I played some $15-$30 limit Hold’em yesterday. Very disappointing session, as I played a couple pots just plain horribly. While I’m very happy with much of my game, there’s still a Fancy-Play Syndrome tendency I’ve noticed in myself recently. And these fancy plays have cost me a significant amount of money. And it’s even more frustrating because it’s a concept I’m very familiar with, and “know”, even if I’ve been screwing it up in practice. I wanted to write about it here, because if I spend some time writing about the mistakes, I think I absorb the learning more.
My primary leak, from my perspective, is that I tend to not be aggressive enough when I have a strong (but not super-strong) hand. In situations where I have a good hand, but not a lock, and I should be raising to either take the pot immediately or make people pay to draw to beat me, I tend to play it too soft and let people in too much. This isn’t out of an attempt to slowplay, because I rarely do that consciously; it’s more of a problem stemming from me not wanting my hands to be “transparent”, even though I should have no problem with my hand becoming transparent if it means I’ll take down the pot and not have to worry about a player sucking out.
It’s an effort to extract maximum value from my good hands and not let my hand strength be obvious, but my tendency to do this often just turns into me giving good odds for an opponent to draw out on me. It violates one of the most basic limit rules that I’ve told my girlfriend as I’ve tried to teach her the game; 90% of the time, with a good hand, you are just happy to take down the pot at that moment.
I’ll give you an example. Two hands yesterday this leak cost me money. In the first hand, I had
in the big blind, three players to the flop, it comes
[Ad] [Jd] [4d]
I start off on a stupid foot by not betting this flop, thinking if anyone has a good diamond, they’re coming along for a bet anyway, and I’m thinking I’ll either get some action from worse hands on the turn, or I’ll be obviously beat on the turn. But this is faulty reasoning for a long list of reasons I won’t go into right now. I need to bet to maximize my value against weaker hands, and to get low diamonds out because I don’t want them getting a free turn. It’s just poker 101 to bet that flop.
It gets checked around on the flop. Turn comes another Ace, giving me Jacks full of Aces. Now the first player (small blind) bets, and I stupidly just call instead of raising like fundamental poker strategy should dictate. Here, I was afraid of being transparent with my hand, because a raise here either means I flopped a flush, or I have a full house. I called because I wasn’t too afraid of someone having an Ace, because I figured they would have bet the flop, and I figure just calling sets someone up to make a flush on the river, and I’ll maybe get some action. The third player calls, and we all see the river, which makes
[Ad] [Jd] [4d] [Ac] [7c]
First player checks, I bet, third player raises, and I pay off A7, for the rivered full house. If I had raised on the turn like I definitely should have, he’s either folding or making a bad call. By being too “tricky” with my good, but not great, full-house, I’m giving someone with an Ace a cheap chance at a full house. Even though it was unlikely for someone to have an Ace in that spot, it was still in the realm of possibility, and I should have just played my hand straightforwardly, even if it meant giving away my strength.
To reiterate, with most limit pots, you should be very happy just taking down a medium-sized pot at any point you can. The only time to slowplay is when you’ve got a pretty much unbeatable hand, which doesn’t happen very often.
The other hand was when I raised in late position with
and the small blind three bets me, and it’s heads up to the flop. The small blind had just sat down a few hands before and I had no particular thoughts on his play, except I had seen him raise pre-flop with high cards. Flop comes
[Qs] [8d] [5h]
He bets out, and I call. I figure I can either hit a set or if he’s just got AK or a lower pair he might shut down on the turn. (I’m still uncertain as to his playing style, and I’m more likely to play looser against a player when I’m unsure what he’s capable of, at least in limit games.)
Turn comes a 6, making me my set. Opponent bets out again, and for some reason I just call, even though the fundamentally correct play is to raise here, and it’s usually something I do 90% of the time. My reasoning was that it was quite likely he had AA or KK here if he was still betting, and my raise on the turn wouldn’t get him out, and I’d make the same amount by raising him on the river.
The river makes it:
[Qs] [8d] [5h] [6s] [Th]
and he bets again. I raise, and he reraises. Turns out he had hit the set of tens on me on the river. My “fancy play” had allowed him to see the river. (Edit on 6/26 – on second thought, I don’t mind my play on this one. If he had AK, I’m allowing him to catch up. If he had AA or KK, he’s going to call my turn raise anyway. If he had a higher pair than me, I’m willing to give him a chance to hit his 2-outer in the name of trying to extract more money on the river. I’d usually raise on the turn, like 90% of the time, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with varying it a bit sometimes, and this spot seemed like a good spot to vary it.)
Again, it was a similar situation; I seem to have some sort of instinctual dislike toward making my hand “transparent”, even when I should have no problem doing that when it’s called for. It’s something I will try to notice more in future. If it wasn’t for these two hands, I would have felt I had a nearly perfect session.