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Misplay Two Hands With Lee

It's not pretty …

by Lee H. Jones |  Published: Dec 05, 2007

"I knew right then I'd made my third mistake"

In some of my columns, I have described hands that I believed were played well (or poorly) by friends of mine. In this column, I will lay open, for the world to see, the train wreck I made of a couple of hands that I played recently.

Rather than fuss about, I'd better cut to the chase and get this over with - it's not pretty …

Hand No. 1: I'm playing pot-limit Omaha online, with $2-$4 blinds, and it's fivehanded. I have about $400 in front of me. I get 9-9-8-8 double-suited in the small blind. The Villain opens with a full pot raise (to $14), and I reraise the full pot - to $46. Now, in retrospect, this may look pretty stupid, but I'm not at all sure it's a bad play. I don't want every out-of-position reraise I make to announce, "Lee has aces." And if I'm going to mix up my play like that, I should do it with hands that are sort of the polar opposite of aces. That prevents my opponents from being sure that a small or medium flop missed me if I reraise from out of position. I don't go overboard with this play, however; I'd call much more often. But I don't feel bad about the reraise, even in the cold light of day. Now The Villain reraises the pot to $124. I don't particularly like that, but I think it's an obvious call. I have to call $78 with essentially a written affidavit that I'm behind, but against a random Omaha hand containing two aces, I'm only about 4-3 behind. Even giving The Villain credit for aces with one of them suited, I'm a 3-2 underdog. But just as importantly, I should know almost exactly where I stand on the flop, and will get my money in (or not) intelligently then.

So, the flop comes 7 6 2. I have an open-end draw to two nut straights, four outs to top set, and three cards to both of my flushes. Cover your eyes if you're squeamish …

I check, because I'm Mr. Clever Trapper and I'm going to check-raise him. Um, not thinking that if he bets anything like the whole pot, I don't have near enough chips to move him off anything. And like the slow-motion wreck this is, he bets $252 - not quite the whole pot, but near enough to it. And I very cleverly check-raise him all in, for another entire $30 - which means that he has to call if he has four cards, which he does. He has A-A-Q-7 with a suited A. Despite the J coming on the turn and giving me another seven outs, the river misses me completely and I'm broke.

But the silly thing is that I didn't have to go broke; I probably could have won the pot. Let's back up the traffic accident like some Hallmark channel matinee movie. The flop comes, and I bet the pot - a bit more than $250, leaving myself just $20 or so. Maybe he calls with his aces, but he can't like it very much. So, instead of forcing my opponent to make a very difficult decision, in a situation in which he could have been way behind, I offered him the chance to pot-commit himself, which he did.

Hand No. 2: I actually make two monster mistakes in this hand, one of which is … well, just watch. I'm playing in a £1-£2 blinds pot-limit hold'em game at a casino in Liverpool. I have somewhere between £120 and £130 in front of me. Other Guy, with £150 or so, open-raises to £15. Everyone folds to me, and I look down and see two queens. Other Guy has been raising somewhat liberally; I think I have the best hand. I make it £50. Everyone else folds back around to him. Now this story is a fugue - two separate melodies woven together. Here's the other theme: The dealer is awful. She is a stand-in for her husband, the regular dealer, and she uses the inexplicable and unconscionable British protocol of pulling bets in as they are made. She doesn't remember who has bet how much. In short, she's a nightmare. OK - back to the first theme. Other Guy gives the full show. He literally stands up (he's in the No. 9 seat at a 10-player table) and peers around the dealer. "Has everybody else folded?" Uh-oh. "So it's just me and him in the pot?" Yikes. "Oh, go on then; I'm all in."

OK, class, what does Other Guy have?

If you didn't say, "He's got aces, silly," go back one grade.

Now I'm thinking about this, and trying to persuade myself that he could have A-K. And somehow, I decide that, sure, he could have A-K. So I say, "OK - I call." That's mistake No. 1. I push out my remaining money, £60 of which is three £20 notes, and the rest - £10-£20 - is chips. As I am wont to do, I turn up my hand; I'm not coy about these things. In the meantime, the dealer is moving money in every possible direction, trying to get the pot straight. I look over at Other Guy, and he politely turns up his aces. The dealer has created some sort of pot, pushes his remaining chips back to him, and puts out the flop.

It's all diamonds. His aces are both black; my queens are both red. Heh.

The turn is a blank but the river is the 3. "That'll do," I say softly.

She pushes the pot to me, while Other Guy storms off to get rid of some steam. I have another hand to look at and don't pay close attention to my chips. I fold that hand and stack my chips. It's about £215.

Houston, we have a problem.

I stop the dealer: "I had at least £120 going into that last hand and OtherGuy had me covered; note the chips still in front of him. Ignoring any dead money in the pot, I should have at least £240." She looks at me. She's frozen because she really doesn't know what she's doing. Other players chime in with various comments. Ultimately, one player makes the correct point that I had been unwilling to acknowledge: "What do you expect us to do about it now?" The obvious answer is, "Absolutely nothing," which I ruefully admit, and we get back to the game.

So, mistake No. 2, which I didn't mention at the time, to see if you would catch it, was: I knew the dealer was incompetent. I should have known that there was a fair chance she'd mess up the pot. My correct play was to stop her while she was fiddling around with the chips - even before she put out the board. Before she could make a mess of the pot, I should have said, "Look - I made it £50 to go before the flop. I've got £72 here. So, I've got a total of £122 in play. Take £122 from his stack, along with the three quid in blinds, and put them in the middle. Then run the board and see if I can suck out."

After all, anybody (even the dealer) could tell if I got there or not; I should have been concentrating on the pot being right, even if I had only 20 percent equity in it.

OK, that was painful, but I feel much better now. Thanks for reading.

"Yes, three strikes, right across the plate"

Lee Jones is an executive consultant to the European Poker Tour, and the author of the best-selling book Winning Low Limit Hold'em.