Just yesterday a longtime reader of this blog told me he thinks that discussion of specific poker hands has always been the best part about my blog, and that my recent reluctance to discuss specific hands here is a shame. It just so happens that I just played an interesting poker hand about two hours ago, and I am going to talk about it now. And I’m probably going to get a little obnoxious.
The situation was as follows:
$560 Borgata Deep Stack Event. I worked my 25,000 chip starting stack up to about 130,000, which was well above average with approximately 240 of 730 players remaining. Seated at my table were your garden variety of live poker players, but most pertinent was my friend and competitor Joe Cutler sitting two seats to my left.
It was my button and Joe’s big blind. I held the Ac4c. The blinds were 1000-2000 with a 300 ante. A young aggressive player (~100k stack) opened to 5,000 in middle position and was flatted by a calling station (stack covers mine) to my immediate right. I had not been out of line at my table for a long time and decided that I was in a nice spot to three bet, so I made it 17,500 to go, intending to fold to a 4-bet from the original raiser. It folded over to Joe in the big blind and he jammed all in for a total of approximately 71,500. The original raiser folded and so did the calling station. I thought for awhile and the more I pondered the more I realized that I ought to call. I thought it through and asked myself if I wanted to do it. Yes, I did. I cut out the 54,000 additional chips and called. Joe turned over AK offsuit. There was shocked silence when I tabled my small suited ace. The board improved neither of our hands and Joe won a big pot with ace-king high. And then the uproar began. In one fell swoop that confused the hell out of everyone else at the table, my stack was cut more than in half. (Two levels later, I ran QQ into AA to bust).
Word spread pretty quickly about my out-of-the box call with a trash ace. I am told that people at other tables had witnessed the hand and were discussing it. For their part, my tablemates were alternately dumbfounded and highly critical (one announced that I’d had “senior moment”). I was approached on the next break by a couple of my friends asking me what in the world I was doing.
The answer is that I was making a mathematically sound decision and trying to win a poker tournament! At the risk of sounding a bit obnoxious, hands like the one I just described indicate to me that my ability in poker tournaments far outstrips most of my competition, including many fellow pros.
In the aftermath of this hand, I had the strong inclination that my decision was correct. My decision was made on intution and feel, not pure math. It is impossible for me to actually calculate percentages while sitting a the table. However, upon returning to my room I sat down and actually worked through the numbers. My goal was not to justify the decision but to get an honest read on it. Here’s what I came up with (and please, because I don’t run these calcs often, I’d love to be corrected if I’m doing it wrong):
Preflop, there were 6,000 chips in the pot. The opener’s 5k and the caller’s 5k added an additional 10k and my reraise put another 17.5k into the middle. That brought us to 33,500 in the pot before Joe acted. When Joe pushed all in, he was calling 15,500 additional chips and raising 54,000. Therefore there was 103,000 in the pot, and I had to call off 54,000 to win it. This meant that I needed 54/157, which amounted to 34.4% equity, to make this call correct. I needed to be roughly a 2-1 dog or better to make this call-off.
I ran pokerstove, and giving Joe a range of 88+, AQs+, AQo+, KQs for his re-ship, I found that Ac4c has 32.95% equity against this conservative estimate of what he might shove with.
Now let’s consider a few other factors. First, Joe happens to be a very good poker player—a poker player who knows my reputation for three-betting light and a poker player who puts in a lot of online volume (where 4-betting is standard practice). Joe knew that he was in a very nice spot to cold four bet jam—even with shitty hands that I was actually favored against. Even without putting those hands into the mix (i.e., presuming that Joe is never bluffing) and assigning Joe a very tight range, I am getting very close to the right price to call. Adding in just a handful of bluffs easily tips the scale in favor of a call.
Let’s further consider the implications of winning and losing the pot. If I won the pot, I’d be sitting on a monster stack and my entire table would become very reluctant to play pots against “Mr. Crazy.” It’s safe to say that I could begin opening pots with impunity without fear of being three-bet light for the remainder of the night.
If I lost the pot (as I did), I would not be knocked out of the tournament nor crippled. I’d have a solid reshove-type stack. It is key to remember that the structure of the tournament in question is incredibly slow, and that the money bubble is not reached until well into Day Two tomorrow. This is a $500 event and is NOT the kind of tournament you want to cockroach your way through.
Finally, there is some residual value in long-term advertising. Joe is bound to remember my “crazy call” for some time, and word has (and will continue to) circulate about it. The more loony my reputation becomes, the less I will have to deal with opponents playing back at me.
In summary, to all the tightwads out there who can’t wrap their brains around calling off half of a big stack with a marginal hand:
I’m not crazy. I’m just better than you.