The Poker Hand Critic: Considering The Intangibles
High-Volume Online Grinder 'Gutter23' Breaks Down Interesting Poker Hands
The Poker Hand Critic is a brand new series by online pro “gutter23,” one of the top mid-stakes players in the game today, who is featured in an upcoming issue of Card Player Magazine. The Poker Hand Critic will break down a hand, street by street, offering up his analysis on all of the action.
The following hand comes from a 10-handed, uncapped, $5-$5 home game at a very upscale and chic location in downtown Toronto. The atmosphere is friendly but the action is fierce.
Villain no. 1 (middle position, $3,000): Loose and aggressive recreational player who loves to gamble and throw chips around. He is a long-term net loser in the game.
Villain no. 2 (button, $2,300): Relatively solid and aggressive regular who is a marginal winner.
Mississippi straddle on the button to $20, action begins with the SB
Series of folds
Villain no. 1 opens to $65.
Series of folds
Villain no. 2 calls.
Flop ($140): K Q J
Villain 1 checks. Villain 2 checks
It is a bit unusual to see V1, a loose-aggressive player, check a flop as draw heavy as this one. Usually this check either represents a trap where he’s planning on check-raising the flop or he’s decided to give up on the hand and check-fold.
Turn ($140): 10
Villain 1 bets $50. Villain 2 raises to $250. Villain 1 shoves for $1,985 effective stacks. Villain 2 calls.
The 10 is an interesting card as it puts two flush draws on board along with four to a straight. When Villain 1 bets $50, his range is very wide and will include all aces, some nines, a turned set of tens, diamond flush draws, bluffs, etc. When Villain raises to $250, he nearly always has an ace and is protecting his hand.
Villain goes all-in. It is clear that Villain has an ace in his hand as it would be maniacal to shove this turn without one. The real question is whether he has a flush draw to go along with his ace. Villain 2 goes into the tank and it becomes obvious to the table that he has a naked ace and is attempting to calculate the math of either calling or folding.
Since this article is about considering poker intangibles, I won’t bore you with the computations I used to calculate the expected value (EV) of the decision. According to my numbers, calling has an EV of approximately $20. This $20 represents the profit that will result in calling versus folding.
Villain 2 calls and turns over A-5 off suit for the straight and Villain shows A 6 for the straight and flush draw and he is on a freeroll. The river is a brick and the pot is chopped. The table explodes in discussion about the math and the numbers and they are divided on whether it is a call or a fold. When there is a tough decision in poker and opinions are split, the EV of the two options is almost always very close. The EV is virtually indifferent between the two choices but the disparity in variance and volatility is enormous. This is where the intangibles come into play.
Bankroll considerations: Imagine this is a juicy game where you are expected to have a high winrate and the only cash you have immediate access to is on the table. If you bust then the night is over. Are you willing to give up your seat in a profitable game for $20 in EV?
Capped rebuy amount: Hypothetically, if the game has a capped rebuy amount of $500 and you call and lose, your opportunity to play $2,000 effective with an action player has vanished for the time being. Rebuying for $500 will drastically decrease your future earnings potential for the remainder of the session.
Table image: Image plays a huge role at the poker table. Having a winning or losing image during a session is extremely important and will dictate how your opponents perceive and react to you. A winning table image will allow you to successfully make moves and your opponents will be reluctant to play back at you. If you call and lose the hand your image will suffer. If you fold and give up the $20 in EV you can maintain a strong image.
Tilt factors: If you are prone to tilting and losing a $5,000 pot will cloud your judgment for the rest of the session then folding is a good option.
The opponent: If your opponent is a weak, losing player, perhaps calling is the right decision as the chips he may acquire will be in play for the rest of the session. If your opponent is a strong, winning regular, folding is probably correct since those chips won’t be readily available.
These are just a few of the intangibles that need to be considered when making a close decision in poker. The intangibles may differ from player to player and a seemingly correct decision for one player may be incorrect for another. While I advocate playing fundamentally sound mathematical poker, the value of the intangibles can often trump the math.
The key concept that I would like everyone to take away from this hand is simple. When faced with a close decision, always consider the intangibles.
Gutter23 plays mid-stakes full ring cash games and has had a great deal of success over the past five years. He was named the low-stakes online player of the year by PokerTableRatings in 2011 and is one of the few cash game grinders who truly understands the nuances of both live and online poker.
You can send in your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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