As I’ve written before, the august Banker, Prince of the Village, has taken the tack of avoiding confrontations with me. This was a regrettable development, but who would blame him? He collects chips like interest from his adoring Smurf clients by just sitting in the games, and his invincible reputation must be valuable to him. He doesn’t have to spend effort on me, just as he selects bigger games very circumspectly these days, aware of his limitations. He is a wise and calculating poker player.
However, engagement can never be entirely avoided with only eight opponents to choose from and the Goddess intervening with the occasional cooler or inspiring a lunatic move. So when the Banker finally got to the main game, he found himself with immediate position on me: at the very least, the invitation was extended.
The game itself was something of a war zone aftermath. Five players had recently withdrawn from the field, whether from felting themselves (The Sommelier, whose expertise in whining is nearly unparalleled), boredom (a fish actually watching Rounders on his smart toy, oy), defeat (The Happy Overplayer), crushing defeat (The Unhappy Overplayer), and one other, much more regrettable loss to the table dynamic. Face Up Fred is one of the most kind and gentlemanly players at the Village. He’s had to part ways from regular battle at the Big Game, but tonight’s modestly deep $5 game is right in his strike zone. He painfully check raised the Unhappy Overplayer on a paired board – my only question was whether he was full or not- and got stacks in and full value from aces, somehow, some way. Good lord, I shudder from donk chills just imagining it. Give me the nuts one time with these guys! Then Face Up Fred took a photo of his monster stack and followed his victim to the exit. Sigh.
So really, when the Banker took his seat, it was a new game and ripe for new dynamic. He immediately came out firing in an effort to establish a rhythm to his liking. After a few orbits of accumulating small pots, we had some immediate history to work with. I had opened and check folded an unfavorable spot. Now, with the AQhh, I again opened from early position. The Banker called from early middle, and two loose pre, tight post types over called from the blinds.
On a 1075hh board, the blinds checked to me. This is an ideal checking spot for me as the preflop raiser. To begin with, it rates to miss the PFR, and a cbet would be polarizing and likely unbalanced. The game featured a dramatic variation of this point later, when one of the Banker’s minions, playing very tight, isolated an EP limp and somehow picked up a giant train of six callers. When the minion bet into the dry as death board of 822, he always, always, always has an overpair. He can never have AK or all the hands that balance the overpairs. It’s the ideal situation for him yet he will never get action except from a deuce. His bet is pure protection, the equivalent of a PLO spot, and so is not great but okay on this board. His sizing, the real nuance of his bet, is abysmal- too large to wake up anything but the actual monster under the bed.
So imagine on a wet board like this one between the Banker and me, where I can get action, and be raised off AK easily. So I play perfectly with a check here. Unlike the minion's wet board, I can most easily be outplayed if I cbet this caller's board with my entire range. Now, there is another great reason to check- this board smashed the banker’s wheelhouse. This right in his strike zone. Being overrolled for 25/50, nevermind what must be novelty stakes for him, he makes every speculative call within the realm of reason and probably beyond. His great leak, back when he was a big target for Gargamel and I was his predilection for calling three bets. That leak is gone but the traces of a bad VPIP remain like a poker half-life. What this means, unfortunately for me, is that unlike many players, not only can he have middle and bottom set, he can also have several two pair combinations. The good news, however, is that his range is primarily one pairs, and a deposit box full of draws.
This means he can bet if checked to, and is motivated to do so. And he does, a little more than half pot, a careless looking bet, I think possibly with the intention of looking unworried. The Smurfs will never challenge their overlord, so they quickly fold, even though it’s a great spot for them to fight for the pot. The PFR checked, he’s weak, now’s my chance! But they’ve been owned by the Banker too many times to even seriously consider it.
Now, with my entire continuing range is the time to raise. I will play all overpairs, some sets, and all draws this way. Right now I have the flush draw and two overs. The Banker takes a long time with this and goes through a series of reactions. He decides on a pretty awesome play, reraising me to the point of commitment.
Yes, a flop three bet over my checkraise. This is going to be a nutted hand most of the time, and you may wonder why this post is titled as it is, as this raise is no error. It’s quite the opposite, an all-star play for value, and well as a bluff against many strong hands that I can fold. I remember I did just that with a holding of even greater but mostly illusory strength, top pair and the nut flush draw, against Gargamel in a spot where he only has sets and has given me an impossible stack decision with even a nut draw. Amusingly, that hand where David Benyamine goes nuts with the A8cc against a big made hand, and his ill expression of knowing he's trapped himself into punting it all off on a draw with no fold equity, flashes through my mind.
The difference here is that I have a very clear read on the Banker. I watch him making some deductions, and conclude he has put me on air or an overpair. What he does when he hits one of his endless run of sets is not happening, so that even if I am wrong, my equity against his overall range is not crippled to naked flush outs. I decide he has big but dominated draws in his range, draws which many players would flat to the check raise. I further observe that he is in a good mood, and is enjoying a little sipping Scotch, the reward of a successful and hardworking man. He can be feeling imaginative. His error, then, is definitely not his tough play against me, but underestimating my ability to hang with him and read him. Smurf flesh has made him just a little complacent.
Well, that's the self aggrandizing error, anyway. Don't mess with Persuadeo, lol. Actually his error is real and fundamental and I deliberately skipped right over it. Like most NLHE errors, it's a preflop consideration. Calling from early in the field without very deep stacks is a fundamental error. There is no strategy in it. You are exposed to the action behind, and when you trigger a donkey chain, you manipulate the SPR against yourself and your speculative holding.
I rip in the AQ for value against much of his range. He calls. All straight and flush draws brick out. I'm obviously chagrinned that I missed the easy way out, a nice bright red heart, but I fast roll the Ace high, expecting to be good quite often.
He says that’s a good hand and mucks.
It would be absurd to say it too loud or invest in a magical narrative, with what I’ve painfully learned about variance and downswings this year, but if any one hand could put an end to my rough stretch, this one might be a candidate.