Wednesday, March 28, 2007


What You Don't Do When You Don't Have The Ball

This is just something I was thinking about, apropos of nothing. Andy Gray was once mocked in Private Eye's Colemanballs for saying of a team "it's not what they do when they have the ball, it's what they don't do when they don't have the ball". However, what he said made perfect sense and was in fact quite insightful. It's the same with me in poker. Well, except in the sense that Gray's point was a criticism of the team (I can't even remember which team it was now).

A big part of the edge I have is the things I don't do that other players do. Many other players. These include things like moving in from early position when the whole position/stack/hand equation isn't right ; reraising light in situations where the stacks dictate that I have little or no fold equity ; "isolation" reraising an all-in when the upside in making everyone else fold is small and the obverse downside is huge ; calling pre-flop raises with likely second-best hands that don't have good implied odds ; playing AK in committal pre-flop situations where two or more opponents have a good hand ; making late position raises that are just asking for a semi-bluff shove from the blinds ; passing to an all-in reraise when I have pot odds plus against opponent's range ; and so on. More to the point, many of the above aren't considered to be mistakes by most people. For example, the following plays wouldn't raise many eyebrows in a typical medium stakes tournament :

- Making it 2000 and then folding to an all in raise of 3500 more with 33 [or anything]
- Pushing for 10K with 77 after a short stack moves in for 2K, with four people to act behind you
- Moving in with AK after a tight player raises UTG and someone reraises allin in MP

And yet they are all much, much worse plays than shoving for 10 big blinds with Q8 on the button or reraising allin for 4 times the cut-off's raise with 86s. Against typical opponents, both of those are +EV plays that I'll make regularly and, of course, end up showing when someone wakes up with a big hand.

If you watched me play, live or online, you could easily think that I'm a donk who sits there waiting for a big pair until I lose patience and start smashing it all in with filth. And over one tournament or one session it would probably be difficult to tell the difference between me and said donk. It's only over a long period of time that you might notice how rarely I get caught in one of the situations above, and that would only be if you were paying particular attention. I suspect that this applies to many players who are considered "lucky" or "over-rated". Few people watch them carefully enough or for long enough to realise that the mistakes they don't make far outweigh the "lucky" or "suicidal" aggressive moves that sometimes crash and burn.

The 77 hand... I presume that in order for shoving there to be bad you need to be behind original raisers hand, so blinds will be something like 100/200 rather than 200/400? Just clearing up because if they are shoving with 5x I don't think it is bad? Or is it?
"original raisers hand" should be "original raisers range" there
Replacing "hand" with "range" makes all the difference. OK, let's say it is 200/400, someone goes allin for 1500 and you shove your 10K with 77.

You're probably in front of his range. If we give him any Ace, any pair and any two cards 10 or higher, you're 55%. So if everyone folds, you're 55% for 3600 which is an EV of +480 (3600*.55-1500).

What you're doing here is analagous to shoving for 10K to win 480 in blinds with 4 people behind you. If everyone folds, you get 480. If someone calls you're well behind the caller's range - let's say AK/JJ against which you're now 33%.

If I add this up it might be marginally +EV but it's ever so thin, and the example given is by no means the most extreme that might come up.

That makes good sense, i'm not sure why it was so counter intuitive for me as shoving there looks very standard. What range should be overshoving in spots similar to that?
Hmmm. AK/JJ probably should be pushing. TT/99/AQ are marginal IMO even though almost everyone would do it. Less than that I'm fairly sure is a pass (or a call if you really think you can get away with it).

This is a remarkably useful post Andy. I advise you to delete it immediately.

But, more seriously, I think it indicates three things;

1) Never accept the conventional wisdom. It's often wrong.

2) Winning at any form of poker is more about not making mistakes, and not making those mistakes often, (and which will usually go unnoticed) than it is about making brilliant plays once in a blue moon.

3) There are so many mistakes that you need to avoid making, and need to avoid making these all the time. And what is a mistake at one level of blinds is right at another level of blinds, or what is a mistake with one stack distribution is not a mistake with another stack distribution, that the complexities of it make me less inclined to take a hard look at MTT games. I'll leave it to the professionals ....

BTW, your excellent elucidation of what the shove with 77 really equals (an all-in raise with four players behind you to win 480 in the blinds) is just far too valuable. I shall cut it out and stick it on my wall.

You will be pleased to note that in 10 sessions here in LV, I have not once called a player a donkey, although I confess that one guy's reraise on the river with A-J two-pair (he was third, I was second with A-K two-pair) did elicit the comment from me; "that was a good raise".
So, in the 77 example, who do you reckon is the correct play? Folding would seem to be criminally feeble: calling leaves you open to the obvious all-in re-raise.

PS Great admirer of the blog, by the way. Just reading it would be enough to make me a brilliant player, if only I weren't so idle/stupid/easily distracted.
Er, that should be "what do you reckon is the correct play?"
English is my first language, it really is...
Glad you like the blog. I'm idle and easily distracted too, and stupid a lot of the time, but it's still possible to make it work :-)

If we can't call and we can't raise ... we're going to have to fold. It is a counterintuitive play, but no one's going to know, unless you're on TV or something !

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