There was a recent hand posted for analysis that I felt it important to make a side bar comment on the villains play.  Now, it is not uncommon to see hand analysis posts where a villain played poorly and got lucky (often this is obvious) or sometimes where the villain played well but the play was beyond the current understanding of the OP and they interpreted it as poor (not always as obvious).

This one was a bit different though.  The villain played poorly imo, but I don’t believe this is obvious to many losing cash game players, and in fact I suspect many would make a similar play, likely for similar reasons I suspect this villain did, and think it was a good poker play.  Many of them will go on to bemoan over time how bad they run, how lucky the “donks” get against them, etc etc, and present such a play as we’re about to look at as evidence to how well and correctly they play.  Since this is a common problem, and I’d hope to provide food for thought to such PSO members, I’ve decided to blog it to give more exposure to the idea than it might otherwise get in a hand analysis reply alone.


So I have changed this hand history to make the player who was originally the villain our “Hero” , as we’ll be looking at his play from his perspective.  This hand comes from 2NL Zoom 6-max. 

PokerStars Zoom Hand:  Hold'em No Limit ($0.01/$0.02) -
Table 'Halley' 6-max Seat #1 is the button
Seat 1: Hero ($6.13 in chips)
Seat 2: Player 2 ($3.84 in chips)
Seat 3: Player 3 ($0.74 in chips)
Seat 4: Player 4 ($1.02 in chips)
Seat 5: Player 5 ($1.82 in chips)
Seat 6: Player 6 ($1.89 in chips)
Player 2: posts small blind $0.01
Player 3: posts big blind $0.02
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Hero [Kc Ks]
Player 4: folds
Player 5: folds
Player 6: folds
Hero: raises $0.06 to $0.08
Player 2: calls $0.07
Player 3: folds
*** FLOP *** [7d Js Td]
Player 2: checks
Hero: bets $0.14
Player 2: raises $0.22 to $0.36
Hero: raises $5.69 to $6.05 and is all-in

So our preflop play is standard (although I might not 4x the button without any reads, it’s a bit big for this spot, but let’s not quibble on that today). 

On the flop, things go sideways.  Our hero bets .14c into a pot of .18c (I like it), and gets check-raised.  His response is to reraise, and not only that, but do so by over betting all in.  Is this a play that you would make in the Hero’s shoes?  If you answer yes to this question, stop reading for a bit and think about why.  Then think about what this action is really likely to accomplish.

Ok, so I can hear the yes answers and the hero explaining why they have made this play.  It is probably something along the lines of the board is wet with lots of draws possible, so they are protecting their hand and charging draws the maximum possible to come after them.  They might add something about being tired of their KK getting cracked all the time by all the big fish chasing their draws.  But the truth is, in most cases this is a pretty terrible poker play… the Hero is value owning themself pretty hard here.

Here’s the problem and what makes this a less than stellar play.  We are deep stacked, the effective stack to start this hand is Player 2’s (192bbs) and it’s a single raised pot.  For those who are fans of the Stack to Pot Ratio, this makes for a very high one, almost 21.  Now, the shove could be profitable sometimes, but player 2 would have to be a pretty massive fish for it to be so, because they would need to be calling off their entire deep stack with a fair bit of worse 1 pair hands to make this profitable for us.  Most sane players won’t be stacking off this light, this deep stacked.

If the depth of money were shallow then his play would be totally fine, but it's not.  This is a single raised pot that is 192 bb's deep effective.  Player 2 has check-raised the flop which on this board represents a fair bit of strength, when Hero shoves he will fold out any bluffs or worse 1 pair hands (if the check/raiser is sane) which he's crushing, and get stacks in for 192bb's against range that consists of big draws (flipping type equity, often the KK is a slight dog) and 2 pair+ (KK is crushed). 

KK is about a 73-27 underdog against a reasonable range that calls his shove.

Board: Js Td 7d

                equity                 win  tie        pots won  pots tied
Hand 0:  73.065%   72.40%  00.67%           22219        204.50   { JJ-TT, 77, AdJd, Ad9d, KdQd, KdJd, QdJd, Qd9d, JTs, Jd9d, Jd8d, 98s, 8d6d, JTo }
Hand 1:  26.935%   26.27%  00.67%            8062        204.50   { KcKs }

Here’s how the hand played out:

Player 2: calls $3.40 and is all-in
Uncalled bet ($2.29) returned to Hero
*** TURN *** [7d Js Td] [2c]
*** RIVER *** [7d Js Td 2c] [5h]
*** SHOW DOWN ***
Player 2: shows [9d Ad] (high card Ace)
Hero: shows [Kc Ks] (a pair of Kings)
Hero collected $7.43 from pot
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $7.70 | Rake $0.27
Board [7d Js Td 2c 5h]
Seat 1: Hero (button) showed [Kc Ks] and won ($7.43) with a pair of Kings
Seat 2: Player 2 (small blind) showed [9d Ad] and lost with high card Ace
Seat 3: Player 3 (big blind) folded before Flop
Seat 4: Player 4 folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 5: Player 5 folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 6: Player 6 folded before Flop (didn't bet)

So what happened for our Hero?  They got a good result on this individual trial, and probably  patted themself on the back for a job well done (the Hero was actually a 53-47 UNDERDOG on the flop to player 2’s actual holding). 

But the fact is, against a reasonable range of hands that will call in this situation, Hero’s KK is going to lose more than 7 times out of 10.  In a huge pot.  And player 2’s check-raise (in the absence of any reads) shows the kind of strength on this depth of money that will see him quite often holding a hand with in this reasonable calling range.

Some food for thought.  I hope you can see where, while Hero will get a good result sometimes, over the course of thousands of trials or the proverbial long run, this isn’t going to work out too good for the bottom line.  This hero isn’t losing at poker because he runs bad, or the player 2’s of his world are lucky donks (“my KK always runs into a set or gets sucked out on by a donkey’s draw!!!” I can hear the hero proclaiming).  This hero is losing at poker because he’s taking lines that value own himself (folding out ranges he’s crushing, and giving stack action to ranges that are a solid favorite over him).  And he doesn’t even know he’s doing it, as 3 times out of 10 he gets a result that in his mind validates the action.