Play a hand with me; $25-$50-$100 vs JC Tran. Poker Night in America cash game.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to play on Poker Night in America’s cash game, from the Thunder Valley Casino outside of Sacramento. This is my second time playing on Poker Night but this game was surely going to play bigger than normal as Chamath Palihapitiya and Jason Calacanis were going to be in the game for at least part of the weekend. Normally Poker Night in America plays as a $25-$50 game, but this particular table was straddling at least $100 each hand and sometimes was straddling up to $400.
Usually, I am not a big fan of “advertising” plays and in fact I think that “advertising” is commonly an excuse for bad play. The simple fact of the matter is that people do not pay attention enough in live poker where making plays that are very –EV for future metagame become + EV. Also a lot of players never adjust their strategy to different player types so playing a loose or tight style is irrelevant to them—when they have a hand that they do not want to fold. However, there certainly are some types of games where giving action will get you invited back to the game such as a home game. Also making plays, gambling and giving action is certainly good for television.
There are many talkative personality types like Phil Hellmuth that are great for televised poker. Unfortunately for me I am not one to talk it up all that much at the poker table. I usually am rather quiet at a game so I thought that I actually needed to open my style up on the show to be a bit more entertaining. This, I figured, would make for a better show and get me invited back to be in what is almost always profitable, huge, live NL games, something that rarely exists in today’s casino poker world. So, I played some floats and some reverse floats, five bet bluffed K♥9♥ one time and overall tried to wreak a bit of havoc on my opponents especially Phil Hellmuth. But there was a spot towards the end of Day 3 that let me get into a super interesting situation versus JC Tran.
A lot of the fireworks had already gone on over the weekend. Both the big time venture capitalists had played on Saturday, and since there were several people still in the Poker Night in America tournament series, Sunday was played short handed. One of the new players coming into the game was long time tournament pro, JC Tran. Personally I had never played with JC in a cash game before and during one of the first hands of the day he told everyone that this was the first time that he had played NL cash in years. There were two things I quickly noticed about his style. Firstly he was the type that made a continuation bet after being the preflop raiser with almost 100% frequency. And second, which will come up in the hand we are about to analyze he never fired a third barrel as a bluff.
JC started the game running incredibly well. He was probably up around $20k when we went to dinner break after the first four hours of the show. Me, on the other hand, I was just about break even, pretty much mirroring the entire weekend of my results. However, after about an hour after the dinner break JC started running badly. He probably had lost all of his winnings from the earlier session and it appeared that he started to make some more call downs and was wrong. However, even though he was playing a lot of hands he still was not firing three barrels as a bluff. Empirical evidence of this was a hand where he opened from the button and I called in the big blind with J♠ T♠. David Baker called is the $100 straddle and we went to the flop three ways. The flop game out 9♠ 5♠ 2♣ giving me a flush draw. I checked, Baker checked, and much like JC had been doing the entire day he bet out $525 into $900. I made the call and Baker got out of the way. The turn was the T♥ giving me top pair to go along with my flush draw. I checked again, and this time JC bet $1200. This bet was a bit concerning for me because the T is not the best double barrel card as a bluff. It was possible that JC might have picked up some backdoor equity with a hand like KQ. But because I had a pair I felt like I did not need to semi-bluff, so I just called. The river was the 3♦ and I quickly checked. JC did not take too much time with it and checked behind, I tabled my hand and was good.
The interesting part of this hand, however, is that if JC had fired another barrel, I very likely would have folded, as he was not caught bluffing a single time throughout the day. Of course he did not know that I was capable of folding a hand as strong as top pair, so obviously this worked to my advantage. If you are a subscriber to my live cash game training site, CrushLivePoker.com you know that I think the old poker adage of “You have to call the river if you called the turn and nothing changes” is total BS. In big bet poker the fact that your opponent bet again on the river is change enough for you to fold to a final bet if you think you are beat. And we can examine a game like NL 2-7, where most of the decisions are made based upon betting patterns, as evidence of this.
So about three hours into the second part of Day 3 I had the opportunity to use all of the information that I had noticed about JC. In this spot, he was in the BB and the straddle was on to $100. I decided to open 56os from what effectively was the cutoff to $300, 5 handed. It got back around to him and he, only called. Obviously this was a very light open but as I explained before I had my reasons for doing this on Poker Night In America. So, headsup we saw the flop come down A♣ Q♣ Q♠. JC checked, and I bet $375, thinking that this was a great spot to continuation bet bluff. Much to my surprise, JC then check raised to $800. If this had not been a televised game and I wanted to show a bit of action I very well may have just folded on the flop. However, here I looked at this as an opportunity. I was absolutely, 100% sure that JC would never check raise the flop with just an A. I also thought that this was a good board for him to stab at a bluff or make a semi bluff with a flush draw. Also, of course, he could have a Q. So in this case I certainly thought that his range was polarized.
My actual hand did not really matter, although I would have preferred to have some equity. I thought that this became a good spot to “float” against a polarized range, especially versus someone that would not continue their bluff on the river. So, I called, basically with no chance to make the best hand. My plan on the turn was to evaluate, if he bet again, and possibly call to set up a river bluff if checked to. If JC fired a third barrel it would be a simple fold, as I would think that he must have a queen. The turn actually paired me up however, as it was the 5♥, and JC fired $1400. In theory the turn was entirely inconsequential given my plan for the hand but in reality in the heat of the moment it made it easier to continue with my float with air so I called again. The river was super interesting in that the A♥ fell, counterfeiting my two pair. The final board read A♣ Q♣ Q♠ 5♦ A♥. JC quickly checked giving me the green light to bluff and I bet a small amount, about $1800, causing him to quickly fold. Later I learned that he had J♣ T♣ for a huge combo draw.
There was a very thin line here between looking like a genius and looking very stupid and I am glad that this time he did not have a queen. However I think that my logic was sound in the fact that if he was never going to bluff the river after I called flop and turn, then my calls become profitable if I can simply bet when checked to on 5th street to take down the pot. You can view this hand on Poker Night in America’s Twitch channel, from Thunder Valley and I will definitely be examining it on one of my training videos over at CrushLivePoker.com.