Thursday, 3 April 2014

Reviewing your hands is one of the key skills of any successful poker player, says Jeff Kimber.

Be it cash game or tournament, online or live, making time to go over key hands after a session is an excellent way to learn from mistakes and improve as a player.

However, with poker being the wonderfully frustrating unique game that it is, sometimes you’ll end up in situations that no amount of reviewing will afford you the ‘right’ answer to the situation. Having looked back at a huge hand I lost on Day Two of the recent Genting Poker Series Main Event in Birmingham, I’ve come to the conclusion that I couldn’t really do anything different at any stage in the hand that would have been ‘right’.

I’d made it through to Day Two with an above average stack, and it was halfway through the first level of the new day. The blinds were at 800/1600 with a 100 ante, and I started the hand in question with 82k (just over 50 big blinds).

The big blind still hadn’t made it to the table and was sat out, a situation that is the cause for many an accident as players fight over the dead blind, and others try and protect it from what they see as an obvious steal.

The action passed round to me in the hijack and I raised to 3,500 with KsQd. With the big blind sat out, there’s an added dynamic, meaning that those behind me would (quite rightly) think I would be raising lighter than usual – but KQ is a raising hand nevertheless.

After the cut-off passed, the action was on big stack Yiannis Liperis on the button, who was sat with just under 200k (123BB). I’d not played with Yiannis before, but I will always presume that a young guy with a big stack early on Day Two is a pretty competent player.

Yiannis three-bet to 7,600, and after the small blind got out the way, the action was back on me.

Given that the big blind was absent, it wasn’t a massive surprise to me that I’d been three-bet, but now I was left with a decision. I definitely wasn’t folding given the circumstances, so my choice was between four-betting for value or calling.

Neither choice is particularly appetising. While my four-bet would be for value, it’s pretty unlikely my opponent would peel, meaning it didn’t matter that my hand was fairly strong – he’d either fold and I’d win, or he’d five-bet and I would be forced to pass.

That’s not to say that my opponent five-bet bluffing is out of the question, but this early in a fantastically structured tournament full of weaker, much lower variance spots, six-betting all-in with KQ was not an option I fancied facing, so I ruled out light five-bet inducing.

The lesser of two evils was therefore calling the three-bet. While playing out of position is really undesirable, I had what was in all likelihood the best hand, and one that dominates my opponent sometimes, and will see him represent my cards should they hit.

With 16k in the middle, we saw an all spade flop of As-3s-4s. Holding the nut flush draw with the Ks, I decided checking to the raiser was definitely the best option to see what he did. Leading here would just inflate the pot and stacks were too deep to look to semi-bluff all-in on the draw.

Yiannis bet 5,500, a pretty small bet, but with an Ace-high board, a c-bet of just under the three-bet size isn’t that unusual. This bet sizing meant that with 70k back after the 5,500, and 27k in the pot, I had too much to raise all-in, or even enough to commit myself.
Let’s say my opponent had bet closer to the flop pot size (16k), so a c-bet of around 13k. Now there would be 42k in there and I’d have 62k back. Now if I wanted to make a committing raise of 2.5 to 3 times the bet, I’d have put in half my stack and obviously wouldn’t be folding.

However, Yiannis’s small bet size, and the fact we were both still pretty deep (my stack of 70k, 43BB, being the effective one after the flop bet) meant that just calling is really the only option – my hand is too strong to fold, and I have too much back to get it in here.
The turn card was the 4d, pairing the board.

This is not a great card for me, given that while King high might be good, the main strength of my hand is drawing to the nut flush draw, and now it was possible my opponent may have a full house, leaving me drawing dead.

I checked again, and Yiannis bet again, this time 11,300. His range here is still pretty wide. He can be betting for value with hands that have me drawing dead, like full houses or quads, though he would have to have three-bet me with a fairly exact hand for this to be the case. He might not even three-bet small pairs, preferring to set mine in position with the likes of pocket Threes or Fours, leaving pocket Aces, A-4 and 4-3 to worry about.
He could be betting for value with hands that currently have me beaten, but that I’m drawing live against, and that have implied odds for me if I can make my flush – A-x hands, trips, pocket pairs, even flopped flushes.

The rest of his range is made up of bluffs, meaning even though I haven’t made my hand, I might still be winning. I’m not sure how much I would enjoy calling all three streets with just King-high on an Ace-high board, but that doesn’t change the circumstances - I’ve opened on a dead big blind and been three-bet by the young big stack on the button. Him being light here would not be a big surprise, and if I’ve check-called two streets, he might give up on the river.

I called the 11,300, leaving me 58k (36BB) behind.

The river was the 5s, giving me the nut flush. The four spades on the board did make a one card straight flush, but how likely was it that my opponent had three-bet pre-flop with the 2s in his hands?

The only two reasonable three-betting hands containing the 2s would be pocket deuces, a holding which doesn’t make sense given he’s bet both the flop and turn, and As2s, impossible as the As was on the board.

While he could have three-bet any two cards, it’s unlikely, and would be unbelievably unlucky, so my next job is to get value out of my nut flush.

Considering Yiannis’s full range, I felt this fourth spade was a great card for me to check. If he was planning on giving up some bluffs, now the board has four flushed and I’ve shown weakness all the way, this was an open invitation to steal the pot.

I felt like he’d value bet just about any spade, given the lack of aggression he’d faced from me, and he may even look for thin value with trips or a big Ace.

There was of course the possibility I was losing still, full houses and the one card straight flush meant I could be behind. However, I felt it much more likely my opponent didn’t have that much and would look to take the pot down, either with nothing or a weak flush.

I could of course miss a bit of value against big Aces that have no spade if my opponent decides to just check behind. But with the possibility of him looking for thin value with that hand, plus the fact it made up quite a small part of a wide range, I decided to check.

Yiannis bet 25,600, almost half my 58k stack. As I watched him cutting out such a chunky bet, I’d made up my mind that just calling this river would be the best move.

I was pretty sure I was winning, but to check-raise all-in on the river shows such strength that opponents will fold just about every hand you’re beating, and call with the ones that have you beat.

If he’d bet less, I might have looked to raise, but even then I’d have had to fold to any further action. The nut flush is a strong hand, but what am I hoping to be shown if I manage to get it all-in here? He might bet and call a shove with the Queen-high flush, but it’s questionable. There were also all sorts of hands that beat a flush too that would obviously call me, while just about anything else would be in the muck.

I decided to call and hope not to be shown a full house or quads. Yiannis flipped Qs2s, which I thought was just the hand I wanted to see, the Queen-high flush. He’d found the miracle flop after three-betting really light, but his second nut flush had been undone on the river when I’d made the nut flush.

I looked again, what’s that other card with his queen? Ah, the 2s, a straight flush. What an absolutely brutal run out for me! I had him dominated pre-flop, got unlucky when he out-flopped me, hit my re-draw, but to the one card that has me beat and would cost me half my stack.

On each street I could of course played differently. As played, it looks like if I’d found the four-bet pre-flop he’d have given it up. Having said that, it wouldn’t be unheard of for me to face a five-bet there, and really I’d have to be prepared to six-bet shove if I play a strong hand this way pre-flop.

I can’t pass the flop with the nut flush draw, and check-calling is definitely preferable to any other move, where semi-bluffing here would have cost me my stack.

On the turn it’s possible I could give up. The board is now paired, so I’m playing a drawing hand out of position (so it could be hard to get paid if I hit) and could already be drawing dead. But the make-up of the board, plus my feeling that my opponent wouldn’t slow down if I hit and checked still makes me think given the stack sizes, a check-call is the best play. On the river I could easily go broke, either bet-calling it off, or check-raising – many more aggressive players would go broke here, whereas I left myself 20BB to try and mount a comeback.

The fact of the matter is, it was just a brutal run out. An accident I couldn’t avoid. A set-up I can only hope to be on the other side of next time.

It’s one of the most annoying and over-used phrases in the game, and one I make sure I never use, but it feels appropriate for this kind of situation…that’s poker!

Watch the hand in question as it unfolds at tinyurl.com/bluff-mag.

The blinds are 800/1,600. Jeff Kimber is in the hijack with 82.5k, and Ks Qd. Yiannis Liperis is on the button with 196k (chip leader).

1. Action folds round to Jeff, who raises to 3,500.

2.. Yiannis re-raises to 7,600. Jeff calls.

3. The flop comes As-3s-4s.

4. Jeff bets 5,500, and Yiannis calls.

5. The turn is the 4d.

6. Jeff bets 11,300, and Yiannis calls.

7. The river is the 5s.

8. Jeff checks. Yiannis bets 25.6k. Jeff looks at his remaining stack of 58k, and calls.

Tags: Jeff Kimber, Yiannis Liperis, Genting Poker Series