Cash Catastrophes, Vol. 1: Out of Position and Out of Ideas
My name is Carlos Welch. You may not know me, but I am the best poker player in the world.
Actually, that’s not true. I am not even the best player in the live $1/$2 no-limit hold’em games I play. I am a former math teacher and current math tutor who is trying to learn how to play poker to supplement my income since I decided to work part-time.
Fortunately, I am friends with some of the best poker coaches around and they frequently guide me in my journey. Unfortunately, I am hard-headed and make huge mistakes at the tables while trying to apply the skills they’ve taught me.
Occasionally, I make catastrophic mistakes at the cash game tables. I’ve created this series to publicly shame myself into learning the lessons I pay for with my stacks. Maybe you haven’t had the pleasure of making these boneheaded moves yet. If not, I invite you to learn from my pain.
It’s my regular $1/$2 no-limit hold’em game.
The effective stacks are about $450. Five players limp in, then the action comes to me in the big blind where I’ve been dealt . I check. There’s $10 in the pot.
The flop comes .
I decide to check because I don’t want to bloat the pot with this hand from out of position (OOP). (Remember this.) I’m happy to play my hand as a bluff-catcher.
It checks around to the player on the button, probably the best player in the game. He bets $10 and gets calls from the small blind, me, and the player in the hijack seat. Now there is $50 in the middle.
The turn is the , giving me two pair.
I decide to check. Again, I am OOP and not sure what I’m supposed to do if I bet and get raised. (Remember this, too.) It once more folds around to the button, and this time he bets $40. The small blind calls, and I go into the tank to consider my options.
Wow, really? (I think.)
The small blind has a very wide range, I decide. He could have a number of draws or worse made hands here. I expect that he would have raised with anything that beats me.
The button also has a wide range, but since he is betting he could have draws or monsters. The only hands I can exclude from his range that would make this bet are the ones with which he would raise preflop like , , , and . His bet looks like he has a set or better, or a strong draw. And there are way more draws in his range than there are made hands.
If I call, I believe the hijack seat is also going to call because he’ll feel priced in with as little as a pair plus a gutshot. I decide I cannot let all these draws see another card cheaply.
I raise to $130, leaving myself $308 behind. The hijack folds, then the button thinks for a while before raising to $305. He has me covered, I note. The small blind then thinks for a while before folding. The action back on me, again I tank.
You cannot be serious!
Okay, let’s see. I know there are more draws in his range than hands that beat me, but would he really play a draw this way? I’d expect him either to shove for maximum fold equity or just call with those hands. This feels like a hand that wants a call, like maybe a straight or a set of nines or something, I guess. And top two pair isn’t the top of my range in this spot, so I can fold here.
Remember those moments where I told myself I didn’t want to bloat the pot OOP because I wasn’t sure what I would do if I bet and got raised? Notice how I then talked myself into doing it, anyway... like a boss. Idiot!
Even though there were a bunch of bad cards that could come on the river to complete a number of draws, I knew exactly what they were. The board was and my hand was . The river cards I was worried about included any club, a , a , a , an and a . Most other cards were either not bad for me or they improved hands that had me beat anyway (e.g., a really only improves ). There were more good cards for me than bad, so I really didn’t need to raise for protection and risk getting reraised.
In fact, this hand wasn’t even worth protecting. It was a glorified bluff-catcher. When the board is this coordinated and there are four people in the pot, top two pair loses a lot of its value. That’s like check-raising for value with on a flop.
Next time I am OOP in a multi-way pot with a coordinated board, I am going to make sure I have a hand strong enough to get my whole stack in before I start raising and act without a plan. If it’s not worth my stack, then it’s a bluff-catcher and I will check-call with it accordingly.