There’s a lot I could say about this hand, too much really, but I am not in the mood for pedantic poker piffle. Hopefully I can knock this out without trouble.
These spots that involve multiple concepts and reward very strong play, from beginning to end, pop up from time to time, as another one did in the forums just the other day. Yet the challenges were relatively simple: either d’Artagnan or Gargamel could have won this pot with attention to fundamentals. I’m going to focus on few points throughout the hand, then point out some overriding themes that are relevant near and far.
Even if it’s not clear or acceptable to the reader on first pass, Gargamel gave his reasoning for flatting Free Lunch Guy’s open. FLG/Lucky Smurf (I personally have called him The Koala in previous posts, if you want to find more on him) has fractures in his preflop sizings. Simply put, he opens smaller with speculative hands. So if Gargamel three bets against the twenty dollar open, he loses FLG quite often. I don’t think this is the best overall plan in the long run, but even an optimal strategy will flat sometimes, so this is a minor point and we can run with it.
D’Artangan’s three bet sizing is fine for a freeze out format, where one's tournament life is threatened much more easily, but in a cash game, leaving good odds to call is not inducing much of an error. This is a core concept, and ignoring it made his hand harder to play overall.
D’Artagnan’s sizing was always going to trigger a call from FLG. They are not deep in a vacuum but deep enough for these games, and one of FLG’s leaks is playing too many hands from out of position. I’m not repeating myself purposelessly: I’m saying it because Gargamel did not fully take into account how wide FLG can be, even facing a three bet.
Gargamel now has put himself in an enviable spot. He is at the top of his range and gets to reopen the betting. 5 + 5 + 20 + 20 + 65 + 45 + 45 means he can make a pot sized bet of 270 or more. I consider this essential, and see him do it regularly. What’s happened here is he has carried over his trap logic into the next action. He will be out of position if called by d’Artagnan, and should not be laying either opponent such a good price. This is a key development in the hand.
The game structure now intervenes. Here, deep in the provinces, in a hold over from limit structures, we are usually limited to three raises, meaning the 4th bet can only be called. This means d’Artagnan’s range is uncapped, just as FLG’s is capped.
They both will call given this price and do. Now we see Jd 10c 4s. Here, Gargamel’s logic is sound if not specific: there is very little he beats in a four bet pot given normal tight ranges. So he checks. However, because of the easy, pot builder sizings from both d’Artagnan and Gargamel, putting his opponents on all big pairs, two of which became sets, is not a given. FLG will in fact show up with almost any suited connector, and d’Artagnan’s range has to be 99+ AQ+, which I agree with G. is a reasonable assumption and he knew at the time. That means, however, that there is room to breathe here for queens.
Checking flop in Gargamel’s spot is reasonable. With d’Artagnan having about 650 back, and FLG with 800 back, all the money can go in. You could check Aces or a set here. Still, betting for value and protection is going to make this hand easier to play. With about the average of a pot size bet left between the two players, or SPR 1, all value is incentivized to go to showdown. Folds here are therefore not just folds, but hero folds. Thin folds.
D'Artagnan's small bet of $225, holding AK, has its place in a three or four bet pot. Against heavy ranges, there is less need to bet large, although this is a particularly minimal wager. Betting small also has the advantage of creating space for play, which the preflop action constricted. D'Artagnan has represented a strong hand at every point, is uncapped, could be charging QQ, KK or simply protecting with pocket aces. So you can argue about the sizing, and I in fact like a bigger bet, but what is critical, and this is the second key point of the entire hand, is that AK is not the hand to bet/fold. The key to playing great hold'em is to use your holdings in synchronicity to the situation. In this case, the hands to bet/fold are the ones that can’t really improve; for instance, if D’Artagnan somehow ended up with an Ace blocker or other holding that benefits most from fold equity, can't improve easily, and has no showdown value. Checking is ideal in this spot because bet/folding AK wastes all of its equity on J10xr. Bet/calling is blowing up the pot – yet it is better than bet/folding this hand. The answer is to know in advance to check some holdings, discover that AK is one of them, and in doing so, use position wisely.
When FLG comes over the top with the shove, holding 89cc - note the backdoor flush draw which must have been encouraging to him - Gargamel is in a horrible spot. I can’t blame him for folding… except for one thing. What he knew about FLG at the beginning of the hand, he now forgot about him. He doesn’t open tens or jacks small. What his hand really looks like is KQ, J10 or 89. Let's add a few outliers, including the possibility we were wrong about a couple sets: TdTc, TsTc, KQs, JTs, 98s, AsJs. When Gargamel gets it all in and d'Artagnan folds, his expected value in going with his hand looks something like plus $655 EV ed: this number looks off, will go over it again sometime. When d'Artagnan calls it off as well, obviously it is much worse, but again, we must go back to the preflop hand reading and realize d'Artagnan's range is AK, AQ heavy.
Finally, d’Artagnan folds the hand that should never have been bet. What would have that turn card been? One can only wish for a queen, giving d’Artagnan the nuts, Gargamel top set with redraw, and FLG with the deserved dummy end of the straight. That’s what can happen when we play our hands really well. What happens on a king? A deuce? Whatever was coming, it would have been better to find out, than to burn up a bet and then fold in a spot where all players should be focused on showdown.
Well, there's my report. I accept cash, checks, and Sklansky Dollars. Here’s my summary thoughts:
- Can't blame Gargamel for folding in game, having arrived at the decision the way he did. The capped preflop action makes d'Artagnan's hand appear stronger than it is, which in turn strengthens FLG's perceived range. D'Artagnan did not have to bet the flop. However, Gargamel's fold was ultimately a bit less of a range based decision than is desirable, and he was always in control of the spot thanks to his tricky flat.
- Position is only valuable if it is used properly. It is not a thing unto itself, merely an opportunity.
- As I wrote in Less Known Poker Truths, players love to spend time designing ranges for three betting and such, but they don’t seem to put much time at all into how to play once they get what they asked for.
- One of the most common fallacies in poker strategy is where a player tells himself he can do something unideal or unusual because of his ability– when his real edge derives from knowing what is ideal. You see the logic problem.
- Small errors create large ones. If someone is getting lucky, finding good situations for their holding, or wriggling out of bad ones, like FLG here, we must always ask ourselves, while we watch the enemy stack our chips, Did I Do That?
Thanks for the write ups, guys - I'm looking for more.