Monday, January 12, 2009

The Phenomena of 'My Favorite Hand'

Yesterday, I played the Wheeling Island Casino $40 Sunday tournament. A nice tournament with a relatively small field of 51, however well worth the investment for the $550 first place.

In the home stretch we were down to 2 tables of 6 each, with the pay out to the top 10. I was sitting just under the average with about $6500 in chips. The blinds are 400/800 with a 100 ante. The player to my right has played quite aggressive most of the tournament raising at every opportunity. In this particular hand he went all in with $3200, I looked down at AJ off suit. I was the button, so I sized up the BB and SB, the SB had about $4000 while the BB had less than $2000 behind him.

I was quite sure the SB would fold, while the BB would most likely call since he had about 1/3 of his chips in already. I thought for a moment and assessed the damage if I called and lost, after all, since I was sure the BB would call I did not want to be up against 2 hands with my AJ. I decided to fold thinking it is possible he picked up a monster hand this time. The SB folds and the BB, (to my surprise) folds.

As the raiser mucked, he stated, "Had my favorite hand" I noticed as his cards went into the muck what appeared to be a black '6'. I thought to myself, "What? His favorite hand includes a 6?"

(Needless to say, my patience in waiting was well-rewarded when he later pushed all in with his K J off suit against my AA, he lost and busted out before the money.)

I can not imagine any hand that includes a '6' as a good starting hand unless it is pocket 6's. Nevertheless, I am always amazed at how people latch onto their (or other's) favorite hand. Willing to take great risks based on the belief that a favorite hand holds some magical power.

This phenomena is usually associated with the fact that the player has won a huge pot or achieved a fantastic suck out based on that hand at some time in the past. However, is playing your favorite hand a wise choice?

Everyone is familiar with the 'Doyle Brunson' favorite hand of 10 2. After all, he won two major tournaments holding these cards. Since then, the poker world has latched onto Doyle's 10 2 as though it were the 'nuts'! Keep in mind Doyle played his 10 2 while heads up. He had no reason to fold his 10 2 since his opponents took no steps to push him out of the hand.

I witnessed another instance of a favorite hand, when I was in a large tournament, 1st place was $2500.00, and buy in was $65. The field was down to 5 people, I was in the big blind with 9 4 off suit. Under the gun limped while the rest of the table folded. The flop came down 7 9 3, I had barely enough to make one more round and figured I will make a stand here since I have top pair, and my opponent likely has only over cards. My all in was about half his chips; so I felt confident he would likely fold.

I pushed all in, he called, and that impending doom feeling you always get when you are 'on the ropes' hit me. However, I was totally shocked when he showed 8 3 off suit! Although I was ahead, the turn was not kind as an 8 came down and a jack on the river. I was busted out by 8 3. I remarked to the guy what a terrible call it was, shook his hand, and graciously left the table. From that day on, every time I saw him or the 8 3 I referred to the hand as the ‘Bracken’ (his first name).

Anytime we would play tournaments or cash games and the 8 3 was on the flop, or I held it, I would make a remark about ‘The Bracken’ hand. Several months later, Bracken approached me and confessed that the ‘Bracken’ (8 3) had cost him literally hundreds of dollars. He was actually playing this hand as his favorite hand, and it was costing him tons of money!

Consider one very important concept before attaching yourself (and your money) to a ‘favorite hand’. Is this hand really making me money? After all, we play poker to win, not because of some lucky hand that is going to get us there every time. Before playing your favorite hand again, add up all the money that you made playing it. Now subtract all the money you lost with it. You may soon find out, that favorite hand is not your bankroll’s favorite.

For more great tips and strategies on No Limit Texas Hold ‘em, read 101 Winning Moves.

Incidentally, my favorite hand is ‘The Winning Hand’ Good Luck at the Tables!