Jim’s All-In Poker Week VII

Aggressively Calling.  I had never heard of that before someone said it was their new strategy recently.  One guy I was playing with was making some of the strangest calls I’ve ever seen, and he said it was because another player told him that he was too timid, and that he should be more aggressive.  Now, you tell me………..how can calling be aggressive?  It’s the exact same thing as limping!

Honestly, I have three problems with his new strategy.

  1. He’s listening to one of the worst tournament players I play with.  The guy is a decent cash game player.  I hate being at the same table as him in a cash game.  But his cash skills do not transfer over to the tournament game.  They depend far too much on giant risk taking and he busts out of far too many tournaments in the first hour or two.
  2. Calling is chasing….period.  It is not even close to being aggressive.  It allows someone else to be aggressive, and then limping behind them and hoping your hand hits.  In a nutshell, calling establishes nothing about the strength of your hand, and even worse, gains you zero information about the strength of the other person’s hand.  As an example, if I am first to act after the big blind, and I have pocket Aces, I will sometimes just min-raise.  So with blinds of 500/1000, I will make it 2000.  The “aggressive calling guy” will make the call with a pair of 7’s.  The flop will come down 2-4-9, and like the sneaky player I am, I will check.  He will immediately make a giant bet, or if I am very lucky he will shove all in.  In other words, he chose the wrong time to get aggressive.  Had he raised my min-bet, he would have then faced my all in, and could have easily folded when he discovered he was not as strong as he thought he might be.
  3. When he did get aggressive pre-flop, he just shoved all his chips into the middle without regard for the blinds or how much he was actually risking.  For example, with 6 people at the final table, he was the chip leader, and he was first to act after the big blind.  What does he do?  He shoves all in.  That’s not aggressive.  That’s dumb.  Everyone folded, and he picked up the smallest amount of chips available on the hand.  He also put his chip stack at unnecessary risk.  The only call he was going to get is from a hand that would beat his.  A bet of 2 ½ to 3 times the big blind would have garnered the exact same information without putting his chip leader status in jeopardy.

So what is aggressive play then?  What was the cash game player really trying to tell him?  I’m glad you asked….and I’m going to tell you what I think.doylebrunson

  1. Sensing Weakness.  An aggressive player can sense weakness in other players, and press accordingly.  A recent hand of mine is a prime example.  I raised on the button with 2-7, trying to steal the blinds.  I was called by the big blind.  If she had anything, she would have raised.   Then on the flop, she checks.  I see two hearts out there, so I bet.  She calls.  There’s no straight on the board, so it’s very possible that she is chasing the flush.  Turn comes, no heart, I push more chips.   She calls.  Now I KNOW it’s a flush draw.  River, she checks again.  No heart.  I have NOTHING, and if I check, she is guaranteed to have no pairs, but the high card.  So I shove MORE chips, and win the hand.  AGGRESSIVE.  Didn’t have to shove all my chips early, because with the flush draw she might have called, and then what?  That’s why his under the gun all-in as the chip leader was so wrong.
  2. Taking controlled chances.  Yeah, kind of like #1 above.  Remember the word CONTROLLED though.  The last thing you want is to go home early because of stupidity.  I did it recently. Here is how it went down:

I was the big blind on the first hand.  Folds all around to position 8, who flat calls.  Position 9 raises to 2.5 times the big blind.  Small blind folds, I look down to 10-10, and I flat call.  Then….position 8 reraises another 500, position 9 calls, so I call again.  Why not?

I called a check raiser and another raiser with pocket 10’s.  But here’s what I was thinking.  If position 8 had a real hand, I figured he would have raised originally.  His reraise is suspicious, but I’ll just tell you he is one of the worst poker players in the world.  And position 9 will call just about anything with any Ace, so I wasn’t really that concerned.  He’ll also chase anything later on, and I like that.

So, the flop comes:  A-10-7.  I’m going to tell you this, and hope you understand.  The only reason to call two raisers with pocket 10’s is to hit the trips.  There is no other reason to play this hand.  So if you hit your trips, be prepared to play them.  Otherwise, why play them?  So I bet out $1000.  Positions 8 and 9 flat call.  Where am I in this hand?  If you can tell me right now, I will pay your buy-in to the World Series Main Event.

So where are we in the hand?  I have no idea, but I am concerned.  I figure one for A-K, but it appears with the two calls I have two A-K’s or possibly one with A-Q.

OK, turn comes JACK.  There is now a straight on the board, and I’m holding trips.  But I figured neither of the other two is playing K-Q, since they were both raising preflop.  But I CALLED preflop….which means I MIGHT have it.  So what do I do?  Well two people called $1000, so I do the only thing I know to do right now to stop the chasing.  I shove $10,000 chips all in, opening hand.

Position 8 tanks FOREVER!  He doesn’t know what to do.  I’ve played the hand exactly like I had K-Q, and I bet the straight when it hits.  I even indicate that I know he has trips, and joke about chasing the full house.  And then, the worst possible happens.  Another player, not in the hand calls “CLOCK”.  You call clock when you think the other player is taking too long and eating up the time clock.

We’re early in the tournament and nobody is at any risk of losing chips at this point because the blinds are climbing.  Heck, we’re on the very first hand of the tournament.  And, to be perfectly honest to the guy that called clock:  He wasn’t in the hand.  He truly should not have done it.  It was not his place.  It was either my place (primary) or position 9’s.

And, predictably, position 8 says “what the heck” and calls.  I do not believe he would have done that if he had been given more time to think about it.  Why risk your entire tournament with a straight on the board when you only have……TRIP ACES.  Knew it.   Thought I could get him to fold.  Didn’t work out.

It was my stupidity that killed me, because the bet I made was not controlled.  And I did not take into account that the two biggest callers and chasers in the game were in the hand with me.  Neither one EVER considers what the other guy might have.  A good player would have folded.  So remember that the chance you take could be your last, so don’t put yourself in a deadly position just to be cute.

On a side note, if the trip Aces had folded, I do believe that the third player in the hand would have called me.  And he did have Ace-Queen, and would have rivered his gutshot straight because the river was a King.  In other words, I would have lost to either player.

  1. Calling with greatness.  Seriously, pushing with trash is OK.  Someone has to call you.  But calling with A-8 of clubs means you are calling someone else with the hope of hitting a flush.  And if you know math, you know how stupid it is.  So raise and push with A-8 if you like living on the edge.  But calling with it is just dumb.  I said DUMB.  And I meant DUMB.  Sorry, but I saw it from this guy 3 times that night, and it is just killing me still.  Why would ANYONE call another all in, of reasonable size, praying for a flush and a flush only to win?
  2. Know when you are beat.  If the flop is 10 high, and a preflop raiser shoves all in after the flop…..your pair of 10’s is NO GOOD.  Heck, why did you call the original raise in the first place with a single 10 in your hand?  I demonstrated above that calling with two 10’s is probably stupid.  One is downright ignorant!  OK, that’s a little extreme.  I take back the downright part.Poker Chips
  3. Play your cards for what they are worth.  If you limp preflop, and get a raise, why do you then call the raise?  You originally thought that the hand was worth seeing the flop for 300 chips.  Somebody then raises to 1500, and you call again?  Why?  How did your hand suddenly go from being worth 300 to being worth 1500?  And if it is worth 1500….then bet 1500 on it to begin with.  STOP LIMPING!!!!!  GET AGGRESSIVE AND RAISE WITH IT TO BEGIN WITH!!!  Nothing screams BAD POKER PLAYER worse than someone who limps and calls any raise.   It just means they have a chasing hand and they are hoping.  I have a great story on this, but I’ll hold it til another day.

And with all of that, I will now give to you the sickest beat I have received in a very long time.

Last night I was the player/dealer in a tournament.  Under the gun, I simply called with 10-10 with the blinds at 600-1200. (Note the theme of the day?)  One player calls, and the button flat calls.  The small blind then folded, and the big blind, normally a very aggressive player in this situation but sitting on a short stack, shoves all in for 3300 chips.  I get exactly what I want, and I reraise to 7000.  The two limpers fold, and it is now head’s up.  I turn over my 10-10, and the all-in turns over A-10.  I’m feeling very good at this point.

And here is where it gets ugly.  I burn the top card, and then count out the three for the flop.  As normal, I keep them in a stack and turn it over.  All you can see is the top card, and it is a beautiful 10.  The all-in player stands and starts gathering his stuff.  I said, or I might say I predicted “Hey now, there could be two Aces under that 10”.  And I move the 10 to the side, and the next card exposed is an Ace.  I gulp, and reveal the third card….another Ace.  You have got to be kidding me.  I flop a full house, and I am dead in the water to the only hand that could be beating me at that moment.  The only saving grace is that he only had 3300 chips.  I could have been broke heading home if he had more.


Submitted 7/9/09

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