by Ashley Adams
Poker is one of very few competitive endeavors that rewards losing. We may not think about it much, but losing correctly can benefit the poker player more than winning. Let me explain.
I won $300 when my AcQc made a flush against my opponent’s Jc7c. It’s not that I played the hand especially well; a complete donkey would almost surely have ended up winning the same amount from an expert. Nevertheless, I won $300—and was very pleased.
A few hours later, at a different table, I lost a hand and about $65 in the process. But in spite of the loss, I was much prouder of my performance than I was of my $300 win.
I was dealt QQ in the four seat. The player to my immediate right was a very tight and timid player. He was in very few hands, only played premium cards, and generally played them aggressively. Though he had accumulated a stack of $450 or so at this $1/2 no limit hold’em table, he exhibited a lot of timidity, I thought, when on an earlier hand he had folded bottom set, fearing a higher set. As it turned out, his opponent had top two pair. Similarly, he boasted of laying down his top pair top kicker when a wild player bet out on the river. His opponent showed his bluff.
On this hand, my tight opponent raised to $7. This was unusual in this game—especially so for him. The standard pre-flop raise had been in the $12-15 vicinity. My opponent tended to bet more aggressively pre-flop, given what I saw as his fearful tendencies— wanting to knock out as many opponents as possible. So why $7? I thought he might have AK.
I re-raised to $21, seeing my Queens as almost surely the best hand, but still quite vulnerable if many opponents saw the flop. One short-stacked player in between me and the initial raiser called, as did the player to my right.
The flop was QJT, two suited. My opponent checked. I did not want to give an opponent on a flush or straight draw a free card. I bet $45. My short-stacked opponent went all in for $55. I figured that she might have hit a pair or two pair . The opponent to my right took a minute or so counting out, stacking, and restacking his chips, until he settled on a raise of $200. That left him with about $75 more in his stack. I would have been just about all in, with only $35 remaining, if I called his $200 raise.
What to do?
Part of me just wanted to call with my top set. That was a mighty strong hand. Even if my opponent had a straight, I had 7 outs—and would pick up three more if I didn’t make my hand on the turn. Still, I was nearly certain that he had AK.
The pot had his $255 plus the $55 from the other opponent, the $45 from me, and the $65 from the pre-flop betting for a total of $420. I would have to call $210. I was about a 2 to 1 underdog— worse if, as I suspected, my third opponent held any of my outs or if my raising opponent had a flush draw to go with his straight. It was very tempting for me to chase the $65 I had already put in the pot. But when all was considered, the amount I would win did not justify the likely odds of worse that 2 to 1 against my hand prevailing. If my opponent and I had much deeper stacks, and I rated likely my chances of winning a lot more money if I hit my hand, then I would have decided differently. But with only $35 more to win if I hit, I concluded that I had to fold, which is what I did. The hand continued with an irrelevant turn and river. My raising opponent showed AcKh and the all-in opponent conceded. I had lost $65 in the hand, but I had saved the $245 remaining in my stack.
At days end I was up about $50. It was nice to have won that flush versus flush hand that practically played itself and that accounted for $300 to the good. But I was much prouder of the hand that I lost.
Ashley Adams is the author of Winning No Limit Hold’em and Winning 7-card Stud, both available at Amazon.com. He is also the host of the popular poker radio show, House of Cards. For listening times and stations, to get a podcast of the show, or to check out the blog, go to www.houseofcardsradio.com.
You can email Ashley at email@example.com.