Saturday, September 23, 2006

Two monotone flops

So for once the key hand on a Friday night is one I won. Two I won, because they were similar.

A few weeks ago, I noted that R, a weak player who will often call with absolutely nothing (an even worse trait in no limit than in limit, where it is commoner) and who likes the big bluffs over the small, had made a mistake in showing me a bluff that he had pulled on me. (The big bluff, I should explain, is the all in push when you have raised, rather than the potsized bet that apes having a decent hand. I make the latter a fair bit but the first requires a strong read before you try it for the obvious reason that your tourney is over if you do it at the wrong time.)

So I have T6 in the big blind and I see the flop for just the blind. It comes QT6, all spades. In limit, I would not fear this flop and would be looking to build the pot. But sometimes what is a fine flop in limit is a disaster in no limit, and being alive to these spots is essential if you want to win. So R bets out and I raise. I am thinking when he bets that he might have an ace. I think I am almost certainly ahead. I raised quite a nice amount, enough to make chasing the flush draw unviable if he has a spade, but not so much that a loose player won't consider it callable.

He pushes.

This unequivocally says that he has flopped the flush. I forget the exact size of our stacks but I have him covered, just, and we both have about the average for the game. So this is a big hand. If I call and he has it, I have four outs and if I miss, I'm more or less done in this tourney.

But does he have it? I call to the mind the bluff of a few weeks ago. He made it on a danger flop: not a flush board but a straight was possible and I had a hand but not one I'd bet my life on. He had bet out and I had raised. I folded to his push and he showed Q2, a nothing hand that had not in any way connected with the board. I did not feel bad about being bluffed. It's part of the game. I felt it was a terrible error to let me know though. Some players can't seem to help it: they have to let you know how very clever they are. Me, I prefer for them not to know when I've outsmarted them, although they know I think about the game, and I'm clearly a better player than most, if not all, of those I play on Friday nights.

It struck me that the betting had gone the same way on this hand and he might consider this a great setup for the bluff. It didn't matter to me that I had two pair. If he was bluffing, any pair would be beating him most likely, so the strength of my hand was irrelevant. I either put him on a bluff and called, or folded and saved my stack.

I called. He showed 95. I had read him perfectly. The turn was a king, which gave him a gutty, but the poker gods had decided that my great call should be rewarded, we rivered a 3 and he was done.

Later, threehanded with L, a woman who plays predictably, whose favourite move is to check and call on the flop with a big hand and then raise it on the turn (hilarious when no one bets for her on the flop because she will not then check the turn but always bets an amount that screams "I tried to slowplay"), and W, the host, who has learned some lessons about the game (play tight in early position, looser when you have position; aggression is good) but not others (small pairs are not good to raise at full tables; don't be weak -- having raised pf with a pair of 9s, a decent enough hand, he had checked when he flopped a king, then bet a brick on the turn, allowing R to see a river fairly cheaply (although too expensively for anyone with a clue) and cried like a smacked baby when R rivered an ace to pair the one in his hand -- a tough player will bet the flop, not automatically assume that his one opponent has the scare card), I raised it pf with AsKc. I didn't make a huge raise, mostly because I had confused how the action was, and felt obliged to make the bet I had originally stated. Anyway, L called, as she does, and we took the flop. K86, all spades. I bet out, confident that I was ahead and hoping she would call me with K9+, which would be a likely hand for her. She raised. I pushed it all in.

Was this a terrible move? Couldn't she have flopped a flush? Well yes, she could. I figured it was quite likely she had paired her king, perhaps with a big spade, had a medium pair, or was trying a bluff. Because I hadn't raised much preflop, it would be reasonable to put me on Ax or a small pair and to think that a pair of kings would be good. Why did I push? Because I thought I had a very good chance of being called by a worse hand. I have seen L make some very poor calls in the past. I felt that the chance she had a flush was about 30% (and the chances of her bluffing and having a pair about the same). Okay, if she did, I was behind, but I would have seven outs twice to improve to beat her. So it was about 2 to 1 that she was ahead, and 2.6 to 1 that if she was, I would catch up. With the dead money in the pot, I thought this was a thin push. There was some chance that she didn't have the flush but had K8 or K6. This would increase the chances that I was behind but give me more outs to catch up (15 on the turn, 18 on the river), making me a clear favourite.

But why take the chance? Well, I had the big stack. Even if she called and beat me, I would not be close to elimination. She would take the chip lead, but I would be close to W in chip count. Against these weak players, I was confident I could win from that position.

And why did I think it quite unlikely she had the flush? Well, threehanded, the chances that your only calling opponent happens to have the suit that flops monotone are pretty slim, particularly when you hold a card of that suit. A spade, yes, maybe. Two, not likely.

Unlikely or otherwise, she showed JT suited in spades. Ouch. But the poker gods had decided that the stallion would get his oats. I rivered the 2 of spades for the nut flush and that was that.

W was barely even competition HU. When I first made it to the last two on a Friday night, I had never played HU in any money game. I had no idea how to play and was timid and weak. He had a bigger stack and ran over me. I'm a better player now and one area I have improved in is HU. And I had a huge chip advantage.

W tried to get a bit tricky. A couple of times he limped and then pushed all in when I raised. I laughed it off because I had been expecting that. I knew that this was going to be his downfall. In a very short stack HU, you have to try to get doubled up. It's no use chipping away, stealing small bets or blinds. You are risking too much because the big stack need only wait for something decent to bust you with.

Some players in a stack as big as I had would call an all in with just about any two, but the blinds were still low enough for there to be no pressure. I figured he was raising light (after a couple of successes he was looking to steal any bet I made) but I didn't need to let him double up by calling with trash. I reckoned that I could beat him by simply waiting for the kind of hand I might play from in limit and call with that. So when I woke up with A8s on the button, a strong hand HU, I figured that would do it. I limped, letting him think that he could steal the chips once more, and when he pushed, it was an easy call. He had JTs, the same suit as mine as it happens, just to break his heart.

The poker gods, who have been kicking me about by letting all sorts of donkey suck out on me recently, decided that I would be permitted to enjoy my glory moment. I flopped two pair and the turn was a brick, killing any chance he might have had.


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