I like to play heads up against players who are not properly bankrolled. They’re often tilty, overly aggressive, and easy to beat. But some of them are absolute bingo machines, and just shove hand after hand. It’s easy to presume after 5-6 shoves in a row that they’re pushing any two, and you can/should call with anything reasonable to catch them with junk and rags. But because the Replay RNG hates my guts, when I do call these shove monkeys, for some reason I often seem to pick the hand they have pocket QQ+, or that the dealer has stacked the deck so that they hit the nuttiest nut hand that ever nutted. So I play a ridiculously tight range and assume that I’m going to have to beat 99+ every time, or that they’re going to flop trips the second I call. It’s a poor strategy, but for playing with such poor luck, it’s about the only thing I can do.
Some shove monkeys only love the shove when they’re down below 1/3 or so of their starting stack. I can kindof respect this, if you’re a bit choosy about the range you shove. About 3/4 of the games I play at the heads up tables, I blow them away for small pots hand after hand after hand until they’re down to near nothing, when all of a sudden they come on like gangbusters and get dealt a monster, double up, and then it’s back to square one, or we swap stacks and now I’m down after one bad hand on top of 30-60 well played hands, they get it all back, and by now the blinds are to where I’m only playing 5-10BB deep, and I have a hard time outplaying them short stacked, and I turn into the shove monkey, but I seem to be the only one who has a problem calling a shove, and when I get called I lose 75% of the time, that’s how I lose those games.
Replay recently changed the replayer so that you can see you the hole cards of all players for hands that you’re involved in. So this allows me to finally take a look at the type of hands these shove monkey players are shoving with.
So here’s a game I just played. It took me 85 hands to put away this guy. I played him two other times previously tonight, twice at 100k, once at 50k. He had started out with a bankroll of around 350k, and managed to get lucky on me in the first game after I beat the tar out of him for most of the game, just the way I describe the way I lose my games. I took the second game, getting even. The third game, I find him a a 50k table, down to just 111k or so in his bankroll, and I decide to take him on one more time. He’s not a terrible player, but got especially good, but he gave me trouble.
In this third game, I started out very hot and dominated. I just kept hitting, and got dealt great cards. I won reasonable pots with them, not betting to end the game but to keep worse hands in the pot with me, and get value. I took him down to around 1300 chips, when suddenly every hand it’s all-in preflop, or all-in on the flop. I also happen to go stone dead cold at this exact same time, and have to fold, fold, fold for about a decade, before I finally get him with AJ, in a hand which almost blew the game open for him.
I was sure he was just junk shoving everything, but when I went back to look at those hands, I saw that his hole cards were actually fairly reasonable hands to shove with holding a short stack. His strategy was overly heavily weighted toward shoving, but he only did it for a bluff a number of times you could count on one hand if you were Captain Hook. I was behind in almost all of these hands, and the times when I was ahead, I had nothing, and it was very marginal.
So now instead of being incensed at the shove monkey, I’m wondering how in the heck the RNG can give this guy that many suited Aces and Kings in a row, on top of hitting boards for as many hands in a row, while at the same time dealing me the most ragged junk and missing everything. I’m talking something close to 40 hands or so in a row. How do you flip a coin “Heads” 40 times in a row?
Here’s the hand history. If you want to replay the game yourself, this is the opening hand of our 3rd game.
|1||5d2h||Kd8d||H folds preflop|
|2||6s5c||–||V folds preflop. Apparently the replayer still doesn’t show opponent’s hole cards unless they actually play the hand and win it without showing at showdown. I like this since it somewhat allows us to keep our range a secret.|
|3||8s9d||Qc8h||I open to 2BB, flop AA5, I check, V bets, I fold. V has nothing, but is ahead; good fold.|
|4||4d4h||Ac3s||V opens to 2.5BB, I call. Board misses us both, I win 150 at showdown. V misses wheel draw, but doesn’t bet it.|
|5||9c9s||AcAh||I open to 3BB, V 3-bets to 9BB, I call. I flop top set 9-7-4, 2 spades. 5s on the turn, 3s on the river for a 9-high flush. With the flop low, I bet small to keep V in, he calls 90 at the flop, then donk bets 360 on the Turn, which I call. Not liking the 9-high flush, and especially not liking the 3457 of spades being on the board for a 6s nut straight flush possibility, I don’t bet the river. V checks back. I win 1440 chips at showdown; V shows AcAh.|
|6||KsQc||–||V folds preflop.|
|7||Kd6c||–||We both limp to the flop, I flop top trips, check to V who bets pot for 60; I call. Board re-pairs on the Turn, KKTT, giving me a full house and no fear of a better kicker. V checks the turn, I bet 1/2 pot, V folds, I win 180.|
|8||9c9d||–||V folds preflop.|
|9||KsTh||–||I raise KT 2BB preflop, V calls, 939 flop with two clubs. No action to the river, which pairs my K, I bet, V folds. I win 120.|
|10||9h9s||–||V opens to 3BB, I raise to 6BB, V calls. I flop bottom set, Q9K, V checks, I bet, V calls. Turn pairs the board with another K, giving me 999s full. I bet half pot, V calls. River is 5h, I bet half pot, V folds. I win 720 chips. Hard to say what V called with on the Turn that couldn’t call on the river; I’d guess a straight draw that missed, maybe AT, or maybe a club draw that missed.|
|11||6c3s||9d6d||I fold preflop.|
|12||6s2s||9d8d||V raises 2BB; I fold preflop.|
|13||9c6h||8c5s||I fold preflop.|
|14||QcTc||–||I flop top pair, QQueens, on a dry Q63 rainbow flop, and min bet it. V raises from 30 to 210. I call. Turn is a Ten, giving me top two pair. I check to V, hoping to induce him to bet more and he just folds to no pressure. I win 540, and don’t show the hand.|
|15||5s4c||JcTh||V opens to 3BB, I fold.|
|16||Ts2h||7c2c||I fold preflop.|
|17||Tc7d||Kd2h||I fold preflop.|
|18||Kd8d||AhTh||I open to 2BB, V calls. Flop 4dQsAc gives me a backdoor diamond draw, gutshot to broadway. V min-bets, I flat. Qh on the Turn pairs the board, V checks, I check. Kc on the river, I bet half pot, on the theory that V was just feeling out the flop with air, and may try to bluff if I just check, and if he calls, I’m probably losing to Ax or Qx. V calls with top pair, wins 360. Nice hand.|
|19||QhQd||Js9c||I open to 3BB, V calls. Flop T76, two clubs. I bet half pot and get a call. 4h on the Turn, I bet it again and get another call. Board is looking like a possible straight for 98, and now 85. I figure 85 is unlikely, but I’m playing my overpair carefully on this board after getting two calls. 9s on the river, now any 8 has a 6-T straight, and I just check it, ready to fold the QQ now if he bets big, but pretty annoyed about the prospect. V just checks back, shows 2nd pair, 99s, needing an 8 for a 7-J straight. I win 960.|
|20||9d3h||Qs5s||I fold to V’s first shove. Good fold, but not a particularly good hand to shove.|
|21||Qh4d||Kc5s||I open to 2BB, V shoves, I fold. Again not a particularly good hand to be shoving, but still better than my Q4.|
|22||9s2s||QsTh||V shoves, I fold.|
|23||9h3h||Ts9d||I’m not prepared to call a shove with this hand, so I just fold it preflop.|
|24||Qh5c||–||V folds preflop.|
|25||KdQd||–||I open to 3BB, hoping that V shoves for the 4th time in 6 hands, but he folds. I guess I should have just limped and hoped it induced him. Oh well.|
|26||Ad2s||Jd4c||I limp, miss the flop, V hits bottom pair 44 with 9cQc on board for backdoor flush and straight draws. He min bets and I let the weak Ace go.|
|27||JhTh||Qh5s||I limp, not wanting to raise and fold to an anticipated shove from V, but I’m looking to see a flop here if I can with JTs. V shoves, I fold. I note that limping likely induces these shoves, and figure these are very weak hands and V is trying to exploit any passive play so he doesn’t run bluffs into made hands any more. I decide to adjust my strategy and just play a tight linear range, putting a premium on hands that can profitably call shoves preflop.|
|28||6h3c||–||V folds preflop.|
|29||As8d||Qd8s||I open to 2BB, V calls. Flop comes in low, 753-rainbow. I check, V shoves. I think about calling for a long time on the strength of my Ace high, but in the end opt not to, and V shows Q8; I had him dominated here, but still felt safer folding. Now I’m over-folding, and he’s exploiting me hand after hand after hand. And I know it, but I reason if I’m going to trap him, I can afford to wait until I’ve made a hand, it’ll come sooner or later, if I’m patient, I just know it will.|
|30||9c5c||As7h||V open shoves, I fold.|
|31||7c6s||Kc6h||I fold preflop.|
|32||Ad6s||Ac6d||I limp, V open shoves, I fold. I really feel like I’m being exploited, but A6 is still on the weak side to call any two when you have the puggywug RNG curse on your side. As it turns out, here I would have lost to a flush with four clubs on the board, since our hole cards are matched. I mean that’s obviously what happens here 9/10 of Replay hands when I’m all-in for a sure chop.|
|33||Ts4c||Kc8s||I fold preflop.|
|34||7c6d||–||V folds preflop.|
|35||2s2h||–||I open to 3BB, V folds. I know I said I was going to play a tight linear range, and normally I would not be calling a shove with pocket deuces. My preflop play here is to exploit V’s tendency to fold to a raise. If I limp here, odds are pretty good he shoves at me again, and I don’t want to call with 22, but I think it’s likely he folds to a 3BB raise, so I test that, ready to fold if he jams. Turns out I’m right. It stands to reason that V’s thinking here is that after seeing him shove so many hands in a row, I’m not likely to raise anything but the top of my range, and he doesn’t want to test himself against that.|
|36||As6c||–||V folds preflop.|
|37||8c8s||Jc5c||I open to 3BB, V flat calls. Flop is 4sQcTc. I check, V shoves. I fold, with the two overcards on the board. Turns out V had a flush draw. The shove is probably overly aggressive here, but he did have a nut advantage. Shove is a pretty good play here. I’m only calling shoves with with top pair/overpair, or a set. Maybe that’s a little tight considering this behavior, but something just tells me he has something this time, and I can wait for a better opportunity when it’s less of a gamble, and I clearly have best hand, not a marginal call just because I happen to have a hand better than High Card.|
|38||6s5c||KcJd||For some reason V doesn’t shove this time, and just limps, I guess hoping to induce me. I’m not about to give him an opportunity to shove on me with these cards, though, I just want to see a flop. Flop comes 9h8s2d, for a gutshot to the idiot end of a 9-high straight, rainbow board. V bets pot, but it’s just for 80, and I call. Turn pairs the board, 88s, and V checks to me, I check back. I hit a pair of 55s on the river, bet it, and V calls, I win 480. See what happens when you don’t shove???|
|39||8c5h||9h4c||I fold preflop.|
|40||Ts2h||Ks5s||V opens to 2BB, I fold.|
|41||3s2d||Ah9h||I fold preflop.|
|42||Qd4c||–||V folds preflop.|
|43||Ad3h||AsJc||I open to 3BB, V shoves, I fold.|
|44||Jh9c||Ad6s||V shoves, I fold.|
|45||Ks6c||Ah3s||We limp. Qd5h4d flop. We check. 9c on the Turn, V bets pot for 160, I still haven’t hit anything, and fold. V has gutshot draw to the wheel plus A-high, and is ahead of me on this board.|
|46||9s4h||Ad7d||V shoves, I fold preflop.|
|47||5h4s||Ks2d||I fold preflop.|
|48||9h8d||–||We limp, flop is Kc9d8s giving me bottom-middle two pair. I am hoping he shoves here, but he checks to me. I just bet half pot, hoping to keep him in, may induce him to raise big so I can drop the hammer on him. He just checks. Th on the Turn puts too many straight combos in play for me to feel comfortable slow-playing 3rd-4th two pair, so I rip it, V folds. I show. Feels nice to shove one back at him. But I just get 240 chips for it.|
|49||5s4c||Ac4h||I fold preflop.|
|50||9c3s||Js7d||V opens to 2BB, I fold.|
|51||Td7h||Th2s||I fold preflop.|
|52||Td6h||4h4c||V shoves, I fold preflop.|
|53||Kh6s||–||V limps, I raise 3BB, V folds.|
|54||AdKd||–||V opens to 2BB; I raise to 6BB, V folds. Really? The one time you can’t shove it? This just reinforces the impression that he’s exploiting me with shoving any two while I’m on a cold streak and can do nothing about it, but the moment I show a bit of strength, he fades. He’s not willing to play hands, just thinks he can steal pots for 1.5BB for 100 hands and win the game. Well, at this rate probably he can, unless I manage to get some cards.|
|55||Kd9d||As4s||I open to 2BB, V shoves. I fold. You might think folding K9s with this guy’s track record is overly nitty, and I agree. Still, having now seen his hand in replay, he’s a 57% favorite, and I have to be a 98% favorite to win these preflop all-ins.|
|56||Ad2h||As9d||V open shoves, I fold. Seriously, how many times does he get an Ace in this sequence?|
|57||Jh8s||Qs9h||V opens to 4BB, I fold. Sure enough, his hole cards are each one rank better than mine. How about that. I could ordinarily play J8 heads up to a 4BB open, at least to see a flop, but by now I’m expecting an immediate shove on the flop, and unless I hit that flop particularly hard, I’m just throwing away chips. So my strategy is not to see the flop unless it’s cheap, or unless my hole cards are already good enough to call a shove with. Basically 99+, A9s+, ATo+ and that range isn’t going to see too many hands. I just need to see one, though.|
|58||Th4c||Ad5h||I fold preflop. V has now crossed up over the 2000 chip mark for the first time in a while.|
|59||QhTd||–||V folds preflop.|
|60||6d2d||–||V folds preflop.|
|61||7d5s||2c2h||I fold preflop.|
|62||9s2c||–||V folds preflop|
|63||Tc3h||Th2h||I fold preflop.|
|64||Tc3c||9d7d||V opens to 3BB, I call for some reason. Flop JdAd7s, giving V a draw to the nut flush plus bottom pair. V shoves the flop, I fold. This isn’t necessarily a bad play to make here, but it sure is easy to fold 90% of my hands. While V’s shoving hands are a lot stronger much of the time than I’m giving credit for, and often better than my hand, he’s really denying himself a great deal of value by over-relying on aggression. If he just gave me a chance to bluff him, he could get a lot more chips and probably beat me. As annoyed as I am at this hyper-aggressive play, and more annoyed at never having anything to call with, I’m actually playing these hands just fine, and have made the right adjustments to beat this player – if I can only get the best hand one time.|
|65||Ts5d||9c9h||I fold preflop. Seriously, how many times in a row does he get to have the better hand? 30? 40? How many situations in a row do you get to have it be the right play to shove? it’s freaking ridiculous.|
|66||7h6s||Ad2c||V opens to 3BB, I fold. I dunno, maybe I coulda played the 76o.|
|67||Jd7h||–||V limps, I flop top pair, 77s, and overbet the pot 2X, V folds.|
|68||7d3h||Js4c||V opens 3BB, I fold.|
|69||2h2d||–||I open to 3BB, V folds. This is the second time I’ve done this during the shovemonkey phase with pocket deuces.|
|70||Qc8h||7d3d||V opens to 156 chips, an odd open size. I call, flop is 652, two spades. I have nothing at all, but I try to bluff the pot, V calls. I put no further chips in, board runs out Jh, 6c. V shoves 7d3d on the river, I fold. I would have been good had I called with the Q high. But I’m not going to beat him calling a shove with High Card. I let him steal another 550 chips, and now he’s back up to 2500.|
|71||KdJs||–||I limp, V checks. Flop is Th7cQd, giving me a OESD. I bet pot and V folds.|
|72||Qc5c||Ks9s||V opens to 2BB, I call. Flop 8h8d3c, we check. Kc on the Turn gives me a flush draw, which I min-bet, V raises me to 400 chips. I call, then miss the flush on the river, 4s, and we both check. V wins it with KK88, and takes 1200 chips. We’re back to square one, even stacked at 3000 each. I can’t even remember the early part of the game when I won all those hands now. How is this happening? I am beyond livid to be losing the game at this point, going so many hands without a hand I can put him away with.|
|73||8h6d||7d4c||I fold preflop.|
|74||Js5s||–||V folds preflop.|
|75||8d5d||Ac9c||I limp, V raises to 3.5BB. I tank for a few seconds before mucking.|
|76||Qh9d||–||V opens to 220 chips, an odd 2.2BB sizing. I call, flop is Ah5c5s. I decide to bluff and put in a 3/4 pot bet, and V folds.|
|77||Kh9s||–||V folds preflop.|
|78||5h2s||–||V folds preflop|
|79||Kd3d||–||I open to 2.5BB, V folds preflop.|
|80||Ah7h||–||V raises to 3BB, I call. Flop is 6dTh3h, I have a nut flush draw, and bet it for 2BB into a 6BB pot. V raises to 7BB, I flat. Pot is now 20BB, 2000 chips. All I have left is one more pot-size bet. I reason that if I don’t hit the flush, if I don’t bet, V is shoving, and then I have to decide whether to take a 25% chance of nutting out or go bust, or maybe if he is bluffing I’ll be good and win anyway. But I don’t like having those as my only options to win the hand. The Turn is Qs, a brick for me, but an overcard to the board. I shove 2400 into 2000, and V folds. This is the turning point of the game, I got a bluff through with my nut draw, and put V back down from even-stacked to a 1600-4400 deficit. I still do not feel like I’m in control but at least i have the big stack back.|
|81||Qh3s||KsKc||I think about playing the hand, but I don’t really like Q3o, not with the blinds this high, and not with the way he’s been shoving everything, and not after just regaining the big stack. This would have been a bluff raise and right into the monster pocket KKings if I’d tried to play it. Another great laydown.|
|82||Tc9s||Kh5d||V tanks a while before limping in. Flop is Ac6dJc. I check, V checks. Ks on the Turn, and v shoves. I fold. I have a gutshot to the nut straight, needing a Queen, but it’s not a good idea to call.|
|83||QhJs||Jh3h||V opens to 3BB. I call with QJo. Flop comes in low, 447, rainbow. I check, V shoves. All he has is a backdoor hearts draw, and otherwise I’m dominating him. But again, I don’t feel good calling with just high card Queen. V could have A4 or A7, or a lot of other hands that have me beat, and even though he’s shoving this many hands at me, I’m still giving him credit unless I have something. My minimum to call with is top pair, nice kicker. That’s all I need.|
|84||Js4c||7s5c||We limp, flop is Ks7dAd, giving V bottom pair. I have nothing, so I fold to the min-bet.|
|85||AdJs||Td3h||I’m sick of this guy. I limp the AJ and he limps back. I decide to give him a taste of his own medicine when the flop misses me, he bets pot for 200, and I raise him, 800 into 400. V jams. I’ve seen him shove on me so many times now that I just don’t buy that he has it this many times, and with AJ after so many absolute garbage hands, this is where I draw the line. I call the shove. V flips up top pair, but a very weak top pair, with a backdoor hearts draw. I manage to get lucky, finally, and river a Jack to edge out his TTens, and the game is won. By sheer luck. After all that.|
Out of all those hands above, there were just two or three situations where he shoves and I could have been considered the favorite to win the hand.
I had a commanding lead at 19 hands, and it takes another 66 to conclude the game. I didn’t lose 65 of those hands in a row, but I was the underdog in very many of them, and couldn’t play most of them because of what V’s shovemonkey strategy did to my range when I adjusted. And in the end, the final hand is for over 2/3 of the chips at the table, and I win with a 24% river suckout. So much for skill.
The dealer absolutely had it in for me in this game and did about everything he could to give it to my opponent. If he’d just had the sense to size his bets for me to call a street or two, or checked and let me bet into him when he had it, he probably wins. What’s most shocking to me is how few of those shoves were actually unreasonable. Against my holdings, nearly all of them were good even if I called.
Who endures 66 hands of cold cards in a heads up match and comes out the winner in the end?
After a game like this, you know you need a break. A good, long break.