Archive Sep 2007: nath

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A great hand that illustrates several key concepts

From yesterday's PokerStars Sunday Million. Villain is unknown.

PokerStars No-Limit Hold'em Tourney, Big Blind is t600 (9 handed) Hand History Converter Tool from FlopTurnRiver.com (Format: 2+2 Forums)

saw flop|saw showdown

SB (t31052)
BB (t35813)
UTG (t29700)
UTG+1 (t19400)
MP1 (t28360)
Hero (t27246)
MP3 (t12775)
CO (t7727)
Button (t11100)

Preflop: Hero is MP2 with 9, 9.
UTG raises to t1200, 2 folds, Hero calls t1200, 4 folds, BB calls t600.

Flop: (t3900) 5, 4, 2 (3 players)
BB checks, UTG bets t3600, Hero calls t3600, BB folds.

Turn: (t11100) 2 (2 players)
UTG bets t4800, Hero calls t4800.

River: (t20700) A (2 players)
UTG checks, Hero bets t17646 (All-In), UTG folds.

Final Pot: t20700

OK... now you're probably wondering why I took a line that seems really weird and determined to get as much of my money in the pot as possible while behind. And I'm going to show you why it works here. Let's look street by street.

Preflop: Hero is MP2 with 9, 9.
UTG raises to t1200, 2 folds, Hero calls t1200, 4 folds, BB calls t600.

So this is the most straightforward street in the whole hand. A minraise is indicative of everything and nothing; mostly, it tells me my opponent is probably a clown. It doesn't do a whole lot to define his hand, though. Some players love to minraise their big hands to try to induce action on them. Some like to minraise hands they want to see cheap flops with, in hopes the minraise discourages a reraise. FWIW, I think both are pretty terrible, and if you consistently do one or the other you have a huge hole in your game. I try to blend my raise sizes so as to make my hand difficult to read.

Anyway, having said all that, I elect to just call with 99 because I have no idea what my opponent has; if I reraise and he folds, I win a relatively small pot, but if he 4-bets me, I have to fold, and I've wasted a chance to win a big pot. So I decide to call and proceed postflop. The BB comes along because he's getting 5.5:1 and closing the action, not because he necessarily has much.

Flop: (t3900) 5, 4, 2 (3 players)
BB checks, UTG bets t3600, Hero calls t3600, BB folds.

Here's where it starts to get interesting. Making a pot size bet here is often indicative of an overpair. Here's the catch: I still beat a few of the overpairs. In addition, some people panic with their AK/AQ hands when they miss here and just start firing big bets in hopes of scaring away an opponent. On this board, AK/AQ has an additional four outs against underpairs. This increased equity makes betting and getting it in with AK here really not that bad a play.

It's also the big reason I don't make a move at the pot now. Some people see "overpair" and think "I have to protect my hand". Having seen him make a big bet at the pot now, I know my opponent likes his hand, but I don't know exactly what he has. It's too likely my hand is good to fold here, but he also has an overpair far too often to make raising and getting the money in profitable. I feel as if I get it in, it's going to be as a 60-40 favorite or a 90-10 dog. I don't mind getting it in as a 60-40 favorite, especially in a tournament like the Million, whose field size I feel dictates a faster style of play, a more "race to the finish line" approach-- but I get it in drawing to the two nines way too often to want to push now. So I call and decide to reevaluate based on the turn. The BB folds, and I never considered him to be much of a factor anyway.

Turn: (t11100) 2 (2 players)
UTG bets t4800, Hero calls t4800.

The deuce doesn't change anything. Neither of us has a deuce and we both know that. Now, his turn bet is interesting-- he bets just under 1/2 pot, which seems weak, but which also sets him up for a pot-sized river shove if I call. (By the way, if you aren't thinking about manipulating pot and stack sizes like this when you size your bets, you are making a mistake.) For my part, the price is too good to fold an overpair-- but still, my hand is not good enough to raise. I suspect some time he has an overpair to mine, some time he still has AK/AQ (the bet size is actually an effective size to block-bet a draw and see if he hits it), and rarely, he has a worse overpair than mine. So considering most of his range as TT-KK and the other major part of it as AK/AQ*, I call again.

* - I don't include AA here, not because it's impossible, but because it's a special case. He has the best of both worlds, and I'm screwed; the river is basically irrelevant because he's shoving all of them. I also considered 66-88 unlikely, though not impossible.

River: (t20700) A (2 players)
UTG checks, Hero bets t17646 (All-In), UTG folds.

Wow. This is such an interesting card. All his ace hands got there, and all his overpair hands just got scared shitless. This is the beauty of position-- I can use his action to judge what he has. Since he has a pot-sized bet left, he's going to have to shove for value if he hit his ace (or his 33, or if he was already full, or what have you).

He checks.

Now, many, many players' immediate reaction would be to check, thinking that "Oh, either he had me already, or he hit that ace. And he's not calling with a worse hand, and we have a pair, so let's check and hope we win the showdown."

They're wrong.

When he checks, he's completely vulnerable. We each have less than the size of the pot left (he has me barely covered), and if we have anything reasonable, we're pot committed. The only reason not to put in the rest of the money here is if we think, for some specific reason, that a scare card has helped so much of our opponents' range, that we should give up. Trapping would be absurd at this point for villain, given that I should be calling his push with anything reasonable, having gotten this far.

So when he checks, it's not to trap, it's because that ace scares the crap out of him and he will fold to a shove.

And-- this is important-- we should realize that this swings all the Ax hands and 33/44/55 out of his range, and makes his range overwhelmingly overpairs. So his range consists primarily of hands that will beat ours at showdown, but cannot call all-in.

Knowing this, we should move in as a bluff. The fact that he didn't move in already gives us all the reason in the world to. He's announced to us that he is scared of the ace, and he is hoping we will let him show down his hand. So we have to disappoint him.

On a side note, the stack sizes are really excellent for this move. We each have slightly less than the pot left (I have 17.5k and he has 20k in a 20k pot). Which means that an all-in bet can be interpreted as a "normal" bet size. (Moving all-in here for, say, four times the pot would be considered "abnormal".) Because of that, it makes our opponent less likely to suspect that we are bluffing; we could simply be trying to get every dollar possible out of our hand. It puts him in a pretty terrible spot, since from his perspective we could easily have the AK/AQ/33. We certainly wouldn't check those behind on the river. So it's very unlikely that villain is good one time in three, and he folds.

Now, at the table, this process is much quicker, and is occasionally guided by intuition-- you don't always have the time to think out, in words, why a move will work; you "know" it. While it's good to have sound, logical reasons for your moves, it's more important to trust your intuition-- it's a part of you, and it works on what you have learned, too. In the heat of the moment, it's taking all your experience and skill and training and leading you to the right decision. If you have prepared it for the moments you need it, it will not let you down. Work on your logic away from the tables, and study and review and prepare your theory, so that your instincts have the background they need to make the right decision. Trust yourself to learn the game.

I will say that bluff-shoving the river hadn't entered my thought process until the river hit, and the villain thought for a bit and checked. Then it occurred to me that he couldn't call a push, so I pushed-- it wouldn't have really mattered what I had, but I was definitely swayed by the relative weakness of my hand. (If I had, say, KK, I might have checked behind-- or pushed for value.)

But that's another point of this hand-- you have to be able to adapt your decision-making process each time new information comes to light. Even though you have a plan for a hand, something may change which will cause you to abandon that, because you realize an alternate line is more profitable. Online, the pace is fast, so you need to be quick mentally. Live, you always have an opportunity to think through a hand. Online, you have much shorter time limits and may be multitabling as well, so being quick on your feet is just as important as being sound on your feet.

So to recap today's lesson:

a)Be alert to your hand strength relative to your opponent's range, not just to the board, or in the absolute sense
b)Don't be afraid to turn a made hand into a bluff
c)Don't be afraid to change plans in the middle of the hand, as you gather information
d)Be a quick thinker
e)Trust yourself

my first day back at the tables

Was a success! I turned a nice day's profit, mixing in some 2/4 and 3/6 NL with some 30/60 limit. I think the lion's share of the money was made at limit, but I turned a tidy profit at NL as well.

I didn't play too many tables, so I don't feel like I'm in "grinding" mode yet. When I move in for good, I'll finally get a desktop setup, which should allow me to settle into multitabling nicely.

Just nice to come back with a win. Probably only going to play sporadically for the next week or so.
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