Q: I have a recurring situation that is driving me crazy. You speak to it around the edges quite a bit in the blog, I’d be interested in hearing your direct take. I win many small pots in a session then lose a big pot that I should have been able to get away from.
Recent examples: $170 Bounty Tourney, second level. I’m in the cut off with AQ, I raise 3x, small blind completes.
Flop is AJ8 rainbow. SB (who is a weak player, in fact he said before the tourney that “He was really bad” during some table talk) bets, I min raise, he calls.
Turn is a blank, he bets, I call.
River is an 8, he makes same bet, I call.
He turns over A8 for a boat. I was thinking A with a smaller kicker.
After the fact, I can see all the signs that I needed to fold, but can’t seem to do it in game.
Second example is set over set, where I overlook multiple signs to fold, and don’t.
So after the session, I can see it plain as day – but in game I can’t seem to stop and ask myself “What hands can I beat?” when he starts to pile money in the middle.
Any suggestions on a technique to change this behavior would be appreciated.
I’ve tried the ol’, “Just do it you idiot. You know what to do…” type of thing – but you know how that works.
A: My first piece of advice would be to change the way you think about hand reading. Thinking about your opponent’s cards isn’t something to do only when you have a big decision. Literally every decision you make, from whether to bet to how much to bet, should be informed by what you think your opponent has. If you’re looking at it that way, it’s not something you can just forget to do. It would be like trying to drive a car with your eyes closed – it wouldn’t take you long to realize that you didn’t have some pretty critical information! I have some short articles that include advice about hand reading and how you can use that to get more value when you think you have the best hand (which is a closely related skill to realizing when you don’t have the best hand). For a lot more detail and examples, you can see my Tournament Poker Edge videos on the same subjects.
The second thing I want to say is that you may be a bit results oriented in your analysis. It’s certainly a problem if the pots you lose and consistently smaller than the pots you win, but losing a big pot doesn’t necessarily mean that you did something wrong. Not every session is going to be a winning one, while it’s easy to say after the fact “I would have been up if not for that one big loss!”, the truth is that some of those big losses are just part of the game and not something you can avoid. Trying to avoid them can actually lead you to miss out on good opportunities to win big pots.
It’s hard to say for sure, because in the one example that you give you do seem to overplay your hand. Among other things, it’s not clear to me what you’re accomplishing with the flop raise, and you should be on alert when your opponent continues to bet into you after you’ve raised. Depending on the size of his bets, though, calling down is not necessarily a mistake.
You also cite set under set as a situation where you tend to lose a lot of money, and though there are exceptions, that’s generally a tough spot to get away from. The upside is that when you have set over set, your opponents probably aren’t getting away either. That line is what made me think you might be being a little too hard on yourself with the benefit of hindsight.
Hope that helps!