Monday, July 27, 2009


By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I make plenty of pat-myself-on-the-shoulder laydowns when I play NL cash games. Most of the time, I simply know that I'm beat and I'm folding to very obvious value bets on the river. Other times, I have been able to avoid suspicious behavior and betting patterns that reveal a much stronger hand than myself.

I had been working on the laydown part of my game because I have been folding too many made hands where I think I'm beat. I've been getting bluffed too much and needed to take more chances and try to pick off more opponents.

In tournaments (particularly during the amazing run during Dream Team Poker), I made a slight adjustment which brought plentiful results. I switch gears frequently, but during my tight-aggressive gear, I have been leading out on the flop with slim to marginal holdings only to fold to raises and/or check-raises. In cash games, I would three-bet and four-bet more in those situations (when I missed the flop with A-K and holding a big pair when a scare card hits the turn), so I decided to incorporate that move against opponents whom were more prone to fold.

I always find myself in a situation when I say... "I know he has nothing... but so do I, but I don't have enough chips or enough balls to shove, so I gotta fold."

That happened early on during the Dream Team event. There was an extremely loose player, a dealer from one of the California casinos, who was picking on me in the early levels. He had been playing 50% of the hands (often limping ot limp-calling raises behind) and he quickly built a stack with post-flop aggression against our table filled with weak-tight players including me, who played non-confrontational poker at the outset.

He limped in EP and I popped him to 1,300 with A-K from the cut off. He called. The flop was Q-6-2 rainbow. He checked. I bet 2,600 and he check-raised to 6,000. Normally I would have folded but I decided to tank and let him sweat it out. During that moment, I was looking for an excuse to call. I carefully examined his hands and his neck in an attempt to pick up any tells. My gut told me that he had nothing of significance, because he would have raised preflop with any pair or strong hand. The hand I was worried about was 2-2, but he'd wait until the turn to check-raise me with a set. He could have had a Q-J to Q-9 and even lower if they were suited. If I raised, would he be able to fold top pair with a crappy kicker. Even if he had a Queen, I still held two overs. He could have been check-raising me with A-6 or something like that, maybe 7-6 and flopped second pair and was trying to push me off A-K. It was about to work, but I just didn't believe him. I didn't want to fold so I had only one option.

"I'm all in," I said.

The guy tilted his head back and looked up to the heavens. He immediately took off his sunglasses. If he had flopped a big hand, he would have already tabled his cards. I knew that I was in good shape with every second that had passed as he muttered things under his breath. He said he had a middle pair and folded without showing his cards. I raked in a decent pot and more importantly, he stayed out of my for most of the night.

In that instance, who knows if I was ahead or behind. Bottom line... I avoided the once automatic fold during a live tournament.

Online cash games, especially limit hold'em, is a total different universe. I enact an ABC poker game plan when I multi-table LHE. Premium hands are tough to come by, so whenever I do find them, I play them hard and fast especially in multi-way pots. I'm gonna make my opponents pay to suck out on me. In the worst case scenario (or the common situation where I have K-K and 97.4% of the time an Ace will flop), I'm gonna lose one or two big bets by check-calling the turn and river with a big pair with an overcard on the board. Once in a while, someone gets fancy and tries to bluff. It's not going to cost me much to sniff that out... but it can get pricey over the long haul.

Some of the tougher situations are capped hands pre-flop between three or more opponents. If I have J-J thru K-K, I'm assuming one of my opponents has Aces or has a pocket pair above me. And if I have Aces, I have to assume that one of them has a big pair. So when I have A-A and it's capped three or more prelfop, I nearly shit a brick when a Jack, Queen, or King hits the flop because one of those fuckers must have flopped a set to sink my Aces.

In LHE, even though I know I'm beat, I'm still a sadist and call them down all the way to the river by the rare chance one of them is bluffing with the Hammer. Do people still do that these days? Since it's only costing me a limited amount of money to call... I brazenly do so. In NL, I'd have to make those decisions on the flop to head for the hills or make a stand for the rest of my chips. Folding is easy when you have your entire stack at risk. Folding is tougher when the bet is so insignificant relative to stack size. That's why LHE is tough to beat for some folks.

I'm always trying to plug leaks in my game. I found myself chasing down sets with pairs even though I knew I was beat (and not getting any odds whatsoever to call the flop or turn). I'd say only once in a blue moon do I actually hit my two-outer, although it seems to happen against me every fuckin' time. I decided to reduce those loose calls and play more disciplined. I haven't seen the instant results, but over the long term, I expect to save several hundred big bets over the remainder of the year.

I had one of those situations arise over the weekend. I was multi-tabling 5/10 with CMitch. Those tables have a mixture of solid players and scores of dead money. The swings can be huge, but there are times when I've been able to hit and run for a few hundred in a matter of minutes... which is astonishing for a full ring LHE table. And think about this... those tables used to be softer!

Anyway, here's the hand that I was able to fold...

I found K-K on the button. JimmyG limped. Zeus called. Canterberry called. I raised. Small blind re-raised. The big blind called. JimmyG folded. Zues called. Canterberry called. I capped it and everyone called. Five players. I figured that I was behind against Aces in the small blind.

The flop was Jc-8d-3s. Both blinds checked. Zeus checked. Canterberry bet out. Fuck. He flopped a set of Jacks, that shithead. I called anyway. The small blind check-raised. The big blind folded and Zeus folded. Canterberry capped it. Action came back to me and I was looking at being way behind A-A and set of Jacks. Time quickly expired from my time bank and I folded.

The As hit the turn. I felt better about folding Kings because I'd be drawing dead even if I spiked a King on the river. The river was the 10d.

Guess what the players had?

The small blind showed Jd-Jh for top set, while Canterberry flopped bottom set with 3-3. Well, I figured that I was way behind one set but two? Yikes. In that case, it was pretty easy to fold Kings. It saved me a few big bets or a half a bag of weed.

Original content written and provided by Pauly from Tao of Poker at All rights reserved. RSS feeds are for non-commercial use only.

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