For many of you, the discussion today might not be very applicable. What I mean is, this post is going to deal with some situations where one might decide to bluff at a pot even when a strong board has hit the flop, making it somewhat more likely that your opponent has hit something. By its very nature, this is a very aggressive move, and it requires a very aggressive player to even really consider making such a move at most any time, let alone against a board with high cards, suited or straight cards, etc. But this is a position in which I find myself quite frequently, as I am always looking to pick up pots where no one is showing much interest in defending their right to the chips in the middle. And while it's one thing to make a move at a raggy flop with two high cards, and on the button when it's been checked around to you after a preflop raise which indicates mostly high cards in your opponents' hands as well, it is quite another thing entirely to make such a stab at the pot on a flop of, say, KQJ all suited, after the same raise and a few callers preflop. This post will detail my thought process in such situations.
But first, let me just give you a perfect example of just how bad things have been going for me lately online. Last night in the WWdN, I played great. I made it to the final 10 players, and was in 6th place with 10 remaining, when I found K7 and played at a short table, hitting two pairs on the flop, and soliciting an allin call from an opponent who held just top pair Jack kicker:
This was going to vault me into 3rd place, and send me to my second WWdN final table in the last three weeks, and into one of the money positions in the event. But then check out the turn and
the river on this board:Mother effing effers!!!
I mean, it has got to be hard
for the poker gods to continually come up with new and inventive ways for me to lose these hands. Runner runner flush for Joe Hachem to knock me out of the WSOP after I made a masterful call on the flop? Now runner runner straight to eliminate me from the WWdN on the literal cash and final table bubble? When will it all end? But that's just how things have been going for me, for the better part of a month now. More than a month actually. I can't do anything in these events if runner-runner is now going to replace the straight river as the way I lose big pots in big situations every single time I sit down to a tournament. I think that's one of the things I loved about my performance in the live WPBT event in Vegas last weekend -- as I mentioned in my earlier post, I lost by getting outplayed by a guy who smooth-called my pocket 2's raise with his pocket Jacks, and then waited for me to move him allin on a raggy flop before springing his trap. I liked losing like that, I appreciate
losing like that. This shit like last night, and it just leaves the most bitter taste imaginable in your mouth, yknow? Anyways that was my big story from yesterday, out on the bubble in the WWdN
to runner-runner straight against a guy I had dominated on the flop. What else is new.
Anyways, on to the strong board discussion. I'm going to give you a few examples of hands where I was tempted into making a play (holding more or less nothing) at a board that had some real meat to it. I will take you through my thinking on every street, ask some questions, and can post the actual results because these were both real hands that I played in the WWdN yesterday evening.
In the first hand today, I was dealt JJ in the small blind. As a general statement this is a great situation for me, because the aggressive, blind-stealy image I have built up over many, many hands with the bloggers almost always gets me paid off when I get a big hand in late position. People either put me on an outright blind steal if no one else is in when the action gets around to me preflop, or, even better, they will put me on an outright resteal from the blinds if only one or two MP or LP players limp in or even go in for a small raise preflop. So I'm happy to see two limpers from EP, and then a smallish 3x raise from skidoo
in MP, which I happily call with my pocket Jacks:
I had debated reraising here, but with two limpers in from EP, and then someone raising 3x, still only in early MP, I figured the odds of a higher pair or, more likely, at least two overcards to my pair of Jacks were fairly good, so I decided a limp was in order, to at least see the flop and make a decision at that time. But then wwonka
, in first betting position after the blinds, reraised it preflop from 60 to 200. I took this as a mildly bad sign, but wonka had been playing like a crazy man thus far in the event, so I didn't go too nuts about the move. When the other preflop limper (on_thg
) also called the 200 bet, but then the original preflop raiser (Skidoo) folded, I decided the pot odds dictated that I throw in the additional 140 chips and see what unfolds on the flop. So with three players in, here came the flop:
I don't love the flop with the Kings, since I already was planning on someone having two overcards to my Jacks, which basically means either AQ, AK or KQ, two of which contain Kings. So I check this flop in first position, and both players check around to me.One very important point here to keep in mind in situations like this
, which is actually something raised to me by my buddy Buckhoya who plays in the blogger events from time to time: Do NOT act like this check-around contains any reliable information about the strength of the other two players' hands
. That is because the vast
majority of no limit holdem players (online and live, in my experience) tend to check the flop when they make trips, opting instead to bet on the turn after slow-playing the flop to remove the suspicion that someone made trips on the paired flop. So, once you accept the clear truth that someone who made trips with a King in their hand would have checked this hand, then the fact that there were three checks here should not make anyone think that no one connected with this flop. People who nailed trip Kings here would check, and people who made nothing would also likely check. Everyone checked, but we don't actually know anything
about anyone else's hand yet, at least not in my book. I now plan to look for people betting solidly on the turn, especially if it comes raggy, and I will expect that will mean someone who made trip Kings.
So it is checked around behind me on the flop, and here comes the turn card:
Notice what an extraordinarily bad turn card this is for me and my pocket Jacks. Not only is there still the possible trip Kings -- which was checked on the flop, just like a Kingtripper would have done here -- but now there is another overcard with anyone holding a Queen in their hand is now ahead of my Jacks as well. And
there is now a possible straight draw and
a possible flush draw out there, both making nut or near-nut hands since people tend to play high pocket cards, in particular in a raised and reraised pot preflop. So this is a truly terrible card for me. Here is a great situation where not
to try a steal bet. Even with all the checking on the flop, now anyone with a King, a Queen or pocket Aces, Kings or Queens has me beat, and anyone with two hearts or two high cards is likely on a drawing hand just one card away from beating me as well. With the two straight/flush cards in high hearts, there are just too many ways that one or both of these players could have hit this board, and betting out here will almost surely result in a raise to which I will be forced to fold. And remember, I'm still waiting to see if someone bets out strong on this turn card, which will still likely indicate trip Kings to me, something which I have feared all along with this hand.
So I check it, and wwonka bets out 160 into a 680-chip pot. On_thg folds, leaving me to ponder this quizzically small bet from wwonka. This is one place where knowing your opponent and paying attention to their play comes in very handy. I had personally watched wwonka play the Hammer very aggressively once already in this tournament, and in general I have the Hammerlover as a potentially wild player who does not like to give up pots when weakness is showed any more than I like to give up those kind of pots. And I was just very, very curious about the size of wwonka's bet here. I mean, as I've said, just about anyone and everyone online would have slowplayed trip Kings on the flop here. But then just about everyone among those slow-players would have bet out on the turn card, moving a decent amount of chips to try to "make up for" missing out on a bet on the flop. With the pot at 680, I'd be looking for the trip Kings slowplayer to now move in here for somewhere north of 500 chips, something approximating the size of the pot or close to it. Try as I might, there is just no way I can put wwonka on trip Kings here. And, given that, that means that wwonka can be scared into thinking that I
have trip Kings, if I can present a good story. In this case, I checked the flop, which as I've said above is actually consistent with me hitting trips here. I did call a raise and then a reraise preflop, also consistent with high cards of some kind, and to me wwonka's tiny bet is just screaming out weakness. Seems to me he is likely now on some kind of a draw after the turn card made a straight draw and a flush draw possible with high cards, and, with one card to come, that makes it fairly easy for me to make it unattractive for him to draw at what my instincts tell me is a drawing hand.
So, with all that in mind, and knowing how I like to trust my instincts and my reads in these situations, I made a strong move against this scary board:
I basically raised wwonka the pot here. While I am leaving myself enough chips to at least still be in it if wwonka reraises here (in which case I will surely
have to fold my Jacks on this board), what I've really done is taken my read, that wwonka is drawing to let's say an OESD or a flush, either one of which is a 5-to-1 shot to fill up on the river. So now wwonka will have to call 440 to win 1440, which is nice odds of around 3-to-1, but nowhere near what he needs to call this with what my instincts tell me is just a flush or straight draw on his part.
Wwonka considered my bet for about 10 seconds, and then this:
Victory. This was a great example not only of how trusting in and acting on your reads is important and can really work, but I also feel like it was a very good example of how to play with not a great hand against a scary board. Notice I did not bet when I had reason to believe someone might have hit the Kings on the flop. I didn't even bet again on the turn despite all three players checking the flop, because at that point even more outs were created that would beat my hand, and because of the possible trips still looming out there that would have been checked on the flop just like it was. Betting out at strong flops and strong boards, full of high cards and often suited, can be a real money drain on an aggressive player if you don't understand how and when to reign things in, and in this case I only waited until I had what I felt was a good read on a very low bet on the turn by my remaining opponent before I acted on my read of him and bet him out of the pot.
The second example of playing into a strong board occurred about 90 minutes into the WWdN on Tuesday evening this week. Again I am in the blind, the big blind this time, and again I'm dealt a solid hand, in this case pocket Kings. Shadowtwin
limps in for the 100-chip big blind amount in late position, and Jaxia
calls from the SB. Here I go for the raise, but only to 3x because I didn't really want to chase anyone away with my second-best-possible starting hand:
Both players call, which is more or less what I wanted, and then, true to their "magnets" nickname, my pocket Kings are dealt a bad blow when, with two callers of my raise seeing a flop, a single Ace hits the board:
Now I know all of you have been in this situation before. It seems like every effing time anyone plays Kings to see a flop, at least one Ace hits and all of our best-laid plans suddenly are up in smoke. Well, here it happened again, and with two players calling my preflop raise, I almost have
to put at least one of them on an Ace. So, the question becomes, am I going to be able to push him or her off of their Ace, hoping that maybe their kicker isn't so great, since after all I am the one who raised preflop? Anyways, Shadow in first position checks here, and Jaxia checks right behind. No way I'm betting out my Kings here, since, just like in the previous example, it is fairly common for people hitting a single Ace on the flop to go along with a decent Ace in their hand to check that hand on the flop, trying to inject some deception into the hand and give the impression that they, too, do not hold an Ace and have been stalled by its appearance on the flop. I'm thinking, in the unlikely event that no one has an Ace in their hand, I should be able to get a read on that later in the hand, and play it accordingly and win the pot. No need to fall right into a slowplayer's trap here on the flop, not when I already had at least one of these players on some kind of Ace preflop, and then the nightmare Ace hit the flop as well. So I check it as well, and we see a turn card:
An offsuit Queen. So, anyone hoping for a flush on the flop has not filled, nor has anyone going for a low straight on the A-2 combination on the flop. What's more, the Queen, while a high card, actually might help me here since it could make someone holding, say, KQ or QJ, a pair which they are willing to put some chips behind given the check-around on the flop. Of course AQ is now way ahead of me, but AQ was already ahead of my pocket Kings when the Ace hit the board, so again although the Queen looks
like another bad card that is likely to have connected with one of my opponents' hands, in this case its appearance on the turn doesn't really have much effect on me. And remember, I'm still putting one of these players on some kind of Ace, meaning that they hit top pair on the flop, but then slowplayed it there with a check in an attempt to draw out a bet from an aggressive player at the table (i.e., me), and that now they will make a bet of between 2/3 and the whole pot or so, again to "make up" for missing the bet they slow-checked with on the flop.
But in this case, both Shadow and then Jaxia checked it back to me again. Now that move got me thinking. Remember, two seconds earlier I was not willing to commit any chips to this pot at this point because of the slowplayed Ace possibilities. But in my head, much with the previous example with the slowplayed trip Kings I was fearing, almost everyone who slowplays a flop of A42 while holding, say, A9 or AT, would almost surely
bet out on the turn card, now wanting to ensure some action on what they are now fairly confident is the best hand out there. In this case, they both checked to me. I've played a lot with Shadow and know he knows how to play the game, and I've written here in the blog before specifically about Jaxia
's extreme prowess around a poker table, so I'm thinking that both of these guys would have bet out on the turn with any kind of an Ace, except that maybe Jaxia could be playing a low Ace here and is getting suspicious at the lack of betting on a board that so obviously must have hit either Shadow's or my hand. So, again after remaining cautious through a round of checks on the flop with this scary board for my pocket Kings, and starting off the turn cautious as well, after two more checks to me, I'm starting to think maybe my Kings are the best hand here, or can support me making a move to push one of my opponents off of what I now believe to be a weak Ace, if even an Ace at all in either or both of their hands.
Thus, armed with the new knowledge of two more checks from my opponents, I did this:
So here I bet out 500 into a 900-chip pot. This amount was not arrived at without thought. I'm thinking, 500 into a 900-chip pot should be more than enough to chase out anyone drawing, and in particular to chase out Jaxia if she was indeed playing a low Ace and now believes I have a stronger Ace with this bet. Again, remember that it was I
who raised this pot preflop after two limpers were already in, so Jaxia and Shadow have every reason to believe that I'm the one sitting on AK or AQ here. Yet, the 500 chips is just small enough that, if it turns out Jaxia (or Shadow) really do
hold a high Ace here, they will likely reraise, and I can fold it without killing myself too much for losing 500 chips out of my stack of over 2000 at the time. This is an idea that is brought up again and again in books like Harrington and Super System, and is something which our esteemed poker author friend DoubleAs
also lives by in his game -- here I am putting pressure on my opponents by representing a strong Ace that I now finally do not believe either of them are holding after their back-to-back checks to me on the turn, while I am not really at a pressure point myself, having the ability to fold this hand to a substantial raise from either party and still retain most of my stack.
Surprisingly to me, however, I am bummed to see Shadowtwin flat call my 500 bet on the turn, and after Jaxia folds her hand, we see the river card:
So, with Shadow's call, I've got to be almost certain that he holds some kind of an Ace here. Probably a middling Ace as opposed to a high one though, since he failed to reraise for his last 406 chips into a now 2000-chip pot. I found that move to be very telling actually. Any AK or AQ here probably just pushes in the rest of his stack, and I would have almost surely folded even given the pot odds I was getting to make the call there. I would have been that
sure that Shadow had some kind of Ace, and would not have wanted to drop even one more penny into the pot at that point, having lost too much already when I thought someone likely had an Ace in their hand all along. But the checks on the flop and then again on the turn told me that noone loved their hand here, so I decided to go for it and I don't regret that decision.
Even with 1900 chips already in the pot, I'm basically ready to fold to any bet from Shadow here. Yes I would be giving up on a 1900-chip pot just to avoid calling a bet of 406 chips, but my instincts told me he had some kind of Ace here, and as you all know I play poker by sticking with my instincts for the most part. Well, shockingly, Shadow just checked to me on the river. That's right, he checked the 1900 chip pot for which he had just called a 500-chip bet from me on the turn, with only a measly 406 chips still remaining in his stack. He checked this river to me. So did I bet at it?
. I just finished explaining how sure I was that Shadow held an Ace of some kind, and with this check instead of an allin bet on the river, I figured he likely had a middle Ace (something between maybe A6 and A9 or so), so I was not about to put another dime into this pot at this point. I checked as well. Any guesses as to what Shadow was holding here? Scroll down below for the answer.
So here I ended up winning a hand, because I waited on a bad flop until two rounds of checks from all of my opponents just didn't seem to indicate any strong Aces out in the other players' hands. At that point I made a right-sized bet, one that would leave me with plenty of chips if I had to fold to any reraise, but which was small enough for someone potentially to call with a less than premium hand (although I definitely do not agree with Shadow's call of my 500 bet on the turn in this instance with his pocket 7s). Hopefully from the above examples you can get a sense of the way that I play hands against big boards that seem likely to have hit a number of other likely holdings already out there. In a nutshell, I strongly advocate not losing a dime in these sorts of situations where it seems likely you are behind, unless and until you get a genuine and solid read that your hand might be ahead or might at least be enough to push someone else off of their weaker hand, and then bet accordingly.
One more item I wanted to discuss briefly today, and that is Felicia
. I just had the time for the first time since returning from Vegas to catch up on Felicia's weekend experiences in Las Vegas, what was a truly fantastic time for all of the bloggers with whom I have spoken. What I found on Felicia's site, however, was much the opposite. Turns out, Felicia felt very hurt and left-out and just generally dissed by some group of the bloggers whom she felt owed her some loyalty, some interest, and some support. Something. Anything. Apparently Felicia played in an Omaha event (presumably the WSOP?) that weekend, and nobody thought to ask her how she did, let alone to show up to cheer her on in the event itself. I can see how Felicia would take offense to that, given that I must have fielded no fewer than 100 questions, cell phone calls, emails, etc. about my WSOP Event #13 experience on Friday, and given that I know a bunch of the group went out to the Rio to support Factgirl
, Mrs. Spaceman and a few other of the blogging crew who played in the ladies' WSOP event later in the weekend. When I read Felicia
's recounting of the weekend events, I feel bad for her. I do think that Felicia would admit to having a generally negative attitude towards most of the bloggers in general, and I would imagine that that attitude contributed, probably to a great degree, to the way Felicia perceived her treatment by the bloggers last weekend in Vegas. That said, when I read her posts, I feel bad for her the way that I would feel bad for anyone who felt betrayed and left alone. Certainly when Felicia writes about all that she has done for some of the blogging community, only to get nothing whatsoever in return, that sounds bad to me (not knowing, or caring to know for that matter, any of the details of what exactly she did for them).
Once again, in Felicia's posts about the weekend, my name comes up a couple of times. I think I mentioned in an earlier post that I actually had a really fun time playing 2-4 limit HORSE with the bloggers on Friday night at the MGM, including a good few hours with Felicia
, and eventually her husband Glenn, sitting at my table. Now here is Felicia's recount of that time playing HORSE with me:
"Hoyzano was polite at the table, and caused no problem for me. Thanks for that. Why he is always going after me or Glenn online is a big mystery to me, but I didn't cause a scene at the table. I was having fun and playing the very games I love, so I didn't go out of my way to question his constant taking me out of context or quoting things about me that simply aren't true. I don't care for a person who plays against someone for 30 minutes, then proclaims them as a "bad player" or something similar. No one can watch someone play for very little time, then make such huge, sweeping assumptions about their play. No one besides God is God."
I don't know why I care to respond to this, but I do. Maybe it's because deep down I have always enjoyed reading Felicia's blog, and deep down I feel like I understand much of what she is talking about, even if others do not. Maybe it's something else. I don't know. But in any event, I want to start off by saying how much I am into the "accidental" misspelling of my name. Although I link to Felicia
often in my blog because she often has intelligent things to say about various poker games, I have never been directly linked in Felicia's blog. I find it interesting that, where you can do a search of my real poker handle and find hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of references to me in other blogs, replete with links and even maybe a nice word or two (or references to me as a donkey, a fish, an asshole, etc.), in Felicia's case she has managed to refer to me directly or indirectly probably ten times over the past couple of months in her blog, and yet has never linked me directly. Of course that is 100% Felicia's prerogative and I would defend to the hilt her right to link or not to link to whomever she pleases, it is still pretty telling that she seems to go out of her way not to give me any traffic or any pub whatsoever (as if I care about that sort of thing), even when she directly talks about me in her blog. I've always thought that the medium of blogging has as one of its best and most central points the ability to link to other blogs, or other websites generally, and that is one of the main things that has helped our little community of ghey bloggers to grow, learn from each other, and support each other generally. Again I would imagine this is part of the reason why there was so much interest in my WSOP experience, and apparently so little in Felicia's.
It's also interesting to me that Felicia wonders "Why he is always going after me or Glenn online is a big mystery to me." Hmmm. First of all, I've never heard of Glenn until maybe two weeks ago. Literally. Never. Heard. Of. Him. I've never "gone after" the guy in my life, since I don't know a thing about him and that's just not my way when I don't know someone. Presumably Felicia is referring to the time in my blog that I mentioned how poorly I thought Felicia had played in the pokerstars blogger freeroll a month or so ago, and that was when Felicia then posted on her blog that it wasn't her who played, but Glenn. That's the only time I've ever said a word about Glenn, and let's be honest, I didn't say anything about Glenn there either, but rather I was talking about Felicia. And as far as the comment about me "always going after" Felicia online, I take offense to that. It has repeatedly been Felicia
, and not me, who makes bad reference to me in her blog. It was Felicia who wrote the scathing comment about me on Wes's blog
that later got deleted, all claiming that she did not make a statement that I then later linked directly to Felicia making in her blog. It was Felicia who railed on me in a veiled form on a few different occasions recently in her blog, for having "hammer" in my name, and for posting screenshots, telling bad beat stories, etc. The list goes on and on. To suggest that I have "repeatedly gone after Felicia" or
her husband is just not true. As I've stated many times here, I actually like
reading Felicia's blog and like much of what she has to say, and more often than not I find myself the only one in a conversation among bloggers who is defending
Felicia, instead of being the one who rips on her. I admire what Felicia has done after what she's been through, and I recognize the value in many of her poker-related posts. Most bloggers can't say that. And yet, because I called her out on something that she did in fact say on her blog, which I later linked to as if anyone needed proof of that, I get constantly flamed by her on her blog. It's sad, really.
In her comment above, Felicia also says about me "I don't care for a person who plays against someone for 30 minutes, then proclaims them as a "bad player" or something similar. No one can watch someone play for very little time, then make such huge, sweeping assumptions about their play. No one besides God is God."
Hmmmm. All I know is, I never
labeled Felicia or Glenn as any kind of a "bad player". You can see the link to my post for yourself
right now -- I did
comment on his/her bad play
in that particular tournament, which I will stand by. But otherwise, I did not, and would not, make any sweeping statements about anyone's play generally. You suck it up in a tournament at my table, and you may make my blog just for that performance. I cannot count
how many times I've been written up in another blogger's column for some bad play or donkeyfest I had at their table the previous evening or within the preceding few days. But I don't begrudge anyone that. I suck it up at your table, I make a moronic call on you and then suck out, I understand that you may blog about it, and in fact I expect
that. For someone with as thick a skin as Felicia seems to have, I find it very odd that I can point out (quite correctly, might I add) that she or her husband played poorly on one given day, and then be accused of making "sweeping generalizations" about her or her husband's play, generally. Read the post I linked to above -- I never call her or him a "bad player" or say they don't know what they're doing at the poker table. I know
Felicia is a good player, and while I've never railed him, I have heard from several sources whom I trust that Glenn is quite good as well. I even mentioned that I know Felicia is a good player in that very post. So, I'm really not trying to make any generalizations about Felicia's (or Glenn's) poker play, and if I were to do that, they would be positive ones, not negative ones. For Felicia's blog to say that I made sweeping generalizations about her play, that right there is a misquote and it is taking something out of context. I would not say that, I did not say that, and once again, just like with the "no bad beats just bad play" comment
, I have the link to prove that what I'm saying is true. Not that it actually matters -- because clearly it doesn't -- but I guess I'm still trying to figure out why Felicia has something against me, especially in light of how I defend her and will continue to do so in the future, regardless of the response from her (or more likely, the lack thereof) to this post. Felicia did also mention me a bit later in her post, by the way, as thanking me for acting like an adult, so I guess I will take that compliment for what it is and just move on. But in general, I have never misquoted Felicia, and she has misquoted me now on a few occasions, and has slandered me several times in her blog. Why I just don't know.
And btw, as far as the "only God is God" comment. I'm not trying to be God. I don't think of myself as God. I don't know what religion Felicia
is, and I don't know what she believes in as far as a supreme being of some sort. But in my world view, God is not someone who spends His or Her time trying to determine which of His or Her miraculous creations is a good or bad poker player. Maybe others don't agree with me on that point either, I don't know, but in no way I am trying to play God or do I think of myself as God, just because somebody plays bad poker on one given day, and I am there to see all of it, and end up commenting on that in my blog.
Despite all this, you know what? I'm going to keep enjoying Felicia
's blog, even if I disagree with some of the points she makes there from time to time, and even if I question the quality of her play on a given day from time to time. I don't know what Felicia could say that would make me stop enjoying her blog and her posts and her unique outlook on things. I will admit that I wish I was part of the big apology post she made the other day on her blog. I think I deserve that from her, even though I know it is not going to come. I don't mind a little disagreement among people, even bloggers, and I'm not saying or expecting that she and I will agree on every statement, every play, every anything
all the time. But so what? Does that mean every time I check out her blog for my daily dose, I have to wonder what bad thing she's said about me today? I sure wish it didn't. Am I off base here? Does anyone even care about this silliness other than me (and Felicia, obviously)?