Strategy: Hey SuperDonk, A Trained Chimp Can "Play" Poker,,,

So Monday night, i found myself heading to a local pub (owned by a friend of mine) to play in a freeroll. The freeroll was to be "winner takes all" format with the top four playing in the monthly finals this weekend. Two of my friends, "Gerg" and "Superdonk" (when not saving the world, superdonk's secret identity is mild mannered security guard "that guy") acompanied me on this poker playing endeaver.

We arrived early, and registered for the event. I was told they were expecting nearly 70 people this week, which was a new record for them. So apparantly, they're doing well in holding these event (twice a day on monday and saturdays). We grabbed our respective beer of choice and took a seat to talk, as we had about an hour or so to kill. And of course, the talk turns to poker (what else is there to discuss, right?).

Superdonk and I were discussing some of the play from the day prior at our "monthly" game. He has been haunted since his garbage call against me from a few months ago, when he called me preflop with his Ace three to my queens and sucked out on me. I went on and on about his play for the entire month several times daily and really messed with him about it. "Superdonk" had expressed concern that despite being 1 table away from him, back to his table, I was able to tell whether or not he had a legit hand. It started off with hearing him say "raise"... As a side note, superdonk had been the topic of conversation at our table for a while. Any time he was in a bigger, contested hand, our attention would be partially turned to that table. Anyways, he calls "raise"... I look at the hostess and say to her, "superdonk has tens"... She laughs. This had been the first time this afternoon I had made a prediction on what he was holding, so of course, I had to leave my table to see what was going to happen. The board hit hi, bigtime scare flop. He threw a continuation bet, which was reraised. He laid down his hand, later disclosing to me that he had sixes. I was close.

Later on, actually in the second game, first hand of the second game, as a matter of fact, I'm camping out in the big blind. The utg player raises. Superdonk makes a call in the late position. A clean call of a 7.5 times blind raise. I knew the utg player had something good. Flop comes J-x-x. UTG bets the pot, superdonk calls. Turn comes blank again. UTG betting, superdonk calling. River is a ten. UTG pushes allin, superdonk calls. UTG flips over his pocket kings, and superdonk mucks. GG to superdonk, as he's gone in record time.

He later tells me he had AJs and flopped top pair. He rationalized it that he overheard "T" talking, saying he needed to get home to the wifey and was going to play LAGG. Rule number one, never... and I mean NEVER believe such things. I mean hell... superdonk always talks about how he's planning to play tight, yet comes up with some ass-nine calls. He asks, "well what would you have done? I had a hand, I played it... what else was I to do?" Which leads me to my topic of the day... even a trained chimp can "play" poker.

A trained chimp can be conditioned or trained to raise when he sees aces, kings, queens, etc. He can also be trained to call with those hands when someone raises before him. He can be trained on "what to do," given a set of instructions through conditioning. So theoretically, a chimp can be taught to "play" poker over time. A trained chimp, however cannot be trained as to "why" he is doing what he was trained to do. Apparantly, neither can a superdonk?

Superdonk and I broke down his hand and the play. The initial raise came in the first hand and was 7.5x's the big blind. I asked superdonk what he thought when action came to him and he looked at his cards. His reply "I saw AJ and wanted to play."

"So you called," I asked? "I mean, you did see me sitting in the BB, and a few tough opponents yet to act after you. Did it occur to you to that you gave everyone behind you better odds?

"Your hand... was it a strong heads up hand? Was it a multi-way hand? What were you trying to accomplish by calling? How did you think your hand ranked against his?"

Superdonk thinks for a minute... and he said he believed he had the best hand preflop. I asked what he thought that T had UTG? No response... "I don't know, I had the best hand, I thought."

"OK OK, let's go one question at a time... You're a smart guy, but I'll go slow for you.

"He's first to act, knowing there are seven people yet to act, and he raises 7.5x's blinds. Is this an 'any two cards' type of move or one showing strength?" Superdonk agrees it is a show of strength.

"Action folds to you in the late position... having the cutoff, button, and blinds still waiting to act. The cutoff is as technically sound as they come and will play the odds if justified. The button is a calling machine and will play hands even when odds do not favor him. The SB LOVES to play out his blinds in defense. I'll call or maybe even reraise in the BB if the environment justifies it. Your call, what was its purpose? Were you doing so wanting to be heads up, three way, multi-way? Were you wanting someone to reraise?"

"I wanted to see the flop heads up. I thought I had the best hand."

"OK, sooooo... you called. Riiiight."

"But I flopped top pair," superdonk adds, seeking my approval. I remind him we're not yet to the flop.

I ask, "How did you know that you had top hand? Could you see his cards?"

"No, I just thought I did."

"funny... I never once thought you had the strongest hand. Is a call a show of strength or weakness, typically speaking?"

"Ummm... I thought I had the best hand." I can see superdonk is getting a bit nervous, so I rephrase my question.

"Look, you thought you had the best hand preflop and wanted to be heads up. Would a reraise of some sort helped to convince me you had a great hand preflop?"

"Ummmm, I guess so."

"OK, so do you think that a reraise might have helped to convince him and others you had a great hand, as well as to help reassure yourself that you were best," I asked? Once again, I get the standard "ummmm, I guess so" response. As a sidenote, superdonk is very bright, so he is capable of understanding, comprehending and implementing these things.

So, we go back and pretend he reraises. I go on to ask what would happen if he takes down the pot right then and there (not a bad thing), what he'd do if someone (specifically the utg raiser) came over top of him, and what he'd do if he was called cleanly. I also asked him how he'd feel if he folded preflop.

"What, fold AJs preflop? Are you kidding me," superdonk asks.

"No seriously, what if you folded that hand? I mean, its the first hand of the game, blinds are 2/4, you have 600 chips to superdonk around with... You bitch cuz your AQ and AKs never hold up, so you call and commit with AJs?"

"I guess that is a possibility, especially considering I lost the hand."

"Losing the hand has NOTHING to do with it, oh niave donk of all donks. Remember, we've not yet flopped the hand, we're still sitting preflop."

So finally, he asks me what I would have done. I tell him I'd have either re-raised a small amount to get a read, or I'd have folded, and folding would happen about 70% of the time in the first hand of the game with the UTG raising 7.5x's blinds preflop. There's plenty of time for me to play, and AJ is dominated by JJ, AQ, AK, and I'm a dog to AA, KK, QQ, while at the same time a favorite to KQs, 1010-22. I could be in trouble if the board does not hit me hard, and I don't "need" to be in trouble that early in the game. Essentually, I told him I'd do anything but call with that hand, having action fold to me after the UTG raise and four to act behind me.

Bottom line is that Superdonk saw the ace, and mechanically had to be in that pot. If he had A3o, he'd still have called. He'd have re-raised with AA-1010. But why," you ask? Its because he has committed to learning the game in the manner the trained chimp would be inclined to learn. He knows how to "play" poker. He constantly craves theory and knowledge behind why one would do what they're doing, but he fails to apply the theories and concepts behind his actions to his game.

If one is serious about his or her poker game, they must invest the time and the effort to understand the hows and whys of poker and how each and every action is deliberate, looking to accomplish something specific, rule out possibilities, and to "tell a story" (no, I do not mean a story such as "I was in the big blind and got sucked out" either - I mean, "I'm betting to show you I have the best hand, prove me wrong" type of story). David Sklansky defines perfect play as one in that you'd make the identical play you made if you knew what your opposition was holding. It takes patience, understanding, thought and dedication to think in that manner. If you strive to be a craftsman, a master of the game, you must commit to understanding the why's and how's of the game... the theory; not just knowing what you do, but why you do it.