Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Tough Hand

I haven't posted a hand since the beginning of the summer so I'll finish it with my final hand of this seven-week adventure/nightmare/rollercoaster/life experience. This was one of the toughest hands I've ever played, cash or tournament, live or online. The feedback I've gotten on it thus far has been split and I'm hoping for more.

Three hours into day two of the $15k Bellagio Cup WPT I was sitting on about 90k when this hand came up:

Blinds 600-1200 with a 200 ante. Folded to Tim Phan on the button and he opened for 3200. His chip stack was almost identical to mine. His usual raise was around 3x and he had also opened a couple pots for 4k at this level. Scotty Nguyen was in the big blind and I was in the small blind. As Tim raised he joked around that he was going to give a discount because it was Scotty's big blind and he liked Scotty.

When Tim made the raise, I assumed it was pretty likely that he was stealing with a less than powerful hand. The size of his raise, the fact that he was on the button, and his style of play all made it fairly likely he didn't need much of a hand to raise there. This isn't to say he was definitely stealing or couldn't have a hand. I wouldn't expect him to have an unplayable hand there; he hadn't been playing garbage throughout the day.

So I look down at ace-ten offsuit in the small blind and it seems like a pretty obvious spot to put in a big reraise and take down the pot. The problem is, Tim hates folding. When he puts chips into a pot, he almost always defends them. While I assumed ace-ten was probably the best hand, it didn't make reraising an attractive option. If I reraised to around 12k, I felt there was a strong likelihood Tim would call. This would lead to all sorts of ugly situations on the flop. Ace-ten offsuit is one of the worst hands you can play in a big pot out of position. If you hit it, you probably won't make any money. If you miss it, you might get outplayed. In cash games in this spot, I generally smoothcall. It disguises my hand and switches things around so I can represent different hands on the flop if I miss. If I hit, I will almost always make some money out of the hand against a preflop raiser.

So while reraising seems like an obvious play, I elected to call. It should also be noted that I am a gigantic wuss when it comes to reraising. I'm scared to do it, and it's definitely a huge weakness (probably the biggest) in my tournament game.

Scotty folded and the flop came AcTc3c. Right away I hesitated knowing this might be a crucial pot and I might have some hard decisions. I thought about leading out but decided Tim would fire at this pot no matter what he had so I checked. Tim bet 7k.

This was a large bet. Tim makes different kinds of bets in different hands so it wasn't like he was automatically going to make a big bet like that no matter what. The fact that he bet 7k registered in my brain as a clue that he had at least something. If he had nothing, I figured he would have bet less.

My immediate inclination was to call, continue to misrepresent my hand, and then maybe do something funky on the turn like lead out, or possibly check it again. I figured I might get some more chips out of Tim this way if he had a hand like ace-seven. If he had a hand with the king of clubs, I could price him out on the turn. I also wast thinking that I would have a terribly hard decision to make if I raised and Tim reraised. Avoiding terrible decisions is a huge part of my game. I put myself into a lot of funky spots but usually know what I'm going to do beforehand.

I thought about it for more than a minute, which is pretty unusual for me in a spot like that, and then decided to raise to 20k. I raised for the obvious reasons - to protect my hand and for value. I'm not really a big believer in the whole "protect your hand" theory but it does have its merits. More importantly in this hand, I felt like Tim would call a checkraise with a lot of hands I had beat, including some that were drawing dead. Like I said earlier, Tim hates folding once he puts some money in. I really felt if he had an ace he would probably call, even if he didn't have a club.

Two seconds after I raised to 20k Tim said "I'm all in." It turned out he had me barely covered and I had another tough decision. Now I went back into the tank specifically thinking the following: what hands would he do that with and how often does my hand win against those hands. I assumed Tim would do that with any flopped flush, including the nut flush. I assumed he would do it with any set. I figured but was not certain he would do it with AxKc. The hands I really wondered about were
  • AxXc - would he jam with an ace and some random club? AQ with the Qc? Which of these hands does he jam with and which does he just call with? He jammed very quickly, but then again I thought a long time before I raised and he acts quickly in general so he might have just already planned out what he was going to do if I made a normal raise.
  • Gutshots along with a flush draw. KJ, KQ, QJ with a club. How does he play these?
  • Tens along with a flush draw. KT, QT, JT, T9, and on down.
  • AK no club
I really didn't know how he would play these. He wouldn't fold any of them I don't believe but many of them he might just call against me. While I didn't know what he would do with these fence hands - which determine whether or not I should be calling the push - there was more to consider:
  • My image. Today I had a pretty standard, normal image. Nothing crazy of course but not super tight either. Capable of a move? Probably but not necessarily. I believe I appeared to be "a normal player" to Tim.
  • What he perceives my image of him to be. He wasn't doing anything crazy. Sure he was involved in plenty of hands but nothing maniacal.
  • Earlier in the level, Tim had gotten involved in big preflop pot with AJs and after winning it announced that he had lost $90,000 shooting dice during the last break. He essentially said he was willing to gamble today with marginal hands. I didn't take any of this as him trying to establish a crazy image, I basically just believed it.
  • If I fold I have 70,000 and the blinds are 600-1200, soon to be 800-1600. Average was probably around 90k at this point. Great structure, absolutely no worries with 70k at 800-1600 in this structure. Definitely not "shortstacked."
  • The table is possibly the hardest table I have ever been at and I have a terrible seat. Tim is to my right and to my left, in order, are Scotty Nguyen, Farzad Bonyadi, a locked in Gabe Thaler, Jason Lester, some big cash game guy I've never seen who was playing aggressive, and someone new. There's a little more than three hours left in the day. It's not going to be easy to get chips here obviously.
After thinking all this through, I then thought that he would do the same thing with A3 or T3s. Of course in today's era of tournament poker once you are able to answer the question "what can I beat?" you automatically call, and I did call. Tim had the 85 of clubs for a flush and I didn't get anything on the turn or river so I was eliminated.

I should be home on Tuesday evening and will soon begin digesting the WSOP that wasn't on this blog.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting hand. Thanks for sharing. I think I agree with all your post-flop play. Pre-flop, I might have been able to lay it down, not only for the difficulty you stated in playing A-10 off, but more importantly because of how you described his difficulty in folding to reraises. In smooth-calling, you're probably going to need to check-fold 80% or more of flops. Very tough. Can't say I blame how you played it though.

8:38 AM  
Blogger GambleGambel said...

lol @ check-fold 80% or more of flops

9:45 AM  
Anonymous GmorningSun said...

Tough that you lost? If you sucked out you would be writing in a different tone!

There's an old saying since I have been playing; "Two pair! Don't care"! Always thought people should have cared what could beat there two pair, LOL!

GG Sir, your OUT!!!!!

9:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, probably like 60-65% assuming you check any non A or 10 flop, and he makes the expected C-bet of 75-100% of pot. Given the indicators that Pham was in a gambling mood, not sure you want to get involved with that percentage of your stack. When an A or 10 only does hit, if you lead out, you probably risk a reraise that you have to fold to around a quarter or a third of a time. How would you have played it Gambel?

10:47 AM  
Blogger Spencetron said...

Enjoy being at home. Hopefully Boulder will be nice and cool, it will most certainly be cooler than Vegas. I may swing through Denver the weekend before the DNC, do you still plan on being home then? If so I may have to stop by the Boulder Brewing Co, although (for the first time ever) you will be my only friend in Boulder, so I may have to get you to come down for a Rockies game.

10:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You played it fine. I don't like raising pre-flop, as flat call gives you more options on the flop and you don't build a pot.

Post flop you played it fine too. My personal style is on a flop like that to peel one off by just check/calling his flop bet then betting on the turn to any non club. Check raising on the flop let's him push made hands and bluffs with too high a frequency.

But really, you're not getting away from that hand preflop or post, so how the chips go in is really just details.

Keep having fun...

11:00 AM  
Anonymous CaptNiebo said...

This is an EASY fold, especially with 90k in chips. A-10 is a huge trap hand. You're in terrible position with the BB still to act.
It's early in the tourney, there will be better spots to get your money in later. It's a game of mistakes, and getting involved was the biggest, and it cost Moon his tourney life.

11:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The arrogance that people display when commenting on this hand is just unreal to me. How anybody could possibly say that there was an easy decision on this hand at any point is beyond me.

As it were (not that it matters for much), but I am more aggressive in three betting, especially against a button raise. Him being less likely to lay it down, did you consider raising bigger than 12k - to 15k? I would have re-raised preflop, would probably never fold to the raise pre.

Once the flop comes, it seems like no matter what you do, you'll be in a tough spot. If you lead, he'd raise with a wide range and you'd be faced with another difficult decision.

As played, the decision to call or fold is tough, but don't we have pretty bad equity against his range? If you put his range at AK-Axs, a flush, a set, bluff, or a worse two pair, we're in tough shape. I just think he's rarely pushing with worse than A-xs after a check raise from a tighish player.


1:16 PM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

I tend to play poker scared and can actually afford to do it some since I play at a very low level compared to you. I think I'd call pre-flop, raise or check-raise after the flop, and then be intimidated enough to fold by a big re-raise. Though I'm sure it's possible, particularly when playing at a high level, I wouldn't expect the huge re-raise with one pair or on a complete bluff. I guess laying your hand down with 2-1 odds is bad but since you'd still be in fine shape in the tournament, even folding just to a flush draw doesn't seem like the end of the world to me.

2:23 PM  
Blogger Justin said...


I'm surprised, you weren't really expecting him to donk off his stack there were you?

You went through his range so you should know we're in bad shape against it, I think we're vs. AXc @ best.

I don't really understand the
preflop logic. If you're worried about getting outplayed on the flop that is a reason to put in a raise and try to take the pot there, not to flat call (especially if you're going to make a bad decision postflop).

With our reads seems like we put in 12-14k preflop, looks like you're playing scared poker?

7:59 AM  
Blogger GambleGambel said...

I probably would have donk bet the flop hoping he would raise so I could jam

8:30 AM  
Anonymous ReMMy said...

ugh, tournaments are so situational it's hard to say. I can tell you one thing though, in a cash game i NEVER smooth call there. It's re raise or fold depending on who opened it.

Of course it's no big surprise that if I would raise or fold you'd call since we are basically polar opposites on the poker table.

12:40 PM  
Blogger Kwicky said...

Moon -
First off, I think the only mistake you could make preflop is folding. I think either calling or re-raising is fine. If you do decide to re-raise, I would make a standard 3x re-raise because if you do make a big re-raise a player like Tim will think that you don't want him to call...so he will. After the flop, I think that the correct play would have been to either check/raise to 20k like you did, but then lay the hand down if he moves it, or bet into him and then go all-in if he raises.
I disagree with many of the hands you have in his range when he shoves here. I don't think you can include hands like T,Xc or A,Xc (unless it's A,Kc or maaaaybe A,Qc). Reason being that he would either check or bet much, much smaller on the initial flop bet so that he could call if he got raised. A player like Tim isn't going to bet huge and then go all-in after being check/raised by a Thomas Fuller without a very good hand. When he bet the pot on the flop, that to me means he either has jackshit or a monster like a set, nut flush draw, or flopped flush.
Therefore, I think I would have folded once he went all-in had I taken your line. If you think folding there is too tight, then I think the better play would have been to anticipate that you'd have to fold if you check/raise and he ships it, so you'd want to bet into him and re-raise all-in if he raised (which is the play that I think I like the best of all the options).
**As a side note, I think that had you not hit that you should have check/raised any non-drawy board to his 99.9% C/Bet

1:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Question for Paul (kicky),

Moon has alot of chips in relation to the blinds and it's early in the tourney. He already admits he's in tough position with Tim, who probably won't fold, and an aggressive Scotty is in the big blind.

This is a big buy in tourney and he's in terrible position against two aggressive opponents. Why is it a mistake to fold here? He has A-10 off, not a great hand and he's in terrible position. At this stage of the tourney, why is it such a mistake to fold and not wait for a better spot to enter a pot?

6:15 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home