Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Power of Position

I spent this weekend playing poker.  Seriously.  I did.  I played a 5 hour session Saturday at Charles Town.  It was entirely uneventful.  There was barely a decision to be made all afternoon.  I left up $220.

Today was different.  I played 4 hours at Maryland Live and nothing came easy.  Today was a story about the power of position in poker.  Or, perhaps unbeknownst to me, the story was about how I just suck at poker.  Either way, I found myself in a handful of tough spots.

I got off to a good start with AQ. After a $5 straddle and two callers, I jacked AQ hearts to $35.  I got 3 callers.  Clearly, the old Charles Town crowd has taken their game to MDL!  The 4 of us see an Ace, 5 8 rainbow flop in an already bloated pot.  Action checks around.  I hate this spot.  There's $140 in the middle.  I opt to bet out $90 - between 1/2 and 3/4 pot.  It folds around and I scoop.  I felt like this was a potentially horrendous spot, due in part to my preflop raise.  Frankly, if I had gotten a call on the flop, I'm not sure what I would have done.  I really don't want to be playing for stacks with top pair, queen kicker.  Fortunately, I never had to make the decision.

After getting up a decent amount early, I pissed it all away, mainly calling small preflop raises with small pocket pairs, none of which hit on the flop.  In fact, as discussed a bit more below, over the course of the afternoon, I played 14 small pocket pairs, and couldn't hit a single set.

After draining back down to even, I looked down at AK.  I raised two limpers to $12 and ultimately end up with 4 callers.  The flop comes down 7 high.  It checks to me, and I bet $30.  Next to act shoves for $120 and gets a call.  I fold, and 67 wins the hand (against a draw).  Um.  OK.

And now for the hand of the day.  This is one where position killed me: I'm sitting on about $300, and look down at AK in the small blind.  After several limpers, I raise to $12.  Two callers.  Flop is K56 (2 spades).  I lead out for $20 with TPTK.  Both call.  There's $96 in the pot going to the turn.  A red 4.  I bet $35, trying not to give up the lead, but also trying to somewhat control the pot size.  Both players again call.

There's $200 in the pot going to the river.  The 2 spades.  This spot makes me throw up.   By way of background, the guy in middle position has barely played a hand.  I'm frankly having a hard time putting him on a range.  What did he limp call preflop, and then call flop and turn bets, with?  Did he flop a set?  A spade draw with two broadway cards?  I have no clue. The girl in late position has barely NOT played a hand.  She could have anything.   I consider betting out again.  But, ultimately, I check and finally give up control.  The tight guy in middle position bets out $70.  Woman folds.  Action is on me, and I tank.  What the hell am I beating here?   While I was tempted to call $70 (getting nearly 4-1), I ultimately fold.  Face up.  Guy in middle position punches me in the neck when he flips AK off.  Wow!  I assume he turned his hand into a bluff when I gave up control.  But that was a bold call with the LAG chick playing behind him.  And I certainly did not put him on AK.  He limp calls preflop in middle position with that hand?  In any event, perhaps my biggest mistake in the hand was showing my big slick.  I've really been trying not to show ANY HANDS, but my ego got the best of my this time, and I couldn't resist showing a decent lay down.  Of course, my ego got slammed when I was outplayed in front of the entire table.  Anyone play this hand differently?

Shortly thereafter, position made itself known again.  This time, I'm sitting on about $165 and get KK under the gun+1.  I raise to $12 and get two callers, including an older gentlemen in middle position who is also sitting on about $150 and has been invisible all day.  The flop is Q73 rainbow.  I lead out for $25.  Old guy min-raises to $65.  Ugh.  Other caller folds and action is back on me, heads up.  I don't think he is raising with top pair.  My gut tells me he flopped a set or thinks I'm full of shit and is betting air.  It's hard to give him QQ since he didn't 3-bet from middle position.  77 or 33 are obviously possible.  Again, being out of position sucks.  And sitting on $150 or so also doesn't help.  If I call here, I have $100 left.  I feel like I'm basically playing for stacks.  I consider folding.  But folding just feels to weak.  I call.

Turn is another 7.  Actually a good card in my view, because it makes 77 less likely.  As I'm thinking about my move, I realize the mistake in my flop play.  I think the call was awful.  I should have just shoved.  As it were, i realize that if I check, HE is shoving.  I decide the only play is to shove first and at least put pressure on him and take back control of the hand.  I shove, and he tanks.  I know I'm good.  He ends up folding.  He had nothing, and thought I had nothing, and was trying to steal the hand on the flop.  I feel like I butchered the hand on the flop; but realized my mistake in time to recover...

All afternoon, the kid directly to my right was a pain in my ass.  He raised every third hand.  And he'd barrel the flop, turn and, often, the river, getting fold after fold after fold.  He built his stack up to $700 quickly.  And, all afternoon, I was getting small pocket pairs.  He'd raise to $12 or to $15, and I'd call, just waiting for that set to hit the flop.  I knew if I could just hit a set, I'd take him for a few hundred.  Unfortunately, I defied the odds, and never hit my set.  Instead, I walked away after 4 hours down $45.  I could have been worse.


  1. Tough luck, Pete. Easy for me to say, but I don't see how you could fold the AK hand there, with no action behind you and the pot being $270. But for sure, for sure, don't show your fold. I never understand why people do that. Unless you are advertising a huge bluff you didn't get away with, I see no point in ever showing my cards.

    Nice result with the dreaded pocket Kings. Those TPTK, overpair are by far the trickiest to play, and of course, are occur so damn often.

    Rough when you can't hit one set. Of course, my last Vegas trip I hit a fair number--and kept running into straights and flushes. Be careful what you wish for......

    Good post.

  2. When I read that you showed your hand, I thought I was reading a different blog until I saw that you did not jam with A-K. : o )

    And yes -- it really sucks when you know you could take a monster stack IF ONLY one of those dang small pocket pairs hits a set.

  3. Replies
    1. I should shove $265 or so into $100? Really?

    2. lmao. tony is so funny. i am just glad u r back to poker ,counselor

    3. loool @jamming turn. Terrible poker players giving terrible advice. I like a bigger bet on turn for sure though. I probably bet 75ish into 96 on turn. You can't pot control TPTK OOP. You have to just play straightforward especially multi way. River is a trivial fold generally though thats player dependent. Fuck your ego that shit doesn't mean anything. You are playing with a bunch of droolers at 1/2. You folded the best hand (well chop anyway). BFD.

      The KK hand-yikes! I don't think you need to shove the flop. I like the call on the flop. Turn is a pretty trivial ch/call. He has AQ, KQ, etc here like always with 33 making up the rest of his range. Turn play is WAYYYYYY worse than flop play IMO.

    4. Thanks for your comments, Brian. My thinking was this - old, nitty player was not raising the flop with AQ, KQ . . . I guess this was my mistake on the hand. I was fairly convinced I was behind the entire way, and wasn't thinking about getting value on the turn. And this is why I felt like a shove was better than just check calling the turn (and possibly river). And, that's also prolly why I suck at Poker!!!!

      Thanks again. I love these types of comments. Very helpful!

    5. A related note..

      Since most of your stories start off with "I raised to $XX (with a premium hand) and got 3-4 callers" -- you just need to recognize when you are at "that kind of table" and start amping your pre-flop raises with the top end of your range.

      Punish those calling stations because apparently 3x-4x isn't cutting it.

      And I agree with previous post, you never pot control with TPTK out of position with a flush draw on the board....you just bet, bet, bet and fold to most raises (if draw comes completes) in these type of games.

    6. Thanks Rob. Not sure where you play, but I think this gets a bit tricky though. Around here (D.C. Metro area), there are many tables where you can raise $15 and still get 4 limp-calls. See my hand above, where I raised the straddle and several callers to $35, and EACH OF THEM called. The problem I have is that, if you bloat the pot to $100 or so preflop, and then hit your hand, what is the size of your flop bet? $75? And, assuming you get a few callers (which you may), now you are playing for stacks . . . with TPTK. This is what I find tough (for me, at least) about playing these types of loose games.

      In general, though, I agree with what you are saying. I just find it difficult to effect in practice sometime, depending on the table dynamics

    7. There are times playing for "stacks" with TPTK is almost always right and these lower stakes "bloated" pots are one of them -- where the "Stack to Pot Ratio" is low.

      The old adage "making a pair is hard in Hold'em" -- well it's even harder to hit 2 pair or a set. So if the table is this loose and limp calling your 7x raise..,what are you really afraid of?

      Bottom 2 pair on the A58 flop?

      It's way more likely (against 4 limp callers) that you are against a mixture of weaker aces, connected broadway cards, and suited connectors. At best 1-2 of them picked up a piece or a draw.

      So right off the start you probably have $70 in "dead" money in the hand and the remaining players have shallow SPR...so you probably can get them to commit their whole stacks with all sorts of weaker hands and draws. And the bonus with this flop is that you never drawing dead vs. no conceivable holding if you are "coolered" by one of them holding a set or 2 pair.

      The antidote to these loose passive tables is to play TAG, but you have to keep the "aggression" part of the TAG play. it's not enough to be "tight" pre-flop.

  4. PPP,

    First, I enjoy reading your blog but I'm not one to post often.

    Your words: "Not sure where you play, but I think this gets a bit tricky though. Around here (D.C. Metro area), there are many tables where you can raise $15 and still get 4 limp-calls."

    I see this a lot as well and I'm playing in and around Indiana but have faced it in Vegas too. The gamblers are willing to limp call with almost any two cards and then you're facing playing for stacks with TPTK or an overpair to the board. I'd be interested in hearing how you and your readers treat this type of table.


    Mr. Reed

    1. Sir, thanks for the comment. As for how to play these tables of tables . . . I'd love to know that as well! I stopped playing at Charles Town for a while, simply because I encountered this type of play every trip. I know a lot of people love the action. I don't really have an answer. I mean, take my first hand history from the post above - the AQ hand. If I get a call on the flop, what the hell do I do at that point, aside from get my stack in with TPTK, I guess? In position, perhaps you can check the turn for pot control. But OOP, you don't even have that option.

      So, I'd also love to hear how people deal with that type of action. Perhaps you just have to be willing to play aggressively and ride out the inevitable variance?

  5. I'm gonna tell you something that should be abundantly clear: WE WANT OUR RAISES CALLED BY SHITTY, GAMBLY HANDS!! I mean you are an attorney, I'm a CPA (not sure about Terry) but let's assume we are all smarter than these fish. If we have premiums WE WANT people calling with T7o, K8o, etc. Are we going to lose some hands? Of course. Are we going to win more often then we lose. Of course.

    When playing in these loose passive low stakes games the adjustment is simply to play premium hands VERY FAST. We aren't pot controlling large pairs, TPTK, TPBK, etc. We are raising BIG and betting every chance we get. period. Attempting to pot control even in position against fish with strong relative hands is burning money. At low stakes most of your win rate (like 90%) should come from playing strong VALUE hands and playing them fast so that we (get this) get a lot of VALUE!!!

    We should be bet/folding strong hands against old nitty guys but against maniacs we just can't fold the strongest parts of our range.


    1. I don't know, Brian - I like Tony's advise, below ;)

    2. So, Brian, at the risk of inciting another rant . . . what about the notion of not getting stacked with TPTK? It seems like if we are raising (or three betting) premium hands and still getting multiple callers . . . building preflop pots of $75 or $100 . . . and then betting the flop appropriately based on pot size (3/4 pot, etc) . . . and then continuing on the turnm etc., we are going to find ourselves in scenarios where we are stacking off with TPTK, and sometimes losing to marginal (preflop) hands.

      Is it simply a matter of accepting the variance in this type of game?

    3. Variance has to be accepted. Nitty play, while reducing "variance", guarantees you won't get value for your good hands. In the long run, that lost "value" will far exceed your losses when playing a strong range vs. loose fish.

      While there is no hard fast rule, it's one thing to stack off $1000 with TPTK when the initial "raised" pot is $100, it's another to stack off $300 when the initial pot is $100. This continues my SPR (Stack to Pot Ratio) theme.

    4. On the AK hand...I probably check/sigh call. When you give up on the river ...the villain knows you don't have the straight or the flush...so now he feels like his AK is good....you might also find yourself "calling for value" when he shows up with KQ or KJ...not a big stretch in a loose game where $12-$15 raises get 4 callers.

      As far as the game being too loose ...there is going to be more variance...but also more upside. In many cases you are getting 4-1 on hitting a flop with the best hand!....it doesn't get much better than that. You will win fewer pots and get sucked out on more often...but the pots that you win will be much larger.

      Just charge the hell out of the loose passives to draw at you....and in the long run it will pay off....they might beat you in one session...but they can't beat the math.

  6. the way to solve the problem of not knowing what to do on the turn is to not buyin for over $100, and to leave once it hits $200+ and u begin to give back the win.

    1. Well, not sure that strategy is going to improve my poker game, Tony . . .

    2. sure tony play weak tight poker.buy 4 min and win min

  7. "You have monsters-under-the-bed syndrome. You always think that your opponent has the best hand. But they hardly ever do." quote from this article


    1. This is exactly right. I've read these articles before; and I now I suffer from this syndrome. I just haven't yet found the cure!

  8. PPP,

    Hahaha you know I'm just ranting for funsies...no offense obv. First thing is to ignore all of Tony's advice as it is beyond terrible. I am sure this is obvious...lol

    As far as TPTK goes I would proffer that stacking off is:

    1) Almost always standard in a 3b pot with 100bb or less effective. I would go so far as to say you should almost never be folding TPTK in a 3b pot with 100-125bb effective.
    2) Generally pretty bad with 250+bb in a single raised pot. However, I would not stop betting because of this. THIS IS IMPORTANT DISTINCTION. I am just bet/folding til the river in MOST cases. On the river if an obvious draw missed you can OCCASIONALLY ch/call to allow the Villain to bluff.

    Of course everything else is a crapshoot and where "playing poker" comes in. Generally if we are out of position and we have TPTK I would say that we should keep betting until someone tells us not to. If we get raised we need to assess the board, the likelihood of the player raising us to do so with worse and the odds the pot is offering. That's where it gets hard. Here is how i would have played the AK hand FWIW:

    Raise pre-good could maybe even go 15 but w/e
    Flop-Bet bigger...I bet like 30
    Turn-I'm betting again...probably 3/4 of the pot (~100 if you bet bigger on flop)

    If your stack is 200 to start the hand there are NO RIVERS you can fold IMO.

    So my keys to beating LSNL:

    1) Play for value, value, value-If you are not value "cutting" yourself fairly often you are not value betting enough!!
    2) Rarely pot control and almost never OOP
    3) Learn to bet/fold..players are so passive generally at this level bet/folding is the way to go.

    The worst thing you can do is leave value on the table and/or give free cards. Not getting 2 or even 3 streets of value with AK vs. KQ on K hi boards is tragic. The more value you squeeze the less concerned you will be with the times you value cut yourself betting one more street with AK on KT338 boards and the Villain shows up with K8!

    1. Thanks for taking the time, Brian! Definitely going to put this approach to work next time out.