Thursday, November 08, 2007

Playing the Later Streets in NL Cash Games

I don't know if I'm supposed to be pissed off or happy about my Tuesday night poker action overall. I played a few FTOPS satellite tournaments -- one for the Main Event, one for FTOPS #8 the 1k buyin nlh tournament, and I think even an sng satellite for the PLO8 tournament coming up the middle of next week. I also played my first-ever knockout tournament on full tilt, in addition to the reguloar 9:45pm ET token frenzy, the 15.5k and the $10 rebuy tournament at 10:30pm ET. So there was a whole lot of tournament action going on in the Hammer household on Tuesday, and you know what? I think I got sucked out on and eliminated from every single one of them. There might have been one tournament where I actually got in behind on a setup instead of a suckout, but otherwise it was get the donk allin with his pocket Kings against my flopped two pair, and then he rivers a King. Or get him allin preflop and dominated, and he four-flushes me at the river. Shit like that. Again and again and again, all night long. I was in first place at the final table of two different FTOPS satellites on the night, and got sucked out repeatedly in both of them to fail to win my seat in each case, only moneying in one of those sats overall by the time the night was done. I got sucked out so hard in the $10 rebuy that I only rebought once and then said F this after my third or fourth beatdown with superior cards, and I think I was the very first person out of the token frenzy when some idiot called my allin on the flop with just middle pair and then proceeded to hit his kicker on the turn to knock me out quick. It sucked. Hard.

While all this was going on, however, I was also playing at the 2-4 6max cash tables, and over there I was on fire. I won a ton of pots, mostly all of them without seeing a showdown, and I controlled the pot sizes on the pots I was involved in such that I wasn't putting money in on longshots really at all over several hours of multi-table play. I won a buyin here, a buyin there, lost a buyin here, then won half a buyin a couple of places. In the end I was up nearly 3 buyins after probably 5 hours total of play, and my game is feeling confident after a bout of variance that had left me buying in short at some tables to help make my decisions a little easier and hopefully help my opponents to play a little less smart against me.

So should I be pissed off about 7 suckout eliminations in one night from poker tournament? Or should I be happy to have made several hundy overall on the night on what was one of my most consistently strong performances at the cash tables in a while? I guess in the end the money talks and I feel happy about the night overall. But I won't lie -- I did kill several pets before hitting the sack overall, one after the other after the other when these jidiots kept donkey calling and then getting rewarded in basically every tournament I played in. Not the way I wanted to head into FTOPS #1 which goes off tonight at 9pm ET on full tilt, at least not from an mtt perspective.

Anyways, today I wanted to talk a little bit about playing the turn and river in no-limit cash games. I've been focusing a lot on this thought as I've been playing more and more cash games over the past few weeks and really for the majority of this year after focusing primarily on large tournaments in the couple of previous years as an online poker player. Of course, turn and river play is really the big difference between typical mtt play and typical cash game play, in that in the tournaments there is simply not much opportunity or incentive for players to be faced with the deep thought required when weighing your options of whether to call half your stack, raise the rest allin or fold on the river at a cash table for what represents to the player a significant amount of cold, hard cash as opposed to just a maximum loss of the player's tournament buyin. Specifically, I tend to focus more on decisions (i.e., do I call, raise or fold) on the turn, and more on the amounts involved in those decisions when it comes to the river (i.e., how much do I bet to make this guy call or fold, etc.). So here are some examples from recent cash hands I have played, and I'd like to get the readers' input as to how you would play some specific cash hands at the river. Then we can discuss the results and what actually happened in the hands in question. As usual, the following hands all occurred at 6max 2-4 nlh tables over the past month or two on full tilt poker.

1. Hand #1: In the first hand today, I had called a pot-sized raise before the flop from the small blind with pocket 5s -- pretty much an automatic call for set-mining purposes alone -- and saw a heads-up flop with the middle position open-raiser of 299 rainbow. I checked, not knowing if my 5s were good or not, and my opponent, who had raised it up preflop and who I knew to be solid, checked behind as well. So already I'm thinking this guy might have been raising with just two high cards. He could easily have been popping it preflop with something like a JackAce or KQ or something -- moves that are fairly automatic in 6max play at this level -- and then checked the raggy flop on the thought I might have called from the blinds with a small pair of some kind. So when the turn card came out another 2 for a board of 2992, I did not want to check it to him again after he showed the weakness of raising preflop but then checking behind on the flop. So I bet out $22 into the $30 pot, hoping for two high cards to fold, and expecting that I would be laying down quick to any raise. Instead, my solid opponent just smooth called that bet, making $76 in the pot heading into a river card.

The river came a raggy offsuit 6, making the final board thus:

Question 1: What do you do here? Do you check with the intent of folding to any substantial bet? Or are you checking with the intent of calling any reasonably sized bet? Or do you bet out, and if so, how much? And why?

2. Hand #2: In this hand, I was again seated in the small blind, and this time the big blind and two other early position players had limped in, so I of auto-called for just $2 more into a $14 pot with K3o. The hand is shit of course, but for $2 into a 4-way pot, no way I'm going to miss out on potentially hitting the board big and getting paid off with something. And the flop comes down K63 rainbow, giving me top and bottom pair, and in the small blind I was first to act with $15.20 in the pot at the time. Now those of you who read here frequently know that I love to slow-play top two pairs in holdem, but otherwise I prefer generally speaking to push a bit with other two pairs because they are vulnerable to annoying beats on the later streets if you dish out the free cards like they're going out of style. So I followed my own advice with my top and bottom pairs here and bet out:

My bet got just one caller, from the player on the right side, the second limper into this pot preflop. So we saw the turn card, a Queen, heads up for a board of 6K3Q with no real flush draw to be concerned with. Here is where I did one of my favorite moves when I hold a hand I suspect to be best: the old bet-the-flop-then-check-the-turn, to try to induce action from a guy who I can hopefully make believe I was just trying to steal the pot on the flop with a contiuation-type of bet. So I checked, and my opponent took the bait by betting $20 into the $38 pot. Again I opted to just smooth call this bet -- often times I like to checkraise here, but this guy I had on having hit some part of the board decently hard, so I figured I could get more from him on the river if need be by continuing to play weak here:

With $77 now in the pot, the river then came a perfectly raggy 4 of diamonds, for a final board of 6K3Q4 with no flush possibility. I've got K3o for top and 5th pair on the board, and my opponent called my flop bet, and bet out after I checked on the turn.

Question #2: What do you guys do here now? Again, are you betting out here, intending to call a raise or fold to a raise? How much are you betting? Or, do you check here, with the intent of calling or folding to a reasonably-sized bet?

3. Hand #3: In this hand, which actually occured just minutes after Hand #2 above, this time I am seated in the big blind with JTs, one of my favorite hands to play. UTG raised the $4 big blind up to $20, and UTG+1 called the raise ahead of me. I also called, loving putting in $20 with this ultimate big pair-cracking hand and probably the best of the soooted connectors to play due to the numerous straight and flush possibilities, plus two possible high card winners if the right board hits. The flop came down TKQ rainbow, giving me bottom pair plus an open ended straight draw. Now, back in the day this was the kind of hand I would end up losing a lot of money with due to the oesd, but nowadays I tend to see these sorts of hands for what they are -- really just an oesd, that should be played accordingly. With a preflop raiser and another player calling that preflop raise, my pair of Tens is basically worth zippo on a scary, high-card and straightening board like this, and even the oesd is at risk to other high cards surely being played by others who are raising preflop. So I checked as first to act on the TKQ flop, and the action checked around through all three players.

The turn card brought the Ace of spades, making two spades on the board but otherwise giving me the nut broadway straight with my Jack. Here, with $59 in the pot, I opted to bet out $34, hopefully dragging someone in with two pairs who might be willing to call a less than full-pot-sized bet:

The player who first called the preflop raise was the only guy who called my $34 bet on that turn card, giving us a heads-up look at the totally raggy 5 of diamonds on the river. There was now $127 in the pot, and I had the stone nuts with my Jack:

Question 3: What do I do here? Do I bet out with the nuts, and if so, how much do you recommend betting? Or would you check here and hope for some action from the player to your left, so that you can pop him big and hopefully win a larger pot on the river?

Let me know your answers to these three questions in the comments, and then later in the week we can discuss the results and the thinking that goes in to these questions at the river in nl cash games.

Don't forget, tonight is a big night for a guy like me. Of course there is the Mookie tonight at 10pm ET on full tilt (password as always is "vegas1"), where the winner will receive the 9th of 27 seats to the BBTwo Aussie Millions Tournament of Champions, and where I will obviously be with bells on. Gotta be on time for my weekly analraping, right? But in addition to the Mook, tonight is also the start of FTOPS VI, with FTOPS #1 -- $216 buyin 6-max nlh -- going off at 9pm ET on full tilt. I know KOD is in this one along with me, and I'm sure a few other bloggers will be making a run as well. So come cheer us on if you're around, or at least once you're logged on for the Mookie tonight at 10, where hopefully I'll still be alive an hour in to the biggest tournament I've played in since the last FTOPS on full tilt.

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Blogger Sam F said...


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Would you please contact me?

I would like to discuss hand analysis tools with you.

Thank you

12:10 AM  
Blogger pokerpeaker said...

Great hands as usual.

#1- Checking is weak, but the fact that he raised pre-flop, then checked the hand on the board, then called your bet probably means he has a hand. In my cash game play, I tend to play hands like these kind of weak. A weakness of mine. But I also don't lose money in these situations. I can't put him on a draw. I would check and hope he bets and then I would probably fold to a sizable bet.
Yes, he might have two high cards, true, but if he does, my guess is he checks here, especially if he's solid.
I'm interested to hear how you would play this hand.

#2 - I'm betting it, and probably 2/3rds of the pot or maybe half if you want to value bet it. I don't see him beating you here, and the only thing that would make me fold is a substanial raise or an all-in push. If he calls you've got him.

#3 - I don't like checking the river on a scary board to give your opponent a free card when you've got the nuts. He could have a hand, two pair or even a set, that he would gladly check but probably have to pay off if you bet. So I bet 60 percent of the pot, maybe even 70, and hope he calls.

#4 -

12:50 AM  
Blogger cmitch said...

H1 - Bet 1/2 pot. This player may call you with an Ace. Anything he is raising you with beats you. If you check, you are basically telling him that you are giving up on the hand and have to fold to most bets and he could be betting with an Ace. IMO, With the 1/2 pot river bet, you find out if your hand is good for your price.

H2 - You are OOP on the river. Based on how you played all streets, I think you can maximize your profits/minimize your losses by check calling. Your check call on the turn represents some weakness and he is likely to bet 1 pair. If you bet out and he raises you, you are in a tough spot.

H3 - I would check his river af. If it is high, then I am checking to him a lot. If it is low, then I am betting out almost all the time. With no reads, I bet $75-$85 and hope to get called by a guy that can't lay down a set or 2 pair.

12:52 AM  
Blogger Chad C said...

Let me help you..... INTERNET CASH IS RETARDED AND YOU SHOULD NOT MIX IT WITH TOURNAMENTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OK, hope that helps.

On an unrelated note, I noticed that you plan on playing the Mook simultaneously with FTOPS. That should be interesting hahaha!

1:25 AM  
Blogger Fuel55 said...

Hand 1 - presto is gold. I bet 1/3 of the pot as a blocker bet - this is typically a easier way to get to showdown than check calling. It smells like a float from his perspective (but may be a pair less than 99 too of which you can beat 40%).

Hand 2 - i bet out here 100% of the time - 2 pair gets fawked way too much. I like your bet flop/check turn line but I wouldn't call the turn bet - I jam here. I'd check the river the way you played it cause he may bluff at it. If you lead and he has shit he is folding anyway so having him check behind is ok.

Hand 3 - i'd bet 60% of the pot most of the time and once in a while through in a huge overbet for value against a fish. I'd NEVER check.

2:36 AM  
Blogger PokerFool said...

Those are some good discussion hands.

Hand#1 - I agree on the 1/2 pot blocking bet and then fold to a raise. But I would expect to see something like 88 or 77 here.

Hand#2 - I think that betting 3/4 pot here is best. But I think it is important to look at his bet river % in PAHud. If it is high, then check/call.

Hand #3 - Bet 3/4 to full pot. Anyone holding two pair or a set (you won't see a set here though because they would have raised somewhere in the hand) here checks behind because of the 4 to a straight, so you get no value out of those hands. but I would expect a split here 90% of the time.

2:46 AM  
Blogger lucko said...

Hand 1: Check\call. you get value from bluffs and its unlikely he calls two streets with Ace high. If my table image was bad (which happens a decent amount being a lagtard), I might bet and hope to get looked up by an Ace. I am not really a fan of blocker bets, mostly because I know how often I bluff raise them and I don't think they are effective.

Hand 2: I wouldn't have check\called the turn, almost ever. Not really sure what I would do here since I really wouldn't ever be in this spot.

Hand 3: Check. Hope he bluffs worse. It is highly unlikely he has a set here or even top 2 pair. There is very little chance he is calling here with worse. I think there is a much higher chance he bluffs a worse hand (busted FD) than calls with one.

3:20 AM  
Blogger Alan aka RecessRampage said...

1 - I bet about half the pot or less. Basically, it's kind of a "call me" bet/blocking bet. I think if you have a good read, you can check and if the opponent bets, you can decide there on whether he has you beat or not. The blocking bet pretty much takes the decision process out, I think.

2 - I would bet the river about 80% of pot size. I don't want to miss out on any money where he might call with one pair but also just check behind you.

3 - I would bet to make sure I get some more money out here. No way anyone with two pair will bet if you check. Only one who would bet is if the guy had nothing because if he had two pair, conceivably, he could have the best hand but there's no reason to bet since the only call will be made with a hand that beats him. However, if opponent has nothing, he might try to bet to represent the J and scare you off. So in other words, it's less likely that you get someone to bet at that point since he already called the turn bet. So, I would just follow it up with 60% of the pot sized bet.

3:55 AM  
Blogger emptyman said...

1. 55 good, value bet here for 1/2 the pot or so. Any ace will call, any PP and he bets the flop.

2. K3 good, value bet here 1/3 to 1/2 pot. Flop call and turn bet don't necessarily mean strength. Any hand K4 or better that beats us will raise on river so we can get away from our hand.

3. GOTTA BET! Checking the stone-cold nuts on the river wha? All about getting paid here, I like to make it looking like I'm trying a blocking bet to "see if my 2 pair is good". 30% of the pot, and obv jam any raise.

4:02 AM  
Blogger columbo (at eifco dot org) said...

#1. Typically, I make a value bet expecting him to call with an Ace. I have to fold to a re-raise though if I do this.

#2 I am not thrilled with the 4, but I am not letting that deter me here. Again, I am betting $40-$50

#3 I would handle this as if it was scenario #2, and bet out about $70

6:09 AM  
Blogger surflexus said...

Good luck tonight. Hopefully we can do some damage. :)

8:29 AM  

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