Folding big hands when action gets heavy

Today was a good day. I had a nice brunch at Blue Star, my favorite breakfast place in Seattle, then spent the afternoon and evening playing poker. And while my results were disappointing, I feel pretty good about how I played throughout the day.

I started out in a 1/3 game while waiting for a seat at 3/5. Early on I had a hand where I picked up AsKs in the big blind after four people, including the small blind, had limped in. I made it 18 to go and, as sometimes happens at these stakes all four of them called. Frown town. In general I’m pretty happy when my preflop raises get called as I find there’s a lot of money to be made getting one or two callers pre that will play fit-or-fold post flop and fold to a continuation bet when they don’t make top pair or a strong draw. I’m less happy here because I am both out of position and I have a ton of callers. The flop comes Qh3h2c, which is a fairly good flop for us to continuation bet. I bet $40 into $90, which is smallish as a percentage of the pot but it’s a big looking bet at these stakes, and three of my opponents fold. Unfortunately John, the loose calling station in the small blind, decides to continue. After mulling it over, talking about how he probably shouldn’t be in the hand but how he can’t just call with this hand he raises all in for $58 more. I expect his range to mostly consist of bad queens, flush draws, and some weak combo draws, and after doing a little math I figure out that I’m getting about the right odds for a call (my post table calculations determine that I need 20.6% equity and I have between 23% and 24% equity against single paired queens) and make the call. I’m rewarded by finding out that he has Q5 off and while I bink a King on the turn he hits a 5 on the river to redraw on me. I’m happy enough with this hand, however, as both my initial instinct and my at the table math came to roughly the same conclusion as the post-fact calculations.

Shortly after I move to 3/5 where I play for a couple of hours before joining the 7 PM tournament. My 3/5 time is fairly uneventful, although I was involved in three separate 3+ bet pots, which is fairly high for these stakes and is definitely high for me. In the first I was 3 bet fairly small ($50 over $20) when I opened in early position with AhJh. I took a flop given the small 3 bet size and my confidence in playing against this opponent, and was rewarded when I was able to extract another $15o from my opponent’s KK on a AQT flop. The next two times I get in small raising wars preflop with the two players on my right with AK and take down each pot on the flop when they show weakness.

The tournament starts of auspiciously when I double up on the very first hand. The guy on my immediate right opens it up to 150, I flat with Ad7d, and the guy on my left makes in 500 even. It folds around to the original raiser, who folds, and I decide to take a flop mostly on the strength of my Ace, as I expect his range to be heavily skewed towards pocket pairs. I need 29% equity to make this call, which I have against every hand except AA, and I am fairly sure I can outplay this guy post flop, even though I’m out of position. The flop comes out fairly dreamy: 3d4d5h, giving me a double-gutter and a flush draw. I check planning on check-raising and jamming the turn, but I’m able to get it all in on the flop when my opponent bets 600 and then jams 5,500 on my raise to 2,000. He asks me if I have a set and I get to calmly tell him “no, I have an 18 out draw.” I run bad and he has the two red diamonds, which means I have to correct myself and proclaim I have a 17 out draw, but then I run good and hit a deuce on the river to make a straight and double up.

I make another 2.5K over three streets with QQ against AJ an orbit later, but then things dry up for a few levels. Sometime in the third level our table breaks, which was nice since it was filled with competent opponents, and I get moved to a new table next to my buddy Joe. We chat a bit while watching the unpredictable donk two to my left run over the table while getting smashed by the deck. I make a little money before the break on a resteal-into continuation-bet that has my heart going pitter-patter as the donk is in the hand and is capable of anything, but I survive and chip up to about 18K.

The fourth through sixth levels go fine – I’ve got enough of a chip stack that the chip leader at our table is staying out of my way (he even folds AQ when we’re 75 BB deep when I raise UTG and get a caller between us), I pick up good cards in a few crucial spots, and I make two judicious 3-bets. I’m at around 45K when we go into the second break with three full tables.

After the second break I get into it with a 35K stack at my table in this hand:

  • With 1K/2K blinds and a 100 ante I raise it up to 5K under the gun with black 7s and get one caller.
  • The flop comes Q86 with two hearts, and I make a continuation bet of 7K into the 14K pot. My opponent tanks for 15-30 seconds and then makes the call. From his body language I’m pretty sure he was deciding between folding and calling. If that’s the case I expect his range to mostly be flush draws and underpairs to the queen. Since I expect that he would mostly 3 bet me with JJ, TT, and the like I expect him to have mostly flush draws.
  • The turn comes an offsuit 5. I tank for a bit here, which is probably a mistake. The 5 changes things a bit in that I now have 10 outs if I’ve misread my opponent and he has a pair. I had been planning on firing a second bullet on any non-heart non-paint card, but I paused here to reevaluate, which I think my opponent took as a sign of weakness. I then bet 14K into a pot of 28K, leaving my opponent about 10K back, which is also probably a mistake. Given that I expect my opponent to mostly have draws I really want to project an aura of confidence here – I don’t want to give him the sense that he might have any fold equity and I don’t want him to call me since he’s probably got a 12 to 15 out draw and has enough equity that folding would be a mistake given our stack sizes. I think the correct play here is to simply go all in.
  • My opponent raises me all in and I snap call. He has AhKh for the full 15 outs and he gets there when the Kd comes on the river.

This is basically the end of the tournament for me. I’m able to pick off a small stack and steal the blinds once, but I’m fairly card-dead for the rest of the level and the tight non-folders in front of me keep opening the pot so I can’t steal. Once the blinds go up to 1.5K/3K with a 200 ante I’m quickly blinded down to 5 BBs and get it in bad with Ad3d against QQ and AA to go out in 18th.

I’m pretty happy with how I played, however, and I left the casino feeling satisfied. Most of the hands I played throughout the night felt fairly standard, but there was one hand that someone else played that I thought was actually super interesting:

  • In the 3/5 game we have a six way limped pot with a flop of Ah2h5d. The first four players check and the guy in the hijack bets $15 into $25 (after rake). The button, who is a kind of crazy old guy (very aggro, loose, willing to make plays at the pot, and a frequent over-bettor) who I think is actually an above average player, makes it $30. It folds around to the hijack and he calls the $15.
  • The turn is the 2c and the hijack checks. The button snap bets $45 and the hijack makes it $145. Then the button snap shoves! The hijack has a little over $200 left and the button has him well covered. The hijack thinks for not too long and then says that he simply can’t imagine that he is good here and folds the 3d4d face up!

Initially I was floored that this guy was able to fold a straight here – you just don’t see that at this level. Then I started to wonder whether that was actually a good fold. So, let’s do some hand analysis and figure out whether we like this fold or not:

  • The preflop action leaves villain’s range really wide. On the button facing three limps villain really doesn’t have a bottom to his range – the only question is whether we can eliminate any hands that the villain would have raised 100% of the time here. We can probably eliminate KK and QQ from his range, but paradoxically I don’t think that we can rule out AA. Most players feel like they have to raise KK and QQ because they are afraid of an Ace flopping, but they will feel secure in “slowplaying” AA here because there isn’t the potential for that feel bad moment where an overcard flops.
  • On the flop we have to interpret what a min-raise to $30 means. This raise, to me, looks like it is about making sure that there aren’t any other callers (or that other callers are going to be charged enough). Raising to $30 isn’t going to chase off the original raiser unless he had complete air but $15 is a small enough bet that the villain may be concerned about a waterfall effect if he just calls.
    • We can eliminate complete air from villain’s range – he knows he’s getting called by the hero.
    • We can also eliminate strong flush draws from villains range – if he had a K, Q, or J high flush draw he’s going to want to keep things cheap both so he has better implied odds and to keep in smaller flush draws that will pay him off if he hits.
    • Villain could have a weak flush draw that he’s raising to knock out other flush draws and to get a free card on the turn. I don’t think this is super likely as I don’t actually give villain that much credit for thinking deeply about the spot, but it is a possibility.
    • A gutshot and a pair, something like a 54, could be played this way to get a free card on the turn and knock out draws and other weak made hands.
    • We can probably eliminate weak Aces, pocket pairs other than 33 and 44, and random 5s and 2s from villains range – these hands are all likely to simply call and either try to see showdown cheaply or make a play at the pot once we’ve made sure the other 4 players aren’t doing something crazy.
    • Strong aces could definitely be played this way, trying to get value from weaker aces and other pairs.
    • Similarly two pair, sets, and straights all could be played this way. In these cases the raise is building a larger pot and charging other hands (mostly flushes) more to draw against villain. I tend to discount sets and made straights here since villain is going to feel more comfortable slowplaying and is probably happier if the $15 gets called in a couple places as it makes the pot larger while still allowing a raise on the turn.
  • The turn bet doesn’t narrow villain’s hand range too much, but the reraise all-in probably does.
    • Villain’s range was weak flush draws, pair+gutshots, strong aces, two pairs, sets, and the straight.
    • The turn bet eliminates the flush draws and the pair+gutshots that don’t include 2s.
    • The snap reraise all-in probably eliminates strong aces from the villain’s range, as well as A5. While I think these hands could be 3bet on the turn, I think the snap 3bet is indicative that the villain feels that he has a nutty hand. He doesn’t need to actually have the nuts here, he just needs to have a hand that he feels like he would never fold here (and thus doesn’t need to think about getting it in).
    • I think this leaves full houses (A2, 52, 55, and the improbable AA), quads, trips (23 and 24), and straights in the villain’s range.
    • Based on the flop play I think we can discount flopped sets and straights a bit, simply because villain is going to slowplay these hands some of the time and isn’t going to feel the need to make a “protection” raise every time.
    • There are eight combos of 23, eight of 24, three of 55, three of AA, one of 33, nine of 34, six of A2, and six of 52, for a total of forty-four combos. I think we can discount five of the seven flopped set combos and six of the nine flopped straight combos, giving us thirty-three combos.
    • Of these thirty-three combos we are ahead of sixteen, tied with three, and behind against the remaining fourteen. We have 0% equity against the hands we are behind, have about 76% equity against the hands we are ahead of, and have 50% equity against the hands we are tied with.
    • That gives us an average equity of 41%. We’re calling about $200 into $575 ($25 preflop + $60 on flop + $290 of called turn action + $200 raise), which means we only need about 26% equity.
    • If we assume that the villain has all of the non-AA boat combos, all of the straight combos, and Y combos of trips or Ax, villain only needs to have 4 combos of trips or Aces for us to get to 26% equity.

Based on this, I think this is a bad fold. I think it’s pretty unreasonable to exclude straights from villains range, and I think we need to discount the number of flopped sets he could have. In order for this fold to be correct we need to be able to exclude trips from the villains range and we need to be able to exclude any sort of air, combo draws, etc. While the villain is unlikely to have hands that we beat, only a small percentage of them need to be in his range for this call to be correct. Most of this is a function of our small stack size – the more money we have behind the worse this call gets.


A non-post

No real updates today – I had a nice evening hanging out with the boys playing poker at Jeh’s house, shooting the breeze, and chatting about magic. Marsh and I spent some time talking about Magic coverage, which is a topic I’ve been thinking about a fair amount recently. I think I have a post or two that I’d like to write, but I need to mull things over before I put pen to paper.

In the mean time, you can see me doing some coverage, if that’s the sort of thing you’re into:

Iso raising to realize draw equity

I’m unwinding at the end of a successful poker day, watching recorded coverage of GP San Antonio, and I thought I would share an interesting hand I played the other night at Tulalip.

I was playing in a somewhat wild 3/5 game at Tulalip on Sunday afternoon. The Tulalip end-of-month tournament was still going on and this was the third 3/5 table, with a 5/10 game and a PLO game going. I’ve been quiet and pretty tight so far and haven’t had opportunities to mix it up much.

The player to my right straddles to $10 and I open up AhKs under the gun. I raise to $30 and get called by the player to my left and by the big blind.

The big blind is an unknown – this is his first hand at the table and I don’t recognize him, but he was greeted by and chatted with the young, good regular at the table, so I assume that he is a fine, thinking, level-2 player. The guy on my left is loose, aggressive, and looking to gamble. A couple of times he has straddled and then raised all-in (for a huge overbet) when there are a few limpers, and he called another young gambler for $100 or so with T8 off when the other guy did the same to him. Chatting with this kid it’s pretty clear that he’s a bad level 2 player – he’s aware of concepts like ranges, pot odds, etc. but is too lazy to actually do any math and is locked up in doing cool things instead of actually figuring out whether his plays are profitable.

The flop comes Jh 5h 5d. The big blind checks, I bet $65 into a pot of $100, and the lagtard to my left goes all in for $145 total. The big blind thinks for about 15 seconds then reluctantly calls. He has about $25o behind.

I think this is an interesting spot because I’m getting very nice odds to call for pair outs against the all-in player – there’s $455 in the pot and it’s only $80 for me to call, so I am getting better than four and a half to one to call. I need about 15% equity to make a call correct, which I have against all of the two pair hands, even AJ, against which I have about 18% equity (I have about 29% equity against a hand like QJ). Additionally, I think there’s a significant chance that the all-in player has a flush draw or is on total air making a play at the pot, so I think my equity versus his range is probably around 40% or better.

Of course the problem here is that there’s another player in the hand – the big blind complicates things because I can expect them to either bet on the turn, keeping me from realizing the all in equity, or to reduce the number of outs I have. Most of the time this would be a negative expected value situation because I expect that I’m up against a Jack and a flush draw and I’m going to have a hard time realizing my full draw equity. If both players were all in I could call here and probably have about 20% equity, but again, the big blind is not all in.

The solution I came up with at the time, which I like and which might even be correct, was to raise all in. My reasoning for doing this was as follows:

  • I think that the only fives the big blind is likely to have are pocket fives. He seemed fairly straightforward, most players don’t get crazily out of line when they first sit down, and an UTG raise and immediate flat looks pretty strong, so I would expect him to have a real hand when he calls out of position.
  • Based on his body language I don’t think he’s slowplaying a monster – he seemed uncomfortable with the amount of action he was seeing in this first hand. I think we can discount JJ and 55 from his range (for the most part). Similarly, I think we can discount overpairs, which I would expect him to 3-bet preflop.
  • So his most likely holdings are a Jack, an underpair, or a naked flush draw. I have the stiff Ace of Hearts, which is a bit of a blocker for him having a flush draw, but more importantly means that he can’t have the nut flush draw, which has to make him worried about being overflushed by either the all-in guy or me.

If I raise all-in here I think my hand looks a lot like an overpair, which makes it really hard for a bare Jack or an underpair to call. So I expect that I only get called by flush draws, forming a side pot where I have roughly 50% equity. Raising all-in here actually accomplished the holy grail of raises – I fold out all of the hands that beat me and I only get called by hands I (kinda) beat.

So, I raised all in, the big blind mucked AJ face up, and I successfully isolated against the all-in player. Unfortunately the all-in kid had A5 off for flopped trips and I can only peel one of the two hearts I need on the turn and river.

While I’m unhappy with the hand results, I was pretty pleased with the analysis I was able to put in at the table and that the actual numbers I’m getting from PokerStove bear out my at the table thought process.

Tulalip end of month tournament

I just got home from a fairly disappointing session at Tulalip. I played in the $750 end of month tournament, which had a large starting stack of 25K, 30 minute levels, and a generous blind structure. It was a nice tournament, and even though I had a harder than average starting table, I felt pretty good about it. Unfortunately I simply didn’t see many playable hands, lost a few large pots where I made strong second best hands, and couldn’t find good spots to get involved with the 4-5 spots at the table. I played maybe a dozen hands post flop in the four hours I was in the tournament:

  1. I called an early raise with AsQs in the second level from a decent player, looking to play against a dominated hand, but then folded on the turn when he led pot into 3 players on a raggy flop.
  2. I lost a few too many chips calling down one of the two good players at the table with 10h10d when I led a raggy flop, checked back a K turn, and called when he led a A river. I think I can comfortably fold the river (he had AJ off) since there is so little of his range that I beat given the action. I was in position in this hand and probably should have bet turn to try to take down the pot when my opponent checked it to me.
  3. I got 4 streets of value with AK against Ax suited off against a trappy, bridgey asian player when we had a A high flop and then he turned a flush draw.
  4. The first time it folded to me in the small blind I got into a fight with the big blind with 7c5c, raising pre and then firing 2-barrels on a raggy flop and turn. I might have fired a third barrel on the river, depending on texture and how he called, but luckily he folded and I took it down. I wanted to set up a dynamic where the guy on my left knew that I would make his life miserable if he fought with me so I would have an easier time stealing the blinds once the antes kicked in.
  5. I lost a pretty large pot to one of the good players when he took an unusual line and made a pretty bad crying call. I raised it up with QcJs in UTG+1 and got called by both of the blinds. The flop came As Qs 7s, the blinds checked to me, and I made a continuation bet. The good player in the big blind made a standard raise. I called with my second flush draw and a pair. The turn brought a Kc and went check check. The river brought a blank and the big blind made a one-third pot size bet. I should fold here, but I called and he showed AdQd for a flopped two pair. I think there are enough times that my opponent semi-bluff raised the flop with the Ks that I can consider bluff-catching him, given the price he is laying me, but, of course, I need to be able to beat his bluff to bluff catch him, which simply isn’t the case here because the turn brought the Kc.
  6. I raised it up in early position with KQ off and got 3 callers. The flop came Q high and I led for about 40% of the pot, hoping to get called by worse Queens and underpairs. Jason, one of the two best players at the table, re-raises me small (2.5x), everyone else folds, and I call. The turn brings a blank, it goes check check, then the river also brings a blank, and I lead for a bit less than half pot, Jason makes some noises about me having Kings, then calls with AQ. I’m pretty OK with how I played this hand – I knew that by leading smallish on the flop that I might induce some plays at me and Jason is an aggressive player that loves to play any two cards preflop. When the turn checks through I think Jason’s range is capped at one pair, and I think that he has a lot of worse Queens in his range, so I do like betting for value here.
  7. There’s a long stretch of hands where I sit right around 10-15 K in chips. I slowly ante and blind off chips, then get a few back with two streets of value with Aces and a continuation bet with AT where my opponent was clearly uncomfortable with his small pocket pair on a KK3 board.
  8. I raise it up in mid position over one limper with AK and get called by the limper and the small blind, after a crippled stack goes all in for less than the big blind. The flop come 569 rainbow, I make a 60% pot size continuation bet (for a third of my remaining stack) when it gets checked to me and the limper calls. The turn brings an 8 and completes the rainbow and the limper leads into me for my remaining stack, about 2/3 pot. I think for a while, then fold, and I get to see that he turned the straight with T7 suited when they resolve the main pot with the all-in player.
  9. A couple of hands later I get QQ under the gun, make a largish 4x bet, get called in 3 places, then take it down with a pot sized all in on a raggy flop.
  10. The very next hand I go all in with AcTc from the big blind when it gets limped 6 ways to me, and amazingly they all fold. The T7 guy says that he seriously considered calling me both of the previous hands. I tell him I wish he had. He later considers calling two open shoves for about 20% of his stack with Q9 suited, but decides to be magnanimous and lay it down :).
  11. The next time I am in the big blind I find AK off when facing a 2.5x raise with a stack 20BB stack. I make the standard all-in raise and the original raiser calls with 88, which holds. I think this is actually a bad call on his part – he’s calling 7 to win 9 (approximately), so he needs about 43% equity to call. Against a range of AJ+, 77+ he’s only about 42% equity, so my range needs to be wider than that for his call to be correct. I don’t think I am shipping any worse aces and I don’t think I am reshipping king high hands here either, so I have to be shipping 66 here for the call to be correct, which I don’t think I am doing.

And that was my tournament. I walked off, got some food, and thought through my play. I came back and played in the cash games, which did not go well from a results perspective, although I have a couple of interesting hands to discuss later.