The Wise Men (And Why I Like Them)

Everybody's got their favorite hands. Made hands, I'm talking about here, not the pet hands we each like to play a little differently. If I'm drawing, I like a flopped flush draw with gutshot, picking up a double-gutter on the turn - if you miss the flush but hit the straight you can usually get an extra bet out of the deal. Basement sets are nice, well-concealed moneymakers. But if I had to pick a silver bullet hand, the one I'd take every day of the week and twice on Sunday, give me a set of kings any day. Well, sure, you're saying, everybody likes a set of kings. Who wouldn't want to be sitting on that monster? But me, I'll take the set of kings over the set of aces every. single. time. The kings are preferable to the aces in every way but one, which is that - hold on to your seats for this one - a set of aces beats a set of kings. But I'll take the losses from my occasional underset of kings gracefully, and the losses to rivered straights or flushes... well, I'll take them a little less gracefully, but I'll take them. When I flop a set of kings, I experience a feeling comparable only to the first flush of motherhood. Or so I am told. Why all this waxing poetical about a combination of cards that will rarely be the stone cold nuts? Read on. 1. Action, Action, Action An ace-high flop when you're holding AA is a mixed blessing. Your dream situation is someone flopping an underset or two pair, hopefully with the case ace, but that's just not going to happen all that often. If you raised preflop with your aces - and be honest, how often don't you - the likelihood of a decent ace being out there to play back at you just isn't that high. Nevertheless, you've gotta bet your aces, because the only hands that'll be sticking around are the ones with a chance to draw out on you. The same is true for the set of kings, yes - but you stand a much higher chance of getting action. On a K-high flop you'll probably get raised by AK or KQ or - poker gods help them - AA. You'll probably get called on the flop by any decent ace (or if the pot is big enough and the players fishy enough, any ace at all), and if the pot's big enough, on the turn as well - if the pot's big enough anyone who thinks their cards are still live will be calling. False hope - it's there with the king in a way that it isn't with the ace. If the K is the only overcard, QQ-99 will probably stick around and see the turn as well - players just aren't as scared of the king as they are of the almighty ace. But they should be, which brings me to my next tangent... 2. The Outkicked Conundrum Low-limit players who can lay down a hand when they're outkicked seem pretty few and far between, but they do exist. But in meticulously looking over Pokertracker data (the slow way - my databasing skills are marginal), I'm getting the impression that players seem less concerned about being outkicked when they've got a pair of kings than when they've got a pair of aces. This is probably suited ace-rag syndrome - players hoping to spike their kicker and folding on the river when they know they're beat or on the turn if the pot's small and they're getting atrocious odds instead of merely horrible. The number of players who play king-rag is substantially lower and hence players are much less likely to lay down anything besides, say, K9. Suffice it to say that I've always gotten more action with KK vs. Kx than AA vs. Ax - turn and river bets more frequently called. I have also, perversely enough, been outdrawn less often, which leads me to my final point: 3. A Set Of Kings Will Be The Nuts More Often Than A Set Of Aces Seems counterintuitive, but trust me, it's true. Queens, kings and aces are the only sets that can be the nuts; a set of jacks will always be vulnerable either to a straight or an overset when all five cards are out. (They can be pretty damn close to the nuts on a raggedy board, but we're in nitpicky territory here.) Each set is only the nuts on a discrete number of non-paired, non-straightening, non-flushed boards - and because of the ace's two-way straight potential, the set of kings is slightly more likely (20% more likely, by my reckoning) to be the nut hand, despite not being the nuts on any ace-high board. (I haven't done the homework on quads yet, because, well, we should all have such problems.) This is all more a curiosity than a component of sound poker - AA still makes more money for me than KK, for all the obvious reasons. Flushes win larger pots (though come in a lot less than I think they should - isn't that true for everyone?). And a set of kings is only my second-most-profitable set. Number one is my second-most-favorite set of them all - a set of jacks. Never the nuts, but good enough for me.



Saturday, 3:31 PM: Wife and I discuss our plan of attack for cleaning the house. 3:34 PM: Fhwrdh calls with a last-minute invite to the Infamous Home Game. Said game starts in roughly twenty minutes. I turn to wife, preparing to plead my case, but she cuts me off, mouthing "go" before I can really get started. 3:41 PM: I get in the car. 4:06 PM: I arrive and discover I haven't even missed a round of blinds yet. 5:15 PM: I'm down T70 from the start. 6:15 PM: I'm down considerably more than T70 from the start. Garbage, garbage, garbage. 7:00 PM: I sit nursing my 3BB stack (100/200 blinds) and wondering what I've done to deserve this. The player to my right who shall remain nameless is impressively aggressive, and was hit in the face with the deck - big pocket pairs every other hand, AK flopping two pair, that sort of thing. I'd gotten so used to folding that a few orbits back I'd mucked 44 to one of her raises preflop, only to see the flop come AJ4; she turned over AJ and busted someone out. Could have really used that triple-up. I decide to have a beer since the Fanta is obviously not getting it done. Roughly ten minutes after that: I look down and my stack is 25BB. JJ had more than doubled me up but I was still short when I found AJs UTG. So I pushed. Then someone called me. Then the big blind called all-in. AJs not looking so hot. First caller turns over 88. Okay, coin flip. Big blind flips over AKo. Not so much a coin flip anymore. Flop comes jack high, nobody else improves and my hand is good. Chips get pushed around the table until the short stacks drop out and we move to the final table. Somewhat later: I make it past the bubble but am nigh-shortstacked. A limp-reraise with KK busts out 88, giving me my second bounty chip. With blinds at 300/600 I find 66 UTG, five-handed. I pop it to 1800 and get reraised by the button. He has me covered, just barely. I start counting my chips and curse myself for not having done any significant calculus for the last decade. If I fold, I am down to about 7BB, and the next blind increase is very soon. What's more, I've seen this player call an all-in with A9o. So a race is a definite possibility, and so is a lower pair. I think. There's 6700 in the pot so I am getting 1.5/1 on a call. Easy if I actually am up against overcards, but... I talk myself into calling, remembering that you have to beat AK to win tournaments. Unfortunately for me to win a tournament, in this case, I have to beat JJ, the same hand I lost to last time. The turn gives me some hope in the form of a raggedy suckout flush draw, giving me 11 outs for the river, but none of them hit. Still happy with my play - except for that last one, of course. I only sucked out one big hand this time and didn't have much luck with flops, and it was tough to steal pots at my first table, the biggest thief being directly to my right and not the least bit shy with the gamble. All in all, though, I'd rather be first. Or at least out early enough to get some action in at the cash game.


Howler Monkeys: The Silent Killer

Sequitur, meet non. Non, meet sequitur.


Hollywood That Ain't Hollywood

Went out to see Wil's comedy show at Acme and hook up with Grubby, Hank, Glyphic and - presumably - Chris. Chris was a no-show and Wil had a desire to go home and be with his family, proof that while he may be a fine actor, writer and geek, he is certainly no poker player. Kidding. I kid. I kid because I love. Everyone was starving so we wandered around a surprisingly deserted section of La Brea in search of something to eat, settling on the Sonora Cafe. At the risk of going all Brodie on your asses, I gotta say it was a fine meal: seared ahi with charred chilis, some kind of mango slaw in spicy vinaigrette, and jalapeno-wasabi mashed potatoes. I washed it down with a Coke of recent vintage. We were roughly equidistant from Commerce and Hollywood Park; I'd never been to the latter and Hank loves it there, so that's where we went. The smell alone was worth the trip. The board was pretty light - it was midnightish when we arrived - and so everybody put their names down for the 100NL game. Including me. Why, yes, I am a bright boy! Naturally, Glyphic, Hank and Grubby all ended up at the same table, while I got seated with a group of dour inveterate gamboolers. I limped and blinded away a third of a buy-in getting trashy cards, never flopping anything better than a backdoor flush draw or one overcard in a multiway pot. I folded and folded and watched big hands (and not-so-big hands) clash over monster piles of chips. Eventually a kid (literally, who might not have been, technically speaking, eighteen much less twenty-one) sat down in the four seat (I was in the two). He promptly established a super-megalo image, garnering a good-sized pile of chips by raising every hand for his first couple of orbits and outplaying everyone who saw a flop with him. Or outbetting, at any rate. He had the table on tilt in pretty short order. Finally, one off the button, I got my first solid hand of the night, a wired pair o' tens. Three any-two-cards limpers came in behind me and I raised it to $15. I chose the amount very carefully. It usually took a $25-30 raise minimum to clear out the limpers, but that would practically have committed me to the pot, only having $60-some. In truth, though, it wasn't my desire not to commit that made me choose the small raise; it was knowing that the megalo-kid would come over the top from the small blind. Which he promptly did, shoving all his chips in. Everyone folded fast and I called. He flipped over 77 and winced when I showed the tens. Flop is Q7K and doesn't get any better, and I rebuy. I'm still playing uber-tight, even folding AKs to a semi-loose player's all-in reraise of an earlier player's raise. I can get my money in better than a coin flip at this table. Later I fold deuces to the super-megalo's traditional overbet because it would have cost me a quarter of my stack just to see the flop, which - of course - came A72 and probably would have tripled me up. Patience, patience. My second buy-in has dwindled down to $80 when the guy in the nine seat, who just sat down and has been raising a lot, pushes in $20. I already don't like the guy in the nine seat; his mook friend sat down with him in the one seat and promptly dumped him an entire buy-in worth of chips, mucking his hand at the showdown. I almost asked the dealer if I could see it but I figured there was no point in confirming my worst fears. The mook calls the $20, making the pot $44. I have less than twice that; I look down and see QQ and push all-in without thinking too hard, figuring that at the absolute worst it's a coin-flip with some dead money in the pot. The new guys can't have much of a read on me yet and I don't mind getting a caller; everybody else at the table knows I've been tight as a drum and they start mucking their cards out of turn. The guy in the nine seat doesn't think too hard before he calls, though. When the mook folds the nine seat turns over A9o. No ace comes and I've almost clawed my way back to even. The Megalo Kid even offers me a vaguely respectful "nice hand" after the dealer slides the pot to me. This is where it ends, of course. I blind away more chips until 4 in the morning comes around and it's time to go to bed; I'm down $58, which is, bizarrely enough, the second-best result of the night. I still wish I'd played limit, because then I could be happy with my play and maybe have made some money. But I'll settle for being happy with my play in a no-limit game.