Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Poker Recap I

The goals of this blog are few, and simple:

1) Enlighten the world to the heretofore neglected-genius of Gustavus Adolphus
2) Provide a much-needed forum for those brave men trying to clone the Brazilian tree frog from orchid pollen
3) Offer insights into the world of semi-professional poker. (Poker, as you might guess, is one of the ‘new careers’ referred to in the blog’s title. The other two being, as you probably already know, lumberjacking, and World Music critic for the Washington Post.)

So without further ado, here’s the first installment of what will be a recurring feature: The ANCIANT (A New Career In A New Town) Poker Recap.

Game: PLO Hi/Lo
Date: May 16
Blinds: 1/2

Last night went well: I played decently, caught cards, and walked out with my biggest single-session win to date. Two or three donkeys there were raising every hand pre-flop; it often cost 45$ to come in. With this kind of massive action, I had to wait for hands, and I tried to only play in late position.

The biggest donkey of all is a regular who I’ll call Thad. Thad is a familiar type in the poker world. From what he says about Omaha, it’s clear he has a good understanding of how it should be played. However, for reasons beyond my ken, his actual play is completely at odds with his analysis. He plays nearly every hand; he raises constantly, and he loses--big--every time he plays. I can only assume he’s independently wealthy, because the last four times he’s played he’s lost at least two grand a session.

For all his aggression, though, Thad is not a calling station; he will fold if other people bet into him, especially if (as is usually the case) his cards are sub-par.

Most of my hands last night were unremarkable. One, however, stands out. It was a hand I think I could have won, had I played it better.

The situation: I’m on the button. Thad, as usual, has raised pre-flop (to 15.00$). Three people call. I look down and see: (Ad, 5d, Ac, 9c). This is a clear calling hand: I have two ways to make the nut flush, pocket Aces (probably only good if an Ace hits), and a possible, if poor, low draw (A5). I call.

The flop comes: Kd, Qd, 6h

In first position, Thad leads out for 45.00. The other two players fold. Since I have a draw to the nut flush, I call.

The turn: 4s.

I have now picked up a bad low draw. Thad thinks for a second and bets 150.00 (the size of the pot).

I think. There is now 300.00 in the pot. It will cost me 150.00 to call and try to hit my flush; the pot is laying me 2 to 1. However, I am about 4 to 1 against; pot odds, therefore, would dictate that I fold. (For a discussion of pot odds, go here). My implied odds are also poor: I doubt very much if I’m going to make anything if a diamond does come on the river. Though donkey-like in many respects, Thad will almost certainly not pay off a bet on the river with something like two pair, or a set, if a flush has come, especially since, given this flop, a flush is the only conceivable hand I could be drawing to. A low card might give me half the pot, but it could very likely made Thad a better low.

On the other hand, Thad might easily have no low draw at all; he’s shown a willingness to bet with anything. It’s even possible that at this point he has nothing better than top pair, in which case an Ace alone would win me the high, (though that’s assuming I’m willing to call with only aces on the river, which is unlikely). He might even have a diamond draw of his own, in which case a diamond on the river WILL make me some money.

At this point I’m way way up for the night, which is another factor which probably influenced me.

I think for a while and decide to fold.

At the time, this was not a big deal. However, thinking it over since the game ended I’ve decided I misplayed the hand. My mistake, I think was on the flop. Instead of just calling Ted’s 45.00 bet, I should have raised, and made it, say, 125.00. My reputation at that table is of a super-solid, nuts-only player. The only times I’ve rereaised, prior to that hand, I’ve either had the stone cold nuts, or massive draws. If I reraise, Thad has to give me credit for a big hand. In which case, several good things could happen:

1) Thad can fold. If he has only top pair, he might do this. Not likely, given his play, but possible.

2) Thad can call. However, putting me on a big hand—a set of kings, maybe—he will check the turn (this is especially likely if he has a low set or bottom two pair). I will then check behind him, and get two free cards, the turn and river, for only 70.00 more. If I do hit my flush, it's possible, given the betting here, that Thad might pay me off. Prior to this hand, Thad has never seen me raise on a semi-bluff. He might put me on a set; when a diamond comes, therefore, he will assume it’s hurt me. He might even lead into me, trying to bluff; or, he might have a worse diamond hand himself, in which case he will definitely call a bet.

The possible negative outcome of a reraise on the flop, of course, is that Thad himself could have come back over the top and blown me out of the pot with a big re-reraise. I couldn’t call this kind of bet, of course, and I would have effectively prevented myself from trying to draw to my flush. However, given my playing style to date, Thad can probably only re-raise my bet with one hand; three kings. It’s possible he has this, but extremely unlikely. It’s a chance I should be willing to take.

My mistake here was not huge. I lost a small pot; reraising on the flop would have built a bigger pot, which, at that point in the night, was not what I was trying to do. However, I think it was a mistake, and I think that the reason I made it was because I was so far up for the night. I was playing cautious, trying to protect my winnings. As a result, I played badly.

Oh well. Try to do better next time.

(By the way, the dealer showed us the river: 8 of diamonds. I would have made the nut high, and possibly the winning low. Sigh.)

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