Sunday, October 28, 2007

Back-Alley Mugger or Garden-Variety Donkey? You Make the Call

While I'm pretty sure I'll get lots of "donkey" votes just on general principle, here's a tale from the occasional private Friday-night tourney that I've attended a few times recently.

There are five of us remaining from an initial field of 14, and we've been stuck at five for a while. There's 140,000 in chips in play, and at the moment I've narrowly snuck into the lead with perhaps 40,000.

The blinds are 1,000/2,000 with a 200 ante. I'm in the big blind. The UTG player to my left opens with a 4x raise, a little larger than the standards that have come to be accepted around the table. I also know that he's done a couple of similar opening raises from EP in the past hour with medium and small pairs, very accurately reflecting someone who doesn't want to see a flop; he's shown eights and fours on other occasions. So I figure he's on another medium pair off the get-go.

The cutoff and the big blind fold, but the small blind is the shortest stack, and he hems and haws and sighs and is genuinely displeased, but he goes ahead and shoves for an additional 7,100, for about 16,000 total. I put him on an okay ace, something like A-10 or A-J. He's an older guy who has shown a fondness for hands with aces, if a bit rockish overall. You all know the type.

I look down and find A-K. Soooted, even. So I think about, all but sure I've got the short stack dominated and pretty sure the UTG player to my left has a pair, and that guy's the one that can hurt me, since he's just behind me in chips. I know I'm going to play the hand, but how should I do it?

I've got 2,200 in the pot already. And after no more than 15 seconds to think it through, I push.

The UTG player goes into cardiac arrest as I push my chips forward. Well, not literally, but he's grimacing and groaning and gnashing his teeth and carrying on to no end. That end takes about two minutes to come, when he looks at me, gives one last sigh, and mucks his hand.

The short stack turns over A-9 suited. Way behind my A-K. And the UTG player explodes at me. Because he folded pocket nines. And he's upset with me for not just calling in and then checking it down.

What happens next? The unthinkable, of course: the short stack hits his one-out, case nine and nearly triples up, into the chip lead. Both the UTG player and the player to his left berate me for my play; the other guy, a more loose/aggro type, says that he'd never play an A-K that way.

But here's what they're missing, I believe: I cannot fold A-K suited when I'm sure it's good, but just making the call chews up almost half my stack anyway. Worse, since the short stack's push was almost as much as the original raise, the UTG player would still have the option to re-raise me, and I'd be pot-committed. Instead, I figured I'd give him that one last chance to fold and put a little dead money into the pot. Note that this is not a 'dry side pot' situation; both the UTG player and I
still had options in how we played the hand.

Anyhow, I thought I made a neat back-alley mugging play, but ended up just being called a donkey and watched the short stack hit his unlikely one-outer. So what do you think?

And for the curious, I'll finish out the rest of the tourney. Just a few minutes later, the second shortest stack hit his own one-outer to stay alive, and I followed that by doubling through against the A-9 guy who had taken my chips, my Q-Q holding up against his suited K-Q. The other guy who had hit a one-outer then knocked out the aggro player after making an unlikely re-raise push all-in against the aggro player's slighter shorter stack with K-Q, and the aggro guy (not really aggro in a manic sense, but a tough, aggressive opponent) did his own hemming and hawing despite being pot-committed to making the call, and was shocked to find himself ahead with A-7 when he did so. Of course the king flopped, and that set off an even greater tirade that got me off the hook.

Then I knocked out the guy who hit the one-outer against me after we'd taken turns stealing against him and blinding him down to almost nothing in chips. He was down to about 5,000 in chips, made a last push, and I was in the big blind and was obligated to call with any two. Since I held J-6 offsuit, that was about right. Odd departure, though. The flop came A-4-A, the turn was a six, and the river was another four, putting two pair on the board. At the sight of the second four, the guy flung his cards into the muck, grabbed the alternate deck he was shuffling, and sprayed those across the table and onto the floor as well. (We use the two-deck system to speed up play.) I think we can safely assume he had deuces or threes in the hole, though the six on the turn beat him anyway.

We played three-handed for another hour --- it was a protracted war, and we were in a virtual three-way tie throughout --- and finally the guy to my left got knocked out. Then the leader and I fought for almost another hour, with high blinds, no less, and though I sliced into his lead a bit we finally both surrendered to the fatigue and did a chop for the best of the money, him getting a little more than me. It was still a satisfying end, though.

But mugger or donkey? You tell me.


pokertart said...

Based on your reads, I play it the exact same way. Pushing puts you ahead of the SB, and gets the player you are currently behind (the pair) out of the pot (hopefully).

Why wouldn't you want to be against one opponent who you are dominating, rather than against two opponenents, where you must hit one of your cards to win?

Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

I think you obviously made the best play here, as evidenced by the fact that you got 99 to lay down. Exactly how I would have played this, Haley. Well done.