Friday, June 06, 2008


What We Have Learned So Far

Firstly, today it really wouldn't have taken long to find out how loose the table was just by observation. It's nice to come out firing straight away sometimes, but against a bunch of unknowns with a 60BB starting stack, as we saw it only takes two hands of raise/cbet/fold and there's a quarter of your stack gone. I could have given it 10 minutes before trying to be the table captain.

Secondly, I don't think my limping strategy with 20BBs was correct. Even in the first level, once I found out the score I was limping and trying to flop in a few hands. In a situation where you don't want to be heads up with a total calling station who won't respect the c-bet (especially out of position), it's best (especially with Ace-big) to raise smaller, try to engineer a 3 or 4 way pot, and then full steam ahead when you flop good, check/fold when you don't. I did play a couple of 3-way pots with AK in the first level, which is going to be very profitable over time with this line-up, I just missed them both. With the AJs it would have been better to make it 250, which is still liable to be called in 2 or 3 spots, and then play for stacks on a good flop. This is fine with 20BBs when the downside of a cooler flop is much less. Deeper, you don't need to do this because just folding the flop costs you less compared to what you can win, and also you’re giving people implied odds with the small raise. It’s more or less an SPR (Stack/Pot ratio) thing, like in that 2+2 Professional NL book. Anyway, in the event, having limped, I couldn't really complain that the button flopped trips when it could just as easily have been the blinds.

In effect, this leads to a “Plan B” style of play. Plan A is normal sort of TAG, like I played in the $2K on a tight table. Larger open-raises, smaller auto c-bets and take more than our share when we miss the flop. In a looser game, and with smaller stacks, the emphasis shifts from winning more pots to making pots larger when you win them. This is done by, paradoxically at first, raising smaller pre-flop and hoping to pick up more than one caller. Now, if we hit the flop 1 in 3 (with at least 2 callers), even if we play completely straightforwardly and never get any action on a hit, we’re breaking even. When we do hit, there are more opponents to either catch a second best hand or just call us with some garbage because that’s what they do. When we miss, we can check-fold with more confidence that this is the right play.

This has to be carefully weighed against stack sizes. The optimum is about 30BB. Say it’s 50-100 and we have 3K chips. Raise to 250, get 2 callers, the pre-flop pot is around 800 and SPR is 4. Now we can commit with top pair and if someone donked into two pair or better (or donks into it on later streets), then we don’t mind because they wouldn’t have had implied odds pre-flop. In my AJ v 84 case, if anyone had called 8% of stacks pre flop and then hit J44, fine, keep trying that. And they might well have done, the geezer who had the 84 in the event was only still in because he called 20% pre with 98o and hit trips with that (against two opponents who both made top pair). That’s the kind of luck some of these guys need just to keep up.

A corollary to all this is that we don’t want to blast people out of the pot pre-flop with big hands, whether paired or unpaired, by reraising. One hand I didn’t mention below was when I had AA in the blinds, facing a cut-off raise. I made it 650 out of my 2K stack in order to set up a flop jam. But there was really no need to do that. I could have just called, SPR around 5, and let him hang himself. When people are doing horrible things like overbetting 2x pot and calling down with third pair no kicker when there are 4 hearts on board, you want to see flops with them. And when the stacks are relatively short like this there’s absolutely no reason not to.

One point to note about the Hansen book, which is all about the "Plan A" style of taking down a lot of uncontested pots, albeit you would hardly call it TAG, is that he pretty much always (I don't have it to hand right now) had more than 50BB in his stack. I wonder if Gus would play differently with less than 30. I suspect he'd actually be jamming and re-jamming a lot rather than trying to do what I'm saying above, but it would at least be interesting.

Thirdly and finally, after all that, a penny suddenly dropped when I was playing an STT just now as to how I used to play these things before I put so much time in online. There's next to no point trying to steal blinds until you're short enough to pushbot. Wait for your hands, try to get them paid off by keeping people in for the flop, mix in the odd re-jam with a medium pair, and just push push push when the blinds are high. I went out of another one this evening with AT blind vs button 25 BB deep when I just couldn't bring myself to fold it to a button raise, and ended up allin v AK again, skjdnfksjdhb. It's a different game. Fold and outplay them later, lol. Just for once, that's pretty close to correct.

Top stuff Andy. The "Style A" vs "Style B" has a big relevance in cash games, but I haven't read anyone mentioning the dichotomy. I particularly like this "raise smaller to build bigger pot" paradox. I've been experimenting with smaller raises (3x from EP to Button, plus a proportion of limps with a wide range of hands), just to get some post-flop action going beyond the standard heads-up CB or not CB situation.

Clearly with multi-wayers you worry about position more, particularly against shorter stacks (OOP against a shortish stack heads up isn't that worrying, in my view, because he has made his mistake pre-flop by calling you).

It's all stack size, stack size, stack size....

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