Let's peel back the curtain on a shove monkey

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.

Hand Hero Villain Outcome
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.

I don’t really see your point. He had AA once (which you cracked) and KK once while you had QQ and AK. Nothing about what you described seemed particularly unlucky or unusual.

It’s not ok to call someone a “shove monkey”. It seems like it could be a viable part of their strategy until you adjust to it.

1 Like

As I explained, Replay recently changed the way the hand replayer works, so it allows players who were in the hand to see their opponents hole cards. I’m not exactly sure how it works, but it seems like when they win and muck, the replayer shows.

You don’t see anything unusual about it. What I see is that after pulling back the curtain, it’s very surprising to me how seldom they were shoving complete air bluffs. It is more usually the case that within 10 hands, I’ll catch a shove monkey shoving on hands like 74o, 42o, etc. I usually will get a playable hand like AT+, KQs+, by random chance within just a few hands, and the shove monkey random any two doesn’t usually hold up too well against these calling hands, although when it’s me, 75-80% of the time the dealer helps them out. I’ll call with AQ, they’ll have AT, and pair tens, or I’ll have AK, they’ll have 93 and flop trip 333s, but a few times when I catch them, I really do win with the hand that was better than 50% to win preflop actually holding up at showdown.

What surprised me about this particular game was that this player actually had reasonable justification for the shove in the majority of the hands they shoved. They almost never had air. When they did have air, I still didn’t call because it was too marginal, or I also had nothing. This situation repeated itself over the course of 66 hands, which while they didn’t win all 66 of those hands, they had justification to shove in all but 2 or 3 out of however many hands they shoved. They either had top pair, a draw to the nuts, or a hand that at least in preflop looked very good, while hand after hand after hand, my hole cards were weak and basically unplayable. It’s a fairly long streak to be cold for 60+ hands in a row, isn’t it? I’d have to go back and count, but I probably had less than 40% equity preflop 90% of the time after the 19th hand of the game.

It’s also unusual that the game had two distinct phases, where I ran very hot through the first 19 hands, and where we actually played for 5 streets, and then after that, where it became a 1 or two street game due to V switching to a muck-or-shove strategy. This strategy did not enable them to win the game in the end, largely because they were over aggressive and lost a lot of value they could have realized better by playing their hand for value past third street, rather than trying to double up every time. The reverse implied odds often make this play -EV, but in this game they were able to win close to 5 dozen hands and get back to even footing against me, due to the cold cards I was dealt for such an extended period, they were able to claw back from a 4700-1300 deficit to make it a new game at one point. I won the game with a combination of playing a rope-a-dope strategy, and getting really lucky on the river of the final hand, which was possible only because I was overconfident that there was no way this player could possibly have a shove-worthy hand that many hands out of the last 66. How often do you see games where one player wins 3/4 of the chips at the table in the first 20 hands, and then can’t do squat for the next 65 hands, loses the stack advantage, and almost the game?

I call shove monkeys ATM’s.

Players that sit out until they have to play a hand, then sit out again kinda are a pain- they hedge their play and bets on getting to a point where they actually have to play a hand and partcipate

PUG, you have WAAAAAAAAAAAY too much time on your hands if u feel u must type out a 2hour post! I think you are convinced the subject is more interesting then it actually is! LOL

1 Like

There are two irritating types: the pusher and the bingo-artist.
Both are accepted types of strategist and both fall to the same defence.
Absolute patience, refusal to contradict with partials, power-limping with nut hands and extreme care in analysing flops for straight or flush potential.