Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Who to believe?

For starters, check out cc's recent posts about relationships and poker.


When it comes to poker advice, trust no one. Don't trust me, don't trust Ed Miller, don't trust 2+2. You never know who knows what they're talking about, and who is just some assclown with a mistaken opinion. At worst, some people have been known to give bad advice on purpose to mislead people into bad play.

Read whatever you can about poker, but don't take anything anyone says as the truth until you decide on its validity for yourself. When I talk about poker, I feel like it's important to be honest and informative.

In that spirit, let's rip apart an article in a recent edition of Card Player magazine!

This piece is titled "Misplaying A-K," by Mark Gregorich. In my opinion, you'll be misplaying A-K if you follow what he says.

First of all, Gregorich recommends cold calling if a solid player raises UTG and you hold AK. He says a three-bet will drive out the rest of the field and likely leave the hand between you and the UTG player.

Umm ... yeah. That's kind of the point. AK is a premium hand that plays well in many situations, but it plays especially well heads-up. Against a tough player raising UTG, what is his hand range? AK, KQs, AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, AQ, AJs, ATs, maybe QJs or KJs. AK beats or is virtually tied with most of those hands, which directly contradicts Gregorich's claim that a three-bet will isolate your AK against a better hand. He also says that a three-bet will commit you to the pot, which is simply not true. If you can't let go of AK when you think there's a high probability you're beat based on your read and the board cards, then playing AK is the least of your worries.

Let's move on to turn play. Gregorich makes the sweeping generalization that you should keep betting with an AK that missed the flop on the turn if you bet it on the flop in a shorthanded situation. There are many times when this is the right move. There are also plenty of times when this is a waste of money. Especially in shorthanded games with a rag flop, players love to check-raise on the turn after you've shown strength both preflop and on the flop. Then you're screwed.

A bet may be right more often than not, especially if you get it heads-up on the turn, but the idea that "Many players will call the small flop bet out of principle" is not necessarily true.

Finally, on the river, Gregorich says that betting with A-high on the river is a mistake. Once again, this is an overgeneralization, especially in those occasional situations when you've committed to go to a showdown with your A-high hand.

If you know that you want to see a showdown and you're out of position, a bet is correct most of the time, depending on whether you think you have any fold equity. If you think your opponent might let go an underpair-type hand, you're sacrificing a lot of money by not betting in this situation. Of course, if you get raised, you must fold. But in those times when you would call one bet anyway on the river, it's more often better to be the better than the caller, because most players will bet the river if you check to them.

Gregorich is right when he says that AK is a tricky hand to play. It gets more tricky when you don't think about the situation you're in before acting.


cc said...

I agree with you regarding the pre-flop play (one thing I don't think you mention is that this article is limit live play for its context). In fact, I would say never just call a raise with AK. When I miss the flop, I probably win half my pots with a flop continuation bet when I've three-bet pre-flop (meaning they fold the flop). I tend to play with feel on the turn and river if I've missed. Are they chasing or do they have a made hand, what have they done before, are they aggressive or passive. Sometimes I'll quit looking at the board and aggressive players with AK after the flop, just putting my head down and tossing six chips into the pot then counting out six more for my river bet. It depends for sure, but I think I'd be +EV listening to you (unless I'm at the same table as you--then I'll pull a reverse-gnome on you!).

Sean Landis said...

I'm not sure Gregorich's idea of a tight solid player would be raising UTG with AJs, ATs, KJs, or QJs (and maybe not even KQs). Of course, there's probably more decent players raising UTG with the range you offer than those raising only with the tighter range Gregorich may have in mind. Still, it makes his analysis that you're probably behind with AK a little more plausible.

Regardless, I agree with you that Gregorich's analysis is misguided. I think three-betting for isolation with AK is preferable to smooth-calling in an attempt to bait weaker hands with position on you into calling.

fairnbalncd said...

auto-raise AK.

sean I consider myself tight preflop <15% VPIP with a 9% PFR.

AJs is certainly a raise UTG 100% of the time for me. ATs, KJs and QJs are limped. But KQo is a raise. Go figure, eh?

Can't understand why anyone would want to cold call 2 bets with AK.