Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sometimes, Even the Best Laid Plans...

In Texas Hold 'em, I think everyone loves to get dealt pocket Aces. They look so nice when you first see them, knowing that you have the best hand at that moment. Then comes the next moment, when you have to decide how to play them. You want to win a lot of chips/money with them, but you also know that you can lose a lot of chips because you're going to be more willing to put a lot of chips in to a pot when holding Aces.

Sometimes, the decisions are easy with Aces. If you are short stacked, or if an opponent moves all in before you preflop, making the decision to call is automatic and no real thought is required. Other times, when you're not short-stacked you might raise and no one calls making things very easy, although maybe not as profitable as one would like. Then there are those times when you've got some tougher decisions. Up until you see a flop you know where you stand because, after all, you've got Aces and you know you're in the lead. After the flop is when the fun begins with Aces. Once again, sometimes it will be easy because you'll hit an Ace to make a set of Aces, but more often than not you won't so you'll be put in that situation of "What do I do with this great hand now?" and that's where it gets interesting.

I had one of those situations very recently in a tournament I was playing and I thought I'd go over it here. I was in the Big Blind with a stack of about 3400 and blinds at 100/200. There were six players left in the tournament. An opponent in early position had raised it to 500. That opponent had approximately the same amount of chips as myself. The player on the button, we'll call him naD because I don't want to use real names here, had a stack of about 9000 to 10000 chips and decided to call the 500. The small blind folded and I looked down and saw Aces. I could have just shoved for all my chips, but I was pretty sure that both players would fold and I was hoping to get a call out of one of the two players, preferrably naD because his decision to call instead of reraising had already indicated that his hand wasn't super strong. I decided to reraise and made it 1450 to go. If the first raiser had raised with a very strong hand he was going to reraise all in anyway and naD would then get out of the way and I'd get it all in. If the first raiser didn't have a strong hand he'd fold, and then naD would have a decision to make. Well, the first raiser folds, and then naD decided to call, so I got the scenario I was looking to get. The flop came:

Q T 7 (2 clubs, 1 spade; or 1 club, 2 spades, I don't remember which)

Now, there are a couple of scenarios that are going to be possible here as far as naD's hand is concerned:
  • Scenario #1: He's hit this hard. Possibly two pair with Q-T, maybe a set of Ts or a set of 7s, or maybe A-Q for top pair top kicker. A set of Qs seems unlikely as we probably would have gotten it in preflop. If he's hit it this hard, he's going to get his chips in the pot no matter what I do.
  • Scenario #2: He's semi-connected with the board. Maybe he played KQ, QJ, AT, KT, JT, or something else that has given him either top pair with a medium kicker or second pair. He also may have a straight or flush draw.
  • Scenario #3: He's completely missed with a hand like A-K or A-J, or he has a pair less than Tens that hasn't connected with the board. Considering my reraise this board is a whiff for him in those situations. If he's got AK or AJ he does have a gutshot straight draw, though.

Because I'm the big blind I have to act first. I thought about it for a minute. My options are pretty much going all in or to check it to naD. Running through it in my head, if I move all in and he's got Scenario #1 he's calling 100% of the time and I need to get lucky. If he's got Scenario #2, he might call, depending on his hand in the range. I would guess he would call about 60-75% of the time because he's got possibly the best hand and he can afford the chips. He might fold, though, and I don't want that either, because I'm the favorite and I want those chips in the middle. If he's got Scenario #3, he's probably not calling if I go all in. He might call with AK or maybe with a lower pair if he thinks I'm bluffing, but I didn't think so, so let's say he calls 10% of the time here, in which case none of his chips are going in and what's in the pot is mine.

Now let's look at those same scenarios if I check. If he's got Scenarios #1 or #2 and I check he's probably going to set me all in. He might check with Scenario #1, but considering the pot size and my stack I didn't think that the flop would go without any action. If he's got Scenario #3 he's going to check 90% of the time because he's whiffed, but he might take a stab because he can put pressure on me, and I really like my chances in that scenario, anyway.

Basically, I saw no upside in betting this flop since he'd be able to avoid getting his chips in the middle if he had Scenario #3 and he might fold with some hands that are part of Scenario #2's range of hands. If he's got Scenario #1 I'm dead no matter how you look at it, and I was willing to accept the risk that he didn't out-flop me there. If I check, he's getting his chips in the middle with Scenario #2, and maybe, although chances are slim, with Scenario #3. In both of those situations I'm in the lead and the chips are in the pot.

After all that thought I decided to check. With the action on naD and the pot at 3500, he set me all in for the 1950 I had remaining, as expected, and I called. He tabled J-9, giving him the open-ended straight draw and about a 35% chance to win. The turn card was an 8, giving naD the straight and the win since I was drawing dead going to the river. Sometimes, no matter how you draw it up, the cards just don't always cooperate. I thought it was an intersting hand and would share my thoughts about it with you here. Obviously, I don't enjoy losing, but I was glad that I worked the pot and my opponent in to the situation that I wanted with the hand that I had. I guess I should have just tried to take a small pot and moved all in preflop, right? Ha!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Jackpot at the State Tournament

This past weekend I was at the State Bowling Tournament in Green Bay. Luckily, with the tournament being held in Green Bay, it's not so far to travel to get to Oneida's Mason Street Casino, which is where the poker room is in Green Bay. I arrived early Friday afternoon with the intention of sitting down for about a 3-4 hour session, then take a couple hour break back at the hotel, and then come back for a longer session in the evening. My session started on a downturn after I had my trip 10's get hammered by a flush in a large pot early, and then shortly after that got hit in a decent pot again when I flopped two pair (AK) on a single-suit board, only to get it all in with someone who had a lower two pair (A8), and then they hit their kicker (the 8) for the full house after we got it all in on the flop.

I started to make a comeback at the $1/$3 table, and had just about doubled up my rebuy when I was dealt a pair of Kings in late position. The player in the Under-the-Gun seat limped in to the pot, the player next to him had limped, one more player between that position and myself limped in to the pot, so when I saw KK I popped it up. I tried to pick an amount that would get one of the prior limpers to call, but not all of them, so I bet $25. The player that was under the gun was a very active player and I expected him to call with just about anything here. Well, he folds. The next player, who had been playing very well after the flop, decides to now raise to $95. That killed the other action and it was now back on me. Usually, when a player limps and then reraises from early position they have a VERY strong hand. It's actually not that unusual to see pocket Aces in that situation. The one thing I thought was odd here, though, was the fact that someone else had already limped. Usually when this limp-reraise play is made there is no other action behind you. The idea is to induce a raise from someone else and then trap that raise in the pot with your reraise. With the other limp in front of him I really didn't put him on Aces, but I was pretty sure he must have something big to try and pull this play. I had about $375 in front of me when the hand began, so if I were to reraise I would probably make it about $250 to go. If I'm putting in $250 of my $375, the rest is going in on the flop regardless of what hits the board, so I might as well bet the whole thing, right? The only thing I didn't want to hear was the automatic "I call". So, after I declared myself "All In!" (that's for you Stretch and Buck) I was very happy to hear absolutely nothing out of my opponent, as that meant he didn't have Aces. Well, at that moment, another table started going beserk about something. It turns out that over at the $3/$6 Limit table someone had lost with quad Jacks to a King-high straight flush. The Oneida Poker Room has a Bad Beat Jackpot, and it turns out that it hit because in order to qualify you have to lose with quads. The jackpot was at just over $67,000. I couldn't get up and personally check it out though as I was still involved in a hand at the moment. My opponent thought and thought and finally called. Now, at the cash game you don't need to show, but I don't play that way so I turned over the Kings, and he showed his Queens. My Kings held up and I won a very nice pot.

What I couldn't figure out, though, was why the whole room was going nuts over the bad beat. Everyone was high-fiving each other. I finally asked what was up, and the player on my left informed me that a portion of the jackpot goes to the players in the room. Apparently, Oneida splits the jackpot like this: 40% goes to the loser of the hand, 20% goes to the winner of the hand, 20% is split among the other players at the table dealt in to the hand, and 20% is split amongst the rest of the poker players in the room that had been dealt a hand at the time it happened. At every other casino poker room I've been to with a Bad Beat Jackpot, the split is usually 50% to the loser, 25% to the winner, 20% to the rest of the table, and 5% to reseed the Jackpot. As it turned out, each player in the room that wasn't at the table where the bad beat occurred received $308. Not bad for just being in the room at the time! It took about two hours to process paying out the Jackpot. Everyone, and I mean everyone, got paid in chips, so there were quite a number of chips that had to be paid out to players. I felt very bad for one individual who had left the $3/$6 Limit table to go to the bathroom and wasn't dealt a hand, as he didn't receive anything. The rest of the players at the table got a little over $2300 each. That is one expensive bathroom break!

As far as my poker for the rest of the weekend, it was pretty uneventful. After receiving my room share of the Jackpot I took my break, and my evening session ended up being a $1 loss. I was profitable up until, in the last orbit, I got KK and someone else got AA. I lost most of my profit for the session in that hand, and then lost another small pot to be $1 down for the session. I was planning on being done for the weekend, but a played a couple hours late on Saturday and had a small losing session to the tune of $41. In that session, I actually had AA against someone else's KK, but I had already lost some chips so when I doubled up that hand it didn't get me to the profitable side. I can't really complain about the poker this weekend, though, as that first session on Friday was very profitable.

On the bowling side of things, it was a pretty uneventful state tournament for me. No real good series to report. I had a couple good games here and there, but never put together a good series. A couple of people I was bowling with put together some good numbers, and one bowler of that group in particular, Iggy, put together one of the best, if not the best, 9-game series I've seen at State Tournament. He had series of 730, 737, and 648 (I think, it may have been a couple pins higher/lower), for a 9-game total of 2115. An excllent score for all-events, and just great bowling all weekend by him. Of course, if those houses weren't lefty houses it might have been a different story....just kidding, Iggy. It was very impressive.

Friday, March 13, 2009

CCPL welcomes the United Nations!

The Cream City Poker League's 5th Circuit Event was definitely a unique event. Thank you again to the Mark and Anne for hosting, and for inviting the "United Nations" to be present. The taco bar was awesome! Foreign beer was provided as well (another Red Stripe, anyone?) Among those in attendance that represented the United Nations were:

Mike "The Shiek" , with can of Oil
Dan "Ruske" (loved the CCCP shirt...almost the CCPL!)
Jeff "El Sombrero" (if you didn't stay or weren't there, the beard was on through the WHOLE game)
Adam "The Mick"
Mark "JamaicaMan Raymer"
Rock and Pete "Dos Gringos" (although I don't think it qualifies as a costume for the evening)
Anne "de Brazil"

I've posted a slideshow of pics here for you to see them in costume:

Filling in for the "Secretary-General" this evening, I had a good time running the event and everything went smoothly. I had plenty of assistance when needed. Unfortunately, my results weren't so good, but there's always another game another day, right?

To provide a quick summary, the game had 13 participants. Mark and Anne had also gotten some Chinese fortune cookies that were placed with the player's chip stacks when they got to their seats so players were able to get their lucky numbers for the evening. There was no bad beat jackpot for the evening, but I didn't hear any uproar of anyone who would have hit it, although Angie did make quad 6s early in the event, but I didn't have a qualifying hand to go with my donation to that pot. The bounties landed on two of the ladies present, Jen and Angie (who has been "blessed" with the bounty every time she's played [lucky her!]). There were three rebuys during the first three levels (and almost a fourth; shoulda called there Pete, your fortune told you that you could!!) It was a long game, extending in to Sunday for the first time in a while...

The official results with updated stats and points will be provided by the Secretary-General when he is back from his state visit to Mexico, but for now the unofficial results are as follows (only those winning money):

4th - The Ruske (earned $33 for knocking out Angie)
3rd - JamaicaMan Raymer (earned $60)
2nd - El Sombrero (earned $95)
1st - Jen (earned $180 for 1st and $32 in elimating bounty hunters!!)

...and the wrap-up pics:

Congrats to all the cashers and to Jen for earning a seat to the Tournament of Champions. I think fun was had by all. I took 9th, but still had a good time as usual.