Pokers, We Hosts It

Last night’s poker session at my house went really well! Everyone seemed to have a lot of fun, and things went really smoothly! Well, a couple of people were a little late in arriving, but we still got in over 6 hours of poker – which means I was up until after 2:30!

Our roster consisted of me, Andrew, Adam, James, Daniel, Lynne, Subrata, and Bex, who are mostly people from work. Subrata’s wife Susan and Andrew’s girlfriend Lindsay both showed up, Susan to play games (mainly dominoes) with Debbi, and Lindsay to say hi on her way home after her day.

Needless to say, the kitties were very put out, but all of them eventually got used to things as people stopped arriving and settled down, so they could keep an eye on us. By the end of the night all of the cats were settling down and falling asleep despite the people and the noise. Andrew was a little disappointed that the cats didn’t really want to be held by him, but maybe we’ll see if he wants to sit for them on one of our vacation – that will probably help them warm up a lot.

As usual we played no limit hold ’em, nickel-dime blinds, with $20 or $10 buy-ins. The story for most of the evening was Adam’s impressive run, as he was sitting on about $80 after the first hour or two, mainly at the expense of Daniel and James. He was hitting his hands a lot of the time, and bluffing people off the rest of the time (and then showing his hand to drive people nuts).

I mostly managed to avoid the carnage, because I kept folding hands and then hitting improbable flops or rivers long after I’d folded. For instance, folding 9-To preflop in the face of two raises, and seeing that I’d have flopped the nut straight. Or folding a pair on the flop when overcards came and someone bet, then watching everyone check the hand down when I would have rivered my set. Sheesh. Frustrating, but I think I’m getting better perspective about folding weak hands in bad situations even if it ends up that I should have stayed in – usually, it’s better than I fold. It’s taken a long time for me to get to this point, and overall it saves me money.

Subrata’s heart didn’t seem to be in poker; as he put it, he didn’t get many good hands, and he felt he didn’t play well when he did. That’s the way it goes, and obviously if you’re not into the game, poker is a game to not play. I actually busted him on his second buy-in when he called my preflop raise with my pocket Queens, and pushed all-in on a King-high flop. I thought for a moment, called, and he showed pocket 7s, and I took the pot. (James was extremely surprised that neither of us had a King.)

Subrata, Daniel and Lynne all left the game around 10:30 (Subrata went to join the dominoes game, Daniel and Lynne called it a night), and Bex showed up a little before they left, leaving us with a 5-person game. 5 people is about the smallest game I really enjoy playing; below that the game borders on the random, with lots of autofolded hands preflop or on the flop. (James and Andrew both have said they enjoy fewer people, since everyone can play more hands. I guess I see their point, but I guess I prefer the more standard sort of game.)

Sometime after 11 I went on a run of very good luck. The most memorable hand in this run went like this:

  1. Under the gun I look at pocket 9s, and raise to 40 cents. James folds, and Bex calls.
  2. Adam raises to $1.50. Andrew folds.
  3. I call. Bex gives me a mock-grumpy look – I think she wanted to play Adam heads-up – but calls. The pot is $4.60.
  4. The flop is 7-8-9 of clubs, giving me top set. Adam checks.
  5. I think: Someone could have a flush or a straight, but I think that’s unlikely. More likely is that someone has an overpair, two overcards, and/or a flush or straight draw. For instance, I could easily see one of them holding A-T, A-J, J-J, or two high cards with a club. I think I have the best hand, I want to push out any draws, and I would be happy to win the pot right now, so I bet $5.00.
  6. Bex makes another mock-grumpy sound, and folds.
  7. Adam thinks for a little while, then goes all-in. He has me covered, so he’s effectively betting about $12.00 into a $9.60 pot.
  8. I think again. I doubt Adam has J-T, T-6 or 6-5 (made straights) since he wouldn’t reraise preflopwith most of those hands (he might reraise with 6-5 just to be perverse, but probably not with a middling hand like J-T). He might have a flopped flush, but that seems improbable. I just envision many more ways that I can be ahead than behind, and I still have 7 outs to a full house or better, so I call.
  9. Adam shows pocket Queens – with no clubs – and doesn’t hit his 2-outer and I take the pot.

I soon won another large pot from Andrew, where I had top pair with K-Q in the hole. I’m not quite sure what he was betting at me with, but since he mucked at the showdown I didn’t find out. I infer he was bluffing, and I’d suspected he was either bluffing or had a set. That was kind of weird.

After my run was over (I also won some other decent pots in that span), Andrew went on an amazing run, managing to bust Adam by the end of the evening – quite a feat given his huge stack earlier in the night. Andrew and I were the big winners for the evening, which made me feel good since I think this was my first winning night with this group.

The night was additionally fun because Subrata and Lynne haven’t been regular members of our poker crowd, which meant they added some styles of play which we weren’t used to. Lynne is a relative novice to poker (or so she said), but she ended up winning a few dollars, so it worked out for her.

Vast quantities of beer and candy and potato chips were consumed by the group (mostly beer), and we had a bit of confusion when we lost a $20 bill from the kitty, until we found it having fallen under the table. But mostly the night was all about the poker, and everyone had a lot of fun. So I hope I can host poker sessions a little more often in the future. It’s nice to have people over to my house once in a while.

3 thoughts on “Pokers, We Hosts It”

  1. Thinking about it afterwards, I had six hands where I had a real decision:
    1. I had A-3s, raised preflop, and saw Adam reraise big; I folded. He had A-8o.
    2. I had QJs, called someone else’s raise preflop, and didn’t get a piece of the flop. I folded when Andrew made a largish bet.
    3. I had KTs, reraised a small bet preflop, and saw Adam reraise large again from his big blind. I called, got only an inside straight draw on the flop and folded. I think Adam had pocket 9s and had flopped middle set.
    4. I had A-Js. I raised to 50 cents and everyone folded but Andrew. I caught two cards to a flush and a J on the flop, and I bet 50 cents; Andrew folded while teasing me about not having enough chips to make it worth his while.
    5. I had pocket 4s and raised to 50 cents; Daniel and Adam called. I got a four on the flop and they checked to me; I went all-in and Daniel called (for a $1.35; not a stretch), but didn’t hit his draw.
    6. The pocket sevens; I should have folded those when you made the first $5 bet. You clearly had a real hand and I was unlikely to make a middle pair stand up, but this was the best hand I’d had all night :<)

    So I made one egregiously bad decision, and a couple of marginal ones, but mostly I should have been more patient and waited for a good hand in a good spot.

  2. My thoughts about those hands:

    1. Your fold here is surely correct. Adam’s hand was weaker than I’d have expected for his big reraise, but A3s is a borderline hand anyway; you’re basically hoping to slop two pair or a straight or flush draw, so you want to see the flop cheaply.
    2. I usually fold when I miss the flop completely unless I feel like bluffing, or everyone else shows weakness.
    3. Basically the same as (2). An inside straight draw is almost worse than missing the flop completely, if it tempts you to do the wrong thing!
    4. This was pretty straightforward. And Andrew wasn’t teasing you – he probably had a strong draw, but you didn’t have enough chips left for him to get paid off if he hit it, and therefore he didn’t have the implied odds to chase. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – short stacks have a theoretical advantage against deep stacks in cash games, as discussed in Ed Miller’s blog (part 1, part 2, part 3) precisely because they offer poor implied odds. The drawback, though, is that if you play well after the flop, the playing with a short stack also deprives you of good implied odds. So it’s a trade-off.
    5. This worked out fine. I would tend to raise a little smaller with small pocket pairs (8s or lower), since you’re usually looking to flop a set or fold. Of course, it’s also good to mix up your preflop raises. (Later in the evening, after you’d left, preflop raises crept upwards from 30 cents to 40 cents. There didn’t seem to be a good reason for it, we just all started raising to 40 cents most of the time rather than 30 cents.)
    6. As I recall, preflop you raise and I reraised and you called (I think there were 1 or 2 callers to your first raise). At that point you’re probably looking to flop a set or fold, unless the flop happens to be Ten-high or something. When you went in, all I had to worry about was whether you had a King or not. It seemed plausible that you were playing AK, but also possible that you had an underpair or were bluffing, and overall I decided I had a good chance to be ahead and the pot was already large relative to your bet this is the downside to being the short stack).

    I was trying during the night to loosen up a little bit preflop (play more small connectors, for instance) but tighten up postflop or in the face of large raises. Plus I wanted to give myself every chance to win with a pocket pair. Overall the hope was that I’d get bled off less quickly, but get more chances to win large pots.

    The net result was that I was stuck in neutral for about 3 hours, but then went on a short and very profitable run, and that was basically what made my night. I think this is the essential frustrating point about hold ’em: Long stretches where not only are you not playing very much, but when you do play, you end up folding on the flop anyway. This is pretty bearable in a social game (like ours) where you’re just gabbing with your friends, but it sort of explains why a lot of pro players gab at the table too: To relieve the boredom.

  3. A few comments on short-handed play:
    The reason that I like playing short-handed is because there are fewer auto-folds pre-flop and on the flop than in 6+ handed games, rather than more. It is common knowledge that as there are fewer players at the table, starting hand values go up. In other words, if there are 4 players at the table, each person stands to have the best hand 25% of the time, whereas with 9 players, each player will have the best hand only 1/9th of hands. At a 4-handed table, you should be playing your top 25% of hands, which is quite a wide range. This means that there is more room for maneuvering in short-handed play.

    Another result of correctly adjusting and playing more hands is that you can no longer go by the simple from-the-book hand charts, nor can you assume that other people are playing according to those hand charts either. This means that as you become shorter and shorter handed, it becomes harder and harder to narrow your opponents’ ranges of hands in a simple way. This means that hand-reading skill and playing position becomes even more important, and in my opinion increases the skill required to play well. This makes for a more interesting and dynamic game in my opinion, as opposed to 9-handed games where an UTG raise usually indicates AQ+, TT+. So not only does playing short handed lead to playing more hands, but it also leads to more interesting hands! On the flip side, this also means that it takes more experience to feel comfortable playing short-handed, since it’s so much easier to encounter marginal situations.

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