Blinds and Monkeys
Monday, 8 April 2013
I had quite a tough opening table at the recent GPS in Birmingham, which is unusual so early in the tournament. There were a couple of decent players to my right and also Paul McTaggart (who beat me heads up in last year’s Edinburgh GPS) and another decent player to my left.
We played several interesting hands in the early stages. In one, I raise to 250, holding 9-9, and Paul, plus an apparently decent but not too flairy player, over-calls. The flop is 3-3-6 with two diamonds. I make a standard c-bet of 300 and Paul and the other player call. The turn is three, giving me what is probably the best full house out there, but if I bet I will lose all flush draws, although I may get value from a six and possibly 7-7 or 8-8. I decide the best option is to check to allow flush draws to bluff or worse full houses to bet. Paul checks and the other player bets 600. I click it back to 1,200, Paul folds and bettor calls.
I could have flatted his bet but I felt that, on balance, if I do, then I will almost always have an over-pair in this spot, and I am making it almost impossible for any sensible player to spaz out, and also will be unlikely to get value on the river from any worse hand. Plus, if I check the river, he will nearly always check behind with all worse hands. If I click it back on the turn, then it still leaves at least a seed of doubt in his mind that I may be representing something I haven’t got, and so he will be more likely, though probably still unlikely, to spaz out with a worse hand or air, and when I say spaz I mean lose more chips than he should, rather than do anything totally huge, which would likely make me fold. He flats my click-back.
At this point I still think I can get some value from worse full houses. I bet 1,500 on an eight river (which isn't ideal). He thinks and then makes it 4,500. Now I feel I am losing to A-3 suited 6-6 and 8-8 and beating everything else and I say so at the time. My first instinct was this: he is under 30, is watching poker on an iPad, has a hoodie, a cap and Dr Dres. How can I be losing? But, given I had played my hand like Q-Q+, and he hadn’t stepped out of line up to that point, I decided it was sufficiently likely that he had me beat to justify folding. When you factor in the fact that I like folding, I did just that. He later told me had quads and thought I would pay him off any bet as he had seen me, not long before that, bet-call a 19BB three-bet on the river with third pair (which was good) so he must have had me pegged as a mindless station, but that was a different situation against a different player.
In another hand Paul McTaggart raises from 100 to 250 (which, in terms of hand strength, generally means someone has put two cards in front of him). James Lee three-bets to 525, which could mean anything as he is well aware of Paul's opening range, and I cold four-bet aces from the small blind. Paul folds and James calls.
The flop is a very reasonable A-2-6 and I check as it’s unlikely he has an ace so my best option to get value is to try and get him to bluff what I think us something like T-T or J-J as he can hopefully put me on Q-Q or
K-K and try and represent an ace himself. He checks behind. The turn is a three. I check and he bets 2,900. I think a little and call. The river is four I check again and he now bets 7,500 I click it back and he almost beats me into the pot with his cards.
Another interesting hand saw the player UTG raise James Lee’s big blind before the cards were dealt. I told James his big blind was so weak that this was a plus EV move. The same player then three-bets blind from the big blind and folds to a four-bet (after looking at his cards).
The next hand I limp with 6s7s. I wanted to see a flop and with the player who liked to make bets without looking at his cards and decent players around me. I preferred to limp-call than raise-call and possibly get trapped expensively by a clever lurker with a big hand behind me (this may have been an overcautious view but we were very deep and 6-7 isn’t exactly the nuts pre-flop). Paul and the other good player behind me also over-limp and we all call the small raise from the player in the big blind who I know has not looked at his cards.
The flop is J-9-4 rainbow and the blind player bets 375 (still without looking). It seems a good spot for me to three-bet as I have to be unlucky to run into a hand that can call behind and I am generally happy playing a pot with the initiative in position against players that have not looked at their cards, so I three-bet to 900. Unfortunately Paul M calls as does the blind man.
The blind man can have a wide range here but I figure Paul's range is draws (can only be straight draws) and very strong made hands (A-J plus), although it’s possible he is aware I am three-betting a player who has not looked, so I could have air, but that seems less likely in my opinion. The turn is the 3s, which gives me a flush draw and gutshot five for the nut straight which, under the circumstances, is like turning the absolute nuts.
The blind checks – I expect him to check-fold nearly all the time here – so I figure I will bet big and Paul will fold all single pairs and straight draws (he’s too good to call a pot bet with just a straight draw in that spot). So I bet almost the pot, Paul calls and the player in blind folds. Now I feel I will give up, unless I hit, and, if I hit, I will over bet it. The river is a three. I check and Paul bets 3,700. I do think about clicking it back but, given he called a pot bet on turn, I decide he can't have a straight draw only, so he is very unlikely to fold the river now. Additionally, he would likely play a set like this. So I fold and show him my 6s7s. He shows 8sTs spades and I was pleased a spade did not hit the river.
I would have looked like a genius If I had considered the possibility of him specifically having 8sTs or QsTs enough to have found either a bet or check-click-back on the river but I prefer to go through the kind of thought process detailed above before making a decision, even if it proves to be the wrong one, rather than just taking the lazy button-clicking line of “if I can't win by checking, then I will bet without thinking”.
Interestingly, had it been a TV game and I'd taken the latter line, which I believe to be bad poker, many commentators would undoubtedly acclaim my great move as one of genius, especially with a check click-back.
Anyway, shortly after that I moved to a much easier table but couldn’t win a hand, and every time I started the hand well the board ran out like Odemwinge when someone flashes a £50 note in front of him. I dwindled quite quickly and was eventually put out of my misery early enough to play a PLO cash session in the very nicely named “Actionjacks Room” at Star City, during which I gave one of the best unintentional rub downs ever.
I raise in £1/£2 5-card PLO with aces double-suited and the flop is JdQd4s. It’s checked to me, I bet £25 and get check-raised to £100, and I call. I probably could justify getting it in there as I have 9-T-A-A-6 with two diamonds but the player who had check-raised me is very solid and I figure him to mostly always have at least top or middle set in this spot (he had top set with a flush draw as it turned out). The turn is 3d, giving me the nuts. He checks, I bet £300 (he has about that left) and he says fold. I then show him the 9-T-A with diamonds and say, "You’re lucky it didn't go in on the flop.” Just as I’m saying this, the dealer deals the last card, which is a brick, and he says, “Was I was lucky?” So I say, “Yes, because you would have lost your stack.”
He says, “I said call, not fold, so I did lose my stack!”
I played my second bullet on Friday and my starting table was very civilised. Most of the players to my left enjoyed limping, including one who, when warned for twice folding out of turn, claimed it was the first tournament he had played, and he proceeded give a very convincing display in support of this claim. The only two good players were directly to my right.
I started very well again and had increased my stack very nicely after two hours. Unfortunately, as with the previous day, I then ran terribly and lost nearly every hand I played. The novice, whom I isolated as often as possible, must have got sick of owning me. I isolated him frequently and ended up playing about ten hands heads up with him mostly in position and I lost every one of them.
In one hand, he tables A-K, saying “ace high”, when it was a broadway straight. Next he check-called down three streets with ace-high and then did the same with an over pair on a totally dry and then totally wet board. At least we have a new happy member of the poker community, as I am sure he will be back to play his second game, having found it so easy to accumulate my chips.
I can’t even remember how I went out but it was nice to have been put out of my misery again.
I decided (don’t ask me why) it would be a good idea to play the £150 side event that night and I was doing superbly well in it. I was moved to a table with an aggro donk two seats to my right. He had got it in on several occasions, mostly always having the worst hand, but had run unreasonably well. He liked to bet, c-bet, three-bet and four-bet with literally any two cards. He had committed himself to pots and got lucky when forced to call it off with junk, bluffed in the most ridiculous spots and must have had a very interesting chip graph. I, along with everyone else, was just waiting to pick him off.
I don’t like the strategy of just three- or four-betting any two cards on a regular basis. I think it’s primarily a move performed by individuals who know it can be a good thing to do but don’t really know what they are doing or why they are doing it. They may well have read the phrase “balancing your range” on a poker forum but, in the overall scheme of things, if you three-bet every four hands, then its difficult to justify describing that activity with any sentence that includes the word “balance”.
I appreciate the current and future benefits of three-betting opponents but it makes most sense to improve the profitability of this by at least having some expectation of decent post-flop equity on some of the occasions you are called.
One possible analogy is like feeding time at the monkey enclosure at the zoo. When it is feeding time most of the young monkeys run around in almost a sexual frenzy; they have dick-swinging competitions through the branches; they run around as if possessed, running into each other, knocking each other over, running into trees and generally making a nuisance of themselves. Sometimes they get a banana and sometimes they might get a bunch, but mostly they end up hungry and only continue to feed if they benefit from the kindness of one of the other younger monkeys who was in the right place at the right time when a banana hit the floor.
The elder monkeys, who themselves used to run around in a similar frenzy, are now much wiser and they look to where the zoo keeper is throwing the bananas. They apply less effort and more discipline, and don’t go hungry.
I had almost double average stack when my shot at the orang-utan came up.
A new player raised from early position and, as usual, the aggro-donk three-bets the button and I overcall in the big blind with 9-9. I could have cold four-bet here but I had no info on the initial raiser and we were too deep to get it in. Also, unless I hit a set, I could easily be outplayed on the flop as I was out of position with a medium pair.
The initial raiser folds so we go to the flop, which was a very nice 9-5-4 rainbow. I check and my opponent checks behind. The turn is seven and we eventually get it all in at which point he turns over 6-3 off suit for a turned straight.
It didn’t pair up and I left the table saying good luck to everyone. I did not say nice hand, but it is hard to remember all the appropriate pleasantries when your bottom is being rampantly pounded by a gibbon.