Friday, April 8, 2011

Foot on the gas pedal

There is money to be won in my weekly cash game - there are enough good players that you can make the occasional moves on, and mistake-prone players that will give you a ton of money if you can manage to hit a hand on them.

My move came against Mr. Pietzak - a stranger to our cash game for months now. A new job with increased travel has cut into his live poker schedule (the nerve of some people), but he joined us last night and started up where he left off - as the most aggressive preflop player in our game. I wouldn't go so far as to call him a maniac - but he's good enough to play a wide range of cards and he's not limping with many of them.

Our table gets more on the limpy-limperson side when he's not in the game, and some of the players didn't like having to pony up $4 or $5 to see flops with their 6-3 soooteds. (Others don't care about the price and pay it anyway).

Mr. Pietzak loves to steal my blinds because he knows I don't defend aggressively. I figure I can win my lost blind money back stealing myself or through straight fat value at this table. But my online days have taught me a trick or two, and occasionally I bust them out in the live game. On this night, I chose to 3bet to $11 preflop with the monster ace-deuce offsuit. This is a straight bluff, obviously, but the ace in my hand serves as a blocker to the big hands he's continuing with.

Mr. Pietzak calls my 3bet, not a happy result, and I have to pray to hit the board hard. Both good and bad news on the flop, in the form of an ace, to go with a 4 and a 9. Dry as hell, meaning almost no draws he can terrorize me with, but also nothing for him to be afraid of, either, if he's got an ace with a better kicker (and they're all better kickers). This means a check-shove will almost have to be called if he has an ace, so no bluffing ability there.

I'm not sure what to do next, to be honest. If I bet and he raises, I really can't continue, unless I can put him on a stone bluff. I can't checkraise myself unless I'm just hoping and praying he's on a stone bluff when he bets. And he's one of the few players in the game that I know is capable of a stone bluff, too.

Serious no-man's land. I decide to lead out- I have shown strength with a 3-bet (rare in my live play), and I will continue the strength now. If he raises I'll be in a serious pickle.

I make it $15. He thinks a long time and folds. I know he went over every possibility in his head, including if he could make me fold a hand as powerful as AK or AQ. In the end, he probably determined the board was too try - he just couldn't represent enough to make me fold top pair, good kicker, and laid down whatever he had.

On the other side of the coin, I held pocket queens in early position and raised it up to 5 big blinds. I can actually vary my bet size based on the strength of my hand in this game and certain players won't pay enough attention to notice. One of these players, the God-Love-Em CB said something very curious after my call. He said "you stole my bet", and then made the $5 call.

I have played with CB enough times to know that when he raises to $5, he does so with a good hand but one that is difficult to play postflop. In my mind, there are two hands that fit this bill - ace-king and pocket jacks. Life is pretty good when you feel like you can narrow your opponent's range down to 2 hands.

We see a heads-up, all low flop (something like nine high). I'm out of position, and I am no longer messing around with my bet sizes when I have big hands against weaker players. I bet $9 into a $11 pot. CB calls, and I'm pretty sure I'm ahead. He either has jacks or he has ace-king and he's looking for the runner-runner draw possibility (something he does routinely).

All is well until the turn hits the table like a rock - a jack. I'm about 65% sure that CB has just 2-outed me. There are $30 left in the stacks, and $30 in the pot. Any bet I make commits me to the pot. Is my read solid enough to check/fold, against this player that will call with so much less? I decide no - even if there's a 25% chance I'm wrong, it's enough to commit here. I bet, he shoves all in, and I call what I now know is the loser.

I don't hate the way I played the hand, even at the end. I kept betting my overpair hard and got two outed. Against this player, it was the correct play. Fortunately for me, I made the best decision of the evening - I reloaded the $60 right away.

In the same orbit, pocket kings. There's a limper this time, I make it $7 to go. The same player calls me. This time the flop is ten-three-three, and I'm not scared in the least. I bet $15 into $18 and he calls without a moment's hesitation. Turn is a queen and my foot's not coming off the gas pedal. $27 and he calls without a thought. I'm vaguely worried about ace-three now, but I'm not doing anything except shoving all in unless an ace hits the river. It doesn't. I bet my remaining $45 and the call is immediate. I'm 75% sure I've got the winner, and my opponent appears just as sure, which is odd. He has queen-ten for two pair. I've have two pair also, kings over threes. He checks the board and his card one more time to now realize that an overpair beats his two pair because of the threes on the board. It's the first time he has considered what cards I held in this hand. I have won back all my original money and am back to even.

I had to push an overpair like a bat outta hell to get there. The rest of the night goes well and I clear 125 big blinds profit.

Thank the poker gods for the paired board. If the bottom card isn't paired my kings are cracked by queen-ten, and I'm a salty guy today.

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