Thursday, June 22, 2006

The biggest hand I ever folded, and why

I posted this hand on the 2+2 forums and got lambasted for it, and I certainly know why. But I think it was the right decision, and I hated myself for it, but in the end I made it.

It was at Turning Stone casino. My first or second night there and I'm playing 5-5 NL, 500 max buyin. I'm still feeling my way around the table, and the casino, and how to best play live cash games (which I haven't done in a while-- damn me for convincing myself to play online instead of at Isle of Capri when I go to Lake Charles!)
I'm playing relatively conservatively preflop, since my style tends toward seeing lots of flops, with sometimes random holdings, to try to hit big and bust people. So I'm not open-raising a whole lot.

Anyway: I'm on a decent run and have about 1400 to start the hand. Guy on my right, in 2nd or 3rd position (10-handed) limps in. I limp behind with two eights (this would not happen now, and it wouldn't have happened, like, the next day. Still feeling my way). Maybe four people come along and the blinds check.

The flop comes down 8s 7s 4c. Rock and roll! Pot's $35-40 minus rake.
The guy on my right leads out $25. He seems like a pretty good player. I can't slowplay on a board with this many draws so I pop it to $75. It folds around to the small blind who'd been playing a pretty tight, even nitty game. He makes it $200 more and is sitting on about $1100 behind that.

Ay ay ay.

The first guy folds. I'm agonizing, and I would never agonize here ordinarily. Something about him is just giving off the vibe that he has 65 and absolutely nothing else. He might have a set, sure. But the more I study him, the more I realize he seems utterly confident in his hand. And I know if we play it out, it's going to be for stacks.
I think it over for five minutes; I want to get it in with top set but every bone in my body is screaming "fold, he's got the stone nuts". I get the clock called on me and with about fifteen seconds left I kick it in.

I posted this and got responses ranging from "This sucks" to "Move down in stakes" to "Quit poker altogether."

I never really explained why I ended up making the fold but I think I can articulate it now.

It breaks down for me several ways:

-I didn't raise preflop. If I had, the bets would be bigger, and there might be enough money in the pot to shove in my chips even thinking I was up against a straight and hope to hit a full house.
-Also, my opponent's nittiness meant that if I had raised preflop, I could probably confidently narrow 65 from his holdings, or at least reduce the likelihood in my mind he has it enough to justify continuing on, because I don't think he'd call a raise with it from the blinds.
-In addition, I think his nittiness was such that if I had just called and the board paired, he may well have folded a straight. It's got to be pretty evident that when I raise a bet and call a large third raise in an unraised pot I must have a set. And he was tight enough that I think he could get away from it.
-His demeanor. At no point did he seem worried about having the worst hand, and if he had 77 I think I would have picked up something on him that he wasn't 100% comfortable.
-Metagame and stack sizes. Not from the specific fold, but because of the table. There's a very loose and rather wild player (I believe Mike was his name and "Action Mike" was what he was known as) who has a stack similar in size to mine. I want to have him covered because he will pay me off quite readily with second-best hands and I can bust him for a much bigger score. (And by wild I mean he'll bluff the river any time he thinks he sees weakness, and he makes way too many loose calls-- in two subsequent hands that week I got him to pay off my Broadway straight on a KQJTx board with two pair, and I got him to stack off with A8 when I raised preflop with AK, he called, a short stack moved all in, and I moved in over the top.)
If I'm wrong here-- if he does this with exactly 65 and 77 I'm about even money and not getting a great overlay to play for my stack-- I'm bust and have to rebuy for 500. That means I can't cover Mike. That means I can't get full value from a hand when I hit a big one on him.

It was a perfect storm of situations. I don't think it would ever come up again. I mean, if any one thing is different, I probably go with it.

-If I raise preflop, I go ahead and go with it.
-If I'm playing online and can't observe my opponent, I probably go with it.
-If either one of us had less money, I go with it. (Keep in mind my immediate pot odds are close to 2:1 but I know we're going for stacks so it's really more like 1300 to win 1500, not 200 to win 400. The less he has or I have the more often I can be wrong and still be making a proper call.)
-If having a loose fishy player covered was not a concern, I go with it.

I found out later from the guy on his right (a 2+2 lurker I met at TS and talk to somewhat regularly now) that I did in fact make the correct fold. I mean-- I can't imagine making that fold again, especially considering the way I was playing once I got in my groove at the live games (and some of the crazy calls I made later in the week).
But here, in the moment, it seemed absolutely right. And sometimes, you just have to go with that.

(I wouldn't take this as a suggestion to try to make me fold a big hand, though. I hate doing it. And I don't mind picking people off. But everything is situational. Everything.)

Next post I'll put up some fun hands from later in the week-- my first big night at 5-5, when I was in my groove and playing lots of hands and position preflop and hitting well. Like someone on 2+2 wrote about Sammy Farha's play on High Stakes Poker, "a LAG who catches cards always looks like the smartest player at the table."

EDIT: I should clarify some points about the hand in question. First, when I say it was "the right fold", I don't mean that if this situation were to regularly come up it would be the right fold every time; I mean, specifically this time, and after talking to the person who was sitting next to the player in question, I found out the villain did in fact have 65.
Anyone who knows how I play knows I hate making big folds, or for that matter, any folds. I can't imagine a situation coming up where I would do this again. I'm sure even if I played the spot again I would probably at least call, so there's something to be said that perhaps I wasn't quite in my comfort zone live.
I don't post this hand because I'm particularly proud of the fold; I post it because I think it's one of the most unique hands I've ever played and I wanted to provide some insight to my thought process. So many of the people who roasted me seem to be online-only players who just refuse to use the added information available when playing someone in person.
(By the way, I think 77 is a pretty easy fold here.)


Blogger Eddie D. said...

terrible fold

3:53 PM  
Blogger Nath Pizzolatto said...

Thanks for the insight. I haven't heard that repeatedly for the last month or anything.

6:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't see the hand on 2+2, but I think I call here, though I guess it was a good read. Did he have the 65 of spades, or just the straight? If no spades, I don't see why he would check and let someone outdraw him in the first place. Oh well, nice fold.

12:40 AM  
Blogger Nath Pizzolatto said...

Yeah, it was just one of those hands where you obviously want to call but every single poker instinct in me was flaring "HE HAS THE STRAIGHT AND YOU MUST FOLD THIS HAND". I mean it took me ten minutes to reconcile the two. I posted it in MSNL and of course everyone hated it. But I really do think there's too much of a mentality that "a big hand is a big hand and if you lose it oh well GG reload". Play your player.
And anyone who thinks I play scared money obviously doesn't know that I'm willing to make calls on some pretty goddamn weak hands if I work it out and feel strongly enough that I'm good.

No idea if he had spades or not. I did later find out that the guy on my right folded As4s.

12:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent situational fold. Really - no sarchasm. Great analysis.


3:31 PM  

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