Saturday, September 11, 2010

Folding the Mighty Deuce-Four

I played last night at Mandalay Bay. Fairly early in the session, I had a situation in which I ended up folding the Mighty Deuce-Four, after having flopped trip 4s. That doesn't happen often--in fact, never has before--so I thought I'd tell you about it.

I had 2h-4s. The under-the-gun player raised to $10. I smooth-called, as did the button. The flop was 6-4-4 with two clubs. Ding! UTG bet $25. I called, hoping that the button would come along and enrich the pot. (I ain't afraid of no crubs!)

To my surprise, though, the button raised to $80. He was new to the table, having been there only a few hands, so I had no sense of his play. UTG, a completely straightforward, A-B-C player, agonized for quite a while, then folded. No question in my mind that he had a big overpair, which had been the most likely thing from the get-go.

But now what do I do? Very few $1-2 NLHE players raise with just a flush draw, even the nut flush draw and even on the button, especially against two opponents, and especially when the board is already paired. If he had flopped a full house, with 6-6 or 4-6 in hand, I don't think he would raise there. More likely, he would assume and hope that one of his opponents (in this situation, more likely me) was on a flush draw, and he would want to let that hit, so as to maximize the chances of capturing a whole stack. So I pretty much ruled that out. Could he have a big overpair? Maybe, but not very likely, I thought. If he had kings or aces, he probably would have reraised pre-flop, and without them, he would have to be worried that UTG had a bigger pair.

The most obvious conclusion is that he had the case four with a bigger kicker. What hands would a typical player be willing to call an UTG raise with? Only two answers: Suited A-4, or maybe the suited connectors, 3-4 and 4-5. If he had A-4, I could catch up only by hitting my kicker, drawing to three outs. If he had 3-4 or 4-5, chances are we would chop the pot in the end (11% I win, 13% he wins, 76% we split it). However, there was no doubt in my mind, from the way he placed his bet, that in order to get to that point I was going to have to commit my stack, which was a little less than his. Even if he had turned his hand over at that point so that I could see a 3-4 or 4-5, I'm not sure I'd be willing to risk the additional $200 or so in order to be able to claim about $15 profit (my half of the $35 that UTG had put in and abandoned, minus the rake). When you add in the very real possibility that I was up against A-4 (13% I win, 70% he wins, 18% chop), it seemed like a bad gamble.

I decided to fold, which is pretty darn rare after flopping any three of a kind. I thought that I'd see if I could coax from him some confirmation of my decision, so I folded face-up, smiled, and said, "Let's see if folding this is the right move." In response, he flashed me the 3c before giving his cards back to the dealer.

He could not have had the 3c-4c, since the 4c was on the board. I doubt that he would have played an unsuited 3-4 in that spot. That leads me to the conclusion that his most likely hand was 3c-5c, for the flopped open-ended straight-flush draw. I admit that that's a possibility that I hadn't thought of at the moment, but it makes perfect sense. Especially with the overlay of an extra couple of hundred bucks from a high-hand jackpot, he would understandably be willing to play for stacks in that spot, even if he knew he were up against somebody with made trips.

Now here's the most interesting question: If he had shown me the 3c-5c there, what would be the right move? Call, fold, or shove (the latter being with the assumption that he would call)? As I thought about it immediately after the hand, I thought that we were just about 50/50, as he would presumably have 14 outs to beat my trips (the usual 15 that an OESFD brings, minus the one deuce I was holding). I'm not a fan of flipping coins for stacks, since there will almost always come far better situations than that if I invest a little time and patience. But to my surprise, now that I run it through an odds calculator, I would have been farther ahead than that guesstimate. In fact, I would be a 61%/39% favorite.

In retrospect, it's obvious that that's because of all of the boats I could make that turn his outs into what some have proposed calling "douts"--cards that make a hand but don't make it the winner. He had two cards that would give him a lock, but failing that I had seven cards on the turn and then ten more on the river that would fill me up or make quads. So if I had actually seen what I assume now that he had, and had been smart in my thinking, yes, I would have been happy to match stacks with him on that flop.

Even as it was, with my assumption that he had the last 4 in the deck, maybe I should have had more faith than I did that I would be sent a miracle deuce to beat his better kicker. I hang my head in shame at my faltering and wavering. My early religious training comes rushing back to me, and I remember the touching story of the man who brought his son to Jesus for the casting out of an evil spirit (Mark 9:17-30). He was told, "All things are possible to him that believeth." The man's plaintive reply was a classic, and I now invoke it to the poker gods: "Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief."


BWoP said...

Hmmmmm . . . so you folded the mighty deuce-four to what was likely an open-ended straight flush draw in crubs . . .

I think you made the wise choice :-)

Rob said...

I'm a big fan of your blog and your fondness for deuce-four has definitely rubbed off on me. So it was with some confidence that I woke up with this monster in the big blind last night during my regular poker game (i live in Dubai so this is all very much behind closed doors..) and decided to check the unraised pot (my first real error, probably). The flop landed deuce, 3, 6 rainbow, furnishing me with the formidable combo of bottom pair and inside straight draw. Clearly i was going nowhere in this hand. Check. Under the gun bet 100 dirhams (about $22) and got a caller, so i decided to stick around and see what the turn would bring. A four. With four cards to a straight on the board I was in a bit of a sticky situation with my two-pair and out of position, checked once again (you must do a post some time on how to play deuce-four out of position). UTG overbet 500 dirhams (over $100) into a pot of about 400 and yer man behind him quickly called. Clearly both of these jokers had a five. Now statistically i had absolutely no right to even contemplate a call, but my interest in your blog (and subsequent appreciation for the might of deuce-four) somehow made this a very hard lay down. You know how occasionally you just get this bizarre premonition that your card is coming, despite odds calculations telling you to run for the hills? I counted out the necessary chips, stacked and unstacked them a few times, and got to the point where i had lifted them off the table and was about to toss them into the middle. And then i thought, what the hell am i doing calling that bet? So i folded.
Out pops a deuce.
UTG shows 6/5, as does the caller, splitting what would have been a pretty good pot had i called.
I want you to know that i don't think i'll ever be able to fold deuce-four again.
Keep up the great blog!