Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Let's Review What I've Learned Lately

It seems like a good time to write down some of the things I have learned lately. They aren't exactly earth shattering, but they are nuggets I would like to remember down the road.

1. Seldom bet a hand that seems average for the situation.

This is stolen from an article by Mike Caro in Bluff Magazine. The explanation is below.

This practice of betting medium hands drives me crazy. Listen. When your hand seems about average for the situation - right in the middle of what would be defined as a good hand or a bad hand - you should almost never bet. The few exceptions tend to center around wanting to stay on stage and maintain the pressure. This especially happens in 7-Card Stud, when if you're the previous bettor, pairing your board might drive an opponent out on the next bet, even if you have the worst hand. But, in general, it's unwise to bet middle hands. There - it's simple and I said it. There's almost never a motive to bet a medium hand. You can bet weak hands for posturing or as a bluff, and you can bet strong hands hoping to be called. But medium hands are the perfect hands to check.
I'll prove it. Suppose you played poker with only three cards: an ace, a king, and a queen. You shuffle and deal a single card each to an opponent and to yourself. You have each anted and now you look at your card and decide whether to bet. Well, if you have a queen, you must have the worst hand; but you might bet, hoping to bluff a king. Obviously an ace would call. And if you have an ace, you might bet hoping a king would call. Obviously a queen wouldn't call. But what would be the purpose in betting a king - the middle hand? No purpose at all. You'd get called when an ace beat you and never get called when you were the best hand against a queen. Betting this middle hand would be foolish. And that's what I want you to remember, because the same concept applies throughout poker.

2. A Wide Reraising Range preflop can be profitable in No Limit

This may be different at higher levels, but at the .10-.25 blind and .25-.50 blind level I seem to get a lot more folds than I thought I would. If an early opponent raises to 1.00 and I raise in position to $3, I get a fold over 50% of the time. So that is $3 to win $1.35.
Let's also assume when I get called the other 50% I win a pot of $5 half the time and lose a pot of $4 the other half. Here's the math.

50% * 1.35 = .67
25% * 5 =1.25
25% * -4 = -1
Total +0.92

I know this does not take into account the few times when someone puts in the 3rd raise against me. This happens very rarely. I tend to think that when it does, I either throw my hand away, or I have Aces or Kings and I call and win a huge pot. It probably evens out in the end.

I stumbled across this strategy after getting frustrated by my opponents constantly folding to my preflop raises with Aces and Kings. I can get players to loosen up by raising a lot of hands, but it's very tough to establish an image online because players are changing over so fast. This discovery also led me to my next epiphany.

3. A pair of Aces or Kings is still a below average hand by the river.

Playing high pair hands in No Limit is really an art form. They consistently win small pots and lose big pots. I really think the key to making money with them is not to maximize your wins, but to minimize your losses. Here's an example from last night.

My first hand at the table I post a .25 blind in late position. The table is 6 handed. I am dealt Kd Kc. Utg calls .25 and I raise to 1.50. Rushure calls from the small blind and Pcon23 calls from the Big Blind. The utg limper folds.

So $5 in the pot and the flop is 8d 8c Qh. This is a good flop. Maybe someone called with Ace-Queen. I doubt someone smooth called with Aces. I doubt someone has an 8. It's checked twice to me and I bet $3. Hopefully it's big enough to fold a naked Ace but small enough for a pair of Queens to come along. Rushure calls and Pcon23 folds.

So $11 in the pot and the turn is Ac. Rushure checks. I don't like the Ace. If someone called with Ace-Queen, I am nearly dead. If the weak Queen called, he may fold to another bet. So there is nothing to be gained from betting here. I check it through.

The river is a 2c. So a flush got there, but I doubt that's much of a probability. A lot of times, the check through on the turn will encourage a river bluff. If the bet is not too high, I am usually willing to call it. Rushure bets $5. I call.

Rushure turns over pocket Queens for a full house on the flop. I feel like I lost the minimum on this hand which was $9.50. Now if Rushure had led out on the flop for a small amount, I probably would have raised him. Then he could have called and checked the turn. He may have got more out of me that way.

The point is that I would have lost a lot more money 2 months ago in this hand, because I would have been ready to push in with the overpair on that flop.

4. Do not raise the underbettors on a draw

Every strategy post I read on the message boards seems to recommend playing your 8 out and higher draws very aggressively. They say it helps you get paid off on your good hands and sometimes with a straight or flush draw and overcards, you are actually a favorite. However, I have found this strategy does not work against the weak timid players.

Let's say I flop an open ended straight draw with $3 in the pot on the flop. A "Underbettor" bet's .50 into me. Some would recommend a raise because it's a weak looking bet. I don't like that and here's why. The "Underbettor" will bet small when he has a monster or when he has nothing. If he has a monster, I am more than willing to take my favorable pot odds and draw to my own monster. If I hit, I will stack him. If I miss, I lose the minimum. If I raise the bet to $3, I may win a small pot, but I will lose a big pot if he doesn't fold.

I realize that just calling small bets screams out that I have a draw. Luckily the "Underbettor" does not seem to consider my cards, only the ones in his hand.

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