Monday, November 29, 2010

Missed Opportunities on the River

Extracting maximum value from winning hands is as important as limiting financial damage from losing hands. Here are some examples of mistakes I've made on the end.

Missing an extra bet

Opponent: (X, X) A-Clubs, A-Spades, 10-Hearts, 10-Spades, (X)
Me: (3-Clubs, 5-Hearts) 4-Clubs, 6-Spades, 5-Diamonds, 5-Clubs, (J-Clubs)

Action: Obviously I was unhappy to see the brick on the end that denied me a qualifying low-hand. My opponent had led all the way in this hand with the exposed pair of Aces, and I had serious doubts that my trip 5s would hold up for high. But, on the river my opponent checked and after I thoughtlessly checked back, I won the entire pot.

Analysis: I missed picking up an extra bet on the end because it is not possible for my opponent to have trip Aces or trip 10s. If he has three of either rank his hand would be a full house, which is a holding that he would certainly bet. In fact he would bet quads, a full house, a flush, or an Ace-high straight. The only reason for a check is that he has none of these holdings, and fears losing to a possible small straight. Therefore my trip 5s has to be the nuts and I should bet. With Aces-up, he has to call because the pot was large and I could be betting with only a low-hand.

Missing a chance at half the pot

Opponent: (X, X) 10-Clubs, 9-Hearts, 8-Spades, 7-Clubs, (X)
Me: (2-Spades, Q-Clubs) Q-Spades, 5-Spades, 6-Spades, A-Clubs, (7-Diamonds)

Action: This was a heads-up hand, that because of the high door-cards, I bet out thinking that no qualified low-hand would result. I checked on Sixth Street and when my opponent responded by betting into my Queens, I read him for a straight and stayed because of my flush draw. I missed the flush-draw on the river but backed into a 7-high nut-low. My opponent bet on the end and I made the mistake of calling. He won the high-pot with two pair 10s and 7s.

Analysis: There was no reason for me not to raise in this situation. I have no risk of being scooped by a straight and a raise would force him to make a difficult decision if he missed his draw, which in this case he did. Do you call someone raising on the end with two overcards, when all you have is two small pair? He's not expecting a low-hand on my side anymore than I did. Most likely he would fold because his river bet amounts to a semi-bluff.

Part of the reason for my errors in both these cases was backing into a different kind of hand than what I had sought. In the latter case I had too much mental focus on playing a high-hand without thinking about the backdoor low possibilities. The call was an afterthought because I had not been looking for a low-hand. In the former case I was looking for a low straight because I believed trip 5s and even 5s-full would lose. But, backdoor low-hands and backdoor high-hands occur frequently in Stud-Eight. You need to quickly switch your thought processes when they occur and think about the new tactical possibilities that they present.