Sunday, December 13, 2009

Guest Post: Don’t Get Married to a Hand

Don’t Get Married to a Hand

Tiger's Christmas Card 2009Image by char1iej via Flickr

The following is a post from Mark who runs the Poker Bankroll Blog and the freeroll and tournament league. It was written and submitted to his blog by Vic Porcelli, who hosts the All In Radio Poker Show.

Pocket Aces

How many times have you folded pocket Aces after the flop? Sounds absurd I know, but what if the flop is K K J? Or if the flop came 10 J Q? Depending on the post flop betting you may be a big underdog. So can you lay them down?

Dennis Phillips finished third in the 2008 World Series of Poker Main Event. Dennis is from my hometown of St. Louis. He won a $200 double shootout satellite at Harrah’s Casino in St. Louis and parlayed that into a $4.3 Million payoff for his third place finish. During that main event, Dennis folded pockets Aces, twice!

Pockets Aces are at worst a 4-1 favorite pre-flop, however I’ve mentioned in previous columns that hand strengths can change with every street. If you are holding pocket Aces and the flop is K K J. You make a bet on the flop and your opponent comes over the top of your bet, you can be assured he is holding a K and a strong one at that. Guess what? You have to throw away your Aces.

I can speak from personal experience on this one. I was in the big blind, with A A. By the time the action comes to me, there are four limpers including the small blind. The blinds were still low relative to stacksize, just 25/50. There was $250 in the pot including my big blind. I raised it up to $300. Everyone folded but the cutoff seat called. I put him a range of A K to A J. I did not put him on KK because he would have surely re-raised me with K K. The flop came J 6 3. (suits didn’t factor into this hand) I bet the pot. The cutoff called. Now I knew he had A J. The turn was another Jack. He pushed all in. I did not want to let go of those Aces. But facts were facts. I was beat. I laid down the Aces and showed the hand before I threw them into the muck. He showed me A J and took down the pot.

By the way, I cashed in that tournament, finishing 4th. If I got married to that hand and called his all in bet, I would have busted out and gone home very mad that I couldn’t lay down Aces. Instead I threw the Aces away, played my normal game, made a few well timed bluffs and ended going deep in the tournament and walking away with some decent money.

Getting married to a hand is one of the biggest mistake poker players make. It can be a fatal mistake. If you are ever fortunate enough to play in a World Series of Poker tournament you will have to play 12 to 16 hours a day for at least 3 days, maybe even a week. You can play flawless poker but that one time you have been dealt a monster and you get married to it, you may be on the rail.

The Nut Straight

Flopping a nut straight is a moment of glory. As Vince Van Patten overstates on the World Poker Tour telecasts; “…show tunes are going off your head.” But wait! There are two suited cards on the flop. You raise your opponent’s bet and he calls. You have a gut feeling that he is on a flush draw. The turn brings a third card of the same of the same suit. Your opponent doesn’t call your raise this time. This time he re-raises all in. Now what?

Your nut straight is a losing hand.

There is of course a chance he is bluffing. But there also a chance he has you beat and your tournament may be over, if you make the call.

Poker is a game of variables, wildly aggressive opponents and decision making. If you make that one mistake, you’re on the rail and threw your buy-in away. If you were bluffed then so be it. Making a bad fold can’t knock you out of a tournament. A bad call can send you to the rail, which is the topic of my next column; “A Bad Call is Not a Bad Mistake.”

Thanks again for submitting this post, Mark! It reminds me of two expressions: A good fold is a good thing and Sometimes you have to fold the winning hand. Phillips may have folded the winning hand both times--but he ended up with a nice result.

1 comment:

Vera said...

I believe what separates the really good players from the rest is the ability to fold. Anyone can play the monsters and get paid, but the ability to fold a set, a flush, a straight when your gut says your beat takes discipline and strength. Especially if you've been playing tight and patiently waiting for a hand!

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