A Couple of fascinating hands

Playing 5/10 cent Rush, I was sitting behind 11.78 when I was dealt A/Ko. The guy under the gun is someone I have marked down as raising every time it is folded to him so when he opened for 30.

(Rush is Texas hold 'Em, 9 handed...where as soon as you fold your hand, you are sent to a new table with new players and dealt a new hand. It is easily possible to see anywhere from 2-400 hands per hour per table. Many people multi-table, so you know they have little or no idea who they are playing against. It makes certain plays...position bets, continuation bets, etc. much more effective, but bluffs much LESS effective because the odds anyone still in the hand past the flop actually has a hand and will call you down.)

A/Ko is nice pre-flop but tends to miss a lot. On top of that, Villain is aggressive enough that I am going to have a hard time putting him on a hand. He could have any ace, any pair, any two face cards, or even any one or two-gappers, suited or not. That is a pretty wide range.

I bounce it up to 1.05 and it is folded back to him. He calls. I am not particularly disappointed. On most flops I expect him to bet and plan to re-raise. If he calls that or re-raises, I am done with the hand. The cards do not really matter, I figure I am playing the player at this point.

Until the flop comes K/K/9, 2 hearts. I just hit the third nuts. The only hands I am afraid of are pocket 9s or K/9. Sure, both of those are reasonable holdings even under the gun for someone as aggressive as he is…but I am not going to play in fear of them.

He checks. This brings warning signals to my brain. Why would he check?

Four possible reasons.

First, he has nothing, is afraid of the board, and fears that hit me. He has given up on the hand and I am not going to get paid off.

Second, he hit it huge, has the stone cold nuts or close to it. He wants to induce a bluff.

Third, he has a draw…either straight or flush. People on Rush chase gut shots all the time, even in the face of obvious better hands, so…I would believe that.

Fourth, he plans to bluff me off the hand with a big check-raise if I continuation bet.

Now, I have tried everything to get paid on these type hands. Standard continuation bets, overbets, underbets, checking the flop, or even checking all the way to the river. It almost never works regardless…which is not unexpected. Hard to call if you do not have a King or pocket 9s.
Well, I decided to go the “fear bet”, betting 10 cents into a pot of about 2.50 after the rake.

He pauses, then raises to 2.55. Sadly, this tells me little. It pretty much eliminates the first possibility, but does raise the idea that he missed but thinks I missed as well and is playing the player.

He could also just be going blind aggression, raising and reraising at every opportunity. I have seen several people do and I do have him marked as hyper-aggressive in my notes.

I actually half-expected him to re-raise, I got my result. Now, how to handle it.

I refuse to play in fear and plan to play it aggressively. The only thing I am realistically afraid of is him having A/x suited and drawing to the heart flush, but even if he hits it I have a 10-out redraw to the full house.

Still, I would rather make him pay to draw out on me and if I am behind a pair of nines, I want to at least put him to a big decision, wondering if I have Kings so I re-reraise him all-in.

He thinks about it for a bit, but calls all-in. We now have a 19.00 pot…and he turns up the A/Q of hearts.

He is drawing to the flush and runner-runner straight.

And of course turned the flush when the 2 of hearts hit.

So now I am about a 3.4-1 underdog. Any 9, 2, or Ace will give the full house or the miracle king would give me quads. 10 outs, we know 8 cards, 52-8=44, 10 winners, so 34-10 or 3.4 to one against.

I wonder how upset he was when the King hit to give me the stone cold, absolute nuts...quad kings, Ace kicker?

At first it felt like I had put a bad beat on him, mostly because it was the King that hit instead of one of my other nine outs. But percentage wise, I win about 23% of the time.

Compared to the brutal 21-1 hits I have taken repeatedly, it was pretty reasonable. And had the roles been reversed…had a blank fallen on the turn and he caught a heart on the river, I would not have felt like I took a bad beat. I would, however, have known he did not get the right price to draw to the flush.

So I wonder how the hand looked from his side.

“I have A/Q suited under the gun. Usually when I raise, most people fold. I raise three times the blind.

Oh, someone re-raised. Everyone folds to me. My 30, 15 cents from the blinds, I am getting somewhat better than 1.8-1 and if I hit a flush I might be able to stack him.

A re-raise usually takes a stronger hand. So he probably has a medium pocket pair or better, Aces, Kings, Queens, Jacks, or A/K. I am probably behind but if I catch up, those are hands that will pay me off.

Ooh, bad flop…K/K/9. At least I have the nut flush draw. Let’s check and see what he does.
Hmm. Led out for 10 cents. I have seen people do this before. They are just trying to see if I have anything, figuring I will fold if they bet. A re-raise should drive him off and if not I have the flush draw.

What the…he raised all in? Lets see…my 2.55 plus his is 5.10 plus the 2.5 from pre-flop, pot is about 13.85 and I figure to have 9 outs. If he had the king he would just check so he might have the 9 or a small pair in which case I lose an out or two but pick up 6. I am getting a little better that 2-1,calling 6.50 to win 13.85 and might have as many as 14 outs if I am even behind to begin with. That is 18 outs twice, so I am actually a favorite to win. I call.

But that is not how I would have played it. Lets switch places for a second.

I pick up A/Q Hearts under the gun. I am going to raise. Uh-oh…re-raise. (Note that I do not know if this other guy keeps notes…if he does, they are probably going to show the re-raise as coming from someone who does a lot of re-raising, though usually from middle to late position.)

Lets put him on a range of hands. To re-raise someone who raised under the gun, he needs a pretty strong hand. Of course, I have seen some pretty loose re-raises with hands like 6/7 suited, King/Queen off and so forth, but mostly I am going to put him on Jacks or better or big slick. I am mostly looking to hit the flush if I call, not sure how happy I will be to hit either my Ace or Queen.

Hmm. K/K/9, two hearts. That hits almost every hand I put him on. Check-fold seems wise.
He raised ten cents into that pot? Ridiculous. One of three things. Either he hit it hard…Big Slick or pocket kings, maybe Jacks, Queens or Aces and figures it missed me and I will fold but does not want to invest too much if it hit me or, more likely, it missed him, he figures it missed me and I will only call if I hit it.

I did miss it but I have the nut flush draw. If I re-raise he will most likely fold and if not, I will believe he has the King or nine and be done with the hand.

Raise to about 2.55 does seem right, but when he came over the top all in…I would fold.

Not that I would not check my odds to the flush, but more that I could already be drawing dead to the full house. On top of that, there are easier targets than getting all my money in on a draw where I am getting the wrong odds and might be drawing dead. I would rather raise all in than call all in, particularly when I am calling all-in to someone who showed strength pre-flop and on the flop. A fold seems pretty clear to me here.

And that analysis represents, to me, the difference between aggression and prudent aggression. Whichever side of the situation I am on, I like the flop re-raise. I just hate the all-in call if I am the one making it.

Perhaps that is too cautious. Maybe it is marginal situations like this I need to improve on. The problem is, the range of hands I might put my opponent on has far too many that hit that flop or are well ahead of me and far too few where I am a favorite.

Add to is not necessary to get involved in such close situations. Rush is a pretty soft game. People fold otherwise playable hands because by folding they get dealt a new hand that might be Aces. It is not unusual to see everyone, including the blinds, fold to a min-raise from any position...even Under the Gun, the Button, or even the small blind.

So why get involved in a HUGE pot where you might be drawing thin or dead to someone who has twice shown strength?

Not to take too much of a page from Phil Hellmuth...but I feel I am a bigger favorite with 2/7 in a small pot where the opponent is out of position and shown no strength than having the Nut Flush draw on a board likely to have someone holding trips or better. Win small pots, let big ones that are close go.

Yet there are times I will make a loose call, as well.

Also on Rush, later same session, but this time there is nobody at the table I have made a note on. This is in itself unusual as I have notes on thousands of players.

Under the gun limps in. This typically means a suited ace, suited connectors, or a small to medium pair, probably 8s or worse. Under the gun +1 also limps, and I put him on about the same range of hands. One other player limps, the small blind folds, and I have a 4/9 Hearts. Not a great hand. I consider raising since nobody showed strength, but elect to just check.

I will be out of position for the entire hand with what can only be charitably described as a trash hand. I am drawing at the 6th nut flush against three players out of position…a pre-emptive fold would not be a bad idea here. I check.

The flop is intriguing. 6s, Jh, Ah.

I hit nothing but did flop what is now the 4th nut flush draw. Also, the Ace is out there, which means the most likely flush draws I will be facing would be the King/Queen or suited connectors…and the suited connectors I could beat.

Still, I check and when the next guy bets .45 into a pot of 40 cents (after rake), I am going to fold…until the other two guys call. Now I am getting 3.78-1 to call…and will probably get more action if the flush hits.

Then again, I am still afraid of something like an unsuited j/10 where the 10 is a heart, or K/10 or K/Q where any of those are the heart. Fold or call?

I decided to take one off. I call.

And I do not know if I love or hate the turn…7H. I completed my flush. But there are lots of flushes that beat me and it did not complete any likely hands.

I could raise here, representing a better flush…but I am only going to get called or re-raise by better hands so it would be wasted money. I would like to see a cheap showdown. So I could play some pot control and check.

That is what I do. And to my surprise, everyone checks behind me.

Okay, time to do some analysis.

Under the gun limped, bet the pot on the flop and then checked the potential flush. Hands that fit this criteria include big aces, J/10, suited connectors, medium pairs. He could have top pair good kicker, a gut-shot straight draw, a small set, or even something like A/J for 2 pair.

Oddly, the one thing I did NOT put him on was a flush. Most players who limp with suited connectors raise big when the flush card hits. Sure, a few will slow-play it, but mostly they are doing so much betting and raising they figure they need to protect against something like K/Qo where either card is a heart.

The calls are more troubling. If they had a big hand, knowing the bettor was silent, they probably raise here trying to build the pot. By not raising, it becomes more likely they hit something callable if cheap, like top or middle pair or, if good players, are also trying to see their weak flush to a cheap showdown.

I figure my hand is good.

River is an off-suit three.

Check or raise?

I elect to make a thin value bet, raising to 90 cents into a pot of about 2.10. Both under the gun and under the gun +1 call…I am curious. Both with low heart flushes? Seems unlikely. Maybe a medium set afraid of the flush and a big pair? Maybe two pair?

Then it gets worse. The button raises to 2.20. What a weird raise…it is 1.30 to me, and 2.20 into a pot that now has 5 bucks or so in it.

He is raising into one guy who has raised an earlier street, one guy who has called the raise and raised the river, and one guy who has called a flop raise with people behind him, a river raiser and two callers.

If he makes a serious bet...say, pot size or better...I am going to believe I am beat and go away. I will not be getting the right pot odds with a weak hand. I am not afraid of laying down a hand when i believe I am beat and, in fact, at least twice have laid down suited connectors on the river when a big re-raise has convinced me the opponent(s) had a better flush. But he made it very, very affordable.

In fact, I expected both guys behind me to call again, so it would be a double digit pot I would see really cheaply.

So now I need to call 1.30 to win 6.1. I am getting 4.69-1 to call on a hand played really strange…but there are two people behind me. If they do call, I am getting almost 6-1.

The three completed no draws. The only hands that beat me are suited hands containing the King, Queen or ten of hearts. Still, re-raising into 3 players, this looked like a value-bet.
I nearly folded but elected to call based on the great pot odds.

And here it got even stranger. Both early limpers fold and the showdown is between the button and me.

I had to think about what hands he could have that I could beat because that 3 changed nothing.

Two pair, a set, or a complete bluff. The way he played this hand, I figured maybe a weak ace or set. Those were the most likely hands, but there was a possibility he could have K/Q hearts.
And my soft bet and two soft calls certainly did not represent a lot of strength.

If I could convince myself he did not have a suited hand that held the King, Queen or 10 I would re-reraise. However, if he re-raised, i would have to fold. Much better to see the showdown the call.

Still, when he turned over A/3 for two pair…I want to play more hands with him. Odds are good he had at best the third best hand and maybe even the fourth. I would be surprised if at least one guy did not fold a set or low flush, maybe even the 10.

I was feeling fishy for making it to the river.

On the bright side, between my blind, flop, and river I put 2.75 into what turned out to be a 7.69 pot…and I took it down.