Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Hot Hand #6

OK I'm back today with the next in my Hot Hand series of posts. This is where I will post shots of a specific hand situation that occurred while I was at an online poker table from beginning to end, and I will solicit input and guesses from you all as to what I should do along the way. Then, since it's an actual hand that actually happened, I can show you what I chose, and what happened next.

Hot Hand #6 deals with a situation where some mediocre cards turn into a mediocre hand, and then we have to try to figure out what our opponent is holding by making a read based on the way he has played the hand along the way, and what he thinks he knows about our hand. This hand occurs about 20 minutes in to a 180-person, $20 sng on pokerstars, so we're fairly early on in a multi-table no-limit holdem tournament, with blinds of 15 and 30.

Things started off innocently enough in Hot Hand #6, as I looked down to find QTo on the button. The first three players fold their hands, but then the next two both limp in for the $30 big blind. The next player folds, and action is to me on the button. I've got two limpers from middle position already in the pot cheap, plus a SB and a BB left to act after me who are also already in for small bets.

Question 1: What do you like to do here? Raise/call/fold?

For me, this one was fairly easy. QTo is normally a hand I would fold without even giving a second thought. I know guys like Hellmuth love to play the "20" hands, but as I've mentioned here in previous posts, to me these are the hardest hands to play in all of holdem. If you hit the flop you could still be dominated by a higher kicker, or an overpair, and of course there will always be straight draws to worry about in multiway pots if I really hit the flop hard. All that said, in this case it looks like I might be able to see a cheap $30 flop (with over $2000 in my stack) with two high cards and likely five players in. No one has shown any overriding strength so far preflop, so there's no reason I might not be able to take control after the flop or turn card and win this pot. And, if I do hit the flop hard, with five players somebody is bound to give me some action. For $30 I'll take a call here, knowing that if either of the blinds raises any significant amount, I will fold regardless of what the other players do:

Now the flop comes out Q99 (all different suits). So I've made a pair of Queens, plus a decent kicker. The SB leads out for $120 into a $150 pot. The BB folds, and the first two preflop limpers fold as well. Action is to me with my pair of Queens and a ten kicker:

Question 2: Now what? I've got top pair and a ten kicker. No one showed much strength before the flop. Do I just fold here to a bet that is 4/5 of the size of the pot? What would you recommend, and why?

In this case, I did not think folding was an option. I have top pair with a decent kicker, and the pair on the board makes it less likely that my opponents have hit this flop in any meaningful way. No one indicated a high pocket pair before the flop, and I am ahead of all but AA and KK among the pocket pairs at this point. I guess my biggest concern is a 9, but remember with two of them on the board, that only leaves two Nines left in the entire deck, and my opponent would have to have one of them. While I cannot discount the possibility of a 9 or a higher Queen than my QT, in general I think this hand is good enough to call with here, and take another card and see where we stand then. I don't want to raise and risk getting blown out of the hand right here by a large reraise that I will then have to lay down to in case my opponent in fact has made trip 9s. I call here for $120, making the total pot now $390 heading into the turn card.

And the turn brings an 8 of hearts, making two hearts on the board, potentially filling the JT oesd if one of us had played that on the flop. My lone opponent quickly leads out for $240, now about 60% of the pot, after an 80% of the pot bet on the flop:

Question 3: This pot is getting large enough to actually care about winning at this point. Am I ahead or behind here? How should I respond -- raise, call or fold?

Here was my thinking at this point in the hand. First, when an opponent fires a bullet at me on the flop and I call it, if they then fire a second bullet at me on the turn, I tend to pay attention to the trend in the size of their two bets in relation to the size of the pot. For example, if someone comes out and bets the whole pot at me on the flop, and I call, if they then bet out half the size of the new pot on the turn, I tend to view that as weakness, all other things being equal. Similarly, if someone bets half the pot at me on a flop with two high cards on it, and then a third high card hits on the turn and they bet the full size of the new, larger pot to me, I tend to assume it is because they have hit their straight draw on the turn. Again, this is all things being equal, I have no other reads or information to draw upon, etc.

So in this case, a guy went from betting 80% of the pot on the flop, to now betting just over 60% of the pot on the turn. That just doesn't seem to me like a guy who just made his open-ended straight draw. Although it could be someone who just picked up some kind of draw, and thus wants to try to hit his inside straight for cheap and is hoping to get there with a weak lead bet on the turn. Either way, my gut is telling me that this guy does not have a made straight. Again I consider AQ, KQ or QJ, all three hands of which outkick me currently. I still don't think he would have played AQ preflop without a raise, and possibly not KQ either (nor AA or KK, so I'm still not worrying about the overcards, nor is he betting strong enough for me to put him on such an overpair here). And I see this trend of making smaller-percentage bets compared to the size of the pot as suggesting that he does not have one of these top-pair-high-kicker hands either. Notice I'm not saying that it's impossible that he has one of these hands, but rather that I have to go with my poker instincts, and here they're telling me that this guy is feeling just a bit weak, but doesn't want to give up the lead here on the turn.

In the back of my mind I will admit I'm still a bit concerned about trip 9s, because there are people out there online who like to play flopped trips kinda slow until the river. But something about this just doesn't seem like trips to me, at least not with enough confidence that I'm willing to lay down what would still be top pair with a decent kicker for this board. I'm still concerned enough about being dominated by trips or a higher kicker that I don't want to raise here and put myself in a situation to really lose a lot of chips if my read is wrong. But I'd like to see one more card, and I'm confident enough that my hand is still the best that I'm willing to drop another $240 out of my stack to remain in the hand. I call, and the pot is now a sizeable 870 chips heading to the river card:

and the river comes the Jack of spades, giving me an unexpected Queen-high straight, and my opponent checks to me for the first time in the hand:

Question 4: Now what's the story? With a possible higher straight out there or a possible full house, am I even sure I have the best hand? Do I just check it down here and hope I have won, or rather would you make a value bet here, assuming you've got the best hand and can milk some more chips out of this guy?

I guess I will wait to hear some responses before I update this post with what I decided and why. And I'll tell you what my opponent was holding, if he ever revealed it to me.

Let me know your thoughts, and I'll post an update with results soon!

Btw another kudos to my boy Aquaverse who came in 3rd place in last night's WWdN. This guy has probably cashed in about half of the WWdNs he has ever played in. He may win 10 of these before he finally depletes his online bankroll for the last time. And speaking of on a roll in the WWdN, Weak Player's wife TransFish is showing up the competition, winning the WWdN last night for the second time in three weeks, and making her third consecutive final table. Way to go Amy!! Anyways I went out when I ran AK allin preflop into Surf's pocket Aces, but I'm not gonna beat myself up over that one. C'est la vie, n'est-ce pas?


Blogger L'artiste said...

Damn, that’s a lot of calling. The problem with all these calls is we don’t have a clue where we stand.

1. Limp Pre-Flop is fine.

2. I would raise here for sure. Your hand is really marginal, it might be the best or it might not. I’d say now is the time to put it in a raise and define your hand. If he blasts you out of the pot with a big re-reraise, than so be it, lay down the second best hand and move on.

3.Again, a call here doesn’t tell us anything about where we stand. Is he betting a Q, a straight draw, a low 9, etc? It’s really hard to say, but as you noted, the pot is getting quite big and our hand still might be best, so I’d call.

If you would have re-raised on the flop and the opponent had a simply called and bet into you on the turn, then I would dump that hand no questions asked. The man is obviously trapping and I’d be done with the hand. If he checks to you on the turn, I’d check behind to control the size of the pot. Again, our hand is very vulnerable and there’s a zillion draws out there, let’s keep that pot small.

4.I wouldn’t bet for value here for the simple fact that the only hand that’s gonna call you is a hands that beats you. If he as nothing he’s gonna fold to your river bet. If he has something, he’ll probably re-raise you. Check it down and hope your hand is best.

10:42 PM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Thanks, Artiste. Can I ask what you think this guy is trapping with? You think he has trips, a higher pair, or a higher kicker?

10:56 PM  
Blogger Doog said...

l'artiste and chi_town both said what I was going to say, so I'm not going to beat a dead horse. Okay, maybe I will. It's very hard to say what your opponent holds since you applied no pressure to him at any point in the hand. Your play was passive/defensive and did not force him to make a decision.

His flop and turn bets smell like continuation bets to me, maybe with AK or AJ - but I can't see anyone completing from the SB with either of those hands. Maybe KJ?

So I'm going to take a stab and say that he holds 95o, and was trapping the whole way until the river brought the straight.

11:29 PM  
Blogger L'artiste said...

It’s really hard to put him on a range of hands since he got a crazy discount from the SB, he really could have any two cards. I figure for him to lead out into the field like that, he either has some kind of 9 or some kind of Q.

If he calls your re-raise on the flop and bets into you on the turn, that tells me those two 9 on the board do not scare him since he one in his hands.

11:30 PM  
Blogger jeciimd said...

Cool post man.
Q1: I agree that QTo is not a great starting hand so i can't fault the fold, but a couple things favor the call here--position, hand flexibility, and the tendency for people to limp preflop early in mtt's with very suboptimal holdings; I don't think raising will accomplish anything at this stage b/c you're still likely to see the flop 5 handed and you've only succeeded in building a big preflop pot with a suspect holding.
Q2: This is the point in the hand where I think you went awry. I favor the raise (about pot-size).
The sb's bet suggests he's got something unless he just finished reading "the book of bluffs" which advocates a bluff in this spot. I think his most likely holding at this point is a 9 but he may also have a queen or a oesd. The raise should help clarify that.
q3: I'm pretty sure you're behind, the problem is u played it so weak on the flop that u don't know how bad. I still think he's got a 9 and my feeling is its j9 or T9 giving him a set and a draw. Third on the list would be q with a better kicker.
Q3: Fold. You don't know where you're at and you're getting the wrong price on a gut-shot, assuming of course it's good. You're best hope is for another queen to fall giving you queens full.
Q4: A big part of this question is whether u think this guy will reraise u on a bluff. Assuming u don't know anything about him, the best u can do at this point is check and hope for the best. If he has a naked set (k9,A9) he's not likely to call a bet anyway. You're still trailing KT, and you're screwed if u bet and he reraises with 89, j9, q9.
Im guessing he had j9 all along and filled up on the river; his check indicates he wants a bet--disappoint him.

11:41 PM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

I agree with a lot of your commentary that says that I could have / should have raised on the flop or turn, just to get some information and find out where I was at. Normally I like to play that way, and I can't really say why I didn't here (but I have some ideas, which I will save for my update to this post with the hand results).

One thing I will say though is that I don't necessarily agree with some of your comments thus far that, in order to lead at this flop or turn, he would have to have either a third 9 or a Queen in his hand. Take it from me, I would lead at this kind of paired flop in a heartbeat, certainly with any pocket pair, and most likely with any two cards if I felt there was a good chance my opponent was not on a pocket pair. And lots of people will c-bet with anything online, don't you find?

Thanks for the great comments, keep them coming.

12:03 AM  
Blogger MHG said...

First of all, I would probably have folded preflop due to my weak-tighty nature.

As I was reading the post, I felt like calling the flop and turn was weak, as it didn't give us any information about our opponent's hand.

Looking back, I think calling is actually a fairly strong move. If you had a 9, or if you had a monster, Q-9, you might play it the same way on the flop. Call to induce a bet on the turn.

Sure, the call itself does not reveal much about your opponent's hand, but the fact that Hoy points out is that you can then judge your opponent's strength/weakness based on his betting pattern.

So by the river we have some information that our opponent has given us, and it is time to put him on a hand.

Preflop: complete from SB. Wide range of hands, probably not AA-TT, AK-AQ. But hands outside of pocket pairs and suited connectors are a definite possibility.

Flop: 80% bet at a Q99 rainbow flop. Not many people with a 9 will bet that big (if at all) into a Q99 rainbow flop. The only draw he is pushing out is JT or runner-runner flushes and his trips would be very well protected.

Paired flops are some of the easiest to bluff at as well. I think the chance of a stone-cold bluff is possible, but at this point I think he bet 80% of the pot because this flop helped his hand in some way.

Re-evaluating his possible holdings, I think AA or KK (5%), Qx (20%), JT (20%), 9x (5%), JJ, TT, 88-22 (35%), Ax or bluff (15%).

After the turn 8h, there are now both a possible straight and flush draw, in addition to a possible boat.

He now bets 60% of the pot. What does this bet tell you? It tells me that he probably isn't on a complete bluff anymore. Although there is still a chance, because he might read your flop call as weak--possibly as a draw--so on the turn he might try to push you off your hand.

The problem here is that there just aren't many drawing hands on the flop. Besides JT, I can't think of one. Your call indicates a Queen, a nine, JT, or a pocket pair.

He can narrow down your hand more than you can narrow down his at this point.

But we must try to narrow his hand down anyways! A 60% bet on the turn, basically half the pot is usually either weak or strong. A half-pot bet isn't generally used to try and bluff you off your hand. I'm more inclined to side with Hoy and I view this bet as on the weak side.

AA-KK (5%), Qx (20%-probably with a crappy kicker), 9x (5%), JJ,TT,77-22 (40%), 88 (10%), JT (10%), Bluff (10%).

The river comes Js and fills your straight, cancelling any flush draw. With a check from your opponent, my gut says that we are ahead here probably more than 75% of the time. Especially with the opponent's dwindling bets.

What are the hands that beat us? QQ,JJ,99,88,Q9,J9,98,KT

QQ,99,Q9,J9,98,KT are all very unlikely. I would say maybe 2% chance of any one of these hands. It just doesn't make sense to play a flopped fullhouse, quads or trips in this manner. KT is basically the only "pure bluff" hand that beats us. (~10%)

JJ or 88 are more likely. The flop bet makes sense--a paired flop greatly improves his pocket pair. The turn bet is a bit suspect with JJ (any Qx,9x,JT will obviously at least call--so he is only trying to push out a lower pocket pair, but doesn't bet enough to push anyone out), but makes sense as a lure with 88. The 60% bet isn't likely to scare anyone who called the flop bet, so building the pot with 88 makes sense. (~15%)

Checking the river with JJ or 88 is fairly risky, unless he knows that you will bet out. Knowing you, I think he can be fairly certain that you will indeed bet out on the river. You already have 2k in chips, so I assume you have been playing aggressive poker. You have called all the way, so he knows you at least have something. He probably hasn't been able to narrow down your hand very well (and you haven't been able to narrow his down superbly either).

If your opponent still has you on Qx, 9x, JT or a small pocket pair, it makes sense to me that by checking the river--his hand is weak. 77-22 leaps out as the most likely hand holding. His hand is playable from the SB, but probably for not more than a limp. His hand is fairly strong on the flop (80% bet), and gets weaker with the turn (60% bet) and river (check).

If you check behind on the river and see 77-22, you can make a note that his bets are proportional to the strength of his hand. Regardless of what he has, you will probably get a good read on him if you can see his hand. This is one reason checking behind on the river is smart--not only because he may be trapping you.

The debate for betting or checking the river is between value and protecting your stack. Like l'artiste said, I can't think of any hands except for the very unlikely AQ,KQ,9x that will call a river bet. If you get check raised, you will chop or lose the pot probably 90% of the time.

In a limit game, I will bet this river every time, because the name of the game is value.

In a NLHE tournament, I would probably make a small value bet--because I feel like an 80% favorite. I think checking behind on this river is a fine option though, because it protects your stack and also gives you some great information about your opponent's style.

You also have to think of the affect showing down your hand will have on your opponents. Like l'artiste and I felt in our first impressions, calling down seems like a pretty weak line. If I see your cards on this hand, I will be wary of your flat-calls, and probably peg you as 'weak' until proven otherwise.

12:08 AM  
Blogger NewinNov said...

Q1: With QT on the button you have position and pot odds. I would call and see what develops. Of course you could also raise to 120 and pick up the blinds and limpers (depends on image, previous play, opponents, etc).

Q2: Easy fold for me. In an unraised pot preflop, SB and BB could have anything, including a nine (9). Why take a chance? Your draws are really not that great and your kicker is good but not the best. SB could have QJ, QK or 9x. QQ or AQ is possible but not likely. Fold, fold, fold. Pick your spots, it's too early right now. Remember you were only calling to play if you "hit hard," you didn't.

Q3: A suspicious continuation bet but in line with the board and someone holding a nine. Fold.

Q4: You lucky donkey. I believe you have the best hand here but would just call for the following reasons -- the pot is a large enough given your starting stack, the blinds are still small, you don't have the nuts. SB could have TK, QQ or 88 but all are very unlikely. No need to take on additional risk. If you win, you have some chips to apply pressure, if you lose, you have enough chips to rebuild.

12:13 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Newin, I'm shocked that an aggressive player like you of all people would advocate simply laying down top pair on a flop like this. Not only is it top pair, but it's top pair with a 10 kicker, and there were no preflop raises which do not indicate hands with a Queen and another high kicker in them. And it's on a paired board, further increasing the chances that my hand is best. In general, I have a very hard time laying down what I believe is the best hand on the flop, unless I get a whole lot of action ahead of me. No way I'm calling an allin bet, for example, with my QT on the Q99 flop. But a smallish bet when I have a large stack in front of me, that is a very tough (and wimpy) laydown on the flop if you ask me.

I may have to adjust my notes on you to reflect that you will lay down top-pair-Ten-kicker on a paired flop if 80% of the pot is bet at you by a limper. That's just too weak a move for my game. But we'll see when I update this hand how well it actually did for me, you may be advocating a major money-saving move by folding early.
Personally, I prefer the preflop fold (when I basically have just a troubly, easily-dominated starting hand) to folding on the flop when I've hit top pair and a Ten kicker on a paired board.

12:55 AM  
Blogger Donnie (aka Shadowtwin) said...

In the early going in a tournament, I would probably have put a small raise onto this one preflop. With the blind only at 30 your two limpers could have any two cards, and there is nothing worse than pairing both your cards on the flop only to find that one of the them had stayed in it on a 7-9sooted and ended up with trips. A small raise preflop probably pushes him off that hand. That being said, they both (the limpers) folded on the flop so the limp worked out for you.

The lead out bet on the flop makes me think that he also has a queen, but a queen that he isnt all that happy about. A kicker in the 6-10 range would probably get someone to lead out a bet on it. If you had raised there he would probably have folded. Of course he could have a 9, but given people's tendency to hide their strength with made trips, I find that highly unlikely. Best guess is that he has a weak queen, possibly even the same hand as you. Either way, I don't think you raise here. Call the bet to see one more card before you go committing yourself to it.

The bet on the turn is the bet I see from lots of guys when they arent sure of their position. They bet 120 on the flop and you called it, try 240 on the turn to see if you will lay it down there. The turn card didn't help him significantly or he would either have checked it to you or bet the pot. At the same time, I have you on a battle of the kickers at this point so I am not sure that I would actually raise it. I think in all likelihood if he had a kicker that actually put him ahead of you, he would have bet a lot bigger. I think that eliminates the possibility of him having A-K-J, though I am still willing to bet he has a queen. At this point I am pretty confident that you have the best hand, or he may have you tied, in any case I like a just a call here, so as not to give him the suggestion that you not only have him beat, but also know that you have him beat.

The river has definitely given you at least a piece of the pot. In my opinion his absolute best hand right now is a mirror of yours. The only hands he could really have to be ahead right now, he would have been betting bigger with. Pre-flop he would have raised with Kings or Aces, and if he had any sort of a 9 he would probably have checked the flop and bet big on the turn. K-10 is the only hand that you really have to be scared of, and I don't see him lead betting with that hand, into a pot with five guys in it. Even if he had made such a move with nothing but a gutshot on the flop, I don't think he would have bet it on the turn. He may not have folded to a bet, but I don't think he would have led out with it either. You are going to take down at least half of the pot at this point, so why pussyfoot around? I say push 'em all in there and hope that he sees that as a bluff on a missed draw. If he folds, you still take down a pretty nice pot. If he calls and has you tied, you take down half of the pretty nice pot. If he calls and has you beat, well there is absolutely 0 possibility of that based on the way the hand shook down. I am leaning towards him having the same hand as you, as I think that would get him to check to see if he could lure you into betting into him. Of course there is also the possibility that he has a queen and a worse kicker than you and the river genuinely scared him.

The guy led out on the flop and the turn, if he had a k-10 and made his hand, he would surely have put a bet in on the river. If a guy is willing to bet a gutshot straight draw on the flop and the turn, he is not the kind of guy that is going to risk having you check the river, he is going to move some chips in. Yeah, definitely push them in here, confident that at least half the pot is yours, more likely the whole thing.

3:07 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I think you sucked out on a 9 and will get all of his chips unless his kicker connected on the board.

3:32 AM  
Blogger Jordan said...

That's a lot to consider, but I'll give you the quick answer. I like how you played it. This is one of those hands where I think calling was right for most of the hand. I would push on the river. I'm betting he has QJ or 66 (or a similar low-middle pair).

3:34 AM  
Blogger Blinders said...

Lots of calling there Hoy. I prolly.

1) Fold 75%/Call 25% preflop. Raise is not an option here.

2) Assuming I called preflop I would raise or fold to that flop. Min raise would be good if you play on. Then you will know if he has you out kicked or the 9 right away and cheaply. You will get reraised back if he has the 9.
Min Raise 50% / Fold 50%
If my min raise is reraised I fold

3) No way I am calling the second bullet on the turn. I would have reraised the flop and been in control at this point assuming he only called. If he checks the turn I bet and take it down. The second bullet would make me think I am beat in your case. I think you have to fold there or be prepared to play for your whole stack. If your prepared for that with that hand, you push on the turn.

Fold 100%

4) The straight filling up on the river is irrelevant really, unless your justification for calling the turn bet was pot odds. Assuming he has a 9 there is no pot odds for turn call. Assuming you are outkicked with the Q no pot odds either. If you assumed you were ahead after the turn then you push, and suck out a straight if your wrong.

5:38 AM  
Blogger rakethetable said...

Dido - Check and take this good sized pot or loose min. l'artiste I agree - he's only going to call if he has the boat. Time to start thinking of the next hand. ** words of wisdom ** " you cannot win a tournament in the early stages - you can only lose it. That's where you sit during this hand. My quick read of other comments - I didn't see anyone say anything about play early in the tournament play. You have hit a good hand - don't lose the tournament now by pushing.

10:28 AM  
Blogger AnguilA said...

1. Fold 50%- Call 50% (I usually play very tight at the start)
2. I raise 3x his bet to find out where I am in the hand
3. Given the way you played the hand, I'd call
4. I would probably check it down, but the way the hand went I would think that he had just a Q-medium's too much of a risk to not bet at the end if you have actually made the boat, cause any careful player with a good hand is not going to bet there. (My second guess is he had a 9 but didn't make the boat)

9:28 PM  
Blogger Matt Silverthorn said...

I don't like the play in this hand at all. It is far too passive.

1) I fold this, but a call is not out of the question.

2) You have to raise here. You need to know where you stand. If you are reraised, then you fold. If he calls, tread lightly. If you flat call here, you are getting absolutely no information on a very draw heavy board.

3) I don't even know what I'd do here, as I'd never have gotten to this point. The call is probably safest.

4) Check the river.

10:40 PM  
Blogger Iakaris aka I.A.K. said...

1. With position, I prob call here, although these hands are a serious pain in the ass as you rightly noted.

2. I'm with the chorus, I like a raise here and a fold to a reraise. SB special is certainly in play.

3. I don't hate the call, but I think it compounds the ambiguity. There are enough good players who could have hit the flop harder then you and are just betting to keep you in it under the ruse of weakness that this hand probably isn't a hill worth dying on. I know, I've died on it a lot. At this stage I think I fold, accepting the possibility I may be folding the better hand. Again, this may be weak, but without the flop raise, I think you could call it prudence.

4. Having called up to now, I would check behind, given that paired board.

As far as putting this guy on the hand, I agree with a lot of what has been said. For some reason this smells of JJ held by a too clever player. Naturally having more info on this guy would make some of these decisions easier.

Very interesting post.

10:48 PM  

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