I should be sleeping…

…but I’m posting my rah rah hand moment.  I played at the Big Dirty Game tonight.  It was destined to be a tension filled evening.  Of course I couldn’t forget my $800 slide there the last two sessions, along with my self-doubt that I was playing without a clue.  After my successful no limit weekend I had my confidence back and I walked into the club with a single $300 buyin.  I was prepared to try and out-think my opponents.

The two very best players in the club sat down and I thought, uh oh.

I made two mistakes overplaying poor hands against a strong player and a poor player.  I beat the poor player, and lost $400 to the strong player, but still had $200 left, so I wasn’t out.  I played some bad hands then, but got control of myself and regained my focus.  Finally I looked down at a raise from the Pretty Boy (he had $700), a call from the Barman (he had $650), and a pair of jacks in my hand (I had $400).  These guys are aggressive enough that I am not able to pattern their play in any way, so I’m basically playing my cards, while they’re playing their cards and me (and my cards, in a way).

We saw the flop for $16 each, which is like it wasn’t raised at all.  This is a wild game where this isn’t really considered a raise at all, and it came 962 with two clubs.  I didn’t hold a club.  Pretty Boy bet $30, Barman raised it to $70, and I went deep into the tank to think.  I’ve seen Pretty Boy make this play with an overpair, but I thought I could rule out Aces through Queens, there would have been a bigger pre flop raise.  He could have jacks, or more likely tens.  Yes, there’s a set possible, but the odds are low he hit it.  He could also play large unpaired cards that way.  I didn’t think he’d have 2 pair because he wouldn’t raise under the gun with 96 or 62 or 92.  So his range is a pair (Aces through Sevens), big unpaired overcards (Ace King down to Ace Ten), or top pair (Nine with an Ace).

Barman would almost certainly be playing this way to isolate with top pair (a 9 with any kicker), a straight draw, or a flush draw.  He wouldn’t have just called $16 with any pair, he would have re-raised.  He would have played that way with 10-10 or 8-8.

I felt that Barman was trying to take the hand down cheaply, and I thought they thought I would fold.  I had been folding a lot all night, but occasionally would show down crap.  I definately had them thrown.  I decided my jacks were probably the favorite here.  Sure I could be against a set, but I’d know pretty soon about that when I got re-raised.  I wasn’t going to get called by Aces through Queens because they didn’t exist in my opponent’s hands.  I needed to make this too expensive for them to continue in the hand.  I raised it to $150 to go and Pretty Boy thought for a while and folded.

Barman fiddled with his cards.  "Shabbir Shabbir…." he shook his head and said "Good bet" and folded, showing a Jack of clubs.  It turns out he had the Jack-Nine, and Pretty Boy had Ace Queen.  Pretty Boy went insane the rest of the evening trying to get me to tell him what I had, and I finally offered him a deal.  I’ll tell him, if in the future I get to expose one of his hands instead of folding it.  He agreed and I told him.  He’s good for it, and so sometime in the future I’ll exercise that favor when I make a tough fold against him.

The money’s nice (I finished up about $250), but more so is the fact that I realized that when I’m thinking I can be competitive with these guys.  Pretty Boy has a real job, as does Barman, but Barman in particular is my aspiration for poker skill.  (I don’t want his life).  He owns several businesses that seem to run without difficulty and so he plays poker every night, and during the day plays as well at an outdoor game in the DC area.  He gets in hours of practice time and his play really shows a level of complexity, insight, aggression, and trickiness I really aspire to.  If I hadn’t moved away I would have gone to sit at his feet and begged him to take me on as an acolyte.  Alas I’ll have to keep looking.

This also brings me into positive territory this year for the Big Dirty Game, something that had haunted me for a few weeks.  I’m toying with the idea of just playing no limit this year, purely so I can practice my skills at cash games and tournaments.  The hand reading and "range of hands" analysis are very similar in both game types, and so I think I could really focus in well.  I don’t want to learn some obscure game just so I can be good at it.

As an aside I had a long talk with my poker colleague Chris about my theory about low limit hold’em being all about the cards, and the concensus was that I needed to move up in limits or stop grading myself on whether I win or lose money, since getting dealt cards is a prerequisite to win money in these games.  I think I might do both…


  1. chillrob on May 9, 2007 at 7:19 pm

    So you really think Barman is the best player there? I assume he is the club owner who stacked me after he was the only one who called a big raise from me with QQ when he had J7o?!? Of course he hit a J and a 7 on the flop and I made a somewhat bad call, but only because I had seen him put a _lot_ of money in on a previous hand with only one pair.

    I am not much of a NL player, but I cannot see how he had the odds to play J7o for a $30 or $35 raise against someone who only has about $200 in front of him and who he himself put on an overpair to his two cards (even if I am willing to stack off when he hits the flop hard).

    That hand confirmed why I don’t like NL, but also made me figure he was a weak player who had just gotten lucky that hand. Chris told me maybe the guy thought I was just making plays since I had raised preflop several times in the previous hour and won each time without a showdown (but actually I never played a hand weaker than AQ). Seems like if he wanted to take a stand against me it would be with something better than J7o though…

  2. ShabbirJSafdar on May 9, 2007 at 8:34 pm

    There is no hand that is worse than 4 to 1 preflop, and when you raise to $30 with $200 behind and you’re the kind of person who can’t get away from a big pair, then you are offering almost 6 to 1 odds, since your whole stack is likely to be in play when you push on the flop.

    In other words, if you can’t lay down a big pair to a crappy two pair or a set, then you will always be giving your opponents odds equal to your entire stack.

    Barman consistently has $700+ ($400 of someone else’s money) whenever I play a session with him, and I rarely see him rebuy. I think he correctly identified your weakness and exploited it.

    You could learn a lot from this hand, I know I have. I’ve lost money in this exact same situation repeatedly while learning this lesson.

  3. chillrob on May 9, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    I know I didn’t play that hand great, but as I said I had seen him put a lot of money in with one pair before so I thought he could have easily had just a jack.
    Even if you assume he will get my whole stack if he hits, how often will he hit two pair or a set on the flop? I wouldn’t think it would be as much as 1/7 of the time (but would like to know). OK – I just checked a website – QQ is over a 6 to 1 favorite there, and that is including the entire 5 card board – odds have to be a lot worse that he he will hit trips or two pair on the flop.

    Also, while I had a weakness, he couldn’t have correctly identified it, he couldn’t have known I would put in my whole stack if I had an overpair; I had only played there for an hour and not shown down a single hand. I had only even seen one flop!

    While I know you have seen a lot more of his play than I did, I just don’t see any great play here…about 90 percent of the time he just threw away $30, and the other 10 he could get the re-suck later (I still had 8 outs on the river).

  4. ShabbirJSafdar on May 10, 2007 at 10:42 am

    You shouldn’t be asking what the odds of QQ vs J7 here, but what range of hands is likely to behave in the ways possible. You shouldn’t consider your odds against J7s, but against the range of hands that might call your raise here. Barman should be asking what range of hands might make that $30 raise, and then push on the flop.

    For Barman, who can actually lay down hands that don’t hit the flop, hisrange includes any pair that might hit a set or beat the flop, AKs down to 76s, and AKo and AQo.

    In that situation, you could only assume you were a 2.5 to 1 favorite, not a 6 to 1 favorite.

    From his point of view, he could put you on any pair, AKs down to ATs, KJs, QJs, AKo down to AJo, and possibly KJo. That range of hands makes his J7s a 1.85 to 1 underdog, which is plenty good to call a raise for $30 given the money you had behind you and the assumption that he could outplay you after flop.

    There’s also the fact that if he’s constantly sitting on a stack of $600-$700, so $30 doesn’t mean much to him. You usually play short-stacked though, and so the money means something different to you.

  5. chillrob on May 10, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    Well, I am reading and trying to figure things out, but I still disagree with your analysis here.
    I agree that he couldn’t have known I had an overpair – he did predict it, but only after I went all in on the flop.

    However, I don’t think he could assume I was playing as loose as you say – actually I wasn’t playing anything worse than AQo to 99 outside of late position during that session.

    Also, I am pretty sure his J7 was unsuited, and even if I missed it and it was suited, that is still well below the standards you gave for him.

    The fact that he has a lot of money sitting in front of him shouldn’t matter – again I am no NL expert, but all I have read suggests the effective stack size is that of the smallest stack (at least headsup). He should have been playing as if he had a $200 stack, because that’s all he could win.

    When it comes down to it, although I may not have played as well after the flop as I should have, I bet enough preflop to protect my hand even assuming I would go in no matter what. The only hands beating me preflop were AA and KK. I bet enough that no smaller pair had set odds on the flop, nor did any other hand have 6-1 or better odds to beat me on the flop except for one hand, AK. Very unlikely that anyone had AK here, and regardless I was very unlikely to stack off if an A or K flopped.

    I think the bottom line is – I made a mistake on the flop, but he made a bigger one preflop. If you assume I lose my stack everytime he beats me on the flop and run it 1000 times, I think I still come out ahead. Plus sometimes I suck out on the turn or river. Plus I think he puts in at least something when he flops just top pair with a jack and is still behind.

    Again, maybe he is a very good player. I just don’t think he showed it on that hand. A lot of people who are good players think they are better than they really are and then play hands that are too weak. Or it could have been as simple as that he didn’t realize I only had $200 in front of me (I had been winning, and most people bought in for more than I did).

  6. ShabbirJSafdar on May 10, 2007 at 1:47 pm

    If you run the numbers in PokerStove, J7 offsuit vs AA-99, AQs, AKs, AKo, and AQo, the J7o is a 3 to 1 underdog. Good odds when compared to your stack of 6 to 1.

  7. chillrob on May 10, 2007 at 1:59 pm

    Only if you assume I am willing to go all in with Ace high, or with 99 or TT when a jack is on the flop. I don’t play quite that bad!