They Say the Definition of Madness Is Doing the Same Thing and Expecting a Different Result

Same club, same tournament on consecutive days. We’re down to the bubble at the final table.

On the first day, I’m doing OK. Not hugely stacked, but pretty comfortable. A discussion has been brewing about paying a double bubble, but seat 1 is against it, the pot’s too small. Then he loses a chunk and he’s one of the short stacks.

He’s on the bubble in a hand where action folds to him and he shoves all-in. The small blind re-shoves for somewhere over 20K. I’m in the big blind with about twice that. I’ve got kxkx. I don’t even think about throwing them away, so you?

I’m up against ax6x and ax9x. The board runs out a straight to the nine, and I’m down to around 20K, which doesn’t sound so bad, except blinds are 3K/6K. I end up out in fifth place and don’t even make the bubble money. If I’d folded the kings I would likely have made second or third at least.

The next day, we’re at to six players and the bubble. A small stack in the middle of the pack goes all-in, one of the chip leaders calls him, and once again, I’m in the big blind with kxkx.  I have to think long (well, it felt like a long time) and hard about it before I make the call. I could easily be out again, since I’m covered. This time, though, the kings are good, I triple up and end up in the final chop.


pot•mon•key [‘pät-məŋ-kē]. A poker player—particularly in Omaha tournaments—who consistently raises by the maximum amount as their first action.

I played three Pot Limit games yesterday, starting with a straight PLO High, then a PLO High-Low, and culminating in a mixed Hold’em/Omaha High-Low game (all at Portland Players Club) and expanded my observations on what I’m now referring to as “potmonkeys.”

No, not the Urban Dictionary definition of the term. But there are certain players in nearly every four- (and five-) card game I’ve sat in on who seem to think the proper strategy is to jam chips into the pot and hope that people will fold to them.

I know a couple of players for whom a variant of that strategy works. They pick hands and positions in Pot Limit games, bet them to the max, and consistently amass large stacks early on, re-buying so long as they have the option.

There are other players who seem to have only picked up the jamming strategy, however, and they bets against the wall (hence potmonkeys) on every hand they play. It makes them somewhat exploitable to the player who’s willing to play against the textbook.

Players overestimate the strength of their hands all the time. The odds in Hold’em are fairly well known by regular players, but people don’t seem to understand them sometimes. Having the best hand doesn’t mean you’ve got a lock on the chips. And in Omaha, odds are less known, much less understood.

Take, for example, the matchup between a player holding what’s considered the best starting hand in Omaha High-Low against a horrible hand: asah2s3h v. qs9h2d2c. The player with aces has the nut flush draws in two of four suits, potential nut lows, draws to straights and straight flush hands, top pair, etc. The second player has only a pair of deuces, with one of his outs for a set locked up the first player’s hand. They have no flush possibilities, and a two-gapper for their only straight draw. There’s no chance of picking up a low pot. Looks like they’re a goner, doesn’t it? But in this near-worst case scenario, the second player still has a 14% chance to scoop the pot, and 20% to win the high side of a split pot. The first player scoops 80% of the time, but that’s against a hand deliberately chosen as a loser.

Would you play th9h5h4h? Seems like a lot of hearts already in the hand. Its chances against asah2s3h are 20% for the scoop and 37% for the high hand. It’s marginally worse against  asah2s2h, where the hand’s double-paired as well as double-suited.

Pre-flop, yes, most hands are 4:1 dogs against double-paired, double-suited aces or  asah2s3h, but particularly in early stages of the tournament where their ability to build the pot is constrained by the size of the blinds, potmonkeys can be constrained by players willing to suffer some blows to see the flop and turn the tables.

Something About Aces

Won my first tournament of the year today (well, chopped it, anyway).

It was a low-stakes freeroll, I bought the optional add-on at registration, so I’d started off with T4,000 about forty minutes into the game and blinds at 100/200. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many suited connectors and one-gappers in my life, and I played a few without getting anywhere, then managed to back into two flushes that netted me large numbers of chips. By the break, I had more than T18,000 and didn’t bother to do he add-on.

The pivotal hand for me came while we were still at two tables, with about a dozen players. A young player with a big stack was moved over and he shoved over my mid-position raise. I had 7x7x, and thought he was shoving with axkx (a common mistake, for me), but he turned over the pair: axax. He had my T26,000 covered, so I more than doubled when a straight landed on the river.

In situations like this, there’s always muttering about “two-outers”, but the reality is different. Against mid-range pair,s aces have about a 20% chance of being cracked, heads-up. With five cards to come, the simpler calculations of odds for post-flop odds are useless, and it’s much smarter to take the line that while an 80% hand is very strong, it’s still got a decent chance of losing.