Don't Want To Remember, Can't Afford To Forget

In Monday night's tourney I spent a lot of time across the table from a guy named Duke, an affable Canadian who built a sizeable stack gambling on a couple of flush draws, then built an absolute monster stack by pounding the shit out of the table on a regular basis. Once it became clear that he was intent on raising four times every orbit (we were eight-handed at the time), I was looking for a chance to move my stack in against him. Just one reasonable hand, I asked the dealer. KJo. T9s. Pocket fours. Ace-anything. Any of those I'm coming over the top of that guy and taking my chances, bubble be damned. And the dealer said, bucko, you had your chance. The dealer was right. I had had a chance to double up against him earlier, a hand that I now regret folding. He'd obviously been loose but wasn't bludgeoning everyone at the table with his stack just yet. He raises from UTG+2. I'm in the small blind with TT; the table folds to me. I know that if I call big blind will go away - he's supertight and likely to see my flat call as a monster hand. I don't reraise. I just call. We'll call that mistake number one. Not a colossal mistake; I think the big stack is unlikely to lay down two overcards. I have a plan, which is to look for a safe flop and check-raise all-in, since I know he'll make a continuation bet. Calling the raise has only cost me about a sixth of my stack. Flop couldn't really get any better; 893. Two diamonds, one club. I check. Don't mind me, sir, just laying these leaves and branches out here for no particular reason whatsoever. "I put you all-in," he says. Fuck. Me. He's overbet the pot by a huge sum. His bet (all my chips) is like four times the pot. I'm reasonably sure I didn't give away my intentions; I wasn't eyeing his stack or my own, wasn't changing my posture, wasn't doing anything but what I usually do. Getting your opponents off-balance is critical in these games. I pride myself on my sense of balance during a tourney. I keep a cool head, I make tough calls, once in a while a daring bluff. I don't let the possibility of losing all my chips override the pure math of a situation. And yet this bet has me floored. I have no idea what he has. He could be pushing a draw, as I've seen it before. He could be protecting a hand against the draws that are out there. He could have flopped a set. He could be running a stone bluff with overcards, or he could have A9 for TPTK. There are a lot of hands I can beat; trouble is, he could have a lot of hands that beat me, too. All he needs is JJ. 98. Pair and a flush draw, which would be near a coinflip. I could be drawing to two outs or be a substantial favorite. All it's going to cost me to find out is all my chips. I planned this. Get a safe flop, get all my chips in. I got the flop I wanted and the opportunity to play it for all my chips. But looking at the board I can't see myself calling. Can't push the chips in. I think about Phil Gordon's description of Spirit Rock's play, how you never know if he's overbetting a big draw or a made monster. If I call and I'm right I have a big stack, maybe the biggest at the table. If I'm wrong I'm out. If I fold my stack is still healthy. I can afford to fold. He knows I can afford to fold. What does he have me on? I flat-called him, he's got to think I have something. Maybe KQ. He could have JJ and just not want to give me a price on a card. What does he think I have? Mostly I think he doesn't care. If I had something I'd have bet it. I can't get my head around the math. Too many possibilities. Somewhere between two outs and a 3:1 favorite. The range is just too broad. I wanted this and now I can't have it. It makes a lot of difference to me whether I bet all my chips off or call them off. It's a big difference. I don't have the tough call in me. JJ, I'd call. QQ in a second. KK, well, he never would have seen the flop. But TT... I give it up, say "Nice bet," and pat the table with my cards. Muck. Twenty minutes later I would have called in a heartbeat. Twenty minutes later I would have just come over the top before the flop. But in poker we don't have the benefit of twenty minutes later. All you get is what you know now and what you remember from the past. And you need to know now whether that's going to be good enough if you're put to the test. I thought I'd thought of everything; I failed to consider the possibility that my opponent had thought of one thing more. I planned to put him to the test and he put it right back on me. Duke took second to Can Kim Hua. I finished twenty-sixth. That right there is all the difference you need to know.


Blogger StudioGlyphic said...

Awesome post.

2/08/2006 02:05:00 PM  
Blogger biggestron said...

Excellent hand analysis. I struggle with this carpe diem or 'wait for a better spot' dilemna while I'm playing too. Sometimes that 'better spot' never comes and you end up pushing/calling marginal hands to avoid certain broomcorn death. In retrospect you would have played, but if we had information from the future, poker would be very, very easy.

2/08/2006 02:51:00 PM  

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