or so hands we played. Definitely brought a butter knife to a gun fight. And the one time I found myself with had a decent hand on the river, I was pushed off of it by PC, the poker mastermind.

Limped pot, 4 or 5 way. I'm in the big blind with 35o, a typical hand for the night. I check my option. Possibilities come on the 249 flop. I check and call a bet from PC. He's going to bet, and if I bet first he will probably raise, whether he has 9T, or pocket sixes. So betting first isn't going to work. CB also calls - his hand doesn't worry me. Just once I need to hit a card....

..And I do. A fine-looking six gives me a straight. This time I wake up and take the betting lead, and both CB and PC the poker mastermind call.

The river is a card I don't want to see. A four pairs the board, and also brings a third club for runner-runner flush possibilities. I still have a decent hand, though, and want to get some value for it. I bet $7, CB calls, and then PC the poker mastermind makes it $14 for the minraise.

There are plenty of reasons to fold right now. Here they are:
idiot end straight (37 beats me)
Limped pot.
Paired board.
3 Flush board.

Here's a good reason to call the bet:
Pot odds.

I have studied PC and his betting patterns with the fervor of a World War 2 British codebreaker. I know his game. This is definitely a value bet, albeit a small one. I feel like "pot odds" is the primary excuse that bad players use to justify bad calls. "I only have to be right like one in five times!" they say. (I should know, I've said it plenty of times).

It's not enough for me this time. I fold and feel good about the fold, for about 8 seconds. CB calls the minraise, so I get to see a showdown.

PC the poker mastermind announces "trip fours".
CB shows a pocket pair of aces that he called with 5 times in the hand, and never raised.

A brilliant play by PC. He turned his trip fours into a bluff, knowing that straights have to fold on the paired, flushy board, and small flushes might even have to fold on the paired board. Fantastic! A move Tom Dwan would be proud of - taking a showdown-worthy hand and turning it into a bluff.

That's not what PC was thinking, of course. His actual thought process probably went something like this

"Hey I have trip fours, and it's not even my birthday! Weeeeeeeeeeeeee!"

No thought to the other 3 cards on the board, no thought to other people's betting actions or holdings, just "trip fours = good hand = bet". This was an error I used to make - I would stop thinking about my opponents once my hand got into the two pair/trips/straight area, and I used to make big, expensive blunders thinking that way.

PC doesn't seem to pay for this thinking. Instead, he is rewarded by bluffing people off of better hands than he has, while thinking he's betting for value the whole time!

The worst part about it is that his "bluff" will end up paying even more dividends in the future, because now I'm going to have to call river raises with idiot-end straights on paired/flushy boards against him, and of course he'll have flushes and full houses when that time comes.

Seeing this showdown brought on about 2 hours of mind-crushing tilt for the rest of the evening. Some players start spewing chips like a busted cash machine when they're on tilt - I feel like I still play my sound game, for the most part. I did loosen up a bit in some limped pots, which leaked some chips but didn't really spew them. (J9 and 67d in earlier position than I would like to play are about as far as my looseness goes).

I continued to play my AQ and pocket nines correctly, but they whiffed every time and my stack just went down and down. There was no winning on this night - every other seat at the table was a calling station who needed to see another card, so bluffing wasn't going to cut it. (I tried to no avail). The profit at this table had to come from hitting a hand, and I wasn't. My last hand of the evening was shoving my last 16 big blinds over two limpers with 88 and getting a call from ace-nine soooted. We were off to the races and I came in second once all the cards were out.

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