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Session Review #16: Skill or Luck?

Poker is a game of skill. And poker is a game of chance. No matter how good a player you feel yourself to be, Lady Luck will always hold the upper hand when deciding your fate at the tables. But if you continue to make good decisions, you'll come out ahead more often than not.

In my latest poker session, I got to see all sides to poker: the good luck, the bad luck, skilled plays, and donkey poker. In fact, I displayed the entire gamut of luck and skill found in poker all by myself.

I very rarely start my poker sessions off with a bang. Without any reads on my fellow players, I find it difficult to build up a big stack early. Generally, I'll wait for a big hand before I make any moves.

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. After just two orbits at a table, I figured the Villain sitting to my immediate right was a super-aggressive donkey. I hate aggressive players and I wanted to knock the wind out of his sails early and often. After winning a couple of pots with some liberal three-betting of my aggressive friend's constant raises, I suddenly found myself in a good spot to double up.

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

BTN: $200
SB: $205.60
BB: $558.55
UTG: $81.40
Villain (MP): $379
Hero (CO): $134

Pre-Flop: T T dealt to Hero (CO)
UTG calls $2, Villain raises to $10, Hero raises to $30, 4 folds, Villain raises to $379 and is All-In, Hero calls $104 and is All-In

(Villain is an ultra-aggressive player. He's played and raised almost every hand pre-flop for the last couple orbits. When I found myself sitting on pocket tens, I was happy to 3-bet the Villain yet again. When the Villain decided to jam the pot, I was well ahead of his range and made the call.)

Flop: ($273) 5 A 4 (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

(F*cking ace! My only hope is that the Villain was overplaying KQ-KJ, QJ, JT, or a pocket pair in the 99-22 range.)

Turn: ($273) 9 (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

(I'd been burned quite a few times recently with my opponent's pocket nines turned sets. Had I been burned again?)

River: ($273) 8 (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

(I guess there were no cards that I'd be happy seeing given my opponent's wide range of hands. I still hated the 8 on the river though.)

Results: $273 Pot ($3 Rake)
MP showed K A (a pair of Aces) and WON $270 (+$136 NET)
Hero mucked T T and LOST (-$134 NET)

(Well, well...It seems my laggy friend happened to pick up a real hand this time. Rebuy!)

I've made a habit of buying-in for the full amount after I have a read on the table, assuming that the table conditions are favourable to a low-limit poker blogger such as myself. I failed to do much with my fresh $200 stack for about ten minutes. The eleventh minute, however, was a doozy...

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

BB: $200
UTG: $291.65
CO: $696.10
Villain (BTN): $491.85
Hero (SB): $198

Pre-Flop: J J dealt to Hero (SB)
2 folds, Villain raises to $8, Hero raises to $25, BB folds, Villain calls $17

(Same Villain as in the previous hand. The Villain loved his button steal-raises. He knew it. I knew it. And I was hoping that he knew that I knew it. With a solid starting hand, it was time to get paid. When the Villain failed to jam pre-flop, I discounted the possibility of the Villain holding pocket pairs or AK. I was sure he would have jammed with those pre-flop. I figured to be up against a couple big cards or a tricky-dicky hand like a couple connected cards, suited or not.)

Flop: ($52) 9 T K (2 Players)
Hero checks, Villain bets $40, Hero raises to $173 and is All-In, Villain calls $133

(With possible straight and flush draws on the flop, I didn't want to mess around. I knew that the Villain would bet the hand for me. As soon as the Villain's money was in the pot, I jammed the pot. I was pretty sure that the Villain would take my jam as a personal insult and call with any piece of the board or a draw. I find the ultra-LAGs can really take things personally and they seem to love showing people up and sucking out for big pots.

I was sure that I was ahead when the Villain called my flop push. I prayed for two rags to fall on the turn and river.)

Turn: ($398) 3 (2 Players - 1 is All-In)


River: ($398) 2 (2 Players - 1 is All-In)


Results: $398 Pot ($2 Rake)
Villain mucked 9 8 and LOST (-$198 NET)
Hero showed J J (a pair of Jacks) and WON $396 (+$198 NET)

(Excellent! The Villain actually hit a great hand on the flop but failed to hit any of his thirteen slightly discounted outs.)

Shortly after winning that big pot, the Villain left the table. In my last orbit at the table, I happened to pick up a good hand in the cut-off.

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

Villain (BTN): $216.70
SB: $203.05
BB: $68
UTG: $644.10
Hero (CO): $367

Pre-Flop: A Q dealt to Hero (CO)
UTG folds, Hero raises to $8, Villain calls $8, 2 folds

(Damned floaters! The Villain was a pretty standard TAG. My biggest concern was that I hadn't seen the Villain fold to a single c-bet over the past hundred hands. What an awful position to be in...)

Flop: ($19) K 9 3 (2 Players)
Hero checks, Villain checks

(I was going to try for a check-raise in an attempt to change things up. When the Villain checked behind, I decided to make a delayed c-bet on the turn in an attempt to take down the pot.)

Turn: ($19) 5 (2 Players)
Hero bets $12, Villain calls $12

(I probably could have bet a little more on the turn. But I figured that a $12 bet would get my point across. The Villain thought for a second and called.)

River: ($43) A (2 Players)
Hero checks, Villain bets $38, Hero calls $38

(Great river card! I could now check the river and let my opponent take a stab at the pot. I figured that a bet on my part would have simply forced the Villain to fold any hand that I could beat. I also didn't want to give the Villain the chance to raise me off my hand. I instantly called the Villain's pot-sized river bet and hoped for the best.)

Results: $119 Pot ($2 Rake)
Villain showed 9 9 (three of a kind, Nines) and WON $117 (+$59 NET)
Hero mucked A Q and LOST (-$58 NET)

(Well played by the Villain. He must have hoped that the Ace hit my hand and that I'd pay off his flopped set.)

I soon found myself at a new table. Right from the get-go, I was picking up a lot of big hands pre-flop. I was ramming and jamming and soon found myself down $150 after getting pushed off some pots by some floaters. I also got stacked when my AK ran into an opponent's QQ in an all-in pre-flop pot.

I figured the Villain in this next hand didn't respect my game at all. I'd raised and re-raised four straight pots and had pushed the Villain out pre-flop on two of those hands. When the Villain raised yet again from UTG, I knew I'd get some action with my AQs on the button.

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

BB: $211.40
Villain (UTG): $497.20
MP: $322.55
CO: $118.95
Hero (BTN): $108
SB: $314.75

Pre-Flop: Q A dealt to Hero (BTN)
Villain raises to $8, MP folds, CO calls $8, Hero raises to $30, 2 folds, Villain raises to $152, CO folds, Hero calls $78 and is All-In

(Villain was pretty loose and aggressive pre-flop (and CO was a donkey). When I raised on the button with my Q A, I was hoping to take down the pot uncontested for a fifth straight time. But I was also prepared to call off my entire stack if the Villain was trigger-happy.

Lo and behold, the Villain jammed. I figured that he'd jam with any pocket pair from AA down to 99, AK, AQ, and possibly other trashier hands depending on the Villain's mood. Getting close to 2:1 on my money, I made the call and hoped for the best.)

Flop: ($227) 8 7 K (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

(C'mon flush!)

Turn: ($227) 7 (2 Players - 1 is All-In)


River: ($227) 3 (2 Players - 1 is All-In)


Results: $227 Pot ($3 Rake)
Villain showed A A (two pair, Aces and Sevens) and LOST (-$108 NET)
Hero showed Q A (a flush, Ace high) and WON $224 (+$116 NET)

(Although I spent a lot of Sklansky Bucks on this hand, I made a good call pre-flop based on the range I'd assigned to the Villain. The fact that I had to crack pocket aces to win the pot is a part of poker.)

After winning such couple large coin-flip pots, I decided that I'd better try my hand at the "skill" portion of poker. I saw my opportunity a little later in the session at yet another table. My image at this new table was pretty solid. I'd lost a big pot earlier when an uber-LAG sucked out on me. I'd rebought for $200 and hadn't done much else until this next hand.

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

BB: $854.85
UTG: $236.30
Villain (MP): $534.05
CO: $46
BTN: $174
Hero (SB): $203

Pre-Flop: 9 9 dealt to Hero (SB)
UTG folds, Villain raises to $6, 2 folds, Hero calls $5, BB folds

(The Villain was a solid player, if a little tight. I called in the SB hoping that the BB would come along for the ride. Oh well...)

Flop: ($14) 6 Q Q (2 Players)
Hero checks, Villain checks

(I saw an opportunity to make a move with this hand. The Villain was a player capable of making a fold. I decided to play this hand as if I had a KQ. I instantly checked the flop and the Villain checked behind.)

Turn: ($14) K (2 Players)
Hero checks, Villain bets $10, Hero raises to $30, Villain folds

(When the King hit on the turn, I knew I could make my move. The King was a good card, scare card or otherwise, for the Villain. After a couple checks from me and with the King on the board, I was sure the Villain would bet. I check-raised the Villain's bet to $30 and knew that the Villain would have to fold unless he happened to hold AA, KK, AQ, KQ, QJ, 66, or possibly AK.)

Results: $34 Pot ($1.65 Rake)
Hero mucked 9 9 and WON $32.35 (+$16.35 NET)

Although that last hand doesn't represent the biggest hand I've won, I like the way I played it. I don't make very many moves while I'm playing but I identified a good stealing situation. More importantly, I followed through with my read and pulled the trigger on the turn to take down the pot. It's possible I was ahead in the hand but that's not my concern. I won the pot and I'm happy with that result.

Before I had a chance to think any further on my small victory, I found myself tangling with the very same Villain five hands later.

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

UTG: $851.85
MP: $236.30
Villain (CO): $515.05
BTN: $46
SB: $204
Hero (BB): $219.35

Pre-Flop: 8 8 dealt to Hero (BB)
2 folds, CO raises to $6, 2 folds, Hero calls $4

(Another pocket pair! What would I do with this hand? Although I agree with Wes that calling, as opposed to raising, out of position with a pocket pair can be a leak, I was planning on stealing the pot if I happened to miss my set.)

Flop: ($13) 2 4 Q (2 Players)
Hero checks, CO bets $10, Hero calls $10

(With the rainbow flop, I saw another opportunity to take the pot away from the Villain. I figured that the Villain would c-bet this flop no matter what given what had happed in the previous hand. I decided to call the flop bet and make a move on the turn as long the turn card didn't bring any paint. I should also mention that the flop is a good one for me with only one overcard.)

Turn: ($33) 7 (2 Players)
Hero bets $20, CO folds

(I made a good-sized bet on the turn with my second pair. The Villain's not calling me on the turn without top pair or better given my read. Sure, sometimes he makes the call with 99 - JJ but I was sure I was getting the fold here. The Villain let his time bank run down before he folded his hand. Phew!)

Results: $33 Pot ($1.60 Rake)
Hero mucked 8 8 and WON $31.40 (+$15.40 NET)

Poker is as much about luck as it is about making good reads, playing good hands, and spotting good situations. Variance can be a real bitch sometimes - but I wouldn't have it any other way.


SimpleStyle said...

Nice moves in the later hands. Now if those only worked at 25nl and 50nl...

Ah well, I'll get up there soon enough :P

Klopzi said...

I doubt they'd work against most opponents. It was a pretty risky for me to try any of those moves out of position against a pre-flop raiser.

But hey, I'm playing for virtual chips. I chalk up my losses as paying my poker tuition. Though I'll admit that it's nice to make money while trying out new things at the tables.