Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Two Hands

I have four hands to talk about, and while they're all slightly different, they split quite nicely into two pairs and I want to bang on about them at great length so I thought I'd split it up. All four hands happened within the last two sessions, and what they all have in common is that even six months ago I would have just whacked the money in and said "ZOMG Cooler FML". But now, after playing about half a million hands in three years, I am beginning to pick up some rudimentary hand-reading skills. And I really wish that was a joke.

The first two hands are spots where a judicious turn check would have saved my "tournament life". First one's from memory as it's on Paradise. Middle stage of the tournament, I have 20K and I think it's 300-600, something like that. 3rd position open-raises, I call in the cut-off with AQ and one of the blinds calls as well. Flop comes Axx rainbow, blinds checks, raiser checks, I bet, blind folds, raiser calls. Fairly standard so far. People tend to overplay medium hands on Paradise quite badly so I like my hand here and am preparing to go to the felt with it [1]. Turn, however, is an offsuit Ten. He checks I bet he calls. River blank he checks again and something tells me I should check back, but there's only 6K behind and at least 20K in the pot (maybe I started with less than 20). I can't resist the bet, he calls with AT.

The point is that when we think a little bit deeper than "ZOMG AQ stack off" and do some hand reading, it gets more interesting. He should have quite a narrow range for check-calling the flop. Logically it should only be something like AJ-A9, KK-99, maybe a small set. There aren't many players on Paradise (or anywhere really) tricky enough to check-call AK there. Given that range, a Ten is probably the worst card to come off on the turn. It hits AT and TT obv. It should make AJ very uncomfortable (if he has AJ) because now what can I have that he beats ? What can he reasonably call a turn bet with that I'm still in front of ? AJ seems like about it. So I'm way ahead or way behind (3 outs max either way), which is usually a good pointer towards checking a street, and seeing as I had the option to check either turn or river I could have taken one of them.

The second hand is in the Party $150 last night. I have 2600 and it's 30-60. I pick up KK in the cut-off, standard 3x raise, big blind calls. Flop T75 rainbow, check bet call, all pretty straightforward so far. Turn is an 8 (making a 2-flush). Now he checks, I bet, he raises all in, I sigh-call and can't bink against 87. Same again, let's do some hand-reading when he calls my flop bet. Reasonable hands that I'm still well in front of : AT-JT is about it, even AT might have checkraised or led flop. Reasonable hands that now have a pair+draw : T9, 99, 98, 97, 86, 76, 66, 65. Hands that now lead : T8, 88, 87, J9, 96, 64 (the three straights being less likely) [2]. The rest aren't so likely, maybe A7, KQ/KJ/QJ, stuff like that, plus a few hands that were already in front, sets mostly. He was playing 40/7 so he could easily turn up with any of those hands pre-flop. As in the previous hand, the turn has helped about as much of his range as it could possibly have done. The temptation on the turn for me is to think "ZOMG must protect against T9", but you always have to balance protecting your hand against the possibility that you're just shovelling money in from behind [3].

In the event, he has so many semi-bluffing hands that I don't think calling the check-raise is too bad. I'm at least 55% against the range if he check-raises all his pair+draws. The point is that checking the turn allows me to pick up a ton of information on the river. What card comes off obv, and then what he does. If it comes something scary like a J, 9, 6 or 4 I can fold to a big bet for two reasons. One, the line check-call flop, check-check turn, bet large river is very often an attempted turn check-raise that now wants to make up for the lost value on the turn. Two, when these cards hit, he either got there or he has showdown value, and if he has showdown value he's very unlikely to make a big bet. Again, at this level of tournaments, there are very few players sharp enough to turn something like A7 into a bluff on the river. Neither will they balance their range by betting something like JT that rivers two pair. To summarize my river action : scare card, check behind, bemoan life and probably call a small bet, fold to a big one ; non-scare card, bet if checked to, probably fold to check-raise, call a small bet, bemoan life and probably call a big bet. It's not perfect but it's probably better than just whacking it in at 55%/forcing a lot of losing hands out on the turn.

[1] People like me by the looks of it ...

[2] Notice how many extra hands come in here because of the 5 on the flop. T72 would have been quite a bit different.

[3] Notice on TV that no one ever says "Well [hero] should bet to protect his hand" in the particular case where villain has a set.

For reasons you listed I think the first hand is a fairly easy check behind to let him turn pairs into bluff/sometimes value bet worse on the river.

But the second hand I think is a very easy bet call on the turn. He's far more likely to have AT KT QT JT 9T than a hand that beats you and a 40/7 is going broke here with far too many hands that you crush. If you check behind, there are so many scare cards that he might decide to bet at and I don't think all his bets are for value so we end up folding the best hand more than we should instead of taking a solid edge we have on the turn. It should obviously be noted that it's harder to have sets/two pair just through card removal.
Actually, for the second hand, I think a lot of it depends on how much you bet on the flop (and on the turn).

As it stands, I agre with the previous commenter, don't think betting the turn is that bad. Against the ranges you've stated (AT-JT, 66-99, T9, 98, 97, 86, 76, 65, T8, 88, 87, J9, 96, 64), you're still more than 78%-21% in front. The bet does make sense, even given that range, I think.

The question is how much you bet, and what odds you're giving him. And then what odds you're getting on the all-in. But if you're just talking about whether you should bet or check, I think a bet is a better play than checking.

Disclaimer: I'm far from a good player, so these are just my thoughts, feel free to disagree. =).
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