Thursday, July 12, 2007

How NOT to play the nuts (a story on not getting max value out of your hand)

Wow, there was a lot of activity here today... which is awesome! Honestly, in the busy-ness of the day, I forgot to check the blog - but here I am now.

I think I'll mostly post about my d0nkey-ass perspective about topics, styles, and strategies rather than hand recaps and thoughts (as we seem to have enough of that from the WNP crew), but today, I'll go with the flow and post about a hand last night involving Matt, our new player (Welcome Matt!).

The hand involved Matt, Royal, me, and Ryan. Royal was in the big blind, and I look down at 7c9c, one of my favorite hands to get into pots with: a middle, suited one-gapper. (These are seriously my favorite kind of hands.) I limp in, and the action folds around to Ryan, who in the cutoff, makes it 7. Matt, sitting next to him, makes it 17, Martin folds, and Royal calls. 69 chips are now in the pot.


5 6 8 rainbow

This gives me the 9-high straight: the nuts. Royal checks, I check, and Ryan checks to Matt, who I suspect has a pocket overpair or possibly c-betting an AQ/AK. Matt bets about 30, and Royal folds. I call 30 and Ryan folds.



(Scare card for any pocket overpairs, except for AA.) I check, Matt bets about 35, and I raise to 100. He calls.



I still have the nuts. The board is unpaired, no flush possibility. I bet 135, and after some deliberation, Matt folds. I rake in a pot of 269 (doesn’t include my river bet).

Where did I go wrong in this hand? Absolutely, positively, on the flop. One of the hardest things about poker is extracting maximum value out of a great hand, and I messed up getting max value on the flop. I wrote about this hand because it was a tricky situation – flopping the nuts with three other people in the hand, with my read on Matt being a strong starting hand (pocket pair 10s thru As or AQ/AK). As Ryan and Royal just called pre-flop, I can assume that they didn't have a big starting hand, and at best, have a set with some middle pair, two pair, or an open-ended straight draw with a 7.

In this situation, with 3 others in the pot, there are two possible ways of getting max value out of the current nuts:
1) Get the most chips in the pot from the most players possible. Attempt to build a pot by keeping everyone in the pot, with them calling a modest bet. For example, if the bet turns out to be 30, and everyone calls, that's 90 more in the pot (and my additional 30, to make it 120).
2) Check-raise Matt, who will bet to get value out of his pocket pair (if he has one). Check-raising, however, will likely scare anyone else off who is on a draw. If they are on a set, or two pair, it will be known right away if Royal or Ryan raises.

In this hand, I somehow ended up with a different option: Option #3, just calling Matt’s bet. For some reason, in my mind, I was carrying out Option #1. At the last second, I decided that I was going to be sneaky and let Matt build the pot for me. Talk about playing things too tricky. This was a BIG mistake in getting max value out of the hand, as I missed a chance on the flop to build a larger pot on later streets. The flop bet is SO crucial in building a pot, and I missed my chance in this hand.

That's the moral of this story - There's one thing to keep focused on when you have the nuts: Have a plan on how to get max value out of your hand. As long as you have a plan (clear or not) and follow it, that's the best you can do.


Marshall said...

I haven't read the thread yet but I just wanted to chime in before anyone else and call you a d0nk.

Carry on.

jtrey333 said...

Too late. I was already called a d0nk last night by multiple people. Pin the tail on the donkey, hee haw!

Sushi Cowboy said...

A re-raise of Ryan's raise? I would definitely read that as premium pair. With 69 in the pot and being ahead of the big pair. I say lead out, fairly big too since there is so much in the pot already. If you bet 45 for instance, in order for Matt to show strength, he is going to have to pop it at least 100 to show he means business which might be enough to pot commit him. As I recall, this hand was after the Aces versus top pair Nine hand so the book on you has been established that you will over-defend top pair. So depending on the stack sizes, either a min-raise back or a push should do it. With a board of that texture, there are a lot of cards that can kill the action. Any Four, Seven, or Nine makes a one card straight. Pairing the Eight will probably slow things down. An overcard, like what happened, could also force someone to put the brakes on and probably should have slowed things down more than it did.

A definitely favor a bet/re-raise over a check/raise. Bet/re sells the idea that you might have an overpair to the board but under a high pair and want to defend it. Check/raise sends the message that you have a powerful hand.

Marshall said...

Damn, that was a thoughtful, well written article. I'm not sure how a d0nk like you came up with it, but for now, I will chalk it up to variance.

Ryan said...

I think you are right that a flop bet was the way to go, mainly because you have to have him on a big pair that he's going to defend with a raise.

Still, if no K or A comes, and no easy four-to-the-straight card, I think you end up all in either way. It's the pesky ace that killed your action.

Sushi Cowboy said...

Another thing that a lead out bet does is to throw off your opponent. Why would someone with the nut straight on a rainbow flop bet? They should slow play that! With a call of a re-raise, and a lead out on an eight high flop, I think the strong bet will sell the idea of an overpair to the board and "protecting" from an Ace.

Bob Loblaw said...

I’m glad you poster this, Jeh. Much more informative than my “look at these two great pots I walked into!” and I learned a couple things that I could have used myself on the quad-jack hand I talked about. If I bet on the flop when it comes J99 (and me with the pocket JJ), Matt has to either call or go over the top of me. If he’s got A9, like I think he did, then he certainly does. I was able to tack a little on the end, which was lucky for me especially after that J came on the turn, but I should have gotten a lot more out of it on the flop.

jtrey333 said...

I definitely agree that the A killed the action. Scare cards should always factor in your decision-making for how to get value out of a hand, and that's definitely something that gets forgotten in the middle of deciding how to play the nuts. It's always tempting to let the other person catch up, but it's even more likely that there will be a scare card for your opponent or yourself.
When you look back at a hand (like Royal did with his), and really put yourself in the other player's shoes, sometimes you find that you've missed a lot of value out of an incredible hand. No doubt, flopping the nuts is one of the greatest feelings in poker, but lost in that sometimes is the fact that you could've made the hand pay off to its maximum value!