Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2004) in Poker Player newspaper.
Today’s word is “Gone”
I’ve told you about my misgivings regarding tournament poker. I seldom enter these events, because (1) it’s too frustrating when you need to outlast a field of 500 to 2,000 opponents or more; (2) it’s not my most-profitable use of time, except perhaps at the biggest buy-ins; and (3) there’s a fundamental flaw in most tournaments that penalizes first place and means that your most-profitable strategy is to sacrifice chances at the championship to ease into the money. Fine. I’ve said that all before. But, I just wanted to remind you, in case you forgot where I stood.
About five years ago, I relented and entered the WSOP main event for the first time. Early on, there was a poker hand that severely damaged my chances. But, I thought the hand was so interesting from a standpoint of offering strategy choices that I posted it to an Internet newsgroup to stimulate discussion.
Stimulate it did. I learned then that players like to second-guess. Knowing that I’d lost, they chronicled many perceived and imagined mistakes they thought I’d made. But, my intended message was that at every important point of decision, the choice was close. In fact, all those choices were so close that, if you didn’t know the result, you could argue endlessly beforehand about what was best. And there was never one for-certain answer. It all depended on your image, the nature of your opponents, your desire to mix up your plays, and the overall chemistry of the moment.
That’s the nature of poker.
So, now – edited only slightly for clarity – here is the post I made back then.
How Mike Caro got eliminated — an interesting hand
How would y’all have played this hand? I got eliminated with it, and possibly should have played it differently. Here’s the situation…
We are three hours into the final $10,000 buy-in event at the World Series of Poker. I’m at table two, which is outside the main room in the satellite area. My table consists of no players that I am very familiar with, but five of my eight opponents have talked about my books and introduced themselves. Surrealistically, there are two separate discussions about my philosophy of tells while the action is going on — neither of which I participate in. Everyone is friendly. Opponents all seem experienced and capable, but no super stars that I can spot. All male. Action is marginally loose compared to what I expected in this main event at the early stages (I’ve never entered before).
After about three hours, I’ve built to $13,500 in chips. I have A♦-Q♦ Two seats to the right of the button (dealer position), nine handed. Blinds are $50 and $100. Everyone passes to the player on my right (6th position). He makes a routine attack raise of $300 ($400 total). He has far fewer chips than I do, probably about $7,000. Here’s my first decision.
I can pass, call, raise marginally, or raise big. You could make an argument for any of those four tactics, since nobody behind me has more chips than I do, although the button has almost as many.
I call. Button also calls. Time for the flop.
It’s K♦-K♣-6♦ giving me an ace-high flush draw with my A♦-Q♦. Sixth seat bets $1,400. I debate. A good argument can be made for throwing the hand away here. Actually, I would if the off card were a nine or higher, because this would greatly increase the chances of a full house. Pot is now $4,100 and it costs me $1,400 to call. In a ring game, I would occasionally raise here (not usually, though) — perhaps $3,000 or $4,000 more.
Again, there are valid arguments for folding (mostly because it’s a proportional-payoff tournament where survival is paramount), calling, and raising. I decide to call, but I think I would have folded a good percent of the time in similar situations. Button also calls.
Turn card is 7♦. I make my nut flush. Check to me. There is danger here, but I need to weigh the chances of an opponent holding K-K, 6-6, K-6, or K-7 (not likely to be 7-7) to beat me against the chances of an opponent holding K-anything else — or even, less likely, two diamonds or another pair to lose to me. If I bet big, K-J, K-10, K-9 or K-smaller (except K-7 or K-6) may fold. If those hands call, I’m not as happy (because of the danger of them making a full house on the river), but I have the best of it.
There are valid arguments for checking along, making a small bet, or making a large bet. I move all-in.
Player on the button calls instantly with 6-6 (a full house), leaving me with only $300 in chips that last another 10 minutes.
I thought that since this was a hand with so many options, it would be fitting for discussion. Of course, some readers will look at it and conclude that it is obvious that the hand should be played a particular way.
That post led to a lot of debate. Debate can be a good thing for those who seek a deeper comprehension of poker. Think about the hand. Would you have played it differently? I usually would have, but each choice I made can be defended. That’s the point. In poker, you have choices. Most aren’t crystal clear. It’s the quality of those choices over years of poker that determines what happens to you. This time, I was gone. — MC