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Monster Sessions

I was speaking with MJ on a coffee break yesterday. As usual, our topic of conversion was poker. MJ commented that he was getting sick of starting each of his sessions by dropping anywhere from a half buy-in to a full buy-in before finally picking up steam. Having gone through a similar stretch myself, I knew exactly what he was talking about. It's hard to get yourself psyched to play only to sit down and instantly find yourself down for the night. Poker is always interesting - but it's so much more fun when you're winning.

With our coffees finished, MJ wrapped up our discussion with one simple desire: he wanted to have one of those monster nights at the table. I had one really big night back in February. I managed to make about $450 in the span of an hour at the $200 NLHE tables. For many of my readers, $450 is a small score. For me, that session proved to be my best cash game session ever and I was suitably impressed with my super poker skills!

A couple weeks later (i.e. the dreaded month of March), I suffered my biggest losing session when I dropped $550 in just over two hours. Easy come, easy go. I was forced to re-examine my belief that I was the next Durrr or Patrik Antonius. As nice as it is to have a big winning session, it's important to keep things in perspective. Poker is a game of long-term results. Good sessions are just a way of padding your score until the next downswing hits.

Where am I going with this? Well, as luck would have it, I had a good session last night. In fact, it was one of those monster sessions that MJ and I had just talked about yesterday afternoon. It wasn't my biggest session ever but it was pretty close. I'd like to say that it was all skill but I got extremely lucky. My biggest decisions of the night came when I was holding the second nuts and trying to extract the most value from my opponents. When you're getting lucky, poker can be an easy game.

That's not to say that everything I did last night was great. I have a few hands that I'd like to discuss. The first two hands will look at some terrible misplays that cost me quite a few BBs. The final hand below was included to show that I'm slowly learning to extract value from my hands, even when I've got the board more or less crippled.

No Limit Holdem Ring game
Blinds: $0.50/$1
5 players

Stack sizes:
Villain (UTG): $109.05
CO: $197.70
Hero (Button): $101
SB: $78.70
BB: $155.55

Pre-flop: (5 players) Hero is Button with T♠ T♦
Villain raises to $4, CO folds, Hero calls, 2 folds.

(Villain was a slightly-loose but solid player. I decided to forego three-betting and chose to call in position.)

Flop: 4♠ 2♠ 6♣ ($9.5, 2 players)
Villain bets $7, Hero raises to $20, Villain raises to $42, Hero calls.

(As soon as the Villain bet, I told myself to simply call the bet. The board was coordinated and a raise on my part would simply re-open the betting. Villain could then re-raise me off my hand with a draw, a bluff, or a better hand.

Unfortunately, I chose to raise and the Villain re-raised. My choices in this spot were simple: fold or push. I chose to call. Ugly. My reasoning at the time was that the Villain would might slow down after the flop and let me see a cheap showdown. I'm not sure why I thought that though.)

Turn: K♥ ($93.5, 2 players)
Villain is all-in $63.05.
Uncalled bets: $63.05 returned to Villain.

(Villain's bet on the turn coupled with his stats and flop play let me know that I was most likely behind. Villain probably knew that I didn't have AA-QQ so he could easily be betting any pocket pair from 77-AA , along with some suited Kings or sets.

I really hate how I played this hand. I really should have flat-called the flop against this particular opponent. I consider this hand to be one of those defining hands that I'll remember, for better or worse, for a long while.)

No Limit Holdem Ring game
Blinds: $0.50/$1
5 players

Stack sizes:
UTG: $104.80
Hero (CO): $207
Button: $115.20
SB: $118.15
Villain (BB): $100

Pre-flop: (5 players) Hero is CO with K♥ J♠
UTG folds, Hero raises to $4, Button folds, SB calls, Villain calls.

(Villain was a super fish.)

Flop: 6♦ 2♣ 7♠ ($12, 3 players)
SB checks, Villain checks, Hero checks.

(I didn't want to c-bet this flop with total air. These are the types of cards that hit my opponents likely hand ranges filled with pocket pairs and various connectors.)

Turn: 6♣ ($12, 3 players)
SB checks, Villain checks, Hero bets $8, SB folds, Villain calls.

(I don't know what I was thinking here. If I had a hand, why not bet the flop with position? My line makes no sense in this context, I think. When the Villain called, I put him on a a draw or weak hand.)

River: Q♦ ($28, 2 players)
Villain checks, Hero bets $18, Villain calls.

(I figured that I could get the Villain to a river bet. Unfortunately, given my play at this table and my read on the Villain, I had to think that he'd call me with many hands here. If I was in his spot and had a piece of this board, I'd probably call on the river as well. )

Final pot: $64
Hero showed Kh Js
Villain showed 3s 3h

(Villain obviously put me on air and he was right. I deserved to lose this pot. I seem to choose the worst times to put out big river bluffs...)

No Limit Holdem Ring game
Blinds: $0.50/$1
6 players

Stack sizes:
Villain (UTG): $137.30
Hero (UTG+1): $113.35
CO: $113.20
Button: $48.55
SB: $97
BB: $104.75

Pre-flop: (6 players) Hero is Villain+1 with A♠ A♣
Villain calls, Hero raises to $5, 4 folds, Villain calls.

(In the past two orbits, I'd raised the Villain pre-flop. I'd picked up a number of hands and was playing very straight-forwardly; however, Villain was a LAG and I hadn't shown down a single hand at this table.)

Flop: 7♦ A♥ 7♣ ($11.5, 2 players)
Villain checks, Hero checks.

(I decided to NOT bet this flop. Although I hate slow-playing, I had the board locked up. Unless the Villain bet first, I decided to sit on my hand until the last possible moment on the river. I needed the Villain to pick up some sort of hand at which point I felt that I might be able to win a bit of money.)

Turn: 8♥ ($11.5, 2 players)
Villain bets $10, Hero raises to $25, Villain calls.

(Although I could have flat-called, Villain had to think that I'd been f-ing with him since I sat down at the table. I was hoping that my raise might induce the Villain to jam with an ace, a seven, or a flush draw. When I got called, I figured the Villain for some sort of hand. I couldn't narrow his range that much given that he'd been playing 60% of his hands and going deep with many of them.)

River: 9♦ ($61.5, 2 players)
Villain checks, Hero bets $50, Villain raises to $100, Hero calls all-in $33.35.
Uncalled bets: $16.65 returned to Villain.

(When the Villain checked, I wondered if he'd perhaps missed his backdoor flush draw. Most likely, he had a hand that warranted a check-call on the river. I decided to make a slightly larger value bet and hoped the Villain would call.

When the Villain raised, I let out a little yell of "I've got the nuts baby!", though technically it was the second nuts. I was just happy to have hit a monster on the flop and finally extracted full value for it.)

Final pot: $228.2
Villain showed Jh Th
Hero showed As Ac

(Villain picked up a real monster hand on the turn. Unfortunately for him, he was drawing dead. I'm just glad that I held off on betting the flop. It let the Villain pick up a little something and helped me disguise my hand. For what it's worth, I played a similar hand a while back where I was the one hitting the straight on the river against the flopped boat. What goes around comes around, I guess.)

I'll be interested to see how last night's session affects my overall monthly stats. My primary goals while playing poker this month were to play a lot of hands for experience's sake, maintain a winrate of at least 8 BB/100 (not PTBB/100), and have fun. I've met all of these goals this month so I'm quite happy. I'm looking forward to maintaining my momentum through August and seeing just how much I can improve my overall game and outlook on poker.

As for my plans at the tables, I'll put in a session at Stars tonight and take tomorrow night "off" to spend some extra time with my wife. Look for this month's recap on Friday.

Have a great day everyone!

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