Friday, January 4, 2008

Big Pocket Pairs

Why, PokerGods? Why do you torment me so? I played in our usual mid-week home game recently and I did fairly well but lost back half of my winnings by getting dealt two big pairs. Big Pocket Pairs. The kind you love to see. Big. Beautiful. Powerful.
Early in the game, I’m in the BB and I look down to see two red Kings – sweet! Everyone limps and I raise 3xBB. To my surprise, everyone calls. The flop comes down 3-3-5 rainbow. I am pretty sure none of these guys called me with a 3 or with 5-5, although you never know. So, in my usual aggressive manner, I make a pot sized continuation bet figuring my Kings were the best hand. Everyone but the UTG folds and he thinks about it and calls. I thought he was putting me on a missed A-K or A-Q since he knows me well and knows I would bet pre-flop and fire on the flop no matter what if I had those two hands. The turn is a 2 and I sense that card helped my opponent somehow. So, I think about checking but instead I lead into him again and he smooth calls. I definitely don’t like that call. The river is a 7 and I just know I am beat so I check. He checks also and tables his A-4 offsuit. Since this is a very friendly homegame, I flash him my K-K and he grins sheepishly and admits he thought I held an A-K or A-Q. I am still trying to figure out what he was thinking by calling me pre-flop with A-4o if he thinks I have A-K or A-Q. Oh well. So, I start accumulating chips again and the game moves on. A while later I look down to see A-A in the SB. The pot is limped to me and since I refuse to limp my Aces, I raise to 3xBB. I get called by two players. The flop is Qh-7h-3s. I lead out for a pot sized bet and one player folds but the button calls. Now, this guy likes to play a lot of suited and connected hands so when he calls, I put him on a flush draw. Of course, the next card is the Ah giving me a set of Aces but making his flush if I am right about what he holds. Sure enough, I lead into him since I would have had to call if I checked and he bet, and he comes over the top. I am sure I am beat at this point so I say I fold. He shows me the Kh-5h for the nuts and I show him my pocket rockets and he is amazed I could fold that hand. He and another guy talk about it for 10 minutes that they would have had to call all the way with that hand. I quietly think to myself that I used to think the same way but now, when I am on my “A” game, I can usually fold when I know I am beaten. While that thought gives me some small comfort, I would rather have won a big pot with my set of Aces instead. I go on to end the night up about 3 buy ins but I had as many as 6 buy ins earlier. Oh well. Still, on the way home, I could not help but think I won all my money with marginal hands that flopped well. I lost big with the only two premium starting hands I was dealt. Poker is so fickle.
I played some online poker last night and got stacked with K-K twice! The first time 2 “customers” call my raise and re-raise pre-flop with J-J and 9-9 respectively. Now, maybe, sort of, but not exactly do I understand the guy with J-J calling but 9-9?? Are you kidding me? I was playing short and the 9-9 guy had me covered so I completely denied him the right odds to set mine and he had to know he was up against at least one overpair. Well, in this case, the PokerGods were in a humorous mood so, of course, a
9 high flop comes right out. The guy with J-J does not improve and neither do my Kowboys so the joker that overcalled with 9-9 scoops the pot. Why PokerGods? Why? I shake it off and keep playing. I think Falstaff might have been at this table because a player with the name JHartness from Charlotte was playing and that seems like too big of a coincidence to not be him but who knows. I did not want to call him out to the table so I chilled. He stacked a guy when his A-Qo hit an Ace high flop and the other guy had a much weaker kicker. I am doing well on most of my tables and near the endpoint of my session when I get K-K again, this time UTG. I open bet, only the SB wants action and he raises. So, of course, I re-raise and he re-raises. This is where I should have dumped the hand as “the fourth raise means Aces” and I know this but I did not want to believe it. So, I re-raised and he called. Neither one of us improves, he tables his pocket Aces and my pocket Kings shrivel up and die. I have been making a concerted effort to not play while disadvantaged. What does that mean, you ask? Well, I am one of those guys that works all day, comes home to my wife and son, makes dinner and helps clean up, then once the wife and son are in bed, fires up the computer for some poker at long last – this is a often a bad idea. I am overanxious to play and have probably had several beers by this point of the evening. This is –EV. If I am able to muster my “A” game at all, it is probably only for a portion of the session. So, lately, I have been limiting my play to those times when I feel sharp enough to play the type of poker I should play rather than anytime I can find an extra hour or two. Clearly, in the last hand I described, I should have been able to fold the Kings to the 4th raise if I had been on my “A” game. Thus, I allowed myself to play past the “threshold of mental clarity”. Fickle or not, poker is one of the few activities in life that gives you such brutal and immediate feedback.

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