In this post, I’m going to analyze how “experts” at the weekly bar poker games Downtown – Silly Goose, Blind Bear, Double J, and Dancin’ Jimmy’s – play select hands. The game is Texas Hold’em.
Why am I posting these hands the way other people would play them, as opposed to the way I would play them? Well, you see, I’m just a recreational poker player. I just play in these games to have fun. I might drink a few PBRs and run up a $6 tab while there. The “experts,” on the other hand, often run up a $48 tab in the same time period. If they’re willing to spend that kind of money, they must know a thing or two about poker.
Why am I posting this to my main blog, rather than my poker blog? Because my poker blog is about how I play hands. Whereas, in this blog I share good things happening around Downtown. In this post, I share the excellent poker play of others.
Let’s get started, shall we?
Blinds are 25/50, and it’s the first hand of the tournament. Player A raises to 200, Player B makes it 700, and player C goes all-in for 4000. You take a look at your cards.
Your hand: Q♣ 2♥
Do you fold, or call all-in for 4000?
Solution: You call all-in. There are five community cards to be dealt, and if one of them is a Queen, you have yourself a mighty big hand, my friend. Now, it’s true you’d be in trouble against a few other starting hands if your Queen pairs, namely A-A, K-K, Q-Q, A-Q, K-Q, Q-J, Q-10, Q-9, Q-8, Q-7, Q-6, Q-5, Q-4, and Q-3. But those are only a small subset of all the possible starting hands that could be out. And besides, who would really be foolish enough to call all-in with a hand like Q-4 or Q-3? It’s better to focus on the positive outcomes, such as when both a Queen and a Deuce are dealt, giving you two pair. And what about the dream scenario, when the flop comes 2-2-2? How could you ever live with yourself for folding four of a kind? All-in it is.
Blinds are 200/400. Player A goes all-in for 5600.
Your hand: 9♠ 5♦
You have 4500 in your stack. Do you call all-in, or fold?
Solution: This one is absolutely a no-brainer. This hand has the potential to make a straight if an 8, 7, and 6 fall. You certainly are not going to fold a straight draw pre-flop, under any circumstances. All-in. I almost didn’t include this one in the post because it should be obvious what a powerhouse hand 9-5 is.
Blinds 50/100. Player A calls 100, and five more players follow. You’re in the small blind.
Your hand: K♥ K♠
You have 3400 in your stack. Do you fold, call 50 to complete the blind, make a raise to something in the 300-500 range, or go all-in?
Solution: You just call. Sure, with the second-strongest hand in the deck, some people would argue that a raise is the correct move here, especially facing so many other players. But this is not the final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event. This is a bar game, where you know most of the other players. Do you really want to be that douchebag who makes all his friends fold without even seeing a flop? No. You call for 50, and the big blind checks his option to raise.
Flop: 9♣ 8♣ 7♣
As small blind, you’re first to act post-flop. Do you check or bet?
Solution: HA! This is exactly the kind of flop you were looking for!!! Someone surely is holding a Nine, Eight, or Seven, and has made a pair. If that’s the case, they are about to lose all their chips to your pocket Kings. There’s no point in waiting to build the pot, though, with seven other players in the hand. You bet 50, and after the tournament director tells you that you have to bet at least the amount of the big blind, you make it 100. Two players call, a third player raises to 400, and a fourth player goes all-in for 3200. Folded around to you.
Do you fold, or call for 3200 of your remaining 3250?
Solution: You call. Like I said, you just KNOW your opponent has paired a Nine, Eight, or Seven. Looking at the board, there certainly don’t appear to be any other threatening hands that could have a pair of Kings crushed.
There’s an additional consideration here. If you call and lose, you are NOT knocked out. You will still have a stack of 50 left that you can wield like a club against your opponents. As the man once said, “All it takes is a chip and a chair.” This is a compelling reason to call.
In the actual hand, your opponent turned over J♦ 10♦ for a straight, and your Kings did not improve on the turn or river. Unfortunate, but that kind of thing will happen from time to time, and well, that’s poker. You shouldn’t let it discourage you from making the same excellent pre-flop and post-flop plays next time.
Blinds 25/50. You are “under-the-gun,” first to act pre-flop, at a nine-handed table.
Your hand: J♥ 4♣
Do you fold, call 50, raise to an amount like 150-200, or go all-in for the 3850 remaining in your stack?
Solution: One time you were watching the Aussie Millions on ESPN. There were four players left at the final table. Blinds were 250,000/500,000. Johnny Chan was first to act, just like you, and like you he had Jack-Four. He went all-in for his remaining 860,000 chips. Any time you can emulate one of the world’s top pros, you should. All-in for 3850.
Blinds 1000/2000. Player first to act goes all-in for his remaining 19,000.
Your hand: 8♠ 3♦
You have 14,500 left in your stack. Do you fold, or call all-in?
Solution: You call all-in. You see, folding just isn’t very fun, and going all-in is so much fun. So you go all-in!
Blinds 1500/3000. Player A goes all-in for 36,000. Action to you, with five players left to act behind you.
Your hand: 8♥ 2♥
You have 32,000. Do you fold, or call all-in?
Solution: There has to be a method to your madness when you’re playing poker. In the last hand, you were willing to call all-in with Eight high. This time you have Eight high suited, which is much much better! Therefore, you should be willing to call all-in with this one too. Just think how sweet it will be if three hearts hit the board and give you a flush. Of course, it won’t be so sweet if someone else is holding two hearts if one of them is a Nine or higher, but you can’t dwell on worst-case scenarios all the time. And besides, what if those five players behind you all call, you pair your Deuce, and none of the other players improve their hand? You would build yourself a huge chip stack. This hand just has too many positives to consider folding. All-in it is.
Blinds 100/200. Player A raises to 700 and player B goes all-in for 3200.
Your hand: 10♥ 4♠
You have 2800. Do you fold, or call all-in?
Solution: Sometimes it helps to think back to previous hands when making your decision. A few weeks ago you were in a hand with A♠ A♦, known in poker terminology as “Pocket Rockets.” You called a player who had gone all-in pre-flop with King-Queen suited, and two players called behind you with Q-Q and J-J. Your Aces held up and you took down a huge pot. The lesson to be learned here is that hands with nicknames are lucky. And nothing matters in poker more than luck, am I right?
Truckers who communicate with each other via CB radio have their own code that they speak in. For example, they refer to cops as “Smokey” or “Smokey the Bear.” Perhaps the most famous piece of code they use is “10-4” to communicate “yes” or “OK” or “I got ya.” For example, “That’s a big 10-4, good buddy!” For that reason, Ten-Four in poker is a hand with a nickname, the “Good Buddy.” Because of that, you have to be all-in. If you end up against K-Q suited, Q-Q, and J-J as you did a few weeks ago, mathematically you’ll be at a disadvantage, but you’ll still have luck on your side. All-in. Let your “Good Buddy” work its magic for you!
Blinds 50/100. Ten-handed table. The player first to act pre-flop raises to 300. All fold around to you in the big blind, last to act pre-flop.
Your hand: 9♦ 3♣
You have 3100. The player who raised has 21,700. Do you fold, call, or raise, and if you raise, how much?
Solution: As much as people have been doing kamikaze all-ins pre-flop, it would be nice to see a flop for a change. You call for 200 more.
Flop: A♠ K♥ J♠
You’re first to act after the flop. What do you do?
Solution: Folding is an option you consider long and hard. But then you realize, bluffing is a key skill in poker, and this is an ideal spot. By going all-in, you could convince your opponent to fold, and take down the pot right here.
There’s an additional thing to understand about this spot though. If you go all-in, it’s not a pure bluff, but rather a semi-bluff. Yes, you could get better hands to fold, but worse hands might call. You’re a mathematical favorite against Eight high, Seven high, Six high, Five high, Four high, and Trey-Deuce, all hands that could potentially call your all-in bet. With two ways to take down the pot, your hand is looking exceptionally strong and you go all-in.
The player who raised pre-flop calls, and turns over A♥ A♦ for a set of three Aces. You turn over your hand for Nine high.
OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG! You hit a Nine and made your pair. OMG!!!!!!!!!!
You go all-in, but the tournament director informs you that you were already all-in and your cards are already face-up. Well that sucks! You could have made some serious chips if you had the chance to go all-in again!
You start to rake in your chips with your pair of Nines, but the tournament director informs you that your opponent won, full house Aces over Jacks. You’re disappointed that you did not win, but that’s poker. Semi-bluffs do not work 100% of the time. The fact that this time didn’t work out should not discourage you from making the same excellent pre-flop and post-flop moves in the future.
I hope these hands have provided you with some insight into the great minds of poker. See you at the table! Bonus tip: Fireball will make your poker skills exponentially stronger. Even if you’re a novice, you’ll find that after 10 or 12 Fireball shots, you’ll be playing as well as the “experts” discussed here.