Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Kings in Peril, a Limit Hold ’em puzzler (1 of 2)

Pocket kings . . . again . . . Near the conclusion of The Prince, Machiavelli’s early 16th-century manual of statecraft for would-be rulers, he explains how even though “Fortune is the arbiter of one-half of our actions,” we are still left “to direct the other half” according to our own skill (or “Virtue,” as he calls it).

“I compare her [Fortune] to one of those raging rivers,” says Machiavelli, “which when in flood overflows the plains, sweeping away trees and buildings, bearing away the soil from place to place, everything flies before it, all yield to its violence, without being able in any way to withstand it.” Even so, he continues, we aren’t helpless before Fortune, as we can always “make provision, both with defenses and barriers, in such a manner that, rising again, the waters may pass away by canal, and their force be neither so unrestrained nor so dangerous.”

Machiavelli advises those who would be kings to show some courage, some valor . . . and, above all, not to be passive and let Fortune knock ’em around. Because Fortune “shows her power where valor has not prepared to resist her, and thither she turns her forces where she knows that barriers and defenses have not been raised to constrain her.”

David Apostolico's 'Machiavellian Poker Strategy'Not the only moment in The Prince that bears some relationship to poker, of course. Indeed, David Apostolico has written an entire book -- Machiavellian Poker Strategy: How to Play Like a Prince and Rule at the Poker Table -- that examines Machiavelli’s text for various poker-related wisdom.

We’re all well familiar with how both Fortune (or chance) and Virtue (or skill) combine to determine our fates at the tables. And how we simply must -- as Machiavelli advises -- acknowledge that Fortune has its effect and prepare accordingly by putting up the necessary bulwarks to lessen Fortune’s impact. We might not consider Fortune to be the arbiter of “one-half of our actions,” but she has a significant effect, no matter how great our Virtue.

I mentioned a couple of posts ago how I’d run into a mini-bad streak with pocket kings during a particular session of 1/2 LHE. Had ’em cracked three times in less than 100 hands, twice making sets along the way. During my next session, I was dealt KK two more times and again lost both hands. Cowboys goin’ down so fast you’d think we were in the middle of a Sam Peckinpah film or somethin’.

So after losing with pocket kings five straight times (in the space of less than 200 hands), I get ’em one more time. Thought I’d share the hand with you here as a sort of mini-limit Hold ’em puzzler. Tell me what you’d do.

I’m on the button and pick up KdKh. It folds around to the hijack seat (the player left of the cutoff) who raises. Let’s call him PikeBishop. I’d only played around 30 hands with PikeBishop to this point. He’d voluntarily put money in about a third of the hands and had raised preflop three or four times. The best hand I’d seen him showdown during that limited sample was KQ-suited.

The cutoff folds and I three-bet it. Both blinds get out and PikeBishop calls my bet. There is $7.50 in the pot.

The flop comes a tantalizing QhJhJs and PikeBishop checks. What are you thinking here?

What am I thinking? That I’ve lost with kings five times in a row? That Fortune is a raging river and I’m drowning . . . ?

I bet. Sure enough, PikeBishop check-raises me. I call. There’s $11.50 in the pot.

The turn card is the Ac. (Shamus winces.) Pike checks again.

Now what? Any defenses or barriers left for me to put up to stave off Fortune here?

What do you do? Tell me and I’ll come back with the rest in the next post.



Blogger Cotty said...

I check behind and make a crying call on the end. There are very few hands you are ahead of at this point.

9/26/2007 3:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yup, exactly ... crying call to the end.

With your description, I'd say he's solid enough, maybe not great, a bit loose, but solid enough.

Ahead of TT maybe 99 or T9, maybe even JT .. suited of course :-) Of course, loose, he could be playing any pair fast. I'll be interested to hear how it turns out.

9/26/2007 9:09 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...


9/26/2007 11:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You still have outs, and of course he could be playing something like 78s (hearts) so lets not give him a free card and bet ;-)
Trying to remain optimistic here..

9/27/2007 7:30 AM  

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