As my contribution to tilt was well received, and I promised to node some more poker, here is a hand I played recently that I will analyze for you. I hope you enjoy it.

This hand was played on Ultimate Bet, at a $.50/$1 Hold'em Kill table. The $.50/$1 here refers to the stakes. The blinds, the two forced bets which start each hand, are $.25 and $.50, the bets preflop and on the flop are $.50, the bets on the turn and river are $1. In limit hold'em, which this is, the betting is capped at four bets per turn. That means that the maximum a person can put in preflop and on the flop is $2, the maximum on the turn and river is $4. As I mentioned above, however, this is a Kill table. On a Kill table, whenever somebody wins two pots in a row, the stakes double the next hand while they are forced to put in a blind (on this table that'd be a $1 at the new doubled stakes) regardless of their seat position.


                  Bobby                          Dave
                 $40.05                        $40.85
           Alan                                           Erin
         $25.25                                         $49.65
          Jason  $.50BB                                  Frank
         $41.90                                         $67.50
                 Isabel                        golFUR (has 6s 8s)
                     $0                        $44.25


So, Isabel lost her shirt on the last hand and can't afford to post the small blind. Jason posts the big blind and Dave, having just won two pots in a row, posts the Kill blind. When the action gets to Dave he will still have the options of folding, raising or checking. Notice that even though the stakes doubled, the original blinds are untouched.

I have been at this table long enough to have fairly good reads on the players. Dave, for instance, is fairly reckless with his preflop selection. Alternatively, he is responsible for more Kill pots than anyone else. Playing more hands, and more types of hands, made him the best Killer that night.

Pre-flop: Alan calls.               Bobby raises to $2.     Carol  folds.   
          Dave re-raises to $3.     Erin folds.             Frank folds.

The action is up to our hero. I am sitting on a 6♠ 8♠. Generally, this is a garbage pocket. With two raises in front of me, I am almost certainly beat. What should I do?

          golFUR re-raises to $4.   Harold folds.           Jason folds. 
          Alan calls.               Bobby calls.            Dave calls.

I capped the betting here with two thoughts in mind. The first thought is, if I win this pot I want as much money in there as possible. While I am almost certainly behind at this point, the flop may come through for me. A call would be justified by this logic as well - I am behind and should fold, but this is a kill pot so I'll just call. The other reason I chose to raise was to disguise my hand. By capping the bet after two other raisers I am telling my opponents I have a big pair or a suited AK or AQ. If the flop comes with low cards they will be less likely to put me on a hand.

Flop (board: 4♠ 3♥ 2♠):
          Alan checks.              Bobby bets $1.          Dave calls.     
          golFUR raises to $2.      Alan folds.             Bobby calls.   
          Dave calls.

On the flop, Bobby bets and Dave only calls. Recall that they both raised preflop, now Dave is slowing down a little bit. My initial read is that Bobby has a big pair and Dave has an A. Bobby is leading out into two raisers, this would be a really unlikely play on this board if all he had was a pair of 8s or an AK. Dave, on the other hand, calls. My decision to put him on an A is relatively arbitrary. His actions to this point would just as easily explain a medium size pair, somewhere between 77 and TT.

I raise again. My raise here is also for a few reasons. First, I have lucked out by catching two draws. I have a gutshot straight draw, any of the four 5s in the deck would make me a straight. I also have four to a spade flush. Statistically, my straight is a lot less likely than my flush and my flush is only about 35% likely to fill before the river. There are 12 cards in the deck which would make my hand, out of 47 cards I haven't seen yet. Given that I get two chances to catch one of those 12, I'm not in terrible shape here. Another reason I raise has already been stated, I want more money in the pot. We lost a lot of people preflop so I need these two to put more money in while both of them are still here. The last reason I raise is for informational purposes. I need to know if Bobby is hoping to put still another bet in, or if Dave is doing some weird slowplaying with a made straight or set. As they both only call, I relax a little and maintain my previous reads.

Turn (board: 4♠ 3♥ 2♠ 4♣):
          Bobby bets $2.            Dave calls.             golFUR calls.

Bobby leads out again, even though I raised him on the flop. This pretty much confirms my read that he has a big pair. Dave only calls again, he may have an AK and be hoping for an A, K or 5. He may have a middle pair and be hoping to make a set or hoping that Bobby and I are full of it.

Here I choose not to raise. I did not hit my flush or my straight. More though, the board is now paired. On a paired board a pocket pair is that much stronger. Either one of my opponents could make a full house on the river, or indeed have one already, and I would be unaware of it. By my previous logic I should probably have raised here again but I was nervous about missing the river like I missed the turn, and besides, there was a fair amount in there already given that these are doubled stakes.

River (board: 4♠ 3♥ 2♠ 4♣ K♠):
          Bobby checks.             Dave bets $2.           golFUR raises to $4.   
          Bobby calls.              Dave calls.

Bingo, my flush comes through. Bobby checks out here, which again confirms my read of a big pair. His bet on the turn said that he felt he was probably still ahead at that point, which he was. He knew also, though, that with the two of us still in it and able to read on our own, we must be drawing for something. That K♠ on the river could mean that someone just made a set of Ks or that someone just made a flush.

Dave bets for the first time since preflop. Now I have to wonder, is he betting on the K or the ♠? My flush is only 8 high, it can be beaten by quite a few better flushes. But no, if he had had a big flush draw he would have been raising in the early rounds, not calling behind. I raise it again and get both of them to call. Showdown time.

     golFUR shows 6♠ 8♠.
     golFUR has 6♠ 8♠ 4♠ 2♠ K♠: flush, king high.
     Bobby mucks cards.
     (Bobby has A♥ A♠.)
     Dave mucks cards.
     (Dave has K♥ A♦.)
     $1 is raked from a pot of $40.50.
     golFUR wins $39.50 with flush, king high.

I was right, Bobby had a big pair and Dave did not have a bigger flush. More specifically, Bobby had the strongest possible starting hand and Dave had the third biggest starting hand. I beat both of them with junk. After the hand was over, Dave was able to laugh about it and get on with the game. As I noted earlier, he is a bit of a reckless player, he has probably won more than his share of pots with starting hands similar to mine. Poor Bobby didn't take it so well. He griped a bit before taking off. Understandable.

So, who was right and who was wrong? Who made the most mistakes and how could the hand have been played better? What does this hand illustrate?

Now that we know who had what we can run the numbers on the hands and make some better determinations. Using the hand calculator at we learn that Bobby had nearly a 70.6% chance of winning preflop, golFUR had a 22.45% and poor Dave only had a 6.2% of taking it by himself. The remaining fraction of a percent is our various odds of splitting the pot. So, Bobby was a clear favorite and I had about a one in five of stealing it from him. With $16.50 going in preflop Bobby was obviously justified paying his share, poor Dave certainly didn't belong, we can't guess what Alan looked like and I was near enough, 25% on the money, 22% on the hand, that my gamble isn't too bad there.

When we get to the flop the numbers change pretty drastically. Bobby is reduced to a 56.7% chance of winning, I have a 43% chance at it and misguided Dave has less than half a percent chance. He actually has better odds of splitting the pot three ways with us than he does of winning it by himself. At this point Bobby and I are clearly making the right decisions, Dave is paying for our gamble. Though Bobby is ahead of me in odds, with the money already in the pot and my money being matched by two players instead of one I am justified to put in as much money as I can.

At the turn the board paired. As I stated above that is good for pocket pairs. The numbers show this very well. With only one card left to draw, Bobby is now a 73.8% favorite to win the hand. I have the remaining 26.2%. Dave is drawing dead without even the 1% hope of a split pot. Recall that at this point Bobby bet correctly and I only called. I had wondered above whether or not a raise was proper, it turns out that calling was correct, a fold would definitely have been a wrong move on my part. With better than a 1 in 4 chance to win this, I am paying only $2 to pick up the $26.50 in front of me.

There are no numbers on the river of course, there is only a question of saving a bet versus keeping someone honest. That Dave believed himself to be ahead at that point was almost certainly a mistake on his part. I appreciated it a great deal, of course, as it meant an additional $8 for me. Given that Bobby had to call my raise before Dave's action, I am now 'kept honest' and Dave can again consider a fold. He, probably rightly, doesn't and tosses the last bet in.

The first, incorrect, lessons that people want to draw from a hand like this are: 'any two can win' and 'you should always see the river.' These are probably the two biggest mistakes that new players make.

One of the things that made my hand playable was that Bobby and Dave were in there together and that they shared cards and outs. Were I up against either of them individually I'd have had much worse odds. The second thing that made my hand playable was my position on the raisers. With them acting before me in every round they are giving me information I can use in that round. Had I missed the flop, or had Dave been as aggressive as Bobby, I would have got out of the hand early and only spent a few dollars speculating. The third thing that made this hand playable was my ability to read my opponents and do fast math in my head. As we can see from the numbers available after the hand, I was putting bets in when they were matched or better than the math on my hand. I called when my odds were not as good.

Had Dave been better at reading hands he would have got out of that hand either preflop or on the flop. Without his bets in there it would not have been worth as much for me to chase my hand down. Had Bobby been better at reading hands he could have reraised me on the flop and put some real pressure on me. I can't say now, what I would have done then, but - given Bobby's odds in the early rounds, it was certainly the right thing for him to put as much money in there as he could. If he'd made it more expensive on the flop I might not have felt as if I had as much control, I could have had my guess of a big pair confirmed and I might have laid my hand down on the flop or the turn.

All in all, Bobby and I played the hand about as well as could be expected given what each of us could see. Bobby had to slow down just a little bit with both Dave and myself acting after him and both of us preflop raisers. The relative weakness of my hand preflop was mitigated by my position and experience. Once the flop came, I was justified in either raising or calling. Dave is the only one who comes out looking bad and it is hard to fault him for it when you recall that he was looking at big slick.

What happens after the hand is one of the things that separates experienced players from beginners. Bobby got rather upset, spewing abuse into the channel before leaving. Dave took it rather better - perhaps because he had just won two pots, had won pots similarly to that one or because he'd been playing long enough to take it all in stride. Experience really is the key in keeping your cool at the table, and keeping cool is best for your game. When you've seen every bad beat half a dozen times you learn to take them easier.

If I recall correctly, I did win the hand after this one to start a new Kill game. I ended up getting terrible cards during the Kill game, and given that I'd just won two pots, I let them go preflop. This particular hand came about an hour into the session. I ended up playing for about four hours and cashed out at a little over $100 in profit (having bought in at $30). Those are better than typical results, but they sure fit the character of the night.

1 - This is not the handle I use on Ultimate Bet. Their handles weren't the only ones changed.