Tony is a regular on-line and card room player living in England. He mostly plays Texas Hold'em and Omaha (High and Hi/Lo) at fixed, pot and no limit, at both cash and tournament tables.
Don't you just love this game? Play it frequently enough and there won't be anything that can take you by surprise. Consequently, to keep your sanity afloat, you have to hark back to the unbreakable law that says that if you get your money in when in front every time, you will make money in the long run!
Keeping one's sanity is the issue when you play a hand about as sensibly as you think you can but it all goes to pieces because others have played recklessly and picked up the pot on the river. It's not a good emotion.
Take for example a couple of hands I played recently in a 10-player game on-line. It was at $0.5/$1 stakes pot limit Omaha high. I sit down with the usual flat $100 at the start, looking to double up and leave in under an hour. Well, the double up occurred almost straight away when I was called to the river holding the nut flush which I hit on the turn. I put in a smallish bet to keep my man in. Sure, this can be dangerous in case he is looking to fill up. However, his meek calling on the flop didn't suggest a set at that point and the pot wasn't large anyway so I didn't want to scare him off as I was first to act.
He called and the river was a safe card for me. This time, I didn't hang around so I bet $50. This was a little less than a pot-sized bet, and for good reason. It is surprisingly common for players at these levels (often new to the variation of Omaha) to think that a pot-raise is the only bet for someone to make with a nut or strong hand, and consequently assume you are bluffing if you make a smaller bet. How widespread this tendency is I do not know but I think this guy suffered from it. He called me down and showed a single pair. It is beyond me!
So, he went and I had a much larger stack to play with. Now, here is another lesson that I have listened to but do not always follow. Having entered the game with a view to doubling up and leaving, I should do it! The trouble is that when it happens early enough, there is the feeling that you haven't satisfied the basic urge to play a game of poker. There is also the surge of confidence that comes with taking down a big pot, and the accompanying belief that you can go on to dominate the table and turning the stack into $300, $400 and so on.
So, along comes another hand and another opportunity, this time with Qc Jc x x (I don't recall the other cards but it wasn't a sure-fire hand) and several people saw a cheap flop. It came down Ac 4c 3c. How about that? Second nut flush on the nail. I am of course very aware that someone might hold Kc and another club but the statistical likelihood is that it won't be true - not uncommon but on balance unlikely, giving me good pot odds to bet out. Consequently, my likely threats are from players holding AAxx (no pre-flop raises suggest otherwise), 44xx or 33xx, or maybe 2-pair, looking to fill up on the turn or river.
The price of a pot bet is relatively small at this stage, so I bet pot and get three callers. The first caller I don't have a feel for but the second is a definite gambler based on earlier plays of his. The third is known to me and an excellent player. I have to be wary of him.
At this stage, I'd like to see Kc on the turn to be totally safe but it is 6d, safe enough. I decide to bet half the pot. The purpose here is to be big enough to suggest to players that I am confident and probably have a flush and that someone chasing a 4-outer with 2-pair or a 10-outer with a set might think hard before calling. Also, the cards have possibly made a straight for someone holding a 75 or 52 in the rag end of their hands and a half pot bet might just tempt them to stay in thinking I am not on a flush. On the other hand, if someone has the nut flush, they will re-raise in all probability so I would rather not splash a pot raise as I might be drawing dead already. Anyway, whatever the merits of the bet, I feel it is pitched about right.
The first player folds, the gambler calls and the good player pauses, then types "I think I have to fold" and he does. It's now heads up with the gambler.
The river is a 4 and I fear the worst. The board has paired and the gambler is still with me. I am almost certain in my own mind that he has filled up the boat (full house) yet he might also be the type to semi-bluff a big bet if he has a moderate flush or a straight. I put out a small bet and he raises all-in asking me for a further $45. It's no good, I have to keep him honest. I call.
He shows 4 3 x x. He was calling me down all the way with lowest 2-pair on the board which was showing three clubs and sequential cards - all danger cards to him. Anyone could, most probably would, have one of those hands given the betting leading up to the river, but the prospect of filling up on the river with a 4-outer was enough for him to gamble against the odds.
I was not happy but the "good player" who had folded before committing to any big calls said "**********" (fill in your own letters) "I had A4" and with that would have taken a $250 pot.
So what have we got? I was correct to think I was ahead at the turn. No-one had the nut flush and my callers were chasing 4-outers. They were probably both right to call the flop bet, on the implied pot odds, although the 4 3 x x hand had dubious merit. The good player was correct to fold to my half pot bet, yet would have won. The gambler was wrong to call it, yet did win. I did all I could and I think I was right to call the re-raise at a cost of about 20% of the pot. I figured he could be at it with a lower flush and the odds of him bluffing at the pot may have been enough. It is arguable of course.
My double up was history and I was now showing a loss! Had I left when my target was reached ahead of schedule, I'd have been happy. Greed, ego, opportunity? I stayed for one of these reasons and was caught by a sucker punch. Am I right or wrong?
It's enough to drive a man insane thinking it through.
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