Comeback and thoughts on suckouts
Friday June 23rd 2006, 3:09 am
Filed under: Full Tilt Poker,No-Limit Hold'em,Opinionated,S&G

Well, I don’t know if you can call it a comeback, but I think it was a good performance – and that’s kind of a comeback from my bad run lately. Before I get into the narrative mode, be warned that this might be a loooong ass post, not an uber post like by the Iggster himself, but longer than recent posts.

I played my (currently) favourite SnG, NL HE 6 (5$, 6 players, top 2 ITM). Sure enough getting some good cards and/or hitting some nice boards early on is a good start, which makes navigating towards the top 2 all that easier, but I still needed the patience and had to make some big decisions.

Early on I caught As4s in the BB, limped around to me, I check…flop is three spades, no straight flush possibility. SB checks it, I check it, UTG min bets…all call…I min raise…3 call. Turn is blank, I check again, UTG min bets again…all call…I min raise…only UTG calls. River is blank. Now I don’t want him to check it down, but as he was leading out all the way I’m hoping that he’s putting me on a busted flush draw (as if I would draw to a four flush, lol). I check and sure enough he leads out with half the pot…I min raise him to extract a little more value and he calls. I show my nut flush and take down a nice pot. He mucked two pair, poor fellow. A little later I had an insane rush of cards, which put me in an even better position – I had KK three times and QQ twice. The second time I held QQ I was in the SB, folded to me, I bet 6BB into the short BB (who lost his chips to me in the early flush hand)…he ponders and pushes…it’s not much more to me and I’m hoping to not see and Ace or King in his hand…my prayers are heard…he shows QJo…nice.

From there on I got some decent hands in steal positions (AQo twice, AJ and AK once) and was able to stay ahead of the blinds. Then I went card dead for quite some time. So I slowly bounced from first to last (3 handed by then), after paying off some weak Aces twice. Then it was bubble time as the other two players battled it out – one fell short and we were ITM. Chip stacks were me 3.5k him 5.5k. We traded blinds and didn’t see that many flops and when we did he took the lead most of the time as I couldn’t hit anything and I dislike 1k bets when holding 8 high on a AKxx board…then my patience payed off. I hold QJ he min raises and I call (pot now 2k), flop is the ever so beautiful QJJ. I check, he checks. Turn is blank. I bet 500. He calls. River is blank. I bet 500, he calls. Pot 4k is shoved to me. Now that I’m sitting on slightly over 7k chips I’m in full control and end the match in the next hand…I push with Ax he calls with Qx and I’m the winner.

Wheee…I thought I couldn’t win anymore, groovy to see that I can. As I said above, it sure helps to get good starting hands, but we all know that’s just part of the game. My assessment prior to playing today was that I had some flaws in my recent play (which were no doubt impaired by a bad run of cards/suckouts) – cards speak, but some consideration can sometimes replace a good cup:

  1. Don’t underestimate the other players – true I’m playing at low levels, but they’re not all donkeys.
  2. Don’t let the frustration of prior hands/sessions get the best of you – you might know that feeling that you have to “push the envelope” when you’re running bad, which more often than not will hurt you instead of the donks.
  3. Patience is key, don’t let card-deadness or dry flops get the best of you – unless the odds + your feeling for the hand/opponent (along with possible user notes 😉 ) imply a call/raise, don’t waste your chips. This is war, one battle lost isn’t the end.
  4. Bubble time is crucial, but don’t get too pushy or too tight – recently I was letting the aggression monkey out of it’s cage right at bubble time, which didn’t work out so well. Pushing preflop, even with a decent hand, is not the only option.
  5. Don’t let the fear of getting sucked out on interfere with your sound play* (find the * further below for extended thoughts on this one)
  6. etc etc

Now I don’t claim to have found a cure for my recent bad run, I’m just thinking that by not looking at my game over the last few days (week) I put myself into some spots that I didn’t need to be in. (There’s a huge difference whether someone has to call your all-in bet when it’s 30BB instead of 15BB – true, some ppl will call you one way or another, but sometimes you gotta think that even the biggest donkey will at least think a little before calling a huge all-in (no question that sometimes they won’t and so this example really is situational and I didn’t put myself in a weak stack position by playing badly that often [sometimes I did by “taking shots”, sometimes it was just a series of suckouts])).

One way or another, cards speak, so if you get sucked out on for the umpteenth time, then so be it…if your decisions prior to the hand and in the hand were sound, there’s nothing to get angry about – it’s part of the game, although we all dislike it very much (especially if the suckout was really by some donk drawing with TOTALLY incorrect odds).

*On June 4th I said that I was working on a post resolving around the question “How does ‘questionable’ play influence your own game?â€?, I didn’t continue to write on the post as I was going crazy over it. Let me quote the things I wrote about that question and then have another look at it:

—Quote: Original post draft——————–

After yesterday’s live game I had a long discussion on the way home. The main topic was the question “How does ‘questionable’ (aka “bad play”) influence your own game?” To put this question into context I would like to start things of with a description of some typical scenarios (1.-3. taken from yesterday’s home game, 4. from the tourney two weeks ago – tournament, NL HE, two tables):

  1. I’m holding QhQd in the BB. The table is seven handed and you watch how the action makes it’s way around the table. Fold. Call. Fold. Call. Fold. Call. Action is on me. Blinds are at Level one (.10/.20) so I decide to punish the limpers and/or end the hand right there. Fold, Call, Call from the SB. Flop comes down Jack high with two clubs and one spade. SB checks. What do you do?
  2. I’m holding AcQh and pump it up to 2 (blinds at .20/.40). Two callers. Flop comes down Ah-Xd-Xs. I bet half the pot, one player folds, the other on the button calls. Turn is Xs. I check…Button checks. River is Xs…I check…Button bets 1.5x the pot. What do you do?
  3. I’m holding A9o…two callers…flop comes down A-Xs-Xs…I bet to see where I’m at…one player folds…one player calls…turn is another blank…I bet again…other player calls. River is another 9s…I check…other player goes into the tank and bets around the pot. What do you do?
  4. Player 1 is holding JJ in LP, Player 2 is holding KQo in MP…player 2 raises preflop to 4xBB…player 1 calls. Flop comes down AKQ rainbow…player 2 bets the pot…player 1 calls….turn is blank…player 2 bets the pot…player 1 calls…river is a J…player 2 bets the pot…player 1 calls…What do you make of this hand?

To add some more context to the scenarios a little analysis of the player’s styles is in order: There are some more conservative players [playing “good” starting hands, mixing things up sometimes with not-premium hands, only playing to the river if odds are correct, using and caring about position, etc], some swing players [mostly playing good starting hands, but a greater range of hands, sometimes mixing it up with minimal chances, but mostly playing straight up poker], some risky players [playing a large range of hands, mostly calling station type poker, no reraise until the river, etc] and some maniacs [basically playing almost all two cards as long as they look pretty (to those players), couldn’t care less about pot odds, outs, etc; unable and/or unwillingly to let a hand go if there’s the slightest chance to make the hand (even if there’s only one card to come)].

Now that all this info has been provided I would like to start to answer the original question for myself: “How does questionable play influence your own game?” – Tough one, but after the recent live games I would have to answer it in two words: a lot! Depending on who’s in the hand it’s really tough to play text-book poker. If I raise preflop to 5xBB or 10x BB or even more, what sort of hands does your opponent(s) call with? Where are you at if you’re holding something like AQo on a King high board and your bet is just called? There’s no such thing as “justice” in poker, but sometimes you wish that there was. How can the deck reward a maniac calling HUGE bets with A2? Maybe the phrase “but they were s00ted” sounds too good to the poker gods, so they keep giving those players runner runner flushs? So, I basically tried two different strategies in the last two tourneys:

  1. Make it known that you’re in the hand. Play your preflop “monsters” like there’s no tomorrow. Bet the living jebus out of them if you connect on the flop. – What was the result? I get sucked out on 3 occasions by players who had no odds and hence no right to even think about staying in the hands till the end and I’m out quickly (see here).
  2. Play cautiously and use the concept of the preemptive laydown/slowplay**. – Where did it lead me to? To the final table, but not in healthy chip position.

**Def. Preemptive slowplay/ preemptive laydown: “You’re in a hand with at least one maniac. You know that he won’t laydown his hand no matter how large you bet. You hold the current nuts, but the board is scary (i.e. two cards of the same suit; gapped cards making a straight possible, especially with two cards to come; a lot of overcards; etc). Instead of trying to protect your hand by betting large amount of chips, you’re checking it down, calling it down till the end if the bets aren’t huge or you’re laying it down right there, because you suspect that your maniac opponent is drawing to the nuts. You make a preemptive slowplay / preemptive laydown.”

Now, most people would call me crazy to even think about such a concept. After all if you’re anywhere from 5x% – 100% it’s an incorrect play, depending on the situation (i.e. while it seems to be an incorrect play if you’re let’s say 80/20 to win, but if you’re only 50/50 aka coinflip it might not be incorrect to throw it away and wait for a better spot). The recent experience contradicts that assumption. [Quick thought: Surely over the long run it will hurt me and reward the maniac at the same time, if I continue to not push the edges…but for the time being it seems to work, not optimal, but junk kick free]. Let’s go back to the scenarios I presented above:

  1. We’re three handed with two solid players and one maniac. Both decide to call my preflop raise, so it’s safe to assume that the solid player has got at least a twenty and the maniac at least an Ace rag. The flop comes down Jack high with two clubs. Normally I would bet out at least half the pot to see where I’m at, but given the read I’ve got I decide that I don’t want to put more money in the pot. Solid player checks, maniac checks. Now I’m really sure that at least one of my opponents is on a flush draw and the other one is probably still playing his Ace rag. Turn is a blank spade, which puts two spades and two clubs on the board, still Jack high. I check again and the others check right behind me. River is another blank spade, now there are two clubs and three spades on board. I check…solid player bets…maniac reraises…I curse my “slowplay” or otherwise put my unwillingness to put more money in the pot and fold. The solid player re-reraises. Maniac is worried, but calls…Solid player shows: Q high flush, maniac shows K high flush… – in this case I played the hand pretty badly…I should have put in a huge bet after the flop, but I didn’t…and so I got sucked out on. Not really a classic preemptive laydown, but a hand that was playing with my mind. I was so worried about getting sucked out on at the turn and/or river, that I fucked it up pretty good…even the maniac wouldn’t have called an All-In on the flop…then again: if he didn’t have the spades, but the clubs, he would have called…and a single ace would have killed me, too.
  2. Once again, scared play postflop, because of the fear of getting sucked out on. At the end this was a classic preemptive laydown hand. He was indeed drawing to the nuts and connecting yet again. He wouldn’t have layed it down no matter what. Classic preemptive slowplay and laydown in the end. I mucked the hand face up as I knew that he had the flush, yet again.
  3. Basically the same as 2.
  4. In this hand I wasn’t involved, it was the opposite of scared play and nowhere near an preemtive laydown. The player holding KQ raised preflop, flopped two pair, bet the living jebus out of it and got sucked out on in the end. What odds and outs did the player holding JJ have? Outs:two Js, four tens. Odds: After the flop roughly 22/78, after the turn roughly 14/86…so he had no business in the pot given the three overcards and the huge bets, nontheless this play was yet again rewarded by the deck.


Wow, now that I’m looking at that post (which wasn’t edited since original writing and no I’m not embarrassed to put it out there, otherwise I wouldn’t do it ;)), I can understand my reasoning back then [after getting sucked out on not only in the online games, but in my own home game, which I usually had at my finger tips].

But let’s be real – the concept of the preemptive laydown/slowplay to minimize losses is soooo way over the top, that’s it’s fucking up your own mind pretty good along with the harmful side effects of minimising your chances to win huge pots along but at the same time encouraging the maniacs/donks to keep drawing out on you on now “improved”, but probably still incorrect, odds [although it might still be valid over a very small statistical smaple!]. So scratch that, time to get back to the good old poker philosophy – stick with your instincts/feels, play correctly but mix it up sometimes and take some shots, anything else will be to your disadvantage in the long run.
Now that I got that devil of my shoulder I can officially announce that I’m back and what can I say to the home game crew: better watch out…I’m back to reclaim my overall net throne…so watch out! [I’m still the player with the most money won overall due to my participation in more events, but I lost the net won throne to a mate of mine (hi Armin :))]

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