World Series of Poker Europe

Stud Poker Strategy - Death Spirals (part 2)

Stud Poker Strategy - Death Spirals (part 2) 0001

Let's continue down the death spiral we started down last week. You remember the beginning don't you? You had a long run of bad cards after being down $200 in a $10/20 game. You had a hand that you tried to win on a bluff, you pushed it hard all the way through and you lost. You turned your losing one small bet gambit into an eight small bet loss by not stopping when your ante steal didn't work.

Well here's what happened after this hand was over.

You didn't go on tilt and just blow the $300's worth of chips that remained from your initial rack of $500. No, you didn't do that. You're too good a player to completely lose control, start raising maniacally, and blow off your chips in a fit of peak.

But you did make further mistakes.

Your first mistake took place immediately after the hand ended. You had just lost $80 stupidly and futilely and were really steamed. You were thinking about it, distracted and bothered by it as the next hand was dealt. You were kicking yourself as you looked at your hand of {K-Spades}{3-Diamonds}Ah and berating yourself for your bad play as you readied your hand for the muck while the players in front of you acted.

What was the mistake? Well, had you been paying attention, instead of lolling around in self pity, you would have noticed that everyone had folded to you, the bring-in had a 3c, and you probably would have won the pot if you had raised with your Ace against his unlikely-to-be-paired 3c. But you didn't notice it. You folded. That was a mistake. One more spin down the death spiral.

You should have left the table while you were distracted. But who can do that - admit that you're not at your best and walk away for a while?

The death spiral continued to spin downward for the next few hands, as you only half-heartedly paid attention - still thinking about the $80 you threw away, still kicking yourself. And so you put your actual play - your action in the real world - into automatic pilot. You called a couple of times with hands you should have folded. You folded some hands that had some stealing potential, and you missed some of the clues given off by your opponents - clues you would have caught had you been 100% into the action - focused on the game and the play and the cards and what was happening.

One more turn of the death spiral took place when you actually had a hand. You had a pair of wired Jacks with a suited Queen. {J-Hearts}{J-Diamonds}Qd. What a pretty hand! What a nice relief from all of the garbage you'd been dealt for the last few hours.

You were early in the action, with the bring-in to your right, and so you raised - so happy were you to finally have something that was pretty instead of ugly. You raised and a King re-raised you. The guy with the King was well known by you. He wasn't imaginative. He was what you'd have called an ABC player - strictly by the book. But that didn't register. You only knew that you had this beautiful hand. You weren't about to let it go.

And, let's face it, you could make trips without him having a clue. You were a sharp player. You knew that he probably had Kings and put you on Queens. But since you really had Jacks, you could hit a Jack, bet it, get raised, and then really suck in your opponent for a ton of action until the River.

The fact that there were only two Jacks that could create this magical scenario didn't faze you. You were looking for action, looking to get your money back, and looking to hit that Jack. So you called.

The next card didn't appear to help either of you. He bet his King and you, thinking that it was still the lower $10 tier of betting in this $10/20 game, concluded that it was worth another $10 to have a chance of hitting a Jack on Fifth Street when the bets doubled. So you called again.

And then. lo and behold, you hit that Jack on Fifth Street giving you the trips you so desired. Your opponent got a second King and bet $20.00.

So focused on your hand and your intentions and your prior losses and your frustration, you didn't really think too hard about what he was likely to have. You noticed the paired door card of course. You're a good player and know that it's usually a sign that an aggressive opponent who had bet his card in the past has made trips. But your trips were secret. So he might well have been trying to push you with only two pair. He could have a pocket pair like you, after all. Or he could have been bluffing initially with his re-raise. (The fact that he was an ABC player receding into the background of your frenzied mind).

You're just thinking trip Jacks and possible full-house and seeing that pot. And then you remember something that worked once and that you read in a poker book or article. You remember somewhere that someone somehow raised a guy who was representing trips to really see if he had the trips. If he had the trips he'd raise back. Then you'd know what he had and could take the necessary action.

So you, with the wonderfully hidden trip Jacks raised this guy.

And then this guy did something that he, as a regular ABC player, rarely did. He checked his down cards. That's right. He peaked at his down cards again!

A weird move for him. He was a solid player. You knew, when you were thinking straight, that he always knew what his down cards were. He wasn't the type of player to forget. But you weren't thinking clearly. And so this move of his, which you normally would have written off as just a bad ploy - just some ham actor shtick - caused you to smile knowingly - aware now that he really just had Kings up - since he had to check and wanted to just remind himself what his second pair was.

Well in retrospect, such a conclusion doesn't seem to hold much water. But at the time you were sure that he was really weak. And so when he raised you called, believing that you had a 50/50 chance of having the best hand and also believing that you had a chance to make a full house, even if he did have trip Kings. Plus you looked at the pot, concluded that it was too big to pass up, and so you called.

Sixth Street and your opponent didn't appear to improve. You don't catch a full house - but you still have those beautifully well hidden trip Jacks. The Kings bet. You look at the $180 pot and think that you can't fold now. So you call. On the River you don't get your full house. But you also know that you must call his $20 bet. Sure enough, he bets $20. And then you get a giddy flash of insight. Maybe he really does only have Kings up. Maybe you should raise. What the Hell, you think. It's only $20 more. So you raise. He raises you back. You know you must call. And so you do.

He turns over Kings Full. Oooouch! That one really hurt. You not only lost, you made yourself look foolish to yourself. How could you be so stupid as to raise into a guy representing at least trip Kings and actually having Kings Full.

You spiral ever downward. But you haven't hit the bottom. You're not dead yet. Not yet. But the end is near. Read the final part of this three part series next Saturday.

Ed Note: Great Stud action always at Pacific Poker

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