Friday, February 13, 2009

"Bob" Makes a Tough Laydown on a Dangerous Board, 2/11/09 Game

As we all know, a huge part of winning poker is trusting your reads, then making the right plays based on those reads. Getting away from big made hands when you think (or know) that you’re beat will save you huge in the long run. “Bob” and I played for a rather large side pot on Wednesday. While my move pushed him out of a decent-sized pot with the best hand, I think he analyzed the hand correctly and made a good laydown given his read of the situation. While the video below might read as a successful bluff by EMG, I think it is a great example of a winning play by a good player. I’d like to think I could make that laydown (and I have in the past), but I’ve also lost plenty of huge pots by failing to go with my gut...

Preflop: EMG middle position. His hand range for limping is rather wide. Given the tighter action at the table, he could have a medium pair, suited connectors, big cards, etc. In this case, he has AQ, which is an interesting play. Since he had been playing tight, limp-calling a moderate raise disguises the strength of his hand. In addition, in multi-way pots, a player can get away cheap on a flop that misses. Or, in the case of a raise and a big reraise, EMG can just throw his hand away rather than play a huge pot in middle position with AQ. Dooley has an okay hand with KJ offsuit. It is playable, but in position, he’s fine to pop it up to $2.50. Given his tighter image, he has a chance to scoop a quick $1.25 without a fight.

Fat Tony comes over the top for all of his chips on the short stack with AJ. I’m fine with this play. He is very likely to have the best hand right now. He is hoping for 2 live cards or a race against only 1 of the 2 remaining players. In this case, he is a 3:1 dog to EMG, but is a 3:1 favorite to Bob. EMG smooth calls a pretty large reraise after a limp. Bob should be suspicious about this play, but calling with 3.5:1 pot odds with big cards is an okay play here. The main pot is about $24.50, and EMG and Bob will play on the side.

The Flop: This is a scary flop for any hand that doesn’t hold a club. Even though Bob has an up-and-down straight draw, he could easily be beaten by a made flush/straight flush, the J of clubs is freerolling against him, and QJ has a made straight. EMG checks, so Bob wants to isolate for the main pot. His $10 bet is a little small, but he’s probing for information. He’s asking EMG, “Do you have a made hand or a big flush draw?”. EMG flat calls the raise, which probably says, “Yes, I have a big flush draw or a J.” The side pot is now $20, with the total pot around $44.50.

The Turn: Good news! You hit your straight with the Q. If EMG has a lone J, you are now crushing him with the nut straight. The Q is also not a club, meaning your opponent has not made a flush if he had the Ac or Kc. If I’m Bob, I feel pretty good about my situation. In a somewhat surprising move, EMG goes all in! You immediately have to replay the hand in your head. He limp-calls preflop, check-calls a decent bet on the flop, then pushes all in on the turn on that board? The likely hand range here: the made nut flush, AJ with a lone club, A-x with the Ac, a small made flush (like the 4c-5c), or KJ with a club. In real life, Bob thought about this for a long time before folding. It was an agonizing decision, and if he saw my cards, he would have instacalled. However, from his perspective, I played this very oddly, and he was completely caught off guard by the play.

The River: With Bob throwing away the best hand (correctly, as I noted), Fat Tony has the made straight, and it holds up for a decent pot. EMG scoops the side pot for a small net gain.

Analysis: Going through the hand from Bob’s perspective after the EMG all in, I have to eliminate the made flush. If EMG had the nut flush, he’d likely check-raise the turn to get all the chips in the middle. If he had a smaller flush, he’d probably fire on the flop and push the turn to protect his hand against a big club draw. If I’m in his shoes, I probably put him on a set of 8's, maybe KJ with the Kc, or maybe a hand like A-10 or A-Q with the Qc. Getting 3:1 on my money, I am getting the right price. I'm almost certainly beating most hands he could have bet that way with. Folding is not the right play there mathematically unless I am definitive that he has a made flush. It is a ballsy play by EMG, and I let him off the hook. Regardless, I (Bob) definitely put it in my memory bank for the future.

From my perspective (as EMG), I read physical weakness in Bob when he called Fat Tony’s all in behind me pre-flop. Even so, I checked a scary board on the flop, hoping to get a free draw at my flush. I expected a bet from Bob, but I read definite uncertainty in the way he bet that $10 on the flop. I flat called with pot odds to hit my flush and with an idea that I could push all in on the turn and probably take the side pot. I probably should have went with my read and reraised there (representing a made flush) and taken it down. I played a little scared, and it could have cost me dearly. The Q was actually a bad card for me because it made my opponent's hand and strengthened my own. My read was that Bob had J-10 with no clubs. I determined that I was about 80% likely to take the side pot right there with a shove, and I and might even be ahead of Fat Tony for the main pot. If I’m wrong, I still think I have the biggest club out there, so I have up to 9 outs on a redraw on the river.

Overall, that is a scary, scary board. It takes heart to fire out there to begin with, and it takes a ton of heart and discipline to make a fold like that. Hats off to Bob for playing well. Even though it turns out he didn’t make a correct decision based on the results, he made a read and trusted it. That is the important thing to take away here. Edit: In reading comments from others, Bob likely didn't make the best play. With 3:1 pot odds, he pretty much has to call.


  1. Now, I'm not as sure as you seem to be that it was the correct play.

    When Bob layed down his hand on the turn, he was getting too good of a price to fold in the situation. $26.75 into a $72 pot... he's getting almost 3 to 1 on his money. Now, there are a lot of hands you could have pushed there with. The flush was possible. A pair and a flush draw was possible. A set scared of the flush draw was another possibility. You could have also sensed weakness and been on a complete bluff.

    The thing that makes the fold a weak play is that the range of hands you could have combined with the pot odds make this a profitable calling situation. You didn't have enough chips to scare Bob out, and I believe pot odds dictate an obvious call.

  2. I may have overstated my position here. I think he made a correct play given his read on the situation. I give credit to any player who trusts his read and goes with it.

    For me, my correct play was to check-raise all in on the flop to represent the made hand and have 2 cracks at the flush redraw if I'm behind.

  3. He didn't make a correct play, though. Poker is a mathematical art, and when you forget that, and base it entirely upon putting someone on one hand, you're making a huge mistake. There are very few situations where you can put a player on one hand, and this board is certainly not one of them. He read you for the flush, and folded. Well, he trusted his instincts. But the infomation did not point to a flush, and I don't give credit for incorrect reads, especially when they ignore some very favorable mathematics.

  4. Betting small on a very drawy flop into a dry side pot without having any sort of pair is spew. Betting the flop without intention of calling further bets on this board when nothing changes is not good.

    Second, it's really hard to make 1 pair in NLHE. It's super hard to make top pair. And it's darn near winning the lottery when you flop the flush. Fearing flopped flushes is unnecessary.

    In looking at the hand, we need to nail down hand range for EMG. EMG limps and cold calls 3 bet to 16bb. Since he has not enough implied odds for suited connectors and small PPs, it has to be 99+, AK, AQ, AJ, (although he should be pushing a good bit of that range). Of that range, PPs may have 1 club and will be drawing. In terms of high cards, one can figure out all the combination of AK, AQ, AJ, and which of them are 2 clubs. (very few) So vast majority of EMG's range is drawing.

    Adding to the dynamic of the hand is the small flop bet. This sort of bet will often induce a flop bluff check raise or turn bluff bet.

    In summary, this is an instacall and it's not even close. Even if you are getting 1:1 odds, it's easy money against his range. You *WILL* be dead on the flop sometimes, but the other 90% you will be a very substantial 75% favorite against someone drawing (easiest money to be made in NLHE, IMO). Furthermore, part of EMG's range is a J that just got there and him not having any clubs and just protecting his straight. So you will be a huge favorite sometimes as well.

    Lastly, I want to add a general thought on the subject that also relates to the AK/44 hand. Trying to put someone on a specific hand is generally a mistake. We're not mind readers. My advice is to put people on a range of hands based on preflop/flop/turn/river action and try to narrow that range as much as possible based on player information and hand action. At that point, you can decide what to do against that range - not against a specific hand.