I love Brighton. I love Unibet.
And so when I got the opportunity to compete in the first stop of the Unibet UK Poker Tour in the Rendezvous Casino, Brighton, I chucked the nipper in the back seat with the wife, loaded up on nappies and our harmonica (it's the only thing that stops the nipper from crying), and headed to the South Coast.
The buy-in was £220. The guarantee was £40,000. £220 is at the low end when it comes to competing in a tournament of this quality, but I know that £220 is still a fortnight's grocery shopping.
Unibet is also aware of this and that's why they run so many online satellites for these things and the throughput is good.
You start with a 25,000 starting stack and 40-minute levels. I never felt rushed. There was plenty of playability. The field consisted of a mixture of locals, online qualifiers and a few professionals thrown into the mix for good measure.
It was a 2-Day event and I made the second day. It was the first time I had played a hand of poker since September.
I was rusty. I made mistakes. And I reached out to Unibet Ambassador, Ian Simpson, to help me figure out where I went wrong. This is what he had to say.
Hand #1 Blinds 75/150
UTG limps, a player in MP bets 450, a player in LP calls and I call in the SB with A♣ T♥.
Flop: 9♦ 8♣ 6♦ The action is checked to the turn.
Checks to the raiser who bets 750. I decide to fold.
Ian Simpson’s View
"Pre-flop we can make an argument for all three decisions: folding, calling and raising. For folding, we are out-of-position with an offsuit middling ace. There has been a bet and a call which makes our hand pretty marginal at best and the UTG limper can always wake up with a nasty limp-raise leaving our money dead in the middle.
"Calling is my least preferred option. We will be out-of-position with an unsuited mediocre Ax hand vs. at least two players and probably more than that. Our hand plays poorly multi-way. ATs would be a lovely hand to flat-call with.
"Raising is an interesting idea. We do have an Ace blocker making it harder for our opponents to have AA, AK, AQ-type hands. The ten we have makes us just barely connected adding just a squeak of equity to our hand and our two big cards give us scope to outdraw pocket pairs on the flop.
"The UTG limper adds an interesting dynamic. The initial raiser could just be deciding to isolate this player with a wide range while the caller would probably have already 3-bet a strong hand fearing a multi-way pot developing due to the added odds created by said limper.
"If I haven't done much 3-betting I would probably take this route as the hand makes a decent 3-bet candidate for the above reasons. If I have been at it, I would probably opt for a slightly tight fold."
Hand #2 Blinds 300/600 A50
I open A♥ 9♥ UTG+1 for 1.6k off 32bb and the BB calls off 100bb+.
Flop: 9♠ 7♠ 7♥ Both check.
He checks; I bet 1.6k and he calls.
He bets 3.6k. I call and win.
Ian Simpson’s View
"As my stack gets smaller I tend to lower my opening raise size to give myself more playability post flop. With 32 big blinds I'm happy to come in for a raise but I would make it 1,300, just a little above the minimum raise.
"I do this to save a few hundred chips when I face a 3-bet and to play a smaller pot post flop making my continuation-bet bluffs all the smaller.
"We flop pretty well for our hand and only face one opponent. Always ask ‘can a better hand fold, can a worse hand call and can we make someone fold out a significant amount of equity?'
"On this flop worse hands that can call us are flush draws, worse 9x hands (fewer of these because we hold a nine ourselves) and pocket pairs 88, 66, 55, 44, 33, 22.
"Hands with decent equity against us that won't contest to a bet, hands like QT, KT, KJ, are something to think about. But that little heart on the flop actually makes quite the difference in the hand and makes me much happier checking the hand against this part of his range because, if he has two overcards and hits, quite often that will also give us a nut-flush draw and the chance to redraw on him a good % of the time.
"I don't hate checking, for this reason, it controls the pot for the rare times he has 7x and stops him check-raising draws creating a very large pot where we will probably be a coin flip to win the hand.
"But I think I prefer a small c-bet here as I think there are enough second-best hands my opponent can have for us to get value from."
Hand #3 Blinds 300/600 A50
A 100+bb stack opens to 1.5k UTG and I call with 8♥ 7♥ OTB with 35bb. The SB squeezes to 6k, the 100+bb stack 4-bets and we both fold.
She had been three-betting light and folding to 4-bets. With this knowledge should I have three-bet the 87hh?
Ian Simpson’s View
"With 35 big blinds and being charged 2.5 big blinds to call we do not have the implied odds to play this very pretty hand.
"This situation always makes me die a little on the inside because they are my favourite hands in poker! I want to have at least 20:1 implied odds with suited connectors and we have to remember that the blinds can wake up with a squeeze play just like they did in this hand!
"You ask a very good question – should we or could we 3-bet the 78hh? I've recently demoted suited connectors to my absolute last resort 3-bet hands, to be reserved for bubble spots in a tournament against very poor players.
"The lack of a blocker makes them a poor choice for a 3-bet bluff as we do not reduce the number of combinations of big hands our opponent can have like we do if we choose to 3-bet a hand like A5dd or K9ss.
"There is an argument for having board coverage in all of our ranges – that is being able to hit certain types of boards, like 567 type flops, hard when we 3-bet.
"But in live poker this is all the less important since we likely will not generate a huge sample size against our opponent for this to matter too much. I would just fold pre."
Hand #4 Blinds 300/600 A50
A very weak player limps into the pot off a stack of 45bb. I raise to 2k from the SB to isolate off 32bb holding A♠ 8♠ but the BB calls.
Flop: J♠ T♣ 6♥
I bet 2k and they both call.
I bet 5k, the BB folds and the limper calls.
I brick but move all-in for 15k. He folds. In my thought process I had sets and Broadway and he had weaker one- and two-pair hands. However I wasn't sure he would fold given that it was a re-entry but I felt like I had no choice but to go with it.
Ian Simpson’s Response
"I like the idea of isolating a weak limper with a raise. I would much prefer to do it for a smaller bet, however, as I said in Hand 2. I like to lower my pre-flop raises as my stack gets shallower.
"Our fold equity vs. limpers is a bit of a funny thing. I've seen some limpers fold to minimum raises and I've seen some limpers refuse to fold regardless of the action.
"One thing that seems to be true however is that typically limpers have weak ranges and in this instance we will have the position on them. I wouldn't hate raising to just 2.5x the BB.
"We do lose fold equity but on the flip side we control the size of the pot and play against a weak range in position post-flop. That in itself is a lovely profitable situation.
"I'll probably be looking to leverage fold equity post-flop where limpers tend to play "fit or fold" rather than pre-flop when they can often be stubborn. In this hand we are the ones who dictate the price of play, and with a shallower stack we want to play lots of smaller pots against weak players rather than fewer bigger pots against them.
"As played we go three-handed to the flop and miss almost completely, I do not continuation-bet this board three-handed although heads up vs. the limper I wouldn't mind it. Checking is OK; we have scope to improve on the turn with our backdoor draws and our Ace-high can win at showdown by itself on occasion, too.
"Later in the hand, you say: 'However, I wasn't sure he would fold given that it was a re-entry but I felt like I had no choice but to go with it.' – You always have a choice!
"There is nothing wrong with not firing the 3rd barrel. Sure, you feel silly when you end up against a hand that would have folded. But if we triple-barrel bluff too much we will end up losing money."
Hand #5 Blinds 400/800 A100
I open from MP with A♣ A♠ to 1.6k; an aggressive player calls in position off a 60k+ stack and the biggest stack on the table calls in the BB.
Flop: Q♠ 7♣ 5♠
I bet 3.2k; there is a raise to 8k and the BB flats. I make it 32k to play, leaving 2k behind. They both fold after someone calls the clock on the BB, who said he had nothing but a draw.
Ian Simpson’s Response
“I think 3-betting the flop is a mistake in this hand. I think we will quite often make Qx fold with this play and only end up paying off when our opponent has sets.
"There are two spades out there and it does look a little like the big blind might have a draw, but we hold the As to give him one less out and give us a redraw should another spade land and he has the flush.
"I just call and look to get value against Qx somewhere down the line later in the hand.”
While it's true that every person is different, the scenarios they face become familiar enough to allow them to fill the white space left behind with more detailed analysis of a hand.
My lack of mathematical reasoning, in particular odds and bet-sizing leaks, are some of the things I would address if I played more poker and it was important to me.
Although I have improved through hand analysis like this I still play the strength or prettiness of my hand without including the perspective of the wider picture.
I have much to learn. What did you think of Ian’s feedback?