Action Jackson on Making Thin Calls
Tuesday, 9 December 2008
I haven’t played a whole lot of live poker recently and so it was nice to get to the relatively local Broadway Casino in Five Ways, Birmingham, for their festival. Unfortunately, due to other significant competitions taking place in Dublin and Teeside, the turnouts were not as high as usual but then that made it easier for me to get a decent result and I’m not greedy.
This is a great casino with great staff and food thought and a great habit of offering a great structure for festival events to afford the players a great opportunity to make informed thoughtful decisions rather than the crap-shoot structures that are operated in many places and indeed enjoyed by a lot of players where you do not need to think so much and it is more important to have the “heart” and “bottle” to raise or re-raise with complete junk (or even without looking at your cards) on a regular basis.
It’s understandable that this form of poker has gained in popularity as more and more young players come into the game seeking action and more action. They like to be aggressive and feel their sexuality has been compromised if they allow themselves to be dominated (even though some well known professional players pay for that kind of thing).
As always I prefer the plodding, more thoughtful approach which suits my generally “safe” unexciting style.
The first event I played was the £300 and I managed to get down to the last six players. As usual, I didn’t have a very large stack, and the most interesting hand I played was with seven players left.
With blinds at 1,500/3,000 and with a stack of about 38,000, I raised from late position to 8,000 with A-10 off suit. It was folded around to a fairy solid player in the big blind who called. He was a player I had played with many times before and was generally pretty straightforward in his play, with probably less moves than even me. The flop was 3-4-5, he checked and I checked. The turn was and eight and again he checked. At this point I thought he almost certainly had two high cards (he would, based on my experience of his play, generally call pre-flop raise with two high cards or a pair) and the only hand I was really worried about was A-J, which I felt he would probably play this way. (He would definitely re-raise pre-flop with A-K and probably with A-Q).
The river card was a seven, making a one-card straight possible, although I wasn’t too worried about that considering the way the hand had played out. I was sure that my A-10 was still good, unless he had A-J. If he had AJ or similar he would almost certainly check the river and hope his hand was good. He had struck me as the type of player to make a creative value bet; fairly tight players tend not to trap-check on too many streets because they’re afraid they won’t get additional chips into the pot when they get a good hand that they’re sure is winning.
On the river, out of the blue, he bet 15,000 which was about half my stack. If I called here I would have about five big blinds left and I’d be in serious trouble. But I was sure that my A-10 was probably good and it seemed to be very much a case of trusting my judgement.
I looked at him and asked what he would do on that river if he had a hand such as J-Q or Q-K and he knew he probably wouldn’t win by checking. Would he just check and give it up or would he make a desperate bet as the only probable way he could win the pot? (He had a decent stack and could easily afford to take this chance without seriously damaging his stack) He began to look very uncomfortable and was reluctant to say anything, and, given that he was not the type to deliberately misrepresent emotions in such a situation, I decided that it was worth the call. “You win,” he conceded, showing Q-K.
Now, if you repeatedly make such hero calls you are bound to get one right eventually. I suggest you play in position so that if you call and lose you can fold your cards to avoid embarrassment.
When we got down to six players we split up most of the cash. I was out shortly afterwards as a result of a reckless gamble with a nice looking 10-J suited, which ran into Q-K. It was mathematically correct when the cards were shown – it’s just a shame that I’m unable to see through my opponent’s cards before making such calls.
I then played the £1,000 Main Event, which had only 34 entrants, and I managed to get through to the second day. All players thought the structure excellent; with an average 50 big blinds applicable for the most part no one was forced to gamble with an average stack, unless they chose to.
I missed my sons playing football on the Sunday of Day 2 and on the very first hand I was all-in with J-J versus 6-6. It would have really annoyed me to have missed their football for nothing but, fortunately, my hand held up.
With six players left my good friend Tim Blake was a significant short stack. As we stopped for a break for excellent free food and drink of our choice, we discussed the possibility of providing a saver for the player that bubbled in sixth place, which looked very likely to be Tim. The chip leader was not agreeable so we played on. As often happens, the poker gods delivered ironic justice as Tim went on to knock out that chip leader and ultimately win the event.
The very hand after we split the cash up with four players left, I was on the button with Q-Q. I raised was re-raised by Tim from the big blind and I moved all-in. He made a good call with his pocket aces and I was gone in fourth.
Tim was anxious to win one of the beautiful crystal vases for the first three spots as he hoped to keep his wife’s ashes in them, and although she is still very much alive, at least he will be able to look upon the trophy on his mantelpiece with potentially fond thoughts.