I was doing OK in a MTT, when I ran into this hand.
Preflop: Blinds are 180/300 with a 30 ante. I have a good stack of about 20BB. I’m dealt A9o, and decide to bet 3BB, and get one caller. So far, so good. Just one player to beat, and I have cards that I feel good about doing that with.
The flop: Qd Ad Ah. Trip Aces for me! Great flop!
I consider that to call my 900 chip bet preflop, my opponent could be on an Ace.
I consider my position:
- I’m first to act.
- My stack is about 2x my opponents.
- My 9 kicker feels decent.
Hands that can beat me right now:
- QQ, AQ, AK, AJ, AT
All of those would be in my opponent’s range. In fact, he’s holding AQ, and I’m drawing dead from here on out. If he’s not holding an Ace, this is a scary flop.
Hands that could beat me by the River:
- Suited diamonds
- any combination of KJT to make Broadway
- any pocket pair that improves to a set to create a [set] full of Aces, if I don’t hit Aces full.
Ways my hand could improve:
- If A or 9 shows up on the last two streets.
Basically, my hand isn’t likely to improve, and there’s a lot of hands in my opponent’s range that could beat me, and more than a few ways Ax could improve to a hand that beats me.
I consider this.
I decide that the best outcome for me is for the hand to end quickly. I reason that if I min-bet and get a fold, then I was ahead all along. I assume my opponent is on an Ace, and that maybe I have a better kicker, but not sure, and if my opponent has AQ I’m dead, but if he has Ace with a middle kicker, maybe I can induce a fold. I decide to try a half-pot bet to see if I get a fold, and am called.
The Turn: My opponent now has not much left in his stack, only about 900 chips. At this point I figure he’s committed to the pot and will call all-in and I’m not getting him to fold. The Turn comes, Kh. Another scary card for me. Now AK would have me drawing dead, and there’s a Hearts draw on top of the Diamond draw.
At this point, I should have recognized that I was likely beat, stopped betting, and folded to any bet.
Instead, I min-bet, foolishly, and am called. This was pointless – he wasn’t going to fold to a min bet if he called my flop bet.
The River: 2h. I finished up with Trip Aces, no improvement from the flop. If my opponent is suited-hearts, I’m beat. If he’s holding AT+, or QQ, I’m beat. I check. My opponent puts the rest of his chips in the middle. I figure I’m likely beat, but to pay the last 300 chips to see what he was beating me with is worth it, at this point, on the long odds that he could have been bluffing this whole time, so I call, and see he had flopped a Full House, Aces full of Queens.
What do I learn from this?
One way to look at it is that you just are beat sometimes, and that’s that. No one in their right mind would ever fold 3 Aces, would they?
But that’s not good enough for me. I had flopped a very strong-looking hand, and I let that excitement delude me into thinking that I could win it, even as I was drawing dead all the while.
Reviewing this hand, all the warning signs were there, and I just ignored them – A scary flop, and he still called, and I still didn’t know where I was at, and barreled on heedless. So the only thing to do would be to limit my losses. As it was, the only warning sign that would have been loud enough for me to heed it would have been – maybe – if my opponent had shoved after the flop.
But I recognize that would have been a big misplay on his part had he done so and scared me off of calling.
When you flop a full house, the last thing you want to do is bet it like you flopped a full house. Good opponents will not be so stupidly obvious. You have to listen more carefully. So what could I do differently if I were in this position again?
- Preflop – should I have shoved and just bought the blinds? No. I’m pretty sure he calls a pre-flop shove with AQ. Maybe not. But if he doesn’t, I’m not getting enough value with A9 to get just the blinds; I want to get a call to a right-sized bet, and beat them here. I think my preflop was fine, and I got the results I was hoping for from it.
- On the flop, check instead of betting. A lot of times players will check when they flop trips, because the pair on the board will scare players who missed, and you can’t get them to put any more chips in until you’ve convinced them that you do not in fact have trips, and maybe their hand is still good. If my opponent min-bets to my check, then I can try a check-raise, and if he comes back strong I can reconsider the wisdom of continuing. Especially since I’m the first actor, I need to recognize that playing fast and aggressive will make me vulnerable to situations like this, where I run headlong into my opponent and impale myself on their hand. This is a risk of this style of play. Offsetting this risk is all the lay-downs I might get by playing aggressive from early position. But winning pots this way limits your winnings, since you’re forcing players off the hand before they can put any more chips in. Check-raising from early position is probably both wiser and more profitable. (Even factoring in that I’d still get beat in a hand like this.)
- Consider a leading with min-bet feeler to see where my opponent is. If they fold, ok, I wasn’t going to get any more chips out of them (most likely) anyway. If they call, proceed with caution (hope for A or 9 on the Turn, and check to the River otherwise, laying down if they bet big.)
- If I do half-pot bet the flop and am called, don’t put any more chips in, even if it means letting the hand go without seeing that I’m beat for sure.
- Bet the King on the Turn as though I’m holding AK, and get him to lay down AQ. If I’d shoved here, it might have gotten him to think he was beat. Especially if I had checked the flop, since then the Turn shove would have been a much larger bet to call. But a lot of RPP players holding AQ would probably call anyway, insisting that they be beat with a real AK rather than an implied one, even if it means going bust. I just don’t think very many mid-stakes RPP players can lay down AAAQQ very often. But this might have been that time.
Aftermath and recovery:
Losing half my stack here sucks, but it doesn’t completely ruin me. I’m still at 10BB, still in the middle of the leaderboard, and I’ve come back from worse. It’s definitely not the outcome I had hoped for, but there’s no reason to get tilty or give up from a beat like this. It’d disheartening to get a very good hand beaten by a monster, and you have to be resilient enough to handle beats like this, get over them and survive. Just tighten up, learn from your mistake, and wait for another hand to come that you can win on.
Losing just 900 chips (from the preflop action) would have been much better, of course. When I’m a better player, perhaps I’ll be able to do that.
How would you have played this hand? Did I learn the wrong lessons here? Did I miss anything?