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One Hand's Luck Examined

Ah, poker. Not much to say. I played a few MTTs and SNGs this weekend, mostly at Bodog. I moneyed in one of the MTTs and a couple of SNGs, but I think it was break-even overall. aise

I was in one hand that had me thinking about luck again, and how it rarely is as it seems. Here is the hand, without reference to which player is me and which is the other guy.

Player A raises preflop with AJ in EP/MP and gets called by the player on his immediate left, Player B, who has AT. The flop comes down TXX, and Player A continuation bets. Player B calls. The turn is a Jack, and Player A bets out again. Player B calls again. The river is a blank, Player A bets, Player B calls, and Player A wins the pot.

Looking at that hand, Player B faced some bad luck when that Jack came on the turn. He could have prevented that bad luck by raising TPTK on the flop, a move that I think is at least worth consideration.

However, that's merely the surface answer to how luck affected the hand. The reality was that Player B got "lucky" on the flop by hitting his Ten. Before the flop, he was behind about 69/31 to win the hand. That lucky flop brought him to a 86/14 lead. That's a big turn of events, especially considering that calling with ATo to a raise preflop is a questionable play at best.

We really cannot argue with the fact that Player A got lucky on the turn by hitting his 3-outter. But it isn't enough to merely say that Player A hit a one-outter to get lucky and win the hand, since he first had to suffer a 3-outter to get behind.

I suppose it all becomes a chicken-or-the-egg predicament. Was the flopped Ten lucky or unlucky for Player B, now that we know how the action played out? We already said it was lucky, just by statistics, but now that we know the eventualy outcome of the hand, wouldn't it have been luckier for Player B to miss the flop and avoid losing a stack of chips with ATo? On the flipside, that's an unlucky flop for Player A...or is it? Without the Ten flopping, Player A would not have gotten action when his Jack hit on the turn.

When its all said and done, this is really a lesson in semantics. The real key to poker is not in labeling luck and skill, but in determining which events are changeable and which are inevitable. Bad luck is inevitable; allowing opportunities for bad luck is not inevitable. I don't have the hand history, but depending on the size of the pot after the bet by Player A, Player B arguably should have sought to take down the pot immediately with TPTK. There may have been some concern about Player A having JJ-AA; however, calling does not assuage any of those concerns, so raising is still warranted to define the hand. As we now know the cards, a raise on the flop from Player B would have won the hand and avoided an opportunity for bad luck.

Player A, on the other hand, seemed to do everything right. Raising preflop with AJ can be considered questionable, but certainly acceptable. Continuation bets are standard procedure in a lot of situations, and by all accounts, a Ten-high board does not appear dangerous. Assuming Player B got lucky with a set or some other monster hand, a raise is likely, thus giving Player A all the info he needs to fold. In other words, unlike the passive Player B, Player A is getting information with the flop bet which was utilized on the turn. Once Player A knows that Player B has some sort of decent hand, Player A knows that he can get paid out on his hidden TPTK; superior hands will likely raise the turn at this point, given the size of the pot. I do not remember the river bet, but I do not think that it was overly large by Player A, thereby operating as a blocking bet.

When you look at it that way, Player A really didn't get very "lucky" at all.

* * *

I have accepted the fact that my $8,000 goal for 2008 may be difficult to meet. I have yet to turn a profit for the year, so I need some major payouts in the next 8 months to reach my goal. The year is still early and it is doable, but my frequency of play (and quality) has been suffering, and my diminished roll will make it difficult to get back on course. On the other hand, the siren's call of Salami Club is back (for newer readers, Salami Club is not just a delicious sandwich, but an underground NYC card room). We'll see if I ever finally give in.

Oh, and for those curious, it turns out that we won all of the money due Bossman in the recent lawsuit. Go me.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 3:51 PM,


At 9:02 PM, Blogger KajaPoker said...

goals are not always meant to be reached but are there to remind you where you want to be. you've only gone through 1/3 of the year and have enough time to reach those goals. focus, adjust and go for it!

I should become a motivational speaker me-thinks.


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