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Session Review #18: The Hero Returns

I sat down to play a little $100 NLHE on Friday night at PokerStars. I was ready to post my first winning session in over two weeks. Within minutes, I had a couple tables up and running. I bought in for a $100 at both tables, said a little prayer, and started clicking.

PokerStars, $0.50/$1 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 6 Players
LeggoPoker.com - Hand History Converter

Hero (UTG): $115.55
MP: $112.50
CO: $98.50
Villain (BTN): $236.20
SB: $107.45
BB: $100.55

(Villain is exactly the type of player you want seated at your table. Loose, passive, and willing to see the river before deciding to give up on a hand.)

Pre-Flop: 8 9 dealt to Hero (UTG)
Hero raises to $2, 2 folds, Villain raises to $3, 2 folds, Hero calls $1

(Given my stack size, I wanted to keep the pot small pre-flop. I figured that min-raise would probably scare off most of my opponents except for the Villain playing the button. I made an easy call when the Villain min-reraised me.)

Flop: ($7.50) 4 6 3 (2 Players)
Hero checks, Villain bets $5, Hero calls $5

(Although I wasn't getting pot odds on my draw, my implied odds were excellent given the Villain's propensity to pay off hands.)

Turn: ($17.50) 2 (2 Players)
Hero checks, Villain checks

(The Villain was pretty passive but had shown that he was more willing to bet than call on later streets. Figuring that my check-call on the flop screamed flush draw, I decided to put the Villain's mind at ease on the turn. If he bet, I could check-call again then bet out on the river. Unfortunately, the Villain followed his usual pattern of playing passively and he got a free look at the river card. I planned to make a large river bet for value.)

River: ($17.50) 6 (2 Players)
Hero bets $17, Villain calls $17

(The six on the river was a great card for me. I knew the Villain hadn't flopped a set because he would have bet the turn. I bet the pot knowing that I'd get paid off if the Villain had anything at all. And if he'd managed to find trip sixes on the river, I was going to get paid off big time. When the Villain called, I put him on a flopped pair of 4s or 3s.)

Results: $51.50 Pot ($2.50 Rake)
Hero showed 8 9 (a flush, Nine high) and WON $49 (+$24 NET)
Villain mucked 5 A and LOST (-$25 NET)

(Villain slowplayed his straight on the turn. I guess he was worried about the flush but felt that 2:1 on the river gave him good enough odds to see if his straight was good.)

PokerStars, $0.50/$1 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 6 Players
LeggoPoker.com - Hand History Converter

BTN: $92.85
SB: $96
BB: $244.70
UTG: $102.50
Hero (MP): $118.05
Villain (CO): $84

(Villain was pretty loose and mildy-aggressive.)

Pre-Flop: 7 7 dealt to Hero (MP)

UTG folds, Hero raises to $2, Villain raises to $5, 3 folds, Hero calls $3

(I'd been raising quite a bit in the past half-hour and the Villain had started 3-betting me with more frequency - hence the smaller raise pre-flop. With the rest of the table either folding or 3-betting me, I didn't see much point in raising more than I needed to steal the blinds.)

Flop: ($11.50) A A 3 (2 Players)
Hero checks, Villain checks

(When the Villain checked behind on the flop, I figured that my sevens were good.)

Turn: ($11.50) 8 (2 Players)
Hero bets $5, Villain calls $5

(I didn't want to give the Villain a free look at the showdown. I was sure that he didn't have an ace. I bet the turn to see where I was in the hand even though I strongly suspected that I was ahead. When the Villain flat-called, I put him on a lower pocket pair figuring that he might have taken a stab at the pot on the flop with two big cards (KQ, KJ, etc.) or raised the turn with any pocket pairs larger than my pocket sevens.)

River: ($21.50) 9 (2 Players)
Hero bets $9, Villain calls $9

(The river card didn't change things. I still figured to be ahead of the Villain's range of hands and bet for value. When the Villain insta-called, I expected to be shown 44-66.)

Results: $39.50 Pot ($1.90 Rake)
Hero showed 7 7 (two pair, Aces and Sevens) and WON $37.60 (+$18.60 NET)
Villain showed 4 4 (two pair, Aces and Fours) and LOST (-$19 NET)

PokerStars, $0.50/$1 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 6 Players
LeggoPoker.com - Hand History Converter

Hero (MP): $128.30
CO: $88.50
BTN: $62.70
Villain (SB): $173.70
BB: $100
UTG: $119.25

(Same Villain as Hand 1: loose and willing to pay off a lot of hands. Unfortunately, this hand took place before I had a read on the Villain.)

Could have value bet river but I didn't think he was calling with anthing that I could beat.)
Pre-Flop: J J dealt to Hero (MP)
UTG folds, Hero raises to $4, 2 folds, Villain calls $3.50, BB folds

Flop: ($9) A K 9 (2 Players)
Villain checks, Hero bets $6, Villain calls $6

(Standard c-bet. Given the board, I'm not too happy about the call.)

Turn: ($21) 6 (2 Players)
Villain checks, Hero checks

(The board was way too scary for me to bet here. If I bet the turn, I might get the Villain to fold a hand that beats mine. But wouldn't the Villain have folded on the flop given that the turn card changed nothing? I figured the Villain for a weak ace, a pair of kings, pair of nines, or a draw of some sort.)

River: ($21) 3 (2 Players)
Villain checks, Hero checks

(Although I could have value bet the river, I wasn't sure how many hands the Villain could call me with that didn't have me beat. A bet would get a call from a pair of kings or pair of aces but that wouldn't be good. I ended up running down my timer a bit while I decided on my course of action. When all was said and done, I realized that I just didn't know enough about the Villain to make a good decision and checked behind.)

Results: $21 Pot ($1 Rake)
Hero showed J J (a pair of Jacks) and WON $20 (+$10 NET)
Villain showed 7 9 (a pair of Nines) and LOST (-$10 NET)

(As I said earlier, the Villain was pretty loose. He called a raise out-of-position with a 97o. And then he decided to stick around by calling my flop bet on a scary board. I might have fired a second bullet against this Villain had I known the kind of game that he was playing at the time.)

PokerStars, $0.50/$1 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 6 Players
LeggoPoker.com - Hand History Converter

BB: $94.35
UTG: $97
MP: $244.70
CO: $102.50
Hero (BTN): $107.45
Villain (SB): $93

(Same Villain as the 77 vs. 44 hand above: loose and slightly aggro. )

Pre-Flop: J J dealt to Hero (BTN)
3 folds, Hero raises to $4, Villain calls $3.50, BB folds

Flop: ($9) 3 7 J (2 Players)
Villain checks, Hero bets $5, Villain calls $5

(Bet my set against a Villain unlikely to fold.)

Turn: ($19) 6 (2 Players)
Villain checks, Hero bets $13, Villain folds

(Too strong! The only reason I can give for betting is that I didn't want to give the Villain a free look at the river. There was a flush draw but some of his outs would have been tainted given that I could have improved to a boat or quads on the river with the J or 6. If I'd checked and the Villain's flush card hit on the river while simultaneously improving my hand, I could have stacked him. Damn...)

Results: $19 Pot ($0.90 Rake)
Hero mucked J J and WON $18.10 (+$9.10 NET)

PokerStars, $0.50/$1 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 5 Players
LeggoPoker.com - Hand History Converter

Hero (BB): $136.60
UTG: $98.50
CO: $100.85
Villain (BTN): $142.30
SB: $115.05

(Once again, we're looking at the same Villain as in the 89 vs. A5 hand and the JJ vs. 97 hand.)

Pre-Flop: 2 A dealt to Hero (BB)
2 folds, BTN calls $1, SB folds, Hero checks

(Even though the Villain isn't a great player, I wasn't going to raise a weak ace out of position. Any money that I'd make against this particular Villain would come post-flop. There's no point investing a lot of money pre-flop before I can see the flop and figure out how much money I can extract from my loose opponent.)

Flop: ($2.50) K 7 A (2 Players)
Hero bets $1, BTN calls $1

(Top pair is gold against this particular Villain. I didn't want to build a big pot out of position. But I did want to value bet all three streets, if possible.)

Turn: ($4.50) 8 (2 Players)
Hero bets $2, BTN calls $2

(Flush draw comes in but I wasn't going to slow down. If the Villain had raised me here, I could have easily gotten away from my hand knowing that I was behind.)

River: ($8.50) J (2 Players)
Hero bets $4, BTN calls $4

(I'd shown strength on the flop and turn and decided to continue the trend on the river. Had I checked, the Villain would have likely checked through given the betting on previous streets. I believe that a half pot-sized bet on the river in this spot prevents the Villain from making any bluff raises while also allowing me to get value out of a pretty good hand.)

Results: $16.50 Pot ($0.80 Rake)
Hero showed 2 A (a pair of Aces) and LOST (-$8 NET)
BTN showed 8 7 (two pair, Eights and Sevens) and WON $15.70 (+$7.70 NET)


I only played a few hundred hands over the course of this session and finished up running at about 21 BB/100. Not too shabby considering how poorly I'd played in the weeks leading up to Friday night. Although I erred on the side of caution many times, I think I played reasonably well. Not too tight, not too loose, and not too passive either.

I played a couple more sessions over the course of the weekend. If I get the chance, I may just put up some hands from those sessions for review. I'm still getting used to playing a medium stack and could really use any pointers and advice from my readers.


Gnome said...

Looks good! I think your preflop minraises expose the weakness of your hands.

Alan aka RecessRampage said...

Dude... maybe gnome is being nice. I can't let this slide. I personally think your plays are flawed and at higher levels, you will certainly be punished. Your minraises with mediocre hands vs a 4x BB raise with a hand like JJ that you clearly want to protect is such a tell. Only in this level do you see silly minraises on top of minraises. But I don't like your flawed thinking of minraises scaring off opponents. Why would you think that? As a matter of fact, I would love people to minraise with AA. Why would that scare anyone off? It would have great implied odds to call with ATC. I'm just not sure that your thought process is in the right place. Don't be too results oriented. I'm afraid it would blind you from some of the big mistakes you are making.

Klopzi said...

Hey Gnome -

I understand that, for now, it does seem that I'm min-raising with weak hands in an attempt to save myself from investing too much into a hand before I see the flop.

I'll agree that this is true. However, I'm basing my decision to min-raise on a number of factors - one of which is hand strength. But there are other things that I'm considering at the time.

I definitely agree with you (and with Alan) that my pre-flop raising needs work. But I'm trying quite hard to move beyond the whole "keep your pre-flop raises consistent". I think this strategy can be improved upon, especially when playing at the low to mid stakes tables.

Of course, I haven't figured out the optimal strategy yet. But I've got time. And if it doesn't work, I can always fall back on the 4BB + 1BB per limper standard.

Klopzi said...

Alan -

I love your comments. It's nice to get some heated responses to my posts!

I totally understand your point of view. I've watched many videos and played enough NLHE to know that raising 4BB + 1BB per limper adequately disguises my hand strength from my opponents. However, I feel that there are other ways to disguise my hands that also let me set-up pre-flop pot sizes that better suit my hands.

When I min-raise, I'm not really looking to scare my opponents off. Generally, my min-raise is reserved for tables when I find that my oponents are folding constantly to 80% of my pre-flop raises. Of course, if conditions change and I started getting played back at, I can then change my strategy and find other ways to make money at the table.

And although it seems that I change my pre-flop raise sizing based solely on hand strength, there are a number of other factors that I try to consider. I'll generally consider: number of callers I expect pre-flop, size of the pre-flop pot that I'd like in order to set-up a favourable SPR, quality of play from the player on the button, quality of play from the player in the BB, and so on.

I also tend to look at where I expect to make the bulk of my money in a hand when playing against a specific player. If I raise and expect a tight player to call, I tend to raise more pre-flop and look to steal post-flop. And on the flip-side, if I expect to be playing a pot with a bad, loose player, I'll keep the pot small pre-flop and look to outplay my opponent after the flop.

As I mentioned in my response to Gnome, I'm far from having developed a sound strategy. But I'd still like to experiment with this line of though a little longer. I think there may be some value in it, even when I move up to the higher stakes.

In the meantime, please question my play any chance you get and force me to defend my actions. You find the chink in the armour and I'll do my best to patch it.

And if all else fails, I can always go back to the standard pre-flop raising strategy.

support said...


I also wanted to react to this review, because I agree with Alan for the most part. I feel that thinking outside of the box can make you money, but you're not at the right stakes to make this sort of 'special' moves.

I also think that there must be large flaws in your reasoning because what you're saying in this comment is the total opposite of what you used in your review.

You say that you min-raise with 77 because people were 3betting you too often. In your comment you say you usually minraise when you don't get called when raising standard amounts; this seems contradictory.

You example 'If I raise and I expect a tight player to call ...' doesn't make sense either. What raises do tight players generally call? I would think that they hold a very strong hand when they do so and then it's not really a good idea to build a bigger pot than usual preflop. Stealing postflop will only cost more money and it won't even work often due to Villain's hand strength.

I also feel that the hands you post are very results oriented and your analysis isn't always spot on. You immediately decide that somebody who checks behind on an AAx flop doesn't hold the ace, I would think quite the contrary.

Anyways, I think postflop leaks are much more worth working on so please don't try to play fancy preflop but focus on postflop leaks.


Klopzi said...

Hey support -

I should mention that my comments over the course of a hand tend to be my thinking at the time of the hand and my reactions to comments tend to come later. I do contradict myself quite a bit, don't I?

As for the min-raising, I guess the reasons I use it depend on the tables I'm at. If the table is folding more often than not to my raises, I'll start raising more often. And if they'll fold a lot to my smaller min-raises then I'll use the smallest bet I can to take down the pot.

In the case of min-raising where I get 3-bet a lot, that's called playing tight-weak poker and it's my specialty. It tends to pop up when I feel I can't win and I'm afraid to lose money. However, it can take me a few days to come down from tilting. And I tend to post before my cool-down period.

But even at the top of my game, I tend to flip-flop from time to time. I'm learning something new each time I play. Unfortunately, this lends to a schizophrenic feel, at times, to my posts.

As for being results-oriented, guilty as charged. I'm doing my best to work on this but it's hard. I come from a background where good behaviour is rewarded immediately and bad behaviour is punished immediately. It's a hard pattern to unlearn.

I'm hoping that given more time and more experience, I'll start to present a more cohesive strategy to my readers and provide better analysis.

I use this blog as a means of analyzing my play. I also rely on my readers' insights to show me where I'm wrong, where I'm right, and where I'm simply full of shit.

I appreciate your comments. I really enjoy getting well thought-out comments that force me to re-examine my game.

Please let me know if you fail to see any improvements in my play or my analysis in the coming months.

Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend!