Cash games: Possibly too level-headed

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And now a word about a game you'll never play

I haven't put in much time at the tables these last couple of weeks, largely due to writing, running errands and being lazy (okay, not in that order.) When I've been playing, it's usually been what I charitably call "WCOOP preparation" - games that nobody plays. I've won a fair bit in triple draw and 5 card draw sats, but those are so esoteric I don't even think they have a future on Stars. Primarily, I've been trying to get better at razz.

Currently, I think I'm somewhere between breakeven to a small winner at the top regularly running (ie, 10/20 to 30/60) games online. I have a few midsized to big leaks on third street, mostly because I'm still looking for the optimal amount of raising to do - position is much more important in this game than it looks, but it's hard to say exactly what you should raise vs. fold UTG. But I'm winning, or at least not losing, anyway, because the amount of basic errors people make in this game is incredible. (If you're at all interested in it, you should get Sklansky on Poker - the only really decent book on razz - just to get a sense of what I'm talking about.) They call fourth in pots that were *limped* (not even completed) on third when they hit a king vs. a low card; they check very dangerous looking boards when they pair up on sixth, then make hopeless bluffs on the end; they loosen up shorthanded and play tighter in full ring, when the right play is actually the goes on.

Enough about bad players, though. The reason I'm writing this entry is because razz on FTP (but not on Stars!) has a feature/play you should be using a lot in MTT's and cash. It's simple and easy to do, and I think FTP razz trains you to do this in other games as well. Specifically, against decent to good razz players on FTP, you should very often "bluff call" on the button on third street when you have a low card showing heads up, and especially if you have two low cards (even if the third is terrible or a pair).

The reason for this and the math behind it is simple. FTP has high antes, so that you're always getting great odds on a call in all of their razz games, and good razz players know that when they catch a T-K and you catch a decently low card, they should just fold to a bet in a heads up pot. This will happen about 1 in 3-4 times depending on the dead cards, so against somebody who knows this, heads up at a full table, the play will almost automatically show a profit. Furthermore, FTP mixes up your 3 hole cards (including the river card), so if they do call and you wind up somehow seeing a showdown, unless the cards are 555 or something else really ridiculous, they will likely assume that you started with a decent 3 card hand and just caught a brick on the river. To play optimally on FTP's razz tables, you must frequently do this - and that's a play that transfers right over to calling weak hands on the button vs. generic ABC TAGs and floating some flops in NL. It's like a built in aggression trainer that makes you free money, and as a bonus, you get to be forced to pay attention to the people that actually know to fold fourth - ie, read your opponents :)

Fun fact: Since Stars does *not* do this, it's easier to tell who's terrible, since calling 6Q3 on 3rd stands out. The contrast between the play at the two sites is very enlightening - just that one rule change makes the game play completely differently, and Stars actually plays way more aggressively because (I believe) people zero in on the clueless and isolate them with raises that much faster and more effectively.

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