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Session Review #15: Outplayed

I'm getting much better at playing late night poker. In the past, I would have simply gone to bed rather than play poker after 11 o'clock at night. But I anticipated wanting to play more poker as I moved up to the bigger games and that seems to be holding true. Thankfully I have a very supportive wife, some delicious coffee at home, and a I go through energy drinks [note: Rockstar is my favourite and they should feel free to contact me if they'd like provide me with a year's supply of their great beverage in exchange for free advertising] as fast as I could go through a plate of ravioli as a kid. (FYI: my record was astounding 1 second per ravioli thanks to my swallow-them-whole technique.)

Of course, there will always be nights where I might have preferred sleep over the potent mix of taurine and caffeine coupled with a poor showing at the tables. I think I played alright last night. No sets, no flushes, no straights, but one unfortunate full house. I made a couple two pair hands but failed to cash in on them. My lack of cards had put my opponents on guard and they preferred to fold to most of my bets rather than face a probable loss of more bets. Even after I made a few loose calls on the river and a failed bluff attempt, I still had problems getting action.

Towards the end of the night, I did manage to get all-in pre-flop twice with AK. The first time I was up against JJ and I hit the ace on the river to take down a $200 pot. The second time I was up against TT and failed to improve, losing $110 in the process. I figured that I'd have a lot more fold equity on those two hands but my opponents were quite keen on playing a big pot with their pocket pairs. Fair enough - I'd have done the same.

I think last night's session boiled down to being outplayed. I outplayed a few opponents and managed to chip up quite nicely. But what goes around comes around. For all the hands that I played well, the next three hands show my opponents either outplaying me or picking off my bluffs. While I feel that I did a better job at outplaying than being outplayed, I'm probably suffering from poker players' ego. The proof is, as they say, in the pudding. And I lost more pudding than I won.

PokerStars, $1/$2 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 5 Players
LeggoPoker.com - Hand History Converter

SB: $414
Villain (BB): $198.15
UTG: $186.50
CO: $95.15
Hero (BTN): $129.80

Pre-Flop: 8 7 dealt to Hero (BTN)
2 folds, Hero calls $2, SB folds, Villain checks

(I'd been mixing up my pre-flop play at the table. I'd been stealing the Villain's blind mercilessly over the past ten orbits and decided to limp this time and keep my implied odds high. The Villain was a standard tight-ish player and I was sure that I could use my position to take down the pot later in the hand if I failed to hit anything.)

Flop: ($5) 6 2 3 (2 Players)
Villain checks, Hero checks

(I should have bet the flop here. Villain is straight-forward and his check means that he's weak. I could also safely fold to a check-raise on his part which makes a bet even more correct in this spot.)

Turn: ($5) 9 (2 Players)
Villain bets $4, Hero calls $4

(The Villain's bet means that he's got a piece of the board. My guess is that he either has a either a pair of nines or a draw. I can't narrow down the Villain's range too much because I didn't raise pre-flop or bet the flop. Damn my passivity! I call with my open-ended straight draw and hope to hit on the river. I also plan to make a bet on the river if the Villain shows any weakness on the river. And if the backdoor flush draws happens to hit, I also plan to take a shot at the pot if the Villain checks.)

River: ($13) 6 (2 Players)
Villain checks, Hero bets $8, Villain calls $8

(Villain checks and I move in the for the kill. Given my read on the Villain, I'm guessing he's got a pair of nines or a busted draw. I haven't shown any aggression at the table yet and I think he's done with the hand. I figure a good sized bet on my part might convince the Villain that I've hit the backdoor flush or got lucky and hit trips on the river.

I make my bet and wait. The Villain ponders,activates his time bank, and finally calls with a few seconds left. Damn...)

Results: $29 Pot ($1.40 Rake)
Villain showed 8 9 (two pair, Nines and Sixes) and WON $27.60 (+$13.60 NET)
Hero showed 8 7 (a pair of Sixes) and LOST (-$14 NET)

(Nice call by the Villain. I didn't think he'd make the call with one pair but he proved me wrong. I'm not sure where I tipped the strength of my hand, but it's obvious that something about the way I played didn't make any sense. Or maybe he figured that 2.5:1 odds were good enough to call. Would a pot-sized bet or overbet have been preferable to an $8 call-me bet?)

This next hand is funny in the sense that I lost a good chunk of change. Not funny to me but I'm sure you'll all enjoy...

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

SB: $325.25
Hero (BB): $111.80
Villain (UTG): $89.65
MP: $199.10
CO: $200
BTN: $470.25

Pre-Flop: 6 Q dealt to Hero (BB)
Villain calls $2, 4 folds, Hero checks

(Free flop! And no reads on Villain - he's pretty new to the table.)

Flop: ($5) Q 8 A (2 Players)
Hero checks, Villain checks

(The pot was small and I didn't really want to get involved here. I figure that I can take a stab at the pot on the turn.)

Turn: ($5) A (2 Players)
Hero bets $3, Villain calls $3

(When a second ace hits the turn, I'm pretty sure that I'm ahead. I make a bet expecting the Villain to fold but he decides to stick around. At this point, my guess is that the Villain is probably holding a mid-pocket pair or a hand like KQ or QJ. I can't see him limping with much else under the gun unless he's decided to slowplay rockets...)

River: ($11) A (2 Players)
Hero bets $20, Villain raises to $60, Hero calls $40

(Nice! I've got the boat and I overbet for value. The Villain pauses then raises it up. The only hands that I have me beat in this spot are Ax and KK. If I give the Villain a broad range that includes all suited aces (excluding AKs), unsuited aces down to AT (excluding AK), any pocket pair excluding AA, and KQ, my equity is still excellent.

The question then becomes: do I re-raise or simply call? I decide to call, expecting to split the pot but hoping to see the Villain show a mid-pocket pair.)

Results: $131 Pot ($3 Rake)
Hero mucked 6 Q and LOST (-$65 NET)
Villain showed J A (four of a kind, Aces) and WON $128 (+$63 NET)

(Touché my sand-bagging little friend.)

After some more thought, it seems to me that I made the mistake of not giving more weight to the Villain's most immediate action in the hand: an unexpected and large river raise. I need to re-think his possible range of hands when this happens instead of instantly dismissing those hands that I wouldn't limp with from under-the-gun. I should have updated the Villain's range in light of his river raise and played accordingly.

My decision on the river came down to one important point: would the Villain raise me with anything less than Aces Full of Queens? For the hand in question, I really can't answer that question. But that's the very essence to making the correct decision on the river. Even if I include all suited and unsuited aces in my opponent's range of hands, simply adding JJ and TT to the equation make my call of $40 to win $91 correct.

While I continue to mull that last hand over and over in my head for the next week or two, let's take a look at a hand that happened less than a minute later on another table. Once again, I find myself making another call on the river assuming that I'm ahead in the hand.

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

BTN: $404.90
SB: $214.05
Villain (BB): $148.65
UTG: $199
MP: $66.95
Hero (CO): $116.65

Pre-Flop: 7 7 dealt to Hero (CO)
UTG folds, MP calls $2, Hero calls $2, 2 folds, Villain checks

(Playing for set value here. MP is pretty tight and Villain is very loose.)

Flop: ($7) 4 T 6 (3 Players)
Villain checks, MP bets $2, Hero calls $2, Villain calls $2

(I decide to float in position here. The pot is the right size to allow me to make a steal attempt on the turn against MP. I'm not too concerned when the Villain calls because I'm probably ahead of his range right now given that he didn't bet out or check-raise. But now I'm not too sure about betting the turn.)

Turn: ($13) 8 (3 Players)
Villain checks, MP checks, Hero checks

(I decide to check through on the turn and plan to call a bet on the river. I'm positive that the Villain will make a bet at the pot on the river. And if I happen to hit my gutshot draw, I'll get paid off big time.)

River: ($13) 2 (3 Players)
Villain bets $8, MP folds, Hero calls $8

(I missed my draw but the Villain could make this same move with any two. I'm getting 3:1 on my money and closing the action so I insta-call.)

Results: $29 Pot ($1.40 Rake)
Villain showed T 9 (a pair of Tens) and WON $27.60 (+$15.60 NET)
Hero mucked 7 7 and LOST (-$12 NET)

(This wasn't a big pot but I was almost positive that I was ahead. Given the Villain's typical aggression on the turn, he was either playing the weak=strong game or hoping to go for the check-raise. Maybe I should have bet the turn. Or maybe that's just poker.)

None of these hands represent huge losses for me. And perhaps I'm being too hard on myself. All I can do is put my opponent's on ranges of hands and measure my hand's equity against that range. I still get disappointed when I fail to pick out my opponent's specific hand or when I fail to narrow my opponent's range enough to allow me to make even more profitable decisions. I guess that will come in time. Probably not tonight since it's Valentine's Day. But maybe tomorrow. Or the day after that. Or the day after that.

All I know is that it is coming. And I can't wait...

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