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Last session of 2009 (part 1)

Sorry for the delay in getting this blog posted, I was busy enjoying the New Years festivities with friends. It got long, so I cut it in two for the tl;dr crowd.

At any rate, I arrived in AC in the evening, and it was straight to my favorite casino, the Borgata. Just walking back into the Borg poker room I felt much more comfortable and excited than I do when I play at other AC casinos. As always, there were a bunch of 2/5 tables running, and it was no wait to grab a seat.

We played shorthanded for close to an hour in which nothing much happened. Online, I greatly prefer 6 handed cash games to full ring (and I prefer Heads Up to both!) but live shorthanded games are usually pretty bad, which is exactly the opposite of what you’d expect. Playing short handed with a bunch of bad players should yield good players a higher edge than playing full ring, but it is my contention that that isn’t the case. I think the reason is mainly because of the insufferable nits at every live game who insist on having a full table and bitch endlessly if they have to play short.

These are the type of people who are constantly badgering the floor to fill empty seats, and complaining endlessly when players get sent to other tables when, gasp, there are seats open at ours. They also tend to never give any action when playing 5 handed, and all the sudden the game slows to a crawl as everyone tightens up. Obviously, the opposite is supposed to happen (people are supposed to loosen up when the table gets shorter), but it never seems to. Instead, these nits won’t put a bad chip in, and all the sudden the fish who is all too happy to call a raise of $25 preflop with Q4 suited after 5 players have called in front of him (“How could I resist?”), will fold because “Why would I call, there’s nothing in there?”

When this happens, it’s very bad for the game. Obviously, the proper adjustment when you find yourself at one of these tables is to open up and start playing a lot of pots to take advantage of people’s unwillingness to mix it up, which I did. It’s been my experience though, that full tables are far more profitable in the long run, to say nothing of the fact that often when I’ve started opening every pot in a really tight game I’ve had people either simply sit out or petition the floor vigorously to break our table. It’s just one of the frustrating realities of live poker, but we eventually filled our game and were off to the races.

My first pot of note came when I opened QQ to 25 in early position, the CO called, and the BB puzzlingly called as well. I say puzzling because he only had around 85 dollars to start the hand, so by calling off almost a third of his stack preflop he had left himself with less than a pot sized bet. If I were online, I would assume he was either a huge fish or he had aces or kings, but this is live poker where no one pays any attention at all to silly irrelevant things like stack sizes. At any rate, the flop comes a relatively harmless looking 3 7 9 rainbow and it’s checked to me. I bet out 50 dollars, the CO folded, and the BB sprang into action with a devastating checkraise of 10 dollars more. I tanked and made the extremely difficult call, and sure enough, this shining beacon of poker excellence revealed his hand, 33, for a set that had my queens in bad shape. The turn and river were no help, and I had lost the first  medium sized pot of the day.

“I knew once the flop came, I was going to double up through him.” BB said proudly to his neighbor, who nodded in response.

Nice play, sir, The pf call with 33 when it’s more than 1/4th of your stack was impressive enough, but then the flop check raise of 10 dollars more into a pot of $175 was truly inspired. And not only that, but you had the Negreanu-like soul reading ability to know that I was going to call getting 17.5 to 1 and closing the action? I should just quit, how could I ever beat the game when there are wizards like these at the table?

Unfortunately, I was not privileged with BB’s presence for much longer, as he shockingly went broke (although not to me, obv).

After losing another couple of small pots, I played what I think is  a very, very interesting one. I still have no real idea how I feel about my play in it, and I think it’s entirely possible I made several significant mistakes throughout the course of the hand.

I call a $20 pre flop raise on the button with KQ suited and we take the flop off 5 handed. The flop comes down 810Q giving me top pair with a king kicker. The person who had opened was opening a lot of pots to 15-20ish dollars, so I didn’t necessarily give him credit for a big hand. Because everyone else called and didn’t reraise, I thought it was very unlikely anyone had a hand like Aces, kings, queens, tens, or even AQ (although certainly some of those hands were possible). Thus, I thought it fairly likely my hand was best, but I was well aware that sets, two pair combinations, and even j9 for a flopped straight were distinct possibilities considering we took the flop 5 ways.

With $100 in the pot, the Russian looking guy who opened (again, he opened small a lot with non premium hands and he was the pfr so could have a very wide range) bet out $25. One person folded, a short stack called (only leaving like 65 behind…once again, lol stack sizes) and two more folded to me. Live poker often puts you in interesting spots like these because people bet in such non-standard ways. I wasn’t altogether sure the Russian realized he was betting only a quarter of the pot, or if   he just knew c-bets of 25-45 tended to be standard (and I was unsure if he was aware he should probably be making his bets larger when more people call). Also, the short stack smooth calling was at least a little concerning. Generally, I think the idea of making a play “for information” is misguided and, well, stupid. Nevertheless though, the thought occurred to me to make a little “gayraise” (not that there’s anything wrong with that). For what it’s worth, the term “gaybet” or “gayraise” (which is used on forums and such to mean a very small or weak bet or raise) is really incredibly offensive and shouldn’t be used. Nevertheless though, that’s how most people I talk poker with refer to this particular play, so I guess I’ll just leave the term in (with profuse apologies to any aggressively betting homosexuals that may read my blog).

So, I decided to opt for a small raise to only $70, and this is play number 1 that I’m not convinced was good. My reasoning at the time was that I was value raising the original raiser, as I still considered myself to be ahead of his range. Because of the way he had been playing, I felt pretty strongly that a large part of his range was hands like QJ, Q9, J10, 89 for a pair plus a gutshot. I felt this fit in with the way he opened, the way he bet the flop, and the size of his flop bet. If that were one of his hands, I would be both raising for value (and I would get action from Q’s for sure imo), and charging him to draw. Also, if he were to have flopped a straight, a set, or two pair, I expected him to reraise me on such a scary board, which would allow me to get away from the hand rather cheaply.

I could have made a rather large, almost pot sized raise, and the other option of course, would have been to flat call. My fear at the time though, is that he was going to continue to bet into me on the turn and the river, which would probably have proven the more costly line if he did end up having flopped a big hand. I’m not exactly sure how the shorty also in the hand should have played into my decision making process, but good or bad, I ended up choosing the raise to $70 on the flop.

The Russian called after only slight hesitation, and my read was confirmed that his most likely holdings were pair + gutshot combos, of which there were many. I’m not exactly sure why I was so confident in my read, but I really felt strongly that that was most of his range. The short stack thought for awhile and shoved all in for only $14 more, which me and the Russian obviously both snap called. Now I was faced with another interesting situation, as the pot was rather large, but the side pot we were currently playing for was completely dry. Not many people make the proper adjustments to side pot play (and dry side pot play) live, and I had to be concerned with both the proper play and whether my opponent would realize  the ramifications of the dry side pot. So far, he hadn’t seemed super sophisticated but I hadn’t played with him for very long.

The turn came a complete blank, a 5, which put up a full rainbow. My opponent instantly checked to me. Here I had a very interesting decision. I could check for pot control or I could bet (thanks Captain Obvious!). I decided that with the pot being large, the board being dangerous, and my read that I had the best hand (but that my opponent had several outs to beat me ), betting was obviously the play, but how much? The main pot was large, approximately 350, but the side pot that I would be betting into was dry. Because I was confident that my hand was best, I wanted to bet a decent amount for value, but I thought there was still a relatively decent chance that he had a hand like second or third pair that couldn’t fade a big bet. As such, I wanted him to call and start building the side pot that I was a favorite for, but I was truly confused by the situation as to how much he might call. I ended up settling on $80, which I now think is too small. I was pretty sure I had a decent idea of where I was at in the hand though, and didn’t really think the Russian would call much more.

I wasn’t sure what exactly I was going to do on a blank river (either bet small to try to get paid by random queens or just roll it over) but the river didn’t come a blank, it came a King giving me two pair. Interesting, interesting. I strongly doubt that card helped him, as he basically can’t have a hand like AJ. If he has a straight on the river, he basically had to have flopped it, which is the same way I felt about sets and other hands that I lost to. I suspected that he still had the one pair (Q or 10) hand that I had suspected all along, and thought that he may even have K10, which could get my two pair paid off. He checked after a little hesitation and it was on me.

Because I put him on the weakish one pair type hand, it was time to bet my two pair for value. But what would he call? Finally, I decided to only bet $100, which was quite small in relation to the pot size, because I just couldn’t see how he could call a larger bet. When I made the bet, he went into the tank, and I was hoping he would make the call. He started playing with chips, (a good sign for me, as people who are tanking that play with their cards tend to fold, people who play with chips tend to call), but suddenly, I realized he was counting out more than the $100 he would need to make the call.

“How much you have left?” he muttered at me, and pointed to my stack.

“$230″ I replied. While thinking “Wow, this really sucks.” What a sick spot if he raised. I had really thought that I was valuebetting, and had already basically assumed that I at least had the side pot won (and the main pot too probably, judging on how disinterested the all in player was). Ugh, I was gonna puke if he shoved on me. I guess if he raised the river he basically had to have either a set or a straight, I don’t know what on earth else he could have. I didn’t think he would have slowplayed anything but a monster on every street like that.

Then an even more sickening thought hit me “Zomg, what if you were right and he has K10.” That would fit in with my read all along, and it could lead him to raise the river with his newly hit two pair. Ughhhhhhhhhhhhh. Now if he shoved, I didn’t know whether to call or fold, I was fairly sure he had to have a set or a straight but it would be a complete disaster to throw away the best hand for a relatively small bet in a pot so large, and I didn’t really know how he played and if he was crazy enough to make a razor thin value raise with K10.

Thankfully, he put me out of my misery by not raising, and not even calling, but folding instead. I insta-flipped up my KQ and the shorty mucked and quite a large pot was mine. I breathed a sigh of relief and the Russian said:

“You got lucky. I had 810. I knew you made two pair at the end.”

Wow, really? If what he was saying was true (and who knows if it was, since he mucked, and people lie) then I had gotten quite lucky on the river after being behind the whole way.

“I knew my two pair was good all along, but I knew you hit on the river. I was thinking about raising all in on the river, I thought you would have to fold.”

Now I was completely and utterly shocked. Who knew the Russian had that kind of sophistication in him? Certainly not me, and I never gave him credit for a line of thought that advanced throughout the entire hand. Whether he had the two pair he was claiming, or the weak one pair I had suggested earlier, the idea of turning a medium strength hand into a credible bluff was pretty impressive indeed on his part. I had to admit that I was sick about it, and didn’t honestly know what I would have done on the river.

In the end, I’m really unsure if how I played it was best. Also, it’s entirely possible that it took a river 5 outer for me to win, but I certainly was happy to see the big pot pushed my way. After another hour or so of uneventful play, the table broke and it was time to get dinner. It felt great to be in the black, and I took a half hour dinner break while I watched the football game.

Tune in for part 2 (which I should have up tomorrow), where I’ll describe the rest of my session and two more big pots….