So, as a person who spends a majority of my life interacting with computers I had a major setback this week. My primary desktop was sent to me with the wrong CPU (duo-core instead of quad-core) and so I had to send the chip back. Then, my laptop charger died, so I was without a laptop. Then, because God hates me, my backup desktop computer died. I went from three computers to zero in a day. So I don’t have access to poker tracker or my hand histories, nor was I able to play poker this weekend.
That being said I do remember a hand from last Thursday which is mildly interesting as an example of using what others think about you and position to take a pot away. The hand takes place at a $300 6-Max table. I have been playing pretty tight, getting a little out-of-hand in position, but playing rock tight in early position. I get dealt QJ offsuit under-the-gun and because it is my last hand at the table (and I like to play my last hand, a leak but it’s fun) I decide to limp and see what happens. It folds around the the small blind who puts in a 4xBB raise ($12), the BB folds and the action is on me,
Now, the sb and I are the only two big stacks at the table, probably 150-200 BB’s deep. That, combined with my position, combined with the fact that I took down a large pot from this guy early showing a strong hand make me decide to call. I’m not calling for value, but because I think either I can get some dream cards or take it away on a raggedy flop. I have his range as JJ+ AQ+ as he has been pretty tight and is positionally aware.
The flop comes down: 5D 7D 2C
Wow, what a great flop! What you may be asking, that didn’t hit your hand at all. Yes that is true but we are playing a decent player, now if you were a decent player what types of hands am I limping UTG with? The anwser is small pairs and suited connectors both of which could have hit this flop nicely. Combined with position this is a great spot to float and then full-out bluff if need be. I have seen this guy make tough folds so I know he is capable of it, which is something I prefer to have seen before making a naked bluff. I mean if he has QQ+, which is likely, I’m drawing almost dead.
He leads for 3/4 ($20 into $26) of the pot, a standard continuation bet and I re-raise him $34 more. He calls bringing the pot to $134. Now his call here is almost certainly a mistake. He likely has a made hand that is really unlikely to get better, he would be better off raising or folding. Because he does not know which to do he makes a bad comprimise. In Barry Greenstein’s book Ace on the River he writes about this concept. He argues that if you are in a situation like this, it is better to raise or fold. The reasoning is that it is better to take a course of action which may be correct than to comprimise, and take a course of action which is certainly wrong. If the betting had not escalated so quickly calling for pot control might have been reasonable, but I can get it all in with a big bet on the turn and river so that doesn’t really apply here.
So the turn brings: 5D 7D 2C 8S
He checks to me, I fire $95 into the $134 pot, he thinks for a while and folds. This is a situation of reverse implied odds, if he plays back at me here and fires a good raise, like $230, I will fold if he has me beat or put him all in if I have him beat. Then because he will be pot committed he will have to call. If he doesn’t raise and just calls, once again I’m likely to bet large on the river with the hands that beat him and give up with the hands that don’t (although if he flat called here I would have to re-evaluate whether I had enough for a credible river bluff). So he essentially has a bet of $95 to call/raise, but he is risking his whole stack to find out where he stands. That is the danger of both playing out of position and giving up the betting lead in hands. The consequence is that he decides to fold, which given the hand I think was a good decision. While he would have been ahead in this hand, on average I will have 2 pair + when making this play. I’ll also have some combo draws with pretty good equity. My range for this play is for sure beating an overpair and so playing back at me to try and find the 10-15% bluffs is hugely -EV.
The lesson, if you are going to play big hands out of position be prepared to make some very marginal decisions for all your chips. In order to protect your hand though you need to be decisive and either raise the hand or fold the hand, don’t call and give up the betting lead. If you do that your are just giving money away.
(Quick note: OOP with a strong hand I love taking the following line if I think I’m still ahead of my opponents range: continuation bet, get raised, flat call. Check the turn and check-raise big enough to pot commit them. Works especially well when a lot of their range is combo-draws that lose half their odds on the turn)