Three hands from my $1/3 cash game last night are of particular interest. I’m playing my $300 buy-in, going up or down within $100 from there for a few hours. The table dynamics are quite interesting, with no player better than I, of course. I’m just waiting for the right opportunities to win some big pots.
As most pots were limped at my table, I limped the first hand of interest with 55 in early position to set mine. With six players in, the flop came 334. Checked around to the cutoff, who bet $10. She often bet $10 on flops with a pocket pair, pairing anything on the board, or an ace high on a paired board.
Button called. A tricky player, who never raised preflop with any hand, played lots of pots, flat called with draws as well as very strong hands despite the board texture, and mostly won when he stayed to showdown.
I called since I had the overpair, although I was mainly looking to hit another five. Next card is another four. All three of us check.
River is a deuce. I’m hoping for a checkdown. I check, cutoff checks and button bets $25. Putting my reads to work, I’m certain button doesn’t have a full house. There is a chance that the cutoff slow-played fours full on the turn, but it’s a little strange that she didn’t bet out on the river – last chance to get value for her hand, especially since the button never the bets the river without a made hand. And if she has the three, I think she is likely to fold to a check-raise that represents fours full.
I pick up some chips, count out the $25, add another $60, and slide those chips into the pot, the $60 slightly off kilter atop the $25. Cutoff raises $125, button folds and I of course fold. Cutoff was indeed slow-playing the fours full. Button after said he hit the straight. Strange for him to bet that on a double-paired board – only a better hand would call (or raise).
Could I have played that hand it better? Maybe. I could have raised preflop or I could have reraised on the flop. The preflop raise might have gotten the cutoff to fold, depending on her other card, giving me the opportunity to take the pot down later. But I think button would have made it to the river regardless, and with the cutoff missing, the different action might not have given me the same read on the button’s likely hand. Or reraising on the flop might have gotten the cutoff to fold, but not likely. She rarely folded when she paired the board on the flop, despite the bets.
So, it was a fated hand, with my failed bluff attempt. Was my bluff a mistake? No, not in the least. It failed because both of the other players in the hand made a mistake. Cutoff should not have checked the river. Button should not have bet the river.
Before the second hand of interest, I had moved to the left of the woman who was the cutoff in the last hand. She had a huge stack and I wanted positional advantage on her. This took me away from being to the left of the only player at the table that played an aggressive style, but I thought overall I would make more from pecking at the big stack than waiting for a good situation against Mr. Aggro.
In this second hand, Mr. Aggro had straddled. There were two calls before me (but not the big stack), and I found 6-4 of hearts in my hand. I like the little suited connectors or semi-connectors in a multi-way pot. Mr. Aggro played an aggressive style, but sort of weak aggressive overall. He rarely raised his straddle for instance. So I felt pretty good about entering this pot, but I decided to raise to $17. This gives me two advantages with my hand – the other players think I am stronger than I am which gives me better bluffing opportunities if the board doesn’t hit my hand; and there is a lot of deception value if I do hit my hand – the other players don’t put me on little cards.
Short-Stack Annie calls the $17 in the hijack. She always plays a short stack and never varies the way she plays. She calls a preflop raise with double-paint, suited-ace, AJ, AT, medium to high suited connectors or a pair up to JJ (or she raises to $10 with these hands if it limps to her); she’ll move all-in against a preflop raise with AQ, AK or a pair better than JJ (or she raises to $15 with these hands if it limps to her). On the flop, she moves all-in if she hits top pair; has AK, QQ, KK or AA whatever the flop is; and she bets out or reraises all-in if she has a flush draw or open-ended straight draw. Predictable Short-Stack Annie – always good for some profit.
Cutoff then moves all-in for $84. He tends to overplay his hands, but wouldn’t put his whole stack in without strength. Folds back to me. I’m putting cutoff on JJ or better, although hoping it could be AK. It will cost me $67 more to win $181 – the $52 from the straddle, the two calls, my $17 bet and Annie’s call; plus the $84 all-in; plus the $45 more that Annie has – I already know she will call. And it can’t cost me anymore on later streets. Easy call. Annie has KJ; cutoff has AA. I scoop when my flush comes on the river.
The third hand comes a little while later, against Mr. Aggro. He raises from early position to $15. I know he is pretty strong. After two other callers, I call in the big blind with AQ offsuit. It’ really a marginal call, as it’s a tough hand to play after the flop out of position. I don’t want to reraise as I’m sure it will mean all-in preflop with Mr. Aggro in a coin-flip at best. Still, I can see the flop fairly cheaply and will at least win a continuation bet from Mr. Aggro if I hit. I call to see the flop – after the flop it will either be an easy fold or a check-raise against Mr. Aggro if the ace or queen comes.
Flop comes Q54 rainbow. I check; Mr. Aggro bets $25; folds back to me. I pick up some chips, count out the $25, add another $60, and slide those chips into the pot, the $60 slightly off kilter atop the $25. Sound familiar? See my bluff bet in hand #1 above. Mr. Aggro shoves all-in with pocket tens. I call and double up for a $76/hour profit when I leave shortly thereafter.
Mr. Aggro commented later that he thought I was bluffing. I can believe it. He saw me bluff with the same betting motions in hand #1. He saw me raise (and then call a big bet) with 6-4 in hand #2.
Every hand, win or lose, builds your image in the minds of the other players. Be aware not only of what your opponents are like, but what they think of you. And it’s more than just “table image”. Some players observe everything about you, the way you should be observing everything about them. You need to be inside their mind, knowing how they see you and your actions. Tell them the story you want them to believe, or at least know the story they have read so far, and then develop the plot to make yourself a nice profit.