Tuesday, January 31, 2006


He Doesn't Play Like I Would - How Mystifying

This might be how I do this for a while - certainly nothing particularly interesting happens in Sit and Goes on a hand by hand basis. Except this bad beat I took the other day, er no moving on.

"This" is taking other peoples' trip reports and talking about where I think their thought process is flawed. A lot of the time it's not the decisions they make, it's how they make them. Anyway, hero raises UTG with Ac4c, button calls and villain calls in the BB. Flop comes Ad3c5c. Kerching ! Villain bets out 50K from his 150K stack (unfortunately there is no indication of how big the pot is at this point). Hero moves in. Villain calls and "mystifies" the hero by turning over AK. Hero explains his mystification by saying

"he knew his tournament life was on the line ... He would have been so sick had I been in there with pocket 5's, when he could have raised me out for sure."

1) So his tournament life was on the line. So fucking what. Many players don't think like that any more and I am proud to number myself as one of them. Even in a 10K tournament, as this was, when there may not be another tournament tomorrow of the same size, you have to play as though there is. That's my opinion, many others share it and, this is the important point, you might not but you must account for the fact that other people do.

2) He would have been sick if I had been in there with 55, when he could have raised me out. And if my auntie had bollocks she'd be my uncle. What if, what if, what if ? If hero is going to raise with A4s then he clearly has a very large range of raising hands (nothing wrong with that mind you) which means that, from the villain's POV, hero is quite unlikely to have a pair. If he does have a pair, the probability of the flop making him trips and containing an Ace or a King is rather low. I make it less than 3%, though I have been known to make mistakes on these calculations in the past ! This is what Brunson means in SS1 when he says he'd "rather have AK than AA". If you don't hit AK, you're done with it [in Brunson's cash games]. If you do, then your opponent has only two board cards to beat your hand with instead of three. Think about it, it's good stuff.

In the villain's shoes when he makes his pre-flop decision, the risk of "failing to raise out" a small pair is relatively small because it's so unlikely that we will flop top pair AND opponent would have folded to a pre-flop reraise AND the flop makes him two pair or better, all at the same time. Re-raising incurs much higher risks, namely that one of the two opponents already has a big hand (don't forget the button) or that we will get called and miss the flop, out of position, in what's now a very big pot.

IMO this is one of those hands where no one did anything wrong. For sure raising UTG with A4s is marginal but if you like, why not. Having done so you can't ask for a much better flop to move in on. Villain, after calling pre-flop and (again correctly IMO) leading out [1], has to call the allin because hero could so easily have the hand he does have - AcXc. While that would make villian a small underdog [2], the pot's big enough to mandate a call. Hero could also have AK or (believe it or not) be bluffing in the knowledge that, once again, villain's "tournament life is on the line".

There's quite a lot of information missing from the account, not least what the hero did think that villain held when he bet the flop. If AK mystified him, what did he think he did have ? A bluff ? Who knows. But what comes through is that the hero wants to "pin the blame" for his loss on his opponent and his mystifying play. You know what though, sometimes there is no blame. That's just poker baby.

[1] Unfortunately it's impossible to comment on the bet size when villain leads out, because there's no indication of the pot size. Likewise whether moving in pre-flop was a reasonable option for the villain, although one would guess that it wasn't.

[2] 45% as the cards fall. However, that's with the gutshot straight draw. Against something like AcTc, AK is 53%.


I think that you have hit the nail on the pulse (to add in a religious reference as well as a mixed metaphor) when you say that this was a hand where no-one did anything wrong.

I'm not sure if I am accommodating racial stereotypes if I say that Americans seem particularly guilty of this, but it seems that our friends from the US find it very hard to accept that, if they play well and something doesn't come off, then either:
a) they have suffered a bad beat (in which case the opponent got lucky), or
b) the opponent shouldn't have acted the way that he did if he had been playing properly.

That point (c) can exist (neither of you made a mistake) goes against something deeply buried in the American psyche, that of cause and effect, and of being in control of your own destiny.

Poker plays hell with both concepts, but you will still read poker articles about "winning the tournament by having the will to win" or "gaining the victory through the right mental attitude". I've never seen an article saying "well, he sure got the right cards at the right time, didn't he?" In fact, you are more likely to see an intimation that the winner was rewarded BECAUSE he had the right mental attitude, whereas the loser suffered the bad beat because he was not thinking positively enough.

This psychobabble garbage is fine, of course; it keeps losers coming back for more and gives me the pleasure of posting my "well, I just came her to gamble!" lines when my 75s cracks AKoff after I defend my big blind (what am I there? 42%?) and check-raise any flop that doesn't contain an ace or a king.

Of course, it irritates them to hell when they call that, and your bet on the turn, only for you to spike a five on the river. Heh heh.

I may put up a post on "how could he call me with that!" and its many guises. Another post on Gutshot yesterday I see saying it was impossible to beat the fiver tourney because "I raised with KK and the guy called with A7 off".

I have nothing in common with the posters on these forums any more, I've decided.

Am I being pedantic to suggest that the Villian should have gone for a check raise with his AK?

"Hero" will almost certainly make a continuation bet on the flop and might even call the allin reraise with AQ, AJ or if he suspects the villian is semi bluffing a flush draw he might call with Ax.

Yes I think you could certainly make an argument for check-raising now you mention it.


There's so much to talk about here I'll probably start a new post as well. This desire to impose cause and effect on everything is something I've touched on before. There is also the point that few of the people involved want to admit how large the luck factor is (if they even realise it).

And while I'm playing Sit and Goes rather than limit cash, I am doing very well exploiting the "must make continuation bet" mentality.

Hi Andy

Been enjoying your blogs, thanks for that.

If this is truly how you'll operate in future, I'm offering a sacrifical victim: read my report of this year's Ladbrokes Poker Cruise (www.pokerology.co.uk, in the Forum) and you can tell me how bad I played. At least I never blame the other guy. :0(
Hilarious scenario there Peter B. Having played you on a number of occasions I know for sure that not only will you not be check raising on your hypothetical flop, you won't even be defending your big blind with those cards.

Unless of course this is one of the $1 limit comps I've seen you play on online.

Still, it's nice to dream.
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