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poker hand, two perspectives

i didn't play 15/30 OM because that game didn't actually happen, so i stuck on the 1/2 NLHE. this was one of the more interesting hands of the night last night.

i'm sitting in mid-position and i raise to $12 with 10x10x. one person limps. there's maybe one caller after me, and then the cutoff raises to $25. He just sat down at the table and made the table lively because he was a talker and he was pretty aggressive preflop with a wide range, but he was also a smart player and knew when to get rid of hands after the flop based on whatever. he didn't *always* make the right decisions, but he was a solid player.

the table was a a pretty loose passive preflop table - normally i raise pf and i'll get maybe 2-3 callers on semi-decent hands, but on this table it wasn't unusual for a $12-20 raise get called by 4 people with hands as bad as 8Jos. Especially given how aggressive this guy had established himself so early, not a lot of folders. so now pf there was about $125.

flop comes 5s6s9x. The bb, first to act, bets $35 into that pot. person after her folds, and now it's to me.

bells and whistles. the bb is someone who i've played with once before. she used to be a waitress at harrah's in new orleans when it first opened. she's generally a pretty tight player, so the fact that she bet immediately into this pot after calling a raise and a reraise makes me suspicious and nervous, not just because of her and the bet itself, but because i'm in the squeeze against the aggressive guy who clearly has raising and taking advantage of the squeeze play in his arsenal.

so i'm sitting there thinking for about 20 seconds, and the aggressive guy makes a mistake: he talks and says, "if you call i'll fold, if you fold, i'll call." the other thing that he had established on the table as a talker was that he never talked to mislead, he mislead by what he didn't say, so i was pretty confident that if i called, he would indeed fold. I wasn't sure what i was walking into with the bb, but i decided to call and see what happened on the next card and fold if the bb bet again.

Aggressive guy did indeed fold, as did the person after him. so now it's head's up.

Turn comes a 10, gives me top trips. BB goes all-in. I think i rolled my eyes as i called. i mean, she was a fairly tight preflopper, so the odds of putting her on a made straight were just not high enough for me to fold for the remaining $150 she had behind, but given how my night had been going (AA cracked twice, KK cracked twice, three times by sets, once by a gutshot straight), i was ready for anything at that point.

River comes some low card, and she turns over QQ. I rake in the pot. Aggressive guy says that he folded JJ, and we exchange a brief conversation about why he gave up that hand and why i almost gave up my hand because of her willingness to bet into a raiser and reraiser.

so first point: i got lucky and banked on that hand, but was it correct for me to call on the flop?

answer is that i don't think so. even if i was confident that aggressive guy wasn't going to put me on the squeeze, where do i think i am in this hand? Given the bells and whistles that go off in my head i put her on a made hand - she doesn't have block bets in her playing vocabulary, she's not betting on the flush draw or a straight draw. Based on the preflop betting and calling, i don't put her on AA or KK and maybe not QQ, but based on her strength of flop bet i don't put her on A9 either. So really what i'm facing is a set, JJ, maybe QQ, any of which makes me a huge dog. calling $35 to win $155 is roughly 25% pot odds if i feel i'm behind. Compensate for the very slim chance that i'm ahead and that might shave it to 22%. in a situation where i'm about 8% to improve my hand, it's not correct to call there even with implied odds of the remaining $150 she has behind.

so i won a big pot but got lucky doing it. i got lucky that aggressive guy gave me a tell that made me decide to call instead of folding, which i probably would have done if he didn't say anything. i got lucky that i hit my 8% when it seemed like i was behind on the flop. bad play by me.

now let's talk about her play. SHe was talking to the guy next to her about how the situation went down, and he was trying to convince her that if she bet stronger into the flop i would have folded. he asked me, "if she bets $75 into that flop, do you fold?" and i said yes. He said to her, "see?" and she acknowledged that, but her reason for betting so small was because she was scared of the straight, scared of what the aggressive guy might do.

so there's two spots i felt she went wrong in that hand.

a) preflop. granted, she was facing a raise and a reraise, but the reraise was a minimal reraise and by a guy who had already established himself as a wide pf range. of course she has to be worried that i or the aggressor *could* be sitting on AA or KK, but if she raised pf on top instead of just calling, she can a) get the other stragglers out and even get me to fold my hand if i was raising on a mid-sized pocket pair, and b) more specifically hone our range based on how we react to her reraise, and c) she takes the most advantage of the fact that she's out of position for the rest of the hand. If she reraises and everyone folds, good result. if we (the raiser and reraiser) both just call, it significantly reduces the chance that we have AA or KK and she can shove on the flop if there are no overcards, and if we outflopped her, we outflopped her. if there is an overcard, she can either decide to commit depending on how much she reraises and if we both called or only one of us did, or check to give her a chance to fold if we bet, which is unlikely anyway since she showed such aggression by 4-betting preflop and now she just checks? her establishing such aggression preflop will likely give her a free turn if she feels she needs to play it more passively at that point.

clearly the reason that she just called preflop was to be able to react to the flop if there were no overcards, but by just calling, she's inviting more hands that have A and K in their arsenal to stay in as opposed to fold.

so okay, she was scared, she was probably going to check if an A or K came on the flop. But then no overcard comes, yet she still makes a mistake: b) her flop bet size. to me and to aggressor, it seemed like a strong bet ploy, but the reality was in her perception it was a scared bet.

granted, doing this seized control of the pot-sizing - in some way better to make that bet than to check call a bet that would likely be stronger than just $35 into that pot by either me or aggressor. but my earlier reasoning aside, $35 is still a very speculative bet, and given the way i know that she plays, a stronger bet will get me to fold without hesitation, or if not, get in even more incorrectly as a dog. Especially if on the turn she's planning on shoving if no overcard comes, better to set that precedent so that we're not drawing on our potential AK or AQ in the first place.

that's the way i read the situation in any case.

i think this further proves that while i have some talent at hold 'em and a poker player, i'm not quite as good at figuring this stuff out on the fly as i should be. i think i do better in omaha than i do in hold 'em in this regard.

But the fact that i can go through this sort of reasoning at all gives me some hope that over time it can still become more natural as i continue to play both live and online. and honestly, i'm not putting as much energy into it as i could given that poker right now is just a side hobby rather than a primary source of income. i'd beat myself up more about the fact that i did this poorly if it was necessary for my lifestyle, but if that was the case, i'd also be investing in some lessons anyway.

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