WEEKLY COLUMN--Would you call a "made hand" with one card to come?





I'm at Harrahs on Monday night playing some poker against the New Orleans regulars and the folks from Biloxi that come into town to steal from drunk Monday Night Football fans. Sorry Titan fans if we were inhospitable to you on the felt but you realize you are walking targets, and the entire time you are playing three or four people that barely know one another are exchanging glances about your pisspoor-I-saw-it-on-TV-play and are just sitting there waiting to snap you off when you overplay two facecards or AJ or a low pocket pair.

Anyway, I get there early to try and squeeze juice from the walnuts. The walnuts being the other regulars all biding their time until the football game is over and the unhappy or happy drunks show up. Yes, they are a bunch of Martians (very rocky) for the most part like myself, so shown down hands are usually premium holdings vs. one another.

Why even bother to get there early? I like the Harrahs Football Box promotion where they give you a score and you have each quarter to hit for a prize. I don't think I've ever been a score away from winning but they still pull me in. It goes to show you timing is everything. They give out a few hundred to the winners of each quarter and you are eligible to enter just by sitting down to play poker. But, I can't get a sniff of the score with the big prizes, but at a Superbowl party of 12 I hit every f'ing box and walk away with a grand total of $40 or something like that. Granted I have 10 times as many chances but these things never seem to matchup.

It's the way my luck runs, at the World Series the cards were running over me like a MAC truck in the small Treasure Island tournaments I'd play, but in the satellites for the Main Event, I couldn't get two face cards at the same time to save my life much less a small pocket pair or even a suited connector. Why can't I get these rushes in the bigger events? Or at a critical time.

I always seem to go card dead and put an IV in my short stacks just to barely cash when I'm playing in a big event. Usually, the rare big hands I get, I have to push with because I'm so short and invariably somebody sucks out me. How many times can I lose with aces? Too many to count. Maybe if I weren't short stack losing with them wouldn't matter...

Of late, I've been a victim of a landmine more times then I care to think about in tournaments. I might have a medium stack or even a borderline big stack through grinding it out with nothing, then I'll have some idiot in middle position with a stack close to mine go all-in for a paltry pot of blinds and antes. Then in late position, I'll look down at Aces. Umm.... I call. Get ready for yet another runner-runner straight for the lunchbox who put all his chips at risk with a pair of threes when he didn't need to. It's great when they react like they made the right play. But what I am going do lay down Aces preflop as an 80% favorite--I don't think so.

Man, I whine a lot in these columns, but I'm reviewing these assorted bitchings of mine for a purpose. What wannabe players, like myself, do to encourage ourselves after jackass number 10 has sucked out with his terrible call, is say, "People suck out on us, because we always get our money in good, but we don't suck out on them because we'd never be that far behind." We know we aren't idiots (or so we think) and only the idiots put their tournament lives at risk with minimal holdings or say 'But I thought he was bluffing,' irregardless of the fact they'd need to get two cards exactly right to even beat a bluff. So we tell ourselves we aren't idiots so we'll never be in that position. Fair enough.

On to the hand. I'm playing with a guy, who is a little loose, so I've decided to target him a little bit to make some money before the drunkards come in and I can really get paid. He raises in early position, and I'm a little concerned but he's still got a wide range of hands to do that with. I'm on the button with K9 suited. Marginal but with him probably enough. I reraise to get an idea of where I'm at. He calls.

O.K. he clearly doesn't have a monster as he's popped back with high pocket pairs in that situation before. He likes to get his money in the pot when he's ahead and just end it. Flop comes KQ8 (2 clubs). He bets anew. I decide to test him again to see if it's a continuation bet and bump it one more time and make him pay if he's on a flush draw. He calls but doesn't like it. Not sure if he's acting or not.

Turn is a J of clubs. Then he goes, "Hey, man, I got a made hand do you want to just check it down." Whoa. I've played with this guy before but a long time ago, and I remember sitting next to him and talking with him. Had I befriended him and he thought he was doing me a favor when he's sitting on a monster by offering this? I pause. My head tells me this is clearly a sign of weakness. The con is clearly on, but it's so well timed.

Flush, straight, and trips all beat me. Did he just turn a set? Was he raising with 910 preflop? Is this reverse pyschology and he wants me to bet when he's sitting on a straight flush, that can't be, why would he risk not getting paid. BUT.... I just got a K with a middle kicker.

Yet, I'm sitting deep. I got plenty of chips, why wouldn't he want action. He's got to be scared so he's trying to avoid the hand. Clearly it's weakness on his part. My mind says "No," and bet into him and take down the pot there, he's probably on a draw. Still, I don't know him. I decide, "O.K." and check it down. He turns over two nonclub 10s and I scoop the pot after a meaningless river card.

So, his ploy worked. He chased his open ended straight draw for free and got out of the hand without paying too much. As for calling pocket 10s a made hand, well that kind of pissed me off and he'd suffer for that later.

It only takes a half-hour and it's a similar situation, he raises again from early position, gets a couple of callers and comes to me. I got pocket 8s. Okay. I'll play, the callers are all short stacked and I'm really hoping to hit an 8 and blast this guy. Flop comes 772 (two spades). Hit puts out an insignificant bet according to the size of the pot. The first caller comes over the top all in. Next guy folds and it's to me. The all-in is about double the pot. I see the villian loading up with chips, he's going to call. I figure I might be able to take him for a side pot. I don't love my 8s but as I analyze his hand, he's either got a monster or air.

At first I thought it was a braking bet, letting him chase his flush draw cheaply, but the guy that went all in, to me was the guy with the decent flush draw. That was his style push with redraws and hope to take down pots and if not, get lucky with two cards to come. They could both have flush draws but since I put the second guy on the nut flush draw, I didn't think the first guy could have it as I didn't think he'd raise with Kx suited under the gun... but I don't rule it out.

Therefore, the bet was either to get some action for the monsters like pocket 7s or 2s or the semi-monster pocket As. If he had Ks, Qs, Js, 10s or even 9s, he would have bet big to get all the Aces and stray cards that could beat him out of the hand. So what else, would he brake with? Ak, AQ, KQ or two other over cards. Yet KQ, KJ, or K10 are unlikely holdings. Maybe 6s to try and hit his set cheaply, or just take down the pot if he's ahead (course he's letting people draw inexpensively to hands that could beat him so that doesn't make too much sense either). Or really, when I thought about it, he could have a ton of different holdings and continuation bet like he always did to see where he was at. A paired board scares a lot of people, and it's unlikely anybody called his initial raise with a 7 or a 2.

Him not being phased by the all in troubled me. Yet, if he put the guy on a draw too, and I give him credit enough for that, he might be ahead with AK or something and be making the right call. My mental math told me it was more likely he had a non monster and I had a better than 50% chance that I was ahead. The flush chaser was giving me great pot odds to play the villain so I call.

The villian insta-raises it another 100 leaving himself ~23 behind. Huh?

The monster or semi-monster hand starts knocking on my cranium. Now he wants to get paid and is pushing it. Remember when I said I was pissed at the guy for putting one over on me with his "made hand?" Credit to him, because he added emotion to this pivotal decision for me. I should have folded here. He had one of those three hands, 7s, 2s, or As and more likely one of the first two. At a minimum I was dominated by two pair, with only two 8s to draw out on. Best case scenario I was looking at a full house with pocket twos, and I could draw to the two 8s or 7s and get a bigger full house. At worst case, he already had quads, and I'd have to go runner-runner 8.

Yet, part of me wanted to call in anger, and the emotion didn't want to believe what the mind was telling me, plus, the pot was swelling up. I looked at my own chip stack, and even if I called his 100 and the rest of what he still had behind I'd have plenty of chips to play with. So emotion won out and I called.

The turn was a 6. Yawn. Now, the con artist went to work. He went all in (another ~23 into a ~$500+ or something pot). I studied him. I knew at this point, I had to call but I wanted to see if he had the quad 7s, the one hand I couldn't beat and I'd save the 20 something dollars by avoiding it. So, as I like to do, I asked him a dumb question, "Do you have A6? Did you just make your boat."

That dumb question basically told him I had an overpair. I wanted some more information even though I was 99.9% sure I was calling. I got plenty of it as he turned over his pocket 2s. He was scared of my overpair and me sucking out on him. He knew I had four outs, but if he could convince me to get out of the hand, he wouldn't have to sweat the river. Then he says to me... "Look I have it, I'm not trying to get you back or anything for the earlier hand." Get me back? Dude saved himself a bet or two or having to fold a draw. Get back at me because his free draw didn't hit? What's he smoking?

Unfortunately for him, the two 2s was exactly what I was fishing for and exactly what I wanted to see. I was getting over 20 to 1 on my money. I now knew 8 of the 52 cards in the deck. That means I had a 1 in 11 chance of hitting my 4 outs to take the pot. (4 out of 44: either a 7 for 7s full of 8s, or an 8 for 8s full of 7s which would beat his holdings of either 7s full of 2s or 2s full of 7s) . Therefore, I'd win money in this situation if I make this call and just hit it every 1 in 19 times (20+ to 1 were the pots odds). As my odds were actually 1 in 11, statistically, I was getting about as close to great odds as you can get to hit a 4 outer.

As I was looking skyward doing the math again counting the preflop raise and calls, he went on his PR campaign. "Save your money."

I reply, "I think I'm getting the odds to call."

"Pot odds!?! What, I wouldn't call that if I had 500 to 1 odds. Save your money you are drawing to a two outer!" He screamed. His fear reinforced in my gut I was going to call but I was going to leave him in limbo on this huge pot and my potential suck out for a little longer. Maybe that was evil but he did call pocket 10s a "made hand." And as for correcting him about the outs I had, I guess he wasn't counting the 7s, it's not my job to educate people at a table. Funny thing is even if it were only two outs I actually was almost priced in exactly to draw to the two outer, plus, and let's not forget the pot was offering a better return on the $23 than I'd see all night.

I hemmed and hawed, with the chips in my hand, as though I was agonizing with my decision and this guy, doing everything short of calling me an idiot if I called, was going through torture. I would have called the 23 even if I wasn't priced in, just for this reaction. It was already money well spent. By the way, the other guy in the hand had gotten up and left after seeing the pocket twos so he was definitely on a semi-bluff at best.

Finally, and with one more evil twist, I throw the chips in and say, "You know what I just got a feeling it's going to come." As though my decision was purely nonrational. The dude turned red.

You know sometimes you are in pots and you just know that card is going to come. I didn't when I said just that to him, and I really only said it to piss him off, but when the dealer verified with surprise that I called, and then she started turning over the card I didn't sweat it all. Whether or not, it was because I was resigned to losing the pot and the 23 dollars because I knew I was making the right decision on the river (despite making a bad one on the flop), or whether it was because he was so infuriated for me making the call, or whether it was like that final ridiculous scene in Maverick when he knew the Ace of Spades was coming, I just had this calm feeling the outcome was going to go my way.

I didn't even get the rush a gambler gets when a 50 yard field goal is going to decide the game. It was like one of those rare moments under pressure in sports, where there is no pressure, you are in another zone, the free throw to decide the game is going in before it's shot, the penalty kick is already in the net before kicking it, or the beer pong ball is going in cup before it's lofted.

The crazy thing is the table was breaking and this was the last hand before we got moved elsewhere, so everybody stood to watch the final drama. And people standing and watching in a poker room draws a crowd. So others had been drawn in and come to see this guy basically beg me to not call and then heard me haphazardlly say, "I got a feeling." It was like the bubble with one guy all in in a multi-table tournament or the buzz the poker room gets when a table is one card away from a bad beat jackpot and everybody hurries over to privately hope it doesn't hit so the big number stays on the board. The dealer sensing the spectacle of course drew out the card slowly....

And Blamo! 8!

The crowd drawn to the table by this guy basically begging me not to call did that group inhale like they were all kicked in the stomachs at once. It only intensified his anger. The weird thing, I was in such a serene state I didn't get that gamblers rush, it was like it was supposed to happen because I made the right decision, so I just camly drew my chips in with no buzz 1 out of 11 times that happens.

He berated me. I stacked the chips into a rack to move to my new table, one ripe with drunk Titan fans, and said things like, "Yeah, I got lucky. Yeah, I shouldn't have called that on the river. I just had a feeling you know. I knew it was a mistake but I had to call." Really twisting the knife in.

The guy now floored (and felted) started in on this story, "I've only seen that once before in my life where somebody made such a bad call, I was in Vegas and flopped a set a Queens, turned a full house and this guy calls me after I showed him my hand, but he was getting like a 1000 to one on his money! This is ridiculous."

No doubt, I shouldn't have called his post flop reraise, but no doubt he wanted me to. And yes, though he wanted me not to call his 23, no doubt I had to. It wasn't a bad call. It would have been a horrible fold.

The dealer leaned into me and said, "I couldn't believe it when I dealt it, I got gooesebumps." I then remember I hadn't tipped her. I should have given her more, but I was listening to this dude's Vegas nightmare.

What's the point? I can suck out. I have sucked out and even good players have situations where the have to make terrible calls with little chance of winning and they sometimes do win. Not that one pot changes everything, but I do think it's important to recognize when the game does go in your favor. Sometimes, I am my opponent on this blog and telling everybody My VEGAS nightmare and sometimes I'm floored when somebody makes a terrible call (but maybe I'm not giving them enough credit... I know it took me too long to realize that "How could he not know I had aces, how could he call" was exactly the reason he called and him getting all my chips was his plan all along). So for my two loyal readers (hi mom, hi dad), I apologize for being that guy in the past and in the future.

Who doesn't review a tournament they did well in and forget all the races they won where their cards held up. Sometimes we focus on all the one outers that hit us and forget about maybe winning every coinflip one particular day. So, I guess next time I bitch and whine and moan please refer me to this post and tell me to STFU. One day, I'll run good in a huge MTT event and all the times I'm due for will come back and pay me off.

Suckouts do happen for good players too. And I for one will call a "made hand", even one shown to me, with one card to come.

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