World Series of Poker Europe

Cash Catastrophes, Vol. 3: Folding Aces Leads to Paranoia

Pocket Aces

Carlos Welch presents another installment of his “Cash Catastrophes” series in which he examines mistakes made in cash games, thereby providing opportunities to learn how to avoid them going forward.

The Hand

It’s my regular $1/$2 no-limit hold’em game. The effective stacks are about $300.

A player limps in, then the action comes to me in the cutoff where I’ve been dealt {Q-Clubs}{J-Clubs}. I make it $10. Only the player in the big blind (BB) calls. There’s $23 in the pot. As I await the flop, I consider my opponent and the situation.

BB is an older gentleman with whom I’ve played before (I think). I remember that he is kind of loose. In the previous orbit, I bet-folded {A-Hearts}{A-Diamonds} on a {K-Spades}{10-Spades}{9-Clubs}{8-Spades} board when he check-raised me on the turn.

The flop comes {Q-Spades}{5-Clubs}{2-Diamonds}.

He checks, and I bet $15. He calls. The pot is now $53.

Nothing unusual so far. He could have a pair of fives up to a pair of queens or possibly an open-ended straight draw.

The turn is the {5-Diamonds}.

He checks and I decide to check it back. The pot is still $53.

My hand is good, but it may not be good enough to get three streets of value from worse. If I am only going to get two streets, then maybe a check on the turn will induce him to bluff the river or view my river bet as a bluff and call wider. The open-ended straight draw is the only one I am concerned about and it is devalued due to the board pairing.

The river is the {K-Clubs}.

He checks.

I don’t think this card beats me given that he didn’t bet it, but I think it could prevent him from calling with something like {7-}{7-} or {Q-}{8-}. Hmm... I could check back.


If he knows that I know that this is a good card to bluff, maybe I could flick out a big bet that looks like a bluff trying to represent the {K-}. Yeah, that’s it. My plan is so sick!

I bet $45. He thinks for a while and makes it $145.

Ooh... now I’m the one who is sick.

What the heck does he check to me twice with that is strong enough to raise now? Wouldn’t he be worried I’d just check it back again? He’s an old dude in a $1/$2 game. He’s probably not inducing twice with a strong hand from out of position. I think he is trying to re-bluff me since it looks like I am bluffing, especially since he already got me to lay down aces on the previous orbit.

Nice try sir, but not this time. I’m on to you now my friend. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I’m not an idiot... I just look like this.

I call. He shows {5-Spades}{4-Clubs}.

I’m an idiot. Shame on me. Nice hand.

The Problem

Where do I even start? I think I must have leveled and re-leveled myself three times in this hand.

I had no evidence that this guy was a good player, so I should not have been trying to think about what he thought I thought about my hand. I believed that he was weak on the river, so I should have just made a small bet hoping that he would make a crying call.

Once he check-raised, I leveled myself again. If this guy thought my river bet was a bluff, he likely would have just called with the vast majority of his range that had showdown value. He would not re-bluff me with air. He certainly would not decide to turn a hand with weak showdown value into a bluff. Seriously, it’s $1/$2. His river check-raise is almost never a bluff, and neither was his turn check-raise in the previous orbit that caused me to make that read.

Just because this guy check-raised me when I had aces, that does not mean he bluffed me. In that one, I was facing one of the worst possible boards for my hand. I’m supposed to lose there with one pair more often than not. In fact, had I been bet-folding a bluff there, the thought that maybe his check-raise was a re-bluff wouldn’t have even crossed my mind.

Folding aces leads to paranoia. You wait all night for that hand and expect to win a stack when you are finally lucky enough to get it. When things don’t go as planned, you feel like somebody stole something from you. In all likelihood, they just had your one pair crushed.

Self-entitled much? Don’t be that guy.

The Lesson

Do not overanalyze rare events in small stakes live games. For the most part, an unknown opponent’s actions mean exactly what they seem to mean, especially when the action is as unusual as a river check-raise.

If I think that a guy may not be playing in a straightforward manner, I need to be on a constant search for evidence of this. However, I should not make drastic adjustments in my own play until I have seen plenty of proof that I should.

Photo: “Pocket Aces,” Matt Galisa. Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.

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