Here is an example of playing a hand well and still losing. I played aggressively, but I think I missed a chance to reraise the turn, resulting in a lost opportunity and a small loss by most anyone’s standards.
Preflop: I joined this table specifically to play against the big stack. I had been playing aggressively with a lot of preflop raising and some 3-betting in key spots. I had been attacking the big stack specifically to get involved in a big pot. I got my wish, albeit without a huge hand. Any K in the SB against a random hand is likely to be favored, so I pumped it up to 15 cents (pot bet). He is a tighter player and calls. I put him on bigger cards, perhaps a KJ.
Flop: Bingo! This flop hit me and likely did not hit him. What’s more, with my aggressive table image, he’s not likely to believe that I’ve hit this hand. I lead out for about half the pot (15 cents) and he flat calls, almost certainly with overs. My read of KJ range is probably intact.
Turn: The 8 isn’t likely to have helped him, so I lead out again for 25 cents (40% of the pot). He reraises me to 75 cents, probably thinking I’m on the steal. This is not a bad assumption, given that I’m raising preflop a good bit of the time. The pot is large enough for him to take a stab. I think about reraising again, but I only have a pair of 5’s with a good kicker. He could have called with A-8. I play small ball and flat call, thinking there’s a good chance I’m still good, but wanting to keep him on the hook for a value bet on the river.
River: A 10 is not really a good card at all here. Many players will call with x-10 because it looks nice, and the 10 connects to a lot of hands, like A-10, K-10 (hand of death), Q-10, J-10, 10-9, 10-8. I decide to block bet my 5’s with an 80 center into a pot of $2 or so. I think it’s enough to win on its own much of the time, but I also have fold equity. He flat calls, and I know I’m beat. He flips over Q-10 for the win.
Analysis: With the exception of maybe reraising on the turn for information, I think I played the hand pretty well. I was worried about my opponents TAG style, plus I assumed he accumulated a $20+ stack by outplaying people. I thought he was a capable opponent, so I played it a bit less risky. Overall, I think I made the moves necessary to win a nice pot. I just happened to get unlucky on the river. I give my opponent a great deal of credit for the creative turn bet, which allowed him to see a river and get another bet out of me. He probably got max value (unless he called a hypothetical reraise on the turn, which was unlikely).