When a good plan goes awry

Lee Jones
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Published: April 11, 2022 7:40 AM EDT

I don’t know what the #9 seat’s problem is, but I do feel bad for him. It can’t be any fun to take your frustrations with the world out on your chip stack in a poker game. But by Jack Strauss’s beard, that’s what he was doing in our $3/5 NLHE game. He was coming into 50% of the pots, and raising most of them to $30. I mean, there was the time where, from middle position, he stuck $100 – a full stack of nickels, and 20% of his stack – in blind. So it folded to and around him, and then it got to me in the #1 seat. Yes, I was in the best seat at this table. I looked down at A7o, realized that my $750 stack was 7.5 effective BBs, and ripped all my chips in. Everybody chuckled and folded. He snap-folded too.

Anyway, a little bit later, he opens for his standard $30 in the hijack spot, and I find AT in the cutoff. Normally I fold ATo without a second thought and go back to my coffee. But this very marginal hand rated to be crushing whatever 9Seat had. So I made it $100. Everybody was going to fold back to him, he was going to call, then I was going to have the best hand on the flop and win a medium-size pot. Or not. But we’d be going heads-up into a pot with me having position and the best hand. That’s how you win at poker.

But then disaster happens – the button pauses, and cold-calls my $100. This was distinctly not part of the plan. The button is an older gentleman, not a particularly aggressive player, and he doesn’t get out of line. And he’s wearing a nice sweater from the Aria in Las Vegas. This is not his first rodeo.

It folds back to 9Seat, who calls because he has two cards. I started with $600, and they both cover me.

The flop comes good/awful: T♣76. I have top pair with the top kicker, sure, but what in the world does AriaSweater have? With the $300 in the pot, the stack-to-pot ratio (“SPR”) is 1.67. Can I fold my TPTK? Should I bet? Should I check?

I ultimately decided that with that SPR, I couldn’t fold TPTK. And if I wasn’t going to fold it, I should bet to protect whatever equity I had. I bet $165. AriaSweater, on the button, called quickly. 9Seat agonized but ultimately folded.

Great. Now there’s $630 in the pot and I’ve got $335 back. I guess it’s going in on the turn. The turn card is the 8♠, which means that 88 and 99 just got there. But never say “whoa” in a mudhole. I ship in my remaining chips, and AriaSweater doesn’t snap call (I guess it’s not 88 or 99), but he doesn’t take too long to call, either.

I turn up my AT, and he slowly turns over pocket queens. I guess he could be reasonably concerned that I could have AA, KK, or TT. Which I should have had in that situation.

The river doesn’t help me, and I dust off 120 BBs.

In discussing the hand with Benton Blakeman at the Hand History Lounge, I wondered if I was just committed to the hand after I flopped top pair. His response:

I likely cut my losses, assume I’ll never get to showdown and/or am already beat, and just check and give up. It’s one of those things where we had a plan, it went wrong, and now we tread on territory of it becoming horribly wrong.

This is the key point. I had a plan, and it was honestly a good one. I was probably well ahead of 9Seat, and if I could get heads-up with him, in-position, fantastic. Even with a sketchy hand like ATo.

But all that came apart when AriaSweater cold-called behind me. I went from probably #1 to definitely #2 at best.

My response to Benton (including the sad results of the hand) included, “Maybe once I get a cold-caller behind me, I’m just done with any board that doesn’t look like A-T-x.

He gave that a thumbs-up.

It’s important to have a plan. Furthermore, it should be a good plan. But you must recognize when a good plan has turned bad.