Sunday, July 31, 2005


Don't Bluff When You Will Be Called (3)

With a day off today, I'm just doing some homework prior to the tournaments I'm going to play this week - £200 rebuy on Wednesday and £300 freezeout on Sunday at the Vic. How can you bone up (so to speak) for a poker tournament ? Well, the first thing you can do is check the structure and be ready for any adjustments you have to make. I'm still not sure if the Vic are going to have 3 blinds this week, but they did yesterday, so I've been practising that a bit with my software. I quite like 3 blinds, more money in the middle punishes the rocks and favours the (selectively) aggressive. And it seriously punishes the legions of people who can't play a short stack.

Yesterday I had about 20K at one point, with 30K being "par" for a seat. I'm still not sure if I should have rocked up for a while at that point - the blind structure and my natural instincts pulled towards mixing it, but of course it was a super paying 10 seats which very much pushed towards rocking up. There'll be no such dilemma this week, unless I have a huge stack, which is unlikely. If there is one area I should probably tighten up in, it's trying to play too much poker out of position.

Apart from that, I've been thinking about where my edge is. What do other players do that I don't, because I think it's wrong ? Even at this level, I'm encouraged to realise that it's quite a lot. Telling you all the areas where I deviate from "conventional" strategy would be tantamount to telling you how to beat me, so we won't be doing that, but there is one situation which I think many, many people misplay and it doesn't hurt me too much to talk about it.

I was talking before about raising with marginal hands when the big blind is effectively committed and so you're going to be called. What about the situation where a short (or shortish) stack has already moved all in, and you find a middley hand like AJ or 77, with half the table still to act. So many players launch in a reraise "to get it heads up". Much of the time, the risk/reward score makes this play a loser.

Let's fill in some numbers. Blinds 1K-2K, short stack goes all in for 5K. You have 25K and find AJ, with 5 players still to act behind you. If you raise all in (please don't even think about putting half of it in and then folding to a reraise that's even worse), your best case scenario is that everyone passes and you get it heads up as you wished. The short stack's hand range is going to vary from player to player - we'd like to "put him on" a smaller Ace with our magic powers of hand reading but it isn't necessarily so. Personally I'm quite loath to commit with a small Ace (as the short stack) simply because it's in such bad shape against the hands you'll be called by (although in this situation with only 5K I'd have to). I'd rather have two pictures or even suited connectors if they're not too low. And short stacks are allowed to find legitimate hands. I think it's generous to say your chance of winning is 60% but let's go with it. Your EV compared to passing in this eventuality is (60% x 13) - 5 = +2.8K.

However, if someone behind you wakes up with a hand, now you're in trouble. I might pass AQ myself in this situation, but a lot of players won't. Anything else that's bigger, you're going to be called, and you'll be a 5/2 dog for all your chips. The EV calculation is more complicated because of the side-pot but I would estimate it at around -10K, or worse. Does this add up to a +EV play ? Maybe, just. But it's high risk and frankly a discreet pass is better a lot of the time. If EV's not your bag, just realise that you're putting the extra 20K chips out there to be lost. If no one has a better hand, you just get them back. If anyone does have a better hand, you're now a solid favourite to lose them.

Believe me I've seen people make this kind of play with less than AJ/77 as well. When they turn over 44 and say "I 'ad to get it 'eads up y'know ?", it's only a matter of time before they're on the rail muttering "can't believe it, I had the all in beat and the blind woke up with Queens". Funnily enough these are often the same people who have a coronary if you bet into an empty sidepot on the flop with less than the nuts. I know it's not exactly the same situation but there are similarities.

The bottom line is that two of the things people overdo in tournaments at this level is they play too aggressively and they are too intent on knocking opponents out. Sometimes these two factors pull in opposite directions, but here they're pulling together. People are so conditioned not to call, that is to raise if they play, that they end up endangering all their chips when there's no need. There are plenty of situations that arise where calling is the right play, I might even say that it's the new raising. We shall see if I can exploit any of them this week.

According to the brochure the Vic sent out the Hold 'em events are two blinds and the PLO8 is 3 blinds.

Good luck.
That's a shame. I was starting to look forward to playing with 3 blinds.

Clearly they think that the PLO8 is going to be full of rocks and needs juicing up a bit :-)

Thanks for the info,

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