Saturday, February 19, 2011

One Pair Hands

One of my home game guys had a 40th birthday poker blowout last night - 30 guys in his basement. We started with a tourney that went nowhere for me, but the cash game that started up afterward made up for that.

Two of the players at the table were obviously new to live poker in any form. Problems with the mechanics of the blinds, how much needed to be put into the pot and when, and general nervousness about just sitting at the table were evident. I took advice from Mr. Mike Caro and was polite and friendly to a fault - complimentary to the one guy who who flopped the world for about 2 hours and built up a serious stack of chips, then bled it all away just as fast.

An example hand with him- I get a freebie in the big blind with ten-five. An ace-king-queen board leaves me uninterested, as does a 7 turn. Three players check through. But a jack river gives me the nuts, and I bet the full size of the laughable 1.50 pot (playing .50/.50 blinds on this night). The early world flopper calls my pot sized river bet and shows five-three offsuit for five high. Uh, ok. Sorry, sir, looks like I won this one, better luck next time.

The newbies left and about half the table was comprised of players from my Thursday game, so I was comfortable against them. Being dealt pocket aces three times in about 15 hands didn't hurt things at all, and having them hold up all three times was a bonus all its own. One of the three was a bit touch and go, though. Somebody raised my value bet on a Jack-Ten-rag board. I didn't know this player, and jack-ten is always a favorite hand to play, but his raise was a minraise and I wasn't sure if he was one of those "accidentally turn my top pair into a bluff because I don't know the concept of showdown value" types of guys, so I made the call. A turn brought a third club and he bet again, which smelled completely fishy to me. He had already revealed at the table that he wasn't a frequent player - so I ruled out him raising the flow with a flush draw on the come, then hitting it. Too sophisticated a play. He could still have JT, of course, or a set, as always, but my literal ace in the hole was the ace of clubs, giving me a backdoor nut flush draw. His bet was also on the smaller side, giving me pretty decent odds to hit a flush, set or a possible higher two pair. The last bit of information left to me was that he had bet about half his remaining stack - which might make sense for a good player who wants to set up an easily callable river shove against someone who he knows has an overpair, but didn't make much sense from an unsophisticated player with a strong hand. Maybe he had a set and suddenly chickened out to the 3 flush board? Still wasn't sure why, but his story wasn't checking out in my head, and I had backup equity and decent odds to hit it if I was wrong, so I called the turn also.

The river brought no help and I checked a third time, figuring I would be debating over a 5:1 odds all-in type call, but he sighed and checked behind, showing jack-six for one pair, no kicker. He said he was making a move trying to represent the flush but I didn't buy the move, and he saw why after I showed down my aces. I have certainly improved overall about folding one pair hands - even aces - in the face of danger - and I can't say if my inability to fold this time was hero or folly, but it worked out for me this time.

A second pair of aces won a big stack from CB - who never saw a flop he didn't like. This hand started with a player I didn't know raising to $3 - a 6 big blind preflop raise, which was on the high side for this friendly home game. I looked over at his stack and he had about the same left behind - he looked like he was taking a stand with this hand and ready to leave. Nice time to pick up aces again for me. I had only CB left to act behind me, and CB LOVES to see flops, so I decided to reraise big and try and send the big message that I had a big hand. I even said the obligitory "I'll give you some protection", before I made my reraise - to $12. This is a 24 big blind three bet - a normal size for a four bet at these stakes. CB didn't get the message, he called and wanted to see a flop. The original raiser apparently did get the message - he thought about defeatedly tossing his remaining chips into the middle, but then suddenly brightened up and said "wait, I can still fold, right?" - then laughed and tossed his cards away.

CB and I saw a 457 rainbow flop. I was first to act. I knew CB would call with any piece or any six, and I had to go with this hand. I bet $12 again - half pot, and got ready to call a raise, which would have hurt a bunch but was necessary. CB's response was "you're killing me" and called the bet. The turn was a horrid looking card - a seven, pairing the top card on the board. Not horrid from a combinatorial standpoint, of course, but some of CBs holdings (of just about any two cards) just caught me, and I had visions of getting my big pair cracked by a 5 outer - sort of a running theme in my recent cash games. I made a weak second $12 bet into the middle. CB stared at the board for a bit, then folded face up, as he always does (I think I know every single hand he has decided to play post flop and why) - he showed nine-ten of diamonds. "An eight or a diamond on that turn and I'm smiling" he says, which I suppose was true. An eight or a diamond turn would have given him a draw to beat me. As I have seen before, CB was chasing a runner-runner draw.

The table gave him some flack afterwards, at which point he went into his usual defensive routine about how he doesn't care about the money, how the 24 bucks in 2 bets he called was peanuts, about how he would just fire up his landscaping business and earn it back in about 3 minutes. All true, indeed. As long as we can fill poker tables with players who don't know how to play well, or don't care to do so, we students of the game should be able to grind out a good night here or there.

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