March 21, 2010

Anatomy of a crAAKKer Hand

I returned from Vegas to Iowa last night to find snow on the ground and a post online by the Poker Grump about a session we played together at the Mirage on Friday afternoon.  His post reflected on a handful of the interesting discussions he always seems to generate at the table, which is why I don't mind having him at the table, even though he is almost always the best player at the table (and seems to have learned Cardgrrl's ninja position skills, invariably ending up on my immediate left).  Look, I enjoy Discovery Channel's "Shark Week", and I don't mind a hammerhead shark at my poker table so long as I can avoid him, and he doesn't bring any other shark friends (like CKBWoP).  Anyway, the Grump and I had an enjoyable chat during a profitable session for both of us, mostly because I avoided him except for three or four ill-fated attempts to hoist him on his deuce-four petard (like a cobra and its venom, the Grump must be naturally immune to the deuce-four).

The Grump's post mentioned a hand involving some confusion by a dealer over whether a raise all-in reopened betting for an earlier raiser.  I happened to be involved in the hand, and it turned out to be one of the bigger pots I'd win in that session.  Now, I'm not planning to dissect a lot of hands in this blog, as it is not usually all that interesting for those not involved in the hand, and I'm under no illusion that I can provide any meaningful insights for most of my readers who are likely at least solid recreational players.  But this hand struck me as a paradigmatic crAAKKer hand, so let's take a look under the hood.

Preflop, I was in the small blind and the Grump was in the big blind.  First to act was a lady who liked to see flops and had been running hot, a typical ET (uber-calling station) who was impossible to shake off a hand if she had top pair.  Predictably, she limped in.  Next to her was a middle-aged guy ("MAG") with a relatively short stack of ~$80; he raised to $15 total.  Now, $15 was a large raise for this table, and signalled a likely premium hand, something like Yaks or better, or a Broadway Ace.  Also, MAG had been trying to double up for an hour or so, since taking a big hit when he overplayed top pair.  His MO was to either limp and push over the top of any preflop raise, or to just shove any flop where he caught a piece of the board.  To this point, he hadn't been called down.  Next to act was a young guy with a big stack, who liked to see flops, but had been on lockdown to protect his stack and wouldn't play postflop without a big hand or big draw.  He called the $15, as did the chatty lady next to him.  Then, a young guy pushed for his last $26, and it folded around to me.

I look down at Tc8c, which is a decent crAAKKing hand.  It offers straight and flush possibilities, and it almost certainly is not dominated, like a hand such as KQ can be.  The crAAKKing situation was also nearly ideal, as this was shaping up to be a big pot, with calls likely from all the players behind me, while offering me great odds of 5:1 or 6:1.  On the flop, I could easily get away from the hand if facing any heat without a big hand myself, and if I hit the flop, odds were good I would get paid by at least one other player.  My concern was whether MAG would overshove the pending raise for his whole stack, potentially ruining the situation.  However, after some thought, I realized that MAG (and others after him) could not reraise as the $26 shove did not reopen the betting for him, though I and the lady acting before MAG could still raise (I suspected, correctly, that the lady would not raise).  So, I made the call, as did the lady.

Predictably, MAG tries to shove, and after some debate, the floor correctly rules that MAG cannot raise.  So he grouchily calls, as do the other limpers.  The flop comes down 8-6-5 with one club.  Not the worst flop for my hand.  I check, knowing MAG is going to shove with any hand.  Sure enough, he pushes, and it folds to me.  Now this is a rather marginal situation, as MAG's range of hands has a lot of overpairs to this board.  But, it was only another $65 to see two more cards, and I was getting great odds for the main pot as well.  Plus, if MAG had AK/AQ, I was ahead and winning the side pot alone would still be profitable.  If MAG had a large stack behind, this would be a fold or raise decision, normally folding, and raising only against tight opponents.  As this hand shook out, though, the fact MAG was all-in made this a tough spot, but I finally decided it was worth the risk and called.  The turn brought another 8, the river a 6, and I took down both pots with 8s full of 6s.  MAG didn't show, but muttered to his end of the table about Kings, while the other all-in player showed AK.

In hindsight, this hand happened in large part because MAG was oblivious to table conditions.  The other all-in player clearly was looking for a place to push, so limping in early position with Kings would have been a good option. Alternatively, raising to $12 would have allowed MAG to reraise all-in to any raise.  Clearly it pays to pay attention at the table.  Still, count it as another satisfying crAAKKer hand.


  1. Good post, enjoyed the insight and education. Helps provide a background for other posts as well, as we get a peak at your perspective.

  2. Let me start out by saying that I thoroughly reject your premise that you don't have insight to offer the readers of your blog. I think regardless of the level we play at there's always insight to be gained from reviewing the way that other people play hands and I appreciate your willingness to share your insight here.

    Now this hand seems like an opportune time to ask a question that has struck me most times I read about hands where hilarity ensues. It seems to me (and I'll grant that this hand given the number of people involved pre might be an exception to this observation) that a number of the preflop calls you describe are, standing on their own, -EV. You set out some criteria in this post for when you are prepared to make such a call. Are there others, and, if so, what are they? Note that I'm not saying your play overall is -EV, but just those particular calls. Obviously, I think when you make a call you feel there's a good chance to overcome the -EV and I'm trying to get a sense for what factors come into play when deciding those things.

    My second question is, roughly how often would you say hilarity actually ensues after you make such a call? Do 10% of these calls pay off? 50%? Do you have a target for how often you think these calls need to pay off so that overall you are still making money?

    Thanks again for sharing your insight with us!

  3. @ Glenn:

    Very good questions. It probably deserves its own blog post, so I'll try to put one together in the next few days. As a short answer, these kinds of plays need to offer good implied odds, you need to play the right kinds of hands in the right spots to minimize risk of big losses, you need to be willing to handle increased variance, and you need to be confident in your postflop play. It will take a full post (or two) to really flesh this all out, but to sum up, just because a particular call is -EV in isolation doesn't mean that that same call as part of a hand or a session is -EV on the whole.

  4. Grange -

    Thanks for the response and I definitely await the further post. I definitely get that you can make up for a negative -EV individual call based on later bets in that hand (or even later hands in that session). Implied something right?

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