Friday, February 4, 2011
The Sick Laydown
In poker, most of your profits come from betting strong hands for value. And because a dollar saved is a dollar earned, folding weak hands is also very profitable. However, what separates good players from great players is the ability to profit from more marginal situations: betting a medium strength hand for value on scary board or folding a strong hand when the board looks innocuous. Learning when and how to bet for thin value and when to make a hero call or hero fold are the toughest skills to master - it takes hundreds of thousands of hands and years of practice.
Recently my skills were tested in an interesting hand from a live game in NYC. Playing 9 handed, a player in early position made a large raise, a player in middle position called and I called on the button with Ks10s. The flop came down K-Q-10 with two clubs. Both players checked to me, and although I liked the flop a lot I wasnt interested in being check raised, as we were playing more than 300 big blinds deep, so I checked behind. The turn came a red 10, giving me tens full of kings, and again both players checked to me. Seeing a good spot for a value bet, I bet the pot and the early position player thought for a moment and called, while the MP player folded. The river was a jack of diamonds.
This looked like an OK card for me, as it made any ace or 9 a straight, and it didnt complete the flush draw, which means a bet/raise by either myself or the EP player could be a bluff with a busted flush draw. The EP player fired out a huge overbet of the pot, not quite 2x but close. Hes fairly agressive and can certainly play tricky, and has been known to show some huge bluffs. As soon as he bet, I felt a horrible feeling in the pit of my gut. I was pretty sure I was beat, because pocket jacks was one of the hands I had put my opponent on when he called the turn bet (he would have had an open ended straight draw). However, some quick math told me there were many Ax hands he might do this with to push me off a chop, and there are more combinations of Ax, Q-10, and J-10 than JJ, QQ, or KK - the only hands I was losing to. Furthermore, there is always a non-zero chance that your opponent is bluffing, and the board was a good one to overbet bluff. My pot odds were bad if I called and was wrong, but if I was right and he had a bluff/straight/smaller boat it would be a massive boost to my stack and table presence.
I thought for over 5 minutes and finally called. He had slowplayed queens full to the river and got absolutely max value for it. If I had to do it again, I would still call because I simply could not live with myself if my opponent had showed a bluff, an ace high straight or smaller full house. However, I can live with losing the pot. There are times to make hero folds (in the WSOP Main Event), and the are players to make hero folds against (supertight nits). This wasnt one of those times, and this wasnt one of those players. Hopefully when that time comes, I will be ready - and make the right decision.