Friday, February 18, 2005

I just logged out of Empire after a quickie little 80 minute session at the $25NL tables. I ended in the black + $36, just over doubling my buy-in. It wasn't as a result of a hot run of cards, though, that's for sure!

To illustrate: I saw 87 hands, and my VP$IP was 9%. No, I didn't leave out a 1- in front there. Nine percent. I saw very few flops, folding most of my hands (79 of them, to be precise). Two hands basically made me all of my profit.

My first big hand saw me holding AsQd in the big blind. A late position raise to $2.25 from one off the button invoked folds from the button and small blind, and having noted this opponent as a loose-aggressive, I'm betting that I've got the better hand right now. I re-raise to $4 and he calls. Flop: Ah-6s-6c. I bet out five bucks, a little over half the pot. He calls. Turn: Qc. (Sweet!) I bet out ten dollars (again, a little over half the pot). He thinks for his full 20 seconds. I was putting him on a club flush draw, or an Ace with a lower kicker. After climbing out of the think tank, my opponent finally calls. River comes a 3 of diamonds. No flush worries now, and I doubt he's holding a six, thinking so hard! I go all in with my remaining $11.85. My opponent dives back into the tank, then makes this comment:

i wanted to fold on the flop but this kids tellin me i got it
u gotta have ace king or ace queen
I have no idea who "this kid" is, but "this kid" was sure wrong, and my opponent should have trusted his gut instinct, which was right on. He called anyway, and my AQ took the pot of $58.95 against his pair of Aces, Jack kicker, for a profit of almost $30.

That leads me to a tangential train of thought: what do you do when the rules you've set up for your typical playstyle run smack dab into a contradictory gut feeling? The intuitive side of me likes to think that my gut is more often right than wrong, and that when those gut feelings creep up, I should act on them. I went with that for a little while, and realized quickly that either my gut was more frequently wrong than I'd thought, or that my poker gut in particular just wasn't yet trained at a very high level.

I think there has definitely got to be some common sense and conscious decision making applied to any gut instinct. When I have one of those types of gut feelings that would cause me to do something contradictory to what my brain says I should do, I try to stop and very deliberately re-analyze my situation to see if there is supporting evidence to go along with that gut feeling. Maybe that gut feeling is really the result of me subconsciously picking up on someone's tell or air of weakness, and if I consciously step through the situation in my mind, that tidbit will come forth to my conscious mind and I can justify the gut feeling and proceed.

It's definitely a situational thing, but acting on a gut feeling seems a much more powerful move in poker when it results in the realization of something tangible - something you can maybe use in future hands (information, tells, opponents' tendencies, etc).

In the case of my opponent, he obviously had a gut feeling about my hand, and did take time to ponder. Who knows how deeply he was pondering - he could have been sitting at the computer doing the "should I call? Oh, gosh, I don't know, should I? But I have Aces!" dance. Or, he could have been weighing the likelihood of my hand beating his, and his level of pot committedness. With my river bet, he was only getting about 4:1 on his money, and from the big blind, I could have easily had a 6 in my hand for trip sixes, or had and Ace with a higher kicker than his Jack, or two pair. I think I would have folded in his position, especially with the gut feeling he indicated via the chat. But, I guess the lure of 4:1 on your money can be a strong one. I can't say I haven't called off huge portions of my chip stack after falling in love with my top-pair-decent-kicker hand.

Back to the big hands - my "hands of profitability" in today's little session.

The second hand that made me some cash was the last hand I saw. I had settled on "one more orbit," and was one out of the blinds. I looked down to see AK offsuit. The pre-flop passive in me wanted to call, as my brain screamed "but AK is not a made hand! Danger, Will Robinson!" The wanna-be pre-flop aggressor in me said, "Raise, you fool!" The passive replies, "But I'm in early position!" and the aggressor retorts, "So fold on the flop if you miss it! Don't be a wuss!"

So, I compromised with the voices in my head. I raised a minimum raise, to 1.00. Four callers, including the small blind, and we're off to see a flop: AcTc9h. One of the voices in my head chimed back to a quote I'd lifted from Pauly (I think previously lifted from Iggy): "Play your draws hard." I didn't have a draw here, but my opponents definitely could. I wanted to make it too expensive for them to draw at this board. Manipulate the pot odds to induce mistakes from my opponents. Every time they call me with less than proper pot odds, I have induced a mistake from them, and those mistakes are statistically my profit in the long run.

There's $5.85 in the pot. Under-the-gun bets out $2.00. I re-raise to $4.00. The two un-invested opponents are getting less than 3:1 on their money - it's impossible that either has got a flush draw with any overcards to the board, so they don't make their odds for a flush draw, nor odds for a straight draw (open ended or otherwise). The first guy folds. The second calls. UTG, who had originally bet out, folds.

Turn comes another Ace, no help for a club draw. With the pot at $15, I probably should have bet out a little more here (per my above philosophy), but now I'm feeling pretty strong with my 3 of a kind Aces and King kicker, and I'd like to extract some more chips from my fishy friend. I don't want to scare him away. I make the same bet - $4.00. It should have smelled like a fishy underbet. I got called, and the river came a 5 of spades.

No draws were made, and there are no straight or flush possibilities on board. It's highly unlikely that my opponent could beat my hand. A5, AT, or A9 beat me, but no other Ax combo (or any other card combo, for that matter) would win. I figure my opponent on a busted straight or flush draw. I make another 1/4 pot bet, $6.00 into a pot of $24. Please call me! Alas, my opponent folded, but I took down a near-$30 pot for about a $13 profit, without even having to show my cards.

To grab hold of another tangent before it whirs through my brain into oblivion, I find that a lot of times, like in that last hand, I have the inklings of a really strong play, but am a hair off in implementing the play. A couple months ago, I had just started getting the hang of calculating pot odds. Now, I am just starting to get a hang of the lovely concept in no-limit of manipulating the size of the pot to provide improper pot odds to your opponents, in hopes of inducing mistakes from them. I was able to implement that philosophy on the flop in that last hand (though I think I should have gone up another buck to make it less of a close call for my opponents), but on the turn, I backed off. I had reasons to back off, but I probably could have gotten a little more out of the guy on the turn had I kept pushing my train of thought on pot odds manipulation. I'm trying to be more consistent and follow through these various trains of thought that I think could turn into spectacular plays - maybe I'll actually make a spectacular play one of these days :)


  1. StudioGlyphic said...
    Gut feelings:

    Maybe you should keep a journal by the computer: on one page keep track of the times you win or lose when you bet the pot in one of the last two positions with any hand, on another page keep track of the times your gut is right or wrong. After filling a few pages, let us know what you discover.

    Second hand of profitability:

    When you min raised the flop to $4, were you trying to build the pot or take it? Maybe I'm an idiot, but I usually raise more than the minimum bet. A minimum bet smells funny to me.
    Human Head said...
    I've done just the thing that Studio described, in the past. Through a month of keeping such a journal (when I wasn't working, so I was playing a lot of SnG's and MTT's) I found my gut was right just over 80% of the time, but I was rarely paying attention to it.

    While it's certainly not infallible, learning about the accuracy of those gut feelings and when to listen to them can certainly help out your game.

    But hell, sometimes there's so much money in the pot the gut must be ignored on that off chance....ya know?
    Shelly said...
    Yes, I definitely should have raised more than the min raise on that second hand. I either wanted to take the pot right there, or make it a pot-odds-mistake for an opponent to call me. It's like - I had the right train of thought, but a slightly off-track implementation of it.

    I'm going to start taking notes on my gut feelings for a little while and see what I come up with. Thanks for the idea :)

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