Highly questionable. Poor judgment, good outcome

In my second hand of the game, I won a huge pot with A8, flopping a pair of Aces. I felt paranoid in this hand, because A8 is considered a garbage hand by good players, and I had it in the back of my head that if I got beat on this hand, I’d been told. I’m in for the Small Blind, the blinds are cheap, and I was willing to see if I could win.

I flopped a pair of Aces, Qc7cAs, and, leading out, decided that I’m first to act, and I’m not sure if my 8 kicker will be good enough, so I decide to check, and see if anyone else bets. If no one bets the flop, I’ll buy the pot on the Turn. A big bet, and I’ll fold, but a small bet I’ll stay in and see what happens, maybe I’ll pair my 8, or if not and the pot stays small, I’ll take the chance of losing a few hundred chips here.

One of the late positions min-bets, and is called by the player behind him. I read this bet as weakness to feel out the table to see if anyone has a strong claim to the Ace, and I expect that they may have a Queen, or a weaker Ace than mine, or possibly a flush draw.

So I lay out a raise slightly under the pot size, the rest of the table folds, and am called by both players. I was hoping my raise would close the hand, but the bet amounts relative to the stack sizes are too small for that, and now I’m worried at least one of them will turn up an Ace of their own, and that it will either be stronger, or backed with another pair, so I think about laying the hand down. If either had re-raised me here, I would have layed down.

We see the Turn, a deuce, and that’s a good card for me because it doesn’t hit anybody’s range here, except maybe if someone had tried to play 54, now they have a wheel draw, but I don’t give it much thought. I fire again, this time a pot-sized bet, hoping that the bigger bet will close the hand. The first player calls me, however, but the second one decides to get out of the hand, and mucks.

Well, that almost worked. The pot is up to more than 2000 chips now, and that’s plenty big enough for me on Top Pair with a middle kicker. I’d hoped that such a big bet would close the hand down, and instead now it’s out of hand, and I really don’t feel good here.

We see the river, which is a Ten. The Ten worries me some, because with AQ already on board, KJ just made a straight, and I could also see someone playing AT (which would already be ahead of me) here. But it also affords me the chance to make it look as though I have filled a Broadway straight, and I feel like 800 is a good value bet for someone making that hand. He had just called a 675 chip bet the street before, and now the pot odds are even better, he almost has to call here for the odds I’ve given him. But I really want him to fold here — I’m thinking if this is a good player, he’ll read that value bet as an invitation to call, and realize that if I want him to call, I probably have it, so he should therefore not call, and then he’ll fold.

I gave him too much credit.

He doesn’t just call — he shoves. This is the worst possible thing he could have done to me. Now, I have to make a decision. Do I call here, or do I lay it down and struggle through the rest of the game and try to recover? Do I have this hand? I’m far from confident about that. Top Pair is not that great of a hand, and my 8-kicker is may be good but in all likelihood, isn’t if someone else is playing an Ace this way.

My opponent nearly got me to fold, but I looked at my remaining stack and decided that it would be better to just go out in 2 hands than to play longer at this table after taking such a beating, and try to recover. I had top pair, after all, and if I was beat, whether by Aces and a better kicker, or two pair, or whatever, I wanted to see the hand. They were just a King away from a Broadway straight, and didn’t get there.

So I call. The showdown: He’s on 2nd pair, Queens, holding QJ for QQAJT, and I’m the winner with AAQT8.

I have no idea why he felt he could bet 2nd pair this way, and if he’d shoved on the flop I surely would have laid down, but he got me in slow, street by street, and on the river bet, I figured he either had KJ and filled Broadway on the river, or else AA or maybe AT, all of which beat me. But I wanted to see the hand that beat me here, so I called.

That left him with 30 chips, cab fare for the ride home, and like that I’m already the chip leader at the table with over 5200 in front of me, double the rest of the table. It’s a great way to start off.

https://www.replaypoker.com/hand/replay/507947886

But that said, he really did play the hand well, shoving on the end like he did. He very nearly had me convinced that I was beaten and should muck my hand. He represented the Broadway draw filling very well – min bet on the flop could have been intended to block the table, enabling him to see a cheap Turn. My bet on the turn should have been enough to get him to lay down, but maybe he just felt lucky and wanted to see one more card, and hit paydirt, and decided to shove it back at me. And if he’d had KJ there, that’s exactly what would have happened, and then I would be grousing about how I could see it coming and knew that’s what would happen, and I’d be angry at myself for playing A8 in the first place…

It’s interesting how good my intuition was here. First, the intuition that if I played A8, I’d probably get in trouble with it – the whole way through this hand, I feel like I’m very shakey and probably making a mistake that just keeps getting bigger the further the hand goes. The initial read of my opponent’s action on the flop was perfect. My tactics in response to the situation were sound, although my flop and turn bets didn’t have their intended results – closing the hand – they did result in a happy outcome for me, and really punished my opponent for making very bad decisions with his hand.

On the other hand, all that good stuff was bookended by two pretty bad decisions: To play A8o out of the SB in the first place, and to call all-in on the river, facing what looked like it could well have been a filled straight that had resisted all my efforts to get it to fold. But maybe I can start to trust my ability to read my opponents, having shown that what I could do here. I’m just not sure yet, was my read really that good? Or was it just a guess that happened to be right? I feel like the flop read was perfect, but I felt like my read on the river was 50-50, and I called more because I was OK with losing than because I felt confident that I had it.

What this adds up to, though, for anyone at the table who might have been playing close attention, was that I am a loose player who got very lucky playing marginal cards and wouldn’t back down even when it looked like I could be up against a monster. And that’s a table image that I can exploit, if I play TAG the rest of the way.

A 8 is a reasonable hand to play in an unraised pot from the small blind, but although you played the hand well, the hand also showed the limitations of a hand like A 8 o. It has a great propensity to make second best hand, and you cannot make a straight using both these cards, so although you may win many pots with it, when you lose, you will probably lose a lot.

Obviously if it is folded to you in the small blind in the late stages of a tournament, A 8 is worth raising or shoving against an unknown BB hand, especially if the stack is much smaller than yours or if your stack is about to be blinded out and you cannot wait for a better hand, because the odds are strongly in favor of you starting ahead of any hand other than a pocket pair or AK, AQ,AJ, AT, A9, or A8. Unfortunately, the higher the opposing hand is in this hierarchy, the more likely it is to fight back.

It is a bit like playing a game like roulette by doubling up each time you lose, until you win. You may make a profit of one chip per play for a while, but in the long run you will probably lose all the chips you won, plus the rest of the chips in your stack. When you have lost 31 chips and now have to put in 32 chips to win and show a profit of 1 chip, you see that your chances of being 65 chips in the hole in your quest to win 1 chip is actually better than even, like playing two over cards against a pocket pair.

Your opponent here had almost 20 million chips in his account, so obviously some history of winning games here on RP, and the shove on the river is certainly a move that I have been seeing more recently by some of the best players, especially if they see that you are tight or cautious. One of the distinguishing factors of the better players is that they observe the play of their opponents, even when out of a hand.

I cost myself third place in an MTT recently by NOT calling a shove on the river when I was leading with an pair of Aces, mainly because there was another tiny stack close to elimination out of the hand and I had enough chips to continue if folded.

The player whom I should have eliminated went on to win the tournament and I went out in 4th.

Also is the early stages of tournaments I tend to wait for hands where I have a hand better than top pair to get into very large stack-threatening pots. In the later stages of tournaments most hands are mano-a-mano, and different rules apply from in multiway pots. Although this sometimes means that I get bluffed off pots could have won, I usually win some massive ones as well. In any case, the most common way people get eliminated from tournaments is calling massive bets due to an inability to believe that the opponent has the hand represented. Full house, 3s full of J’s with a pair of 3s on a J high flop, Wtf!!!

FWIW, the rest of that table was fairly interesting. The player behind me played a maniac style, shoving frequently, seemingly at random, with any two cards, and it was very hard to play in any hands with them in them, and with him directly behind me that made it really hard to get into any hands. Preflop, post flop, at any time this guy would just go all-in and disrupt the hand.

At first people just got out of his way, but it was so frequent that players just had to call, assuming he was on nothing hands, but he won his first contested shove, and from there was dangerous, erratic, and yo-yoing between average stack and big stack. I watched him shove 35 and get called by the player in front of me, who held 88, and he sucked out hitting the Wheel draw, knocking 88 off the table.

Finally I got in with him on a hand where I rivered a Broadway straight, he shoved the river, I called, another guy called, and we’d all hit Broadway together on the river, so we chopped a 15,000 chip pot 3 ways.

Not long after that, I took him down, when I played something like T9, or JT. I flopped top pair, Tens, but the board was flush hearts, and the wrong color for me. He, was in this hand, but had just limped to the flop. I checked, and predictably he shoved, but I didn’t give him any credit for having a made flush here, so I called. I figured, if I lost this hand, at least I would be off the table. And if I didn’t stand up to him there, then he was just going to be a pain until he went bust, if he went bust, and it would likely as not be to someone else at the table, and I figured it’d be best if I ended up with most of those chips he’d won at bingo. He only had the 7 of hearts, but didn’t see a fifth heart, and didn’t hit anything else. My stack size was close to his, but I left him with around 700 chips.

At that point, he left the table and never came back. I think the table was 5-up at that point, and we were able to have a nice game after that.

I ended up with the big stack from that hand, and rode it to a 1st place win. It’s worth watching the hands after, until I take him out, just for the satisfaction of seeing a disruptive player get beat but good, and then quit the table.