Pocket Aces in a cash game – there are many blogs talking about them!

Ace of spades
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It turns out that the discussion about how to play pocket Aces in a cash game is a very common one and a well discussed topic. I used Google Search and turned up over 43,00o hits on the topic. I have since read over a dozen of them and have digested what I have read to the point where I now know that I did in fact play the hand incorrectly.

The following paragraph was from my original post titled “Aces cracked on my first hand of the session!”

When it was my turn to be the big blind, I was dealt a pair of pocket Aces, the best starting hand possible before the flop. Two players to my left folded but the aggressive player raised by betting the pot, $1.75.  Everyone folded to him and when it was my turn to bet,  I raised the pot to $5.00 and the aggressive player called for $3.25. The flop was 8s,Tc,6h and I bet the size of the pot or $10.25 and the aggressive player called. The turn card was a king of hearts. Again I bet as much as I could, less than half of the pot, which put me all in for my remaining $14.75. The aggressive player called. He turned over an A6 off suit. He had only a pair of sixes against my pair of aces. The river card was a 6, giving him three sixes or the best hand and the aggressive player won the pot containing $57.25 which included my entire stack and whatever he bet, less the rake that DoylesRoom took from the pot.

According to the articles I read, where I went wrong was to continue to bet out as it appeared that my opponent was calling with some kind of draw regardless of the size of my bets. The rule of thumb about pocket aces is that you can win small pots with them or lose big pots with them. Even though I had the best hand right up to the turn, I failed to limit the amount of money I could lose if he hit his magic card on the river, which he did. That said, I had position on him and I had a good read on him and I hit a bit of bad luck when he hit the river card for three of a kind.

If I played hard only when I had the nuts, the best possible hand, I probably would not play many hands at all. In fact, for the most part, I fold almost 93% of  my hands. I even fold the small blinds if I have junk cards most of the time. I do not defend the big blinds often without good cards but on occasion will re-raise a cut-off or button raise as they often try to steal the blinds.

The following are just a few of the links that I found regarding this topic and the articles that I have read on this topic.

http://www.rakebackriches.com/unfoldable-aces.htm

http://poker-info.com/tips/playing-pocket-aces.html

http://www.hollywoodpoker.com/green-room/poker-lifestyle/poker-stories/poker-coach-pocket-aces.html

http://www.ehow.com/how_2256053_play-pocket-aces.html

http://www.towergaming.com/online-poker/school/strategy/pocket-aces-howto.html

http://stonecoldbluff.co.uk/articles/how-to-play-pocket-aces/

And these are just online resources. I am sure there are poker articles about playing pocket aces out there as well.

Where do you go to learn about playing pocket aces? What has you success been with the approach you take?

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A slow week at poker but I ran into Duke a couple of times

This image is a screenshot from a public domai...
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Last week I had other duties and chores that keep me away from the online felt most of the week. But I did have an occasion to play some satellites and cash games.

On the Set N Go Step games at Doyles I am stuck in the early steps but still alive trying to get past Step 4. But of more interest, I keep running into the same people and I wrote notes to help me in the event of a repeat meet-up. One player, whom I will call Duke is unbluffable.  Do not even try.

I had AK and raised the pot to a pot size bet pre-flop and was called by Duke. The flop was Q 9 5. No help to me but I decided to try a continuation bet of 1/2 of the pot.  Duke called again. Now he had me thinking that he either had a medium or high pocket pair? The turn was a J. Still no help for me except that now I had a straight draw. So I let out again with a  1/3 pot size bet, hoping that the smaller amount might make him think that I wanted a call and he would fold. But no, he called again. The river card was a7.

I gave up betting as I had put over a third of my chips into the pot with to avail. I figured if I moved all in with nothing, he would just call again. He turned over his pocket pair of threes. He was not about to be bluffed or moved off of his threes.  Even in the face of the fact that all of the cards being flopped were higher than his cards.  While my betting with just AK might have bad, his calling in the face of such strength was just as bad.

I have seen him since, and he is still unbluffable, and he is losing in his attempt to advance a level also. In the last hand I saw him play against another opponent, he ended up with AK and the board had K 10 8 Q 4. His opponent had KQ for two pairs. Duke called the all in bets at the turn because he could not be bluffed from his holding of top pair with an Ace kicker. Know his inability to fold, I would not try bluffing him again but if I had two pair or trips I would probably go after him if we were in a pot together. Knowing how he plays does help me in the long run.

If I run into Duke again in the future, there is a player note about him that says  he cannot be bluffed. That will help me unless he changes his style of play.

Have you ever tried to take the pot with AK with a pre-flop pot size bet only to have a caller or a re-raiser? What did you do? Fold or call to see the flop? If you missed the flop, did you give up your attempt to buy the pot?

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Miscellany: Poker, Life, Chores and Thoughts+

Gambling man
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I am still trying to sort out my poker goals and integrate them into my daily life. I have yet to make regular visits to the local poker rooms but I know that I need to in order to improve my game, both at the cash tables and at the tournaments. It is just a matter of scheduling and planning.

While I am stuck at Step 4 at DoylesRoom.com on my quest to winning an entry into the “Doyle Brunson Five Diamond World Poker Classic” being held December 14th – 19th at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, I am pleased the results at the .25/.50 No Limit cash games at DoylesRoom. I am almost back to the beginning my initial starting balance. I have been averaging a gain of about 25% to 75% of my buy-in at each session. I do have an occasional losing session but am able to continue increasing my overall deposit. I currently have about eight buy-ins at the .25/.50 level and as soon as I have twelve buy-ins, I intend to move to the .50/1.00 tables. My overall goal is to grind my way up to the $5/$10 tables  within the next 12 months.

On the home front, this is our busy season at Brogan-Arts.com when special orders come in for  the Holiday season. I am gearing up for the special picture orders that we transpose into keepsake treasures.

While this might not seem exciting to some, I am thrilled about the fact that we will be able to have one of our cars in the garage this fall and winter. We can now move some of our garden tools and snow blower into the new storage shed.

Getting it all together can be tricky sometimes. Do you have poker goals and aspirations? How do you integrate poker with life and family?

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The "all in" bet – has it's uses – but is overused

I Win
Image by Kevin Labianco via Flickr

I like playing poker in its many forms, especially Texas Hold Em, limit, pot limit and no limit. In the last seven days or so I have been playing the micro limits while trying to build a bankroll from $10 to $250 as part of a challenge – see my previous post, “Update on the race to $250 and other thoughts” for more details.

In the last 41 sessions that I have played in the micro limits I have seen the “all in” bet used frequently and in my humble opinion, misused. Generally speaking, the all in bet is used to either cause people to fold or as a method of getting the most chips possible away from an opponent.

All too often I see players going all in – preflop, before the hand develops, then being called and losing to a lessor holding and wondering what happened? Well, what happened was that the all in player and the all in caller did not wait to see the flop in order to see if their hand had a chance of holding up.

Playing in a tourney this way is almost like a lottery. You have picked your lucky numbers, say AA and your opponent has picked 22 and you wait to see what number balls spin up in the poker card lottery. I just don’t think that this is sound tourney play.

When it works,  you feel like a genius but when it doesn’t work, you can go on tilt for days wondering what happened? Well what did happen was that chance was allowed to take place and suck outs happen. Yes, over the long run, your better cards will win a larger percentage of the time, but is not that the issue? It does not win all the time.

Do I go all in preflop? Yes, but I like to pick my spots. I would prefer to see the flop to see if that helps my hand first.I will fold pocket AA, KK, QQ pre-flop in the early stages of a tourney versus going all in. In the middle and later stages of the tourney I will use all in with these holdings when the blinds and antes are higher as a means of getting more chips. If I am the chip leader, I might take out the lower stacked players or try to steal blinds away from the middle stack players that don’t want to take a chance on losing their chips before they get past the bubble and are assured of winning a prize.

What are your thoughts about the all in bet? Do you go all in with  AA, KK or QQ and end up losing a race to a lessor holding. How is the “all in” tool used in your game?

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Seeking a level playing ground

Gambling man
Image by waffler via Flickr

Lately I have been playing various styles of poker at different sites and trying to find my level at those sites and games. I have been playing Limit Hold ‘Em, No Limit Hold ‘Em and 2-7 Triple Draw. I have been playing in the .10/.20 games mostly for 2-7 triple draw, .25/.50 for No Limit Hold ‘Em, and .50/1.00 1.00/2.00 for Limit Hold ‘Em.

So far these are my most profitable limits as I learn the sites, the players and the games.

Recently I have had good success at 2-7 triple draw at the .10/.20 limits. The table buy-in is $4.00 and at most sessions I have been able to double up within an hour. Over the last two weeks at this level, I have made about $32 in profit. So with that in mind, I thought that I would move up to the next level, which  is .25/.50.

Of course when I wanted to play, no one was playing at those levels. But there were three 1.00/2.00 tables playing so I thought that would be close enough and joined a waiting list while playing on the .10/.20 table. After about 20 minutes, a seat opened up and I joined the table and bought in with $40.00. It only took about a half hour, but I found this table to be very tough for me to play at. My card runs were similar to those at the lower limit tables but the players were more aggressive. It did not take long for me to go from my starting $40 down to $10 before I left the table.I was not comfortable and did not wish to risk more at this level.

Overall my initial profit at this game was reduced from $32 down to $2.

The lesson I learned was that I was not ready for this limit. I was not prepared for the variances of the game at this higher level of the blinds. I should point out that my results at the .10/.20 tables were similar. Some days I started with $4.00 and left with $0.50, but most days I left with $2, $3, $4 or even $5 more than I started with. So over the course of 10 sessions at this level, I had built up a profit.

The second lesson I learned was to only play at a level that I am comfortable and profitable with. When you are ready, test the next level. Plan how much you want to risk and how long you want to test that level. If you are unsuccessful, don’t be afraid to go back to the previous level. By all means, do not risk a significant portion of your bankroll in making those moves, thereby avoiding even more pressure on yourself.

Do you play better at one blind level versus another? Is the pressusre due to the amount at risk or the better players found at the higher level?  Do you ever move down a level when you are not winning as well as you would like at  your current level?

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Playing a Limit H.O.R.S.E freeroll on FullTiltPoker as a member of the Railbirds

Poker chips
Image by Jam Adams via Flickr

Last Friday night I participated in a Railbirds.com freeroll tournament on FullTiltPoker. I have been a member of Railbirds since 2007 and have occasionally played the freerolls, especially in games that I needed more experience with. HORSE is one of those games. For those of you that don’t know what H.O.R.S.E is, it is six different games played during the course of the tournament. Basically, you start out with a ten minute session of Limit Holdem, followed by 10 minutes each of Limit Omaha High, Limit Omaha High/Low, RAZZ, Stud Poker High, Stud Poker High/Log. The blinds started at 15/30 and increased every 15 minutes as well.

So not only did the blinds increase, but the games changed as well. At least twice during the tourney, I did not notice when the game changed from Omaha High to High/Low or from Stud High to Stud High/Low. This not paying attention actually cost me some chips as I called with hands that were ok to play in High but should have been folded if playing High/Low.

This was a very intense tourney. It started at 9:00 pm eastern time with 947 entrants. It ended on Saturday morning at 2:15 am, although I was finished at 1:47 am with an eleventh place finish.

The payout structure was such that unless you finished in the top three slots, your payout amounted to .25 or .50 cents an hour for playing for 5 hours, 15 minutes. The top eleven finishers were as follows:

1: snertbinkler, $30.75
2: vernc, $20.55
3: santafeslim2, $14.25
4: weelo22, $9.30
5: catfishhall, $5.85
6: DavidT1224, $4.20
7: duelindalton, $2.93
8: GridironHot, $1.94
9: Bird-Howdy, $1.41
10: RudyRidge, $1.41
11: StevieTrips, $1.41

I tried to recall all that had happened that evening in order to write about this event. Thanks to a twitter friend, Paul Ellis, aka twitter name @fleapid, I was able to gather some of my thoughts about what had happened that Friday night and early Saturday morning. The following is an extracted twitter conversation between @fleapid and myself, @stevebrogan. The name preceding the comment is the person being spoken to. If you see, @fleapid, I was talking to him, etc.

@fleapid My best chip building results were with Omaha Hi/lo & Stud Hi. I did well in Razz until the last round where i blew chips away.
@fleapid In the case of HORSE, a couple of times I didn’t notice when the game switched from Stud HI to Stud Hi/Lo and that was costly.
@fleapid Michell’s book covers some of that. It mirrors what happened to me
@fleapid I will have to post that. Because I either got too aggressive or to complacent or both. Too tight and too loose in the same session
@SteveBrogan it’s a REALLY good point. I mean, when you have the most chips, players want to double through you
@fleapid I’ll have to collect my thoughts about that. That is a good idea. Once of my weaknesses was thinking I was invincible – not good
@SteveBrogan something like, do you get involved in more coin flip?, fish more cause you can. Or stay tight
@SteveBrogan lol – me too. I’d love to hear your thoughts in a blog post on “the dangers of playing with the big stack.”
@fleapid I give them a big target and they hit the bullseye. lol
@SteveBrogan hate that. I almost don’t want to be chip lead in the middle stages. I feel like I’m a target
@fleapid Not sure what I’ll be doing either. Last night left me drained. Had the lead four or five times and kept giving it up.

I started the tourney with 1,500 in chips, just like the other 946 players, giving a total chip pool of 1,420,500. The one who ended up with all of these chips would be the winner and that was my goal. In just the first ten hands I played, I actually went down to 1,100 in chips. Not exactly where I wanted to be heading. At that point, I was moved to a different table with different players. A fresh start. I was playing Omaha Hi and hit a full house and almost doubled up. I was now at 2,190 in chips. The next 20 hands I folded and on the 21st Iwon a small pot of 895 during a hand of Razz, T,5,3,2,A. The next hand, I added 695 chips to my stack with a Razz hand of 7,6,4,2,A. I folded the next ten hands. At this time, the game was Limit Stud High. I won a small pot of 480 chips with a pre-flop bet, uncontested. Two hands later at Limit Stud, High/Low I won a nice size pot of 1,905, giving me a total of 4,300 chips. Quite a few hands later, I ended the session at that table with a chip stack of 6,060. It was just 58 minutes into the tourney, at 9:58 pm and it seemed like an eternity had past by. I was moved to another table for the next session.

At 10:00, the blinds were at 50/100 and I was now on table 112 at seat 3 with 6,060 in chips. Thirty five hands later, I had amassed 8,190 in chips by the time I was moved to the next table at 10:44 pm. I had won six hands in that session and was the chip leader at my table when I left for yet another table.

At table, 79 I was second in chips having 8,190 versus the table leader having 12,320. I went about 15 hands, winning a couple of small pots but mostly folding until I hit a good hand that turned into a King high flush at limit for a pot of 4,800, bringing me up to 11,110. 15 hands later the blinds had reduced me down to 9,060 and I was again moved to a new table.

At table 7, I was fourth out of eight players in chips. We were starting a game of Limit Razz and the blinds were now 500/1000 and there was an ante of 100. Each round of play was now costing at least 2,300, even if I just folded every hand. That table session was my best so far. I was dealt 66 hands. I folded 29 of them. I won 15 of them, bringing up my chip count from 9,060 to a tournament leading 98,277 chips. I was moved to the next table at 13 minutes into the next day, Saturday. My biggest winning pots were in games of Omaha High/Low for a pot of 34,008 and Limit Holdem with a pot of 16,500.

I was now on table 19 with a very good chip stack of 98,277. The blinds and antes were at 1500/3000/250 and a round of poker would cost 6,500 if I folded every hand. My closest opponent had about 75,000 in chips. I was only on this table about 11 minutes and gave back almost a third of my chips before I moved on to the next table. There were only five hands played at that table. I played in all five of them and and never hit a good hand. The first two hands were in Limit Razz, the final three were in Limit Stud High. I left the table with only 65,827 in chips.

At 23 minutes past the hour of midnight, I found myself at table #73, with 65,827 in chips. The blinds and antes were now at 2000/4000/300 meaning that a round of poker was now costing 8,400 in chips if you just folded everything you were dealt. At that session, I was dealt 26 hands. I played every hand. Looking back, I can see that now I was tired and my judgement was not good. There is no way you should play every hand dealt. So I was desperate and looking for a way to work my way back up to tournament leader. This was not the way to do it however, and at the end of this session I was down to 40,227 in chips, about 14th place of the 17 remaining players.

At table #76, which was the final table I played at, the blinds were at 3000/6000 for Limit Holdem, meaning that a round of poker would cost about 9,000. Since I had 40,227, I would only be able to last about 4 rounds before being blinded out (the cost of the blinds would eat away my stack). I played in 58 hands at this table. I folded 4 times. I won five pots. I lost four pots at showdown. I usually folded after the flop, turn or river for the remaining time at this table. My stack size started at 40,227 and went as high as 88,342.

My stacks went from 40,227 to 64,227, 61,227, 59,727, 64,227, 56,227, 48,227, 50,227, 48,227, 65,727, 73,227, 70,727
23,421, 30,921, 29,921, 23,921, 22,921, 21,921, 29,421, 28,421, 40,921, 88,342, 87,342, 86,342, 85,342, 59,177, 680

680. This was where the worse decision was made. I was in Limit Stud High and went to seventh street with just an opened ended straight draw . Even now, I cannot believe I did this. I had only eight outs and I risked all of my chips on it. It only takes a few bad decisions to cost you a game, a tourney, etc. If I actually hit the open ended straight, I would have been in terrific shape. It does happen once in a while. But it didn’t and I was down to 680 in chips after the hand finished.  Basically a chip and chair.

The following hand summary shows what I was up against.

Seat 4: snertbinkler showed [Th 2d Ts 2h 4c 8c 7d] and won (128,526) with two pair, Tens and Twos
Seat 6: bbgold showed [2s Ad 4h Kc Td As Jd] and lost with a pair of Aces
Seat 7: StevieTrips showed [4d 5c 6c 3d Kd 8h Ac] and lost with Ace King high

The remaining 680 chips played out as follows.  The next hand I was able to get back up to 4,080. The following shows how my chip stack fluctuated for the remaining hands that I played.

4,080, 3,080, 8,080, 7,080, 6,080, 5,080, 4,080, 3,080, 2,080, 9,240, 6,240, 14,240, 13,240, 12,240, 11,240, 27,480,
26,480, 25,480, 32,480, 30,480, 26,480, 22,980, 21,480, 19,980, 15,980 and finally I was out. I finished at 2:16 am Saturday morning. Tired, and not really sure what had happened I went to bed.

Later that morning, I twittered with my poker friends about the game in general. I looked at the hand histories to write this post. This did give me a chance to study what had happened and would point out my tourney weaknesses. This would allow me  to learn and try to correct them. Of course, with so many glaring errors, this is definitely a work in progress. Finishing 11th of 947 was nice. Playing better and finishing first, priceless.

Has this every happened to you? Have you played more than 5 hours and found that at the end you were running out of steam? Have you started by playing your “A” game, and ended up playing your “C” game? Is there even a “Z” game?

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Shortest Omaha High/Low Tournament

Flop, turn and river in community card poker v...
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Last Monday night I participating in one of the shortest tourneys I have ever played in, at least the shortest that I remember. It was a Railbirds private tourney. And I do enjoy the challenge that playing Omaha High/Low brings.

I caught an interesting set of high cards, all suited in Clubs. They were A Q J 10. Generally this is not a good holding but not the worse either. It would depend on the flop as to how good this hand could be. This is the type of hand you want to limp in with in case the flop does not help. And limp in I tried.  The blinds were 15 and 30, so I put in 30 chips. There was one raise to 60 so I called the additional 30 chips. Including my self, there were four players in the pot totaling 250.

The flop came down a rainbow, one each of the four suits. A 10 9. This gave me top pair with a straight draw.  One opponet bet out 255,  one folded and one other player and I called the 255.  Now there was $1,015 in the pot.

The turn card was a King of hearts. This gave me the straight. The board had no pairs showing so I was not up against a full house. The only possibility was that my opponent was on a flush draw.  I lead out with a pot size bet of 1,020 chips. One player folded and the remaining one went all in.

My opponent held the following hand:   5s 3d Kc Ks given him three of a kind, kings to my full house. The river card was a nine, one of three remaining nines in the deck making my opponent a full house, beating my straight and booting me out of the tournament in 207th place. To be honest, my opponent had a lot of chances to make his full house. All he needed on the river was any Ace, King, Ten or Nine to make a full house or better, giving him 10 outs at the river.

It is a given in Omaha Poker that almost all high hands usually are full houses. It is extremely rare that top pair or even just three of a kind will win a pot for the high hand, let alone just a pair of Aces.

It just was not to be my night at the Railbird event at FTP. The actual tourney was long – just my part in it was short.

Has this ever happened to you? Have you been knocked out of a tourney really earlier and still felt good about the way you played? Was I wrong to take this hand to the river?

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