Monday, January 17, 2011

Folding 20:1 pot odds

Would you ever fold if you had a strong hand, were getting 20:1 on a call, and were guaranteed not to have to put any more money in? Saw a guy do it yesterday.

I was playing at Mandalay Bay. It was a weird table, in terms of action. A typical pre-flop hand was either an early-position opening raise, called by anywhere from three to eight players, or a bunch of limping, then a late-position raise, and all the limpers calling. We were commonly seeing flops with five to eight players, each having put in $12-18. But three-bets were scarce as hen's teeth. I can't remember the last time I saw a table with such a recurring pattern. It was weird.

(An even stranger coincidence is that my friend Jon Katkin had, just the day before, prophetically Tweeted this: "I both love & hate tables where players limp for $2 and then call a $15 raise." I understood exactly what he meant. Making hands was profitable, but shaking people off after missing was an exercise in futility.)

In the hand in question, I joined the chorus of limpers from middle position with Ah-4h. The player to my left raised to $16. I was going to fold, but then he got called in four other spots before the action was back to me. I did the typical donkey thing, throwing in the extra money while muttering to myself, "Pot odds." The pot stood at about $92 after the rake.

So six of us saw the flop of Ks-8h-9h. Nothin' but a flush draw for me. It was checked to the original raiser, who put in $25. Too much for me, I thought. But then only one other player dropped out; four called. Quick math showed $92 + $100 = $192 in the pot, $25 to call, more than 7:1. Even with no additional implied odds, that made it a decent call to see one more card. I felt like I was getting sucked in little by little, like matter from a star being pulled off by a nearby black hole. But I called anyway, hoping that I wouldn't hit the event horizon and get torn apart. Pot now at $217.

The turn was the 7h. Nice! With that many people in, I had a little anxiety about being up against a straight flush, but I decided that that was just one of those things I'd have to write off if it happened. With no pair on the board, I'm not folding the nut flush.

First guy to act bet $75. It was folded to me. I moved all in for my last $94. Original raiser folded with a heavy sigh. The only one still with cards was the guy who bet $75. With his bet and mine included, the pot was at about $386. He had to call just $19 more to match my all-in. There was nobody left who could raise it more, and there could be no more betting on the river. It was a pure pot-odds situation with no future to worry about, and he was being offered just over 20:1 on the call.

I assumed it would be automatic for him. I'm not sure I've ever folded a hand when getting 20:1 with no more money to be put in, unless maybe I was on a stone-cold bluff and had zero chance of winning. This guy, though, said, "I wanted the 7, but not in hearts." He then flashed his black J-10 (nut straight), and mucked it.

I only rarely show my cards when winning without a showdown, but under the circumstances I was sufficiently impressed with his fold that I decided to reward him by removing whatever minuscule doubt may have remained in his mind about what I had--though given the fold, he was obviously extremely confident about what he was up against. He just nodded grimly.

I question the wisdom of his $75 bet, given that with that many players calling on that flop it was highly likely that at least one of them had a flush draw that had just arrived, leaving him drawing dead.

But after that is done, I think you have to admire him for finding the fold. I'm sure I would have thought, "Hey, maybe the guy flopped a set and he's now just hoping against hope that my $75 bet isn't a flush or a straight, or at least he's praying to pair the board. Or maybe he has somethig like two pair and a flush draw. He probably just made a flush, but I think those other possibilities add up to at least one time in 20. I just can't pass up a nearly $400 pot for a measly $19."

His fold said, in essence, "I'm more than 95% sure that you just made a flush and I now absolutely cannot win." He had been playing with me for a couple of hours, so he likely had recognized that I wasn't throwing my money in lightly. Still, I don't think I'd get myself to that level of confidence. I'd make the crying call and curse my bad luck. He, on the other hand, got to keep $19 that I would have lost. Tip o' the hat to him for seeing clearly what the situation was and not acting out of a sense of either frustration or resignation.


HighOnPoker said...

Grump, I'm not against showing your cards, but this is one of the occasions where I really advise against it. The only time it makes sense is if you are trying to establish your image and you want to encourage future 20:1 folds. But, in the end, I think all you do is boost your opponent's confidence and confirm that he is making the right read. I think it'd be better not to show here and let that doubt linger in his mind.

Brian said...

His bet/fold here is dreadful.