Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2008) in Poker Player newspaper.
You know the rules. This is a series of columns in which I get to ask and then answer my own questions.
Today I’ve decided against a central theme and instead will ask whatever floats into my mind. I honestly have no idea what these questions will be, and I won’t until I spontaneously ask them. They could cover anything, which is today’s word.
Remember, you don’t need to have read any previous columns to understand this one. All columns stand alone, even though the sequence of question numbers continues from last time. We left off with question 104, and here comes question 105…
Question 105: What’s the worst bad beat you ever suffered at poker?
I don’t remember. I consciously try to erase bad beats from my mind.
There are expert players who tend to remember hands they played years ago. I don’t. This is probably my worst trait as a professional player, because clearly there are advantages to being able to mentally record historic hands and reuse that information later — sometimes years later — against those same opponents.
I’ve lost with many straight flushes, but the recollections are vague. I don’t know how many.
There’s one bad beat I do remember. It happened in 2006 at the World Series of Poker. The reason I remember it is that it was recorded by others and published.
I began with 8-8. The flop was 8-8-6, with two cards suited. I ended up losing to a straight flush, made inside on the river.
I actually allowed the catastrophe to happen by not betting big enough to force my opponent out of the pot on the flop. Was that a mistake? No.
In poker, you have to take chances to maximize profit, and although second-guessers might say I failed to protect my hand, it’s clear that the biggest likely profit was to check and hope my opponent either stumbled into an inferior hand or tried to bluff.
Anyway, I didn’t go broke on the hand, even though I was out chipped. When I bet small on the river and was met with a medium-sized raise, I merely called. I’m proud of that.
Question 106: Do you have any other faults you’d like to confess to us?
Well, actually I have to stretch my imagination to find fault with my game in most areas. But one clear weakness that hinders me in both everyday life and in poker is my poor people-recognition skills.
I sometimes meet people at the supermarket that I’ve known fairly well in other environments and fail to recognize who they are.
I can watch a movie with two blond women in lead roles and get confused about which is which. It would help me if the actors wore numbers, like athletes do.
Sometimes at conventions I have a friend or employee stand nearby to whisper stuff like, “Carl’s coming back again.” That way I know that this is the same Carl that was standing there chatting with me three minutes ago. Usually I do remember the most familiar faces, but not always.
And that inability to recognize people instantly and with certainty has no doubt cost me profit over the years when playing poker. The point is, nobody is 100 percent skillful in everything, and you’ve got to accept your shortcomings and build on your strengths.
Question 107: Well, thanks for sharing that with us. Is there anything else about you that requires improvement?
No. Absolutely nothing else that comes to mind at the moment.
Question 108: I didn’t think so. In no-limit hold ’em, do you usually call an all-in bet when you hold ace-king before the flop.
No. I routinely fold, and I’ll tell you why.
When you call all-in with ace-king against any sensible opponent, you’re most apt to be facing a pair (usually a big one), a much-less-likely ace-queen, or a bluff. Against any pair smaller than your king, you usually average a moderate disadvantage which varies depending on the exact suits and the rank of the opposing pair.
Against a pair of kings, you’re in serious trouble and will lose about 70 percent of the time. Against aces, don’t even ask.
Only against ace-queen will you hold a large advantage (you’ll win about three of four times). If that opponent is bluffing with two lower cards, something that’s rare when facing a stable foe, you still average less than a 2-to-1 edge.
When you consider the chances that this opponent holds those various types of hands right now, you end up with a big expected loss by calling in most cases. Of course, the relative sizes of the all-in bet and the pot are essential to consider. The larger the bet-to-pot ratio, the more you should be motivated to fold.
Players don’t usually get criticized for calling with ace-king, but that’s strange because the mistake is often quite substantial. Moving all-in first with ace-king, though, isn’t such a big mistake and, in fact, is often a profitable choice.
So, call a big all-in bet with ace-king? Usually not okay. Make a big all-in bet with ace-king? Often okay.
Question 109: Against which type of player is positional advantage most profitable?
There’s no clear answer unless you tell me something about your style of play.
There are two main types of opponents that afford you an extra advantage when you act last. They are: (1) loose players and (2) knowledgeable-and-aggressive players.
If your image is wild or unpredictable and you’re aggressive about raising and chasing down every penny’s worth of profit, then loose players should ideally be seated to your right. Then you can act after they commit to the pot with weaker hands.
If you’re more conservative, then those sophisticated opponents who play aggressively should be on your right, so you act after they do. In this latter case, the money you gain isn’t mostly from outplaying those sophisticated opponents, but from avoiding them. If you allow them to be on your left, they will act after you do and often interfere with your strategy.
Note that no matter which type of player you are, you still want both loose opponents and knowledgeable-but-aggressive opponents seated to your right. It’s just that if you have a carefree image that invites calls, it’s a little more important to have loose players to your right. That way, you can raise after they enter pots, rather than chase them out by raising first.
That was the last question. See you soon. — MC
Next self-interview: Pending