Flopping a Straight Flush Draw -- Part II

Kickass Cardsquad Screenshot!Today I will conclude my earlier post on how to handle a flopped flush draw, specifically in this case (see screenshot at left) where I've got a minbet and a nice raise already in ahead of my action on the flop. We received a number of really excellent comments to the first straight flush draw post, which I will discuss briefly here.

For the most part, the readers were more or less in agreement as far as how to handle this play here. I guess I was just a tiny bit surprised (but not really) that no one suggested folding. I certainly would not fold here, but I do think it is important to remember that a big draw, even an open-ended straight flush draw, is still just that -- a draw -- and that right now at this time I technically have made nothing more than a pair of 5s. With the first player minbetting, he could easily be on a draw himself, but the second player's nice-sized raise I think makes it pretty clear that I am in fact behind here. Even with 15 outs twice, which does generally speaking make me the favorite to win the hand if I stay through to the river, it's important to remember that I'm only a little more than a 54% favorite. So, if you think about it from a glass-half-empty perspective, my odds situation here is not a whole lot better than when I have a medium pocket pair and my opponent has two overcards, one of the same suit as my cards, before the flop.

That said, the old OESFD is certainly the best individual draw that one can have at any point in a holdem hand, so this is not a hand where I would fold, and none of the commenters seemed to think so either which I think is a good thing. In fact, the only real debate among the comments seemed to be whether to push here or not. Almost no one recommended a smooth call here, another viable option in my mind. In the end it is not the option I chose, because my draw is in fact so big, but I do think for what it's worth that a smooth call here is a viable play given the first player's minbet, which smacks to me of a blocking bet or a weak-lead, typical of someone holding a draw of his own here. And if I'm up against another flush draw with the clubs, then my OESFD is really not nearly as good of a draw as I think it is. So I do think just smooth calling here would be a defensible play, check out what happens on the turn and then re-evalute things there.

All that being said, however, I am with the majority of the commenters who say a reraise is in order here. Seems like most of you ended up recommending the straight-out allin push here, which is a move I like because the relative chip stacks are such that this bet gives my two opponents a realistic and opportunistic chance to fold now, which deep down is what I'd really like most given the hand situation on the flop here. Because my draw is probably a greater than 50% favorite, I don't mind at all going to the river with the hand, but taking it down now is a perfectly happy outcome for me here, and one that I would aim for given the roughly 46% chance that I miss my draws entirely, and that nagging possibility (albeit unlikely) of a higher flush draw out there.

Kickass Cardsquad Screenshot!In the end, I looked at the relative chip stacks of myself and my opponent who put in the raise on the flop, and I determined that I had the ability to make a large enough bet that it put the pressure in the hand on him, and yet could still leave me with enough chips myself that I was not going to be bankrupt if I lost the hand (courtesy of poker author extraordinaire DoubleAs). I just didn't love the idea of putting everything in with a 54% favorite hand, on the assumption that my opponent was going to call no matter what I did since he had raised so much on the flop already. So, I went for a reraise to 1000 chips, which is basically the same thing as a push from my opponent's perspective. He in fact responded by pushing allin, which I clearly called, and we flipped 'em up.

Anybody want to guess what he was holding here? Rather than make you wait, I'll just post this link for your viewing pleasure. You will note that, as expected, I was behind there on the flop, and actually was facing a draw that could beat most of my outs already, so it was not exactly a great situation for me, which really illusrates again why I don't always necessarily want to get it all in on the flop even with an OESFD. But never fear, here is the final shot of the hand, where justice did, in the end, prevail.

Thanks again to everyone for the well-reasoned and insightful comments, as always. Have a great weekend, and maybe I'll run into you out on the virtual tables somewhere.

Flopping a Straight Flush Draw

Kickass Cardsquad Screenshot!Today I want to discuss one of the more fun (and yet still potentially perilous) situations in no-limit holdem -- when you flop a straight flush draw. Flopping the open-ended SF draw is always a fun thing for me, because I know that in most cases I have 2 cards to come, and 9 flush outs and 6 other straight-making outs to the nuts. And being the mathy guy that I am, I know that 15 outs twice actually makes me the favorite over any other made hand that is not a straight or flush, as is usually the case in these situations.

So today I'd like to solicit your opinions on how you like to handle a situation like this, because it happened to me last night in the nightly 30k guaranteed tournament on full tilt, which has a $109 buyin but which I satellited in to for $14 in the nightly turbo satellite at 8:45pm ET. As you can see from the screenshot above, I took a cheap flop with 6♣5♣, and the board came 7♣5♥4♣, giving me the open-ended straight flush draw. As I mentioned above, not even counting the other two 5s as outs to give me trips, I have to figure the 9 other clubs are going to give me the best hand, as well as any of six 3s or 8s which will make me a straight (I can't count the 3♣ or the 6♣ twice). 15 outs twice means I am a money favorite to win this hand, even though as of now I have nothing more than a measly pair of 5s in an unraised pot preflop.

As you can see from the action above, the first player minbet at this flop, moving in 40 chips into the 240-chip pot. One player in MP folded, and then the last player before me raised it up to 240 chips, basically betting the size of the pot, and indicating (I thought) some degree of strength, a good draw, something on this board. This faced me with an interesting decision: at least 15 outs twice, facing a 240-chip bet into a pot that now had 520 chips in it. As I pondered this decision (and took the screenshot, because I knew right away this hand would be up on CardSquad in the morning), I wondered how my fake internet poker friends would handle this flop in this situation.

Does anyone fold here? After all, you've got nothing but a pair of 5s made right now, and even though there are 15 outs, you still need to hit one of them in order to win this pot (most likely). Or, would you be tempted to flat call the 240 chips here, and see if the turn card completes your hand before committing more chips than that? Or, alternatively, do you raise aggressively with this big draw, try to chase everyone out of the pot now, and knowing that if you do get called, it's ok because you've got the 15 outs? How do you like to play this here, the open ended straight flush draw when you've got one minbettor and one raiser already in the pot on the flop ahead of you?

Please let me know your thoughts. I'll be back later with my approach in this situation, a discussion of the comments, and what actually happened in this hand.

Tournament Thoughts: 400k

I am often asked what my thought process is while playing a (larger-scale) online tournament, so for anyone that has ever wondered, this is for you. On Sunday I played the 400k guaranteed tournament at Full Tilt, and wrote down my thoughts as I was playing. Not exactly live blogging, but definitely the closest I have come to it. Some of it is in point form, some of it is in more concrete sentences, but all of it is exactly how I was feeling at the time. I am going to ruin the ending for you though - I did not cash in this tournament. Here we go:

400k guaranteed tourney at FTP:
2576 entrants
351 places paid
$216 entry fee
351 place earns $309.12
1st place earns $94,513.44
Starting chip count: 3000
Blinds increase every 12 minutes
Top 13.6% of the field gets paid

Deep stack tournaments suit my style of play. There are enough chips to sit back and wait for opportunities. I didn't play my first hand until 8 minutes in when I was dealt AA in early position. The table folded to my 4x BB raise, and I was dealt QQ the very next hand. Five people stayed in for this one, pretty much making the ace on the board negate my hand completely.

Fourteen minutes in I was dealt KTc in the SB, so I limped in for 15 more chips. The flop came AA5 double suited in clubs, so UTG I made a value bet of 90. I was called by two players and was ready to give up the hand after that, figuring at least one of them had the A. The turn was a T, and the river was a 5. Both streets were checked around and I ended up winning the pot with top 2 pair much to my surprise. Sitting at 3240 I was feeling pretty comfortable to sit back for a few more rounds and wait for cards or a positional opportunity.

15 minutes in, 140 casualties.

Continue reading Tournament Thoughts: 400k

A Poker Tournament Guide and The Patience Factor

I recently asked the BARGE list if anyone knew of a site that displayed tournament structure and payout in addition to the standard information about buy-ins and times.

BARGEr Mark T. pointed me to the exact resource I was hoping to find, Arnold Snyder's Las Vegas Poker Tournament Guide.

What makes this guide so incredibly useful is Snyder's Patience Factor Formula, which looks at the depth of the starting stacks, the time of each level, and assigns a number between 1 and 10 for how patient you can be when selecting the strength of your starting hands. Tournaments with high numbers tend to be longer and reward (in the long term) the most skilled players, while tournaments with low numbers tend to be faster and introduce a much greater luck factor.

This guide is one of (if not the single) most useful tournament guide I've ever seen. If you want to really test your skill, you find one with a high patience factor, like Bellagio's $540 2PM Monday tourney, which comes in at a very challenging 9. If you want to gambool it up and take your chances against an army of pushmonkeys, you may want to check out the Aladdin's $55 11AM tourney, which has a Full Tilt Poker $2 Turbo rating of 1.65.

So next time you head to Vegas (or any of the other cities linked in the guide, including Los Angeles and Atlantic City,, if you're honest with yourself about your skill level and know how much money you're willing to risk on your buy-ins, you can use this guide to find where your EV is theoretically the most positive.

Waiting for the Flush

Here's a move that I am finding myself using more and more as I am playing more and more pot-limit Omaha (high) games. I call it "waiting for the flush", but what it really is is a specific form of slow-play that has served me quite well lately in PLO tournaments. This move only applies in Omaha, only when I make a very strong hand on the flop (or, less often, on the turn) and only when the current board has two cards to a flush. This can also be done with two cards to a straight on board, but its chances of success are much lower because straights are not nearly as strong of hands in PLO as flushes, so opponents tend to be able to get away from them more easily.

Kickass Cardsquad Screenshot!Anyways, here's the move. As you can see at left, I've got two suited Aces in my hand, which I raised nearly the size of the pot before the flop, and I got four callers to see a flop. The flop nailed me hard, giving me the nut boat and making me the stone nuts for this hand other than the extremely unlikely flopped quads for one of my opponents, a holding made all the more unlikely by each opponent having called a nearly pot-sized raise before the flop. So I've got a basically unbeatable boat, but there are also two flush cards on the board, and with four opponents in here there is a reasonably good chance that someone has a nice piece of this flush draw. A flush draw that I would love to see hit, since I can beat it. Already.

So, the move here is to play it slow. Since I would love to get my opponents to call any sized bet I can here, I stand a much better chance of finding an opponent willing to put some chips in here if a third spade can fall. I want that flush to fill and the person(s) who makes the flush to think they are ahead. So when the first two opponents checked it to me here, I check it right along.

Making things even better, the fourth guy, sitting on the button, then put in a pot-sized bet of 830 chips. The first player then calls the 830-chip bet, and the second guy folds, facing me with the decision to call 830 chips into a now 2490-chip pot. The question here now becomes: call or raise? Again, I know I am best here. I know it is highly likely that at least one of these guys has a flush draw, hopefully a nut flush draw with the Ace already out on the board. If I move it allin now, maybe one guy will call, and most likely at least one of the two will fold. Why take that chance of losing one or both of these guys, when somebody almost surely has a flush draw with two cards to come, and I can already beat the flush if they make it? Why not just see the next card fairly cheap, having already built a very large pot for the flop round of betting, and hope a third spade falls, so I can really make some coin with my nut boat?

So that's exactly what I did, just smooth call the 830 chips here, netting 3320 chips in the pot and seeing the turn card with three players remaining. And then the turn brought a beautiful 10♠, completing the flush and putting me in great position to empty someone else's stack. The first player checked, either afraid of the flush or going for the check-raise. With the flush just having hit, and me fairly certain somebody's got a made flush now, I knew I didn't have to bet this thing. I figured I would just let the holder of the flush bet it out either here or on the river, and then I will get allin and take down a huge pot. So I check it.

Kickass Cardsquad Screenshot!And my friend on the button bet out 1800 chips, getting me nearly all in anyways myself. I move in my last 295 chips, making a trivially easy call for the button, and we flip our cards, and Boom! He's got just what I hoped he had -- the nut flush with the KJ of spades. Had I moved in on the flop, it's always possible that he might have called me anyways. But if he were smart, he could have folded what was essentially just a 2-card draw to a flush, which will fill only around 35% of the time. But since I waited for the flush to fill on the turn card before making any sudden moves at this pot, at this point he was totally committed to getting as many chips as possible into the hand with what was by that point a pat nut flush. And even in Omaha, a nut flush can be very difficult to get away from.

What's He Holding? (Part III)

Welcome back to the conclusion of the latest What's He Holding? post here at CardSquad.

To recap, this hand takes place in the limit holdem portion of the late stages of the Full Tilt weekly 30k guaranteed HORSE tournament. I had raised from UTG preflop with A8o, and one opponent (puyop) called this UTG raise from middle position. On a raggy, paired flop of 226, I checked to him, and he bet out. I checkraised puyop there on the flop with my hand, in the hopes of finding out for just one half-bet if I was ahead, and puyop just called my checkraise on the flop. Then when the scary Ace fell on the turn and I checked to him, he checked it right back to me and took a free river card. I asked in Part II what you think this player is likely holding, given all the action to that point in the hand.

Once again I generally agree with the comments I received to Part II of this post. The middle position smooth call of my UTG raise preflop, followed up leading out on the flop when I checked to him, and then the smooth call of my flop checkraise, all that is indicative to me of either a medium pocket pair, or a reasonably strong Ace, but not AK which would have likely reraised me preflop in my experience. When the Ace fell on the turn, and I checked it to him, I have got to figure that, with a lot of chips in the pot at this point relative to our respect stacks, he is going to be this turn card if he is holding any kind of reasonable Ace. Any Ace at all even, most likely, at that point, and he has to bet out on that turn card. But he checked it right back to me, and that told me all I needed to know. He did not have an Ace in his hand.

And if puyop is not sitting on an Ace, then of the range of hands I had put him on, we were left only with pocket 8s through pocket Jacks. And that means that I can make some good money in this hand, if my check on the turn makes puyop believe I do not have an Ace. Then, he will have to think his pocket pair is good here, and I stand to make some good chippage on the river. And speaking of the river, after puyop checked behind me on the turn with 2♠2♥6♣A♣ showing, the gorgeous A♥ slammed the river, giving me the boat and a nearly unbeatable hand.

Kickass Cardsquad Screenshot!So, given my read that my opponent was on a medium pair between 8s and Jacks, and given my check on the turn which I did intentionally for the purpose of suggesting that I also am not holding an Ace, I decided to really go for the gusto here and to check it back to him again. I figured if my check on the turn worked, puyop will have to bet here to get value for his pocket pair on a board with two pairs, one of them lower than his pocket pair. I checked, and he bet out, I pause-checkraised him here, and then he made his biggest mistake of the hand by re-raising me. Momentarily I considered that he could have an Ace after all, but that just didn't add up with the read I was laying on him here, so I capped it on the river, which he called.

He did not flip his cards, as I took down the hand and over 7000 chips in the process. But, since he mucked on the river but saw it through to the end, I was able to check out his hole cards and determine how correct my read was (although once the pot was pushed my way, I all but knew I was right on). If you're interested, you can click here to see what puyop was holding. In any event, this was an absolutely key hand for me in what turned out to be one of my biggest career tournament wins as an online poker player.

What's He Holding (Part II)

Kickass Cardsquad Screenshot!Welcome back everyone to Part II of the latest What's He Holding post, where we're playing limit holdem in the late stages of a HORSE tournament on Full Tilt. I raised it up UTG preflop with the marginal holding of A8o, one opponent called from middle position, and then on a flop of 226, I checked and he bet out for 300 chips into a 2250-chip pot. At the end of Part I, I asked what range of hands you would put this player on given his actions so far on the flop.

In general, I agree with most of the comments made on this post. The guy did not reraise me preflop, so he is not likely to have a premium pocket pair, and probably not AK which in my experience in limit holdem tends to be reraised even more often than Aces or Kings, as lots of people like to slow-raise with the biggest pairs to try to trap another player who also holds a big but not quite big enough hand. Yet, he did call a raise that came from UTG, normally indicative of a strong hand itself, so I'm not putting him on the weakest of the possible calling hands -- pocket pairs 2s through 7s or 8s, and weak Aces or Axs. Given his lead on the raggiest of raggy flops of 226, which also contains a pair which would make his high-card or middle-paired hand very likely the best here, I am feeling very comfortable with my read so far of probably pocket 8s through pocket Jacks, or AQ down through AT or maybe A9s. Of course you always have to be willing to adjust that read as soon as you get any more information about what your opponent may be holding, but for now I've got him on A9 through AQ, or pocket 8s through pocket Jacks. If you think about it, it's actually an amazing job of narrowing things down to just eight likely hands given that all he did was call a preflop raise and then bet out for a small bet on the flop. But that's where I've got this guy so far.

So what happened next? Well, I had raised preflop UTG, representing a very solid hand, so when puyop bet out after my flop check, given that I had him on a middle but not premium pair, or medium but not premium Ace, I figured I'd go ahead and raise it up. See, for me I like to make a lot of my moves in limit holdem on the flop, when the betting is still cheap, so it doesn't cost me too much if I have to give up on 4th street. This is kinda counter to what a lot of other players seem to do, but if I think a guy has a hand that is medium good but very beatable (like in this situation), and I know I've represented strength so far throughout the hand, I will sometimes go for one extra cheap bet if I think it might take down a pot, or set me up to take down a pot later by showing some strength early on in the hand. So I raised it up, which given this flop had to scream out "big pair!" to my opponent, and he just smooth called my raise.

That was when the Ace♣ fell on the turn. Interesting, this one is really going to put my read to the test here.

OK so this guy called my UTG raise from middle position before the flop, and he got check-raised by me on the flop of 226, which he also smooth called. The problem is, our kickers are still very much live on this board with one low pair and another low card, so if he is on any of those pocket 8s through pocket Jacks I put him on, I'm now in great shape, but if he has any of those A9-AQ hands I also have in his range, then I'm severely dominated. But, remember that my read is more than 50% balanced in favor of the high-Ace hands over the pocket pair hands (there are 16 ways to make an unpaired hand like AQ or AJ, and only 12 ways to make a paired hand like 88 or 99, so my total range here is 64 hands of Ace-high, and 48 hands of the medium pocket pairs. 64:48 means there is a 57% likelihood of him holding an Ace-high hand that beats my A8, if you look just at the range of hands I've got this guy on so far). So overall, on balance, I decided I had to check here. If he's got an Ace, I can hope that he will bet out here, and then I can consider folding my hand for a fairly minimal loss in the overall scheme of things.

My opponent checked right behind me after a few seconds of thought.

As we wait for the river card to fall, what now is my opponent's likely range of hands, given everything we now know from him? He called my UTG raise preflop from middle position. He called my checkraise on the uber-raggy flop. Then when the scary Ace fell and I checked to him, he checked it right back to me and took a free river card. What is he holding?

Please post your replies in the comments, and I will be back later with the conclusion to this hand.

What's He Holding?

Greetings and happy holidays from me to everyone out there in Cardsquad land. So I'm getting back into the swing of things after a couple of weeks at home with my family, and although I can honestly say the past few weeks were among the best times I've ever had since our first child entered the world a little more than three years ago, I'm also looking forward a bit to the rigidity of a daily work schedule, and the regular nightly poker sessions that go along with that schedule. And speaking of poker, don't worry from the content of this post -- I have never willingly and was not for this What's He Holding? post playing in a limit holdem tournament. I am growing to enjoy limit holdem in general as I've read and practiced it more and more, but not to the point of actually ponying up my hard-earned cash to play in a limit holdem-only event. No, in this case, the hand I'm going to look at today is from the limit holdem portion of the weekly 30k guaranteed HORSE tournament on full tilt, which I am thrilled to say I managed to win this past Sunday night on New Years Eve, to the tune of nearly $5,000 in cash money. I've got a full writeup of the occasion on my blog, so go check it out if you're interested in reading more about this, my third major online tournament victory in the last year, and my first to start off 2007 with a major bang.

So today's What's He Holding? post occured fairly deep into last Sunday's 30k HORSE tournament, with blinds already up at 300-600, and with my stack sitting at just over 7000, which was just above the average stack size at the time. I look down UTG and find A8o. Normally, this is definitely a folding hand from UTG, especially in no-limit holdem where you can really get burned by playing a dominatable hand like this. But in limit, unlike no-limit, I am much more confident that I can make money if I do have the best hand, and let this thing go early if my read says I am behind, without losing major chips in any case. And, with the blinds really increasing and with me drifting back towards average after an early run, I was feeling the desire to get back involved in the game.

Kickass Cardsquad Screenshot!So, I decided I would take a stab here from UTG, knowing I will fold to any raise. But if I'm gonna play a hand like A8o from UTG, limping in is just asking for trouble, so I raised it up instead. Only the player 2 seats to my left called the bet, leaving me heads up to see a flop of 226 rainbow. I elected to check the flop and see what this guy was going to do. He bet out, 300 chips into the 2250 chip pot.

What hand or range of hands should I put this player on right now? How do his preflop actions mesh with his bet now on the flop? What would you suggest I do in response to his lead bet on this raggy, paired flop?

I'll be back tomorrow with my own analysis, discussion of your comments, and the follow-up post to this hand. Please provide your comments as to how to formulate an early read on puyop's likely holding based on what we know so far.

The Suck Bet

The Suck Bet. This is the phrase coined by Dan Harrington in his seminal no-limt holdem tournament books, Harrington on Holdem, Volumes 1-3, for the move used when you believe you have the best hand at the river, but you want to try to get your opponent to commit a bit more chips to the hand by calling your bet. You know if you move it allin, he is going to fold because his hand isn't that great. You also know that if you check, he will check behind, and you won't make any extra money out of the hand. Instead, you want to try to pick an amount of money to bet on the river that is large enough for you to make it worthwhile to make the bet in the first place, but small enough that your opponent will be willing to pay it off just to make sure you are in fact ahead. Curiously, in this sense the suck bet is simultaneously a trap bet and a value bet at the same time, in that you are trying to both bet low enough to trick your opponent into paying you to see your hand, but also trying to bet for value what you are fairly sure is the best hand right now.

I tend to have a fairly regular range in terms of the size of the suck bets I like to try to lay on people when I know I'm ahead. Of course, if I think someone will call an allin push from me, then that's what I'm doing, period. But, when I think I'm probably ahead, especially where I have already thrown in some slow-playage earlier in the hand to plant the idea in my opponent's mind that I might be bluffing or just weak in the hand, I usually try to target my suck bets at between 40-60% of the current pot size at the river. This is for two key reasons: First, around half the size of the curent pot is usually a sufficient enough size by the time the river hits that it will represent a significant addition to my stack if my opponent calls. I don't want to be dilly dallying with things like suck bets if I'm only going to add an extra 5% or something to the pot. And secondly, I like the 40-60% of the pot range for my suck bets because this is usually small enough that it entices many opponents to go ahead and pay me off, in situations where if I was moving allin, or even betting the full pot, they would reluctantly fold.
Kickass Cardsquad Screenshot!
So, for example, at left you can see a situation where I have top pair top kicker with big slick at the river, on a board that contains no draws other than the unlikely QJ for the straight, a straight which would have required my opponent to have called my preflop raise with an easily-dominated hand preflop, so I'm not realistically worried there. With a current pot size of 750 chips, I want to get my opponent to pay me off here with what is probably either top pair lower kicker, or some other kind of board pair. So, as you can see, I hit the guy with a 450 chip bet. It is deceptively tricky because for only another 450 chips out of his 5500-chip stack, he can make sure I am ahead, and hopefully make a nice call to win another decent pot early. Here, he called my suck bet, and lost with his underpair to my TPTK.

Kickass Cardsquad Screenshot!The suck bet can also work against a river bet from your opponent, as seen here at left. Here, my opponent bet 720 chips into a 1380-chip pot at the river, and I went for the reraiso 1800. Sure I could have moved him allin here, but I figured I would have lost him with that strong move, so instead I went for just a bit more than a minraise. Just enough to make me happy when he calls, yet just little enough to get the call that I want from him. That's the idea with the suck bet -- like the end result of this particular hand, make the guy call you even while he is typing in "I'll call and pay you." The guy knows he's going to lose, but he just can't bring himself to fold whatever he's got in his hand for the size bet that I've thrown at him on the river.

Hot Hand -- Flopping a Set in NLH Cash Game (Part V)

In the conclusion to this five-part post, we will complete the analysis of my $1-$2 no-limit holdem cash hand where I flopped a set of 3s, bet half the pot and got called in two places on the flop. Then I checked the turn, to give an impression of weakness, and one opponent bet a measly quarter of the pot, found a caller in late position and then I smooth called as well since I was not afraid of any of the possible draws created by the turn card. The river then paired the turn card, giving me a boat -- albeit the lowest possible boat -- at the end, and action was to me to start the river betting round. In Part IV of this post I asked what you would recommend doing here.

I was pleased to see that none of the commenters thought I should be fcheck-folding, just because there are some hands out there that would beat me -- specifically, 55, TT, KK, K3, K5 and KT. Drizz said he likes the check-call here, and I think that's a reasonable strategy, although I was feeling a bit more aggressive than this suggestion at the time. In my view my opponents here did not play their hands like they held any of the pocket pairs, since there were calls all around on a cheapish bet on both the flop and the turn, and in most cases I would have expected a raise either before the flop, on the flop or on the turn card if someone had flopped or turned a set. And I just can't see people calling that flop bet if they held just K3 or K5, and the odds of someone holding KT were just astronomically low here. So I had to figure I was ahead. And, I had bet small on the flop, then check-called the turn, so I had done a good job projecting weakness so far and figured I ought to try to make some more use of that if at all possible. The second King coming on the river I took as a very good sign, in that to the extent that someone had bet or called the turn with a King in their hand, that second King was going to make this awfully hard to just check out on the river here.

Taking all this into account, I ended up checking the river here, with the full intention of check-raising when the action got back to me. As I said, the second King on the river had me thinking I was not only ahead, but in good shape to induce a bet from someone else who had hopefully called the turn with something and now was even stronger thanks to the second King falling at the end. With $67 in the pot at this point in the hand, I would have been really bummed to not make any more profit from the hand, but I had a strong feeling that if I bet, someone would have a King and call me, but that if I wait and let them bet instead, then I could get them to call a much larger raise from me since they would already be seriously invested in this pot at the time. So it was a risk that I would miss out on more profit here, but one I was willing to take as I really felt that the King on the river helped make this an easy bet-out for anyone holding any kind of a King in their hand.

And that's when it happened.

Kickass Cardsquad Screenshot!The first player responded to my river check by moving allin, although it was only for his or her last $17.50 in chips. so not a lot at all into a pot that was currently $67 before the river card fell. Then the second player topped that by min-raising the first player's bet, as you can see at left. So now it was $35 to me to win a $102 pot. In order to call, I would have to be best at least 2 out of 3 times here. Try as I might, I simply could not shake the feeling that I was ahead. I had gotten exactly what I wanted: some action when the second King fell on the river. I figured at least one of these players, if not both, had to have a King, but the first player's allin move for his last $17 did not do much to convince me he was sitting on a big boat or anything, and the pussy min-raise from the late position player absolutely did not seem boat-ish to me at all. If anything, that one seemed like a King with a low kicker, or maybe a high pocket pair, anything that figured to have a better shot of winning if he could get me to fold whatever I was holding. No way I was going to run from that bet there, from either of them even. I just didn't see anything in either player's actions to indicate a boat.

Kickass Cardsquad Screenshot!Since I thought my boat was best, I did what I had to do and put the late-position player allin as well here. He called, and I dragged a $242 pot, one of the largest I have won in online no-limit holdem cash play. In the end, using the handy-dandy "Last Hand" feature in the top left corner of the screen, I was able to check and see what each player held in his hand. The first bettor to my left, who moved in the rest of his chips on the river when the second King fell, actually held QTo, and figured his top pair on the flop with a Queen kicker had probably held up to lead the hand at the end. Meanwhile, the late position min-raiser on the river did in fact have a set of Kings, holding K7s. So here was a case where a slow-play actually managed not to cost me a hand in online holdem play, and in fact was just the perfect thing to allow both of my opponents to catch up enough to believe they were best, and therefore give me (willingly) the rest of their chips on the river.

Thank you as always to everyone for your well thought-out comments as always. I should be back shortly with another Hot Hand post here at Cardsquad. In the meantime, if you're looking for another fun hand to analyze, check out my blog today for a new Hot Hand post there in a fun razz hand I played with a bunch of bloggers last week. That is a fun one where I start out with the best possible starting razz hand, and end up head to head against someone else who shows quite a bit of strength from the beginning all the way to the end of the hand.

Hot Hand -- Flopping a Set in NLH Cash Game (Part IV)

Kickass Cardsquad Screenshot!OK so if you've been following along with the first three parts to this post, you know that we're playing $1-$2 no-limit holdem cash on full tilt, I flopped a set with pocket 3s, bet half the pot on the flop and got two callers, and then checked the turn card, the King♥, in the hopes of inducing a bet from someone who is behind my set. In the last post I asked what you would do in the situation at left, where my turn check was met with a $10 bet and a call of that bet across the felt. Interestingly, one thing a few of the commenters seemed to key on was losing this hand to someone who is drawing here, and the need therefore to bet fairly strongly here, at least enough to price out any drawing hands. Now, if you know me and you know my play, then you know I'm not one to give many free cards in any circumstances, but in this case I did not feel the urgency that some of the commenters did in this case, because of the texture of the flop itself.

In this hand, the flop came T53 rainbow. Even though the turn card brought a King of hearts, to go along with the Ten of hearts already on the flop, try as I might I just could not get myself scared by that card on the turn. Of course someone could be drawing now, and I would not want to give away a free card to that person under any circumstances given how big the pot has already become. But, this isn't Omaha, where I would really want to bet out here to protect my hand since everyone has so many holecards that basically anyone could easily have backed into a drawing hand here on the turn. And that's exactly why I wasn't scared about protecting against drawing hands here -- with only two players in, and only two holecards per player in holdem, I found the odds to be exceedingly low that anyone was drawing here. Who exactly am I afraid of holding exactly QJ, who called a half-pot bet on the flop? I can't see it. And the same thing with two random hearts. Who called the halfpot bet on the flop, with three players in no less, with just two random hearts in their hand? I'm just not buying it.

Kickass Cardsquad Screenshot!And that's why I just smooth called the $10 turn bet here. I figured the odds of someone drawing at anything were very small, since they would have had to totally back into any draw with the lucky turn card. And, even if they did have a draw, my set is still a favorite to win with only one card to come (any straight or flush draw will have only a roughly 20% chance of filling on the river against my made hand), and on top of that, I have a 10-out redraw to at least a boat (any Ten, Five, King or the case Three will do it for me). I was still hoping that someone maybe had a King and would be willing to put in some more of their stack on the river, depending on what falls.

A second later the river fell: The King♠. So, there would be no flush on this hand, and no straight either. And now, I've made a boat, 3s full of Kings. Action is to me on the river, with $67 now in the pot with all the cards on the board.

What would you recommend now? Am I leading out with my hand that beats anything other than KK, TT, 55, KT, K5 or K3? Have either of my opponents played this like they are holding one of those hands? How much would you bet here? Or, are you more scared of the second King on the river, and now want to just check it down and see a cheap showdown? Am I even looking at this point to make the most from this hand, or rather just to lose the least? What's the best move here?

Hot Hand -- Flopping a Set in NLH Cash Game (Part III)

I'm back today for the third installment in my latest Hot Hand post, where I cover a hand that saw me take a cheapo flop with pocket 3s and then flop a set on a raggy board of T53 rainbow. In Part I, I asked how you would suggest I play on the flop after nailing my set. Most commenters agreed with what I eventually did on that flop, which was to bet out a smallish amount and hope to achieve both of my main goals at this point in the hand: (1) get some money into the pot, while (2) still appearing weak to my opponents in the hopes that they will pay me off better later in the hand. After betting half the pot on the flop, both of my opponents called my weakish bet, and then the turn card brought a King, arguably a good card as many commenters to Part II of this post pointed out since it is likely to make somebody something decent at that point in the hand. In Part II, I asked the readers how they would suggest playing the turn card, having bet small on the flop and found two callers across the felt from me.

Again, most of the commenters seemed to take a similar approach to the one I actually took in this hand. The general thinking here is, I have set this hand up so far as if I am weak weak weak, and, since I am actually very strong in reality, it makes good sense for me to continue to project a weak image in order to get my opponents to make a serious move at what is now a $38 pot heading into the King♥ on the turn. I agree with this approach 100%. Barring pure bluffs, which are few and far between for me, two things need to happen most of the time I make a big hand in a no-limit holdem cash game: #1, I need to make a big hand, and #2, I need someone to be willing to put a pile of chips into the pot against my strong made hand. Here' #1 already happened for me on the flop, and for #2, I'm staring in the face the likelihood that my opponents will put me on nothing good if I play my cards right here (pun intended). And I was not about to let this opportunity slip away.
Kickass Cardsquad Screenshot!I straight-up checked it on the turn. Here I am really going for the gold and trying to get deep into my opponents' heads, using Level 3 thinking. I know I have a good hand (Level 1). I have no reason to believe either opponent is anywhere near as strong as I am in the hand (Level 2). Level 3 kicks in where I try to figure what my opponents think I am holding. And when I check this turn card to them, I am screaming indicating to them that I took a stab with an inferior hand on the flop, found not just one but two callers, and am now shutting down for good. Any self-respecting nlh cash player will have to bet at me now on this round, and I had no doubt that would work here as well.

And it did work, as the first opponent to my left bet out $10 into the $38 pot. This was a weakass bet, one that I could only assume he expected to get called with, and he did in fact get called by my other opponent as well. I think this was a very transparent bet my the turn bettor here, as a bet of 1/4 the pot almost screams out that he has a decently strong hand at this point, and that he's not worried about letting anyone get a free card on the river. I supposed at the time that it could have been just a flush draw that this guy picked up on the turn with two hearts in his hand, but most likely I figured he was on some sort of decent King, and felt fairly sure he was in front here.

Kickass Cardsquad Screenshot!
So, what do you suggest now? I've got a bettor and a caller of a $10 bet to me, into what is now a $58 pot. I still have to feel fairly certain I am ahead here, as there is no way that the King♥ is scaring me into thinking my trip 3s are now somehow behind. I suppose someone with pocket 5s was possible, but highly unlikely, and I discounted pocket 10s or pocket Kings because of the lack of a preflop raise in the hand. So my 3s were almost surely still best. Would you raise it here and try to either take it down now, or get some more money into the pot? Or do you call here and take your chances with the river card? How are you going to get the most of your opponents' money into the middle here, while still adequately protecting your hand?

Hot Hand -- Flopping a Set in NLH Cash Game (Part II)

In Part I of this post, I presented a situation where I have seen a cheap 4-way flop with pocket 3s, and then gone on to hit a set of 3s on the flop, with the action checked to me in the big blind, and I asked whether you all think a bet or a check is the best move here. After reviewing the comments, it appears that the readers are generally split as between checking here or betting out. Most of the commenters who advocated betting out seem to agree with my general theory of not betting too much, because, as I mentioned in Part I, the last thing I ever want to do is chase everyone else out after I pick up a huge hand on the flop. So the options seem to be either to check here and either let someone else do the betting on the flop (or just wait for the turn to start pushing with your set), or to bet out small, possibly indicating some weakness to an opponent trying to get a read on me.

Kickass Cardsquad Screenshot!

In the end, I opted to bet out here. My thinking, as I have written about several times in my own blog, is that in my experience, the vast majority of online holdem players automatically check the flop if they pick up three of a kind. Just about everyone seems to do the check-the-flop-and-then-bet-then-turn-strongly thing when they flop a well-hidden set, and as a result, people also seem to be a bit more wary of other players who check the flop but then bet out on the turn, since I often find that people usually expect others to play the game generally the same way that they themselves would play it. As a result, I tend to bet out when I flop a set more often than most people, because it doesn't tend to be interpreted as indicating a set nearly as often as one would think.

So I bet out, betting just half the pot in the hopes that my bet would be interpreted as some kind of a probe bet or some form of weakness from me. I got basically what I wanted, as both middle position players called, while the small blind folded. So three players saw the turn card, with now $38 sitting in the pot. The turn card is the King♥. With the small blind now out of the hand, action begins with me on this betting round.

Now what? Do I lead out here, now that the pot has grown significantly from where it was after the flop? How much would you bet in relation to the $38 in the pot currently? Or, do you check it here and try to induce a bet from one of the other two players left in the pot? What's the best move here?

I'll be back tomorrow with the next part of this post, and I look forward to your comments in the interim.

Hot Hand -- Flopping a Set in NLH Cash Game

For today's Hot Hand column, I want to review a hand scenario that we all love...flopping trips. You know what it's like: you limp in preflop, hoping desperately to see a cheap flop and maybe, just maybe, just this one time, you can flop some trips and actually (hopefully) get some action on those trips without scaring everyone else away. For me, I am at the point in my no-limit holdem game where I no longer mind chasing everyone out preflop when I have a monster starting hand like Aces or Kings -- as long as I am only putting in my standard preflop raise, if that standard raise chases everyone else out of the pot before the flop, then so be it. I am confident that I played the hand the right way, the smartest way, and if I get no action on my standard preflop raise, I'm at the point where I don't mind that outcome. But one thing I really can't stand is playing a small pocket pair to see a cheap flop, nailing my 1-in-8 chance of flopping trips, and then chasing everyone out of the pot on the flop and failing to make any serious coin from this truly rare occurrence in no-limit holdem.

So, the setup for today's hand is at a $1-$2 no-limit holdem cash game on full tilt, where I have been sitting at the table for about 30 minutes, and I have been playing solid, aggressive poker to the tune of a $70 profit on top of the $200 I sat down at the table with. Blinds are $1-$2, and I am seated in the big blind with pocket 3s. One middle position player limps for $2, the next player makes it $4 to go, and the small blind calls the $4. With the action back around to me, I go for the cheap $2 call and see a cheap 4-way flop with my pocket 3s.

The flop comes 3T5 rainbow. Bingo! I've flopped my trips, and with just the small preflop minraise, I am not particularly afraid of anyone else holding a higher trips. No flush draw is possible, and the board is highly unlikely to have created any meaningful straight draws for any of my opponents either. So I'm thinking in great shape here with my trips on the flop.

The pot contains $15.20, and the small blind checks the flop to me.

How would you play this here? Do you check your trips, hope someone else bets the flop, and either way prepare to put in a large-ish bet on the turn? Or do you bet it out here and hope to catch some callers, or someone who may have been slowplaying a big pair preflop? If you do want to bet out here, how much? What is the best way to get the most of your opponents' total chips in this pot now while you still believe you are the solid favorite?

I will be back tomorrow with the next update to this flopped trips hand, but would love to get everyone's thoughts in the comments on this, one of the most enjoyable situations in all of no-limit holdem, especially for a guy like me who always tries to see a cheap flop with my pocket pairs.

Hot Hand #2 -- Part III (Conclusion)

Well I suppose it should come as no surprise that the majority of comments to Part II of this post say that I need to fold to Pauly's raise and Maigrey's call of that raise here on the turn. Given that most of the commenters believed I should be folding automatically on the flop with just a nut flush draw on a low-paired board, it stands to reason that at this point, given the strong action from both remaining players in the hand even after the turn card here, that same concept ought to permeate the comments I've received at this point in the hand.

If you recall from Part II, I shared my opinion that I do not believe in folding a nut flush draw on the flop every time the board is paired. A low pair and not too many other players in the pot make it all the more likely that my nut flush will still go on to win the hand if I make it, and the pot should be potentially a big one if someone does happen to have a set of 5s once the flop hits. Even the best scenario for players holding trips still has them filling to make a boat in the last two cards typically at no more than 10 outs, so I would still be a favorite to win against a player who flopped a set if I can hit my flush. So, when the pot odds look right to me, I tend towards calling and trying to see the next card as cheaply as possible.

Despite all this, however, I will freely admit that I had a lot of doubts once Pauly raised this hand on the turn, and even more doubts once Maigrey called the raise. At this point it just became one of those situations where your gut tells you you're beat, but you let your brain talk you into calling down anyways. You know, "just in case". In this case, I let the math of the situation be the convincing factor, using the juicy pot odds to draw to my nut flush to tell me I basically "had" to call, and basically willfully ignoring the fact that those 1-in-5 odds I had of making my flush might very well not be the best hand already anyways. So, despite all the warnings to the contrary, I went ahead and called the raise and smooth call here and saw a cheap river card.

Kickass Cardsquad Screenshot!

And got just what I wanted -- a third club. At least, I think this was what I wanted. So now, I am ahead of anyone unless they have a full house, and in order to have a full boat right now, that would mean they would have to hold either (1) a 5 plus a Queen, King or Ten, or (2) two Queens, two Kings or two Tens (or of course two fives for quads). That's it. The only hands that beat me here are 5Q, 5K, 5T, 55, QQ, KK or TT. Given that both of my opponents were already betting out on the flop, I tend to highly discount the 5K, 5T, KK or TT possibilities because they did not exist as possibilities on the flop and yet both opponents bet at that point. So, realistically speaking, in my own mind I was ahead of anything realistic other than 55, 5Q or QQ. These hands are just so unlikely, that now that the flush had filled on the river I had to go for it. I bet out for 80 chips as you can see from the graphic at left.

And that's when Pauly raised. Again. For the second time in this hand, Pauly raised where I thought for sure he would fold or, at most, call. Maigrey insta-folded after Pauly kicked it up, with what turned out to be just a 5 in her hand for flopped trips. Maigrey claimed her fold was because of Pauly's raise on the river, which I'm sure had a lot to do with it, but the flush draw filling on the end with three players in this pot more or less meant that Maigrey was way behind at this point, so that's not a bad fold. But you know the worst part about this hand? I still called Pauly's raise on the river. I can't really say why I did it. I knew Pauly had me beat with a boat. His raise even after the third flush card fell on the river all but iced it. So I knew I was beat. But I couldn't bring myself to fold, unlike in no-limit poker where Pauly might have bet my entire stack on the river such that I could lay down my flush. Here, I just couldn't do it. Not for another measly 80 chips into a now 1200-chip pot. So, since I knew I was behind, I went ahead and typed into the chat "I am so clearly losing to Pauly's boat. I hate knowing that but still calling." Just so they knew that I wasn't fooled by any of this.

End result: Pauly held a pair of Queens in his hand, for the flopped boat that never improved later in the hand, but never needed to either. Oh well. Did I mention that Omaha is a game of the freakin' nuts?

Thanks as always to everyone for their comments. I'll be back next week with another fun hand for us all to analyze and share opinions on.

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