Thursday, November 05, 2015

Can I Make the Big Lay Down?

I've been all juiced up to play poker lately after watching a bunch of videos and making a few posts and comments on the forums at so I was excited to go play Wednesday night. I ended up sitting in maybe the worst $2/3/$5 game I've seen at the Oaks and I think if I wasn't so amped to play I might have left early.

I got involved in two tough spots against tough competition.

The villain in the first hand was late 20's slightly hipsterish looking white guy who I hadn't seen before. I didn't know what to make of him because on one hand he looked like he was super high and on the other he seemed like a really strong player. He did a lot of check raising and just by looking at his bet sizing in every spot where he showed a hand I felt like he was a strong player.

In the hand in question, I had A8 of clubs in the big blind and he open raised from earlyish position to $20. I was the lone caller and the flop came down Q 8 3 with two spades. This was a pretty good flop for me and given that I was in the blinds I expected him to bet close to 100% of his range on that board. I was all set to check and call, but he checked behind me.

The turn was a bingo card for me - another 8. It might be right to bet here, but I decided to go for a check raise. Either he checked back a big hand on the flop or had air and I think in either instance I make more with a check raise. I checked, he bet $25, I raised to $70 and he called. At this point I considered that he could have checked back QQ on the flop, but there were plenty of other hands he could have.

The river was the 4 of spades completing the front door flush draw. I decided that I thought there was no way that he'd check a flush draw last on the flop heads up vs the big blind so there was (almost) no way he could have a flush. I bet $100 hoping to get called by a hand like AA, KK, AQ, 98 or 87 or some hand trying to catch a bluff. Then he raised it to $300! GAH! I figured it had to be QQ. That was the only hand that would make any sense at all. Competing with that was the fact that this guy was either a very good player and thus capable of making a legit river bluff, or super high and just running good and thus capable of anything, or both. I called, got shown QQ and kicked myself a little for not folding.

The villain in the second hand was a mid 20's Asian guy who seemed sharp. He was limping a lot of pots and running a lot of bluffs on the turn and river. I know he was running a lot of bluffs because he showed a lot of them and got snapped off on a few as well.

Earlier in the night he bet $30 into $50 on a 6 4 3 flop and when I raised him to $75 he three bet to $210. I called and he check folded to an all in of $270 when an T came on the turn. He said he three bet the flop with air and that's about the only thing that make sense when you consider he check folded the turn rather than moving in when all I had left was half a pot sized bet.

When I say this guy was running a lot of bluffs I mean I've never seen anyone put in so many turn or river raises or $100+ bets as bluffs. But, he was also playing very in control and like I said he was sharp and not just a wild player.

To his right there was a woman who was a total novice. I mean, she didn't know how much the blinds were supposed to be and got mixed up a few times as to the denomination of the chips (there were only two colors - blue =$1, yellow =$5!). She absolutely had no clue.

On the hand in question, Mr. Bluffy limped for $5 and I raised to $25 with QJ of spades. Ms. No Clue called as did Mr. Bluffy. The flop came down Q 8 4 with two clubs, the both checked to me, I bet $50 and Ms. No Clue called. I was trying to sort out how much I could get her to call on the turn when Mr. Bluffy raised to $155.

We both had about $900 to start the hand and this is where a lot of players start to think "Well if I call another $105 here, I'm going to have to call $200 on the turn and $400 on the river and I don't want to basically go all in with one pair with a medium kicker, so I can't call here" and this is exactly why Mr. Bluffy has been bluffing so much and it had generally been working for him.

I decided that given how tricky he was I couldn't fold top pair here. I figured he'd expect me to bet any Q x x flop given the action, and could easily be taking a shot at the pot. So I called. The turn was a red 9 and he bet $250 into the $435 pot. At the time I was thinking that it was a bigger bet, more like 3/4 of the pot, but I guess it was a little less. Still a serious bet though.

I was pretty close to folding here, but four things stopped me: 1) there was a flush draw on the flop so he could be semi-bluffing with that 2) I picked up a gut shot which wasn't much but was something 3) he had run so many naked bluffs that I just couldn't give him full credit for a hand 4) I didn't have to commit the rest of my stack to calling him down - I could see the river and see what he did and then use that information to decide.

I called and the river came out a Q which although it greatly improved my hand, I didn't really think it changed anything. Either I was good with one pair of Q's because he was on a flush draw or total air or he flopped a set, and now had a full house. I didn't think there was much in between. Sometime around the time I was calling the turn bet or as the river came out I was thinking that I would not call an all in for the last $500 or so on the river. But then the Q came, sure enough he went all in for $500 (I actually had $470 left)  and I thought "That doesn't change anything. Either he flopped a set and I've been totally fucked this whole hand or I was good all the way. I should stick with my plan to fold to an all in. Fuck that, I can't fold trips to this guy." I called, he showed me pocket 8's, I did a quick check to make sure he had me covered and I headed for the door.

I ended up losing $665 on the night which is a pretty moderate loss, but I was really kicking myself on the drive home. One of the huge things that separates the 1 in 10,000 top notch players from the 1 in 1,000 and the 1 in 100 very, very good players is the ability to make big lay downs. That has never been one of my key strengths and lately more than anytime in the past 6 or 7 years, I've been walking around dreaming about playing in big games for big money. So I felt discouraged that two of the better players in the game got the best of me on two big hands. I felt like I'm doomed to be a very good, but not great player.

After sleeping on it I felt better about it.

Looking back on the first hand I think there may have been enough uncertainty. And what really were my alternatives? Checking the river would be total paranoia. Once I bet and get raised I have to be up against a full house, an ace or maybe king high flush or a bluff. Against an average player this is an easy fold as they'd never raise the river without the mortal nuts, but against a strong player getting 3 to 1 on my money I think it's an OK call.

Looking back on the second hand, there is something to be said about not being afraid to get it in. I have no doubt that Mr. Bluffy is capable of a three street bluff. That's totally in his range. The fact that a river is a Q actually increases the chances that he'd bluff one more street as it's a scary card if I don't have one.

But seriously, fuck these Q 8 x flops!

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