Thoughts about having AK as a hand

Big SlickThroughout the last three years, I have seen many different players having AK as their starting hand and have been amazed at how some people value and play them. Otherwise known as “big slick”, AK are perhaps the two most misplayed cards that anyone can get. In some of the lower buy-in Texas Holdem tourneys, some players will go all-in if they have AK, suited or unsuited, it does not matter.

Even players that don’t go all-in may continue to bet, to call, and not ever give up on the hope that just having AK will be enough to win the hand regardless of what is happening around them, what cards came up on the flop, or how many people have called them. I have seen AK beaten by a pair of pocket twos and heard them complain about the bad beat they got.

For what its worth, AK is a good starting hand pre-flop, not as good as pocket Aces or Kings, but worthy of some value. In all the reading I have done, AK is a good hand that also has good folding equity. What is meant by folding equity is that a good sized bet might cause others to fold, allowing you to win a hand uncontested. Of course, this works better at No Limit and Pot Limit Holdem as opposed to Limit Holdem where you can only raise or bet in fixed increments.

In ring or cash games, a recommended bet size of either 3 to 5 times the big blind in No Limit and a pot size bet in Pot Limit will usually be enough of a bet to take down or win the pot.

If you are called by one or more opponents, you need to consider what they might be holding to warrant a call from them. If called, you need to get a good flop for AK to survive. A flop containing either or both of your cards would be helpful but you also need to consider what your opponents might have as well.

They could hold pocket Aces or Kings, either of which will spell doom for your AK hand. There is always the chance that your opponent had a pocket pair of Queens or lower and the flop may have made them a set or trips (three of a kind). On a coordinated flop such as 7-8-9, you might be up against someone who always plays their J-10 suited or unsuited and have just hit their straight. Even though a flop of A-K-Q would give you top two pair, the J-10 opponent would have hit their straight again. You would only have four chances left to catch the remaining two Aces or two Kings to fill out with a full house.

Even a flop of two or three uncoordinated cards but all of the same suit could be a problem for you if neither of your two cards contained that suit. If your opponent had only one card of that suit, there are enough chances left that they could make the flush either at the turn or on the river. Of course you still might have the best hand so how you play it might depend or your stack size versus your opponents.

If the flop did not hit your hand but contained low uncoordinated cards, a continuation bet equal to the pot size might be enough to get your opponents to fold holdings of all but AA or KK. In a limit game, it sometimes is not even possible to drive out a player holding a pair of twos.

In either a cash game or tourney, I always have to consider folding my AK if I am faced with a re-raise, which would indicate a strong hand help by my opponent. I would also have to consider if I was being bluffed. But with AK, I still don’t have a made hand, just a good draw and faced with a re-raise I would have to have good pot odds before I would consider calling. I would lean to folding before committing more of my chips to the pot.

What are your thoughts about AK? Does it matter if they are suited or unsuited? Do you win well with AK? Have you overcommitted with them?

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Playing a hand too strongly with a bad kicker … costly ….

Flop, turn and river in community card poker v...
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Definition: Kicker – A kicker, also called a side card, is a card in a poker hand that does not itself take part in determining the rank of the hand, but that may be used to break ties between hands of the same rank

Last night at the Twitter Poker Tour tourney, I managed to avoid the tendencies of  getting into fancy plays. I played my good hands strongly, my drawing hands cautiously and my bad hands occasionally.  I did this in such a way that opponents would not be sure which hand was what. The way I played my final hand, however,  was not sound.

I was in the big blind with my hole cards being a Q3 off-suit. The flop came down Q 7 Q. There were five other players already in the pot. The pot total was around $340 and I had a chip stack of $1,650. I thought for a moment and then put in a pot size bet of $340. That got rid of all but one player. His stack size was about double mine and he made the call. There was now about $1,200 in chips in the pot and I made a quick decision to shove all in – thinking that by doing so he would fold.

You can see where this is heading. He had a larger stack, he called the pot size bet. He was probably worried about my having made a full house. But with my over bet, he realized that he probably had the best hand with the better kicker and that I did not have a full house.

He called the all-in raise, and showed an Ace Queen to my Queen three. The turn was a five, the river card was a two and I did not hit my three outer (there might have been at least three three’s left in the deck that could have made a full house for me).

I was out of the game in 30th place from a starting field of 43 players. I could have avoided being elimiated by taking the time allowed to think about what had happened prior to my going all-in. Why had he called my pot size bet? I should have realized that he was calling because the flop matched his hand as well.

At that point I should have just checked the hand down or folded to a raise. That alone would have left me with $1,300 in chips. The bottom line of this explanation is that if you don’t have a strong kicker, you need to play differently perhaps more slowly or faster. If I had gone all-in after the flop, my opponent would have had no way to figure out if I had a full house or not. Plus he would not have been getting the right pot odds to call. Had I made the full house, I might still have had a problem in the event that he made a larger full house, so I still would have had to proceed cautiously.

I wish to congratulate the top five finishers of the TPT Tilt # 9 event for their fine finishes.

1: thatslife1969
2: ffcowboy76,
3: Shackedin06
4: rhoegg
5: Zonetrap

I am looking forward to next weeks #TPT Stars Event #9.

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Steve takes a bad beat by Doyle Brunson (actually it was by Doyle’s Room and not Doyle directly)

Doyle Brunson in 2006 World Series of Poker - ...
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Doyles Poker Room used to be a favorite site of mine back about three years ago until they stopped letting US players on their site. Last year I found out that they were accepting US players again.  I signed up again, deposited some money and starting playing.  I later found out that some players were blocked by the request of various states in the US.

Doyles Room blocked players by using the IP addresses of that player’s states. This has happened to a couple of my “buddies” at Doyles Poker Room.

Now Doyles Poker has upgraded their software as a result of joining the Cake Poker network. This site also accepts US players.

The transition did not go smoothly for me. I lost my $15.62 balance during the transfer and Dolyes Room was not very helpful in resolving the issue. It is the principal and not the the amount of money.

From January 30th until February 2nd, I sent them four emails requesting that they resolve the issue. They  answered me twice and both times with the same answer. “Log in and you will see your balance”.  Well, I have logged in at least 10 times since then and each time I see a zero balance. So much for service and dependability. I can take a hint.

Several years ago when Doyles Room blocked US players, they locked me out and took away my balance. I never got it back.
I don’t know why I thought things would be different this time. In spite of having Doyles backing, they have done it again.

What was I thinking?

Even Doyle Brunson said in a book about internet poker, that you should be very careful about the sites that you join. He further said that a player should make a modest deposit and then in a few days, request a modest withdrawal to see how the sites respond. This way, he said, you could protect your mini bankroll at that site.

Well, I bought and read the book a few years ago. A lot of good that did me. It did not cover what can happen when a site joins another poker network.

But from now on, when signing up on a new online site and before depositing any large amounts, I will take the time to make a test deposit of say $50 and a test withdrawal of $25.

In any case, my plan is to maintain no more than three sessions worth of money in any one site at any time. When I earn more than that amount, I will withdraw it to protect myself from these types of challenges. Also, whenever I learn that there is a major change such as what happened to Doyles Room, I have decided that I should request a nearly total withdrawal, leaving $1 just in case. This is a case of do as “Doyle says” and not what I did.

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Quick thinking can be costly

The poker tables in the Trump Taj Mahal
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Quick thinking can be costly especially when playing No-Limit Omaha High/Low Poker.

I was involved in a game with 9 other players. This was a fairly active group with players going all-in many times during the session. As long as you did not make a single mistake and thought things out, you would be okay.

Folding unless you had AAKK, AA22, AA23 was usually a good idea with this group. You also wanted to make sure that your AAKK or AA22 was double suited as well, meaning that the AAKK should be AK of one suit with the other AK another suit. While this might seem to be unreasonable, you get hands like this more often then you might imagine. Playing Omaha High/Low, these hands are  definitely worth waiting for because they can win you the entire pot. The actual number of good starting hands is much more than just the two examples but I will save that for another day.

When playing Omaha High/Low, your object should be to win both halves of the pot, the highest hand pot and the lowest hand pot. If your hand is not strong enough to win both, you should fold. It can get quite costly trying to win only the high end or the low end of the pot. The reason it can get costly just trying to win one side of the pot only is due to the fact that the pot can be split up between two or more individuals;  two or more could share the high hand and two or more the low hand.

The tricky part about Omaha High/Low is that you can misread your hand and cost yourself a lot of money. Since you have four hole cards and can only use two of the hold cards with three of the five common cards, it is easy to mistake what you have for a hand. You might quickly think that you have a full house and instead have three of a kind or worse, two pair. It gets even worse when you get three queens as part of your hole cards and a queen flops giving you only three of a kind while you might thinking – wow – four of a kind.

Typically in Omaha High/Low, the winning high hand is usually a full house or better. At the minimum a flush. Only occasionally will top pair win the high end of the pot.

So anyway, what this is boiling down to is that I had a hand that gave me a low straight and a low hand, with the possibility of the best high and best low hand. I was thinking scooping. And without thinking what my opponent had, I called my opponent’s all-in bet with just one click, in just one second.

And guess what, that quick thinking cost me $20.00 as I had the second best high hand and the second best low hand. The second best hands however don’t pay anything and that cost me my entire $20 stack that I had brought to the table with me. Lesson learned the hard way. Think before you click.

If I had taken the time allowed, which is 10 seconds, and then requested additional time, which is 60 seconds more, I could figured out that my hand was not the best possible high and best possible low. Then I would have made the appropriate decision and folded.

Moral to the story:  Take the time to think about what you have for a hand before committing any or all of your chips to any hand.

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Poker Chips – Online versus Live

Harry Truman's poker chips
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During the last three years, I have played hundreds of online games of poker and less than seven (7) face to face casino games. I am not counting the thousands of home games I have played with parents, friends and relatives since I was old enough to play. Besides, almost all of the home games were played using cash; pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, etc.

The easiest mode of  betting, calling and raising is online play. Just click those buttons, move those sliders, type in those bet amounts and hit enter. Now, if you don’t pay attention, it is also to easy to call when you meant to fold, fold when you meant to raise, and raise when you meant to check. So maybe online has its own share of problems?

In my limited exposure in live play I have found that using real chips is pretty tricky. First there is the problem of learning how to handle the chips. Forget about shuffling them like the professionals do. Just handling the darn things without tipping over your stack. I have even seen people at the tables knock over other peoples stack of chips. Now, that is a sight.

Next you have to learn the value of chips based on color at some casino tables when playing in tourneys. So depending on your buy-in, you could have up to four different color of chips in front of you of varying value. Picking up and placing the wrong chip out there can be as dangerous as clicking the wrong button.

My very first tourney play was at an event called The Foxwoods Poker Classic at the Foxwoods Casino in Ledyard, Connecticut.  We were given $1,500 in chips using three denominations to start at the early stages of the “Act I” tourney. I fumbled with my chips, threw in large raises instead of calling by picking the wrong color chips. It was quite a learning experience, that first time using chips instead of a mouse. Despite all my mistakes, I got lucky in that event and won a seat to the next level, called “Act II”. I did not fair as well in Act II as luck was not with me. I had no idea what I was doing at that time, especially at live play.

It has taken me a few games to get better at handling my chips. I still have a ways to go. I am not going to try to shuffle chips as I don’t want to hurt my fellow players or the dealer.

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Reflections of a busy day

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Yesterday was a busy day for me. I had gotten up early to write my blog post entitled “Discipline at the tables – Part 2”.  While typing it, I played some of the “Double or Nothing” games that I have come to enjoy.  I was contemplating a full day ahead. There are household chores such as unpacking boxes and totes from our move last September from Massachusetts to New Hampshire. I was dropping off my wife, Diane, at our daughter-in-law, so they could go to a movie, while I went to the Seabrook Poker Room for some more live face to fact playing experience. And to wrap up the day, was the “Tweeter Poker Tour” TPT:Tilt Event # 7. In between that, I also decided to remove some of the ice in our driveway that had built up while we were in Florida two weeks ago.

I was well rested when I typed the blog. I was doing fine with the household chores. The ice chipping and ice removing was a little taxing. But I was exciting about the upcoming live game and tourney at 9 pm.

While I was at the Poker Room, I took notes on the first 30 hands that I was involved in. I was directly to the left of the dealer and he did not say anything about it and I had not thought to ask. The dealers change every 20 minutes and when the third dealer arrived he stated that note taking is not allowed – house rules. Oh well.

I was trying to play tighter than my previous visit, getting involved in premium hands only, such as AA, KK, AK, etc. I had starting with $40 in chips and worked my way down to $6, so I bought another $20 of chips.

On the very next hand I got an As Jc unsuited, but I was in position, so I called the blind. The Flop came A K Q of clubs giving me top pair and the nut flush draw as well as a chance for a royal flush draw.  The betting was heaving and I was all in with my remaining $26 in chips. The turn card was a 6 of hearts and the river card was the 10 of clubs. I had made my Royal Flush and won the pot, which gave me back $63, putting me ahead for the evening.

I ended up playing one more hand and leaving with $61, or ahead $1. This was an improvement over the last time as I had left with a loss of $4.

Diane came back from the movies and we drove back from the Poker Room to our home. I would be able to make it in time for the #TPT event.

I thought I played tightly during the event. I did not read blogs or play side games as I wanted my full concentration on the tourney at hand. I ended up busting out in 17th place, far worse than the previous week. While watching the final table, I played an online small stakes cash game of No Limit. I played until I had lost my $5 buy-in and went to bed while there were still five players left at the TPT.

Revelation: From the time I had hit the Casino on, I was actually a bit tired and did not realize how that had affected my decisions. It was not until this morning that I had realized that I was playing tired, which for me is a recipe for disaster or at least poor play. I recalled some of the hands that I played at the Poker Room, the tourney, and the cash games and knew that I had made bad decisions. I was playing my “C” game.

Chalk up yesterday as a lesson learned.


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Discipline at the poker table

Harry Truman's poker chips
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My previous post about my limt play at the Seabrook Poker Room got me to thinking about this topic. While thinking about it, I decided to play some simple tourneys that a twitter poker buddy. Deanna “Panndyra” Goodson, told me about. It is a single table tourney called “Double or Nothing”.  The entry amount can be from $1 plus a fee and up. As the name impiles, you can double your money or lose it. The simplicity of the game is that it is a ten person table with increasing blinds and antes. And the best part is that 5 out of the ten players will be winners and the other five will be losers.

Here is where the discipline comes in.  If you play tight and careful, you should be able to double your money. If you are not patient or careful you will lose your money.

In order to win, you need to keep your ego in check. The first three games I tried, I did not keep my ego in check and I lost. The next two games, I played only the best cards AA, KK, AK and pushed them. If they pushed me back, I would fold. If I got a good flop and had the best possible hand I would push back and go all in. I won games three and four and I am currently in game six at this time. Of course, if I win the sixth, then I would be even. (Update: It is awful hard to be disciplined. I am going to have to work on this part of my game. During game six I caught a so so hand and then I called a small raise and had to fold after the flop. Prior to calling, I was in fourth place and after folding I was in sixth place. Not being patient – costly).

Whew. As it turned out, I was in sixth place and in the big blind with very few chips left. The small blind called, but then we both checked after the flop, after the turn, and after the river. I ended up winning that pot. The next hand dealt, three of the other players went all in (at least one of them should not have, they were not being patient either and so that allowed me to win game six).

In the “Double or Nothing” tourney, fifth place pays just as much as first place, so you should not let your ego cause you to try to be king of the hill, less you fall down the crevice.

And now that I am even, I am going to play at least seven more of these tourneys to see if I can double up ten times in a row. As it stands now, I have won three and lost three. I will report back to you on how I do in the next seven games.

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