Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How not to play kings

I was playing one of my usual nightly SNG tournaments on Bodog a few hours ago when this hand occurred:

Let's look at how my opponent played his K-K step by step.

He was in third position and limped after two folds (blinds 15/30). This is not good in most cases. If you have an especially aggressive table at which you will reliably see a light raise and reraise from the late-position players, then OK, maybe. But this table definitely did not fit that description. He could easily have ended up out of position facing four to five opponents in a limpfest.

I raised from the button with A-J. The action folded back to our villain, who min-raised. This is nutty. The whole point of the limp-reraise trick is to trap a bunch of money in the pot and take it down preflop with a prohibitively large raise, because you don't want to have to play the entire hand from out of position. The minimum raise will virtually never accomplish this goal. He was making the pot 255, charging me 50 to call. That is, he was offering me better than 5:1 pot odds for a call. Because he was only about a 2.5:1 favorite to win, I would be correct to call in that spot even if I saw his cards and therefore knew that his hand was better than mine. (My guess is that if you asked this guy to recite David Sklansky's fundamental theorem of poker, he would just stare at you with glassy, uncomprehending eyes.)

So now we have a flop: Ad-Qh-10h. He should consider this just about as bad a flop as he could have imagined, because high on the list of hands with which I might have raised and then called his reraise are any ace, Q-Q, 10-10, and K-J, all of which now have him crushed. He leads out with a half-pot bet. OK, I don't blame him for that. I might certainly have some smaller pocket pair that would be forced to fold, or a weak ace that I would fold for fear of him having a better one. But a bet here should be, from his point of view, tentative and probing, not committal. If he wins, he breathes a sigh of relief and moves on. If, on the other hand, he is raised, he has to assume he is far behind. It would also be justifiable to check/fold, just giving up.

I did not believe that he had any of the few hands that beat me here, so I raised. This should have been a clear signal to him to get out while the getting was good. Nope. He called. Fold would have been best. As a second-best choice, a shove over the top has the merit of giving me considerable pause, and might have even worked, convincing me that he played A-A, A-K, A-Q, Q-Q, or 10-10 strangely. I had started the hand with a stack of 1480 and had put in a total of 540 with my flop raise. It would hurt to put in more than a third of my chips and then fold, but I would still have 32 big blinds to play with, so I could do it if he told a good story.

Calling was absolutely the worst of his three options. What was he hoping would happen next? If a king came to give him a set, he'd have to worry that I had A-J or J-J for a straight. If a jack came to give him a straight, he'd have to worry that he'd end up with only half the pot, and only half of the blinds for profit. Any heart and he'd have to wonder if I had made a flush--and if I did, it would likely be the nut flush, so even a fourth heart on the river wouldn't help him. There just wasn't going to be anything on fourth street that he could really be happy with in this situation.

Of course, I was forced to wonder what in the hell he was taking this bizarre line with, but whatever it was, the 6s on the turn could not have helped him. If I was ahead on the flop, I was still ahead. With 1125 in the pot and him having only another 610 behind (I had him covered), it was a no-brainer to shove when he checked the turn. This was his last chance to do something right and fold a clear loser. He had only a bluff-catcher at this point. A fold would still leave him a workable stack of 20 big blinds.

Nope. He called. The only way he could win was with a jack on the river for Broadway--a three-outer. He didn't make it.

This guy had six decision points in this hand. Only two are defensible--the lead-out bet on the flop and the check on the turn (though the latter should have been made with the intention of check-folding if I bet). It would be difficult to find a way to play pocket kings any worse than this.

You see why I find these games profitable?

1 comment:

The Neophyte said...

If I'm gonna lose with kings it certainly won't be by limping preflop or just doubling someone else's raise. What is he hoping for here, that you were playing 9-9 or KQ? You might have raised him preflop with those but you aren't going to push that hard at him on that flop with those holdings