Monday, February 04, 2008

A Tale of Two Hands - or - Why I play poker

Which hand would you rather play ?

Hand 1 - 1/2 NL 9 handed table. I have pocket 7's UTG, limp in. Few other limpers, BB pops it to $15. He and I are both deep stacks. I call and go heads up. Dream flop of 7-2-2. BB bets about 1/2 pot into me, I call. Turn is 5. BB bets about 2/3 pot into me, I call. River is 5, board is 7-2-2-5-5. Pot is about $150 or so, BB pushes all-in for about $300 as soon as river card falls, almost no thought. I kick myself for having to dodge quads twice, but insta-call and drag the pot.

Hand 2 - 1/2 NL 7 handed. I have nothing, but position and history on Raouf :-). I call preflop raise. Flop is K high, with 2 hearts. Raouf bets, I raise. Raouf calls. Turn is non-heart, Raouf checks, I check. River is Heart. Raouf checks, I go into deep thought mode. Raouf starts the banter, "I will call ANYTHING you bet !". I banter back a little. Pot is about $180, I bet $225 and Raouf folds faceup, two pair - K's and 10's.

Hand 1 is your typical scripted hand. I had to make no decisions, they were all made for me. On the flop I was wondering how to get all the money in, but he was acting very aggressive and I had already shown that I would fold to pressure. So I just called instead of raising to induce more pressure. That was the only decision on that hand.

Hand 2 is the real reason I play poker. There is so much more depth and thought process that went into that hand than appears at the surface. In order to bring your game to the next levels, you have to do just that .... think on multiple levels. There are basically three levels to the game :

  1. What do I have ?
  2. What do I think they have ?
  3. What do they think I have ?

Using these levels, you have to figure out what level your opponent is thinking at, and you have to figure out if they are capable of EVEN thinking about levels. Or you are just wasting your time trying to pull any moves because they are totally oblivious to the concepts. so you just play straight forward poker on them at levels 1 and 2. With you always thinking on level 2, and them always on level 1. These people are the easiest to read, you can see when they missed, and when they are beat, and when they will lay down. These are the people Doyle refers to when he says, " I can beat you without looking at my cards."

A real poker player is thinking on multiple levels, and trying to make a hand make sense to his opponent.

In Hand 2, I have played many hands with Raouf. He has seen me raise to get a free card on the turn, it seemed like that was the play he was putting me on. I was trying to make the hand make sense. The turn check soldified that thought and made the hand make sense. On the end when the flush card came, he's seen me make a post oak bluff, he's seen a value bet, he's seen a lot of things.

The levels where saying, "He's expecting a post oak bluff .... he thinks that I am acting like I want to get paid and he will pick it off." So if he's thinking that, what will he think if I over bet the pot ? Maybe he will think that is an obvious bluff, but why would Scott do that ? Is he doing that because he thinks I will think it's a bluff and then I will call him, and end up paying him off on a flush, when I wouldn't have called a smaller bet ? So in the end I decided a slight overbet of the pot was the correct play. I take it down with Q-4 off. Of course I don't really know what he was thinking, but maybe he'll tell me ... since I just told him :-)

So that hand is an example of 4th and 5th levels of thinking, and the levels just go on from there ... just variations of the first three in different combinations.

So Raouf, what where you thinking ?

Poker rules.