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Hall of Shame (Vol. 2)

Since returning to online poker in late December, I've looked to players like Fuel55 and RecessRampage to help me better negotiate the pitfalls and dangers of no-limit hold'em. Try as I might, there are still many times that I fall well short of poker-perfection. I read about poker, I study the game, and yet there are times when I play like the biggest donkey imaginable. Luckily I'm a firm believer in learning to fall before learning to fly.

Today, let's take a look at a couple new entries in my poker Hall of Shame.

The first hand that we'll look at today shows the worst hand of poker that I played last weekend. There are two lessons to be learned:

  • Never commit more than 30% of the effective chip stack unless you're prepared to commit to your hand.
  • When sizing your bluff bets, choose the smallest bet possible to get the job done.
Watch as I ignore both of these lessons below.

PokerStars, $1/$2 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 6 Players
LeggoPoker.com - Hand History Converter

UTG: $19
MP: $359.80
Hero (CO): $100
BTN: $197
Villain (SB): $206
BB: $203

Pre-Flop: 7 7 dealt to Hero (CO)
2 folds, Hero raises to $6, BTN folds, Villain raises to $16, BB folds, Hero calls $10

(Standard raise with 77 from the cut-off. I was pretty new to the table and had no reads on the Villain. Although you could argue that folding 77 is probably best in this spot - unknown opponent and getting less than 12:1 on my call - I choose to make the call. I'm in position and if my opponent is aggressive and holding a big hand, I should be able to double up if I hit my set.

I plan to commit to my hand if I hit a set. I also plan on taking a stab at the pot on the flop if the Villain checks. I can't really represent AA-QQ here since I'd have probably 4-bet all-in pre-flop; however, I might get the Villain to fold 88 - QQ if the flop looks reasonably scary.)

Flop: ($34) 3 K K (2 Players)
Villain checks, Hero bets $30, Villain raises to $190 and is All-In, Hero folds

(When Villain checks, I follow through on my plan to take a stab at the pot. I missed my set but I've still got a chance. And then I make a huge mistake: I bet the pot on a steal attempt. Not only is my bet larger than needed for my "stab" but I've also invested 44% of my stack on a bluff. I had no plan if the Villain happened to check-raise and I made a terrible fold when put to the test for all my chips. My fold wasn't terrible because I believe that I folded the best hand: it was a terrible fold given my previous bet and the current pot size.)

Results: $94 Pot ($3 Rake)
Villain mucked and WON $91 (+$45 NET)

It's hands like that last one that keep my ego in check. I played the hand like a real donkey. I'm embarrassed that I threw in so much money on the flop without thinking things through properly. Consistently making over-sized bluff bets in ambiguous situations is a costly yet easily dismissed leak. Thankfully, it's also an easy leak to plug up.

In this next hand, I make the classic mistake of drawing to the idiot end of the straight. To make matters even worse, I fail to notice that I don't have the nuts on the river until I've made the call for all my chips.

Party Poker, $1/$2 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 6 Players
LeggoPoker.com - Hand History Converter

UTG: $347.85
MP: $211.55
Hero (CO): $133.80
Villain (BTN): $193
SB: $184.45
BB: $399

Pre-Flop: A 5 dealt to Hero (CO)
2 folds, Hero raises to $7, Villain calls $7, 2 folds

(Pretty standard raise from the cut-off with a suited ace. The only read that I have on the Villain is that he appears to make loose calls at times and can get aggressive.)

Flop: ($17) T 7 4 (2 Players)
Hero checks, Villain checks

(I totally miss the flop and chicken out on the c-bet. Out of position and with only an ace-high, I don't like my chances against the Villain and decide to choose a better spot. The Villain's check behind surprises me a little.)

Turn: ($17) 6 (2 Players)
Hero bets $10, Villain calls $10

(Ok. Having picked up the open-ended straight draw, I decide to go for the delayed c-bet and push $10 into the pot. The Villain insta-calls leaving me hoping for a non-heart 3 or 8 on the river.)

River: ($37) 8 (2 Players)
Hero bets $40, Villain raises to $176 and is All-In, Hero calls $76.80 and is All-In

(Bingo! I hit my straight so it's time to make an over-bet and hope that the Villain puts me on a busted heart draw or on a pure bluff. As soon as the Villain pushes all-in, I insta-call with the nuts. Oh! Wait! I only have the third nuts! Any 9 beats me here. Was he playing 99? Or maybe a 97s? What other hand does he call that turn bet with? Maybe I'm safe here...)

Results: $270.60 Pot
Hero showed A 5 (a straight Four to Eight) and LOST (-$133.80 NET)
Villain showed 5 9 (a straight Six to Ten) and WON $326.80 (+$193 NET)

(Damn! I'm a donkey. I was a little surprised to see the Villain's 5 9 here but he's allowed to play any cards that he likes. I still can't believe that I completely misread the board at such a critical time in the hand.)

The only good thing that came out of that last hand is that the Villain completely disrespected my game from that point on. I soon found out that he was a winning loose-aggressive player at Party's $1/$2 tables. I watched him crush player after player at table after table. The only player that he was unable to beat was me. It seems that he was unable or unwilling to see the wolf for the sheep's clothing. I must have doubled through him on four or five hands over the course of my next few sessions. I was extremely lucky that my inadvertent and clumsy attempt at "advertising" recouped the losses I incurred in this ugly hand of poker.

I think it's important to learn from your mistakes. Examine your losing hands, admit that you played like a donkey, and figure out a ways to avoid making the same mistakes again. Playing poorly is as much a part of poker as is playing extremely well. It's hard to play perfect poker all the time. Embrace your awful plays and horrific losses as expensive yet wholly effective lessons.

Lose the ego, admit your mistakes, and keep trying to play the best poker of your life.


Alan aka RecessRampage said...

It is good to learn from your mistakes. And I commend you for putting them out there... but man, you played those bad...

Calling reraise with 77 is fine as long as you know the 5/10 rule. You still had set mining odds.

How do you not Cbet that flop on the 2nd hand. It's a great flop for you. Raggy and all low. Sure, opponent might float you and you might have to give up. But you didn't know that. Until you do, your default should be to bet out.

But in both hands, your bet sizing was bad. But you knew that. Good luck.

Klopzi said...

Alan -

Yep - those hands were pretty pathetic. If I didn't know any better, I'd say someone else was playing those hands for me. Mind you, sleep deprivation does wonderful things to a poker game. It's just a matter of losing focus.

I have to work on the c-betting thing. From time to time, I lose faith in the power of the c-bet. I've spoken with a friend about this and I think relentless c-betting (a la Barry Greenstein) is a real key to developing a relentlessly aggressive playing style.

I really appreciate your input on these hands. Feel free to stop by anytime and call me a donkey - even on my supposedly "well-played" hands. I need all the help I can get.

joxum (Denmark) said...

Kind of late to post a comment for this post, but I can't help thinking that the real leak in your game is hidden in this quote: "Mind you, sleep deprivation does wonderful things to a poker game. It's just a matter of losing focus."

Playing while tired has always been hugely EV- for me. Odd thing is, I still do it...so much for learning from your mistakes...


Klopzi said...

Joxum -

Playing tired is harder. But it's also going to be a constant factor for me over the next few years. Once my kids are older, I hope this will change.