Thursday, March 11, 2010

Preflop Decision -- Pocket Queens (Conclusion)

Here is the conclusion to Wednesday's post about Pocket Queens preflop. To refresh those of you who did not see the real-life scenario I recounted yesterday or who need a reminder:

You are down to 25 left out of 58 remaining in a $200 buyin knockout tournament in Atlantic City. Blinds, which rise every 20 minutes in this typically fast daily casino tournament are up 400-800 with a 100 ante about two hours in to the event. Right now the average stack is 26k, and you are sitting on around 34k after a couple of big pots have helped you to more than triple from the 10k starting stacks.

An old man with about 14k in chips leads out under the gun for 10k straight up. This utg open-raise is for approximately 12 big blinds, and I immediately looked to notice that it was for most of this utg player's stack as well.

The utg +1 player, one of the largest stacks remaining in the tournament with around 50k in chips, thinks for a while, seems to be agonizing before eventually just smooth calling the 10k raise.

After all that action, you look down in utg+2 position to find pocket Queens.

How do you act?

I note that this is from an actual hand that happened to me recently in a live casino tournament and there was considerable disagreement after the fact on the best play.

We got some good, thoughtful responses, and as expected (and in line with the opinions at the table), there seems like a pretty even split between pushing and folding. That's why I think this hand is so interesting to analyze, because it's one of those situations where people with decent poker brains seem to reasonably disagree. Even though to me I hated playing this hand but in the end I felt like I had made the right decision, regardless of how the results ended up.

I agonized for a good while -- this was far and away the only premium hand I had seen thus far on the day after a good few hours of play -- and then I laid down the Queens.

How could I not? One of the key pieces of information that nobody keyed on in my description above but which definitely played a very significant role in my read of the utg player was that he was an old man. For those of you who have only ever played online poker, maybe that means nothing to you. And maybe it shouldn't if online is all you ever play. But putting guys like Doyle and Slim aside, old men as a rule are tightass tightwad tighty mctightersons. Especially when I've sat with them for 30 minutes and have barely even noticed that they're in the game, like this fogey.

So when this grizzly old fogey bastage who's been tighting his way along quietly for half an hour suddenly open-raises from under the gun, immediately I hear those bells I always talk about going off in my head. When I looked over and saw that he had pushed in approximately 10k of his 14k stack on the raise, when the blinds were just 400-800, those bells turned to ambulance sirens or rock concert speakers. I tried hard to get into Old Man Tighty's head, and to really imagine if I am a tighty mctightass, what hand would I possibly push in 10k of a 14k stack on a 12-big blind raise? I mean, I know this guy is fuckin tight. So is he pushing only 12k out of his total 16k stack in there utg with pocket 4s? No way. Tighty is definitely sitting on more than enough chips to wait for a better spot when any pocket pair out there, or any two high cards, are likely to call his below-average stack. And one thing about these tighties -- they will roach like my old apartment on Sullivan Street in Soho. These tightass old men will just fold and fold and fold and hang on and fold and fold and fold some more. They don't care if they're the lowest stack in the tournament for three straight hours. They will wait for those pocket Aces and then boom, they're allin and lament how everyone else folds to them. We have guys like that in our own group in fact, you can watch em nightly in the mtts on the major poker sites. Fold fold fold fold fold fold fold fold push allin with pocket Aces, everyone folds. It's good stuff.

Anyways, so Oldy isn't pushing with 44 there from utg with still 16 big blinds left and only 15 or so people from the money (10 paid). And if he did btw, he would obviously push in all 16k, rather than leave the highly curious 4k behind. So it's not 44 or 55 or something like that, of that I am sure. And as I thought about it, it's not 88 either. Same reason. Tighty just doesn't risk pushing in like that utg when any higher pair or two high cards could call and bust him, when he is beginning to be able to sniff the sweet smell of that minimum cash coming up if he can just fold for another hour or so. Not UTG, not with 16 big blinds left (in a very fast daily casino tournament, where 16 big blinds actually has him not far under average), and certainly again not for 12k of his 16k stack rather than the whole 16k. So it's not a low pair like 3s or 4s, and it's not even a medium pair like 8s or 9s. Now let's think about Tens or Jacks -- why would he possibly push just 12k of his 16k in with those hands instead of the whole 16k once he gets above a normal raise of 3 big blinds or so? Remember, this isn't full tilt, so that 12k couldn't have been some misclick or something. The old man looked at his hand and then willingly settled from among all his possible options to push out 12k of his 16k stack for a 12 bb preflop raise. Why? Anyways, no way with Tens or Jacks, or even Queens I would say, all of which are hands that people fear. He might raise 3x with those hands, sure, or maybe as much as 5x as you sometimes see people do (but with 16 big blinds total, 5x leaves you with fewer options than a more standard 3x raise in my book), but 12x? Leaving another 4x behind? I just don't see that.

Then I thought about AK. Could the geezer have AK? Would tightwad raise 12k of 16k with AK? Again, I just couldn't get myself to see it. I know tons of guys, in particular with a below average stack and a very tight mentality who would autopush with AK there, and actually hope to get called by a pocket pair and take a race to double up or go home. It's not even a terrible play in many cases in my view. But in no case would I ever advocate raising "just" 12k of your 16k stack with AK. Why hold back that last 4k when you are looking for the double up and want to make sure you see all five board cards with your AK in case you get called? Withholding that last 4k does nothing for you in that situation whatsoever, even if you get called by AQ or something you are now in a stoopid position for your last 4k in chips, for no good reason. No, that's not a move that the tight old guy does with AK either. So it's not 22-QQ, it's not AK (and certainly not a move that the tighties would ever do in that spot with AQ or below), which leaves only two hands really, one far more likely than the other: AA or KK. I just couldn't see any other preflop hand that fits the tight guy's range. And frankly, I know the ubertight mentality well -- they really hate letting anyone in when they've got pocket Kings, cuz we all know they'll get in there with a weak Ace and then of course an Ace will flop. So to me, this was about 75% likely pocket Aces, 20% likely pocket Kings, 3% likely AKs, and 2% likely for the rest of the field on the theory that he could just be a massive donklesmith.

While I was busy considering the fact that I was going to have to fold pocket Queens from utg+2 in a fast casino tournament and a chance to jump near the top of the leaderboard if I win, the big stack next to me in utg+1 slides out just a call of the huge 12k bet, with enough chips behind easily to bust me.

I knew as soon as I saw him move his chips forward that I had to fold. It actually made the decision much easier, but frankly I was folding to the old guy anyways I am pretty sure. When I am 98% sure a guy as AK, KK or AA, and really 95% sure that it's AA or KK, I just can't commit a huge portion of my nice stack to QQ preflop. And as I mentioned, it was the only hand I'd seen the entire day that was anywhere near that strong, which made the laydown all the more annoying. But I remained rational, I refused to get attached just because it looked good before anyone had acted in front of me, and I opted for the smarter, more patient route.

Especially since UTG had pocket Aces, and UTG+1 had AK. And of course, the AK did suck out a rivered set and busted the UTG guy after getting allin on the turn, and he would have eliminated me as well had I pushed preflop, which is the only way I would have considered playing this pot if I opted not to fold given how large the preflop pot already was.

I have another good preflop situation that happened shortly after this one in the same tournament, maybe I will post that tomorrow for people's comments.

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