Poker: Sympathy at the Table

I had a very good day at the tables yesterday winning $1400 in about 3 hours but honestly there were not many interesting hands. I never put my money in bad or had a really tough call. There were a couple of interesting hands I’ll describe quickly:

1. I flop a set of 3’s OOP as the preflop raiser, don’t remember the board. My continuation bet is called, I fill up on the turn and check and call the opponents bet. On the river I make a 1/4 size bet that I hope will induce a bluff and it does. He pushes all-in with air I insta-call. Giving off false bet-sizing tells can be useful and cover your ass when you want to make a small bet. Here I represented that i wanted to keep the pot small.

2. KQ raise pre-flop in position 1 caller. flop comes down 2 6 7 rainbow. I continuation bet get called. A queen comes on the turn, checked to me and i bet, he pushed. I think it through and call. The reason why? I miss this flop a ton with AK, KJ, etc… so if he had 67, 66, or 77 and he wanted to get the money in I really don’t think he would take this line. He’d either check-raise the flop or lead the turn to make sure I don’t check the turn through. If I check the turn he doesn’t have a chance of getting all of the chips in. Furthermore his turn push was too large if he wanted me to call. It was very suspicious, I pieced it together and was very confident he had 45 or 89. He flipped over 89, bricked the river and I won a buy-in. He made an amateur mistake, he decided to bluff without thinking it through and his story didn’t make sense.

3. I have AA preflop raise it up two callers. flop comes 5 6 Q rainbox. I bet 3/4 of the pot and get one caller. Turn comes a 9 checked to be I check behind. River is a blank, opponent bets 4/5 of the pot I call he turns over 78 for the nut straight. When he called on the flop he could have 56, 55, 66, 78, or a queen. When the 9 comes on the turn I am behind his range so I practice pot control. Most players lose a lot more money than I did here because they don’t think these things through. Also he’s bluffing me or betting weaker hands on the river sometimes when he would not have called a second bet on the turn, say 45 or a weak Q because I looked weak on the turn. He was nice and complimented me on a great turn check.

Anyway, none of those hands was very interesting to me so I thought I would briefly write about a situation that happened to me late last night. After having a few beers and watching American Gladiator re-runs at a buddies house I came home and checked out the tables. There was a guy I had played thousands of hands a long time ago sitting alone at 100PL which was odd. First of all he usually plays 25PL and sometimes shortstacks 100PL, but he was sitting alone with a full buy-in. (Sidenote: I learned to play PL not NL because I think it is a better game, I value post-flop play, but there is no 6-max PL so I play NL) Now he is a slight winner in 25PL but he has a lot of leaks in his game and to my knowledge does not know how to adjust for heads-up play.

I sit down and play him and exploit a huge leak he has in going too far with hands when all the money gets in. I play very aggressively but back off when he plays back until I have a real hand. He doesn’t adjust well and so my 2 pr > AA, Full house > straight, and straight > 2 pair. I bust him for 3 buyins at 100 which to me is 1 buy-in for my usual game but to him is 12 buy-ins for his. A funny thing happened. I felt really bad. The ironic part is I stayed because I didn’t want to hit-and-run him, I wanted to give him a chance to win his money back, but I should have realized my edge was larger than I initially thought and I was doing him a disservice.

Now, I never take it easy on anyone at the table and never leave chips on the table, but at the same time I grew up playing the 25PL games (figuratively) not too long ago and I still drop in on them from time to time to say hello to the regulars. A lot of them are really nice and friendly and I don’t need to do them the disservice of putting a big dent in their bankroll. So I talked to the biggest regular there- he’s friends with everyone, he wins regularly playing super-tight but never moves up. He told me not to worry, we’re all big boys here and he knew what he was doing. I know he’s right, but even so I feel bad about it today.

So I guess what we have to realize is that while there is no sympathy while you are at the table it is not -EV to have some when the playing is done. Having friends (even online ones) makes the journey a little more peaceful and enjoyable but poker is a game always played alone. The very of the nature of the game makes it so that there are winners and losers. In most ventures there are situations where everybody can benefit but not so in poker. In poker 2/3 of the people are losers and sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves of that when we are playing poker on our brand new computer with a plasma screen, this money came from other people and while I won’t take it easy on them at the table I can feel bad for them when I walk away from it.

Good luck at the tables,


3 Responses to Poker: Sympathy at the Table

  1. brooklyn bum says:

    good post. One little thing though one of my favorite moves against good players is to bet big when I have the goods because they’ll feel that the oversized bet is a bluff when I have the goods. Now I know that sometimes I don’t get paid off sometimes when I do that but you’d be surprised how many people are willing to call you with marginal hands when that kind of bet occurs. The hand where you had AA, i think that if you’re going to check on the turn why call a 4/5 pot sized bet on the river if you put him on the hands you put him on? If you can check the turn if you think you’re behind why call the river bet? just curious. Great post though.

  2. brooklyn bum says:

    Oh additionally, of course it depends on the stakes also I’m guessing. In any event nice haul for the day. Can’t complain when you’re up $1k+.

  3. joseffreedom says:

    My stakes are generally 300 NL Max, so it was a 4 Buy-in upswing. Didn’t play much this weekend. As for overbetting the pot while that works at lower levels I play against the same people often and a betting tell like that gets noticed quickly. I try to keep my bets almost entirely board texture related, so I bet the same with the nuts as my semi-bluffs as my straight-out bluffs. There are times against weaker players (like hand 1) where I will do an abnormal size bet to give off the wrong signal, but 90% of the time my bet size is determined by the board rather than my hand.

    I am behind his range in hand 2 so I want to keep the pot small. I do not know he has the straight, but I felt like his range moved ahead of mine so I practice pot control. I think his bet could be because I appeared weak by checking the turn (AK is a pretty standard hand for opponent to put me on as played) so bluffs make up a larger than usual part of his range. It is rare you can put the opponent on a single hand and even though I felt like he was likely beating me, I only need to be ahead 37.5% to make my call correct, and I feel like I’m ahead that much.

    A key concept is to examine whether the hand you have is over-represented or under-representing when deciding whether to call on the river. In this case I don’t think there is any way he thinks my hand is as strong as aces so he may be betting a lot of hands I beat. If I had bet 3/4 of the pot on the turn and he re-raises me, or flat calls and leads the river, my hand is properly-represented so he is almost certainly beating AA. This is why good players try to avoid check-raising or slowplaying their good hands, these moves look very strong and so it tips off the opponent to the strength of your hand, most of the time just playing your 2 pair and sets like a single pair is ideal because it makes your range much tougher to play against and benefits both good hands and bad hands.


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