There were three crucial hands in last night's session, but I’m going to focus on the final one, because it is the most subtle. In the first, I lost my nerve after being put into a tough spot right off the bat and took a line that lent me to being (and was) exploited. In the second, I just played value fast and won even though all the draws came in versus a flighty player riding his heater.
At the time of this hand, I was not in the best mindset. The Banker and his grinning, pudgy minions have coerced a giant whale, a true spewer of legendary proportions, into staying at the small game where they were very deep, rather than move to my table at the bigger stakes game. (Like I say, the great live players are Generals. No online nerd with his headphones and sighs is going to pull this on me successfully.) My whole effort to show up early and get a guaranteed seat has just been negated. Gargamel gives me a knowing look. Table change advocate that he is, Gargamel heads over to the floor. However, the chances of getting into the whale’s game are slim. It’s stocked with regs who know the score and the others will quickly figure things out and hold on to their seats, and their value hands, for dear life.
The whale call is so strong he actually starts pulling people out of my game even though there are only ancillary tables available at his level! We are shorthanded for a while the dust clears. Two nits leave, and when Gargamel gives up his seat, my game has actually improved by leaps and bounds. A charming man known in the Database by the unfortunate but obscurely reasoned nickname of The Neanderthal takes a spot. He’s way out of his league here. The remnants are not much better.
The floor comes over to me and asks, exasperated, if I am leaving too. He perks up when I tell him no.
I love the new line up. My forte, if I have one in poker, is deep, shorthanded NLHE. My looseness is rewarded, my handreading skills matter more than the interior nitty truth of nine handed games, and my scary image becomes doubly confusing. Very quickly, I have made up much of my losses from the first hand mistake and the cooler that greeted me in the first orbit of the night. (FFS!!!)
Because of these things, I make a loose open of J10o with a sticky player behind me. He’s wealthy, always debonairly dressed, and plays in even bigger games, so I should expect resistance. I pick up the goofs across the table, and we see a four way flop of Ac5d7d. I’m UTG, so I’m in position, so to speak, to fire multiple barrels on this board. Betting into three people is always borderline, but with range advantage, a tough image, and soft opposition, I go for it.
Debonair calls. He will float a bunch, certainly with any pair and any draw. The turn brings an offsuit 3, and certainly I would barrel my value hands here, so I fire again.
This is where I fail. It’s not the bet. The speed of Debonair’s action is indicative of a strong hand. I realize has an ace. The question is, but which one? He does not have two pair.
The river is an offsuit 3. Diamonds have missed. He does not have A3. How much pressure can this mysterious ace take?
I decide it can take some, but not too much. Critically, he has incorrectly called a river shove earlier: Has he learned something? Does he want to punt it in again? I hope no. I shove all in on the river, overpotting. I want A8-AJ to fold. I don't know what AQ does. If I was wrong and he had diamonds, he just goes away, so that doesn’t matter.
Debonair is tormented. For the next five minutes, we will watch him sit back, stretch, count his chips. He talks. He flips over his hand. He tells us he doesn’t want to pay off AK. (This is a bittersweet comment. I would play AK, my favorite hand, exactly like this, and I have AK eighty percent of the time here. So much of the downswing has been like this.)
I know he’s calling. While I’m waiting to go broke, time slows. I have the opportunity to examine all my behaviors. I noticed earlier in a similar spot where a fish was valuebetting into Debonair, the fish had tried to prematurely expose his hand. It’s a classic tell. Should I try to reverse it? Should I say something?
I decide to just let him go his own way. At last, he asks for a clock. I’m not sure why, but this confirms my intuition that he is calling. LET’S GET THIS OVER WITH, BRO!!!!
When he sticks the obligatory stack in to signify his big call, a different thought overcomes me:
So close. If the air had just hit his head the wrong way, this guy was giving up.
Now, what was wrong here? For one thing, this is not a solid situation to bluff through. The arrangement of my range is wrong, and this is a raise/surrender spot. I do have two backdoor draws, which helps make it a bit, but in truth, I'm just monkey betting it, "Double Barrel Challenge" style. I'm playing utterly exploitably, masked by a lot of numbers and math.
Yet that's not what I really hate: spew is part of profit. However, I have, as always, the secret information that allowed me to crush the games back in the days I was really paying attention. Debonair loves to flat big aces in this spot. So yes, I can blow him off his hand sometimes, but it was never, ever the spot I made it into. All the hands I've played with him flashed before my eyes when he sat at the table. I saw in mind, like the foreshadowing of a good movie, Debonair flatting AQ in EP. Yet I was not in tune. What was I thinking about?
The first hand and the sputtered check raise. The clever Banker herding fish. Making up for it all.
I never needed to do it.
Regrets. (Don’t worry, you weren’t really fooled: the drinks are coming.)