Posts Tagged ‘how to play poker’


Poker Players: Help Me Play These Hands

September 16, 2012

This weekend I played some big poker events and had a number of hands that gave me headaches and made me wonder what the right play was. I’m curious how my peers think I should have handled each situation. Hopefully I get some good feedback on these hands and if I don’t get much, I’m going to start tagging you fools on Facebook. When I get a number of responses, I’ll update this page with the result of the hand, my analysis, and what I think is ultimately the right play. If you don’t understand the poker lingo or abbreviations, then you probably won’t be too interested in this post anyway.

Some Background: $300 buy-in tournament. My table draw is terrible. I have two tough players to my direct left and one of them has already amassed a monstrous chip lead at the table. I pegged two players I wanted to get my chips from but they both busted out before I won a single hand. I have one super LAG at the table that I haven’t decided if he’s a good player or not and everyone else is weak tight. I’ve had minimal playable hands and the only hand I’ve shown is QQ, which I made almost nothing with due to board texture. I probably have a weak tight image at this point.

Hand #1: Last hand before break. Blinds are 100-200 and I have 8375 (~42 BB, M of ~28) and open to 600 UTG with AK. Folds around to the very LAG player in SB. He ships for 12K+. What do I do?

Hand #2: Blinds are 300-600 with a 50 ante. I have like 12K (20 BB, M of 9) and open to 1600 with AK from MP. It folds around to SB, the good player with the monster stack, and he 3! to 6500 or so, leaving himself clearly priced in against a shove. He’s been playing a lot of hands, but this is the first time I’ve seen him 3! pre. What do I do?

Hand #3: I’ve switched tables. Blinds are 600-1200 with a 100 ante. I have just over 15K (12.5 BB, M of 5.5). UTG (the good player from the last hand described… still with a massive stack) limps in, UTG+2 (solid, straight-forward) makes it 3500 to go, old guy (playing kind of loose and weird) in MP makes it 8K to go–leaving about 1.5K behind–and I’m next to act with AK. What do I do?

Hand #4: Different tournament. $500 buy-in. I’ve been relatively active, playing good positional poker and taking down pots by attacking weakness. Of my 8 opponents at the table, I think 6 of them are definitely weak players I want to tangle with, one guy seems to be playing straight forward small ball poker, and another player looks pretty LAG and seems slightly dangerous, but I did see him make a move that made me question if he really knows what’s up or if he’s just a poser. My table draw is way better than it was in the last tournament and I feel like I’m the strongest player at the table. Level is 100-200, my stack is over 11K and two of the weak players limp in front of me. I limp in LP with KJ and we see a Q82 rainbow flop five ways. Everyone checks to me on the flop and it looks like a pretty good spot to bet since I’d expect a queen to lead out and there are only gutshot straight draws available. I expect a bet of 2/3 the pot to take it down a pretty good percentage of the time. The blinds both fold, but both the limpers call. With only weak draws possible, at least one of my opponents probably has a made hand and my decision to shut it down becomes even easier when another 8 hits the board on the turn. It checks around and I’m quite happy to see a King peel off on the river and plan to value bet if it checks to me or hope to pick off a weak bet on the river. The first player bets 750 and the next one raises to 1500. I don’t have much respect for either player and the one that’s raising has been playing a bit goofy. What do I do?

Hand #5: Level is 200-400-50, I have 13K, which is 32.5 bigs and an M of about 12. The small baller opens to 875, nearly a minimum raise and one that he has made 3 times in the last orbit. It folds to me with JJ in the big blind. What do I do?

Hand #6: Level is 200-400-50 still. My stack is down to about 8200 (20.5 bigs, M of about 8). It folds around to the small blind and he raises to 1200. Again, this is a weak player, but in similar situations in the past he has completed from the SB instead of raising. One other note, I have had a rough level and my image is not that great right now. I look down at 33 in the big blind, what do I do?


Some Interesting Poker Hands.

January 6, 2012

Here are some interesting hands from some of the poker tournaments I’ve played this past week.

First hand is from the final table of an All-Star Lanes tournament. I have 16,000 in chips and blinds are 1500-3000. It folds to the hi-jack (two off the button) and he limps in, leaving 7500 behind. I’m in the cut off with QdTd. My hand should do fairly well against my opponent’s range, but playing my hand creates several problems. First off, limping in for 20% of my stack with a weak Q high hand is not a great play. Secondly, any of the three players left to act behind me could raise and based on their stack sizes, I might have to call. Raising might seem like a decent option, but I don’t like my hand enough against his range to play for stacks and let’s be real: this dude is calling me if I put him all-in. He might not like his hand enough to raise it himself, but it’s rare that I see these weak players limp in for 30% of their stack and then fold to a raise. Folding is the right play here and you’ll soon see why. I call. The button goes all-in for 10,500. Both blinds fold, but the first limper calls for the rest of his stack, which is exactly 10,500 total. The uneducated player might think this is an easy fold, but they’d be wrong. With both players all-in for 10,500, 4500 in dead blind money, and 3000 from my limp, there’s 28,000 in the pot and it’s 7500 more for me to call. I’m getting 3.8 to 1 pot odds which means they could both show me AQ and I’d still be right to call. Even though calling in this spot is clearly correct, the situation shows why limping in the first place is wrong. The last thing I want to do at this stage of the tournament is play a huge pot with a mediocre hand that HAS to win a showdown when losing will cripple me and destroy any preflop fold equity I had going for me. I managed to spike a T on the river and win a huge pot against AK and KJ, a pot that propelled me to a second place finish in the tournament, but clearly, I misplayed my hand here by limping in.

Tournament at All-Star Lanes tonight. Two tables left. Blinds are 800-1600. There’s some weird button movement going on and I think I’m under the gun with A9o at a 9-handed table and about 16K in chips, so I muck. The dealer hands me my cards back and says “don’t fold your hand, you’re the big blind.” Everyone at the table saw me muck though and it folds to a thinking and aggressive player in mid-late position. He min-raises to 3200, leaving himself with about 8000 behind. Everyone folds around to me. I know this player saw me muck my hand and I feel like he’s trying to take a cheap stab at the blinds. While it may not be the case, his min-raise makes me think he wants the option of folding if someone else happens to wake up with a hand. His stack size dictates that he should either be folding or going all-in. My conclusion: I have him crushed. I audibly laugh, knowing how ridiculous this is going to look, and announce “all-in.” The table goes into a state of shock. Even the dealer is laughing. My opponent is perplexed and doesn’t seem to know what to do. Just as limping in with the QT in my previous hand was a mistake, this is yet another example of not planning ahead gone wrong. I’m sure he was going to muck if anyone else at the table re-raised him, but he had no plan whatsoever for this scenario. I’m sure it wasn’t even a possibility to him. For whatever reason, this player seemed to come to the conclusion that I was making some sort of move on him. He’s wrong. As a good player, I don’t expect to have much fold equity here, which means that I expect my hand to win the majority of the time in a showdown. Which means I’m NEVER bluffing. With 15.2K in the pot and having to call another 8000, he’s getting 1.9 to 1 pot odds and should call me with just about any two cards. Mathematically, he’s probably priced in, and knowing that, I still shoved it on him. He did the right thing and called and his K2 outdrew my A9. Min-raising with his hand in the first place is a mistake though. With his stack size, he has to either go all-in or fold it. There are too many stack sizes that you’re going to have to call when you get re-raised that giving yourself the option of folding to a 3-bet is clearly wrong. The sickest thing about this hand is that if he had just open-shoved himself, I may have seriously considered folding. I’m not saying that’s what I would have done for sure, but folding would have at least crossed my mind as a real option.

Same tournament, heads up with a friend of mine. We’ve been battling it out for a short time and though he started with a clear stack size advantage, I have gained significant ground. With the blinds at a ridiculous 6000-12000, he open-raises to 28K from the SB on the button. I look down at Ah5h and it’s 14K more to me. After calling the raise, I’d have 23K left behind. Since I’ll have first action after the flop, the idea of a pulling a stop and go (calling now and going all-in on any flop) seems appealing, but this is not the type of player that is going to fold two overcards (or many hands at all) in that spot. The only hands he’ll fold are complete garbage that totally whiffed the flop and if he has a hand like that, I might as well get him to stack off with it before the flop. I go all-in and he instantly looks disgusted as he stacks off for a 100K, and tournament-deciding, pot with Q4 offsuit. He flops a 4 that holds up to win and takes down first place. Yet another hand where poor planning preflop puts someone in a tough spot, playing a huge pot with a weak hand. With Q4o and 6000 in on the button, putting in a raise that crosses the commitment threshold is a questionable play since Q4o is a below average hand. I’m not folding too many hands that beat Q4, so my opponent might as well be raising blind and he might as well be going all-in. He’s clearly not playing his hand for value and his raise is entirely reliant on me not having a strong enough hand to play. His cards are completely irrelevant at this point. However, a queen heads up is a decent hand and he has the option of calling 6000 and being able to play the rest of the pot in position. A clearly superior option to stacking off for his entire stack preflop with a weak hand.

The theme of this blog post seems to be: PLAN YOUR HANDS. If you make a play and get a response to that play that either you a) don’t like or b) don’t know how to handle, you have misplayed your hand.


Very Good Tournament Poker Story

March 16, 2010

I wasn’t planning on blogging about today’s tournament when I went to go play it, but after the way it unfolded, it’s become an impossibility not to talk about it.

I started off really hot in this tournament, but since I didn’t have the mindset to track my hands, I’m having a hard time remembering exact situations, but I’ll try to come up with a couple key hands.

I was really active in the first couple rounds and my stack size was adequately, but not greatly improved from the starting size. With the blinds at 75-150, I raise to 375 with AsTc. I get called in four spots and I’m already pretty uninterested in the pot. The board comes 632 with two spades though and I sense a bit of opportunity when it checks to me. I figure now is a good time to represent an overpair and fire out 700. I get one caller who has position on me. Not a terrible result. The turn pairs the 6 and conventional wisdom says that check-folding here is my best option, but I’m up against a thinking player and I felt like his call on the flop was more out of skepticism than actual hand strength so I felt pretty confident betting another 1200 on the turn. He mucks.

blinds 75-150, someone raises to 350 in front of me and I call with AdTd. A couple other people tag along and we see a KdQhJh flop four or five ways. It checks to the preflop raiser who bets a disappointing 375. Only one opponent is behind me and he has about 1200 left and even though I have the nuts, there’s no need to slowplay my hand in this situation for a number of reasons: there’s two hearts on the board, this is an action flop that expects to hit a lot of hands, pair+straight draw hands are probably coming, and there are several cards that can hit the turn that will kill my action, so I raise enough to put the guy behind me all-in by making it 1300 to go. Everyone folds to the preflop raiser who calls me, which was a little surprising considering I didn’t sense much strength from his flop bet. The turn is a disgusting Ah and my opponent goes all-in for his remaining 2300. I think for just a little bit, tell him I flopped the nuts, get his reaction, and call. He flips over Kh8s which is an amazing hand for me to see. Sure, he has outs to the nut flush, but I couldn’t been drawing dead against a made flush, or he could have been freerolling on me with the Th, so I was pretty happy with the situation. He misses the river and I scoop a massive pot.

blinds 100-200, two people limp in, I have 65os on the button and limp in and the flop comes 743 and the BB instantly goes all-in for 1500. Folds to me, I call and show him the nuts and his K7 is drawing virtually dead. This hand caused quite the stir at my table and the starting hand police were tossing out a lot of criticism about my hand selection. One of my annoying habits as a poker player is that I like to explain my play (as evidenced by this blog), but I bit my tongue and kept my logic to myself. I’m starting to learn that it’s better off to just keep letting my opponents think whatever they want and continue to let them hang themselves against me and misjudge what I’m doing. However, since I’m blogging for my readership, I’ll go ahead and explain my reasoning behind this hand. Let’s take a look at the situation: two people have limped in front of me not really indicating strength; I have the button and will get to see what everyone does before I have to act on my hand after the flop; blinds are 100-200 and I have over 10,000 in chips. While folding is certainly reasonable, calling in this situation is probably even better. The funny thing about this hand is that if my 65 were suited, I doubt anyone would’ve made any condescending comments about my hand selection. While I’d much rather be suited, the difference in value between suited connectors and unsuited connectors is blown way out of proportion. I’m willing to risk 2% of my stack in favorable situations when I could flop something that can bust my opponents. It’s not like I’m going to play a monster pot on a Q96 board.

Blinds 200-400, a tight old-timer raises to 800 under the gun. It folds to me and I have AK in the big blind. I think I have about 14K in chips at this point and I take a look at his stack and he’s still got about 5000 left behind. I feel at this point it’s important to note that I saw this player bet 300 on a QTx flop, bet 300 when the turn paired the Q, and bet 300 on the river, get called, and flip over QT for the nuts. I was kind of shocked to see him flip that hand over… and even more shocked when I saw his opponent flip over QJ. The old man’s betting sequence really didn’t indicate strength and if I was holding trip Queens with a Jack kicker, there’s no way I’m not raising him at some point. Anyways, that hand was in the front of my mind when I looked down at that AK. I think I’d only seen this player raise one other time in the tournament. Against many players, I wouldn’t hesitate to put them all-in in this situation, but I thought it was best to just call and see the flop first against this opponent. The board comes A54. Okay… I’m obviously not folding now, but should I lead out? The answer is clearly no. I’m going to put him all-in at some point anyways, so I might as well give him a chance to put some chips in the pot first. If he has me beat, so be it and if I let him hang himself with Queens and he spikes one, I still did the right thing. I check, he goes all-in, I call and my AK holds against his AQ.

Blinds 200-400, folds to the small blind who calls and has 1300 left behind. I have 98os in the big blind. We’re on the bubble to the final table and with my stack size and the situation, it’s usually clear to put the SB all-in here.. but he hesitated a little bit before deciding to call and I felt like a shove from me was getting called 100% of the time. I check and the flop comes AA9 with two clubs. He instantly goes all-in. I actually ponder for a little bit about folding my hand although it seems a little bit ludicrous. Something was telling me that he had an ace here, but the club draw possibility convinces me to call and I’m drawing dead against A2.

That last hand was the final hand before combining to the final table and I entered the final table with about 16K in chips which gave me a top 2-3 stack with 10 people left.

Blinds 200-400, two people limp in, the small blind raises to 1200. I look down at JJ. The SB has 3000 left behind and the two other people in the pot frequently limp in, so I’m not too worried about their hand strength. This is a pretty obvious situation to put my opponent in the small blind all-in and race against him, so I make it 4200 to go. The limpers fold, my opponent calls and my Jacks hold up against AJ.

blinds 300-600, I had been kind of active the last couple of pots, raising and winning uncontested, so when I pick up QcJc under the gun, I decide to limp in since I’d really hate for someone to put me to the test preflop with a reraise and people have been getting away with limping anyways. A couple people limp behind me and both blinds let us see the flop which comes JT7 with one club. I’m already thinking about how much I’m going to bet when the small blind goes all-in for 5300. It folds to me and I go into the tank. There’s only 3000 in the pot, so his bet is slightly absurd, although any reasonable bet on his part would be for about 25-40 percent of his chip stack and probably commits him to the pot… so in a way, it does make sense. This is the same opponent that had the A2 on the AA9 board, which is something I didn’t forget. As I’m studying him, he grimaces very slightly like he doesn’t want a call. This is a pretty reliable tell that indicates strength and I’m now strongly considering folding. I count out 5300 and see where it would leave my stack if I call and lose. I’d still be in solid shape. My read is saying fold, but the devil on my shoulder is saying call. There’s another opponent behind me left to act and he has a lot of chips too, another reason to lean towards folding. Ugh. But I really don’t want to! I give into the devil and call, guy behind me folds, and the SB flips over an obvious 98 for the nut straight. The turn brings a glimmer of hope with the 8c, giving me 11 outs to win the pot, but I brick the river and double him up again. Great read, horrible execution once again.

blinds 400-800, two people limp in, and I have KQ in the small blind. I’m tempted to raise here, but the two limpers have been prone to gamble and I’ll be out of position in a big pot with a mediocre hand if either of them decide to call, so I just call the big blind and we see a K54 flop four ways. This is the perfect rope-a-dope scenario. My hand is now very strong, but it’s completely disguised and I have an aggressive opponent in the pot behind me. I check and it checks to the aggressive player and he bets 1400. I could raise here, but I don’t really care too much for that scenario. If I get called, I’m now out of position in a monster pot and not liking my hand as much, and if I get re-raised, I’d be really disgusted. I just call and the other two players fold. The turn is a 9 and now I decide to lead out for 2500. No need to give him the opportunity to take a free card if he has a hand like QJ, QT, Ax, etc. He’s clearly a little confused, but decides to call me. The river is a ten, which isn’t a great card, and I really don’t want to bet here… but if I don’t, I feel like this is the kind of player that will pounce on my indicated weakness and put me to the test with a big river bet. I decide to bet 3400 since I figure my hand is good and has a decent chance of getting paid off. He goes into the tank and really makes me sweat a bit. He asks for a count of my remaining chip stack and really looks like he’s going to raise me, which would be disgusting. After a while, it looks like he’s just going to call and now I like my hand and am hoping to get paid off. He ultimately decides to muck and shows a KJ and says I obviously have two pair. Wrong read, good decision though, sir.

[b]Hand Of The Tournament[/b]

blinds 400-800, I raise to 2200 with AK and my loose, aggressive opponent from the last hand calls me from the BB. The flop comes T96 and he checks to me. Against a tight nit, I’d certainly bet here and expect him to fold the majority of the time. Against a loose-passive opponent, I’d try and check it down and hope I either catch or that my hand holds up unimproved. Against this opponent, betting is dangerous. He might read me for overcards and raise me off the best hand… he also might have me beat. So I check. The turn card pairs the 6 and my opponent leads out for 3500. I’m pretty sure he thinks I have exactly what I do have, so a bet here isn’t too surprising from him. I know for sure I’m calling, but I do a little posturing hoping I can sell myself for some sort of made, but not great hand. I’m trying to get him to think I might have something other than AK so he’ll have to think twice about betting the river if he doesn’t have a monster. I finally do call and the river is a Q. He doesn’t even take any time to think at all and tosses 5000 into the pot. He’s got about 6000 left which is worth noting. Now it’s time to put all the pieces of the puzzle together and I go into the tank. Let’s look at the evidence: I checked behind on the flop and indicated weakness; my aggressive opponent made a predictable turn bet; an overcard to the board hit on the river and my opponent didn’t take any time to think before betting again. If he had a ten or 9 in his hand, he’d have to be slightly worried that I could have hit the Queen and I think it’s highly likely he would’ve check those hands and hope to win a showdown against AK. I really made him sweat it out and he wasn’t giving off too many signs of strength. I counted out 5000 and I’d have about 10K left if I called and lost. There was 16,800 in the pot and I was getting over 3 to 1 odds to call and I thought there was a strong possibility he had me read for AK and was trying to bet me off it. I called, he shows A4 high and I scoop a monster pot with AK high. The table was pretty shocked with this development, calling my call very gutsy, and my opponent was really upset because he “knew I had AK,” but it all really made sense in my head.

After another round, I had built my stack up to 36K and was the massive chip leader with six people left and looking to cruise to an easy first place finish barring an unfortunate turn of events.

And then the fucking power goes out in the casino.

We are all ushered outside and told to wait until the staff decides what to do or the power comes back on. It’s raining, it’s cold, I’m in a T-shirt, freezing, and I desperately need to urinate. After about 40 minutes of waiting in incredibly uncomfortable circumstances, we are ushered back inside guided by a flashlight and told that they have decided to split up the prize pool six equal ways. Uhhh… okay, let’s look at this reasonably: the blinds are 500-1000 and the remaining chip stacks are me with 36K, 2nd place has 21K, 3rd through 5th have about 10K each, and 6th place has two big blinds left. I have 33% of the chips in play and I’m supposed to be okay walking away with the same amount of money as someone that has 2% of the chips? FUCK THAT. No one speaks up, so I say “can we at least discuss some sort of deal?” and the staff reluctantly agrees that we can and a couple of the other players start grumbling. I suggest noting our stack sizes and playing the tournament out at an agreed upon future time. The short stack instantly rejects that notion and we are back to square one. I’m not budging though and the poker manager starts tallying up the stack percentages. Someone offers to give me an extra $100 and split the rest five ways. I’m not thrilled with the offer, since I really feel like I’m going to win the tournament, but there’s always the possibility that I could finish 4th or 5th and not away with any money, so it’s actually a pretty great deal for me and I agree to it somewhat disappointingly. The other players agree also, but I feel annoyance exuberating in my direction from the poker staff and all of the players except one reasonable mind. Call me an asshole, but walking out of this situation with an even chop is not only absurd, it’s poor money management. I don’t play poker for several hours, putting my skills and intuition to the test, hoping I can make the final table and split the money with a bunch of strangers… I play to make money and provide extra income and financial freedom for myself. If I was charitable, I’d donate money to Haiti instead of using it to enter poker tournaments. Find a new hobby, you goddamn leeches; or knuckle up and finish what you started.

So… I finally got my first top finish in the Bremerton Lanes tournament, but it comes with an asterisk and I don’t feel fully validated. It’s been a good two day run for me as I’ve managed to pull in a week’s worth of income during my days off, but I still feel a little empty. I need to win this tournament the right way.