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Jordan Gets Handy

It's time to actually discuss some poker, so buckle up, cause it'll probably be a bumpy ride.

My first hand comes from the BritBloggament. We were still in level 1 (10/20) and I had 1460 when I was dealt KK, UTG+1. After UTG limped, I decided to raise to 100 in order to, hopefully, narrow the field down to one player. Essentially, I do not want to play the monster hand against too many opponents. It folded around to Veggieman, the UTG player with 1460 chips, who called.

The flop was Q75, rainbow. Veggieman bet out 200 and I opted to call. It was a seemingly good flop, but I was mildly concerned about 77 or 55. Other than those two hands, I was ahead of just about anything. He probably didn't t have QQ, since he limped UTG. He didn't have AA, since he did not limp-raise. So that meant that he had 77, 55, some other pocket pair, QX, or was outright bluffing. I suppose he may've had a straight draw as well, if he played 46s or 68s, but even if that was the case, he had few outs.

To recap, I was most likely way ahead, but there was a slim chance that I was way behind. I called to either induce another bet from an inferior hand on the turn or keep the pot small, in case he actually had a monster. If I raise here, I only get called by top pair, strong kicker hands. AQ may even re-raise me. But I also run the risk of scaring off weak hands that my bluff the turn, or tempting monster hands to flip the script and either slowplay me or re-raise me, in which case, I stand to lose a lot of chips.

The turn was an 8, creating a diamond flush draw. Veggie bets out 300, and I opt to flat call for the same reason as before. If he is ahead, he is way ahead, with either a set or possibly a turned straight. Most likely, though, he is behind, in which case, I want to allow him to continue betting into me. Arguably, the pot was big enough here to warrant a re-raise to take down the pot, but I did not fear the flush draw or straight draws, so a re-raise would only protect me from hands that I dominated anyway, while allowing dominating hands to stack me.

The river was a 5d, creating a pair on the board and completing a runner-runner flush. I considered what I would do if Veggie folded. The pot was over 1200 and we each had 860 left. I decided that I would value bet 360 if he checked, since it is weak enough that it may look like a poor stab at the pot with our dwindling stacks. However, before I could do that, I needed a check...and it didn't happen. Instead, Veggie bet 360. I applied my own logic. It was a value bet, but the size was small enough that it warranted a call. I didn't think it necessary to push because his river value bet made me think that a flopped set, straight or flush (collectively) was suddenly more possible based on the betting pattern. If I call and I'm ahead, the pot was big enough. If I call and I lose, I still have 500 to play with.

At showdown, he had AQ. And I won the pot.

I'm not even sure why I saved this next hand, but we'll go over it anyway.

We're still in the BritBloggament, now down to 10 players split on two tables. We have 1700 chips, with blinds of 50/100. Everyone folds to us in the SB. The BB, Lisa, has 1060, and is the shortstack at the table. We have K9s.

I chose to min-raise here for several reasons, all of which are tied to Lisa's stack size. Lisa is at the point in the game where she will either push or fold. It makes little sense for her to do anything else with her nearly 10x BB stack (technically under 10x the BB with 960 after she posts her BB). I want to exploit the situation.

If she is in push or fold mode, then I need to figure out all of the different ways this hand can play out. If I limp in, I give her a free flop, where she can easily outflop me. Even if she doesn't outflop me, since she is in position, she can just push on any flop that I check. I don't want to give her that power, so I need to be aggressive. For those who don't know, folding is an aggressive play here, but I rather be the other type of aggressive, so I chose to raise.

How much I raise is key. Once again, we need to examine the possible outcomes. The first is that I raise and she pushes. Suddenly, I'm risking most of my stack on K9s, or, more accurately, folding whatever I raise preflop. Obviously, this is an ugly outcome that is worth considering. Another possibility is that Lisa has crappy cards and folds. This is definitely preferrable. The final outcome is that she flat-calls. Unless I bet really small, I doubt that will happen.

When I considered those options, albeit in a fraction of a second, the min-bet became obvious. It not only protects my stack in case she has good cards and pushes (or re-raises, since any re-raise really commits her to her whole stack); it also lends itself a deceptive appearance of strength. This is essentially a level 3 "bluff." I am betting small because I think that she will think that I am thinking that a small bet will get action. In other words, I want to appear as though I want action. Hence, a small bet. If she has a pushable hand, all I lose is 150 more than if I folded preflop. If she folds, I win 100 easily.

Surprisingly, Lisa followed the unlikely call scenario, which, as you will see, is just fine by me.

The flop was Q83, all diamonds. My K9 were spades. So, I bet out 200.

Why 200? See above. I essentially followed the same logic as the preflop action. She is either willing to push or not. At this point, calling 200 with her 860 stack is very unlikely. But if she does it, I go into lockdown mode and check-fold, because now I know she is trying to get me to bet into her. If she has a pushable hand, then I can fold. The 200 bet is small enough that, while it hurts my stack, won't cripple me or commit me to the hand. If she missed entirely, she's folding, plain and simple. However, even if she hit it somewhat, such as middle pair or even a single decent diamond (other than the King or Ace of diamonds), my small bet will appear as though I want the action and Lisa is likely to fold a superior hand.

She folded and I took down the pot.

It's all about knowing where you likely are in a hand, and determing what your goal will be. Aside from that, the key is timing, which, absent tells, really just means luck. If Lisa had KJd, for instance, I could've lost 400 in that last hand. I was "lucky" that she didn't. However, by knowing where I was relative to her stack, and having a goal in mind, I was able to make the right plays at the right time. The same is true of the first hand, where I played my KK very passively because I had a good sense of where I likely was and I had a goal in mind. Brainless Jordan just keeps raising there and might even push out TPTK. Instead, I let my opponent slowly hang himself.

In contrast, playing K9s (the same cards as the Lisa hand), on the 4-player bubble UTG was a much weaker move. My goal was probably to push out all players and pick up the blinds, but I was not cognizant of my place in the game. I had to go through 3 other players and I was weilding a shortstack. I let my brainless monkey impulses take over and ruin the 2 hours of work that came before it.

No poker tonight, as I'll be wine tasting in Jersey City. See you all around.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 4:14 PM,


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