Russian Warfare

Dave Colclough writes from sunny Birmingham where he goes looking for drunk Americans but finds some Russians that make him think

I have only ever seen this guy re-raise with Aces. It has nothing to do with my hand. It’s all about how pretty the Russian geezer’s hand is

Having written the last article in the south of France, it’s a bit of a disappointment to be writing this one from Birmingham. Especially with the lure of Las Vegas continually chipping away at my very poor self-control. I am determined to leave it till the end of the WSOP before I fly out for the main event. I keep telling myself bracelets are for girlies and have removed Virgin Atlantic from my internet bookmarks, but still this desire to risk my whole bankroll pounds away at this time of the year.

So back to the poker, and I am just about focused while playing $5/$10 pot-limit Omaha with a cap of $400 on Full Tilt at 8am in the morning. The theory was that I was trying to catch a few drunk Americans before they retired to bed. However, the first pot I get involved with is with a Russian Lasto4ka (God knows what that name means). Having called a raise of $22.50 with A-8-9-10, I now find myself involved with someone on his lunch break considerably more wide awake than I am.

I have noticed that at this level, the half pot raise is now becoming very popular. It may be because very few full pot raises of $35 ever seem to get called as the games have tightened up a lot. The half pot tends to get players involved, and in this case this included me. It might also have something to do with Full Tilt having a ‘half pot’ button, which isn’t particularly prevalent elsewhere. I guess there’s a certain amount of ‘what’s this button do?’ involved in the bet sizing – maybe I am over analysing it.

Going For A Cap

So, three of us have seen a flop of 5-7-J rainbow. Lasto4ka led out for $70 and the other opponent passed. I obviously have a big draw so it is an automatic raise. I can win with four sixes, and three eights, nines and tens. With a little bit of imagination I can also make a back door nut flush. More important is the fold equity. We may win around 50% of the pot at showdown. However, in this spot I can get in a major raise of $282. As this is a cap game my opponent can only re-raise less than $95. And if this does happen then it is obviously a snap call on my part. So I have the cap comfort of not having to worry about another re-raise, and there is less danger in being more aggressive.

The only problem I have with my raise here is that my notes suggest that my Russian friend is very tight and tends to have a big hand when he leads out. So my fold equity is far less in this spot. Ordinarily, I may expect an opponent who had led out (as in this scenario) may pass to a full pot re-raise maybe 50% of the time. This would mean that I have a profitable play because I also win showdowns 50% of the times I get called.

There is a high likelihood that my Russian friend has a major hand and my fold equity may drop down lower than 25%. If my showdown percentage also drops then I have a losing play. So it is of course very important to keep notes. However, being the lunatic I am I just can’t keep my pointer away from the ‘pot’ button.

When Not To Raise

Unsurprisingly, with this opponent I get re-raised and the pot is capped at $400 a piece. Fortunately, for me, he has a set of sevens without any other outs. I would have been in big trouble if he had shown me something like 7-7-8-9 or 8-9-10-J, in which case he would have been in front and also sharing a lot of my straight cards.

I was a slight underdog but managed to get lucky, spiking an 8 to make a straight with no improvement. However, in the cold light of day I would suggest that although this was the correct play against the majority of opponents it was the incorrect play against a solid player who only tends to bet big hands and rarely folds to a raise.

Let’s consider smooth-calling the flop bet. There are three possible scenarios on the turn:

1 The board pairs up. We now lose less money in the hand or depending on the action may get the chance to steal the pot if our opponent has been holding a similar hand to ours.

2 We hit our straight. Our opponent may well find it difficult not sticking the majority of the money in even though we hit our straight.

A blank comes off. If our opponent leads we may have to make a bad call where the odds aren’t good or we have to leave the $70 behind and give up on the pot.

On reflection I think that calling is probably a more equitable way of playing the hand against this opponent. We are using our position instead of just gambling.

Losing A Customer And Winning The War

The doorbell goes and I let Frank in. The next hand from this session only stands out because Frank happens to ask, ‘Why did you raise there donkey? You lost your customer!’ Another reasonably solid opponent had raised to $30 under the gun. I called with 6-7-9-10 in the small blind and we had been joined by the big blind in a $90 pot. The flop was a nice 7-7-10 and I trap-checked. The original raiser continued with a half pot bet of $45 and I raised to $120.
After a short dwell he showed me Aces with a 10 and passed his hand. Again, my notes had indicated this was a reasonably solid opponent. The question is, could I have won any more money if I smooth called the flop bet? Against a good opponent I feel that this is unlikely. I think as soon as I call the flop I have given my hand away. I suppose there is a slight chance I may be chasing a straight but it is highly unlikely on a paired board.

My opponent knows this and is very unlikely to follow through with a bet on the turn or call a bet on the river. In this case there is a slight chance a 10 will arrive and get him involved but I’m not to know that.

So what really happens in this scenario when you choose not to raise and smooth-call the flop is you give your opponent two free cards at catching an Ace to outdraw you. To further compound the error it may not be possible to get away from the hand and we may have to call any river bets.

Going Down Screaming

A couple of hands later my mate Frank is really screaming in my ear. Having raised to $35 with A-K-K-6, I was called by the button and then re-raised to $145 by my Russian friend. I snap folded and Frank nearly had a heart attack. ‘Look,’ I said, ‘I have only ever seen this guy re-raise pre-flop with pocket Aces. Nothing else. It has nothing to do with how pretty my hand looks. It’s all about how pretty the Russian geezer’s hand is. I have to flop a King or flop a 10-J-Q straight. That’s going to happen like one in 78 times. Everything else is a dustbin job. This isn’t hold’em. Aces versus Kings happens all the time’.

‘But you had an Ace in your hand,’ says Frank with some stunning reverse logic. ‘Exactly, so what I want to have against Aces is any four random non-paired cards excluding an Ace! In fact, 2-4-7-J is a better hand than A-K-K-6 here.’

Frank is not convinced. Really not convinced. I fold and after realising I’ve ended up playing three hands against two opponents who both played their hands well, I can say my next move was probably the cleverest from the session; I logged off and had a cup of tea with Frank. Table selection for the win!

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