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Once a Donk, Not Always a Donk!

by Roy Cooke |  Published: Jul 10, 2013


Roy CookeSmart people sometimes do stupid things. At least that’s what I tell myself when I do something stupid. Sometimes my brain doesn’t search the right “database” when I’m formulating a decision, causing me to screw up my output. And when I do that in poker, I often get my money in bad, sometimes dead. I don’t like putting in dead money. Having zero return on your bets, even if it’s only a few, greatly reduces your blended expected value (EV).

We had just started a $20-$40 limit hold’em game at the Bellagio. Several of us were $40-$80 regulars waiting for the second game to start. I posted the big blind (BB) and the field folded to a local $40-$80 pro to the right of the button who raised, folding the button. The small blind (SB), a local regular recreational player, called the two bets and I glanced down at the 6Spade Suit 5Spade Suit.

I evaluated the circumstances to determine how to play my hand. Mr. Local-Pro has an aggressive style, one that raises the blinds in late position liberally, making his current preflop hand range very wide. Mr. Regular was a fit-or-fold type of player, one who had little imagination and played his hands straightforward, making him an easy read. I selected an aggressive line of play and three-bet, thinking that I could read Mr. Regular and not get into too much trouble from him and represent a monster preflop hand to Mr. Local-Pro, who, as a good hand reader, respects my raises and would put me on the top of my range of preflop holdings. By three-betting, I was looking to create additional bluffing opportunities, thereby adding edge.

My scheme’s equity faded when Mr. Local-Pro four-bet and Mr. Regular tossed his hand into the muck. Since, after I three-bet, Mr. Local-Pro would read me for a big holding, his hand had to be very strong to four-bet me. Not liking my state of affairs, I called the extra $20. We took the flop heads-up with $200 in the pot.

The flop turned up the AHeart Suit 8Club Suit 7Club Suit, a favorable one for my holding, giving me an open-ender. Feeling good that I had outs and looking to expand them, I checked, looking to check-raise Mr. Local-Pro, and play him off his hand should he hold a pair smaller than aces. He knuckled behind me.

Being 0-for-2 so far on my strategy considerations in the play of this hand, I had to devise a third strategy when the turn came the 7Heart Suit. Since I’d checked the flop I felt my opponent would call with any pair. This eliminated any hopes of bluffing as I thought he almost certainly had a big pair. I checked, and he bet.

When he bet, I was getting $40-to-$200 or 5-to-1 on a call, enough to call with a straight draw even without any further implied odds. But what were my implied odds? Part of calculating implied odds is figuring your chances of making your hand and losing. In this case, since my opponent had four-bet and then checked when an ace hit, slow playing wired aces was a large part of his range. And if he held wired aces, he just made a full house and I was drawing dead. I knew that at the time, yet justified the call by thinking I would get an additional bet on the river if I made my hand thereby increasing my odds to 6-to-1. But part of calculating your implied odds is also including scenarios when making your hand causes you to lose further bets, standardly referred to as reverse implied odds .

I called the $40 and caught what I thought was a favorable card, the 9Club Suit. Yeah, it was a flush card, but a flush was a very small portion of his range, only if he slowplayed the AClub Suit KClub Suit, not much else fit. I thought about how to play to get the best value. If Mr. Local-Pro held a pair under aces, he would check the river. I wanted that river bet and fired.

Mr. Local-Pro thought for a while and then raised. His hand was polarized, either he had aces full or he was bluffing. With $400 in the pot was there a greater than 1-in-11 chance he was raise-bluffing, making my $40 call EV positive?

I thought through the situation. Mr. Local-Pro definitely knows to raise-bluff, so I knew he was capable of the play. Next I thought about his mindset. Is there a reason he might think a raise-bluff would be a good play in the current situation? I represented a flush on the river, a hand I thought Mr. Local-Pro might think I couldn’t hold given the way the hand played. I thought he might read me for having a weak ace and fold if raised. Knowing I would be chucking away the last bet the majority of the time, I called thinking he might be trying to get me to fold an ace. He showed me two aces for aces-full. Feeling disheartened, I pitched my hand into the muck.

I displayed about as poor thinking on this hand as I’ve done in a long time. First, I made the conceptual error of not correctly incorporating the high likelihood that he was slow playing wired aces into pricing my call on the turn. Second, I didn’t include the possibility of paying off his river raise into my implied odds. The combination of both of these issues turned my turn call into a losing proposition. And in the current scenario, I ended up putting in three big bets totally dead when I should have known better. When I do such things, I start having nightmares!

I know I played this hand badly, but I’m admitting it because by admitting stupidity I hope to do two things. First, I hope to avoid making similar mistakes. Second, I hope that you become a little more self-critical and admit your own mistakes. Everyone makes dumb mistakes, but smart “dummies” learn from them.

The hand speaks to pricing your draws by how the hand plays, not by what the pot is laying you versus the odds of making your hand. Price your draw by how the hand plays, analyzing the probability of differing scenarios occurring and what the rewards/costs are of each. Often it’s a best guess estimate, but in this particular case, a player with my experience is supposed to calculate better. And like many other mistakes I’ve made in my life, I paid in full.

So, when you’re drawing and might not win if you make your hand, or if you may get trapped by other opponents’ raises, incorporate the odds of those events happening by extending the required price on your draw appropriately.

I didn’t do it and Mr. Local-Pro has my $120 to prove it. And I don’t think he’s going to give it back to me because I made a mistake. I’m going to have to earn it back. And with this column, he’s on notice! ♠

Roy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years prior to becoming a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman in 1989. Should you wish to any information about Real Estate matters-including purchase, sale or mortgage his office number is 702-396-6575 or Roy’s e-mail is His website is You can also find him on Facebook or Twitter @RealRoyCooke.