While there are plenty of areas of my poker game I need to work on, the one that keeps kicking me in the ass is my instincts. Not that they aren't pretty good -- they are -- but I don't trust my reads all the time.
Two examples from this weekend:
Playing Omaha, I'm on the button and limp in with AQ22 double-suited in clubs (the nut draw) and hearts. Plenty of other limpers built the pot (which is usual for that crowd). Flop hits K-10-7 with two hearts. Ray bets a couple hundred in chips from middle position, but a bet from him means very little usually and he gets about five callers, myself included. Turn hits the 4 of clubs, now giving me both flush draws and the inside draw to Broadway, so I'm definitely interested in seeing that river. I check, as does everyone else until Bob a few seats before me, who bets 500. A bet from Bob does mean something, but I still have great odds to call. I consider a raise but give him enough respect to just flat call. Everyone else folds but Ray.
River is the 2 of spades. Bob fires out 1500 when it's his turn to bet.
I hem and haw. I've hit trips, but my gut is telling me Bob has a higher set. He's not a reckless player, and he very easily could have just called that bet on the flop, taken the lead on the turn and bet big when none of the draws hit. On the other hand, he might do the same thing with a kings over two pair kind of hand. 1500 was a huge chunk of my stack, and represented about half what was in the pot, giving me good odds. I reluctantly called based on the odds, and Bob showed his pocket kings.
Same kind of situation arose in the 'main event' hold 'em tourney we have on these weekends. We're down to the final five -- top four spots pay out. I limp in under the gun with A2 spades. Ian completes from the small blind and Willie, a more aggressive player, checks. Flop hits 10-8-5 with two hearts. Both blinds check. I consider firing, but I'd been firing at a lot of pots with position in the last while and Ian has a rep for not putting up with that, so I just checked.
Turn is the 2 of clubs. Both of them check again, I bet out 1200 (blinds were at 400-800), Ian flat calls and Willie gets out of the way. Hmm.
River shows the ace of diamonds. Ian checks, I bet another 1200 and he comes over the top all-in for another 4300.
Yes, I know. Probably shouldn't have bet the river in the first place. But what could he have to beat me? If he had a better two pair I can't imagine he would have checked twice with that board. He would have taken a stab at it. He isn't the kind of player to bluff with a busted flush draw, not with me representing something. And there wasn't any other... oh. 3-4, to make the wheel, calling from the small blind because it was cheap. It was the only thing that made sense.
And yet I called off two-thirds of my stack anyway, really just to prove to myself I was in fact correct. And I was.
I still finished third in the 'main event', and was well up for the weekend ($250 bankroll, came home with $465. We mostly play $30 buy-in tourneys, with the hold 'em tourney being $60 and some side $20-$10 rebuy games as well.)
At some point I assume I'll be confident enough in those kinds of reads and deductions that I won't need to make huge, stupid calls to reinforce them, and based on my recent online play I thought I was already at that point. Apparently not.