Why live poker is still profitable, episode #193

I play at a local casino a couple of times a week. I see a lot of the same faces, and I continue to be (happily) amazed at the ridiculous mistakes people make over and over again. So let’s add some anecdotes and friendly advice for the budding poker players out there (note that this is strictly for live games; online poker is an entirely different beast).

Tip #1: “I’m going to bet so much that everything worse folds and only better calls!”

This is normally what you see from the old nits - you know, the 70yr old guys sitting for hours, hunched over their coffee, folding folding folding and waiting for Aces and Kings. When they get Aces they’ll open ginormous pre-flop - like making it $30 when the average raise size has been $9-12. Then they’ll bomb any flop - like betting $75 into a $60 pot - on a J72 rainbow board. Why do they do this? Because they don’t want to get a bad beat. They want to win the hand right now, even if it means they will win a bunch of small pots with AA and will occasionally lose big pots with AA.

When everyone folds, they triumphantly roll over their Aces, like they taught the young whippersnappers a lesson. And of course they curse their bad luck when they get felted by the guy set-mining with pocket 7s. Why do they lose big pots? Why do they get felted? Because in addition to betting an amount that only gets called by better hands, Old Man Coffee is *never ever folding - *because ‘I haz Aces!’. So of course they stack off even when it’s clear that one pair is never good.

Case in point, my hand last week. Villain was a young guy, bit of a short stack, about $180 or so. I have AQo in mid-position; I cover the table. I open to $15 over a few limpers, three callers including V in the small blind. Flop is Q84 rainbow, pot is about $60. SB *open ships *for about $160.

Now, there are one or two Old Man Coffees in my player pool that I have made sick folds here, depending on the preflop action, knowing that they only ship here specifically - and I mean, *specifically - *with KK (i.e, they were waiting to jam any non-Ace flop).

But against a younger kid that just called my raise in the SB? I dismiss AA, KK and QQ, so even though AQ is probably the bottom of my calling range here, I of course turbo-call because I know there is no *better *hand that does this. I assume he has Qx, probably with a shitty kicker that doesn’t want a call. Turn 7, river Ace, and he flips over…AQ.

I can’t even begin to tell you how awful his play is. What *worse *hand can possibly call such a massive bet on this board? He’s only getting called by sets or over-pairs (not out of the question; I was the pre-flop raiser). If his plan was to risk his entire stack, and get all the hands he beats, like KQ and JQ to fold and win a $60 pot, mission accomplished. And man - folding out A8 or A4 is a disaster! If an Ace hits, A8 or A4 is probably never folding.

Nope, he got all those hands to fold, and instead risked his entire stack when he was only getting action from hands that beat him (or - best case scenario, as in my case - he chops with. Betting $160 to win $30!).

The player did this several times over the course of the night - over-betting the pot with his huge hands. If he had made some biggish bets as bluffs, there was at least a chance someone would decide he was bluffing and call off with worse…but nope. So I wasn’t surprised at all when he got stacked for the third and final time after he open-shipped a JT4 board with KK and got snapped by pocket 10s.

“Open ships”?

‘Shipping’ is slang for going all-in. Open shipping is to do it as the first action on a betting street (round of betting, like pre-flop, flop, turn, or river). Usually in meant to refer to a bet on the flop, although it certainly can happen pre-flop. Contrast with “going over the top”, which is to raise all-in in response to an opponent’s earlier bet on a betting street.

DragonAsh, congrats on the win. I’d just caution that I think you need to have some idea that your opponent is a Level 1 or 2 thinker before calling such a ridiculous over-bet. Someone on Level 3 may overship the nuts (go all-in with the best possible hand, when such a bet is a multiple of the current pot, as opposed to a usual bet being a fraction of the current pot’s size), trying to get a call from the upper part of the range of someone putting them on a bluff or a scared medium strength hand.

To forestall the question of ‘what does Level 1 etc… mean’, a Level 1 thinker thinks only about the cards in her hand, and how they apply to the board. They may be cognizant of odds, but are only concerned about their own hand. A Level 2 thinker thinks about their own hand, but is also thinking about what their opponent has. A Level 3 thinker thinks about that too, and also is thinking about what their opponent thinks is in their hand. They will bet and give off tells to try and manipulate their opponent’s perception of the range of hands they hold. A Level 4 thinker does all that, and wonders if their opponent is cognizant of the perception of the opponent’s hand, and is trying to manipulate that perception. And so on… Try to stay one level ahead of your opponent.

I was kind of thinking the same thing. There are circumstances where an all in bet can be successfully used to disguise a monster you actually hold, rather than representing a monster you don’t. At some tables and in some circumstances a sudden push of all your chips will be incorrectly interpreted as a sign of weakness.

Three weeks ago I held JTs and saw a flop of 7-8-9 rainbow. There was, IIRC, about $40 in the pot preflop. Someone bet $20 and I decided an all-in bet would appear weak; I felt, based on the way things were going and the shit people were betting, that one or more of my opponents would think I was trying to protect two pair or some such thing. I pushed in $130 and got a call from an opponent visibly horrified I actually held the nuts.

In the OP’s case it appears his read was right. But there are circumstances where a clever player with 44 or 88 - both entirely plausible hands, given that Villain merely called - will go all in here to represent weakness and bury the poor bastard who calls.

All good points! But probably should clarify a bit more.

On the flop, nobody interprets a shove as ‘weakness’. 99.9% it’s viewed as either the nuts or a hand on a big draw.

(On the river, it can sometimes look bluffy. When I’m on a big combo draw (a hand with a straight draw and the flush draw) and the flush draw misses but I make the straight, I’ll sometimes go all-in making it look like I missed the flush draw and am trying to buy the pot.)

But the flop board is why we can see that your hand is a completely different situation, because your flop is sloppy wet. There are a million ‘worse’ hands that you can get called by, because a 789 flop smacks the field callers’ ranges so hard, and there are a lot of legitimate ‘worse’ hands they think you could have (depends on pre-flop action tho). Do you have just a naked over pair like Jacks or Queens? There are really no straight draw or flush draws…bottom two pair? The flopped nuts? Sets? Etc. (I’d like your play even more if there was a flush draw out there - more ‘non-made’ hands villains can put you on.

What hands could call you? A lot of the same hands: Overpairs. Straight draws, two pair hands, sets, flopped bottom end of the straight, etc.

Secondly, you had someone betting out on that uber-wet board into multiple people. He probably should have some sort of hand there; shipping over the top can be called by so many hands (for sets it’s a mandatory call for only 50bbs or so, for example). I’d prefer your play even more if there was a flush draw - more hands V could put you on. ‘He could be on a flush draw, I call!’.

In my hand, the board was Q84 rainbow. There are (or shouldn’t be) any two-pair hands in anybody’s pre-flop calling range. No straight draws. No flush draws. One in a thousand times, if there’s some meta-game leveling going on hands Two pair trying to price out draws. Sets. Flopped nuts. I’d prefer your play on a board with a flush draw, since there’s . Thinking that your ‘all in bet looked weak’ isn’t quite right.Either your hand was a wrong; instead it looked like you had a made hand - two pair, minimum - and didn’t want a call. The only hand that should have called you were sets, top two pair, or specifically T9s. you’re not showing weakness when you shoved the 789 rainbow flop, you were at -minimum- saying you had an overcard

Wow, ok - last time I post after a night of heavy consumption of chilled adult beverages :stuck_out_tongue:

Basically, my point is that board texture matters. Flopping the nuts and jamming 789 can still potentially get called by far more hands than flopping a set on Q84 rainbow.

I suppose that’s true, since 789 can also connect with, say, 56 suited or (more bizarrely) 5-10, but you have to admit that calling a massive overbet all-in with 789 on the board requires SOME degree of belief that your opponent did not just nail a nut straight.

Would you call an all-in on 789 with a set or two pair? I think you have to decide if your opponent’s (at least partially) full of crap there. If your assumption is that he is, you’re going to pay dearly if he’s doing what I did and *counting *on you to think exactly that.

With a set, you still have decent odds to boat up (make a full house). The exact answer depends on your read of the villain: are they drunk? Lose, tight? Etc…

Edit: Oh, and size of stacks is important too. I’ll have a wider calling range with 60 bb effective than with 500 bb effective.

The answer, of course, is ‘it depends’. He doesn’t have to be ‘full of crap’ - could it be an over-pair charging hands like T9, 67 etc? It’s possible, especially if Villain was (for example) a reasonably tight player that had opened pre-flop from early position; I’ve seen some older players do this with pocket Kings. Could it be an over-played two pair, trying to push draws out? Yes.

If it was a field caller pre-flop from later position, now hands like JT and 56 are more likely (I’d normally dismiss T6 as just too unlikely) but then so do hands like 78, 89, and 79…all hands we’re ahead of with a set (a set of 9s basically has those hands completely crushed), AND we still have redraws if villain did in fact flop the straight - 7 outs to hit a full house on the turn, 10 outs on the river.

That’s why it’s (usually) incorrect to ever fold a set at these lower-stake games like 2/5 or 5/5, and it’s what Gray Ghost was referring to re: stack sizes - people at the lower stakes rarely play deep enough to deny you the proper odds to call (and a lot of places in the US have ridiculously low max buy-ins that basically make the game unplayable & un-beatable). If someone shoved $300 into a $300 pot, you’d be getting 33%; assuming you specifically need to boat up to win, you’d need about 28-30%, so already you’re somewhat close. Then you start looking at possible combos of two pair hands, over-pairs, random ‘spaz-out’ bluffs, and basically you should almost never fold.

With two pair it’s real tough. Now you lose to both the straights and the sets, and possibly better two pair, and you really only have four outs. Top and bottom and top two are really really tough, and would really depend on my read, mainly because your read comes down to if you’re ahead and villain is drawing, or if you’re already behind. Bottom two on a board like this facing heavy action is a relatively simple fold.

On something of a tangent, I once went over to the Seneca Niagara casino in Buffalo and sat down to the first 1/2 seat available. When I put $200 out there I was politely informed by the dealer than the MAX buy in was just $100.

I was stunned. The average stack was like $75, since of course rake was pulling everything down. There was little to do but shove, and no money to win.

How does pushing all in indicate weakness?

In my experience, at low limits, players will - with astounding frequency - push all in to protect weak/middling hands and try to bluff or semi-bluff their way into winning the pot.

Basically, what RickJay said.

Expanding a bit, and over-simplifying a lot: Shoving all-in can mean any number of things:

  • ‘I have a really big hand - I have the nuts! - go on, I dare you to call me’

  • ‘I have a really big draw, but I don’t actually have a hand yet, so I’d just as soon win the hand right now, so I’m betting a huge amount to get you to fold, but I’m not in horrible shape if you do call’.

  • ‘I am totally bluffing, so I’m betting huge so you can’t call’

  • ‘I have a moderate hand, probably the best hand right now, but don’t want any one to get lucky on me so I’m going to end the hand right now’.

That’s why board texture is so important. If someone shoves a Q72 rainbow* board, there is no straight draw or flush draw in play, so we can essentially remove one ‘motive’ above. We also have to consider that if someone had a monster hand, normally you wouldn’t expect them to bet so much that nobody can call. Normally you’d expect them to bet a smaller amount that someone will call (or if you’re really tricky you can bet really small on purpose and hope they take your small bet as weakness and re-raise you).

You can end up with all sorts of levels on levels of thinking - ‘he bet small - he might be trapping, hoping I raise him’ etc etc. But you usually can’t go very wrong assuming bets mean pretty much what the look like until the player gives me a reason to think otherwise, at least at the lower levels.

*rainbow means all different suits. There are three cards on the flop, so a flop with one diamond, one heart, and one spade would be a ‘rainbow’ flop. A flop with two clubs and a diamond would be a two-tone board: i.e., there’s one flush draw out there, since someone with two clubs in their hand needs one more club for a flush, a fairly strong hand. A monotone board is one with all of the same suit. I lost a big-ish pot last week when I had A of spades and Queen of diamonds on a J74 all spades flop, Ace hit on turn and I had to call off a shove 'cause the guy wasn’t that deep (I have at least 7 outs to the nut flush even if the guy flopped a flush, and there’s a decent chance my Ace might be good if the other guy was on a Jx flush draw. Unfortunately the guy had flopped the King-high flush but the fourth spade didn’t hit).

OK, so -this- was a fun hand. And yes, another reason why poker is profitable: People do stupid shit. It’s like they hate money or something.

So I’m in my local casino, about 11pm. Guy at our table, used to be a reg a few years ago, haven’t seen him recently. Gets bitchy when he drinks…and tonight he’s drinking. Not -quite- slow-rolling when he wins a pot then lecturing the table on the mad skilz it took him to win the hand with the nut straight, taking a full minute before every single action, including whether to check his option in the BB when it’s just him and the SB, etc. lecturing the kid that correctly called his river bluff on how he was going to ‘stack him with his donkey calls’. Yelling at the same kid 15 minutes later when the kid goaded him into betting right into his nuts.

So he’s been like this all night and he’s pissing everybody off with his slow play and obnoxious lecturing. I get into a huge hand, flopping the nut flush facing heavy action from a different guy; board pairs on the river, I value bet my flush and villain shoves. So it’s a £1,200 pot, another £500 or so for me to call. After I swear no more than 15 seconds, the miserable old git has the balls to call the clock on me, when I hadn’t take as long as he had taken to fold his 74o after facing a bet, raise and 3-bet in front of him pre-flop (I ended up making a soul-read, called and MHWG).

But now I’m pissed, and I tell the old git to shut his trap and wtf was with the clock bullshit etc etc etc. because I know when he gets all hot ‘n’ bothered he does stupid shit. So as we’re still going at it, the very next hand - I’m literally still stacking my extra £1,000 in chips - I have pocket 3s. Bunch of limpers, including the old git, I iso-raise, everyone folds but sure enough the git calls. Flop is K74 rainbow. I bet, he calls. Turn is a J. He checks, I check behind. River is an Ace. He starts fiddling with his chips. More fiddling with his chips. A full minute goes by, more fiddling with his chips. Finally - and I swear to god I saw what was going to happen in slow motion before it happened - I look at the dealer, then look directly at the old git, and say, ‘clock, please’. :smiley:

Old Git goes ballistic. I mean, like literally he’s going to pop a vein, eyes bulging out of his head. "Why are you calling the clock on me?! You want me to do something? OK, fine!’ And he throws in £200 into about a £40 pot like a petulant child. I turbo-insta-snap call, and he mucks so fast it was like the dealer sucked his cards out of his hands with a vacuum cleaner. I wait until the dealer has his cards in the muck and I show one 3, then another 3 while the guy next to me starts snickering.

It was awesome.

Not that I don’t appreciate the Mickey Spillane prose, but for my poker education, why did he fold after you turbo-insta-snap call him? If you called, isn’t that the end of the betting at that point?

Yes, but it’s not uncommon (particularly in live games) for people to fold when they know they are beaten, even though they could show down for free. It can make sense to do so, if you are absolutely certain your cards are no good - it prevents the whole table from seeing that you called a pre-flop raise with 45o and then tried unsuccessfully to bluff the river. But given this hand, and many others I have seen, I would almost always show down, even with no pair - who knows what might happen, at the cost of just a little pride? I have won a hand before because my opponent misread his cards and only had a four-flush. Hell, TJ Cloutier once did exactly that in a big-money tournament (but ended up winning the hand as the hand he was calling had bluffed).

The best part of this story is that OG could in fact have held something like 45o, and hence would have won the pot against OP’s 33. But from OG’s perspective, for the OP to insta-call such a large bet had to mean he had something (even a J probably beat OG). A great read, and a great play - he could have tried to bluff, but that could have goaded OG into a call that might have won. By “just” insta-calling, he may well have induced OG to fold the winning hand.

Yes - you’d be -shocked- at how quickly people are to muck their hands. I’ve seen people muck on chopped boards, muck where the other guy had mis-read their hand, muck when -they- mis-read their opponents hand, etc etc.

In this hand, when OG limps in he probably has some low suited hand - 45, 56, 46, 57 maybe. The 4 and 7 are in his range certainly…but on the river I think he checks back those hands because he has *some *showdown value. He was taking so long on the river 'cause he clearly wanted to bluff me off the hand, but the Ace is a scary card, so…

I’ve seen people muck hands, see the other player’s hand, and then desperately try to get their cards back when they realized they actually had the winning hand. But once your cards hit the muck, they’re dead.

Last night, playing very late. 1am or so; one of the guys is there with some mates celebrating his birthday. Fun table, lots of jokes and laughing and generally all around loose play, which of course is basically like printing money for someone who knows what they are doing, right?

Except this birthday boy is absolutely being smacked in the face by the deck. Pocket kings twice, pocket aces, at least three sets, rivering two-outers to set-over-set a guy, rivering two-pair hands to crack Kings, calling with any and all draws and then rivering straights, flushes, the works. I swear the guy didn’t lose a hand in over two hours despite playing 60% of hands. He started out with a little over £100, when I left he had over £2,000 in front of him. He took my stack on a K2845 board with a flush draw when I had AKs, and he called my pre-flop 3-bet, called my big flop bet, then called my 2/3rds pot-size shove on the turn with…K5o. And of course binked a five on the river. Disgusting. Some nights it’s better to be lucky than good…

The basic winning formula is and always has been that you’re thinking one level higher than your opponents. Take the tactic discussed in this thread of making a huge bet on the flop:

Level 1: I have a huge hand, so if you want to call me, it’s gonna cost you.
Level 2: I have crapola, but I want you to think I have a huge hand and fold.
Level 3: I want you to think I’m trying to bluff you out, but I actually have a monster.
Level 4: I am in fact bluffing, but I don’t think you’ll call me because trying to buy the pot with a huge flop bet is such an obvious and crude tactic, you won’t suspect me of doing it.
Et cetera.

I’ve made my money by overbetting my monsters, because at Level 2, the level to which most recreational players have climbed (it used to be Level 1, for a long time), they’ll think, “He couldn’t have a monster, or he’d be slowplaying it.” One step behind…