I haven't written about poker in a long time. A long, long time. Mostly because I haven't played much in the last few months. That, and the goiter.
But, I'm just returned from Las Vegas ("The Big Easy") where I DID play poker (and won). So, to pacify my legion of enthusiastic readers (Legion!) I will describe two of the more significant hands I played this week. One of them, I played well. Another, not so well.
Setting: The Venetian 550$ Buy-in Friday Hold 'Em
Midway through the tournament. We are down from four to two tables. I have the biggest chip stack at the table. To my left sits the other big stack at the table ("Cigarette"). He has an unlit cigarette dangling from his mouth, orange aviator glasses, and a variety of mustache generally associated with 1970s porn stars. So far he has played a loose aggressive game; my read on him is that he's not afraid to move chips around.
I am in the SB with 9/4 offsuit. Everyone folds. I call the blind (500) figuring that since we are the two big stacks and I outchip him (barely) we will play a small, unexciting pot.
Cigarette sees it differently. He doesn't check; he raises: 4000 more.
Most of the time, I would fold. After all, I have a terrible hand and very little invested in the pot. But something here feels wrong. My Spidey-sense, as it were, is tingling. I don't think he has NOTHING; but neither do I think he's especially strong. Most of all, I think he wants to take the hand down right now; he probably has a hand like AQ.
At this point, my table reputation is fairly tight. I've played only a few hand in the last hour. Almost every time, I've showed good cards. I should--SHOULD--be able to push him around. Or so I think. So, I raise 6000 more, for a total bet of 10,000. He considers long and hard. I try to study him; unfortunately the dealer sits directly between us. I sense, though, that he's not happy about my reraise. I'm not sure he completely believes me--he knows I know he seemed weak on his first bet--but he's definitely thinking.
The flop comes: 3 7 8 rainbow. This is a great flop. If, as I suspect, he had high cards, it missed him altogether. So far my bets have represented a large pocket pair. This is the kind of flop that I should like. I lead out and bet 7000. He folds.
I show my cards to the table. I don't want to come off as a jerk; at the same time, I don't want to have to play big pots against him in the future. If he sees I'm slightly unpredictable he might be inclined, in the future, to let me see flops for cheap. He'll also be less likely to bluff at me; he knows I might play back.
As it happens, Cigarette man busts out about thirty minutes later; my attempts to 'set him up' for the endgame go for naught.
The final table. We are down to eight. The top five are paid. I am second in chips to the player on my left (Pony-tail). Pony-tail is a solid player; he's mostly folded since he sat down. Twenty minutes earlier he won a very large pot off of me when he backdoored a flush on the river and I paid him off with two pair. It was that hand that lost me the chip lead.
My cards: A9.
Everyone folds to me on the button: I raise to 8000. (Blinds are 1500/3000). Pony-tail thinks and then calls. I'm not happy. He has shown no interest in defending his blinds before this hand. If he calls, he has a hand. Unless I hit the flop HARD I am done with this hand.
The Flop: As Ac 6s
Hard to hit it much harder than that. Except, to my consternation, Pony-tail now leads out and bets into me for 12,000. ??? Puzzlement. Confusion. Hello?! McFly? Doens't he know that I'm the one with Trips?
Does he have a six? Does he have a middle pair (8/8)? Is he using his tight reputation to try and steal? Surely if he had an Ace he would check here--wouldn't he?
I'm not sure. I'm either way ahead or way behind. If the former, he'll only fold when I bet. If the latter, I don't want to put any more money into this pot. I call.
He checks. I check. Same reasoning as on the flop.
He now bets 20,000. !!!! What the hell is going on here? I go into the tank. The river has completed a spade flush. Is it possible he was betting the flop on a flush draw? Or did he have AK, and just make Aces Full? Or has he read my calls for weakness and decided his middle pair is actually good? Or maybe he had KQ and is now making some kind of value bet?
I have to be beat. There is no hand I can beat that would lead into me on the flop and river. I have 60,000 in chips. 20,000 is a significant amount. Could he be on a stone-cold steal? Does Pony-tail have that kind of guts? He is almost guaranteed to make the money already; would he really risk so many chips on a bluff? No. He must have a hand.
Or so I think. But then, I call. I have to see it. I know I am beat, but I have to see it. Because I am a donkey.
He shows: AK. He was ahead the whole time. He checked the turn because he was worried that I had paired my kicker (he knew I had an ace, too) and had filled up. When the King hit the river, he knew he was good (obviously).
The king killed me. Any other river and we probably check it down. But, I also killed myself. On the river, I should have folded. I could have folded. I couldn't beat any hand that could bet there. But it's hard, hard, hard to fold three Aces, especially heads-up. It's hard, but not impossible. I should have done it. But I didn't.
Epilogue: Once we got down to six players we chopped the prize money. Pony-tail had 40% of the chips at that point; the rest of us each had about the same amount. He got 5gs, the rest of us got 2400. Not a bad tourny. But if only I had folded that river....