Thursday, January 17, 2008


Things What I Have Learned (2)

It's lucky I skimmed through some recent posts, because I forgot that I had mentioned this already, here, where I'm talking about tightening up on final tables. Basically, what I say there.

The interesting thing about this is how it ties in with "conventional" tournament thinking. There are a lot of people out there, especially in live tournaments, who preach "waiting for a better spot", and a lot of them seem to stick around without going busto. I think this is partly because quite often they're making the right play for the wrong reason. In certain scenarios, especially the kind I'm talking about, early at a final table, people pass up +cEV spots [1] "to wait for a better one". What they are actually doing, without realising it, is passing up a -$EV spot because of ICM factors. If this is the case, then it's right to pass. What I'm trying to do is figure out when spots are -$EV and passing because the spot isn't good, not because it is good and I'm "waiting for a better one". I'm not passing because I'm "waiting for a couple of people to be knocked out and then I'll gamble" or anything like that.

Where this falls down for our live draks is when they pass up spots which actually are +$EV. This could be because they're far from the money, in the money but far enough from the final table, short-stacked, or they have their opponent well covered. It's one of the biggest myths of the tournament circuit that a player who often has a short stack for a long time is "a great short stack player". Not so. A good short stack player isn't short stacked for very long because he either pushbots up to a reasonable stack, doubles up or hits the rail soon enough.

I've come to realise, in time, that "I play to win" or "I play to make the top three", while being a better catechism than something like "I make the money and then I can gamble", is still a catechism all the same. It's unnecessary. There really is no need, in tournament poker, to do anything other than make a good $EV decision on this street, on this hand. People set themselves artificial targets and frameworks which might occasionally be helpful (for example that Gigabet theory or variations of it), but so rarely that you're still better off forgetting about it and applying your energy to finding and executing the correct $EV play right here, right now. While it's true that the majority of tournament players would do better if they were more aggressive, or called less often, that doesn't mean that the aggressive option is always correct or that calling is always wrong. One decision at a time, one hand at a time, and count your money at the end of the year.

[1] By which I mean positive chip EV, for example when you're getting 5-4 on an all-in call and you're pretty sure you're flipping.

I've long been a fan of the "is this action positive EV"? mode of thought. Kind of "look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves".

As you say, where the confusion comes in is that some positive EV actions (because prize money is not the same as chips as you get deeper into the tournament) makke what look like negative EV decisions in chip terms positive EV decisions in tournament terms. This leads players to make those same decisions earlier in the tournament, when chips and money are closely correlated.

So many "recommendations", be they in books or in magazines, are based on suppositions that, though they may be correct, are not spelt out. Snyder, for example, talks about the necessity of playing fast in turbo tournaments, but the in-built supposition in his recommendations are that you have a reasonable amount of fold equity -- which, indeed, you do tend to have, at the moment. But he does not pose the thought experiment of "what do you do if everyone has read and applied the Snyder formula? Is it unexploitable?" I'll leave that one with you...

In the cash games, the raise to 2x the BB is becoming increasingly popular, and no-one seems to have cottoned on to the best way to beat it.

You give a clue when you quote people as saying that "it does the job of the 3x raise, but cheaper".

Implied here is, of course, that it's also cheaper to get away from the hand if you are reraised. Also implied is that the reraiser will not change his strategy.

Against anyone who slips down to 2.4x or below for their raise, I just treat it as a limp. And while a 3x or 4x raise requires a lumpyish investment to reraise properly, a 2.2x raise doesn't require nearly as much. Net result, I can reraise lighter; original raiser folds, thinking that he has got away "cheaply", and I collect a pot with no flop. Rock on.

This isn't "restealing". I will always have a playable hand. But opponent tends to put me on a better range than I really have, because he thinks I am reacting as I would to a 3x raise. Whereas in fact I am not.

If I have a hand that would call a 3x raise in the BB to this kind of bet (2.2x or lower) I like to reraise instead. If I have a hand that I would fold to a 3x raise, then I tend to fold it to a 2.2x or 2x raise.

Of course, the difference between cash and tournaments is the depth of stacks.
nice scoop in the $100 rebuy last night. woop.
Cheers. I'll put the hand history up soon, and see if I can highlight any hands that illustrate the points in this post and the previous one.

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