The Poker Blog


This is mostly an economics blog, but this post is going to be about only poker.

My take on the hand (which is, obviously, by the way, my favorite hand ever)….

-For a 6-handed ante game, this table has played very tight up to this point.

-I bluffed Phil in one fairly big pot before this where I re-raised pre with 78o in position, bet the flop (I hit an open-ended straight draw), checked behind on the turn, then bluffed the river.

-The hand starts out as a play on Mike.  I had a “tell” on him and made a play.  As it turns out, I was wrong; he had a strong hand (AJo).  He folded and then Phil looked like he would fold as well.  Phil instead 4-bets to $6800!

-This made for a very bizarre spot.  My holding is unconstrained.  In fact, it’s fairly likely that I have a super premium hand here.  Phil’s holdings, in my view, are constrained — I simply can’t see him choosing to slowplay aces or kings here, even though he likes to slowplay in general.   Mike’s been playing exceptionally tight and he is not very deep.  Slowplaying aces or kings against such an opponent in a cutoff vs button situation would be just a terrible move.   In the unlikely event Phil is slowplaying, his best move if he thinks I’m bluffing is to just call my 3-bet and hope I continue firing.

-The sick part of the hand, for me, is that I know that Phil is an exceptional hand-reader and I know that he knows that I know that his play in the hand has been irrational.   Given that, I have to assume he’s setting me up for a blow-up of some kind.  If I’m bluffing, he might reason that none of my options are that great.  I can  1) give up, 2) call (can’t be a good spot for me out of position), 3) move all-in (stupid for me given that there’s $10500 in the pot and we have $70k each behind), or 4) raise  (If I raise and I’m bluffing, he can move in, and I won’t have the odds to call).

-I decided to raise with a plan to follow through on a missed flop.  I just couldn’t imagine him 6-betting me in this spot.  I don’t think he has aces or kings here.  If he’s got a dead-read and moves in without a hand, I’ll admire the play and move on, but it seemed very unlikely to me that he’d risk putting in 70k drawing less than 20%.

-So some background on Phil.  He’s one of the best.  I honestly believe that he’s a tremendous hand reader, one of the strongest in the game.  He’s a much, much better tournament player than cash player for a simple reason — he’s too weak-passive.  Weak-passive is not a bad style in tournaments b/c the stacks are usually shallow and the money usually gets in before the flop or on the flop.  If you’re playing against players who overvalue their hands (and/or you are a great hand reader), you will win the money playing weak-tight in tournaments.  In a deep-stacked live cash game, weak-passive play is death.  Big money decisions in live games usually occur on the turn and river, and the weak-passive style sets itself up for nasty decisions on these late streets.  Phil actually has the worst type of weak-passive play for deep live games, which is a weak-passive style which puts very high value on the super premium hands (AA, KK, QQ); this strategy implies that in big pots, you will tend to be both passive and out of position!

-Bluffing a strong hand reader like Phil is dangerous.  Sometimes they will just have a solid read on you and they will get you to put the money in drawing dead or nearly dead.  There are some players that I just don’t bluff in really big pots.  I wouldn’t bluff Kenny Tran here.  His reads are too good.  I wouldn’t bluff Viffer in this exact spot (not that I wouldn’t bluff you Viff!  It just wouldn’t work here).   I wouldn’t bluff Nick Schulman here, not so much b/c of reading ability but b/c he’s the type to have AA or KK here when he CAN’T have that hand.

-When the club draw comes, in my view I have to ship it ($40 k in the pot, ~48k effective behind) even though I might not play it that way with aces.  Having him fold here is so much better for me than playing a contested pot at 38% that I’m better off pushing and removing any hope of fold equity from his mind.  Further, we haven’t played big pots like this in the past; as far as he’s concerned, I might easily have aces here.

-I’m reasonably happy with my acting.  My voice cracks when I say all-in.  That’s bad from an acting point of view, but it’s not so bad in this hand, b/c a voice-crack in a spot like that indicates strength as often as weakness.  It’s hard to interpret.  It might stem from the adrenaline of having a huge hand in a big spot.  Or it might stem (as in this case) from nervousness when executing a big bluff.

-If the club draw doesn’t hit, my bet size will depend on the board.  There are some boards where I’m going to bet 18k or 20k and fold to a raise.  If the board comes like QJ2 with two spades, I can’t risk my whole stack. If an ace or king hits in an unconnected way, I move in, even if I have no piece.  I can’t give him thoughts of fold equity in that spot; if he has an ace or king (both unlikely) or hits a set or makes a hero call, I just have to get it in dead (it’s a risk worth taking at 40k-to-48k odds).  When an ace or king hits, he has to be concerned that I’ve bluffed but made my hand on the flop.

-I’m very happy Phil folded, but a fold can’t make sense for him given the way he’s played the hand.  This is a great board for him if he thinks I’m bluffing.



2 Responses to “The Poker Blog”

  1. 1 Jon

    Nice to read the thought process behind a very interesting hand.

    Also, good points about PH weak-passive play in the cash games. What constantly surprises me about this, is the fact that PH has not made any adjustments to his cash games style. Surely he has enough poker savvy to realise weak-passive is just not working for him in these formats?. I’ve seen him play a variety of styles at tournaments, including a winning LAG style for short periods. But he never seems to bring it to the cash games.

    Anyway, NH Sir.

  2. Nice, Brandon. When you say “constrained,” seems that we’re talking a very, very tight constraint. Given the way he’s been playing, seems like the range is 99, TT, JJ, QQ, and AK; and you might be able to remove 99 from that range.

    It’s the sort of spot I haven’t played well historically. When he so clearly defines his hand, I haven’t been taking the opportunities that come when an A or K hit the board, which as you said, are spots where one really ought to be bluffing.

    So, eh, thanks for the tip!!

    I’m sure we’ll see each other at the WSOP.

    Jay G.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: