Jumping the fence

Lee Jones
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Posted on: August 10, 2022 7:41 am EDT

I’ve been playing poker longer than you have. Statistically speaking, anyway. There’s a decent chance I’ve been playing poker longer than you’ve been alive. So when I made a play last week that I’m not sure I’d ever made before, I thought it was worth one of these little articles. 

It was my local $3/5 NL Hold’em game, with the usual $10 “winner straddle.” The straddle was in the cut-off position, so action started with the button, who folded. I was in the small blind, and called the $10 with J♣T♣, which is a questionable play. I’m out of position and the whole table has to act behind me. But many hands were limping around, with the straddle checking. My hand has great playability, though that’s mitigated by my crappy position.

Anyway, here we are – feel free to address my weak SB limp preflop at the coffee shop later.

I immediately get punished for my light out-of-position limp when the UTG+1 player makes it $50. He gets three callers (it’s a good game), and I happily add my $40 to the mix.

With $250 in the pot, the flop is an amazing 9♣73♣. Two overcards, gutshot to the nuts, and a jack-high flush draw. I’ve flopped worse.

I check to the preflop raiser, whose name is Zeke. Zeke bets $45. This is probably a mistake on his part, regardless of how hard he hit the flop. He has me checking in a perfect check-raising position (which, if I’m honest, is what I’m thinking about), and three players to act behind him, on a board which favors the callers rather than him.

But bet $45 does Zeke. Now David, next to act, promptly makes it a hundred and forty-five. Well, that adds a twist to the plot. Fortunately the other two guys quickly fold, so at least I don’t have to worry about them.

Zeke, he’s transparent about his betting. He bets big when he has it, and small when he’s not sure if he has it or not. His betting $45 into $250 is a solid clue that he’s not overly fond of the situation.

What about David? Well, the last couple of hours have not been good to David. Just a few minutes ago, he’d open-shoved his stack in on a K-9-5 rainbow flop. His opponent had (1) tipped the dealer, (2) turned up pocket kings, and (3) slid a stack of chips in, indicating a call. David mucked his cards on the turn.

When David is having a bad day, he takes it out on his chip stack. That $100 raise was almost uncorrelated to the strength of his hand. 

The three of us had all started $1500 deep, so there’s plenty of room to maneuver. If I can get Zeke out of the pot, I’m happy to take my chances against David. Even if he has a hand like A9 (and there’s no guarantee he’s that strong), I’m a 62:38 favorite.

Let’s see. If I make it $450 and get one caller, there will be $1200 in the pot, and $1k in the stacks when the turn card hits. I’ll just rip the rest in, whether I get there or not. If I get called on the turn, meh, we’ll see how lucky I am today.

“Four-fifty, please…” I tell the dealer. Four white $100 chips, followed by two neat stacks of five yellow nickels each.

Zeke, sitting in the #9 seat, promptly files a formal complaint with the dealer.

“Can he do that? Is that cheating?” It’s not the dealer’s first rodeo with Zeke, and she studiously ignores him. Once he’s had his 30 seconds of fame (at least for the next five minutes) he tosses his cards into the muck. David doesn’t need the drama and immediately follows suit. I win a pretty big pot with jack-high.

Here’s the thing – I had zero inclination to call. The old Lee, even a relatively recent incarnation of the fellow, would have taken a more passive – defensive, if you will – line. I literally don’t know if I’ve ever cold-3bet-semi-bluff-check-raised a flop. Heck, I’m not sure I’ve ever typed that phrase. But good poker demands taking risks and stepping out of your comfort zone.

I stepped out there, and was handsomely rewarded. I look forward to the next trip outside the home pasture and over the fence.