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We All Make Mistakes

A friend e-mailed me after my last post and claimed that perhaps I was being a little too results-oriented in terms of evaluating my poor play in the QQ vs. AK hand. After thinking things over, I decided to refine my point of view in terms of the hand played and present other ways in which the hand could have played out.

My friend - who I used to refer to as Mr. V. but will henceforth be known as MJ - brought up a few points:


  1. Giving up my premium hand when an overcard hits the flop is too tight a strategy and easily exploitable by certain players.
  2. I should have asked myself the following question before putting any more money into the pot on the river: "Will I be ahead in the hand if I get all the money in?"
These are both valid points and I'd like to address them both right now.

First off, was it right for me to give up my hand as soon as a King hit the flop? Based on my commitment decision, yes. However, I made a mistake: even though I was not committed to the hand does not mean that I should have given up without a fight. Committing yourself to a pot means that you are willing to call a large bet after having committed a third of your stack. In essence, you're willing to stack off. But even when you're not committed to a pot, you can still make a large bet that might put a third of your stack at risk because you understand that your bet is simply a bluff or semi-bluff and not a bet that will commit you to further action.

In my case, had I bet $15 into the $20 pot on the flop or the turn, I could have easily won the pot and just as easily folded had my opponent raised my bet. By not betting, I had no idea where I was in the hand. I got gunshy after getting cold-called by a player who had position on me and I froze up like a deer in the headlights. I made the mistake of playing extremely passively and I also called off a lot of chips (ok...all my chips) when I had no idea how my hand fared against my opponent's holding.

As for MJ's second point, there is no way that I can think my Queens are good on the river. You know that feeling when you have a player constantly stealing your blinds and pushing you off hands? Finally, you pick up a good hand and can't wait to stack your nemesis; unfortunately, another player (and a solid one at that) gets in the way and you find yourself playing a big pot against someone other than your original target. And then, when the flop comes bad or the betting clearly shows that you're behind in the hand, you just help but stick with your hand believing that this new opponent is simply trying to push you off your hand much like your nemesis has been doing all session long!

The hand in question goes into my Hall of Shame for three reasons:

  1. I made a commitment plan and failed to stick with it.
  2. I failed to make a continuation bet on either the flop or the turn on a potentially scary flop for my opponent.
  3. I made horrid calls on both the turn and river with a hand that could only serve as a bluff-catcher.
My opponent won this hand because I failed to properly represent my hand.

My opponent won my entire stack because I was too focused on protecting my hand against a potential bluff instead of protecting my stack against a probable superior hand.

Most importantly, my opponent won this hand and my stack because I was forced to guess at the right play. Any time you find yourself guessing in a hand of no-limit hold'em, you're losing money regardless of whether or not you rake the pot in the end.

I'd like to thank MJ and other readers' comments on my first Hall of Shame post. I'll admit that there are going to be times when I'll misread or misinterpret what I did wrong in a hand either because I'm steaming a little or because I'm being a little too results-oriented. As always, I welcome any and all readers to call me a donkey and correct me if I should happen to properly analyze my erroneous play.

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