Plugging Leaks in my Game

One thing about playing poker that is an absolute certainty, there are times in which you will lose more often than you win.  What is important, however, is not the fact that you are currently losing but whether or not you played correctly and were simply outdrawn as a function of probability.  Sometimes the odds simply work against you when you are outdrawn by a miracle card on the river; that happens and there isn’t much you can do about it.  On the other hand, your play may have not been the optimal play in a given situation, you made one or more mistakes when playing your hand and you were beaten because of your own mistakes in play.  It is not that you will not make mistakes, every player does.  The real test is how you analyze your mistakes and work to correct them.  Its called plugging the leaks in your game.

Over the past few days I found myself struggling to make a profit consistently.  I decided to take a hard look at my game and see if I could uncover any errors in play that led to potential losses.  I found that on hands in which I lost large pots I was consistently making a significant mistake that led to losses in many situations.  The error was not betting, that’s right, not bettingwhen I should have been.  Slow-playing hands is sometimes profitable when drawing to a straight or flush and you are certain you are second best but when you are certain you are ahead it is a costly mistake especially when your opponent is on a draw.

Hand Analysis

In the analysis which follows I look at a single example of a hand I misplayed.  As part of my process of leak analysis I look at replays of hands I lost pots of greater than 10 times the blinds combined.  This particular hand represents a number of hands I played over the past few days that fell into that category.

I am on the button and I look down at AQ offsuit.  I don’t know it at this point but I actually have my opponent in the Big Blind dominated.  At this point I am certainly a favorite over any random two cards.  Everyone folded to me and I bet a standard raise of 3 times the big blind.  The small blind folds.  The BB is a loose, aggressive player who enters better than 40% of the hands dealt.  The BB calls.

This call should have signified weakness to me.  The BB is a loose but aggressive player.  When he has a good hand he has raised from 3 to 6 times the BB from any position.  His call here should have said to me that he has a hand that he wants to see a flop with and his range of hands in which he just calls is quite wide.  At this point, however, I wasn’t putting him on any kind of hand.

The flop came 5hKhQh, three flush cards.  I now have a made hand QQ with an ace kicker.  Middle pair and best kicker.  The BB is first to act and he puts in a bet of just about half the pot.  I smooth call.

MISTAKE!  A call from me in this case was the wrong move.  Two things.  The BB’s range of hands is so wide that he may have made this raise with just air.  My call gave me no further information from which to act on later streets.  If he had me crushed with a king here he would be likely to re-raise any raise I put in and I could get away from my hand.  If he had a made flush he would also re-raise because he is so aggressive.  If he were on a draw it is likely he would just call my raise.  But I didn’t give him the opportunity, I just called.  Raising for information would be the correct action at this point.

The turn card was a 9c, no help to me.  The BB checks and I check behind.

MISTAKE NUMBER 2.  At this point the BB gave me some valuable information which I chose to ignore.  His check at this point was like screaming, “I am on a heart draw!”  I must have had ear plugs in my ears because I didn’t hear that scream.  By checking behind my opponent here I gave him a free look at the river.  Because he was on a draw I could have priced him out by making a pot sized bet.  With 9 outs and one card to come he was a 5:1 dog.  A pot sized bet would make the pot odds 0f 2:1 making a call unprofitable for him.  My mistake was to give him a free draw at his flush. Never, ever give an opponent on a draw a free look at the card that could make his hand.

The river card was a 7h.  The BB makes a small value bet and I called.  He turned over AsJh.  I lost.

Fancy Play Syndrome

Fancy play syndrome, or FPS, is something that all players fall victim to from time to time.  FPS is simply defined as playing too cute, making incorrect moves with the hope of letting your opponent carry the pot to you.  FPS can include slow-playing a hand that should be played fast, fast-playing a hand that should be played slow or simply bluffing at the wrong opponent.

In the hand I am analyzing, I was victimized by FPS.  I let my pride, or my ego, get in the way of proper play.  I thought I could get cute and earn a large pot from an aggressive player on the river.  My decision to engage in an FPS type move here came back to bite me in the rear end…as it should.

In this hand, my decision to slow-play when the proper action was to play fast and build a larger pot was a huge mistake.  One I am not likely to repeat any time soon.