Thursday, January 31, 2008

Specialty Tools

It's easy to get away with limiting your arsenal to its strengths in very beatable games.

Small leaks like folding the blinds too often, check-folding too much and a failure to change gears don't cost very much when you can get a lot of value from your strong hands. Of course, big leaks like playing out of position frequently, cold calling too many raises and playing too many hands will cost you in any game regardless of the limit.

I've been using a few moves more often: check-raising instead of continuation betting on the flop, limp-raising, adjusting to constant preflop raisers and effectively using squeeze plays. Each of these moves is risky and can lead to Fancy Play Syndrome, but they add deception to your game against thinking players.

Check-raising instead of continuation betting on the flop: If your opponents always expect a continuation bet after you raise preflop, they'll be able to exploit you by floating, bluffing or reraising. Fortunately, these aggressive players are also the same kind of opponents who will usually bet when checked to. So instead of always continuation betting, a check-raise will put these donks back in line. It's safer to use the check-raise continuation bet when you actually have a made hand, but it's also pretty effective as a bluff.

A variation of this play works really well in 3-bet pots when out of position. For example, let's say the button raises, the small blind calls, you squeeze from the big blind and only the button calls. This puts about 30 BB in the pot preflop. If you have a solid hand on the flop, you may win some extra bets by choosing to check-raise all-in instead of making a continuation bet.

Limp-raising: I only like this play when you can cold call a previous player's raise and then 4-bet when you expect someone behind you to run a squeeze play. I much prefer limp-raising in a raised pot than open limp-raising, which is something I never do because I never open limp into any pot. It's most effective to use this move with AA, KK and AK in an aggressive game with lots of resteals.

RecessRampage posted an example of this play in Hand 2 of a recent post.

Adjusting to constant preflop raisers: This gets a bit more difficult because you need to know your opponents hand ranges well and be willing to gamble. If aggressive players with high PFR stats are always 3-betting you, you'll need to loosen your 4-betting standards.

By their nature, 4-bets can be expensive when made with less-than-premium hands, but there's just no other way to counter someone who constantly gets you to fold your open raises. Sometimes you can cold call/float your opponents' 3-bets, but out of position I believe that most of the time you want to make your move preflop. I'm still working on properly adjusting because I'm not entirely comfortable with investing so many bets with mediocre holdings.

Effectively using squeeze plays: Squeeze plays are a necessary defense against opponents who insist on raising their button and loose players who just want to see a flop. Unfortunately, squeeze plays are also one of my biggest leaks because they lead to large pots out of position with medium-strength hands. My interim solution is to use squeeze plays more sparingly in order to increase their success rates.

I unsure of what kind of qualities make a good squeezing hand though. I prefer to squeeze with suited connectors more than high cards (think KQ or AT) because they're well-disguised and unlikely to be dominated. On the other hand, squeezing with suited connectors cuts into their implied odds, which is never good. The other option is to just call from the big blind because of the generous odds you'll be getting of around 3:1.

Here's my ranking of squeeze-worthy hands:

JTs>76s>A3s>KQo. I'm not sure if this is correct though.


Here's an updated lineup of players who have said they'll likely play in the Ultimate Blogger Grudge Match:

The Poker Grind
RecessRampage (Probable)
Cmitch (Maybe)

Let Fuel or me know if you want to play! Or of course you could just sit in once the game starts Wednesday night.


Fuel55 said...

Agreed on the squeezing hands JTs, T9s play well against their calling counterpart ranges. Suited aces and KQ dont.

Alan aka RecessRampage said...

As usual, great post. I second what Fuel said about the squeeze.

Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Great post, we could all use more practical cash game advice like this from someone who knows how and when to play aggressive poker.