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.