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It Was a Weird One!

by Roy Cooke |  Published: Feb 01, 2014

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Roy CookeSome hands just play weird, falling far outside the parameters of standard occurrences. It’s one of the many reasons you need to keep mentally focused on the game. That way, when peculiar things happen, you’ll be more in tune with the reality of the moment and base your decisions on what’s really happening rather than remaining confused.

I was playing in a great mostly loose-passive $20-$40 limit hold’em game at the Bellagio. A weak, passive tourist open-limped directly in front of me. In the five-seat I peered down to the KSpade Suit KClub Suit and fired in a raise. Miles, a local pro seated directly to my left, stalled for a moment, looked to his left and, when he identified that players were coming in behind him, called. That demonstrated to me that Miles’ hand required volume. The button called, as did both blinds. We took the flop six-handed for $40 each, $240 in the pot.

I loathed the flop, the 6Heart Suit 5Spade Suit 4Club Suit. While large ones are more alarming than small ones, all uniform flops are poor for big wired pairs. Not only do many ranked hands beat yours by generating two pairs, sets or straights, but anyone holding a pair, backdoor-flush draw and an open-ender is almost 50-50 to beat you. And in the current situation, holding K-K, if I was up against a set or a straight, my hand was in serious trouble with limited wins.

It checked to me and I fired, not wanting to provide any free cards should my hand be good. Miles raised and the small blind (SB), big blind (BB) and Mr. Opener all called the raise cold. I wasn’t sure what I was up against or if my hand was any good. Knowing Miles possessed a volume hand, he might have a hand like 7-7, 8-8 or 7Heart Suit 6Heart Suit, or else could have flopped a set, straight, or two pair. The callers could have “god knows what” as all of them pretty much called if they believed they had any outs. Their ranges went from overcards as poor as Q-J offsuit to slow plays of monster flops.

I flat called, waiting to see what turn card arose and how the action developed. That way, I would be able to make a better informed decision. And in limit hold’em, where the turn bet doubles, the turn is a very important decision point. You can frequently, through play selection, dictate how the hand plays out from there, manage your pricing, and correctly eliminate opponents. In short, it often is a critical decision point.

The turn was a beautiful thing, the KDiamond Suit, delivering me top set. It was checked to me, and with deviousness in my heart, I knuckled, looking to check-raise my friend Miles. He didn’t betray me and fired. Mr. SB, a novice player, went into the tank for a significantly extended period of time and then raised. The BB, also a novice, likewise tanked and then called the raise cold. It was up to me.

I was perplexed and tanked myself. What was I up against? Novice players generally don’t go into the tank for an extended period of time. And when they do, I don’t expect a raise. Did he slow play a straight? Was it a bluff? Was he trying to protect a hand? What the hell was going on here?

And how would the hand play if I called? If I raised? If Miles had a hand like a set or two pair I would like him to call. If he had a straight draw different from another opponents’ straight draw, I would prefer that Miles folded. But if he had a set, two pair, or a straight draw that matched another opponent’s, I would relish a call. I tried to think about the hand through Miles’ eyes. What would he think I held? Since I didn’t reraise the flop, I thought he might think that I held A-K, maybe even A-A if I raised, leading him to call with two pair, a set, or a draw and reraise if he flopped a straight.

In spite of thinking I might be beat by Mr. SB or Miles, I reraised with Miles’ read in mind. I felt that even if I was beat, I was around 3.5-to-1 to pair the board and still getting 2-to-1 or 3-to-1 on my wager. Blending all plausible scenarios, I felt a raise was positive expectation. I hit it a lick.

Miles went into the tank. “This might be the slowest limit hold’em hand I’ve ever played” I thought to myself. And I’m well known to receive plenty of slowness accolades!

At that point, I knew I wanted Miles to call, but to my disappointment, he mucked. When Mr. SB and Mr. BB just called, I was pretty sure my three kings were good. The river came the 10Club Suit. It checked to me and I fired. To my surprise, they both mucked. I took the pot down unexposed.

“Did you have aces?” Miles quizzed. I knew he was “Monday morning quarterbacking,” trying to ascertain whether he had folded a winner. ”I had the 5Heart Suit 4Heart Suit,” he added. I was unsure if Miles was telling me the truth and didn’t want to admit to folding a set, a hand he might be talented enough to fold in a spot like this.

The hand speaks to analyzing a hand from an “out of the box” perspective, something you have to do when it is not “playing standardly.” I didn’t three-bet my overpair because the board was threatening. I reraised the turn on a uniform board after reading that I was likely best. In retrospect I liked my decisions in a complicated situation.

And most important, I derived those decisions from careful observation, indicating I was keeping my focus on the game. In situational situations such as these, paying attention pays well. I often amaze myself how much I observe through observation!

I’d like to wish all my readers and their families a very “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.” I have very much enjoyed your letters and acts of kindness to me this past year. Thank you all so much ♠

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 RealtyAce@aol.com. His website is www.roycooke.com. You can also find him on Facebook or Twitter @RealRoyCooke