A Fishtastic Feeding Frenzy

5/10 Texas hold Em

New Player in the cut-off posts 10 cents, the button disconnects, and play begins 8 handed.
Under the Gun +1 limps in, folds to cut-off who checks, the small blind completes and the big blind checks.
Pot is now 40 cents.

Flop is 7 Clubs, 10 of Spades and 5 of clubs. The blinds both check, utg+1 min-raises to 10 cents, the cut-off calls and both blinds fold.
Pot is now 60 cents.

Turn is the Ace of Hearts. Both players check, pot remains 60 cents.

River is the 8 of diamonds.

UTG+1 raises 60 cents.
Cut-off hesitates, then raises to 2.40.
UTG+! thinks, then raises all in.
Cut-off calls the last 2.83.

Now, the board is 7C, 10S, 5C, AH, and 8D. What could each player have?

On the 5/10 level, a limp from early position is often a trap with Kings or Aces, though many other times it is a small pocket pair, a suited ace, a dry ace, or even suited connectors.

Coming in paying to see flops from the cut-off is by definition a weak play. The problem with being a blind is you have to put chips in the pot without knowing what cards you hold. Checking it with one limper and 2 players to act certainly indicates no strength either, and he could literally have any two cards.

The blinds folded at the first sign of interest in the pot, so it is safe to assume they had sub-standard hands.

First, lets play it through from the eyes of the UTG player.

He picks up pocket 8s. There are 2 big blinds and a small blind already in, the table has seen lots of limping, and the button is disconnected. Hand values go up slightly therefore.

If he can see a flop getting 4-to-1 odds, he is still taking the worst of it, particularly out of position, but if he is disciplined and lays them down if someone raises or if he misses the flop then it might not be a brutally bad play but it is pretty weak for sure.

Flop 7C, 10S, 5C
The blinds check to UTG. Only one player behind him who has two random cards and entered the pot involuntarily. He may or may not have some random hand that the flop hit but it is likely the 8s are the best hand. A raise to see where he stands seems reasonable...but a min-raise?

He is offering 5 to one odds and expressing weakness. This is a horrific bet. At his level, with a player who has already shown he is somewhat loose by his early entry, the cut-off is going to call with any Ace, suited or not, if he hit any part of that flop or has even the most ridiculous of draws, perhaps even any 2 face cards. So really, a min-raise will tell the UTG nothing about his hand, eliminating only hands that you want to hit like 2/7.

So the cut-off calls, telling you nothing about his hand, the blinds fold, and now the pot is 60 cents.

The turn is Ah. On the bright side, it did not complete the flush draw. On the dark side, it it a lot of hands that the cut-off might have called with and, if he was playing 2 face cards, gives him an inside straight draw. Not good odds...but you figure he might play them. You check, and he checks behind. Did he miss it?

The river is beautiful...the 8D. It completes no draws. Unless he was slow-playing pocket aces or pocket 10s or holding specifically J/9 you have a lock on the hand and now you need to figure out how to get your last 5.23 in the pot when there is only 60 cents in there.

Previously you min-raised. Now you raise the pot, 60 cents.

For the first time, your opponent takes some time to think it over. Then he raises you to 2.40. This seems good.

After all, you have shown no strength in the entire hand. The 8 seems very nonthreatening. He could have something like A/5, A/7, or A/10 and have hit 2 pair. Or maybe he has an 7. If he held 4/6 then he hit a straight, but that is an unlikely holding. You can rule out the pocket Aces with a great deal of certainty. Everything is coming up roses. Raise to all-in and hope he calls.

Now to look at it from the cut-off position.

You have had a rough night away from the tables and sat down on tilt. People sucked out on a couple of ridiculous draws, taking down your pocket aces with A/9 off-suit and with A/5suited. You know you are on tilt and should not be playing.

The table has been checking to the big blind, so you take a calculated gamble one off the button and pay into the blinds. Then the button disconnects, so in effect you limped from the button. You pick up J/9o, a truly weak hand.

Under the Gun+1 limps, folds to you. That limp represents weakness most of the time, but there is no point to raising here...if he re-raises you will have to fold and you already wasted a blind by buying in at this point. Happily, the small blind completes and the big blind checks. You take a flop 4 handed and with position.

Flop 7C, 10S, 5C.
A complete blank. You hope everyone checks and you can take one off looking to hit your inside straight. The blinds follow the plan and the UTG player then min-raises.

This is bad because he could easily be playing a suited Ace where one of these cards hit his kicker, he could be semi-bluffing on a flush draw, or might even have hit a set of some sort.

However, the min-raise is offering 5-1, the limp pre-flop followed by a min-raise after 2 checks feels like a pot-steal. So there are 2 ways to play it:
1) re-raise about the pot, trying to take it down with air.
2) call, planning to raise if he checks the turn and a scare card hits.

With 2 players behind you, both with random hands that might have hit, you decide to call, planning to raise the turn regardless of what card comes.

Both blinds fold and you take the turn heads up with 60 cents in the pot.

The turn card is perfect, the Ace of hearts. He checks. Time to bet and take down the pot...but wait...what if he had an Ace and is slow-paying you? Bet or check?

The entire reason you called the flop was for this situation. Doing anything other than betting is the wrong play. A half-pot bet should let you know exactly where you stand. If he is truly as weak as he appears, you will get away with your weak pre-flop and flop play. If he actually has something, he will likely raise you and if he just calls, you will at least get one more shot at your ridiculous inside straight draw.

Remember, there are only 4 cards that complete it, and one of them also completes the flush. Though the flush is unlikely, it is certainly possible enough to call your outs maybe 3-1/2, giving you roughly 7% to hit your hand, meaning you need about 14-1 pot odds to call anything he raises you.

You weakly check. Bad, bad play.

And it is promptly rewarded when the river gives you the absolute nuts, the 8 Diamonds. You can only hope it gave the opponent enough to call your raise.

It does better, he comes out raising to the size of the pot.

That is a curious amount giving his pre-flop limp, flop min-raise, and turn check. A quick look at the flush, no full house, no higher straights. He must have the Ace or 2 pair.

How much to raise? There is 1.20 in the pot, he raised the pot, so re-raising the pot to 2.40 seems about right. Hopefully he will call.

And he does.

Show-down; the UTG loses with his river set of 8s to the river straight of the cut-off.

Sadly, I was the UTG and think I played this hand about as poorly as I could. No question I was on tilt. On the flop, I did not even really consider the inside straight. I read him for weakness, believed any face card or ace on the turn would win the pot for me, and called his raise based on that. Then, when the perfect card hit, I checked as I switched my thinking to "I bought the card, might as well see if I can get lucky and hit my straight."

I actually thought he had something like a dry Ace or perhaps some suited connectors and that even the Jacks might be outs. If I hit any 8, 9 or Jack I would call his river bet assuming he stayed true to form and bet small, so the 5-1 pot odds I called were reasonable when I did not know what he had. I thought I had 10 outs and was about 4.7-1 against, getting 5-1 to hit my hand with implied odds much, much higher.

Of course, once I knew what he actually had, the math changed a bit. He held 2 of my outs so I only had 8, slightly worse than 6-1 against and if I hit a 9 or jack, he was unlikely to call so no implied odds.

I played the hand very, very poorly and need to remember hands like this so I do not play this way. Just because it worked out for me this time does not mean it was anything other than a huge, huge mistake.


Starving Crazed Weasels, June

Smaller turnout of 11, but that is all good...will be that way sometimes.

Actually had a pretty soft starting table. I did have Kev to my left...he has become one of my toughest opponents. But next to him was Amy, playing for the second time, to her left Tess, also playing for the second time, Then Rick, playing for about the 4th time. So really, a good table to play ABC poker...fold a lot, raise my good hands, and so forth. In fact, I think only twice at that table did I get to the showdown with second best hand; once when we had an All-in and checked it down, once when I checked after the flop and she never bet.

Started nicely with pocket Queens, raised, couple callers, flop small and ragged, raised, they folded. I showed.

I wanted them to have in their minds that I always had the best hand so wanted to show a lot of strong hands. 

Played a few small hands and won them. Meanwhile, Kev kept getting rivered by his sisters. In one hand he flopped 2 pair, bet to the river and lost when Tess hit the straight on the river...but was also beat because Amy hit  Flush on the same card.

I was hitting a lot of hands but nothing memorable, so I played and won about 8 or 10 hands and had a nice stack. 

Got to the final table and now it was getting ugly. Had Josh to my left..I want him on my right. To his left was Tim, then Tess, then Amy, then Rick, then Phillip, then Ken. So I had Phillip and Ken to my right and Josh and Tim to my left. I was not happy.

I put out Tess when she had few chips and I paired, and the very next hand put out Tim when he had less than the small blind. 

I had a nice chip lead, but then came an ugly hand. I had A/10, raised.Ken called. Flop was rainbow, small cards. Ken checked, I raised, he almost folded, then said, "I don't like calling on outs, but I am going to. He called.  Turn put a second Heart on the board, he called my raise. River was another Heart. He checked, I read him as having hit his draw and checked behind. He was bummed I checked and flipped up the King/2 of Hearts. He hit runner runner to take 3K from me. That hurt.

Josh took out Phillip and was climbing the chip board.

I got little bits back from Ken a couple times.

Amy was next to fall and then Rick, who was tired, went to the river on a hand he normally would fold and Josh took him out. Uh-oh, both Ken and Josh have lots of chips and we are down to final three.

I had A/8 spades, raised. 3 handed, that is pretty good. Ken called. Flop was ragged, a couple Spades. I raised, he called. . Turn was a blank, raise/call. River gave me the flush, I raised him all in, he called with...2 pair maybe?

Down to Josh and I. I had maybe a 2 to 1 chip lead and the advantage of being in Josh's head. Picked up A/2 Diamonds first hand. Raised. He hesitated, was going to fold, then called. Flop was ragged, no help, just one Diamond. I raised. He called pretty quick. I was done with the hand. Turn was 5 Diamonds. Hmm. I raised to keep control of the hand. He snap-called. River...another Diamond. I river-ratted him. How to get the most out of him?
A quick glance at the pot told me it had more than he had left, I raised all-in, he called. He had the straight. I had the Flush. Back to back hands I put out 2 of the most dangerous players we had.

For the night, about everything went right. Not only did I pretty much only play good hands...those hands held up. Only once did I get crushed and that was a hand I felt Ken normally wouldn't (and shouldn't) have stayed on, but he had a couple back door draws on the flop and one came home so  I don't mind that at all. I played well and had good results. And a lot of fun,


Starving Crazed Weasels poker

I have not done one of these for a while. We decided more or less at the last minute to have a poker tournament Saturday. Actually, for some of us (read "me") it was last minute. Others had thought it was planned, so...well...

Going in my plan was to play pretty tight. Play top ten hands from early position, play a wider range from later. Pretty standard. I also planned a lot of raise-or-fold play. In other words, disciplined poker. 

Folded the first couple hands and then picked up pocket 7s from middle position. I will sometimes take a flyer on these hands and did on this one, planning to raise but Robin beat me to it. Cris and Tracy called, I called, Pete called. Flop was 10/something/10. Tracy raised. I almost called. This would test how I was playing.

When I am playing poorly, I will call here trying to get lucky and planning to simply tighten up if I lose the hand and win with solid poker. But getting lucky is not playing skillfully. It is deliberately playing in situations where you should not and trying to, instead of win by skillfully getting your chips in good, trying to win from behind. 

I folded. Turn was another 10. D'oh! I would have had a full house. But there was heavy betting with Robin leading out, Cris and Tracy calling. At the showdown, Robin had pocket 6s for a full house. Cris had pocket 7s (my hand was dead...) and Tracy holding the case 10. She had quads. Nice.

Folded a few hands, then came one of the key hands of the night.

 2/4 of diamonds on the button. About 5 people had limped so the circumstances were perfect to play this hand; get out cheap if I miss the flop, if I hit it I should pick up a nice chunk. But then something happened. Pete raised to 250 from the small blind.

Pete is a good player but struggles with this League because he relies a lot on 2 things: 1, people understanding what bets mean and 2) bluffing to pick up pots. 

Problem is, many of the players in this league don't understand what raises mean. They have no idea about relating raise sizes to the blinds and/or other people in the pot, when a raise means something and when it doesn't. But that is a minor problem. Actually, it means when you have a good hand you should rake a nice pot because people are not scared away by the bets. It is not uncommon for people to call over pot-sized bets (or, for that matter, to make those bets in the first place) nor to see people fold to minimum bets with dozens of blinds in the pots after the river.

In this league, bluffing is French for "giving away your chips to anyone with even a weak pair or two high cards". With that element removed from his game it is much tougher for him. This is not a knock, simply a recognition that his style of play and this league's style of play do not mesh well.  When he learns to mix up his play he will do very well.

You can, if not outright win, at the very least finish top 2 or 3 every month simply by playing A-B-C poker. Fancy plays, check-raises, value bets...these nuances are too advanced for most of the players in the League at this point, though there has been incredible and vast improvement.

Anyway, when he raised, that SHOULD have driven out almost everyone. A big raise from late is supposed to indicate a strong hand

Instead all but one called so I was priced in. In position with a weak drawing hand, true...but I could get out after the flop easily. Besides, I know Pete will often raise like that trying to steal small pots like this one where lots of people limped.

Except there was no need for me to get out, it was a dream flop. 2/2/j rainbow. How to get the chips in the pot? Pete bet 500 , Cris and Tracy called. I wanted to keep people in so I did not re-raise and just smooth called. 

Turn was a 6 of one of the suits, I think hearts. Now with possible straight and flushes on the board, checked to me, I raised. I wanted to charge people for staying with horrific back-door draws. It is not unusual to see people needing runner-runner stick around. Pete, Cris and Tracy all called. River was a blank. I raised it to 1000 or so. Pete called with a look on his face that let me know he was irritated and knew he was beat but had a hand he could not lay down.  Cris called all-in and Tracy called. I showed the trips. Pete showed pocket Kings and Cris showed top two pair.

Now I was sitting pretty. We start with just 3000 and I already had almost 11K. 

Hit a ht streak, won 2 or 3 consecutive small pots. Had no hand for one hand and someone went out. Boo, I needed points and needed to take people out. *sigh*

Folded (!) to me about 1 to the right of the button. I had 2/7 of Hearts, lots of chips. I thought it would be funny to raise. At this point the blinds were 50/100 so I raised to 300. Pete was down to 650 and went all-in. Folded back to me.

I had been raising frequently, though every other time I raised I legitimately had good hands. I did not want people to think I was raising with junk. How to either call or fold without destroying the table image I had been working to develop?

Aha! "I was just raising to be funny that time," I said. "I am thinking about calling because I think it is funny."

Actually, I was planning calling because I knew Pete had a super-wide range of hands he would make that move with. With only 650, he wanted a heads-up pot and there were only the blinds and I to force out. I had been raising a lot so he knew my raising range was wide. That meant any pair, any Ace, any two face cards, and maybe even something like J/10. 

I know I am all but dead to any pair but against the rest of his hands I am 60-40 and something about his raise did not feel like a pair. It felt like a desperation, lower-end of his range, somewhat on tilt all-in.  So I was actually figuring it for a coin flip and I will take that kind of chance to put a dangerous player out. And at worst, he would double up and be having fun which is something I want everyone to do at these things.

He made it easy. "With the blinds, you are priced in."

He was right. His 650 , the blinds, and my initial raise meant I now needed to call 350 to win 1100, more than 3-1 and I believed I was only a 3-2 dog. I called. 

He was right where I thought he might be, at the low end of his range of all-in hands, A/9. He was still the favorite, but I had two live cards. 

And I hit the 7. 

To this point I had been red-hot, picking up hand after hand. Now I went card dead and just at the wrong time. I needed points to catch Kevin and Josh in the standings. To get points I needed to finish well and take out lots of people.

Instead I had to sit there folding as Phillip, Tracy, and Rick went out. Then Joe went out. Then Emily and Robin in the same hand. My stack was blinding down and I was getting no cards. We were down to the final 9. Eric had a huge stack, Kevin had almost as much, and I was way behind them in third.

Bad part is, I was tilting and I knew it. Every hand was taking forever. I could tell certain people were going to fold before the action ever got to them, but they would sit there and ponder their move for 3 or 4 minutes every time. And with 3 people at the table doing that, it got real boring real fast. This is not a super serious league as a general rule. We like to keep it fast-paced. Instead it was sooooooooooo slooooooooooooow. I was trying to get myself out. But I wanted to do it on a good hand.

Picked up Jacks. Raised, everyone but Josh folded. Flop was ragged, 10/6/2 rainbow. I bet the pot. He looked like he was going to fold, then called. I should have gotten suspicious as that is a pretty reliable tell but I missed it.

Turn was a King, I checked, he checked. 
River was a blank, I bet enough to put him all in, he called. He had a 6/10.

yes, Josh, the guy I think is usually a real good player called a healthy raise with 6/10. He later admitted he only did it because he had not played a hand for a while and it was his big blind.

Anyway, that hurt. 

A few hands later I had j/9 on the button. About 4 people limped, I limped, big blind checked. Flop was Q/J/4, all Hearts. My 9 was a heart. I had middle pair, enough chips left to be dangerous, and a mediocre flush draw. I went all in. 

And promptly got called by Kevin, Eric, and Josh. Uh-oh, I was dead. No way was middle pair any good against three callers, especially with Eric being one of them. He is a very conservative player. Josh will take a flyer trying to get me out and Kevin will call with a wide range of hands when he has a lot of chips, but Eric? No, one of them for sure, probably two of them already had me beat.

Turn was a blank. River was a blank. I reluctantly showed my measly pair of jacks...and it was the winning hand. What? Well, one had A/K, one had a King high flush draw, the other had I think a straight draw? Anyway, it never hit any of them and Jacks were the best hand. 

Ironically, I now had over 13K, more than at any other point in the game. 

Josh was crippled and soon taken out. Down to Amy, Kevin, Eric and I. I really needed to outlast Kevin as I was pretty sure I now had enough points to overtake Josh as I was only 100 points behind him when the night started and with 17 people, that meant I was scoring well. 

Poor Amy was pretty out-classed. It was her first time ever playing the game and she was hitting a lot of hands that she might not have been in had she known the game better. I was excited for her to have done so well, but now that it was just some of the tougher players left, she was intimidated and ended up going out when her pocket Aces got beaten by Erics' two pair.

And then something funny happened. I got a J/10, raised, flopped a straight. Kevin and Eric stayed with me right to the river and I tripled up. I was now sitting on over 25K.

And then Kevin went all-in on a gut-shot straight draw when I had trips. I took him out.

Eric is a solid, A-B-C player. He also is super easy to read if you pay attention. Example:earlier, Rick had limped in. Eric looked at his chips. Blinds were 50/100. He had no 100s, so he just tossed a 500 out there which we allowed as a raise. Rick reluctantly showed me his hand, K/J Hearts as he folded. 

"Should have called, you have a better hand than he does." Sure enough, flop came Jack high and Eric now made change and bet 200.

"Told you," I said to Rick. "You had him right there." After the river betting I told Rick, "He was afraid of the Jack. He had some pair lower than that and wanted to bet but was afraid of that."

Sure enough, later Eric told me he had tens on that hand.

It was a good hand to raise, but not to raise to 500 with blinds at 50/100. He made that raise not because he had a good hand but because he had a hand he wanted to play and did not want to make change. After the flop, he wanted to make a continuation bet but when he made change he might as well have flipped his cards up. 

Now that it was he and I, I went to town. Three times I did not even bother to look at my cards, just watched him. If he hesitated I knew he had a weak hand and bet. Once, ironically, I did not look at my cards and limped in. He checked. Flop came A/K/something. I bet, he folded. Looked at my cards...A/K. Awesome. Not that it mattered, I was playing him not the cards.

But the patter was set. Any time I had a pair I bet. He folded. Any time he checked, I bet. If he bet....well, he didn't. Soon I had the chip lead. Soon I had the game. 

I played really well at first. I made good reads, made the correct play, maximized my winnings and minimized my losses. When I went on tilt, I still played well. I only played hands that had a chance of winning...other than the one semi-bluff that inexplicably won.

Once I got down to three people I knew I had a real good shot at winning. I picked my spots, built my stack, and ended up winning for the first time this year after a 3rd, an 11th, a 2nd, and I think a 4th. 

Oh, and for the record? Because Kevin had been in first place, I got 20 for taking him out instead of 10...and in the current standings I am ahead by 10 points. Awesome.


Starving Crazed Weasels March

Had not been playing very well. I play so rarely any more that I started playing like a maniac. Stay in until the river hoping for that miracle card, that sort of stuff. So this month I decided to play well just to see if I could. Nice turnout.

Had Tracy to my right, then Phillip, then someone, then Emily, then Shelli, to my left Rick and then Chad. Fun table.

About 2 hands in picked up pocket 10s. Raised. 2 callers. Flop saw an Ace, a raise and call ahead of me. Lately, I would have played it hoping to turn a set. This time I folded.

A few hands later picked up pocket Jacks. Raised, couple callers. Flop was A/K/10. Heavy action, again I folded instead of justifying the loose call with hope for a set or straight. I was playing well.

Picked up Big Slick, raised, couple callers. Flopped an Ace and a couple diamonds. Pushed it, took down nice pot.

A/J, raise, hit the Jack, took down smaller pot.

Took down a couple pots here and there, lost very little. Got up a small amount, picked up the Cowboys, raised it.

Flop was ragged, Queen high. I raised it and Emily came over the top. Now, I taught her how to play and I know how she plays. There are really only two times she does that; one, if she has something like A/Q and wants to chase out stuff like pocket jacks or draws, and when she is on a pure bluff...which she has only done once. Anyway, there was no way I was getting away from this. I also thought she might have Aces.

Whoops. She had pockets. Not Aces though...worse. Pocket Queens. Which means she had a set. I was drawing mighty thin, about 5% (21-1). Turn was a blank. I was going to be out early for the third month in a row.

Except the river was a King.

Suddenly I was chip lead. Caught a hot streak.

Started trying to put people out. And twice people hit runner-runner to stay in. No big deal.

Rest of the night was just a succession of raise with good cards, fold bad ones until Phillip came calling.

He completed from the small blind and I checked. Heads up, I had an A/4. Flop was a blank. He raised, I called. He will often raise trying to drive people out with weak hands and if they call, just try to check it down. Sure enough, he checked the turn and river so I bet enough to put him all in.

He correctly said I was bluffing, but he was low and did not want to go out with such a weak hand. He showed what he was folding...2/3. He had a pair of 2s and would have beat me. We both read each other correctly but I went with my gut and he didn't.

Lo and behold, we got down to kevin and I. He was more aggressive than I have ever seen him and, since Em and I had to leave and because I love to see flops, I basically called every hand and he took me to the cleaners. He badly outplayed me and deserved the win. But I was happy, I played well except for the one hand against Emily. Other than that, I either got in good every time or read the person correctly.