All-In Poker: Volume II

During a recent game, a comment was made about the appropriateness of playing bad cards.  Of course, the comment came after a short stack moved all in, and was called for very little by the big blind, who was holding 4-8.  The flop, of course, was 5-6-7, and someone said, “See, that’s why you shouldn’t just play big cards.” And the person was dead serious.

Monday night I was the big blind, and had one caller.  I was holding A-6, so I just checked.  I figured it was easy enough to get away from, and if the other person bet the flop, I could fold without regret.  Of course, that only was the plan.  Reality was a little different.  You see, the flop was A-A-6.

So does this mean I should be calling big raises with A-6, hoping to catch lightening in a bottle once again?  Or does it mean that I was in a hand that didn’t cost me one single extra chip, and I got amazingly lucky?  I tend to go with the latter.  If I call bets every time I am holding A-6, I will be broke very quickly.   In fact, last night in a 90-person online tournament I had A-6 of hearts.  There was a monster raise preflop, and I gladly laid it down.  Since I am telling this story, you can be sure that the flop was three more hearts.  I would have busted the other guy’s pocket Aces, but I stand by my fold.  I wasn’t even in the blinds.  My fold cost me nothing.

The biggest discussion I have with my poker friends is over what they say is a “donkey call”.  Every time someone calls their bet with a draw or 2nd pair…or even just a high card….then of course it’s a donkey call.  In their mind, nobody should ever be able to figure out they are bluffing on the end, or that they are weak in the beginning.  They also can’t see any of a thousand other reasons for the calls that are made.

Here is a perfect example from a recent game.  I was getting extremely low in chips.  I limped in phil_hellmuthwith Q-2 of diamonds.  Why?  Because I hadn’t gotten anything for over an hour, and about that time suited with a face card looked pretty good.  But then one guy shoves all in for an amount way over what was called for in that situation.  Basically, he just wanted to close out the hand, steal the blinds, and move on.

But wait!  I said I was getting critical in chips.  I couldn’t afford another 600 chip loss at that point.  And I figured that I would either hit here, or I was done anyway.  We’ve all heard the “chip and a chair” theory, but honestly, it rarely happens.  A chip and a chair means “next to go out” most times.

So I called his all in, which actually meant I was all in.  So of course, I was the donkey.  The bettor not considering my chip stack and situation before pushing all in with only A-J offsuit couldn’t possibly be considered a donkey move.  But if you do the math, you’ll see that A-J offsuit is just barely better than Q-2 suited.  It isn’t like it dominates the Q-2 the way A-A dominates K-K.

And of course, I hit the 2 on the flop, and won the hand.   That double up led to a great run, and I ended up 2nd in the tournament.

So was it a donkey call?  Not to me.  I had a fully justified reason for the call.  And it had nothing to do with the actual cards.  The call was about the situation, not the cards.  With the blinds steaming for me again, I actually would have been justified in shoving all in before he did.  Would he have called?  With A-J, I’d say there’s a better than 50/50 chance that he would have.  And then would it have been a donkey bet?  There’s no such thing.

Note, in the above and the below examples, the key difference in playing great cards and playing junk cards is simple:  The cost to play them.  Of course, you should play 7-2 offsuit if you are the big blind and nobody raises.  But why in the world would you call a raise with them?  And I mean any raise.  You could raise with them in that situation, because everyone showed weakness by limping, but to call a raise shows a great desire on your part to watch the rest of the tournament from the sideline.

I’ve seen others every game I play.  I once called a short stacked all in bet with J-8 of hearts.  Flop…J-8-2.  Sorry K-K, but you simply didn’t have enough chips to chase me.  I once called a short stack all in bet with 7-8 suited.  Now I know, 7-8 suited has the best chance in the deck of cracking A-A.  But that best chance is still a 72-28% underdog.  But here’s the deal….I didn’t think he had A-A.  And it turns out he had 5-5.  So I was actually in a coin flip!  And yep, flopped a 7 and won the hand.

Now to the absolute truth:  ANY preflop call with less than A-A, for ANY amount of chips, is gambling.  Pure and simple.  So therefore any call with less than A-A preflop can be considered a donkey call.  I have heard more than once “He called A-A with 8-10, and won!  What a donkey”.  Here’s a clue……he didn’t know it was A-A he was calling.  Duh.

Poker ChipsThe key to all of this is to know why you are putting chips in the pot.  If you are just a person that calls raises holding 5-7 early in a tournament hoping and praying to hit, I can assure you that you will be a railbird observing the game more often than not.  Sure, you will occasionally hit it, but not nearly as often as you need to in order to justify the losses you suffer on the majority of occasions that you do not.  In other words, if you are constantly finding yourself getting short stacked and having to shove all in with marginal A-X hands early in a tournament, I can assure you that more often than not you can look back at the hands you played in the first few rounds and see where those chips went.

On the other hand, if you are the big blind at the 200-400 level, and you get one minraise for 800 with the small blind calling, then there are 2,000 chips out there, and it only costs you 400 to see the flop.  So you are getting 5-1 on your money.  In this situation you are justified in calling with any two cards.  A-A over 2-2 is only 4-1 to win.

So I leave you this week with this:  If you want to improve your poker results, work on your own play. Stop criticizing the play of others.  If you have A-J, and I have Q-2….YOU WANT ME TO CALL YOUR ALL IN!!!!  You have the best hand; you have the odds in your favor.  Why would you want me to fold?  But also remember that unless you have a royal flush….you are never guaranteed to win the hand.  That’s why they invented the phrase “suck out”.  Just like in the movies, sometimes the little guy wins.

Now, for our trivia question last week.  I proposed the following situation:
– You are sitting at the small blind (50/100) early in the tournament,
all chips basically even

– no familiar players

– 2 players limp in ahead of you

– you have a 8-9 suited, and decide to just call the big blind also

– Big blind minraises to double the blind

– All call for a total of 800 in the pot

– Jack – 10 off suit on the flop, and as the first to act, you just
check, as does the big blind.

– 3rd player bets out 400, and 4th player raises to 1000.  There is now
2200 in the pot.

What do you do?

I received several responses on this, and no two were the same.  However, I only received one correct response.  Perkachino, you are the man. Poker 1

The answer to the question is:  I don’t have enough information to answer.  How can you possibly answer this question without knowing what the third card is on the flop?  How is it possible that only one person knew this?  If it is a 7, of course you are calling.  If it is the same suit as your two cards, along with either the J or the 10, then you might also call.

The reason for the question is simple.  I want you to think about the whole situation, and not just the partial one.  You aren’t calling, raising, or folding based on the four cards in question.  You are making whatever decision you make based on the cards, the chip stacks, your position at the table, the read you get from the other players, etc.

So if you answered anything other than “I cannot answer the question with the limited facts given”, you were wrong.

New trivia next week.


Submitted 6/3/2009

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