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Monday, August 5, 2007

Column 1 in a weekly series.  Wild Billís perspective on a variety issues each week.  The biggest emphasis is on poker, but nothing is out of bounds, as he looks at sports, politics, and other issues of the moment. 

AA v. KK and the Iron Lotus

 What better way to kick things off than to talk about pocket Kings vs. pocket Aces.  Maybe you've heard Norman Chad squeal like a school girl anytime these massive hands are dealt in the same hand.  They are the two big boys of Hold ĎEm.  Funny thing is, as much as it sounds like itíd be a 90s basketball Shaq vs. Alonzo Mourning fist fight, itís actually a Hold ĎEm David and Goliath and the Kings are more Jeff Van Gundy hugging Alonzon Mourningís leg than Shaq Diesel.  Preflop the aces are a 4 to 1 favorite over the kings.  You actually have a better chance to win with hands like 98 suited, 87 suited, and 76 suited than with kings. 

Adding to the luster of this classic match-up and the big pots these hands create is the infrequency of them being dealt. As an individual the chances that youíll get dealt either AA or KK is 1 in 111, or .9% per hand.  So itís rare enough to get half the equation.  Now, it gets better.  The chances of these two hands clashing in heads up play is an astounding 1 in 22,560 or 22,559 to 1 or .004%.   Youíve got a better chance of not catching a veneral disease after a night with Brittney Spears than you do being involved in this hand.  And right now sheís giving Paris Hilton a run for her money on most likely to be the Lou Gherig of VD.    Now itís easy to understand why some people say they will never EVER fold Kings pre-flop. 

Iíve been in this situation 4 times.  Once in a tournament I had Aces and another guy had kings.  He fired, I fired, he re-fired, I pushed all in.  He called, my aces held.  Another time, I had Kings in a cash game in Biloxi.  I raised to 30 after some money had already been put in the pot.  Guy comes over the top for a 100.  Heís as tight as David Hasselhoffís face, so I think about laying down, I just know heís got the rockets.  Then I think back to how rare it is for these two to clash and I call.  Flop comes rainbow of rags.  He pushes all in, we are both deep stacked.  And I call.  He shows, and there they are American Airlines winking at me.  Like I knew they would.  They hold, and my gut which told me to fold pre-flop gets a good kick to it because no good deed goes unpunished. 

Now with a little more experience, I think I should have KNOWN that the guys had aces.  Statistics be damned.  He was calm as could be.  His betting indicated it, his demeanor indicated it, and his playing style as a super tight aggressive player was the cherry on top.  One of the reasons I didnít get away from that hand was that very week I had read lunchboxes on Card Player forum come to a consensus that only an idiot would fold Kings in that very situationópre and post flop.

 My next experience came again with me having the Kings, this time in a tournament.  Raise to me, I look at my kings, and re-raise, gets around to the button, a tight, tight, player with plenty of chips, he re-raises all in, and then the initial raiser calls all in (with plenty of chips).  Now, Iím looking at my kings.  I know somebodyís got acesÖ almost assuredly the vault in seat 10 on the button.  Then I start to do the math, Iím almost getting 4 to 1 on the money.  Sounds like itís right on the odds. 

Of course you do the percentages and letís say itís AA and QQ (or JJ) vs. me (and they share suits and I donít), Iím still about 18.74% to win.  Realistically, Iíd have to get more than 4 to 1 on my money to make that play profitable in the long term otherwise itís a break-even play (who wants to break even).  Weird thing about this, is you throw in another pocket pair like the ladies and they win a surprising 14.5% of the time in that situation.  Why am I still 4 to 1?  Because, the Queens winning comes out of the Aces chances almost exclusively and not the kings. 

 What made the fold easier was that it was late, bubble time, in the tournament and I knew I could stand to fold that hand and still cash, and with the players and their stack sizes left I knew I still had a good shot to win.  Of course the K spikes on the flop.  Still the right play was folding.

 Then Saturday night rolls around, and what motivated this column, I was deep stacked and prepared to walk away in two or three hands, I look down at KK from early position.  I got a guy with 2Gs in front of him and Iím about half that stack.  Heís calling any sized pre-flop raise and hoping to get lucky.  This is the type of hand Iíve been waiting for.  Heíll chase me down to the river.   I fire out 22, on a table where 15 has been a large bet.  But it doesnít get to the 2Gs, the guy next to me calls, then the guy next to him calls, then the ROCK at the table with 1400 in front of him makes it 75.  Huh?  2Gs folds to that.

 It comes around to me, and I can tell you a million things going through my head, which I thought made sense in trying to rationalize my play.  Still, ultimately they are wrong and idle thoughts, but nonetheless letís indulge some of them.  Heís a solid player and I think heís capable of making a play at the pot, with say Jacks and Queens maybe even AK suited, and heíd do the same thing with the other Kings (more unlikely than Kings facing Aces is Kings facing kings) or Aces.  So itís a range of hands only one of which has me beat, but when I say beat I mean crushed.

Thereís also a tell, that Iíve read about that very day in Mike Caroís book.  Itís a good one, and one that I was exhibiting.  Some of you whoíve read his book might figure it out, based on the fact, I was planning on leaving soon.  Iím apt to do it again, so I wonít reveal it but during that hand and prior to it, I saw him staring at what Iíve been doing, so if he knows the tell itís a great place for him to make a play at this pot.  Even better add that to his impression of me as a rock, and he might get me to lay down and be able to play the two loose players to my left, or just win the pot squeeze play style.  So, a move here with the information at his disposal could be profitable.

 The money is 22 x 3:  66, plus his 75, which is 141 in the pot (144 with the blinds).  I need to call 53.  Not the more than 4 to 1 odds I need, if he indeed has aces but if he doesnít a great spot for me, and even so enough wiggle room to mandate at least call.  Then I make a mistake and ask him how much heís got, to get a read off him even though I know how how many black 100s heís got on the side.  He informs me heís got me covered and I donít sniff an acting job or weakness but heís not the type of player I think I would have gotten that vibe from.  So why ask?  I donít know.  I donít learn anything from him, but if heís perceptive and I think he is, now he knows Iím fishing and therefore I donít have the bullets.  Hmm.  Bigger disadvantage.

 What to do?  You guys know the right answer.  Hereís the wrong answer.  Iím really digging a hole here.  Instead of smooth calling, or probably doubling his bet (to get out a reckless AQ or AJ suited in between us), I decide to test him.  I want this pot right now.  I fire 250.  Ding, ding, ding, multiple mistakes in this play.  That bet just screams that I want it right now.  It also invites only one play.  The two others fold.  And the guy says all-in.

 I instantly know heís got Aces or heís making a hell of a play and I have to lay down.  I sit there fuming over my 250 raise.  I put mysef in his shoes and how if I were him playing me, could I make that play and think I could get a lay down.  I pushed myself into a corner and indicated enough weakness that if he had Kings or AK or even Queens and is a stone cold great player he could get me to fold. 

Iíve often thought about how effective the over the top pre-flop re-re-reraise bluff could be on solid intermediate to fairly good players.  To me I think there is a lot of money in it but the risk is so high, itíd require a particular situation.  The problem with it is you have to put your opponent on Queens (obviously, Aces insta-call), or if he is really good and rocky Kings, and on top of that he canít be on tilt and has to have the mindset that he will fold because youíve indicated youíve got aces, and heís smart enough to know heís beat.   Therefore it must be a truly unique spot.

 Iíve thought that one day I could do this in tournament.  Because the situations I envision this play includes spots like during the bubble period, at a tight final table with inexperienced players, or during a stealing, re-stealing period where the hand ranges to the second raise becomes more wide open, or a me being a huge stack and them a medium stack with their tourney on the line. 

 In a famous, WSOP hand last year, Vanessa Selbst I think got caught trying this very move with her 5-2 spades.  Her re-raising opponent was young, and might have been forced off of Queens, Jacks, or even Kings, and he was enough of an online player that he could be on a blatant  re-steal in that situation.  So maybe a good place for her to push like she had aces.  Yet, he had the Aces, and she went busto.

 Now, in cash games, there are more limited opportunities for this move to be made and I think only a brilliant/bold player (or a reckless one) can make it.  Was my opponent that brilliant or that bold?  If not, no need for me to consider anything, heís got the aces.  Hence the inherent efficacy of this bluff.  This bluff has me thinking Blades of Glory and the Iron Lotus.  You risk everything, chopping your head off, for virtually nothing.  Still I aspire to pull off the Iron Lotus bluff.  If only Will Ferrell were there when I pulled it off to immortalize me in ink on his body.  I digress.  Every solid player knows a raise, a re-raise, and re-raise usually indicates aces.  Therefore he should lay down any hand except for aces because the opponent indicated heís got aces. 

 Now that I think about it Brian Townsend might have attempted the Iron Lotus against Kings on GSN.  Is my opponent Brian Townsend?  No.  Is he capable of the Iron Lotus bluff?  He seems too smart, I know heís good and always has a deep stack but his showdowns Iíve seen in the past he usually he has the goods.  That being said, if I were him, and watching me, this is just the place I would like to make that move, and he may very well be astute enough to push at me.

 Iím in the perfect cash game situation for this and for him.  I have a lot of chips to lose, I can still get out and have a lot of chips.  Iíve shown weakness and tells he may or may not have picked up on.  I made a bad, bad, bet that really screams, ďI want to know where I am in the hand, do you have Aces?Ē  Which only invites an affirmative, I have Aces all in play.  So as I mull over calling for all my chips, I sit there and envy the guy for his position of leverage and marvel at how Iíve created the very opportunity to pull off the Iron Lotus for this guy that Iíve been hoping Iíd be able to pull off for myself one day.

 I turn my kings face up and try to get a read from him.  Earlier I held them so the young guy to my right could see them in the hopes heíd go bug-eyed and Iíd catch a reaction of the villain reacting to him and maybe heíd think I had the rockets.  Nothing from that and now nothing from showing him the kings.  He might have been sending me false tells of real strength, and really played a world class move on me.  He looked like he didnít want to breathe in my direction for fear that heíd scare me off the hand.  I could hear his mind in my mind saying ďcall, call, call, call, call.Ē 

 Then 2gs who isnít involved in the hand, and I had been waiting to snap off, says ďCome on, itís not hard a decision only two choices.  You already got half your money in there (not true, not true at all).Ē  Then the guy who was bitching about my rush as I sat down told him to be quiet.  All the kings had done was expose the table to my line of thought.  To a degree 2gs was right, my decision wasnít hard, I just wanted it to be since I had pushed so much into the middle.

 So, I fold. 

 Ultimately, as much as I wanted for him to have queens, ak, or be ďbrilliantĒ enough to make that bluff, the far more obvious answer is probably the answer.  He had aces.  If not, god bless him.  I wasnít getting the odds to play kings vs. aces and I had dug myself into a hole.  So what, if poker forums everywhere say never lay down kings pre-flop (theyíd also never advocate a 250 reraise so they aren't fully wrong), so what if this situation only happens every 23000 hands, and here I was in what might be my fourth such situation, I had to fold.  He had to have had the aces.

 Now, whatís the right play?  Probably either double his raise or smooth call.  I double his raise he can do the same thing, and I fold but lose $100 less.  Or I double his raise and it doesnít look as weak as the 250, and if heís making a play he lets me see the flop, or if he has it he may not think Iím not committed enough to call his all-in and heíll have to suffer through a flop to get the rest of my chips and hope for no K (very unlikely).  As for the smooth call, it might let the two guys in between us in, but probably not, itís $75 and despite some of their holdings being priced in, thatís a lot to them.

 The smooth call, also doesnít hurt me if they are in or out.  If I hit, Iím probably snapping everybody off.  Them being in the hand, also gives me a parachute.  Iím going to fold to an ace no matter what.  Iím also going to be leery of a Q or a J as well.  Even the aces, like me, have to fold to strength from one of the other guys because of the possibility of lower sets out there.   AND, a little bit outside of the box, the bad beat jackpot mandates a call.  Potentially, we have four pocket pairs going into the flop, with my kings and likely one guyís aces.  We have the ground work done for half the equation of that.  Bad beat pays out 20k.  Letís get two sets of quads out there!  

 Anyway, my conclusion, reached after conversations with Big Ray and Gene D is to smooth call my kings in that situation almost every time with some raises thrown in there depending on the player.  If a flop comes rags and we are heads up.  I value bet and then fold to an all-in.  Maybe he just calls, stringing me along to the river, with me smallballiní him and I can catch my set, or get out of there when he pushes.

 So King King vs. Ace Ace is an uncommon situation, a pee inducing situation for Norman Chad (and for the guy that holds the Aces when a King hits the flop), and a situation I now look forward to being in the future.  Also, itís inspired me to make the Iron Lotus bluff and one day I will push Kings or Queens off a hand with nothing, Iím just waiting for the right guy at the right time.  Until next time, and as always, (always? Can I say that if itís my first column), nuts to you.

Thursday, August 1, 2007

Column 1 in a weekly series.  Shoats focuses on sports gambling...

Give me Dan Harrington's Cousin!

The scene is the sports book at the MGM Grand in Vegas. It's July 9 at about 5 pm and it's roughly 115 degrees Farenheit outside. Inside the 
book, it's a perfect temperature but the heat of the day has obviously affected us because we have decided it is a great time for making some 
ridiculous bets on sports. First instinct is to bet on the hackfest that is NBA summer league games, then head over to the Thomas and Mack 
Center and have a rooting interest. Not surprisingly, there are nolines on these game. I suppose it's hard to set a line on a game where 
a player can accumulate nine fouls and see the final buzzer. In retrospect, it was a good thing in light of the recent NBA news and 
point shaving scandal. We would likely have been drawing dead before the game began. So we moved off of the summer league, briefly 
contemplated the MLB home run contest (apparently we were on a mission to find some kind of event that doesn't actually count to bet on) 
before sizing up the field for the British Open. Tiger was of course the monster favorite, with many of the usual suspects picking up his 
jock at longer prices. We immediately decided to only bet on the Euros.
I stated my thought that Padraig Harrington was the best value on the board at 22-1 but ultimately we decided to go with only a couple of 
real bombs, the idea being that outside of Woods it could be anyone's tourney and we were going to hope to get lucky and find the Sarava of 
the field. (Note to non-horseplayers: Sarava won the Belmont Stakes at 70-1 a few years back.) So of course, while the leaderboard was chock 
full of Euros the past few days, it brought a wry smile to my lips to see Harrington creeping up and positioning himself. Today, as you may 
well know, after coughing up the lead with a double bogey on the 18th,Harrington managed to squeak into a playoff as Garcia also choked away 
his own lead on the 18th (anyone who didn't see that coming obviously has never watched one of Sergio's OCD iron shots) before winning in a 
playoff. So instead of going with our gut feeling making the value bet,
we went all in on the draw and busted. The lesson is painfully clear and in hindsight we could have taken lessons from Harrington's cousin, 
former hold 'em world champ Dan Harrington: value each and every bet and never be afraid to grind it out, particularly if your gut tells you
that you have the winner. But for now, I'll blame it on the heat