Saturday, March 8, 2014

Huge laydown against a friend ... but was it the right decision?

Here's an interesting hand from a $1/3 NLHE session I played at The Meadows this past Friday. Jason, a good friend of mine who I play with from time to time, raised it up to $15 from early position. I called with J-10. One more player sitting behind me called. Flop came A-J-4. All three of us checked. Turn came the 10♠ -- giving me two pair -- and things got interesting. Jason led out for $20. I min-raised to $40. Third guy in the hand folded. Back to my buddy, who thought for a moment and then shoved all-in for ~$130 over top. (I had him covered.)

What to do? What to do?

I think this would be a fairly interesting hand to discuss no matter who the villain in the story was, but the fact that it was my friend adds an extra layer of intrigue to it. It's not that we play all that differently against each other. We're both pretty competitive and not shy about taking the other's stack if the opportunity arises. If anything, you could likely surmise that neither of us were flat-out bluffing, as we're much less likely to run some kind of long con or aggressive power play against one another (especially once the third player in the hand dropped out). We don't play soft against each other, but we might play a tad more straight-forward.

So, with that information, do you call or fold?

These were my thoughts: No way he was doing this with a bare A-K or A-Q because (a) he almost certainly would have continuation-bet the flop with those hands and (b) he'd have to put me on a hand stronger than that (even though I only min-raised). What made sense to me was either he flopped a monster (A-A, J-J or A-J) and checked the flop wanting to see if either I or the third player wanted to get frisky, or that the turn drastically improved his hand either by making it (K-Q, 10-10) or by giving him a huge combo draw he was willing to shove with (Q-J perhaps). The latter was the best-case scenario for me, although I wasn't sure it was likely and he would still have a nice range of outs on the river.

I folded my hand face up. "Look at how much respect I give you," I said.

The rest of the table immediately started harrassing me. "How can you fold that?! You had him! He was on a draw at best!"

I waited until we were both leaving the casino for the night and then demanded he fess up. He had K-Q and turned a Broadway straight. I was surprised he didn't C-bet the royal-flush draw on the flop, but not surprised I folded the worse hand. As someone who thinks of individual poker hands as puzzles to be solved, making a tough but correct laydown always feels great, no matter whether you're folding to a stranger or a friend.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Battle of the blinds

Here's an absurd hand from a $1/3 NLHE session I played a few weeks back at The Meadows' new upstairs poker room. I was dealt Q-Q in the big blind. It folded all the way around to the small blind, and I sort of relaxed myself and started to lift my cards off the felt, preparing to offer him a chop, as that's what most players prefer to do when all the non-blind hands have been folded. (More on chopping and why I always do it, even with a hand this strong, right here, in both the post and the comments.)

The other player, an older man who had just recently sat down, was fiddling with his chips, and before I could offer the chop, the dealer said to him, "It's just you and big blind, sir." Undeterred, the man said, "I raise," and put out $15 worth of chips.

Well, that was unexpected.

So I was sitting there with pocket queens, which I didn't even think I'd be playing. But now it was clear I would be playing them, and I had them heads-up against another player. Obviously, I was going to reraise, although there was good reason to be somewhat concerned about the strength of this guy's hand. If he was a novice poker player and didn't even know you could chop, then a raise here wouldn't mean anything different than a raise from any position. But if the guy knew he could chop here and STILL decided to put in a raise, that could mean he considered his hand just too strong not to play. So maybe kings or aces were more likely than normal here.

Still, I had pocket queens, you know? I raised to $35. He flat-called fairly quickly, which would be odd for aces, as he didn't seem like the type to trap. And even if he was, wouldn't he have to think about that for a minute? I put him on K-K down to 10-10 or A-K.

The flop came K-7-3. The king sucked, but I did have the second-nut flush draw. I was debating internally how much I wanted to bet when he led out for $50. Bleh. I took a minute, but ultimately folded the hand. We both had $250+ back, and I was not going to lose all my money on this stupid blind-vs.-blind hand against a player who I didn't know at all. If he had A-K, he just smacked it, and if he had the A, my flush draw was no good. The whole thing just felt bad.

He never showed his cards, I ended up cashing out $80 to the good, and, according to my buddy who I was playing with, guys at the table were still talking about this hand after I had left the game.

"Were you here when those two idiots got in a raising war from the blinds?"

"Yeah, what was that about?!"

BUT I HAD QUEENS!

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Meadows is moving their poker room upstairs

The Meadows' spacious downstairs poker room that opened when Pennsylvania approved table games in 2010 will close next week to make way for a new upstairs room that will sit adjacent to the main casino floor. Speculation from the 2+2 Forums is that the new room will feature 15 tables, making it smaller than the 20+ table room The Meadows currently operates but rarely fills. The new room will apparently open one week from today, on Monday, Aug. 26.

I'm on poker hiatus right now, but, once I return, I'll miss the old room, which I always found to be more comfortable and relaxing than the one at Rivers. Still, there's no doubt the new location will be better. Poker players will find the poker room, but a downstairs room away from the casino floor will always struggle to attract casual players who may not even consider giving poker a try until they walk past the room. Wheeling Island figured this out, and now The Meadows has as well.

As always, I'll report back once I try out the new room, which shouldn't be too long from now.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Can't a guy get a spade?!

Here's a nausea-inducing hand from a $1/3 NLHE session at Rivers on Saturday night. The kind of hand that has you saying "if only" for a week afterward. There are three villains in this hand, who we will call Larry, Moe and Curly ... because why not?

Larry was young inexperienced player who would frequently announce his hand with the size of his preflop raise. If he raised it up $30 or more, he had a huge pocket pair. If he raised smaller, it was two big cards or suited connectors. Moe was a super-aggressive bully with a big stack. Curly was a passive call machine.

I was dealt A♠-9♠ from mid-position. Starting the hand, I had ~$120 sitting in front of me, which is about what Curly had. Larry had ~$200. Moe had a massive stack of ~$700, covering all of us easily. Larry raised it up to $15 sitting early, which meant he had a good but not great hand. Curly called because that's what Curly does. I called because I was fairly certain I could outplay both of these guys with little effort. Moe came along too, however, which did put one dangerous player in the hand.

Flop came Q♠-J-4♠. Nut flush draw for me, which was nice. Larry led out for $15, which could have meant he didn't have much faith in his hand or that he just didn't understand good bet-sizing. Curly called because that's what Curly does. I called. Then Moe -- who was constantly inflating pots with bets and raises whether he had a hand or not -- bumped it up to $40. Larry thought for a half minute and then called. Curly called because that's what Curly does.

And then it was back to me. There was $198 in the pot. I had ~$90 back. The math was straining my brain. I know that heads-up against a player with something like an overpair, I'm around 40 percent to catch my flush and win the hand. Here it wasn't so simple, as it easily could be assumed that at least one player would have redraws against me to a full house, even if I hit my flush. And it wouldn't be too big a shocker if one of the other players was also holding two spades, eliminating two of my outs. So I was very unsure of just how good a flush draw I had. There was also the matter of my stack. If I called the raise, I'd only have ~$65 left, which, considering the pot size, I guessed might make me pot-committed, even if no spade came on the turn. Again, the math was a little hazy for me considering all the crazy little variables. Four-player hands can be very tricky to figure when you're in them.

Ultimately, I took a leap of faith and shoved all my chips in. It was only $50 more to the other players, each of whom already had $55 invested into a rapidly expanding pot, so it wasn't a move intended to get anyone to fold. I just wanted the pot as big as I could get it at this point. Moe called with his massive stack still back. Larry called. Curly called for the rest of his chips because that's what Curly does. The pot had ballooned to nearly ~$500.

Well, here we go ...

Turn came the J, pairing the board, which took a lot of wind out of my sails. The two players with stacks back both checked, allowing me to hold on to a little bit of hope.

River came the 6, leaving me with ace high. Both players checked again. The only thing left to do was see who was getting all of my money.

Moe flipped up A-Q, no spades -- top pair, top kicker. Larry flipped up K-Q, no spades -- top pair, second kicker. And good ol' Curly flipped up K-9, no spades. That's right, Curly got all his money in with an overcard and a gutshot straight draw because -- say it with me -- that's what Curly does.

We can debate how well I played the hand (and I'm certainly open to suggestions in the comments). Maybe I should have just shoved the flop after Larry's initial $15 bet, when I had actual fold equity, to see how good Larry and Moe felt about their top pairs. Or maybe I should have just folded after Moe raised and waited for a better spot.

Although, really, this spot ended up being pretty great. No one had a spade! I had my full range of outs and no one had any kind of real redraw against me. The pot odds I was getting were off the charts. If everyone had flipped their cards up before the turn and river were dealt, I would have felt absolutely wonderful about the way things had gone down.

Unfortunately, I still needed a spade to make the hand, and despite having about a 40 percent chance of getting one, it did not come. That one hand was basically a $600 swing for me.

No-limit poker: Not for the faint of heart.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Only at Rivers ...

Seen during a $1/3 NLHE session after the Buccos game at Rivers on Tuesday ...

A brand new player -- a nondescript twenty-something dude -- sat down at the table. On the third hand dealt to him, he four-bet shoved the ~$170 he bought in for pre-flop. He got one caller. The shover wanted to turn his hand over, but the guy who called him didn't want to show yet, so cards remained face-down. The dealer ran the board, which was four rags and a king on the river. The caller said, "Ooh, I probably rivered you," and flipped over A-K. The new player rolled over Q-J offsuit (!), shrugged and said, "Okay, that's all I wanted to do. Good luck, guys." Then he got up and left the poker room.

AFTER THREE HANDS.

By the way, as of Tuesday, Rivers no longer makes you post when you sit down at an existing game, which is nice.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wheeling Island is keeping table games

Here's the long version of the story, courtesy of the Wheeling Intelligencer.

Here's the short version: Wheeling Island threatened to drop table games if the West Virginia state government didn't reduce the annual fee to operate them and/or the table-game tax rate. The state House of Delegates called their bluff and basically said, "Okay, go ahead." Wheeling Island slunk away, muttering, "We'll do it next year. You'll see ..."

Anyway, for those of you who still play at Wheeling Island, carry on.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

So is Wheeling Island dropping table games or what?

Rumors have been floating around since last year that poker and, quite possibly, table games as a whole were on there way out at Wheeling Island. It was mostly just player-to-player chatter, with nothing being made official until the Wheeling Intelligencer newspaper reported last month that the casino was on pace to lose $1 million on table games in 2013.

That article quoted Wheeling Island president and general manager Jim Simms as saying, "The competition we are now facing from both Ohio and Pennsylvania -- combined with the fact that table games are a very labor intensive venture -- is making our situation very difficult."

West Virginia was the first of the three states to approve casino table gaming but has watched their player pool shrink dramatically as its neighboring states eventually legalized poker, blackjack, etc. The casino opened a 20-table poker room in late 2007, though it eventually dropped to nine tables before being shuttered and relaunched last year in a smaller location off the main casino floor.

Aside from dwindling players, another concern is the money the casino has to pay to the state for the mere privilege of operating table games, which consists of a $2.5 million annual fee as well as a 35 percent tax rate. (Ohio's tax rate on table games is 33 percent, while Pennsylvania's will soon drop to only 12 percent.)

According to this WV MetroNews article from a few weeks back, a recent Senate bill was proposed that would have shrunk the annual fee to $1.5 million, providing some relief, but the state legislature ultimately failed to pass it. Unless the state comes up with an alternative for reducing table-game fees, Simms is making it sound like Wheeling Island could decide to pull the plug when the casino's license expires in July.

“We’ve got to stop and do the math on this," he told the MetroNews. "Look at the trend of the revenue declines. Look at what kind of losses we would incur moving forward to see what the tolerance level would be. And then assess what the overall business model would look like with or without (table games)."

Now these could be merely threats to try to urge the state to give them a sweeter deal, but if the $1 million is losses does prove to be accurate, it's hard to imagine giving up on table games isn't at least being considered (especially poker, which is typically a low-earner for casinos). Wheeling Island was profitable as a racetrack and slots parlor before table games came along and would likely continue to be if they went back to that setup. But it would mean one less poker room for area players, even if it's one that many of us don't play in anymore.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Quads on the board, and then things get weird

Here's a crazy hand from yesterday's $1/3 NLHE session at Rivers. A tight, older player sitting early raised it up to $12 preflop. Two callers and front of me, and I called as well holding A-Q♠ from the cutoff.

Flop came 2-2♣-3♣, and it checked all the way around. Turn was the 2♠. Nothing but checks again. River came -- you guessed it -- the 2, putting quads on the board, which I believe is the first time I've ever seen that. It's definitely the first time I've ever written here about seeing it.

Anyway, the guy who originally raised now decided to bet $15. I guessed he had an ace too, so he figured why not get some money in the pot? Then the next guy in the hand, another tight, older guy, called the $15. Now that was a little weird. If he doesn't have an ace, it's a terrible call, and if he does, why not raise? But, okay, whatever. It was a pretty unique hand, and I wouldn't be surprised if some casual players didn't even know where they stood here. Plus, there are players out there who just won't raise if they assume it's going to be a chop, even if there's absolutely no risk in doing so.

Third player in the hand is a young guy who I had pegged as one of the best players at the table, and he raised it up to $70.

Okay, so there's an ace. Wait a minute ... am I certain about that? A bare ace is the nuts here, right?! Shit, I better run through this in my head again ...

And that's what I did. I mean, quads on the board is really rare. And considering the frisky action in front of me, I became a bit worried that I was going to be the dumb one and somehow misread the potential hands here. So, okay, just to be sure ...

A three is no good. Can't play a full house because everyone's got to play the quads. Same goes with a pocket pair. And there's no fifth two in the deck, so ...

Yep, I had the nuts. So I shoved all-in because why not? Again, it may seem silly, as it's preposterous to think anyone would be calling without an ace, but you always want to give other people the chance to misread the situation. The dealer announced my all-in but asked me to leave my chips back for the moment.

First older guy called. There's the third ace. Second older guy calls. Jesus! Do we all have an ace?! I started to roll my cards over. "Well, I've got one," I said.

"Hold up," the dealer said, sticking his arm up. "There's still action behind you."

Damn, he was right. I forgot the young player still had chips back, and it was now on him as I had shoved all-in over top of him. He shook his head in disgust, which I initially took to mean he was angry that I started to show my hand out of turn. Although that didn't make much sense since he had to have an ace and of course was calling. Why would he care that I flashed early?

But then the true source of his disgust became apparent when he mucked his cards and leaned back in his chair, clearly annoyed with himself. I then fully showed my ace, as did the other two players in the hand.

"Yep, I had pocket sevens," the young guy said. "Didn't even realize the river was another two."

See what I mean about giving other people a chance to screw things up?

Whether the guy honestly misread the river or momentarily failed to realize you can't play six cards in poker, I'm not sure. Most times, I'd assume the player was just trying to make himself look less stupid, but up to this point, this dude seemed to be a legitimately good player. So maybe he indeed didn't realize quads were on the board.

Regardless, the hand turned into a little bit of a money-maker for the rest of us, as we got to split the kid's $82 three ways. Actually, it's possible my speaking up out of turn tipped him off and prevented him from putting the rest of his money into the pot, though I think he had it sussed out before it got back to him. (And if he didn't, it ended up not mattering, as I tabled him shortly thereafter anyway. Which was even better since I didn't have to split the rest of his money with two other guys.)

I ended up cashing out $156 to the good on the session. After two pretty piss-poor years of poker, I've averaging $25+ profit an hour so far in 2013. That number may be unsustainable at $1/3, especially if I start playing more often, but it's nice to be winning consistently again.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Hey, the Rivers poker room has its own restrooms now!

Not exactly up-to-the-minute news, I know. But until today, I hadn't played there since last July. The room has undergone some minor renovations since then. It's now separated from the main casino floor by glass windows, giving the area a more closed-in feel. The sign-in desk has moved from the front-left side of the room to the front-right. And, in a move that must have been greatly celebrated by all who complained about the distance of the nearest urinals when Rivers opened, restrooms are now available on the room's back-right side.

I had a nice little $1/3 NLHE session today. Won $190 in three hours, mostly thanks to one hand. Limped in from early with A-4. No raisers behind. Flop: K-J-9. I checked. Unfortunately, so did the five players sitting behind me with cards. Turn: 7♣. I bet $12. A friend of mine sitting on my immediate left raised to $35. Two folds, and then an older guy raised it up again to $100. I shoved for ~$180. My friend folded. Older guy called.

Well, that escalated quickly. Dealer, please don't pair the board, and, buddy, if you've got Q-10, then god bless ya.

River came the 2. I showed, he mucked and that was that. One big hand made the session. I should be hitting Rivers more often again now that baseball season is about to start.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Queens no good, and don't even ask about the aces

Had my first losing session of 2013 a little over a week ago. Played my current brand of tight, safe poker but was mostly done in when I ran into some bad luck with pocket queens two different times.

Playing $1/3 NLHE, I first found ladies in the hole from the small blind and raised it up to $20 after three players had limped. Two ended up calling. The flop came 9-8-3♠. I led out for $45, and, after the first player folded, the second guy shoved all-in, ~$90 on top. Not knowing the player at all, I called fairly quickly, thinking he could be doing this with a lot of flush and straight draws along with maybe pocket 10s or pocket jacks (though less likely those last two since he limped preflop). Of course, sets were in play, but (a) I hate folding because the guy "might have a set" and (b) many live low-limit players like to slowplay sets. After I called, he rolled over 8-9 for top two pair, which held. Didn't catch whether they were suited or not. God, I hope so.

A little later, I was again dealt pocket queens sitting early. I opened to $15, and a short-stack sitting on the other side of the table pushed his ~$60 total into the pot. Not really enough money to get me off of it, so I put in the chips and desperately hoped not to see kings or aces. Of course, he had the latter and took down the pot.

I also had aces once during this session, while sitting in the small blind, and sat there in a state of unbelieving awe as the entire table folded around to me -- the first and only time not a single person decided to limp the whole night.

"Chop?" the big blind asked, seeing if I was up for the standard friendly cash-game procedure of the two blinds just pulling their chips back if everyone out in front folds.

"Yeah, sure," I said, but you can be damn sure I flipped my cards face up.

That's the first time that's ever happened to me, by the way. I was once dealt a royal flush in a home game playing a variant where you're given five hole cards. And in 2008 I got a piece of a bad-beat jackpot in Wheeling. But until now I'd never been dealt pocket aces in a blind only to have the entire table fold around. So it's a milestone, I guess, but kind of a shitty one.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Action Cards: Maverick

Action Cards is a recurring column here at Three Rivers Poker where I pick a film that features poker in some capacity and then specifically review the poker scenes contained therein. I occasionally tackle an honest-to-god poker movie but find it's more fun (for me and you) to discuss movies that only tangentially feature the game. Up today, one of the game's most legendary fictional players ...

THE MOVIE: Maverick (1994) 

THE PLOT: This movie version of the late 50s/early 60s TV series finds poker whiz Bret Maverick (Mel Gibson) suffering one setback after another as he romps around the Old West trying to round up the $25,000 he needs to enter the All Rivers Draw Poker Championship. Constantly getting in his way are cute-as-a-button con artist Annabelle Bransford (Jodie Foster); strict lawman Zane Cooper (TV's original Maverick, James Garner); and evil Spaniard in an awful hat Angel (Alfred Molina).

HOW MUCH POKER IS INVOLVED?: A fair amount. Most of the movie concerns Maverick trying to secure the final $3,000 he needs for his entry fee, but we do see Maverick, Annabelle and Angel face off in a saloon game early on. Then the big tournament takes up a healthy bit of screen time near the film's end.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Wheeling players are just as crotchety as I remember

Until yesterday, I hadn't played poker at Wheeling Island since June 2010. The following month, table games launched at Rivers and The Meadows, and as a Pittsburgh resident, I finally had poker in my own backyard. Still, I didn't think it would take me this long to get back to Wheeling Island. I was born in West Virginia's northern panhandle and still have family and friends, many of whom play poker, in that area. At some point, the stars should have aligned for a trip to that casino.

Two and a half years passed and it never happened, though. Until Sunday, that is, when I had to make a rare trip to Wheeling for an unrelated matter and talked my father into joining me for a short session at Wheeling Island. I was curious to see it, as I hadn't played there since before they shuttered their old downstairs poker room (which originally featured 20 tables) and opened a smaller, nine-table room on the casino floor early last year.

The new room is actually nicer than I thought it would be. And to be fair, it's not a "room," but a corner section of the casino floor that's been partially walled off on one side to make it feel like its own separate entity. The place is surrounded by televisions, half of which were devoted to sports broadcasts while the other half aired simulcast racing while I was there. There are two automated betting machines in the room for anyone who wants to bet on the races and a leather couch near the front for waiting players or visitors. The room is small but plenty big enough to meet the needs of Wheeling Island, which lost a huge chunk of their players when the Pittsburgh poker rooms opened for business.

My father and I got there about 12:30 p.m. There was only one $2/4 limit table going, but we brought the wait list up to seven for a $1/2 NLHE table, which was soon launched. By the time we left two hours later, two additionally no-limit tables were running.

The table was extremely lax. I'm pretty sure three players were there solely to try and hit the bad beat jackpot, which hasn't gone off in a year and is up to nearly $150,000. They mostly folded and were easy to play against when they were in a hand. Still I found myself down early thanks to being extremely card dead. I also got a little aggressive with A-8 when a flop came 8-7-3 and I ended up paying off a guy who had called my flop bet with K-Q and hit a king on the turn.

Then, with my stack down to $85 from it's original $200, this happened: One limper in front of me at a limp-heavy table, and I threw my two bucks in from mid-position with 5-7. The button came along too, and the big blind checked. Four to the flop which came 4♣-6-8♠. Well, hello nuts.

Big blind checked, and the woman sitting second bet $7. I smooth-called, figuring I'd string her along a bit and maybe pick up some more close-to-dead money. Plus, if somebody else smacked this flop, I assumed I'd hear about it. Sure enough, the older gentleman on the button raised to $17. The guy in the big blind called. The woman folded. The raise was light, but the guy wasn't a big bettor, so I figured it could still represent a big hand -- two pair or a set. Well, thanks to my slow-play, I had a decent little pot built and wanted to make anyone drawing against me pay from this point out. So I shoved all-in for my last $76. The original raiser, who had me covered, mumbled disgustedly under his breath, like he knew bad things were about to happen, but he almost immediately announced call. The big blind folded.

"You flop a straight?" he asked.

"I did," I said, and rolled over my cards.

He flipped over his set of fours and dropped back in his chair, cursing at the ceiling. Neither the turn nor the river paired the board, and my straight held. The man offered no acknowledgement my way. No "good hand" or knock on the table. He only muttered, "How is that even possible?" to the guy next to him and then shot me a glare. I just pulled my pot in -- which put me back at about even -- and moved on to the next hand.

Before long, Mr. Grumpy had lost his stack completely (bitching about his bad luck the whole time) and had rebought for $150. Eventually, we dueled again. Another limped pot, and I was holding A-7 with position on everyone. The flop: 8-7-4. He and the other players in the hand checked, and I bet $7. He was the only caller. Turn came a blank. Check, check. The river was the 6. Great card for me, though it did mean I'd lose to a straight flush if he held the 5. He led out for $10, and I decided now was not the time to fear the one card that could beat me. I needed to get paid a little on this hand. I raised it up to $25.

"Goddamn unbelievable," he said and threw in the extra $15. "You got there, huh?"

He grabbed his cards and violently threw them face up: K-3. Mr. Grumpy had flopped a flush and slow-played it all the way to his demise. When I turned over my hand, he unloaded again, yelling about how all I did was catch cards on him all afternoon long.

"Should have raised all-in on the flop," I told him. "I would have folded." He shot me another glare and went back to his mutterings.

Ahh, Wheeling Island. You haven't changed a bit.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

No poker room planned for Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin

Lady Luck Casino Nemacolin now has a website and a Feb. 7 public hearing for its request to install table games, but what it won't have is poker. The Trib is reporting that no poker room is planned for the casino, which is scheduled to open later this year and will primarily serve guests of the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Rediscovering the flow

There's no better feeling in holdem than when you're playing smart, being dealt usable starting cards and running lucky on the community cards. It's the holy trinity of poker, and when it happens, the tangible feeling of being "in the zone" (or being in a state of "flow," as Csikszentmihalyi characterized it) drapes your entire consciousness. You feel invincible.

It's something I haven't felt in a long, long time, but I got back to it Friday night while playing $1/3 NLHE at The Meadows. It was like reuniting with a long-lost lover. I haven't played in a cash game since last July. I took a hiatus from poker, then just dabbled in cheap tournaments once I did start playing again. But Friday was open, and I had some "fun money" laying around. I figured why not give a cash game a go?

I only took a single buy-in. (Which is something I'm going to do for a while now, no matter what my roll is. I think I play better when I've got ~$250 to play with, and, if I lose it, I go home. It makes me tighten my game to where it should be.) I started off card dead but practiced plenty of patience. The first real hand I was in I flopped a pair of aces (10 kicker) in an unraised pot but folded to the guy on my right when he raised my flop bet. He flashed two pair. My radar seemed to be functioning properly.

After about an hour, I hit a hand -- one where two guys both slow-played flopped trips and I ended up hitting runner-runner to make a better full house -- to put me up ~$100. Then disaster when a guy smacked a three-outer on me, taking me back down near my starting stack. (I raised $13 pre with A-K from position and got two callers. Flop: K-8-2. Check, check. I c-bet $25. One guy called. Turn: 2. Opponent checked. I checked behind for pot control. River: 10. He bet $40, and I snap-called. He turned over K-10. Blerg.)

It was disgusting, but I didn't get frazzled, reminding myself I still had money and to just keep playing solid. Whiffed on a few flops and was down to a stack of ~$140 when, finally, all kinds of good things started happening. I flopped top pair in a limped pot with K-J and played it exactly like I played the A-K in the previously described hand. Only this time, my turn check induced a river bluff from the other guy, so my snap call paid off. Then I decided to set-mine from the big blind with pocket twos when two other players had called a $15 raise from a scruffy individual who had just sat down not 20 minutes prior with two black $100 chips. The beautiful flop: 8-6-2 rainbow. I checked it. Scruffy bet $40. The other two went away. I bumped it to $100. Scruffy put all of his ~$150 into the middle. I called and cracked his aces hard.

Shortly after that and now feeling fully in the zone, I decided to screw around preflop for the first and only time of the entire session by raising it up to $12 with 6♣-4♣. My only caller was a short stack playing with ~$80. Flop: Q♣-9♣-3♣. (Yep, that'll work.) The short stack led out into me. I took a moment to consider whether to raise or string him along but decided to put him all-in right there. He called. "Have the ace of clubs?" I asked and flipped over my hand. He just laughed that little "oh fucking hell" chuckle you'll hear at the poker tables sometimes and replied, "I don't have any clubs." He turned over a queen for top pair. The blank turn ended the hand. You could literally see jaws drop when I turned over the 6-4, my image had been so tight to that point.

"Hey, that's what's supposed to happen when I raise with 6-4 of clubs, right?" I asked, pulling in the pot.

"It never happens when I do it!" a jovial fellow from across the table replied.

"Yeah, usually not for me either," I said. "But when it does, it feels awesome."

A rotation or two later, I decided to head home up $217 in less than three hours of play. There were a few massive stacks at the table, and I didn't want my first cash session in nearly six months to turn sour by ending up on the bad end of a set-over-set situation or something. Remember, sometimes you can lose the flow just as quickly as you find it. Plus, I kind of wanted to come home and watch the penultimate episode of Fringe. Now I just got to hope that the zone doesn't abandon me for too long again. I feel like I deserve to have it stick around for a while.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Betting-line shenanigans at The Meadows

Tonight was the first time I played poker in more than three months. I entered a $55 NLHE tournament at The Meadows, just to dip my toe back into the pool. Truthfully, I didn't intend to blog about it here because (a) I didn't figure it would be all that eventful and (b) it would be annoying to pop in and yell, "I'm back in the game!" before disappearing again for months. But, of course, it took less than 60 minutes of playtime before a fight broke out right at my table. It was kind of hilarious, so what else can I do? The blog's still here. I must report.

Okay, so this was the situation. There was a table bully. He was an older guy who looked like Tommy Lee Jones. Pockmarks, glasses down on his nose ... the whole deal. As soon as the tournament started, so did Tommy Lee's raising. He was guaranteed to bump it up preflop every second or third hand, and then he'd continuation-bet 100 percent of the time, only ever slowing down once it got to the turn. It was annoying, aggressive ... and it was working. He quickly turned his $30K in starting chips to about $50K.

Finally, after about 40 minutes of this, a young twenty-something dude who looked a bit like will.i.am from The Black Eyed Peas (though we'll go with William because screw that punctuation) decided he'd had enough. Tommy Lee raised pre for the millionth time, and William called from a blind. Flop came 9-8-7 rainbow. William checked. Tommy Lee picked up about $5,000 in chips and started bringing them toward the middle of the table to bet. The thing is, the guy was a slow better. He'd often take his time rounding up his chips and getting them in. His betting motion was very relaxed. Tommy Lee had his chips up, across the table's betting line in the air ... and then suddenly William put in a massive raise before Tommy Lee had even set his chips down on the felt.

Tommy Lee froze and looked at the dealer.

William said, "Come on, get 'em in."

"I haven't bet yet, right? Tommy Lee asked the dealer.

"Of course you did," said William, answering the question himself.

The dealer just shrugged and called the floor. Oh, here we fucking go. The floor manager walked over, and the situation was explained. William was adamant that it had to be a bet and was quite agitated the situation was even being debated. Once the floor manager had the sequence of events explained to him, he ruled that since Tommy Lee had a stack of chips out across the line, he was committed to making a bet. However, since he hadn't yet placed any chips on the actual table, he hadn't yet committed to a bet size and thus was allowed to bet only the minimum (currently $400) if he so wanted.

Suffice to say, William was not happy. Lots of barking about how ridiculous and unfair the ruling was. Tommy Lee just kind of sat there ... the hand holding chips still up in the air! The floor and the dealer tried to calm down William. One player at the other end of the table quickly realized the potential angle-shooting the ruling could open up and wanted it confirmed that players were allowed to carry a big stack of chips over the line and toward the middle of the table but could then pull back all but the minimum bet size any time up until the chips hit the felt. (You could intentionally make a slow betting motion just to see if someone sitting behind you with a monster wanted to make too quick a move to call or raise. The betting line complicates matters because novices could see it and assume it extends upwards to infinity and that anything that crosses the plane is a bet.)

And then, strangely, the floor manager qualified his decision by sternly telling Tommy Lee, "If it was up to me, all your chips would be in, but that's not how we do it here." Shouldn't floor managers just make a ruling and not add additional personal commentary?

Well, that only pissed off William more. "You stepped in some dog shit, and now you gotta wipe it off your shoe," he told the manager. The whole thing turned less funny and more irksome as the minutes ticked by. This particular tournament started with deep stacks, but the blinds went up at turbo speeds -- every 12 minutes. The amount of time play was stopped was starting to become an issue. Eventually, Tommy Lee decided he wanted to just bet the minimum, and then, once William's raise was official, he folded. (For the record, they both showed their cards. William had a set of 8s. Tommy Lee had A-6 for an open-ended straight draw.)

Finally, the next hand was being dealt, but the two players couldn't stop yelling at each other. "Shut up and go back to your phone," Tommy Lee said to William, who had spent most of the tournament up to this point folding and playing around on his iPhone. "Go back to Facebook."

"I don't do Facebook," William said. "I'm on MSNBC."

"You're on losers dot com," Tommy Lee retorted.

"You're on losers dot com," William came back.

I assure you I'm not embellishing or making any of this up. If I was, you'd know because it would be far wittier.

So, anyway, what's everyone think of the ruling? It's not an easy situation, but I guess I'm okay with it so long as The Meadows enforces their betting-line rules clearly and consistently. And, in this case, the rule is that the amount of a bet isn't established until a certain number of chips are dropped on the felt. That's similar to how it works in many other casinos (including Rivers), where you'll often see a player bring out a stack, leave some on the felt, and pull the rest back. As long as it's done in one fluid motion -- and doesn't look like a "string bet" -- it's legal. Just moving chips over the line in the air does not constitute a bet size.

Still, it was obvious to everyone that Tommy Lee intended to bet. And it's always somewhat troublesome when the floor rules against what were clearly a player's intentions. Plus, again, it can allow for angle-shooting, which is why a fair amount of poker players don't like betting lines at all. (Although, honestly, this situation could have still occurred even without one. Does forward motion in the air on a table without a betting line lock in a bet amount? Usually not.) It's just such a strange predicament because how often does a player get a raise in before the bettor has finished physically making his bet? William takes some of the blame. His trap was sound. He just should have waited for Tommy Lee to get his chips fully in before he sprung it.

While we'll here, I might as well report on how I fared. Didn't cash but was happy with how I played. It was Tommy Lee who crippled me as we approached the two-hour mark. With blinds at $1K/$2K, he shoved all-in for ~$55K from mid-position. Yeah, it was a severe over-bet, but that's how this guy rolled. I was sitting fairly comfortably with ~$90K and looked down at pocket 10s. I thought that put me ahead of most of his range. Tommy Lee had never slowed during the tournament and could have been over-shoving here with any pocket pair, any big ace or any suited ace. Plus, the blinds were starting to become a factor. I had only 45 big blinds left despite possessing the second biggest stack at the table! (Stupid turbo levels.) I certainly didn't need to put more than half of my stack at risk here, but since there was a good chance I was ahead, I figured why not take a shot at assembling a massive stack of chips that would likely carry me into the money?

So I called. Tommy Lee said, "Eh, you probably have me crushed," and flipped over pocket jacks. Yeee-uck. My hand never improved, and I was quickly back down to less than 20 big blinds. I ended up shoving shortly thereafter with A-10 and losing to A-Q. No biggie. That's the way these things go sometimes.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The end?

Last night I got creamed at The Meadows in spectacular, aggravating, soul-crushing fashion. I didn't lose a lot of money -- just a bit more than a single buy-in -- but it was my third straight losing session, a stretch during which I've lost nearly $900 without ever making a single strategic decision that I regret. The first session was my so-called "sickest session ever." The second, which I didn't even write about, involved a number of big pots where a player on a draw always got there. (I had a set, other guy made a flush. I had a flush, other guy made a boat. I was not giving out good odds to draw, and I was getting away from it every time after I knew I was sunk. But it happened four or five times and ended up costing me a pretty good wad of cash.)

Then there was last night. I played the first hour mostly card dead, but remained calm, folded a lot and held my stack. Then this: A player on my immediately right raised preflop to $13. I called with A♣-K♣. (Possible three-betting hand, I know, but I usually try to mix up calling with big slick or raising back. This happened to be one of those times when I called.) Guy on my immediate left also called, so three of us when to the flop, which came A-6-3. The original raiser checked, and I led out for $25. Guy behind called; original raiser folded. Turn came 5♠. I bet $50. The guy behind me took a long time to think about it. I was positive he had either a good ace (A-Q or A-J) or the diamond draw. Eventually he called. River came the 4. Well, I hated the diamond, but the guy only had ~$40 back at this point. If I checked and he put it in, I was going to end up calling it anyway, so I quickly decided the best option was to remain confident and shove ... which I did.

As soon as he didn't snap-call, I knew he didn't have the flush, which I figured meant I had him. Again, he took a good minute or two to decide, before finally saying, "Okay, I call. I have a straight. You made the flush, didn't you?"

He turned over his cards: 5-7 offsuit. The guy had called my $25 flop bet with a gutshot, called my $50 turn bet when he paired his five and then smashed the straight on the river.

You have got to be kidding me.

So, disgusted and down to about $60, I played short-stack for a while. And I played it well. Flopped top two with K-Q and doubled up. And then, finally, a monster: I got paid off big when I flopped top set with Q-Q and ended up boating up on the turn. All of a sudden I was about $60 to the good. So while I was still annoyed about the A-K hand, at least I had won it back plus some.

And then another lean hour of missing flops. My stack got whittled back down to a bit below my original buy-in, but I still felt quite good with how I was playing. And then this: One limper in front of me, and I limped too from late position with A♠-9. The guy on my left came along, as did the small blind. Big blind checked. Flop: 9♠-7-2♣. Checks in front, and I bet $15. Guy on my left called, as did the small blind. Turn: A. Checked to me again, and, now holding top two, I upped my bet to $30. Guy on my left folded, but the small blind min-raised me to $60. Hmm ...

Well, based on all the action, I thought his raise could mean one of three things. The most likely scenario was that he just made a worse two pair, either A-7 or A-2. It was also possible that he called with two overs (A-10 most likely) and was using the min-raise to basically announce he had hit the ace and find out where I was at. The last possibility was that he had flopped a set of sevens or twos and slow-played the flop. That seemed least likely though, as you usually don't want to slow-play second or third set in a multi-way pot. So I decided I was in great shape here most times and announced all-in. He quickly called and rolled over pocket goddamn aces.

Yep, that's right. He limped with them from the small blind and slow-played them on the flop. And then the only card in the deck that would ensure I lost all my money on this hand -- the case ace -- was miraculously revealed on the turn. Classic example of the "one card that gets me."

I'm tired of the one card that gets me. I'm tired of bad luck and bad runs, and I'm not in a financial situation where I can withstand them for long stretches. I'm tired of guys slow-playing hands against me and having it work, whereas if I would try the same I'd get crushed for it (and rightfully so). I'm tired of being outdrawn. I'm tired of not being as good at this as I apparently need to be. I'm not having fun playing anymore.

So I'm just stopping. For a good while this time. I don't expect to play poker again for at least the rest of 2012. I don't know what's going to happen to this blog. I started Three Rivers Poker for three reasons: To cover Pennsylvania poker news back before the state had legalized casinos; to talk about all the crazy stuff I see at the poker table; and to discuss my own results in an effort to become a better poker player.

Well, now that we have casinos and table games, there's not much local poker news to report other than the occasional room update (i.e. "Hey, Rivers got rid of that stupid cut rule!"). Meanwhile, the funny stories seem to be short supply as, more and more, the local games are made up of the same group of regulars. And, of course, it's awfully difficult to talk about my own play if I'm not ... you know ... playing. On top of that, I'm doing more and more non-poker writing recently, including at Cult Spark, a pop-culture site I've started with some friends.

So I don't know what the future holds for this place. I'm certainly not going to delete what's here. And there are some projects I was working on that I don't particularly want to give up. I enjoy writing the Action Cards posts, and people seem to like reading them. The Casino Royale one is up over 1,000 hits, and I've got a Maverick one halfway done. I also was planning to start doing some poker-themed interviews for the site. (Have one I'm supposed to do sometime this month.) But I'm not sure if these things alone are enough to sustain the blog.

If you have the Three Rivers Poker feed in your RSS reader, I'm hoping you'll keep it there. If you've got the blog listed in your blogroll, I won't hold it against you if you remove it once it gets to the point where I haven't updated for a couple of months. As always you can follow me on Twitter. That way if I do post the occasional stray article or decide to start playing again, you'll be sure to know about it.

Guess that's it for now. Not sure if this is goodbye or not, but just in case, thanks for reading and commenting and making this blog a worthwhile endeavor. I've had fun writing it, even during those times when I was playing bad or the cards weren't going my way. Best of luck to you all still grinding it out. Maybe I'll rejoin your ranks somewhere down the road.

Until then, I'll be off enjoying less-stressful endeavors -- ones where guys can't call you down with gutshot straight draws and end up getting there.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sickest. Session. Ever.

Two hands I'm going to talk about here. Two hands I'm not going to forget about for a quite a while. Two hands I don't think I'd play differently if they happened again. Two hands that make me want to scream at the moon.

The first hand ...

Rivers, Monday night, $1/3 NLHE. I got dealt A♠-6♠ in the cutoff. There was a $12 raise early. Three callers in front of me. I came along. The button called too. So six of us to the flop, which came 7♠-6-4♠.

Nut-flush draw with second pair. Sweet.

The original raiser checked. As did the two players behind him. Fourth guy -- a super-friendly, fairly bet-happy Canadian -- bet $45. I had ~$175 in front of me; everyone else in the hand had me covered. I strongly suspected the Canadian had either 9-9, 8-8, 7-6, 6-5 or 5-4. Those felt the most right to me. Based on that read, I decided to shove all-in right then. It was going to be tough for him to call me with any of those hands, and even if he did, I'd either be ahead or have a shitload of outs. I announced "all-in," feeling good about the decision.

Until the guy behind me on the button shoved all of his chips in too.

Oh, crap ...

Other three guys folded faster than light. Canada went into the tank. "What in the world could you guys possibly have here?" he said to himself. "Are either of you really getting it all in with just a flush draw? Both of you?"

After a minute or two, he mucked.

"You want to show?" I asked the guy behind me.

"Sure," he said and flipped over 5-8♣ for the flopped straight.

FIVE EIGHT GODDAMN OFF.

No spade on the turn. No spade on the river. Thanks for playing.

"Good hand," I said.

"Lucky," he said. "But with five guys in, I'm gonna call with any two cards."

Yeah. Sure. Of course you are.

I rebought. (And Canada tried to work out after the fact whether he had correct pot odds to call with his 8-9. He had led out open-ended with two overs.)

Moving on, but first a little backstory ...

Early on in the session, I had raised pre from early with pocket queens and got called by four players. Ace came on the flop, and I check/folded. Shortly after rebuying, I was dealt queens from early again. I raised strong and got one caller. Ace came on the flop again. This time I led out. He called. I check/folded the blank turn. Three hands later, I found two aces in big blind. Seven limpers in front of me. I made it $23 to go. Every single limper mucked his cards. Unreal. And then ... 

The second hand ...

Mere seconds after winning a depressingly small pile of white $1 chips with those aces, I was dealt K-K♣ in the small blind. A new but seemingly solid player raised to $13 from early. Two players called. I made it $55 to go. The new guy considered it for a moment and then called.  I had ~$140 left behind; he had me covered. Everyone else folded.

Flop: A♠-8♠-7♠.

You've got to be fucking kidding me. Another flopped ace against my big pocket pair?!

But after a moment of thought, this one didn't seem so bad. After all, this guy had just called a massive three-bet, so what was his range? I came up with pocket pairs, A-A down to 9-9, and A-K. Some players will trap with A-A like this when they're heads up (or assuming they're going to be heads up), but in the short time he had been at the table, he had played straightforwardly. There was no evidence that this was the kind of guy who would flat a three-bet preflop with aces. A-K and K-K also seemed unlikely because I had two kings in my hand, putting less of them in play. So I decided it was most likely he had a smaller pocket pair, meaning he couldn't possibly have flopped a flush and I was almost certainly ahead.

I shoved all-in.

He considered for a moment, letting me know for sure he didn't slowplay pocket aces. I thought I was good. Then he announced "call" and turned over A-J♣. I thought my head was going to melt, like Toht's does at the end of Raiders.

Turn came a fourth spade giving me some chop outs, but the blank river ended those hopes.

Once again, thanks for playing.

Blech.

Strike that.  

Double blech.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A tale of two Rivers

Sometimes it seems like there are only two types of poker players at Rivers: the serious and the seriously awful. By the hour mark of a $1/3 NLHE session last Friday, I had the table broke down thusly: four really good, probable former-Internet players that I figured I'd best be served by avoiding altogether and five solid-to-good players who played a more straight-forward game but that I should still tread cautiously against.

You get stuck at tables like this at Rivers sometimes, and it's not a great situation to be in if you want to win money. And I didn't for a while on Friday. In fact, I didn't win a single hand in the first 90 minutes, a stretch during which my best starting hand was a weak-ass K-Q off. (Raised with it from late. Bet the ace-high, double-diamond flop after the one other guy still in the hand checked in front. He called, and we both checked when a black king hit the turn. Paid off his pair of aces when a non-diamond blank came on the river. Blech.) I was going to need better cards and better flops to have a chance against competition this tough.

But I stayed calm and practiced patience. My cards got better. I smashed a few turns and got my stack back to where it was when I sat down. One of the really good players packed up his chips and left. A few of the solid ones did too. As the evening wore on, new players who clearly played a much softer game took their spots. And then, finally ... the mother of all fishes.

The guy was huge -- 300 pounds easy -- most of which was stuffed inside a bright purple T-shirt. Think Biggie Smalls without the flash. Big Purple sat down at the table with a single stack of green $25 chips, usually a sure sign that someone just wrapped up a winning blackjack session and wanted to splash some money around in the poker room for shits and giggles. He did not disappoint. Big Purple lost that entire stack -- about $500 worth -- in his first 20 minutes at the table. And he lost it spectacularly, shoving all-in preflop with hands like ace-rag and betting multiway flops hard with second pair. When it was gone, he bought in for another $100 and lost that on the first hand he played with it. Then he bought in for another $100, again got it all-in on the first hand he saw and somehow more than doubled up with 10-3. 

Oh, dear sweet poker gods, please let me wake up with a hand against this guy before he goes broke or gets tired of losing. Please, please, please, please ...

The poker gods soon answered my prayers. I peeked down at my cards to see 9♠-9. There was a raise to $13 from early. Big Purple called, as did a second player. I called as well, with position on all three of them. Flop: K♠-Q-3. Bummer. But, wait! All three checked, and I checked behind taking the free card, which came a gorgeous 9♣. Original raiser checked again, and Big Purple bet $85 from the ~$200 he had in front of him. (I had him covered.) Guy between us folded, and it was now on me. I got a clear sense that the original raiser wasn't much interested, leaving only Big Purple to worry about. Of course, he could show up with 10-J here, and that would indeed suck. But after seeing him lose so much money so ill-advisedly, there was no way I was going to play this for anything other than all of his chips. I raised all-in rather than slow-play it because I wanted him taking into account all the ways he could improve on the river. As soon as the third second ticked by without him moving, I knew I had him.

"You make a straight?" he asked.

I stayed silent, honestly shocked that the man considers such things.

"Okay, I call," he said, putting all his chips in.

The river came the 2. I rolled over my set. He looked at his cards again and then tabled ... K-5. Yep, he had just called off ~$200 with top pair/five kicker.

Bless you, sir ...

Thinking about it afterward, I actually can't believe the guy didn't bet the flop. Now, to you and me, betting that flop with K-5 against three players sounds like a terrible decision, but I saw hands where this guy was leading out with far worse. If he does it here, he probably wins the hand! (Not to mention the fact that the preflop raiser told me after the fact that he had pocket 10s and came close to just shoving the flop.) I don't know ... hell, maybe Big Purple was planning to check-raise the flop with it.

Whatever the reason, I was given the opportunity to smash yet another turn and made a tidy profit off the hand. Big Purple left immediately after. I was the last guy to benefit from his spewy insanity. Soon, the other casuals bolted too, and the table was back to its mixture of room regulars and better-than-solid players. It's not an easy game to beat, but all it takes is one open seat and one guy stumbling in with a stack of green chips to make the whole session worthwhile.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

PA dealers now allowed to play poker in other state casinos

Up until this month, state gambling regulations prevented Pennsylvania poker dealers from playing poker at any and all Pennsylvania casinos. So if you dealt at Rivers but wanted to sit for a game during your day off, you'd have to drive all the way to West Virginia to do so. Well, that's no longer the case thanks to a change in the law that allows PA dealers to play at any state casino other than the one they work at. So Rivers dealers now only have to drive as far as The Meadows to play some poker.

Although, according to posters at the 2+2 forums, that scenario still won't work in reverse, as The Meadows has an in-house policy that forbids their dealers from playing anywhere in-state. No word if and when that policy will be altered to reflect the new state regulation, but my guess is Meadows officials will soften it at some point.

Killing this harsh restriction was a smart move by the state and qualifies as a big win for local dealers who also enjoy playing the game.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sometimes I over-think things

Here's a hand from early in a late-night $1/3 NLHE session at Rivers last week: There were three limpers already in the pot, and I was sitting in the small blind with J-J♠ and a stack of ~$180. I raised it to $20. The guy in the big blind called, as did one of the early limpers, putting the pot at $66. Flop came pretty nice for pocket jacks: 10♠-7-2♣. I bet $40. The guy in the small blind, who had just lost a big pot in a hand he had played poorly, shoved all-in for ~$80 total. Then the limp/call guy, who had around $600 sitting in front of him, raised it to $200, meaning that if I called, it would be for the rest of my chips.

My initial gut reaction was to fold -- jacks seemed awfully small in the face of two raises -- but usually one wants to think things through before succumbing to gut reactions. My thought process went like this: The first guy was short-stacked and had just lost a big pot. He may have been content just to get the rest of his money in here with decent holdings and hope for the best. Considering how he had played it preflop, I figured his most likely hands were a set, any 10 with a good kicker (A-10 down to J-10) or 8-9, which would have given him an open-ended straight draw. Well, I was ahead of most of those combinations, and the ~$40 extra he put in was never going to be enough to push me off the hand anyway.

The bigger problem was the second player, who was not short-stacked, was not coming off a badly misplayed hand and was now raising into two players who had shown nothing but strength this hand. As he had limp-called, I removed any bigger pocket pairs out of his range. Yeah, he could have flopped a set, although I'm always wary of folding because an opponent "might have a set." That's a bad habit to get into. (In low-limit cash games, I've learned that a player is much more often over-betting a medium-strength hand than they are value-betting a set.) Plus, I thought there was a good chance that if this guy gave me credit for an overpair, he might slow-play a set here to get me to bet or shove the turn with a hand that was drawing to two outs. People at live low-limit games love to slow-play sets.

So what did that leave as possibilities? Not much really. Probably a strong 10, I supposed. We hadn't been playing long enough for me to be sure if this guy would limp/call $20 preflop raises with A-10 or K-10 suited. (And my lack of information about either player was indeed a big part of my problem with this hand.) But, at the time, it made some kind of sense to me that if this guy had the same read on the big blind as I did -- that he was just aching to get his lost chips back or bust out -- and had a wrong read on me that I was posturing with A-K, then he might indeed be turning the screws here with A-10. And, hey, if he was wrong, it was only going to cost him less than one-third of his stack.

So I had to call ~$120 to win the ~$300 already in the pot with a hand that I worked out was capable of being in the lead. I put my stack in.

Big blind flipped over Q-Q. Oof.

Limp-caller flipped over A-A. Double-oof.

Turn and river were crap, and my four-session winning streak came to an unfortunate end. Turns out, my original gut read -- some might say the obvious read -- was right on. But I decided to over-think things. I erred by assuming there was no way two guys I had been only been playing with for a half-hour could possibly smooth-call and limp-call my preflop raise with bigger pocket pairs. (This is live, low-limit poker. Of course they could. Dipshits do it all the time.) And then I concocted a situation where I could be ahead in the hand to justify my call while side-stepping the biggest and most relevant information I had at the time: That these two guys -- especially limp/call guy -- were showing serious strength with their raises on what was a very dry board. I should have just gotten the hell out of there and waited for a better spot when I had a better feel for the table.

By the way, this was my 100th installment of Stories from the Felt. Seriously! Check out the Topics sidebar over there on the right! Hard to believe I'm already at 100. Okay, it took four-and-a-half years to get there, but somehow it went by in a flash. If you enjoyed the first 100, I promise to try to make the next 100 just as entertaining.