So there I am, sitting at the Big Game last week, playing the lowest no limit they have ($1/$2). I’ve seen them starts lists for $5/$10 no limit with a $2,500 maximum buyin, but that’s a tale for another time.
I’ve just spent an hour bullying the table for $200 and I look down in the big blind at Seven-Four of hearts. Jack’s Righteous Fucking Ego comes out of my mouth.
"Alright guys, I’m going to play this hand, while telling you that this is a hand you would normally fold."
I’m such a jerk. I deserve to lose every dollar on this hand.
The flop comes out Ace-Six-Three of Diamonds. I bet $6 into an $8 pot. There’s a long silence as every player slowly thinks about the all diamond flop, my previous statement, and then folds their cards. I rake in the mighty $8 pot.
"You’re not gonna show us?" they ask.
"No, it costs $6 to see that hand."
As I stack the chips, it occurs to me that I’ve become way too cocky, and I take a little tilt walk to the bathroom to try and shake the asinine out of my game before I lose all my money.
Fast forward to this weekend. Sarah and another friend threw a baby shower for a mutual friend on Saturday night at our house. We had this planned as a blowout. I had drained and refilled the hot tub, scrubbing the sides and perfecting the water balance. Michelle hung balloons in the trees. Sarah bought obscene amounts of wine and food. Dual iPods were setup with dance mixes.
By 11pm the mother-to-be was tired, and the party broke up. I put Sarah and the baby to bed and called the Big Game. They had a $1/$2 table going with 6 people and a $2/$5 table that was full and invited me over. I threw on a jacket, put two cigars in my pocket, and popped over to the game.
I rolled in and looked at the 2/5 table. By my count there was at least $15,000 in chips on that table spread amongst 9 people. I quickly sat down at the 1/2 table, as I intended to play for $300 buyin.
By now you know that I busted out, but here’s the hand that did it.
I looked down at a pair of Kings in the small blind, meaning I would be betting nearly last after everyone else on the first round. It came around to me unraised and knowing that raises to $4 were taking down pots, I decided to play it slow before the flop and strong afterwards. This was in direct response to the player two to my left who had been reading everyone, but especially me, like a book all night. He’d play crap, and if he read me for weakness, play his crap hard and either win the pot when I didn’t hit cards and he outbet me, or draw out with something better.
Usually I’d just wait for cards against a player like this, but we were 4 handed for an hour, and it’s hard to play tight in that situation.
So by the time my Kings arrived, we had become 7 handed. I got 4 callers, including ‘Brad’, a guy who came back after the bars closed because the Big Game was serving drinks all night, and with the $10 / hour time charge, it’s cheaper than a bar anyway. He downed a beer and large shot of Jagermeister and called the $2 blind, passing the option to me. I called as well, putting $10 in the pot.
The flop came 6d5d4c. I checked, the guy with the excellent read on me bet $5. He got one caller, and ‘Brad’ called the $5 bet as well. The pot had $25 in it. I raised the bet to $25. The excellent reader and another guy folded and ‘Brad’ called my $25. The pot now had $70 in it.
A 2 of spades came on the turn, and I bet out $100 immediately, intending to make Brad fold. Brad called. I pondered if he had already made a straight, if he just made a straight, or if he was slow playing a set into that board. (A big mistake) The pot now has $270 in it.
The river came a 4 of hearts and I bet my last $162. He had me covered by about $30 and he called, turning over 74 diamonds. He had a pair of fours and an open-ended straight and flush draw when he hit his set of fours on the river. I puzzled over his calling my $100 bet when he said apologetically, "I thought you were trying to steal the pot!" This is where I realized my mistake of not raising my kings before the flop. He might have folded earlier had he known I had him beat. However the math says he played it fine when you include the implied odds of my hand.
Assuming all the diamonds were in play, he had 15 outs to hit his hand, provided he had me read for a big pair. The pot was laying him 1.7 to 1 odds. His draw was 46 to 15, or roughly 3 to 1, so indeed, he was making an explicit mistake. However if he assumed that my aggression continued to the river and I would put in my last $162, then the pot was laying him 3.32 to 1 odds, making his call correct and in fact, profitable. I think he played the hand well and I overplayed my kings.
As I analyzed my play over the last few days, I thought about that $100 bet. Raising the kings before the flop is an easy mistake to learn from, but that $100 turn bet that he called is a real crux point. Should I have just gone all in there? Does it make sense to bet $262 to win $70? I’m hard pressed to find too much fault with it. Another way to play the hand would have been to moderate my bets every street to $25 or so each, but then I would have given him a statistically easy choice, and that’s not the right answer either.
I think the right answer lies in the fact that the board is too well coordinated to create lots of hands that beat my pair of kings. I should have ratcheted down my expectation of what I was going to make and checked the river to let the kings go when he bet.
[I’ve just finished a long conversation with Katie and we summarized it as "Playing a big pair that doesn’t improve should be thought of as an exercise in losing as little money as possible."]