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Right Play, Wrong Result

I really need to quit playing online poker. I just plain suck at it. There is something about being hidden behind a screenname in an environment with a ton of distractions, mixed with some tendencies to self-destruct, that just makes online poker an uphill battle hardly worth the effort for me. Yet I still return, as it is the methadone to my poker habit.

I actually played the following hand well, but it just goes to show that even the correct play can end up with a poor result. I'm not particularly upset about the hand. I've come to learn that this is the epitome of poker. Playing well does not always result in a positive result, even if everything worked according to plan. I include this hand merely because it demonstrates that fact as well as a play I rarely use, giving incorrect odds to your opponent as a means to maximize profit or conversely protect a hand in a tournament.

I'm playing a 15-player $20 MTT field at Bodog. We are down to the final five players and I am the second shortstack with 1220 and blinds of 20/40. There is still a lot of poker to be played at those blind levels. Top 5 spots pay. I'm on the button with T9s.

It fold to me and I raise to 90. The SB is the first shortstack with under 900. The BB is the big stack with 5410. Both call the preflop raise.

By way of commentary, let me note that my small raise of 50 is part of a small ball strategy. I want to see a cheap flop in position. Alternatively, I want to win the hand outright by getting both players to fold. Alternatively, I want to avoid a large re-raise, so I do not want to be too much into my opponents. The SB folds and the BB calls. I'm still in decent shape, as I have position against one opponent and there is no indication that he is particularly strong.

The flop comes down T82, with two hearts. It checks to me and with top pair, I am happy to take down the 200 pot. I bet 170, an odd number that I hope will throw off my opponent. Even a call is okay, since my top pair is probably ahead. I expect little from my opponent. He calls.

The turn is an offsuit 7. It checks to me again. Now I am in trouble. I only have 960 left and the pot is 540. I have a couple of options. I can check, but then I give my opponent a free card and he might be able to scare me off of the best hand depending on the river. I can bet small, but this will likely induce a call and could give proper odds to my opponent if he is drawing to a flush or straight. My final option is to push. This ruins the pot odds for any possible draws by betting almost 2x the pot. With a bet like this, I don't care what happens. If my opponent folds, I win the significant pot without any further stress. If he calls, I probably am ahead and he is paying way too much for his draw.

My opponent called with Q4h, 12 outs once (9 hearts, 3 Queens). He rivers an Ace of Hearts and I'm busted.

If there was a shortcoming to the play, it was my failure to recognize that the big stack was willing to gamble. I figured betting 960, roughly 20% of his chips preflop (and by the river, closer to 25% of his chips) would be enough to protect my hand and take down the pot. My opponent's call was bad, but that is part of the game and my play was designed to take advantage of the possibility that my opponent was willing to make a bad play.

Sometimes, poker can be a real bitch. But like sex and pizza, even when it's bad, it's good.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 10:41 AM,


At 11:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

if you were to play the hand face-up, would you do anything different?

a shove on the flop is rather foolish, and the leader with the flush draw (and two cards to come) will likely snap-call it.

poker odds suck sometimes when the 75-25 or 80-20s don't hold up on your end.


At 1:06 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

The face-up argument is something I've seen before from Sklansky. I've seen a lot of people reject that test, but I stick to it. If everything was face up, I'd likely play the hand the same way. I really like my play here, although I'm not 100% sure of the size of the flop bet. Whatever the case, my opponent made a gambling call (which I want him to make) and got lucky. That's poker.


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