Tuesday, April 15, 2008
The Sickest Fold
About a week ago, halfway into my regular no limit $1-2 holdem game, I was sitting in my usual seat with my usual chipstack of about 3 buys ins, in this case its was $345 (we buy in for $100). The player to my immediate left, who was relatively new to the game, played in a loose agressive fashion and had been raising a lot of pots all night. I will refer to this player as the "Villian," not because he is evil but because it is a standard term in poker literature to refer to the opposing player. The Villian in this case had been running pretty well and had about $270 in front of him. Across a 9 handed table from us sat a tight, aggressive player who plays in World Poker Tour events in Foxwoods and Atlantic City. His nickname is "The Closer" for the way he closes out tournaments with a torrent of aggression. His stack was about $430-440.
The following hand came up. I was in the small blind, the Villian was in the Big Blind, and the action folded to the Closer who limped in for $2. The action folded around to me, and looking down and seeing a rather nice holding which I will not disclose yet, I decided to make my usual raise to $8. The Villian called from the big blind and the Closer called. The pot was $24.
The flop came down as you see in the picture above, all diamonds, Kd-5d-4d. First to act and liking how the board matched up with my hole cards, I decided to make a raise larger than the pot: $32. The Villian thought for a moment before announcing, "I raise," and he proceeded to put in the $32 and then $50 more. The pot had quickly grown to $138. The action was to The Closer, who had been carefully studying the developments.
The Closer double checked his hole cards, checked the board, asked for a rough count of the pot, and went into the tank. This was clearly not an easy decision for him. What could he possibly have, I wondered, that would cause so much consideration? The pot was quite small when I overbet it, and the guy right next to me came out and reraised my overbet! He stared at me, and then the Villian, as though he were trying to look into our souls.
Now we enter the mind of The Closer. Here was a rather unique situation. The Closer had flopped the second best possible hand given the board, a Queen high flush. But the action in front of him, which saw a mound of chips go into a small pot, clearly concerned him. Also, by the looks of the action, if he went all in, it was very likely he would have at least one and probably two callers. Calling would be dangerous for his hand, because if the next card was another Diamond, it was possible that one of us would make the nut flush, or the board could pair and someone with 3 of a kind could fill up. He knew we both had very strong hands. He put us both on a range of hands that included 3 of a kind, two pair, top pair with the nut flush draw, open ended straight flush draw, a smaller made flush than his, and the small chance of the nut flush. He did some quick math. He could beat all of those hands but one right now, but if all the chips go in, the situation isnt pretty. He had each of us covered in terms of chips, but together we had more than $500.
Observe the percentages in the image above. If he puts me on the AdKx and the Villian on a set of 5s, if all the chips go in he is a favorite against each of us but he is a 45% underdog against both of our hands combined. Even if no more diamonds come, the board can still pair and make the Villian a full house, so he would only win a small side pot with me. The chances that his Queen high flush would hold up against that range of hands were not fantastic. Also, he had only put $8 at this point into the pot, which was now $138. He could fold the second best hand and not gamble against strong drawing hands, and continue to play with the massive stack he had built up. He was already winning $300+ in the game, and if he continued to play, given the game conditions, it was almost certain he would continue to win.
The Closer finally made the correct decision: in a pot in which you have only invested $8, you dont go broke with the second nuts. In fact, you dont even gamble with them, even if most of the time, going all in will be a profitable play.
After about 6 or 7 minutes of thought, The Closer tapped his cards on the table and said, "no thanks, I dont want to gamble right now, I fold" and mucked his hand in the vicinity of Two Pair Tony to his left, who motioned as if he wanted to take a look. The Closer nodded. Tony nearly fell out of his chair. "Are you kidding me?!?" Tony exclaimed.
This however, was largely lost on me, as I had flopped the nuts, Ad-10d, and was busy raising another $160. The Villain put in his last $160 and was drawing dead with the Jd-8d, as the only card that could help him, the 6d (he needed runner-runner straight flush), had been folded.
I raked in the mound of chips as The Closer showed his fold to the table. "I guess it was a good laydown" he said with a wry smile. We were all in disbelief, and it is 100% certain nobody else at the table would have folded in that spot. Several people said it was a bad fold. In poker, there are some hands you cant get away from. Pocket Aces vs Pocket Kings. Set over Set. Nut Flush vs second Nut Flush. You just pay the guy off, shake your head, curse the dealer, and move on.
Not The Closer. Not that night.