A hand I played last week is one of those that keeps sticking in my mind, unsure whether my decision-making was sound.
Bill is a 60-ish local. I've spent many, many hours at the tables with him, though mostly in my first couple of years in town, when we both played a ton at the Hilton poker room. Since it closed, I've only encountered him a handful of times. For the most part, he is the stereotypical local TAG nut-peddler. But he's entirely capable of pulling a switcheroo now and then, and he's absolutely not afraid to turn up the heat when his BS alarm goes off.
A few people had left the game in rapid succession, leaving us temporarily five-handed. The table was almost entirely passive, with a disgusting amount of limp-calling and limp-folding going on. I had been taking advantage of both of these facts to go on a mini-streak of raising and stealing. But the only time anybody had tried to keep me honest lately was when I was good, with A-J on an ace-high board, beating her ace-rag for good value. In spite of that hand, I had the feeling that I was getting under these people's skin with raising so much more than my fair share, and somebody was likely to be feeling the need to draw a line in the sand very soon.
Just as I was thinking that it might be time to back off for a while, I found Ac-10c in the big blind, and everybody ahead of me limped in. I hate playing multi-way limped pots, especially out of position. A suited ace-ten had a very good chance of being the current best hand, so I decided to extend my raising streak by one more pot before dropping down a gear. I made it $15, which was my biggest pre-flop raise yet. If these people were going to make me play a vulnerable hand like this from out of position, by God they were going to have to pay to do it, thinks me.
Everybody folded except for Bill, who was UTG+1 (which was also one off the button).
The flop was 10-7-3 rainbow (one club), giving me top pair/top kicker, plus an overcard and backdoor flush draw as emergency reserve chutes. So I got that goin' for me, which is nice. I bet $20 into the roughly $30 pot. Bill didn't hesitate a bit, grabbed a handful of chips, dropped three stacks of four across the line, plus one more, thereby raising to $65. He sat back and stared at me, looking quite smug and comfortable. I had started the hand with about $210, and Bill had me covered.
Calling was not a reasonable option. That move would give me no chance to win the pot right then, would give me no additional information, and would put me on the defensive out of position. I also couldn't put in any raise that didn't pot-commit me, so it was shove or fold.
What could Bill have? Well, I felt I could be reasonably confident that he didn't have an overpair to this board. With pocket jacks or better, he surely would have raised pre-flop. He can't be on a draw with this flop. I don't think he would have paid $15 to play any hand that could have flopped two pair here. Set-mining? Yes, that's always a consideration, given his limp-call. But on a board this dry, and him having position on me, I think it's more likely that he'd smooth-call and let me fire again on the turn.
I decided that the two most likely types of hands he could have were top pair (A-10 matching mine, or, even more likely, K-10 or Q-10) or a pocket pair, specifically 8s or 9s. I was comfortably ahead of both of those categories. Because of the table dynamics I described earlier, in this particular situation I thought I could extend his range further than I usually would. He could plausibly have a small pocket pair, or even have no pair (A-Q, say), and be trying to send me a message: "I know you can't be strong every time you're pretending to be. It's time for you to knock it off." This possibility, too, would be good for me, as I happened to have hit the flop about as well as one can reasonably hope to, and better than he might expect.
On the other hand, because he has a tricky streak in him, I couldn't entirely rule out an overpair. And the set thing always strikes dread into my heart, because I would be drawing nearly dead if that were the case. As mentioned, his pre-flop limp-call was perfectly consistent with set-mining. Why would he drop the hammer now instead of waiting until fourth street? Maybe he just wanted to end the drama now, and not risk giving me some sort of monster combo draw if the turn was a Broadway card that matched the suit of one on the flop.
So that was my dilemma. I felt that I was ahead of more than half of Bill's range here, but I was in terrible shape against a smaller but still substantial portion of it (the sets and overpairs). I loathe putting in my entire stack on one pair--even if it is top pair with top kicker--especially against a player who historically has usually had me beat when he comes out with this kind of aggression. But perhaps this was one of the uncommon situations where it was justified, because he was misreading me as (1) stealing from the limpers yet again, and/or (2) putting in a continuation bet with little or nothing to back it up.
It was even possible that, in the unlikely event that he had J-J or Q-Q, I could convince him that I had A-A or K-K and induce a bad fold. Conversely, I was unlikely to induce a bad call with a shove, because Bill is too smart to stack off with less than what I had. If he had top pair with a lower kicker, or a smaller pocket pair, he'd snort and glower a bit, but most likely fold to a reraise.
So, dear readers, what would you do? All in or fold? Or is there some justification for just smooth-calling that I'm not adequately taking into consideration?
I'll go write up what I did and set it to post in about 24 hours.