16 March 2006

Don Quixo: #25,958 in a neverending series.

Haven't done a poker post in a good long while, so I hope you non-players will indulge me for a moment. The title is my new name for opponents who idiotically hand me all of their money, chosen because it sounds just like "donkey ho!"

$2-4 no-limit game on Full Tilt Poker. (Yes, I'm playing online now. Underground poker in NYC is currently stone dead.) I limp in from early middle position with A♥ 9♥. Four or five to the flop which comes A♣ 9♤ 4♣, giving me top two. The big blind bets $8, I raise to $26, the other players fold, he calls. I've just started playing and have almost the full maximum $400 buy-in; he has me covered by $100 or so.

Now, in the interest of teaching any readers new to the game what not to ever fucking ever do ever, I'm gonna kill the suspense and reveal my opponent's hand right now. He's called me with an offsuit A8. This is already a bonehead play, because it's highly unlikely that I have a made hand that's losing to his. If he puts me on two pair or a better Ace, he should either fold or try to reraise me off the winner. If he puts me on clubs, my only other likely holding, he should definitely reraise and force me to either lay down my draw or put a lot of money into the pot getting terrible odds.

But he calls. The turn is the 2♢. I do not give this dude 5-3, big blind or no. (If he's calling my 3x raise with just a gutshot draw, more power to him—he just won the poker lottery.) He checks. I bet $45, about 2/3 of the pot. He calls again. (NOTE: This is still dumb, though not nearly as dumb as what he's about to do.)

I'm assuming I have to dodge a club, though any paint or 10 is also cause for concern. (Not too much, though, since most players in the BB would stick in a good-sized raise with AT or better after several folks limped in.) But the river looks safe enough: 8♢. As it turns out, of course, this gives my opponent Aces up, in his mind almost certainly the winning hand.

He now moves all-in for my remaining roughly $300.

I did briefly consider folding, because he could have a set, and might well have played it that way. (A set or 5-3 are the only hands beating me.) But most players are inclined to protect that hand when they think they may be up against a flush draw. I called, expecting to see either a set (heavy sigh) or a busted club draw (huzzah!). I certainly was not expecting A8.

If you're new to the game, here's why that was a donkey move: When you massively overbet the pot with a medium-strength hand like two pair (and not even top two pair), you will only get called by a hand that can beat you. Someone holding AJ might suspect you of stealing the pot with a busted draw, but he'd have to have a superb read on you to make the call, or just be really damn loose. Absent such a read, most halfway decent players will lay down top pair in that spot. That's why it can be a strong (albeit risky) play if you did in fact miss your draw. But with a hand that very well might win at showdown, there's no sensible reason to jam the pot. If you think he had something like AJ, just make a solid value bet; if you've put him on clubs, check and hope to snap off a bluff. Even then, I'd probably check-call here rather than check-raise, for the same reason: You're only going to get called, in all likelihood, by a set...or (as in my case) A9.

Basically, if you're going to bet much more than the size of the pot in a NL game, have either the nuts or nothing at all. How often you should be holding one vs. the other is a (rather mathematically complex) topic for another time.

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