Saturday, December 29, 2007

Why I Suck At Limit Hold'em

I snuck out of work early yesterday to play 3-6 hold'em at Casino Arizona. I finished down $127. This is probably my 6th or 7th losing session in a row playing 3-6.

Part of it is just bad luck. My second hand of the day, I turned the nut straight and got 4 bets in only to see the 6 of spades fall on the river which made the spade flush for one all in player and the full house for the player I went four bets with on the turn. I was smart enough to recognize the situation and check call the river.

After that hand, I went on a kind of tilt where you lose your patience to wait for good hands and feel compelled to bluff in spots that are impossible to win.

In no particular order here are the things I have been doing wrong.

1. Playing medium strength hands in early position. I have been limping with JTs or suited Aces in early position. I am usually hoping that everyone limps behind me to build a multiway pot. However, there are enough occasions where I am getting raised and end up putting 2 bets in preflop and having to fold on the flop when I miss. Or worse, I call 2 bets preflop and then flop a long shot draw that I have the odds to chase after checking and getting 10-1 to call. Although the flop calls are probably slightly positive EV, I am leaking too much from the preflop action.

2. Bluffing way too much. I am consistently playing high cards for a raise preflop and getting 2+ callers. I miss the flop and it's checked to me in position. I am betting too much of the time. I keep hoping for some folds but I am not getting any. I just ran a quick poker odds calculation with me holding AKo and the flop coming random undercards. Let's assume I raised preflop so there are 5.5 bets after the rake in the pot. I gave one opponent middle pair and the other top pair. So on the flop top pair is 58% to win. My overcards are 21% to win. One bet divided by 6.5 = 15.3%. From an EV point of view, my bet is still positive. Barely. This does not take into account the times I get check raised. Now it's two bets divided by 10 (assuming another .5 in rake).

I believe I have read in some books that it is better to pass up some slightly positive EV situations early in the hand to bet on the bigger ones on the turn. If I hit the Ace on the turn I go to a 76% favorite on the big bet streets.

Another common example is 4 players in the pot. I have AK and one player hits bottom pair, one has a straight draw, and the other has a flush draw. I also gave one of the players an Ace. Now I am only 12% to win on the flop. Now if I give myself a King on the turn which gives two players two different flush draws, I become a 42% favorite.

I will no longer be betting on the flop in this game unless I have something.

3. Playing too many hands. This I am not entirely sure about. The conventional wisdom says that if the game is very loose, that you should play very tight. If you hit top pair with a good kicker you may get paid off by middle pair and top pair with a lousy kicker. It seems like these premium hands come around so rarely and get cracked so often in multiplayer pots that it may make sense to play some weaker Aces and Kings and out play your opponents on the flop and turn. I have yet to find the happy medium.

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