Hot Hand #3 (Updated With Results)
In keeping with my recent trend of playing strong starting cards for many of my strategy posts, Hot Hand #3 will cover another example of where I was dealt pocket Aces, but unlike my recent posts, this one is not a slow-playing situation. Here's the setup:
This is about an hour into the partypoker 40k guaranteed tournament, and I'm dealt Aces in middle position. As good as that is, the action in the two non-blind spots in front of me is a first-position limp, and a 2nd position raise to 2x. So the first bettor is representing strength -- no he didn't raise, but to even call from first position is him saying that he has some kind of a playable hand. Suited connector at least, or two solid high cards, or a pocket pair. Then the second bettor is raising it up. Yes the raise is only 2x, but still, raising it up immediately after a first-position limper, and with a full six people still to act behind him, plus the early-position limper, that to me screams out a high pocket pair, or maybe AK, or even AQ (if hes donkish). And here I'm sitting in third position with the best possible starting hand.
Question #1: This is a pretty unique setup for a guy holding pocket Aces in the third betting position behind the blinds. You might play every day for six months and never run into a setup quite like this, with a first-position caller and a 2nd position raiser in front of my bullets, and still five people left to act behind me preflop. What is the money move here? Do I raise it up further, and if so, how much? Am I trying to raise people out of the pot, or am I looking for action here? Do I just smooth call and hope I have one or both of these guys dominated after a big flop hits? What's the move that is best designed to elicit the most money from my opponents?
I elected to raise it up again, to 400. I figured this would more or less have to chase out the five remaining players behind me, and yet that the odds would still be decent enough for definitely one if not both of the early bettors to call me. And, I figured, if the 2nd-position raiser preflop does have QQ or KK or something like that, he might even reraise me allin right here preflop, which of course would be a happy situation for me:
Everyone folds to my reraise, including the original first-position limper, who now I do figure was probably on a low suited connector, but the guy in 2nd position, who had originally raised it up 2x preflop, calls my raise to 400, bringing us a heads-up flop with 950 chips now in the pot:
Yuck! is the first word that comes to my mind. Frankly, I had put the preflop 2x raiser on a possible high pocket pair already, and seeing a King and the two Queens on the flop raises the specter of a possible flopped set. Plus there is the flush draw possibility, in addition to the straight possibilities with the high cards that people usually play in holdem. So, my opponent thinks for a few seconds, and then checks to me on this flop.
Question #2: What is my best response here? Do I make a play for the pot with the overpair? Do I read this guy for an attempted slow-play of trips, and just check back at him? Or, are there too many draws out there for me to give up a free card here, and in which case, if I do elect to bet, how much do I throw out there given this flop?
While the "slow down!" bells continue to ring in my head, I reluctantly elect to bet out 600 chips into the 950 chip pot, not wanting to let any cheap draws bust my Aces on the chance that they are currently good:
My opponent thinks a few seconds, and calls my 600 bet, putting 2150 in the pot, a pot that has now become larger than my current stack. Shit!
And the turn card comes:
While that 9 of hearts appears harmless, it now completes the straight with a JT if that's what he was holding. I can't put him on that hand, though, given his 2x raise preflop from 2nd betting position after the first bettor had already limped in from the front position. Even JTs really shouldn't be played that way by someone who knows how this game is played.*** In any event, he checks again to me on the turn, which disturbs me a bit in that he could easily have AQ or KQ and be slow-playing me with a strong trips holding.
Question #3: What should I be doing now, especially with the possible open end straight draw just hitting on the turn??
I checked it back to him. This seemed like the right decision at the time. I knew I could be giving him a free draw, but after the preflop reraise call, and the flop bet call by him, I had to give him credit for something. What do you think of that decision? OK, so the river is coming out, and I really don't know what this guy could be holding.
The river comes a 6 of hearts, the first card on this entire board that doesn't scare me at all. But just as I'm enjoying not being scared, my opponent leads out for the first time this entire hand, pushing in the rest of his stack very quickly.
Question #4: Now what, guys? What should I put him on here? What is the proper response? Am I going to let him push me off my Aces like this, after the first non-scare card of the hand has fallen? I don't want to play like a pussy, but at the same time I don't want to be a stubborn donkey and insist on continuing to play a hand where it seems likely I am going to bust out of a tournament in which I have been doing well thus far. What do I do here, and what's in this guy's hand?
Let me know your thoughts everyone, and I will post the final outcome of the Hot Hand #3 shortly after people have had a chance to post their comments.
*** Of course, a very poor assumption on my part.
Update With Hand Results: Here was my thinking as I reworked the action bet-by-bet while I contemplated whether or not to call off my stack to this apparent luckbox in Hot Hand #3. First question is "What am I really worried about him having here?" Yes, he could have two kings, but frankly, even assuming I'm willing to accept that he only raised it 2x from 2nd betting position after a first-position limper to begin with before the flop, I have to figure he would have almost certainly re-reraised my preflop reraise to 400 when it got back around to him. Not reraising with those Kings would be a strange move the way I see it, so I just can't peg two Kings as the most likely hand he's sitting on right now. Otherwise, since, a la Doyle, I'm not going to worry about him having flopped quad Queens, and I don't think he would have stayed in for the reraise preflop with JTs for a rivered straight, my biggest, most realistic worry right now is that he holds either AQ or KQ and is sitting on flopped trips.
So then I figure, let's see how he played this hand for flopped trips. Now, I play a lot of online poker. And one thing that I've read in a couple of different poker books that I have definitely seen proven time and time again online is that probably more than 95% of people out there, when they flop trips, will check their trips on the flop and then bet it hard on the turn if no one bets at them on the flop. Everyone thinks they are sneaky joe's when they check their trips on the flop, but no one seems to realize that everyone does the exact same thing! OK so in this hand, he did check the flop to me. When I bet smallish on the flop, and he just smooth called me, that would also be consistent with most people's fishplay when they flop trips. However, when I bet smallish again on the turn, those 95%+ of people who check-called their trips on the flop would almost uniformly raise my smallish bet significantly on the turn card. Here, he just smooth called me again. Now, I have several times seen or even fallen victim in the old days to a guy who just check-calls my bet on the flop, again on the turn and again on the river when they flop trips, but in those cases the lead bettor was making large bets in each case, in particular on the turn, so just smooth calling was building a very large pot for the slow-playing trips-flopper. In this hand, something just didn't add up quite right that he would play his trips by check-calling my smallish bet on the flop, and then just check-calling again another smallish bet on the turn, instead of raising it up to make that small chip commitment on the turn into a significant one for me. Something about that check-call on the turn made me think he was sitting on something other than trip queens. Maybe Jacks, maybe a flush draw, maybe something else. I wasn't sure, but my regular readers will note that I am firmly committed to sticking with my poker instincts in situations like this, and in this case my instincts said something didn't quite add up. So I called for the rest of my chips, half-expecting to be packing it up. And here is what he flipped:
What do you think of that? Turns out, he was just being a complete and utter donkey!