Hand Reflections

I wrote a piece titled Drawing Dead and Making It that created quite a few questions and generally speaking I told the story but did not provide enough analysis to justify my feeling that I played the hand poorly. So I am going to give the long drawn out technical analysis that bores the living crap out of the casual reader. You can’t say I didn’t warn you.

To summarize the hand:

I was playing in a $1-2 blind no-limit hold’em game when I was dealt 87 suited in hearts on the button in a five way pot. The flop came Q 9 6 giving me an open ended straight flush draw. The bet was $10 and all five players saw the turn. The turn card was the ace of hearts. I bet $50 and I was called by two players. The river card was the king of spades and the first player bet $100, the middle player folded and I called. My eight high flush lost to JT of hearts a bigger flush.

The hand analysis:

A $1-2 NL game is a fairly weak game with novice players and most stacks are typically around 100 big blinds with that being the maximum buy-in. Players tend to cash out of this game when they find themselves ahead and the “effective” stacks never get really deep. I use effective stacks to mean the chips that are actually in play as many players with deeper stacks would never put them in the pot with less than the nuts. I go through all of this detail to explain why I believe 87 suited is a very marginal hand to be playing in a game like this. The hand rarely makes a monster and when it does it is hard to get paid off. I probably should have folded the hand pre-flop. I know many of the more book learned players will cry to high heaven reading that analysis, but I believe it to be true and correct. I do not play well enough to play that hand in this game. I will have to play it exceedingly well for the next decade or so to make up for the $165 I just lost in this hand. Folding is probably the best, followed by calling and the worst thing I could have done is raise pre-flop with the hand in this game. I would raise with the hand in a bigger game or against better players but here I think it just makes the pot bigger and lowers the implied odds of the hand should you actually flop a monster.

However I managed to do it I am in the pot for $2 and seeing the flop which is really a debatable play and not the worst play I will make in an average night. So when the flop hits about as well as it can hit for my hand I have some serious consideration and poker to play. The bet of $10 comes three players in front of me and is already called by two players before the action is on me. This is the point in the hand where I should have been thinking and realized the board was more dangerous than I had initially thought. I called instinctively here and without much thought. A call is not a horrible play here. My main issue with my play of the hand at this point is that I am calling instinctively and have not analyzed the hand well enough before making the call. My first thought is these players could be anywhere and there are many of them and by calling I am encouraging the other two players that checked to peel a card off and see the turn with us. I am drawing and usually I want more players and a bigger pot, but this particular hand is not really one where I am drawing to the nuts. I really want to see any five or the ten of hearts. I have five nut outs and I need to be aware of that at this point in the hand. An off-suit ten will make me a second best straight against anyone with KJ and that would be a really tough hand to get away from. In this game with this many opponents a hand like KJ could be out there against me. I should also be aware that a flush will be trouble against this number of opponents. I very well could win a small pot with a flush or ten high straight but I could lose a medium pot. I flopped a fifteen out hand that really is only five outs and one of my opponents is actually holding one of my outs. Once again against better opponents with deeper stacks I would consider raising here. The one benefit of raising here is that I could eliminate the KJ hand and give myself three more live outs. There is also a slight possibility of eliminating bigger flush draws like QT or JT. At this level it is rare for a player to fold this type of second or third best flush draw. A raise to $80 or $100 should serve to eliminate weaker drawing hands and possibly open up a few more outs if I could get it down to heads up against a made hand like AQ. The raise could give me control of the hand allowing me to bluff on the turn or even check the turn and take a free card depending on my read. The raise allows me to get a better read on my opponents but that information may not be worth the price of making the raise. The raise also pot commits me for my entire stack if I hit one of my draws because I have made a big pot. I do not think a raise in this game would be the right play. Could I fold the hand for $10? If I thought one of the opponents that checked was tricky and capable of a check raise I might fold the hand, but that was not the case here.

The turn card makes the flush and all the players check. I am last to act and I have just made a flush. I can check and see the river card which is a weak play but keeps the pot small. This also will add deception to my hand. I feel that nobody really has a good read on anyone in this hand. I do not want to over bet the hand because I will insure that any caller has me beat and I will lose a large pot with a second best made hand. In the hand I bet $50 into a $60 pot and in hind site that was too large of a bet. The players that were scared of the flush card are looking for a reason to fold and $20 would have given them a reason to fold. I can make a case for checking or a case for making a small bet but I do not like my bet of $50 and I would not like a larger bet. The $50 bet should have slowed down my opponent and allowed me to show the hand over on the river cheaply. The plan did not work. Had I checked the flush may have made a smaller value type bet on the river hoping for a call. By betting I let him know that I had a calling hand and he could make a decent sized river bet. When I get two callers I am almost certain I am beat and should be done with the hand or at very least in damage control mode.

The river card brings a king of spades which can only help my hand if I happen to be in the lead by some miracle. If I was ahead on the turn I am still ahead. Nothing really changed about the hand. Now the player first to act bets $100 and the middle player folds leaving me to call fold or raise. I spent a long time considering a call or a fold. The idea of a raise is simply not a good one as my opponent had committed half his stack to the pot and nobody at this game can lay down a hand that would beat me. There is an outside chance that a player could call me with a weaker hand but that would typically look like a check call. I am trying to imagine the type of hand my opponent could check call on the turn and then bet out on the river against two opponents. I can easily rule out a bluff against two opponents because players at this level would not make a post oak bluff against two players. Pocket kings with the king of hearts is about the only hand I could see getting to this point and actually improving substantially on the river, but I could never see the pre-flop and flop action being played that way with kings. In the end, I convinced myself that I had about a 20% chance of winning the hand and I could call about a $40 bet on the river. Of course I called a $100 bet and therefore I played poorly. I did gain some additional information about the player but I grossly overpaid for that additional information.

The analysis after the fact is easy to perform and even second guess. In the heat of the action these decisions have to be made fairly quickly and in this instance I made a few mistakes.

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