Saturday, December 27, 2008

Stop It!

This is a classic Bob Newhart sketch.

His advice rings true to me when I find myself falling into bad poker habits.

Stop it!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Attempting to plug a serious leak

No matter how many times I tell myself I won't check-call down anymore, I still find myself making this weak-passive move sometimes and losing money.

There are many reasons not to check-call down: it allows my opponent to extract more value with a better hand, it turns my hand face-up, it often extracts the minimum when I do actually have the best hand and it exacerbates my positional disadvantage.

Cally-cally don't fly in Vegas, nor does it fly at almost any poker table.

I know this, but I still try to justify situations where I want to call down.

Earlier today, I called a small 3-bet out of position with AQ, check-called an Axy flop, check-called an 8 on the turn, and check-called an all-in when a 9 fell on the river. The small 3-bet preflop indicated to me my opponent didn't have AK, but I had little information beyond that. I told myself that my opponent was so aggressive he would bluff off with any two cards, but that wasn't even true. And if it were true, I would probably be better off leading at some point to try and get the money in sooner. Of course, my opponent hit his set on the turn and had easy value bets the whole way.

Be it hereby resolved:

I will not check-call down unless I have the nuts and I'm inducing bluffs.

I know the problem, and I'm putting a stop to it right here and now.


There is nothing wrong with hitting and running by taking your profits without giving your opponent a chance to win his money back.

Some poker players have this notion that it's wrong to quickly leave after relieving someone of their money. But there is no rule against it, nor is it expected that you have an obligation to give anyone a chance to beat you.

These whiners who complain when you hit and run them claim it's bad etiquette to take their money and run. And they may even have a point: it is a little bit rude to defeat someone and get out of town without a word.

But poker isn't about being polite. Poker is about winning money.

On the other hand, I don't like it either when someone beats me and leaves before I have a chance to try to get even. Against many opponents, I will extend the courtesy of playing for a few minutes after stacking them.

However, I'll lock in the win given the slightest reason: if my opponent is an asshole in chat, if he's playing a high-variance style at higher stakes or if I feel he's at least as skilled as me.

The only reason I would feel committed to playing anyone is if we agree ahead of time to play for at least a certain length (this usually happens in heads-up matches). Otherwise, I may leave you hanging at a moment's notice.

See ya, sucker.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Forced Vacation

During one of my post-Thanksgiving illnesses in 2005, I didn't have the common sense to stop playing online poker at a time when I wasn't at my best.

I was unemployed and living in my parents' basement, having recently attained a bankroll I deemed sufficient to test the waters of the Party Poker 15/30 limit games. As I was sneezing, coughing and feeling terrible, I dropped about two-thirds of my roll over just a few days.

I learned the hard way that playing poker when sick is simply unprofitable.

With that experience in mind, I haven't sat at a table since I returned from Vegas on Sunday.

I still feel pretty crappy, but I like to imagine that I've saved thousands of dollars by making the smart choice. In the meantime, it's "Super Mario Galaxy" for me.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sick beat

I had hoped to spend my Vegas trip staying up late, hanging out at casino bars and gambling. Instead, I stayed in my hotel room bed much of the time.

Las Vegas often seems like a test of endurance, and I couldn't hang.

I started shivering and feeling ill during a delicious meal at Michel Mina's Friday night. After the meal, I quickly got under the covers and watched "Seinfeld" and "Law & Order" rather than playing mixed games at the MGM.

With the help of NyQuil, I got a decent night's rest. I awoke Saturday determined to play well in the blogger tourney even though I knew I was far from my best.

Also, I was looking forward to hopping in a few cash games, which had considerably improved with the arrival of many weekend tourists.

I walked over to the Venetian and sat in a 5/10 NL game while most everyone else was either sleeping or eating. On my first hand, villain posted behind the button and I put up my big blind. I was dealt QQ. Villain raised to $40, I made it $150, he 4-bet to $400, and I shoved for my stack of $1,000. He called, showed AK and didn't improve. Woohoo!

The bloggament started shorty thereafter. Despite my efforts to play hard, I eventually faltered when my desire to rest overcame my determination to win. Down to 6,000 chips from a starting stack of 10,000, I decided to gamble. UTG raised, and I shoved with A7o to try to win the 2,000+ chip pot. UTG called and showed 88, and I got to go to bed.

Later, I felt a bit refreshed and sat with some friends at the Imperial Palace's 1/2 NL game. It was fun, although I lost most of my stack making a pretty marginal shove with TT on a lowcard monochrome flop when I had the T of the suit. Villain had flopped the flush with QJs. After a few all-ins, it was time to sleep again before I had to get up at 5 a.m. for an early flight home.

I'm disappointed that this damned cough, scratchy throat and fever ruined much of my Vegas vacation. As I write this post in the early morning hours Monday, I still feel like shit.

At least I got to see friends and get my gamble on. I'm glad to be home though.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Rock Garden

The poker games here in Vegas seem to be pretty terrible, with fewer tourists throwing their money around like it grows on trees.

In contrast to my trip to the Commerce Casino in L.A. two weeks ago, where every pot seemed to attract multiway action for many limps, the games here seem to be tight. Sure, the players aren't always very skilled, but many of them know how to fold top pair, which is unfortunate.

L.A. is filled with local players who will go to the casino to gamble because it's one of their hobbies. That's why the tables were filled and the action was as good as always.

But Vegas thrives on tourists, and when the economy is down, there are fewer donks to go around.

What this means is that I'll have to look a bit harder to find the good games. Or maybe it means I'll have more time to do other things instead of poker.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Vegas: Roulette

I'm pretty sure roulette bad beat stories are even worse than poker bad beat stories. That won't stop me.

Vegas was like a ghost town when I arrived on the Strip at about 9:30 this morning. The Mirage had only two 3/6 limit HE tables, and there were no cash poker tables running at Caesars. I got on the list, knowing that I probably wouldn't wait around to take a seat.

Bored, I figured I would try to make some coin using the Martingale system at a roulette table at Caesar's. After all, I had never lost before using the Martingale system. They say an idle mind is the Devil's workshop, and the man spinning the roulette wheel may have been the Grim Reaper himself.

I kept betting black. The ball kept landing on red. I kept doubling my $10 minimum bet, and I kept losing.

"With the way you're betting, you should spend your money at the high limit roulette table," the Grim Reaper said. Ug. I wish he would shut up.

"You'll never win big that way. You should double your bets when you win, not when you lose," he said.

I didn't listen. I know the Martingale betting system is flawed, but it usually results in many small wins or one big loss. This was my loss. I recovered about $1,000 from my low point to get away with a $1,700 loss, and I got the hell out of there.

It didn't feel as bad as a suckout on the river. I didn't feel wronged, or that I was somehow karmicly responsible for starting my trip so poorly. I just wasn't lucky.

Later, I couldn't stop myself from trying again to mitigate some of my losses in another roulette session. I didn't win a single one of my six spins, and I was out another $500. I didn't have the stomach to double my bets any more. I need to save some money for the rest of the weekend!

Perhaps I learned my lesson.

Or maybe I want to win back some of my losses before I put a big bet on black to try to get even. I don't know though ... maybe I'll put it on red.

Vegas Bound

I'm in the airport waiting for my red eye flight to Las Vegas to leave. Finally!

My main goal for this trip is to see friends and stay up as long as I'm having fun. If I make a little money playing poker, roulette or blackjack, that would be alright too.

I'm looking forward to the IP, the bloggament, frolf with Kuro and Sham, some drinking and good times with many bloggers I haven't seen since the last Winter Classic.

When I play poker, it'll probably be 2/5 or 5/10 NL, or 15/30 limit.

See y'all there!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

My parents' take on "60 Minutes"

My conservative parents and I talk about online poker every now and then, so I wasn't surprised when they asked me if I had seen the "60 Minutes" report on the Absolute/Ultimate Bet cheating scandals.

I was eager to hear their unsolicited impressions.

My parents, who are in their 60s and 70s, generally feel suspicious of online gambling, but they've become convinced by my results that poker is a game that can be beaten. They don't seem to have a moral problem with gambling, but they also recognize that some people can't control their gambling habits. They don't see the need for gambling in our society, but they believe the government shouldn't limit people's rights without good reason.

Their questions to me after viewing the "60 Minutes" piece were revealing:

What political party in Congress is opposing the regulation of online poker?

What's to stop another cheating problem like this from happening again?

Will they arrest Russ Hamilton?

How do you know online poker is safe?

My parents watched the "60 Minutes" segment, and they saw a problem that needs to be fixed. In their minds, it's obvious that something needs to be done.

P.S. 500th post!

HOTD: Yea, I call

Villain in this hand is Steve Yea, a Full Tilt red pro from Korea who multitables a lot.

He doesn't seem to be able to represent any flush despite four flush cards on the board, given his suspicious line:

Full Tilt Poker, $5/$10 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 6 Players - Hand History Converter

Hero (CO): $1,000

BB: $1,082

Pre-Flop: T J dealt to Hero (CO)

2 folds, Hero raises to $30, 2 folds, BB calls $20

Flop: ($65) 3 J 8 (2 Players)

BB checks, Hero bets $40, BB calls $40

Here, it's pretty safe to reduce the likelihood Yea has a flush draw when he cold calls a continuation bet out of the blinds. Most players are more likely to check-raise when they have the diamonds.

Turn: ($145) 5 (2 Players)

BB bets $90, Hero calls $90

I go with my read and call. As noted, I don't believe he has the flush, and I really don't know what Yea is trying to represent with this bet. I think he thinks I have a flush draw, and he's value betting/protecting his second pair.

River: ($325) T (2 Players)

BB bets $180, Hero calls $180

I took my time, but I talked myself into calling this slightly more than half-pot bet. The only hands he can reasonably value bet are strong flushes, and I already know he doesn't have those. Smaller flushes would be more likely to check-call. I call bullshit.

Results: $685 Pot ($3 Rake)

Hero showed T J (two pair, Jacks and Tens) and WON $682 (+$342 NET)

BB showed A 8 (a pair of Eights) and LOST (-$340 NET)

I think Yea was a little lost in this hand. It felt like he was going for value on the turn, but then he turned his hand into a bluff on the river.

I'd like to think I would call the river even if I hadn't improved to two pair.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

HU21: At every opportunity

A marked improvement in my heads-up game came when I recently decided to open raise every single button at the beginning of a match.

Most players don't know how to respond. They aren't comfortable calling or 3-betting much more often than they do normally.

Attempting to steal every blind from the button is an aggressive move that automatically puts many villains on the defensive. It's a direct application of the advice that you should run over your opponent at every opportunity until you're given reason not to.

Sometimes, I know my villain and don't open every button. Sometimes, I'll get 3-bet a lot and have to scale back. Sometimes, the flow of the match dictates that T4o and 95o are just too crappy to attempt to play.

But there are many times when opponents will play too tight and hand over their blinds until they have a strongish hand. Then when they raise, it's easy to fold and resume stealing next hand.

I've been picking up a lot of HU tips, and they're truly making a difference in my game:

_ Watching videos on a regular basis is the best way to improve. I've been watching several DeucesCracked series and dedicating a lot of time to study. In order of my opinion of these series, here are the videos I'm currently watching: DogIsHeads UP, Parallels, Hand Readers, Movin' on Up: HU NL.

_ Two-barrel bluffing works pretty well in 3-bet pots.

_ AJs is a terrible 5-bet shoving hand.

_ Against frequent 3-bettors, floating and bluffraising the flop are fantastic options.

_ When there's a draw-heavy board on the turn, check-calling is not a good option most of the time. I should usually check-raise or fold.

_ No one ever believes the double check-raise. Nor should they, because it's usually a bluff (at least when I've tried to pull it off).

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Live Games

If anyone wanted to claim that the economy is doing just fine, they could point to the bustling Commerce Casino with its loose-passive games. Same as it ever was.

Over the weekend, I played two of the Commerce's 5/10 NL varieties -- the $400 max buy-in and the $1,500 max buy-in games. Both were similar, with multiple limpers on most hands and at least four people seeing most flops.

I found that with so many limpers, stealing blinds was nearly impossible. Preflop raises were counter-productive unless I had a premium hand that I could raise for value. Otherwise, it made more sense to limp around with the crowd and try to hit a big hand. We all know how often big hands flop.

My impression is that position counted for even more in these games. I needed to have a positional advantage to get the most value from my hands when they did hit. Raising utg with JTs was foolish in retrospect because I had little expectation I could win the hand without hitting the board.

With so many people in each hand who wouldn't fold if they caught any piece of the flop, the best way to make money was to value bet constantly and rarely bluff. Unfortunately, you need to make hands in order to value bet, which can get pretty damn tedious when you see 30 hands per hour.

I know these loose-passive games are profitable, but I hate having to adjust my style to the point where I'm simply trying to hit and get paid off. I'm more comfortable 3-betting, 4-betting, blind stealing, continuation betting, bluffing and playing heads-up on the flop.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Commerce Casino

I leave for L.A. on Thanksgiving Day for a trip that will include seeing the USC-Notre Dame game at the Coliseum and gambling at the Commerce Casino.

I plan to have a great time once I get there. Currently I'm counting the minutes until my flight leaves.

I'll have Thursday night and much of Friday free to play poker. I'll play either 2/5 or 5/10 NL, depending on how I feel. I know 2/5 is an easier game, but I'm thinking that playing slightly higher could help me stay focused despite the many distractions of brick-and-mortar poker.

I'm also tempted by the 9/18 limit game, which I like mostly because the chip denominations are so strange. Why not just play 10/20? Supposedly if you play with more chips, the game has more action...but whatever. Still, I appreciate the novelty of it.

Leave me a message in comments if you're in L.A. and want to meet up at the Commerce.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Fishy Home Game

I played in a $20 home game sng with a few friends and some guys I met for the first time.

It was like 2004 all over again, like the poker boom had just begun.

Three of the guys wore sunglasses. Several listened to iPods. One guy wore a hoody. Everyone was Phil Ivey in their own minds.

They were pretty terrible, and I didn't know how to really feel about it. We all had a great time just hanging out and playing poker, and I like encouraging people to learn and enjoy the game. But they were also universally bad, with little indication they had the ability to improve.

We're talking about basic misconceptions about the game, and my protests to the contrary fell on deaf ears. They couldn't believe that calling all in with a naked flush draw was a bad play. They didn't understand the idea that you might want to fold bottom pair sometimes. They had every sense of entitlement for every suckout and couldn't understand why they lost when they got it in with the worst of it.

In other words, these were exactly the kind of players you'd want at your table.

It's great for the game that friends come together for social, enjoyable home games. But it's depressing to see so little potential for them to gain the insight they'd need to have a shot at becoming real players.


I eventually lost my single buy-in, going out in fifth place after several suckouts. That's alright, especially since I got my money in good 100 percent of the time. Without escalating blinds, I may have never lost.

I got to wondering what my expectation would be in that kind of game. The payouts were 150-40-20 for the top three.

How much is my $20 buy-in worth in the long run? I think has to be worth at least $40, and maybe even $60. How high can a ROI go for a single-table live sng?

Friday, November 21, 2008

StoxEV is sick

Damn, this StoxEV program is insanely useful for hand evaluation. How did I not know about it before?

Basically, StoxEV starts with the functionality of PokerStove and then allows you to make a decision tree for any hand using hand ranges, board textures and likely betting actions. Then it calculates the EV of each decision you make.

I've only been using StoxEV for three days, but I've already learned a lot. It's an incredible tool for reviewing hands after a session to determine whether you made the right play, or if there are alternate lines that may have been better.

For example, I plugged in the hand from my last post to determine how the hand might have progressed if I had called the flop. What kind of turns should I bet? What kind of hands should I call if my opponent shoves?

The program also comes in with a few example hands, like a QQ in position behind two preflop raisers and an AQ that shoves on the flop with a gutshot.

You really have to fool around with this program to comprehend its value.

Try the free download, watch the video tutorial and then play around with it. It took me a little time to get used to, but it's very much worth it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

HU20: Sucking (and resucking) it up

In this heads-up hand against an aggressive player who was 3-betting 18 percent of his hands, I made a pretty awful raise on the flop with overcards and a gutshot draw:

Full Tilt Poker, $2/$4 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 2 Players - Hand History Converter

Hero (SB): $412

BB: $879.50

Pre-Flop: J Q dealt to Hero (SB)
Hero raises to $12, BB raises to $41, Hero calls $29

Flop: ($82) 7 T 8 (2 Players)
BB bets $68, Hero raises to $180, BB raises to $838.50 and is All-In, Hero calls $191 and is All-In

Upon reflection, my play is simply awful.

I'm not sure, but I think my call of his preflop reraise is OK because there are plenty of hands that I'll dominate against an opponent's wide range, and I could hit hard.

This flop is not one that I hit hard.

I'm not favored against hardly any hands that can call, and I'm not getting any better hands to fold. AA-77 is going to get it in. Overcards with flush draws are going to get it in. Many combinations of a 9 and an overcard are going to get it in. Any pair plus a draw is going to get it in. My equity against any of these hand types isn't great.

I discussed this hand with a friend who suggested that even calling this flop bet is questionable because there are few cards on the turn that I'll be happy with. What do I do if I make top pair? Can I make a move (probably not) if an Ace or a King falls, giving me an open-ended straight draw? What if I pick up a weak spade flush draw?

However, I don't think I'm good enough to fold this flop. In the future, I'm more likely to call the flop and think hard about what to do on the turn.

Turn: ($824) 9 (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

I suckout!

River: ($824) 7 (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

And villain resucks.

Results: $824 Pot ($0.50 Rake)
Hero showed J Q (a straight, Queen high) and LOST (-$412 NET)
BB showed 9 9 (a full house, Nines full of Sevens) and WON $823.50 (+$411.50 NET)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

More Clarity on Ranges

A new DeucesCracked series, "Hand Readers," gave me a few more ideas on how to develop ranges. The gist of it is that analytical thinking and deductive reasoning are your primary tools in narrowing down an opponent's likely holding.

This is nothing groundbreaking, but it does reinforce the thought processes you should be going through as you develop a read.

The video recommends going through six steps: identify opponent, construct preflop hand range, note actions so far, determine what action we desire given our holding, evaluate how opponent will respond to our actions, and construct a multi-street plan.

Of course I'm not ready to go through each of these steps in every hand, but they create a framework for starting with a wide preflop range and eliminating potential hands from that range as the hand progresses. The video's coaches also correctly point out that you shouldn't second-guess yourself: as the hand moves forward, an opponent's range can only get smaller.

I picture a flow chart in my mind, like the one shown in the first Dogisheads UP video. Each of an opponent's actions from preflop onward characterize his holding until you arrive at a small enough selection of hand combinations that you can use to make correct folds, calls or raises when bigger bets go in.

As for my struggles with evaluating hand ranges heads-up against loose opponents, I plan to focus more on creating accurate ranges rather than abandoning the process and trying to play based on feel.

Against an opponent who never folds to continuation bets, I know his range isn't narrowed at all by my bet on the flop. Against an opponent who will raise any top pair or draw, I can eliminate his lower-pair hands and call more often. Against an opponent who bets the river whenever it's checked to him, I can induce more bluffs or consider price-setting blocking bets.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

HU19: Ranges

Heads-up coaches differ on how to assess an opponent's hand: Most recommend putting your opposition on a range of hands, but a few suggest a more nebulous approach that's based more on feel.

A previous post created some debate on what "hand reading" means if you're not narrowing an opponent's hand range.

A recent video clearly falls on the side of developing a read by starting with a wide range of hands and deducing an opponent's likely holding based on that range. The video is DogIsHeads UP, Episode 1.

"Range-based thinking is superior to hand-to-hand thinking," Dogishead says. "A player who thinks hand-to-hand cannot achieve the overall resilience that a range-thinking player can."

This contrasts with MasterLJ's approach.

"Heads-up, you can really throw hand ranges out the window and play by feel and match conditions," he says.

MasterLJ backs up his claim with hand examples against loose opponents who float the flop with such a broad variety of hands that it's difficult to put them on any range. In these hands, MasterLJ keeps firing away on the turn and river because his opponent could have anything from air to a gutshot to a flush draw to the nuts. Most of the time, he gets a fold on the turn.

It seems obvious to me that playing against a range of hands is the best strategy when you can do so. Only when you can't eliminate many hands between the preflop round and turn should you fall back on less precise methods.

It's hard though.

In heads-up, where it's essential to consider playing most hands, there are many times when attempts at thinking about a range seem like a waste of time. I often feel more at ease playing the player rather than playing the hands. I'd certainly like to be a master hand reader, but sometimes it feels like a frustrating and impossible task.

The solution may be to use all tools at your disposal as best you can: hand ranges, match flow, flop textures, past history, instinct, aggression and deceptive plays.

"Heads-Up No-Limit Hold 'em"

While "Heads-Up No-Limit Hold 'em" by Collin Moshman lays a solid foundation for heads-up play, it feels incomplete. I learned a few new concepts, but I wish some of the chapters had lasted more than a page or two.

One chapter discusses the "Hit-to-Win Style," in which you plan to commit more chips into the pot only if you connect with the flop.

"You should usually avoid such a passive style when facing a single opponent. ... Most flops miss most hands, and those times when you 'hit' a second-best hand can significantly offset your gains when you do connect well," Moshman writes.

He nails a key point of heads-up play, but he doesn't explain the next logical step: If you can't play hit-to-win, what kinds of flops and opponents should you be bluffing? With what frequency? How do you best disguise your play when you do hit?

In another section of the book, Moshman addresses what kind of turn cards are good to fire a second barrel on. If you're bluffing, he recommends giving up more frequently when a rag falls, and continuing to bluff when an overcard hits. If you actually connected with the flop, he suggests the opposite strategy: continue betting for value when a rag turns, but tend to check behind a turn when a dangerous overcard appears. This is a quality section of the book, but it's too limited and general. I would have preferred more hand examples.

This theme runs throughout the course of the book. Other too-short sections talk about exploiting vs. optimal play, adjusting to paired flops, floating and table selection.

Meanwhile, identifying and adjusting to your opponents is ignored for the most part.

The book also falls short in that it's mostly focused on heads-up sit-and-gos rather than cash games. I wish its emphasis on sngs had been more clearly advertised.

However, I liked the hand examples, most of which were taken from Heads-Up Championships of the past featuring big-name players. Also, the advice is generally sound, which is more than I can say about many poker strategy books.

The main difficulty of "Heads-Up No-Limit Hold 'em" is that it's written like the Boy Scout Handbook for heads-up play. It speaks in helpful generalities, but it won't ensure your survival when you're stranded in the wilderness.

For that, you need coaching videos, analysis, discussion and lots of experience.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

I'll keep 3-betting preflop, thank you very much

I'm a big fan of reraising a wide range of hands preflop in position: my suited connectors gain value because they can win the dead money in the pot, and my premium hands are more likely to get called when my opponents know I could have low cards.

Several training sites advocate this kind of preflop strategy, but pro player Samoleus recently repeated his claim that it's inherently flawed.

"If someone raises and you have a hand like King-Jack suited on the button or 87 suited on the button, that's not a reraising hand. That's a hand that plays so much better when you have more of a stack to pot ratio," Samoleus said on the Cash Plays podcast. "The CardRunners style ... I know they teach this rampant aggression and this 3-betting with suited connectors and stuff, which I really think is such a flawed technique. ... The whole philosophy, the approach to this, is completely wrong."

While it's true that speculative hands gain value when they can see flops for cheap, Samoleus failed to explain why cold calling is a better play in this era of poker in which the blinds are likely to run a squeeze play when they see a raiser and a button caller.

Sure, cold calling would work well in passive games with very little 3-betting.

But the reality of today's games is that you're going to get squeezed frequently, and the best way to defend against the squeeze is for you to raise in the first place. Most of the time, a preflop 3-bet with suited connectors will either pick up the blinds or allow you to see a flop in position.

Samoleus sounds like he's upset at how the games have evolved rather than adjusting to them.

Other pros take a more measured, constructive approach.

In the new DeucesCracked series "Parallels," Krantz addresses a similar situation when he holds KQs from the button.

He says that you should call more and 3-bet less with hands like KQs when your opponents fold too frequently to raises.

I can infer several pieces of information from his statement:

1) 3-betting with KQs and similar hands is better when your opponents are more likely to call a raise with lesser hands. KQs has enough value postflop to call a raise rather than attempt to steal. That's probably why Leatherass called from the button with AQs in my recent hand with him.

2) Suited connectors gain value from a 3-bet in games with opponents who are likely to fold to a raise.

3) If there's a caller in the middle, a 3-bet with many different hand types makes more sense because there's more dead money in the pot.

What Samoleus should have said is that he's disenchanted with the mindless 3-betting that occurs so often these days.

He shouldn't have made the sweeping statement that this kind of 3-betting is frequently wrong and bad for the game. There are many situations where a preflop reraise is the best play with hands like KJs and suited connectors, despite how much Samoleus wishes it weren't so.

Friday, November 07, 2008

HOTD: Leatherass tries a flop bluff

Leatherass is on the Button.

Full Tilt Poker, $5/$10 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 4 Players - Hand History Converter

BB: $684.50

Hero (UTG): $1,015

BTN: $1,419

SB: $491

Pre-Flop: K 8 dealt to Hero (UTG)
Hero raises to $30, BTN calls $30, 2 folds

Flop: ($75) 4 K 3 (2 Players)
Hero bets $50, BTN raises to $160, Hero calls $110

He's pretty much representing either a set or air. I looked at his flop aggression in Holdem Manager and found that his aggression frequency on the flop is 40 percent, compared to his turn and river aggression in the 20 percent range. His raise size also seems a little bit odd: why would he raise to $160 instead of a regular 3X raise to $150? Does he think that extra $10 is going to push me off my hand, or is that what he would raise if he really did have a set?

Turn: ($395) Q (2 Players)

Hero checks, BTN checks

I would have considered check-raising if he had bet this turn.

River: ($395) 9 (2 Players)

Hero checks, BTN checks

Maybe I could have gotten some value by betting out, but I figured Leatherass was more likely to bluff the river than call a value bet.

Results: $395 Pot ($2 Rake)
Hero showed K 8 (a pair of Kings) and WON $393 (+$203 NET)
BTN showed Q A (a pair of Queens) and LOST (-$190 NET)

I was surprised to see him show up with AQ, but it makes sense. His plan was probably to bet the turn if he missed, but then he thought his Queen might be good enough to see a showdown.

On one hand, his flop raise on such a dry board will work a lot of the time. On the other hand, he wouldn't have lost the pot if he had simply 3-bet preflop.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Pimpin' links

Here are a few links for your enjoyment:

_ Cardrunners/Stoxpoker is offering free subscriptions to their training sites that accumulate through play on Full Tilt Poker. This looks like a very nice deal, and it doesn't count against rakeback. Check out the details and sign up at

_ I'm liking PokerRoad's newest podcast, All Strategy, which is hosted by Daniel Negreanu, Justin Bonomo and Scott Huff. They've only released five episodes so far, so it's not hard to catch up on what you've missed.

_ Latest scam site: Love this 2+2 thread. The more scammers get antagonized, the funnier it gets.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

All-in Preflop

The basics of evaluating hand ranges start preflop. Some of the easiest money comes from fish who don't understand what hands they should be getting all-in with preflop in full ring and six-max cash games with 100-blind stacks.

Let's start with pocket Aces. Obviously they're the best hand preflop. I'm sure there are players out there who refuse to get all-in preflop with anything but Aces, but I usually assume that even my tightest opponents will happily bet it all with Kings as well.

It's much more common to find players who will go all-in with a range of AA and KK. These premium hands make up just under 1 percent of all potential starting hands, and they crush any lesser hands. As a general guideline, I look at the 4-bet range statistic in Holdem Manager to identify players who are only rereraising with AA or KK: If their 4-bet range is less than 1 percent, I can pretty safely fold to a third raise preflop with anything less than KK.

A third tier of players are those who will commit with AA-QQ or AK preflop. I give QQ and AK roughly equal value, and when I'm against a player who I know will risk all their chips preflop with AK, I can be pretty certain their range also includes QQ. These hands account for 2.6 percent of potential starting hands, and you should be willing to go to war preflop with an identical range of hands. Otherwise, your opponent is making you fold too much and winning big preflop pots uncontested.

Finally, you have your flexible players and maniacs. These opponents can 4-bet preflop with a wider range as a resteal, or they may be going in with as little as 88 or AJ (if they suck). Against wilder players like this, you absolutely want to get all the money in with QQ or better and AK, and maybe even consider AQ or TT+ against some truly crazy opponents. However, it's rare to find fish big enough to justify widening your all-in preflop range beyond AK.

Most players know this already, but it's incredible when you see an otherwise good player going all-in preflop with QQ against the tightest nits who can't have anything but AA-KK.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Rakeback is Better

PokerStars can claim that it has "the best online poker rewards program," but that's not true for most poker players.

PokerStars tiresome advertising on the Two Plus Two Pokercast is misleading because most players would rather have 27 percent of their rake deposited into their Full Tilt accounts every Friday, and most players don't play enough on a single site to rack up the 100,000 annual points needed to get the best benefits on PokerStars.

Yes, those players who do reach Supernova level on PokerStars are rewarded with bonuses, tournament entries and prizes that exceed the value of regular old rakeback. But for players like me who choose to spread their play around several sites, there's nothing better than cash in my account as a reward that's directly proportional to the amount of rake I contribute.

By comparison, Stars' reward program gives the best value to its hard-core players while shortchanging those who don't play as much. A 2+2 thread discusses this discrepancy in-depth.

The result is that I almost never play at Stars. I like Stars and I would give them more of my business, but there's simply no incentive for me to log on. I have about 1,500 points accumulated so far this year, an amount that earns me next to nothing. I guess I could splurge on a deck of cards.

I sympathize with those who don't receive rakeback on Full Tilt, but I can't understand why you would play on PokerStars regularly unless you're a high-volume player who dedicates most of your play on a single site.

UPDATE: The Two Plus Two Internet Magazine evaluates PokerStars' VIP program in the November issue.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

HU18: Hand Reading

Because the number of playable hands can be insanely wide in heads-up play, MasterLJ recommends narrowing down an opponent's holdings based on "hand reading" rather than the traditional "hand ranges."

He describes this method in "Heads Up: Zero to Sixty in 15,5650 Seconds, Part 3 of 6."

Instead of starting with an assumption of what your opponent could have, MasterLJ suggests using deductive reasoning to determine your opponent's hand type. You ask yourself, "would my opponent play a draw like that? Would he play top pair like that? Would he bluff this kind of flop?"

It's difficult to evaluate hands HU based mostly on hand ranges, which is what most full ring and six-max players are used to. Thinking about other ways to deduce my opponents' holdings will help my game, although it'll take a lot of practice.

Monday, October 27, 2008

HU17: War of Preflop Aggression

Scribbling down a few notes based on a few heads-up matches:

_ It's suicidal to try to 3-bet a minraiser too much. The only thing it accomplishes is building a pot out of position, which isn't profitable. Against a frequent 3-bettor, minraising from the button is a perfectly viable strategy, which Krantz uses at times in DeucesCracked videos. Calling those minraises should be the default play.

_ I love it when heads-up matches turn into battles of escalating preflop aggression. To counter 3-bets you can 4-bet, and to counter 4-bets you can 5-bet all-in preflop. Because the 5-bet is the last bet to go in, the 4-bettor has to be careful to properly balance his range to avoid folding too much once the pot has already grown large.

There's also a neat downward trickling effect, where a loose 5-bettor will start to see more 4-bets for value than as bluffs and a tight 5-bettor will see more 4-bets as bluffs. If someone is 4-betting too much, some opponents may be less likely to 3-bet unless they intend to call or reraise all-in in response. These adjustments go up and down the ladder, and there are many matches where it's not too hard to find a 3-bet, 4-bet or 5-bet range that your opponent isn't properly responding to.

_ I tried an experiment where I never cold-called out of position, choosing always to either fold or 3-bet. It worked pretty well in this limited trial, although I'm not sure how well it would do as a broad strategy because I'm putting more money in out of position with some marginal hands. Playing this way avoids the annoying dilemma of 3-betting strong hands and weak hands but cold-calling with a well-defined range of hands like K9o and QTo that will check-fold when they miss the flop. I wouldn't recommend 3-betting so much against passive opponents or calling stations.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Formula for Success

The Formula for Success is: Amount risked/ (Current Pot + Amount Risked)

Like many poker concepts, the Formula for Success is really just common sense given a name. But the naming of it helps solidify the idea, making it easier to understand much like "semibluffing," "stack to pot ratio" and a thousand other terms.

One of the most practical uses of the Formula for Success is to determine the percentage of the time a bluff needs to work to show a profit, as discussed in CardRunners' "Heads Up: Zero to Sixty in 15,5650 Seconds, Part 1 of 6."

For example, you can figure how often a continuation bet needs to get a fold to be successful, assuming you have 0 equity otherwise.

A pot-sized continuation bet needs to work: 50 percent of the time
3/4 pot c-bet: 42.86 percent
2/3 pot c-bet: 40 percent
1/2 pot c-bet: 33.33 percent

The formula works equally well when figuring how often a 4-bet needs to work, as discussed in DeucesCracked's Spaceman in a Cowboy Suit: Ep. 6.

In the DC example, a $93 raise/4-bet needs to get a fold about 64 percent of the time if there's $53 already in the pot.

Another way to use the formula is to figure out whether how often a call in an all-in pot needs to be profitable, which I referenced in my last post.

In that usage, calculating the amount of a call relative to the total pot size will determine how often you need to win the pot when you call. From there, you can do additional math to account for hand ranges, outs or other factors.

Warning: I make math mistakes sometimes. Please point out any errors if you see them.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Beating on shorty

Edits to correct. See comments for details. Apologies for errors. Thanks spritpot.

Short stackers are annoying, but they don't have to be unprofitable.

You can beat them if you fold and call their 20 BB 3-bet all-ins accurately. You can pin down their range using the 3-bet percentage statistic in either Holdem Manager or PokerTracker3.

1) Against a shortstacker who 3-bets all-in 13 percent of the time, for a range of 55+,A8+,KQ, and I raise to 3 BB preflop and my shortstacking villain 3-bets all-in for 20 BB:

I have to call 17 BB to win 24.5 BB (including the blinds). That means I need to win the hand 41 percent of the time when I call [bet/(bet + pot)=17/(17+24.5)=.41].

So using PokerStove to find hands that wins more than 41 percent of the time, I would call with only:

44+, A9s+, ATo+, KQs

*Checking my work: (.41)(24.5) + (.59)(-17)=~0

2) Against a shortstacker who 3-bets all in 10 percent of the time, for a range of 99+,A9+,KQ:

I should call with 22+, ATs+,AJo+

3) Against a shortstacker who 3-bets all in only 8 percent of the time, for a range of 88+,AJ+,KQ:

I should call with 88+, AJs+, AQo+.

In general, the cutoff for calling is around AT and mid-pocket pairs.

Please read the comments and follow-up spritpot post on this topic.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Shortstack Fail

I believe that while a strong shortstacker can achieve consistent winrates playing a tight, mostly formulaic style, a skilled deeper-stacked player can make even more money.

There's no doubt that shortstacks can win in no limit cash games. As long as they accurately evaluate how their ranges fare against their opponents' range for calling 3bets and folding to 3bets, they'll profit. This evaluation is pretty easy to do using programs like PokerStove.

The most profitable situations for shortstackers come when they can collect pots from players who make an initial raise but can't call a 20 BB shove. They also make money if they can target a player who calls or folds to their preflop shoves too frequently.

These situations create advantages for the shortstacker that a deeper-stacked player doesn't have. In heads-up situations, however, a deeper-stacked player can adjust his raising and calling range to mostly negate the shorty's stack advantage.

The problem for shortstackers is that they must play a tighter range than their deeper-stacked opponents. If a shorty plays too loose, he'll bleed equity that's essential to his profitability.

The deeper-stacked player gains from many situations that the shorty misses out on. Deep stacks can play a much wider range of hands, creating more stealing opportunities. They get more play postflop, which provides more chances to get larger amounts of money in with a bigger equity advantage. In essence, deeper stacks are in a better position to take advantage of other, less-skilled deep-stacked players.

In a world of shortstacks, the deep-stacked player loses because he's forced to play their game. But in tables with several deep stacks, you want to maximize your earnings when you have an edge against the other deep stacks.

I'm biased against shortstacks because they prevent me from playing the style of poker I want to play. I'll concede that their brand of poker is valid, but it's far from ideal.

Plus, it must suck to sit around and play a tight, push-or-fold strategy all day.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

What are pot odds?

At a spread-limit hold'em table in Biloxi in 2004, a player got check-raised on the river in a large pot. I don't remember the hand at all, but I remember what the player said.

"The pot odds say I've got to call," he said.

He put in the bet, and sure enough the opponent who check-raised showed the nuts and raked the pot.

Then a snooty dealer felt the need to open his mouth.

"Those aren't pot odds. Pot odds are something else entirely," the dealer muttered with a sigh, as if he was finally fed up with listening to people speak like they knew what they were talking about.

I had only been studying poker for a few months at the time, so I didn't speak up.

More than four years later, I'm still convinced the dealer was wrong.

There are two primary uses of the term "pot odds," and both are valid:

1) "The amount in the pot weighed against the amount invested to continue playing," according to the PuntingAce poker glossary. Similar definitions can be found here.

In this sense of the term, pot odds are used to determine whether you should call a bet based on the chances of your hand improving before the river. For example, if you have a flush draw with one card to come and you only have to call a bet that's less than one-fifth of the pot size, it could be said that you have "pot odds" to continue.

2) "Pot odds are the ratio of the current size of the pot to the cost of a contemplated call," according to Wikipedia.

This broader definition can be used to make a decision on the river. When you have to call $10 into a $40 pot, your pot odds are 4:1. If you believe you're good more than one in five times, you should call the small bet.

The second meaning is the one the Biloxi dealer objected to, but I can't see how his more limited interpretation of "pot odds" can possibly be the only correct one. Pot odds apply both when you're likely behind with a hand that could improve, and on the river when there's no further chance to hit.

I should have realized that dealers don't always know what they're talking about.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Protecting your hand

I almost always 3-bet with TT+ and AQ+ regardless of position because these hands figure to be the best hand preflop.

My reraise is for value, yes. But it also defines and protects my hand, which is sometimes a difficult concept for me to understand because it isn't strictly a value bet or a bluff.

What I mean to say is that if JJ figures to be best against a cutoff raiser and I'm on the button, why not cold call preflop and extract value on later streets?

One reason is that I want to get worse hands to call, like drawing hands or high cards.

Another reason is that I want to know when I'm beat. JJ is the nuts preflop until I have reason to believe it's not. There's value in 3-betting preflop until a 4-bet tells me there isn't. Many players won't 4-bet with less than the very best hands, and against those types of players I should fold my JJ preflop.

The same goes for check-raising with hands like K9o on a K86 rainbow board. I most likely have the best hand, and many times I'll want to go ahead and take control, win the hand right then or get draws to call at a bad price.

There's also merit in check-calling a continuation bet and playing the turn from there. But calling instead of raising simply because I believe I have the best hand on average isn't necessarily the best play.

Monday, October 06, 2008

HU16: Understanding Swings

Without a doubt, the swings in heads-up poker are bigger. You play more and more hands as there are fewer and fewer players, which increases hand ranges and volatility.

Realizing the swings are more dramatic, I tried to embrace them by pushing hands too hard and fast, bluffing too much, having a tough time making laydowns and expecting my time to come just around the corner.

Even heads-up, you can go hours or days without making big hands. Just because heads-up poker has larger swings, that doesn't mean those swings will happen this hand, next hand or the hand after that. Cards have no memory, and they don't care how long it's been since something went your way.

It's easy for me to think that I should overplay any random open-ended straight draw or flush draw on the flop because those draws can be powerful hands, especially HU where your opponent is less likely to have a hand himself.

But I still have to play poker, regardless of perceptions of a hand's inherent strength. I have to read hands, interpret bet sizes, weigh pot odds and play well. Thoughtlessly shoving it in is never a good play.

Video watched: Spaceman in a Cowboy Hat, Ep. 5

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Building Blocks

I've picked up some strategic gems from a couple of recent shows. I'll put them down here in hopes that they stick.

Cash Plays: Limit Hold'em with Death Donkey

1) Death Donkey mentions that when the pot is larger, the purpose of your value bets is more to protect the pot. When the pot is smaller, the purpose of your value bets is more to get paid by a worse hand.

2) In limit hold'em, Death Donkey discusses his style of never 4-betting/capping when out of position against an in-position 3-bettor. The reason is that he'll extract that extra small bet on the flop anyway when his opponent continuation bets, and his check-raise on the flop represents a wider range than a 4-bet preflop would.

In position, Death Donkey goes ahead and 4-bets his premium hands preflop.

He says something like, "If you could choose to only play large pots in position and smaller pots out of position, you'd make a lot of money."

Spaceman in a Cowboy Hat: Episode 4

1) The theme of this heads-up NL powerpoint video is that you should try to see how much you can get away with as you adjust to your opponents.

If your opponent will fold as much out of the BB to a minraise as he does to a 3X raise, you risk less to make the same amount with the minraise. If your opponent doesn't distinguish between a 5X and 3X raise preflop, it makes sense to raise bigger with premium hands for value and smaller with lesser hands. Of course, many opponents will catch on if you do this all the time, so you have to pick your spots.

2) The purpose of making larger than 3X 3bets preflop is to reduce your opponent's implied odds. You can raise bigger -- to 10 or 11 BB preflop -- against someone who calls 3bets too frequently, while raising smaller -- like 3X/9BB preflop -- against someone who folds to 3bets too much.


On an unrelated note, I have to mention the shenanigans in PokerStars Triple Draw games.

PokerStars has changed the rules of the game without previously informing the players.

Read the 2+2 thread, Ed Miller's take on it and Random Shuffle's reaction.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Top Podcasts

I bought a cheap Sansa mp3 player exclusively to listen to poker podcasts in my car as I drive to work. There's some high-quality content out there that I really like.

2+2 Pokercast: This is one of the most engaging poker podcasts, with lots of news, strategy and interviews with top players. When I listen to these guys, I get up to date on the latest events, tournament action, trends and funny forum posts.

Ante Up Magazine Podcast: The Ante Up crew is one of the oldest poker shows out there. The show's hosts, Chris Cosenza and Scott Long, recently branched out on their own to publish the Ante Up Magazine, which they're distributing in card rooms across Florida. They also started print magazine subscriptions, which I plan to support.

Cash Plays: Host Bart Hanson talks cash game strategy and interviews some of the top live and online pros. He gets a lot of perspectives and discusses ways to improve your game.

Those are the three I listen to on a regular basis, but I saw that High on Poker also suggested PokerRoad Radio.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Phil Ivey

“What’s the point of life if you don’t gamble?” -- Phil Ivey

That's my favorite Ivey quote, taken from this old Michael Craig post. Ivey is the consummate gambler. He's never out of the action and focuses on whatever bet he has going.

Then last week, Ivey owned Mike Matusow in the Million Dollar Cash Game. I noticed the article because it was linked to by Poker From the Rail's One Angry Monkey.

Ivey got Matusow to lay down the second nut flush on the river with a large bluff -- from $10,000 to $47,000. Matusow was still getting great pot odds, but it seems like Ivey got in his head. Pretty awesome.

Monday, September 22, 2008

HU15: Done

Screw heads-up poker.

I'm going back to my regular 6-max and full ring 5/10 NL games after failing to get close to becoming a winning heads-up player.

I certainly don't like admitting that I'm a HU fish, but it's the truth. It's a big relief returning to the games I know and feeling like I have a positive expectation in any game I sit in.

So what went wrong with my heads-up efforts? Why couldn't I break through?

As far as I can tell, my biggest problems were that I had a hard time evaluating hand strengths against wide ranges, and that I didn't have a good sense of the pacing of the game. That led me to time my bluffs poorly and call too lightly.

Now that I've decided to return to my regular games, I'm pretty happy. I'm letting myself listen to music again as I play, and I'm fine playing four tables, compared to the two I limited myself to HU.

In all, my heads-up challenge cost me about $11,000, according to my records. That's not nearly so bad as I perceived it to be, but it still leaves me with some work to do. At my high point, I was up about $4,000, and it's been all downhill since then.

I hope I don't sound too negative about this experience because I learned a lot about the game and I took a chance in a format that had great profit potential. I won't swear off heads-up entirely, but I don't intend to play HU much now.

A few footnotes:

_ Heads-up play does have incredible profit potential for those who are good at it. My opponents owned me and repeatedly got me to put my money in bad. My only problem is that I wasn't good at it.

_ These HU efforts strengthened my overall game. I steal much more, my 6-max and full ring VPIP has increased several points, I'm more confident playing out of position and I'm better postflop.

_ I have a lot of respect for players who are able to master HU, or any form of poker for that matter. It's not easy, and even a concentrated effort won't necessarily pay off.

Friday, September 19, 2008

HU14: No Worries

Video watched: Spaceman in a Cowboy Hat ep. 2

I always have to laugh at myself when I complain about losing one day, and then I feel like a balla the next. It's irrational and results oriented to think that way -- especially when the only thing that's changed is a couple of lucky hands -- but even so, I feel like things are starting to click.

A few broad ideas that are making sense to me:

_ Because I'm playing so many more small and mid-sized pots heads-up, it's important that I win more of those hands rather than go for big all-ins all the time. This is true in full ring and 6-max as well, but it's especially true heads-up. The swings are greater HU, but they seem more incremental, rather than winning or losing one big hand per 100 (or whatever).

_ When I started to make good money in full ring and 6-max games, I realized just how important position was and I became supertight out of position. After thousands and thousands of hands, folding out of position was routine. But heads-up, playing so nitty out of position doesn't fly. I'm coming to appreciate that I can't simply refuse to play out of position, and there are many spots where I can aggro my way into gaining the initiative. Instead of fearing being out of position, I can embrace it when the situation is right.

_ It's more important to play my range against my opponent's range, rather than worry about pot control. Previously, I was routinely checking behind dry flops for pot control, with the logic that I could extract value on later streets when I had the best hand and perhaps hit on the turn when I didn't. Now I realize that if my Ax hand on a 722 flop crushes my opponent's range, many times I'm going to want to bet.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

HUJ13: Losing

This effort to get good at heads-up poker is starting to discourage me a bit. I feel like I'm improving daily, but the results aren't there.

It's been more than two months since I've been playing heads-up almost exclusively, and I have little to show for it. I'm not down too much overall, but the lack of wins makes the grind difficult.

This quest to improve at heads-up was predicated on a few ideas: heads-up poker can be very profitable if I get good at it, I needed to get better at postflop play, I wanted a new challenge and I didn't want to grow content playing 5/10 full ring and 6 max all the time.

I still believe those thoughts are valid, but there's a real possibility that I'll never master heads-up poker to the extent that I'll make more money at it than I was in my previous games.

However, as long as I'm continuing to figure the game out and my bankroll is intact, I'm not going to give up. I'll need more evidence before I can determine that I'm not going to make it as a heads-up player.

For now, I still believe I can beat these games the same way learned to beat sngs, limit hold'em up to 15/30 and no limit hold'em up to 5/10. Those games will be waiting for me if I decide my heads-up quest is futile.

Everyone reaches their level of incompetence at some point, but I don't think I'm there yet, and I have room to grow.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

HUJ12: Out of position, out of power

Video watched: Spaceman in a Cowbow Hat, ep. 1

I've noticed that I've been calling too much out of position postflop. In general, I want to be raising or folding when I don't have the button. That will somewhat help neutralize the positional advantage of the button, especially if I do a good job of balancing my bluffs and value bets.

Calling out of position defines my hand too clearly and puts me in a sticky spot as the hand develops.

This next hand is one where I misplayed it and got lucky on the river:

Full Tilt Poker, $2/$4 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 2 Players - Hand History Converter

SB: $400

Hero (BB): $505.50

Pre-Flop: 9 8 dealt to Hero (BB)
SB raises to $12, Hero raises to $40, SB calls $28

Flop: ($80) 7 4 6 (2 Players)
Hero bets $55, SB raises to $146, Hero calls $91

Turn: ($372) K (2 Players)
Hero bets $319.50 and is All-In, SB calls $214 and is All-In

River: ($800) 5 (2 Players - 1 is All-In)

Results: $800 Pot ($0.50 Rake)
SB showed 6 7 (two pair, Sevens and Sixes) and LOST (-$400 NET)
Hero showed 9 8 (a straight, Nine high) and WON $799.50 (+$399.50 NET)

I ran this hand by my coach, and he suggested reraising the flop if I thought I had any fold equity, or simply folding my eight outs. Makes sense to me, although I'll have to work on folding my eight- or nine-out draws on the flop when appropriate.

Monday, September 15, 2008

HUJ11: Working on adaptation

One of the skills I'm focusing on is how to better adapt to my opponents. Every heads-up player is different, and it's entirely possible that a fishy player's style could beat a solid player if the solid player fails to adjust.

There are so many variables, and the challenge is to read hands, predict your opponents' next moves, develop counterstrategies and expose leaks. Inducing mistakes and recognizing them ain't easy, but it's damn profitable.

Here's an unrelated hand where I'm glad I didn't raise the turn when I turned the straight and had the nut flush redraw:

Full Tilt Poker, $2/$4 NL Hold'em Cash Game, 2 Players - Hand History Converter

BB: $813

Hero (SB): $460

Pre-Flop: A T dealt to Hero (SB)
Hero raises to $12, BB calls $8

Flop: ($24) Q 3 J (2 Players)

BB checks, Hero bets $16, BB calls $16

Turn: ($56) K (2 Players)
BB bets $46, Hero calls $46

River: ($148) 8 (2 Players)
BB bets $125, Hero calls $125

Results: $398 Pot ($0.50 Rake)
BB showed 7 T (a flush, Queen high) and WON $397.50 (+$198.50 NET)
Hero mucked A T (a straight, Ace high) and LOST (-$199 NET)

The donkbet on the turn set off alarm bells, but it also seemed suspicious because most flushes or flush draws would check-raise the flop. Maybe I could have found a fold on the river, but I like my play.

The most important point of this hand is that there was no value in raising the turn. Most worse hands would fold, and all better hands would call.

Video watched: pr1nnyraiding ep. 8

I finally finished this series. It was a strong introduction to a general strategy against various player types. Its downside was that it didn't go far into deeper concepts, but I know other series will.

My plan for now is to keep watching videos and improving, mostly at the 2/4 level. It's kind of hard to find weak players at limits 5/10 and above, so I know I need to be better prepared before I take on many of the solid regulars.

I also intend to start taking a closer look at hand histories, which is something I haven't been doing as much since playing heads-up because so many decisions are circumstantial. But that's no excuse not to review and analyze my play.