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Two interesting hands…

I always enjoy seeing a good fold! There are precious few opportunities to see the folding of a good hand, in a big pot, when the player knows he’s beat. Usually, we as limit players, pay off way too often.

Two hands occurred recently at my 8-16 game. Both times it was me versus the same smart observant opponent.

Hand #1

The action folds to me in middle position, and I look down at A-5 of clubs and decide to raise. My opponent calls me on the button, and the blinds fold. The flop comes down Qc-5d-4c. I, obviously, love this flop. I bet, and he calls.

The turn is a 4h. I once again bet, and this time, he raises me. I just call. The river is the Jc. I think for a moment and bet my nut flush. He, without hesitation, raises me. I turn my cards face up and say, “nut flush, in the muck!” as I fold. There really is no way he could be holding a hand I can beat. He would not have raised the turn with a flush draw, and cannot raise a river bet with simply a 4. He has 5-5 or maybe even Q-Q. He looks at me and smiles, flashes the 5-5, and scoops the pot.

Hand #2

This time, no more than an hour later, I look down at A-Q under-the-gun and raise. The same opponent calls me, as does the big blind. The flop is A-10-4, rainbow. I bet, get called by my original opponent, and get check-raised by the big-blind. I three-bet, establishing my hand, and attempting to figure out where I’m at. My opponent calls, and the big-blind four bets! By this point, I more or less hate my hand, figuring the big-blind for A-10 or A-4, and my other opponent with some sort of large Ace. We each call the four-bet.

The turn is a Q, giving me top two. The big blind bets again. I raise. I figured for sure my other opponent would think for a few moments, and muck. Instead, he three-bets! The big blind thinks… thinks… thinks… and folds his hand. (He later revealed he had A-10, and I believe it) I also go into the tank for a moment, thinking that there’s no way this player, intelligent and savvy, would have called four-bets on the flop with K-J, a gutshot! He must have 4-4, slow-playing the flop! Dammit, I’m screwed! I just call.

The river, lo and behold, another Queen. I fire without hesitation. My opponent, a good natured player, smiles, justifiably annoyed, and turns over his 4-4. “Well,” he says, “I sure can’t beat A-Q!” and throws away his boat.

“I knew it, and I’m sorry bud!” I say, as I flash him the A-Q. That was brutal. But what a fold! Even if it did only save him $16…

Folding Kings

Why is it that pocket kings are such ace magnets? Every damn time, there seems to be an ace on that flop!

This scenario, while frustrating, is somewhat easy to get away from. Why is it, though, that nobody can ever fold their kings unless there’s an ace on the board? There are equally terrible flops that don’t include an ace!

I was playing an 8-16 game recently, and had a hand come up on the button. A player in middle position raises, and I look down at A-A. I three-bet. He four-bets, and I five-bet. He calls.

The flop comes Q-J-9. He bets, and I raise. He just calls. The turn is a 9; he checks, I bet, and he once again calls. The river is a 3, and the same action follows. I show my A-A, and he flashes me his K-K; everybody “ooohs and ahhhhs” as he mucks.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a very cold deck when your kings run up against aces, particularly when there’s no ace on the board, and you continue to hold an over-pair.

However, the phrase “I have an over-pair, how could I have folded?” is an absolutely defeated, losing viewpoint. To get preachy for a moment, poker doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and each situation should be treated as specifically individual.

Take our hand, for instance. I FIVE-BET the action! A reasonable poker player could only make this move with a select number of hands, namely A-A, K-K, Q-Q, and maybe J-J or A-K. Maybe.

So, after the flop of Q-J-9, how many of these hands can he beat? He bets, and I raise, something I would very rarely do with A-K after facing aggressive action from somebody I five-bet. Sure, he has an over-pair, but a thinking man would HATE this flop! Did he run into a cold deck? Absolutely. This does not mean he couldn’t have limited his damage. He cannot beat A-A, Q-Q, J-J, and chops with K-K. Even if I have 10-10 or A-K, a best case scenario, he still must fade a number of turn/river cards.

Granted, most players would play this hand the same way, transferring into call-down mode after the flop. But, although you cannot win a pot making observant, heady folds, you will turn a much higher profit if your game reaches this level.

I hope my in-game strategy would be as sharp as my post-game analysis! This isn’t always the case, of course!

Turbo SNGs = Glory Times

I’ve chronicled my SNG escapades over the last couple months, and fortunately the hot run has continued.

After achieving iron man status on Full Tilt in June for the second month in a row, I transferred a large chunk of my bankroll to Absolute Poker to take advantage of 30% rakeback. Absolute is on the Cereus platform with Ultimate Bet, and because they have roughly 30% of the traffic that Full Tilt has, I wasn’t expecting a large flow of SNG traffic either.

(What’s funny is that I was getting pissed about Full Tilt support NOT responding to my rakeback emails… I started sending angry emails, threatening to leave the site. Of course, because I’m an idiot, I was sending those emails to support@fulltilt.com… Instead of support@fulltiltPOKER.com… I received an angry email from the site that runs the other Full Tilt company, telling me to stop bombarding them with poker emails…)

The SNG of choice over at Absolute appears to be the turbo SNG. I’ve really never dabbled in turbos because I’ve always had such a huge edge in the regular SNGs. But even though the gab between good players and bad players narrows with turbos, you are able to play more tournaments, thus increasing your overall winrate.

Because the traffic is still sporadic, I register for anything between $20-50, depending on what’s available. They all seem to have comparable overall skill levels. I think this is because losing players go on hot streaks at the $50 level and continue playing.

The main strategy is to play RIDICULOUSLY tight for the first 3-4 levels, only raising preflop with AA, KK, QQ and JJ. limp with all other pocket pairs, limp with AQ, and limp with other fun hands in late position, but open fold everything else. My goal is to preserve those precious chips for when the average stack is < 10bb. It’s important to have fold equity when the turbo SNG turns into an LOL shove-a-ment.

Once the blinds reach 50/100 (then to 75/150, 100/200, 150/300, etc.), I go into full “Shock and Awe” mode. But I do it selectively, picking on shorter stacks and avoiding situations where a big stack may call my all in.

It’s also important to take advantage of situations where you are playing 4-5 handed and everyone is basically even in chips. Go balls to the wall in this spot and take the chip lead.

I guess in turbo SNGs I’m always playing based on what my opponents are likely to do. If we are 4-handed (3 paid) and I am chip leader with 2 shorties, I’ll shove almost any 2 knowing the other three players will not call without a monster.

If I’m short with 4 to go, and another guy is also short, I will look to be aggressive on that player’s blind, because I’d rather take money from/play against him than the two big stacks. Stealing money from the other shorty puts him further below me. And if he calls, I have a chance to knock him out (even if I’m a 40/60 dog) and get to the money.

Stuff like that. Always thinking strategically.

Here’s the summer results so far, with Full Tilt on top and Absolute on the bottom (Full Tilt summer starts around game 650, and of course doesn’t include two big multi-table hits… Absolute graph starts last Monday, with red = equity and green = profit):

DisplayGraph

JulyAPgraph

Flopping a straight, and HATING it!

Limit hold’em is fun. You can play with whatever amount of money you’d like, and never have that entire stack be in danger on a single hand. You have a set amount to bet, and know exactly how much you’re going to have to call, should your opponent wager.

Of course, the fixed bet also creates problems. You cannot protect your hand. If you have a hand you like, particularly when it’s a vulnerable hand, you want the opportunity to drive your opponents out with big bets! This is why limit strategy can differ so much from no-limit strategy.

Here’s what happened yesterday. I’m playing an 8-16 game, and it’s especially loose. A player open raises in middle position, and three players call him! I am on the button with 9s-8s, and absolutely love my holding. In a large field, I’d much rather look down at 9-8 than 9-9! I call, as does the big blind. We take the flop off six handed.

The flop comes down 10c-Jc-Qh. I’ve just flopped a straight! The big blind bets out. The original raiser makes it two bets. Each of the other three players calls two bets cold, and the action is on me. What the hell do I do now? I feel it’s very likely, though not assured, that I have the best hand. In a no-limit situation, I probably raise a $16 bet to something like $70, driving out weaker holdings, but allowing myself an opportunity to fold if I get moved in on. But this isn’t no-limit hold’em. This is LIMIT hold’em.

“Of course you should raise,” seems like a common response. “You have a straight, make players pay for drawing out on you!” Maybe… I, however, decide that calling is the better play, and simply smooth call, as does the big blind.

Why did I do this? I probably have the best hand, and allowed every player to continue to the turn having paid only $16. Well, look at my number of opponents: 5! Each of them called two bets on this flop. Think of all the turn cards that make me uncomfortable: 9, 10, J, Q, K, A, and any club. For me to feel as if I still hold the best hand on the turn, I need to avoid 27 cards! It makes no difference whether or not I make it an extra $8 on the flop, nobody holding a flush draw, straight draw, or two-pair is going to fold, whether it’s for $8 or another $24.

If my opponents had been fewer in number, perhaps only 2 or 3, I am definitely raising. It seems much more unlikely that I have to avoid every board pair, and every straight/flush draw in a smaller field. Against five opponents, however, each one of them interested in the flop, my hand shrinks in size immensely. In fact, I hate my hand! I wish I could fold the flop! Of course, that’s not going to happen…

So, I call, and decide that my aggressiveness will be determined by the turn card. I close my eyes and pray for that 3 of diamonds! If that does, in fact, come on the turn, I am going to be much more aggressive. If the actions comes around to me with multiple callers still, I am absolutely raising. In the scenario, there is only one more card to come, PLUS, I am now wagering big bets, hopefully driving out lesser hands. If you can get one or two draws to fold with a turn raise, you have greatly improved your chances of winning.

If, on the other hand, the Kh hearts comes on the turn, as it did, I can now fold having spent only $16 on the flop in a hand I am sure to lose. The big blind once again bets out, gets called by the raiser, and raised in another spot… I kiss my 9-8 goodbye and muck…

Being young and tight

A healthy combination of ignorance and televised poker sure makes my life a whole lot easier.

It seems that today, televised poker is littered with one or two poker playing professionals surrounded on every side by twenty-something young-guns, re-raising with their 4-5 suited and calling all-ins with gutshots. In turn, Average Joe poker player watches this and creates his own perhaps subconscious perception of the way young guys act on the felt: AGGRESSIVE! LOOSE! INSANE!

Thank you, ESPN.

What this does for me, of course, is just… just… well, it’s just super.

I’m a tight player. I’m a very tight player. However, when I pull up a chair at the 8-16 game, staring three ninety-four year old strangers in the face, they’ve already categorized me. What’s most entertaining is how dearly these men cling to their initial impressions, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

For example, my recent 8-16 game looked very similar to my description, mixing young and old nearly equally. I sit down, and as is typical, play very few hands right away. In fact, I’d played only two hands outside of the blinds in the first hour. Then, this hand comes up.

An average player in every regard, middle-aged, too loose and certainly lacking poker sensibility, open raised under the gun. The action folds around to me in the cut-off, and I look down at A-A. Of course, I three-bet. The button folds. The two blinds, both older gentlemen, look at me for a moment and each call the three-bets. The original raiser four-bets, and I five-bet. The blinds each call, as does the original raiser, and we take the flop off four-handed.

The flop comes 2-10-Q, and the action checks around to me. I bet. Everybody calls. The turn is another 2. The actions once again checks around to me, and I once again fire. The small blind calls, and the other two players muck. The river is a 4, and my opponent once again checks. I bet one last time, and he calls. I turn over my A-A, as he mucks, flashing his 9-10.

Now, what the hell happened in this pot? How could I possibly have been paid off by that hand, showing no vulnerability at all, betting and raising at every opportunity?

I asked myself this question shortly after the hand, and could come up with only one explanation: I’m 25! A number of old poker playing traditionalists think that young players are nuts, they’re crazy, they play any two cards and always come in raising! Three-bets from a young kid like me, then, looks like nothing more than absurdity. Sure, I’ve got 9-10, let’s roll!

What’s most amazing, as I briefly alluded to earlier, is how I can prove their perceptions unequivocally wrong with an hour of tight, quiet play and be completely ignored. But the three-bet, that’s LOUD! That’s what they remember.

I’d just like to take this opportunity to once again thank poorly observant poker players, and Norman Chad.

Player of the Year Tournament Schedule

POY-ELIGIBLE WEEKLY TOURNAMENTS

Sundays
Black Bear ($100), 11:00 a.m.

Mondays
Treasure Island ($60), 6:00 p.m.

Tuesdays
Northern Lights ($30), 6:30 p.m
Running Aces ($150), 6:30 p.m.

Wednesdays
Canterbury Park ($200), 7:30 p.m.
Jackpot Junction ($50), 4:00 p.m.

Thursdays
None

Fridays
Grand Casino Mille Lacs ($130), 6:15 p.m.

Saturdays
Grand Casino Hinckley ($100), 6:00 p.m.

POY-ELIGIBLE MONTHLY TOURNAMENTS

2nd Saturday
Grand Casino Mille Lacs, ($300), 2:15 p.m.

3rd Sunday
Grand Casino Hinckley, ($300), 11:00 a.m.

Final Saturday
Running Aces ($500), 2:00 p.m.

Final Sunday

Canterbury Park, ($300), noon

POY-ELIGIBLE SPECIAL TOURNAMENTS

February, 2010
6th: Treasure Island (Island Poker Tournament $1K)
13th-21st: Grand Casino Mille Lacs (Grand Series)
13th-21st: Grand Casino Mille Lacs (Minnesota State Poker Tour $1K)

March, 2010
6th: Treasure Island (Island Poker Tournament $1K)

April, 2010
7th-12th: Running Aces (Minnesota State Poker Tour $1K)
Canterbury Park (MN State Poker Championship $1K)

June, 2010
9th-13th: Northern Lights (Minnesota State Poker Tour $1K)

July, 2010
Running Aces (Anniversary Tourney $1K)
14th-18th: Jackpot Junction (Minnesota State Poker Tour $1K)
Diamond Jo Casino (Poker Bash $250)

August, 2010
Canterbury Park (Twin Cities Poker Open $1K)
Shooting Star (Sizzlin’ Poker Weekend Series)

September, 2010
Running Aces (Midwest Poker Classic Series)

October, 2010
Canterbury Park (Fall Poker Classic Series)

November, 2010
Grand Casino Hinckley (Grand Series)
22nd-28th: Grand Casino Hinckley (Minnesota State Poker Tour $1K)

December, 2010
8th-13th: Canterbury Park (Minnesota State Poker Tour $1K)

* Listed buy-ins do not include entry fees

July, 2009 Issue

- Steve Malkovich wins Heartland Poker Tour event at Northern Lights

- Mystery Man Dominates Local Scene

- Underground Rounders: Kriesel Poker League

- “The Squeeze Play”

- College Student Wins $551,000

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