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November 28, 2006

Laying down aces

by Otis

I do not write strategy posts. I do not write theory posts. I write stories. I do this because, despite the fun I have playing poker, I'm better at telling stories than explaining how I play or offering helpful advice to people looking to improve their game. With that disclaimer, the past six weeks have been pretty interesting. I've laid down pocket aces three times on the flop. As each of the laydowns have resulted in hours of post-hand analysis, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts. I'm not looking for a pat on the back. I'm just curious.

Location: The Spring Hotel
Game: $1/$/2 NL

I'm under the gun plus one with pocket aces. The Dancer raises to $9 under the gun. I make it $25 to go. The small blind, a pro (yeah, a pro in a $1/$2 game--it's that profitable) drops five red chips in the pot and makes a groan that suggests he's calling with a hand he knows is beat, but is hoping to hit. The Dancer calls. Both players check in the dark. The flop comes J96 with two hearts. I make it $75 and the pro raises to $250. At this point, I'm confident I'm still ahead of him, but our stacks aren't small and I know there's a good chance we'll be playing for all our chips. The pro started the hand with around $800. I had just more than $600. The Dancer had close to $400.

I'm on the verge of making a decision about whether to push when The Dancer announces he's all in. It's now quite clear that I'm no longer ahead and probably way behind. I immediately put The Dancer on a set. Furthermore, I know that, even if I jam, the pro has to call. After a minute or so of thought, I mucked.

Now, looking back, this was the easiest of the three laydowns (and the best). As it turned out, The Dancer had a set of nines. The pro had KT suited in hearts for the second nut flush draw and gutshot straight draw. The result: An ace fell on the turn, giving me top set (had I stayed in the hand). The river was a heart, giving the pro a flush and the pot.

In retrospect, I'm happy with how this turned out. Had the players not checked in the dark and one of them had bet, I could've driven the draw out of the pot. In that case, I still would've been behind, but justified in the suck-out I would've laid on the Dancer.


Location: The Gaelic Game
Game: $1/$2 NL (but playing with no max and more like a $2/$5 game)

I was in the middle of a bad night. The game was drunk (I was not), the waitresses were drunk and had spilled two drinks on me, and I was stuck. The max on the game had been lifted a few weeks before and the stacks on the table ranged between $400 and $2,500. I'd been card dead most of the night and the victim of a couple bad suckouts. The table was rowdy. UPS/Dan Heimiller look-alike had just dropped a $2,000 pot to Rhodes after bluffing into Rhodes' pocket aces on a scary board.

I'm under the gun plus one with pocket aces. Rhodes, still high from scooping the pot, makes it $12 to go. I pop it to $35. The big blind, a nit, called. Rhodes called. The flop came down KQx rainbow. Both players checked to me and I made it $80 to play. The nit folded and Rhodes quicky raised to $200. The check-raise was frustrating and a little scary. Four hands seemed likely: KK, QQ, KQ, or AK. The only one I could beat was AK.

Here's where I fucked this one up: I should've folded or jammed there. It's one or the other and after thinking about it for a while, I recognize that. I was into the hand for a little more than $100. Rhodes had me easily covered (I had about $800 to his $2000). Instead--and damned if typing this doesn't make me feel more like an idiot--I min-raised. At the time, the logic went like this: Represent the set, put him to a decision. Looking back, there are so many holes in that logic that I'm ashamed to even be writing this post. Of course, Rhodes started monologuing. "You're so tight. What is it? A set? What a cold deck." After three full minutes, Rhodes announced, "I'm all in."

My cards hit the muck before he finished his sentence.

I thought about this hand more than any of the other three. I made a lot of mistakes in the hand, the min-raise being the most damning of them.

At the time, Rhodes said to me, "You were beat." I didn't know whether to believe him at the time. Later, and for reasons I can't specify here, I developed intelligence that strongly suggests Rhodes held KQ and that I was drawing slim had I stayed in the hand.


Location: The Golden Moon
Game: $2/$5 NL

I'd been playing a good game for a little more than four hours. It was a holiday weekend and the game was loose. I'd put together a decent profit playing a mixture of tight-aggressive and loose-aggressive poker. I'd made only one mistake the entire afternoon and it only cost me $50. I was with relatives who were ready to leave. As they racked up, I decided I'd play...one...last...hand. By the time the cards were dealt, my brother-in-law was standing over my shoulder. I peeked at the first card. Ace of diamonds. "Okay, I thought. Unless the next card is an ace or a king, I'm getting up." Sure enough, ace of spades.

There's one limper in front of me and I make it $25 to play. The small blind (a sweating, limping, wreck of a man who had already been to the ATM to re-load and had since quadrupled his stack with some very aggressive play) called and the limper called. The flop came down 993 rainbow. I wasn't worried about the limper (a lady who never bluffed, called a lot of raises, and folded to almost any bet). The small blind, though, worried me. I watched him as the flop came down and he flinched. It was barely noticable, but it was there. Both players checked to me and I bet $60.

Before my chips hit the felt, the small blind was grabbing for his stacks. He pushed out $260 and put his chin on his chest. The limper folded and I went in the tank. The bet smelled like a bluff. The overbet was fishy. I knew I still had around $700 left to play with. A re-raise would commit me. Just calling would leave me blind. Based on what I'd seen, the guy's range here was very wide. Putting him on a hand was nearly impossible. I could only narrow it down to TT, JJ, 33, or any hand with a nine it.

Then I did something I rarely do. I tried to get the guy to talk. I asked if he had the nine. No response. No movement. I looked for a tell that G-Rob and BadBlood use all the time. It was absent. I wanted to hear the guy's voice, so I asked him how much he had left. I already knew he had around $900 sitting in front of him. He mumbled something and a local at the table announced it was around $900 (I shot the dude a dirty look, but he didn't care that he was getting in my hand).

After another minute of thought, I mucked face-up and told the guy to have a good weekend. The guy pushed his cards into the muck and dragged his pot.

In retrospect, I don't like this laydown as much as I did when I first made it. I think I was happy with my profit for the day and didn't want to lose a $1,600 pot in front of my in-laws. I think there was a 50/50 chance I was behind. Given the chance to re-play the hand, I think I should've kept playing the hand. I think if I had called, I might have been able to pick up something on the turn. Or maybe not. Maybe I should've jammed. I don't know. I've only been thinking about this hand for five days, so maybe I'll find some enlightenment after some more thought.

***

So, there are three hands that I either played well or badly. You tell me.

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