Monday, September 24, 2007

Sit n Go Strategy - Raising With Any 2 Cards?

Mid-Game Sit N Go Strategy Thoughts Today... seen this come up regularly on forums and wanted to start an in-depth look at.... raising when you intend to fold to a re-raise.

Here is the (common) situation - you have a medium strength hand (well, ok, a little below), say K-J suited... stacks are deep enough that a push is probably not good - say 15 to 18 BBs with BB=100. It is folded to you in the cut-off or the button...

The conventional play here is to raise, hoping to take down the blinds, your plan is to fold if you get re-raised... here then is the question!

If you are raising with the intention of folding to a re-raise why do your cards matter??

If those raising cards are never going to make it to a showdown they might as well be 7/2 off suit right??

Several answers, always several answers... there is just something about the game of poker which makes the answer 'it depends' so often.

Lets look at them one at a time... will continue with maths / detail later in the week.

1) You might get flat-called (nasty - but happens all the time, will have a look at the hands that might flat you and see where we stand against them with a variety of stealing hands)
2) You can not steal the blinds every time - so why not use the 'medium-ness' of the cards as a randomizing factor (why not indeed, but would chosing the first card as a 5,7 or 9 be just as good??).
3) You need to sometimes raise 'light' in order to disguise the times when you raise with a strong holding (could be getting somewhere now...)

There are sub-questions here too - how much to raise? What are the chances of being called / raised (statistically speaking) for different opponents when button or cut-off raising.

Ok, set the scene, will continue these thoughts this week.

Cheers, Mark

Sunday, September 23, 2007

SNG Strategy - Interesting Low Limit ICM Discussion

Quick post today, away in Southern Hungary for the weekend (eating and drinking and not being understood by anybody!)... thought this post on the Card Player forums turned into an interesting SNG Strategy debate about using ICM while playing against people who do not understand ICM...

http://forums.cardplayer.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=52477&postorder=asc

My comments near the bottom of page 2 - thanks for Brandon for flagging this one!

Back home tomorrow and about to post some thoughts about whether your cards matter when raising with 15-18BBs if you would not call a reraise!

Cheers, Mark

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sit N Go Strategy - Inducing The River Bluff

Picked up Super System 2 yesterday - with the inention of re-reading Mike Caro's funny story about the genie who will add to your wins or lessen your losses (funny but very true little piece).

Came across a MCU 'Tip' that caught my eye, actually because it is something that I do all the time - so much in fact that if a regular player were watching closely it would be predictable. (fortunately in SNGs at the $15 to $30 level opponents are not usually paying any attention at all!!).

Here it is in Mike Caro's words... "Don't bet medium-strong hands into a frequent bluffer - checking and calling earns more."

Take an example... you are out of position and flop top pair early, you bet the flop and are called by a single opponent. You bet the turn and are called again.... here if you bet the river it is very possible that you will be called by a hand that beats you, not always but a good proportion of the time. If your opponent is a standard low level SNG player they are very likely to bet the river with a wide range of holdings - so check and let them bet!

Checking the turn in position has exactly the same effect (will get most opponents to bluff the river) the disadvantage of this is that you do not get any more money into the pot.

Top pair is a great hand to turn into a 'bluff catcher' and opponents are usually more than happy to oblige. You'll also have the advantage of avoiding a re-raise or check-raise that might be a bluff and might be a value bet.... top pair is much better as a bluff catcher - consider treating it that way!

Cheers, Mark

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

PLO vs NLHE - Different Skills??

Browsing the forums this morning, came across some interesting thoughts on the skill set differences required between Pot Limit Omaha Strategy and Texas Holdem... here is a summary of some of the best, and a few of my own....

- Mechanical Skills are more important in PLO. Reading the board quickly and accurately is a must, if you miss so much as an unlikely gutshot it can cost you the pot!

- Psychological Resilience a must for PLO players, the swings are bigger due to closer hand values and - well the nature of the game... you'll often be all in with top set vs a draw (or vice versa) with money already in the pot it can be correct for both parties to call.... swing city!

- Understanding that, in PLO, the flop changes everthing

- Understanding that, in PLO, the turn changes everthing

- Understanding that, in PLO, the river changes everthing (liked this one , erm three)

- Since it is more difficult to define exact hands in PLO it becomes very important to understand your opponents actions with certain types of hand. Both pre and post flop... (was planning a separate post on this one)

- In PLO it is sometimes the best move to fold when you flop the nuts!! (again, separate future post)

- Understanding of the different implied odds offered by indivudual opponents according to the situation is important.

- Less stone cold bluffs in PLO and more (and bigger) semi-bluffs, get all in there with that strong draw!!

- Fearlessness is a prerequisite for PLO play... you can not win playing passively

- Less 'trapping' or 'slowplaying' in PLO, this does have a place but the number of possible opponents holdings with 4 cards each make this far more dangerous.... you need to bet your nut hands to balance the times you will be betting your draws.

- Understanding the different pre-flop hand values is a must in PLO... in particular not overplaying those big pairs.

Sure that there are many more... feel free to drop me a comment and add to the list!

Cheers, Mark

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sit N Go Strategy - Flop Texture - Beware Of The 10s'!

Something different to think about today - have had 'flop textures' in the trusty notepad for a while now... so it is time to get the subject started.

We all know that most flops miss most hands right.... something like a 66% chance of missing any one opponent, unless they have a pair in hand then logic suggests that continuation betting (when you miss) is a profitable idea.

Mentioned in previous posts that continuation betting depends on many factors - one of these is the 'texture' of the flop. I.E. How likely is it that any particular flop helped your opponent(s).

High cards are usually a worry, especially in a lower level SNG, aces can be scary too... but there is another card to look out for... a ten!

Why a ten (the readers of Plan3t Gong collectively ask)??

Well the issue we have is straights. A ten connects with more straights than any other card (well a 5 is statistically equal but people are less likely to call with baby cards). It is not the 10 on its own, it is the other cards with it.

Think of it this way, any broadway card with the 10 is likely to have given those 'high-card loving' calling stations either a pair or a straight draw... and 8 or 9 are dangerous too for the same reason.

A 10 on the flop needs to set the alarm bells ringing... if you have a hand then bet enough to make it unprofitable for your opponents to draw. If you have nothing (or a vulnerable hand) then it may be worth taking a free card and making sure this is 'safe' before you make a stab at the pot (reads may change this).... if the flop contains a 10 and you have several opponents then don't even think about it!

Hmmm, just had a thought - must do a post on playing a pair of 10's some time soon!

Cheers, Mark

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Dead Blogs... Blog Links + Blog Purchases!

Online Poker Blogs...

Just a quick post today, back to strategy tomorrow!

1) Dead Blogs

Have trimmed my 'Blogs of Distinction' list a fair amount - mostly due to my '6-week' rule for no posts... little point having dead blogs among the great reads on the list. Have kept all of the links in my favourites and will check them from time to time to see if they are back!

2) Blog Links

Anyone with a quality poker blog is welcome to exchange links - I'm happy to support those new to the blogging world too. Just add my URL to your blogroll with the text 'Online Poker Blog - Plan3t Gong' and then drop me a comment with your details. (no advert-only blogs please!)

3) Blog Purchases

Finally, if you once had a poker blog and have given it up I'd like to buy it from you.... yep cash for dead poker blogs! How much depends on Google Pagerank, the range will be between $20 and $100, poker site transfer or Paypal. Again, drop me a comment with the details and an e-mail address and I'll get back to you.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Poker Psychology... Thoughts

Quick thoughts on poker psychology today, not the he thinks you think he thinks variety - more aimed at the meta-game...

Reading a finance newletter this morning 'John Maudlin's Outside The Box', while I do not always agree with his theses he is one of the great thinkers and always writes thought provoking material (will not bore you all with finance so don't worry!).

Anyway, todays letter was talking about a book called 'The Black Swan - The Impact Of The Highly Improbale' by Nassim Taleb. Sounds like a great read and I'm tempted to buy, here is a quote from it that I would like to relate to poker.

"We humans are the victims of an asymmetry in the perception of random events. We attribute our success to our skills, and our failures to external events outside our control, namely to randomness. We feel responsible for the good stuff, but not for the bad. This causes us to think that we are better than others at whatever we do for a living. Ninety-four percent of Swedes believe that their driving skills put them in the top 50 percent of Swedish drivers; 84 percent of Frenchmen feel that their lovemaking abilities put them in the top half of French lovers." (p. 152)

Wow.

Now if you were to do a poll of online poker players and ask a question like this:

In terms of skill in online poker are you....

- Far Below Average?
- A Little Below Average?
- Average?
- Above Average?
- Far Above Average?

What would you predict the answers to be.... well I'll stick my neck on the line here and suggest that 90% of people would rate themselves as average or better... with probably 75% of those choosing the 'above average' or better categories.

This, of course, can not be true.

The reality is that in order for a proportion of people to be above average we need to have the balance of the below average folks - if we did not then the above average would not exist at all, it would revert back to being 'average'.

So what does this mean in terms of our play at the tables?

- Well, for a start it highlights the phemoninon of the huge number of people you see on forums who imply that they are skillfull yet 'unlucky' - ever read the 'bad beat' pages in most forums (i don't!)

- It explains nicely why people do not bother continually trying to learn and improve their games (plan3t gong readers are usually an exception to this, else they would not be readers right?!?!)

- It explains to some extent why people play tricky / trappy poker (at low limits) and win small pots when they could have won a big one by playing in a more straightforward manner (did some posts on 'ego players' many months ago)

Probably explains many more things too, but I'll leave you to think about them! The point of this post is to get readers asking themselves an important question

'Are you really above average?'

Cheers, Mark

-

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sit and Go Power Tools - What Could Have Been... + ICM Quiz!

ICM Quiz time! Now Plan3t Gong would not be the online poker blog that liked to make people think if there were any answers... so instead my answerless quiz!!

Before we start, was looking through Harrington on Holdem Vol 3 the other day and saw his plug for Sit and Go Power Tools. Fine. I was a happy user for a long while... but let us be honest here, that tool has not changed in a few years... in the meantime a whole new generation of such tools have evolved - going a better job, with more features and often cheaper too!

Strangely enough it almost feels 'wrong' to write about SNGPT negatively, it is like an old familiar aunt! Realistically though, it became a dinosaur, failed to keep up and has been firmly overtaken by my new favorite SNG Wiz (the best ICM calculator)... if you are serious about SNGS then grab yourself the free 30 day trial (link + disclosure at bottom of this post).

So, on with the quiz!!

Question 1:

4 People left, big blind just went up to 400 / 200 Ante 25, stacks before posting look like this:

Player 1 3000
Player 2 (you!) 4000
Player 3 (SB) 2000
Player 4 (BB) 6000

You estimate the range of the SB to be Any Pair, Any Ace, K8s+, Q10o+ and the range of the BB to be a bit tighter at pairs 77+, A8o+, A6s+ KQo and KJs+

- What is the minimum hand that you can profitably (+0.5% or better) shove here??

Question 2:

5 Players left this time, Blinds 200 / 100 with ante 25 again you are on the button with stacks like this

Player 1: 2000
Player2: 3000
Player 3 (you!) 1600
Player 4: 4400
Player 5: 2500

Player 2 limps for 200, you think he could have limped with a wide range of 25% but will only call with the top 10% of hands. Player 4 does not understand ICM / Bubble dynamics and will call with any pair, ace, most kings and Q6s+ as well as a few higher suited connectors. Plater 4 is tight and will only call with aa-1010, Ajo+ and KQs.

Same question again: With what hands can you profitably (+o.5% or more) shove?

Question 3:

Back to 4 players, BB400 Ante 25, this time you are in the big blind, here are the stacks before posting.

Player1: 4000
Player2: 3000
Player3: 3000
Player4 (you!) 3500

Player 2 shoves all-in and player 3 folds. Your estimate is that player 2 (an aggressive bubble player) would push a full 50% of hands here... the question is with what hands can you profitably call??

****

So, thats the end of the quiz - these are very common situations indeed in any online Sit N Go Tournament, so common that there will be several such decisions each game!

While very few people know the exact answers to each question there are many people who can make an estimate with a very small margin of error.

Let me suggest something,

Those players are taking your money.

Slowly, 1% of the prize pool at a time they will end up with the cash.

Each time you make an error of judgement at the bubble it costs real cash, not some hypothetical 'Sklansky Dollars' we are talking hard currency here.

The people who get these decisions right have spent time working through their game with an ICM calculator. They have input real-life questions just like those above and made a note of the amswers. They have done this enough times (20 minutes after each session is plenty) that the common situations are now committed to memory... and you know what, this gives them a huge edge at the table!!

A Plan3t gong suggestion. Get yourself a free 30 day trial of SNG Wizard, go through a couple of hand histories (the software will point out the 'mistakes' for you) and watch your game improve. If you are serious about winning money in SNGs then you had better stop leaking money soon!!

The link below will take you to the SNG Wizard homepage:


The SitNGo Wizard

(Disclosure: If, after the 30 trial ends you buy this tool then your host will get enough cash for 3 beers, 1 and 3/4 packets of cigs or 2 burger king meals*... whoopie)

*based on the stupidly expensive UK Prices.

Cheers, Mark

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Poker Forum Fanatics??!?

Having a busy day so will save my SNG ICM 'Quiz' (with no answers!) until tomorrow.

Read something yesterday that made me raise an eyebrow concerning Pocket5's... they get some great traffic there and seem to be working hard on using it better these days - the thing that caught my eye was that 51% of their daily 'hits' are comprised of just 2% of the visitors... now that is poker forum fanaticism!

Cheers, Mark

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

PLO Cash Game Strategy - Blockers

More thoughts on PLO cash games today... (back to S*N%Gs tomorrow with some ICM questions!)

Wanted to mention an apparent contradiction concerning starting hands and post flop play in Omaha poker cash games...

Pre-flop suitedness is desirable in addition to connectedness... so 4-5-7-8 (a very nice starting hand!) would be considered even better if there were for example 2 hearts and 2 spades.

The contradiction comes because most post-flop advice in Omaha poker emphasises that you should only draw to the nuts (or close to the nuts)...

So, the question becomes why are low suited cards (or in fact any non-ace or king-high) suited cards so desirable before the flop?? After all drawing to an 8-high flush would be PLO poker suicide!!

There are actually 2 answers, the first concerns 'blockers' and the second is more to do with back-door draws and winning by accident! The second part (along with chances of your opponent(s) having some of your outs) is another post for another day. Here I wanted to build on the PLO poker strategy thoughts so far by introducing the concept of blockers and how they might affect your play at the table.

We will go with the 4-5-7-8 hand for an example... 2 hearts and 2 spades.... you raise pre-flop and get 2 callers. The flop then comes down Ks-3s-6d, a great flop for you with the 4 remaining 2's and 6 remaining 4's or 5s giving you a straight + an even bigger number of turn cards that could give you even more outs on the river.

You lead and one opponent sticks in a big re-raise.

Let us look at the scenario where he has one of 2 holdings... either trip kings with no spades or the nut spade flush draw. Do not want to get too mathematical here, there are plenty of software tools available for working out the exact percentages and optimal play... instead let us look at how your holding affects your chances.

1) Opponent has KKK - but no spades, you now have the flush cards as outs (see previous PLO strategy post on 'Kill Cards' here - he has redraws to a full house!)

2) Opponent has the nut flush draw only... He probably thinks he has 9 outs, 2 spades on the board and 2 in his hand mean that there are 49 unseen cards of which 9 are wins.

In both scenarios the spades you hold influence things - if he has the flush draw he actually only has 7 outs and not the expected 9. Thats a reduction of 28% in the chances of him making the hand... your spades have acted as 'Blockers' to his flush.

Suitedness affects hand strength after the flop by reducing your opponents chances of successfully drawing. Now imagine that instead of a draw yourself you have a made hand, trips for example, and you believe your opponent is drawing to a flush that you have 2 (or even 3) blockers for - a great opportunity to get the money in as a big favourite!!

More PLO poker cash game strategy thoughts next week...

GL at the tables, Mark

Monday, September 10, 2007

Thinking About Leaks!

Mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I'd look at my leaks / weaknesses at the table here... the hope is that this provokes some thinking as to what others leaks may be.

Going to frame this post in a positive way, after all the whole point about evolving as a poker player is that you identify your leaks and then work to plug them... so here goes with a list!

1) I have difficulty playing outside my comfort zone... make the stakes too low and I stop caring, make them too high and its the 'rabbit in the headlamps' routine. For this reason no more Sunday Million (or equivalent) tourneys for me - and also no more tourneys <$10(ish). Just never play an A-game in either.

2) I'm actually not a bad hand-reader (one of my strengths!), the leak here is not always acting on my reads... an aggro player raises small and I 'know' my Queens are beat, should really be looking for a small pot - more often end up paying off though. The reads are one thing, having the discipline to work harder on using this information needs some work!

3) Focus on one game... I play SNGs, PLO, NL Cash, Tournaments, 7 Stud and 5 Draw! Great to have a positive expectation in all of them (all be it smaller in some than in others). Also good to hone one's poker skills at a variety of games in some ways. The problem here is that flicking between all of the above makes it far more difficult to get to the 'excellent level' in any one game, plan is to focus on the PLO and SNGs again - these are my most profitable games.

4) Focus again.... on the game in general this time. 100% guilty of the 'poker crime' of having 4 SNGs, 2 PLO tables and 1 of 7-Stud going, surfing the net, chatting on IM, rolling myself a smoke.... I know that this combo is not +ev, yet do it too often. Plan to have 1 game type at a time and focus better!

5) Firing too many barrels!! Definitely have a tendancy to over-commit to hands on some occasions. Off course taking a stab at a pot when nobody has shown an interest is a fine play, but following this up with a 2nd barrel should be reserved for when I have some outs or a genuinely good reason for believing my opponent will fold. Guess this goes with number 2 above - an annoying tendancy to try and force calling stations off of hands!

6) Finally one specific to SNGs - particularly in the lower ($20ish) levels... have a tendancy to underestimate peoples calling ranges (and so over-estimate my shove range). 'Surely a thinking opponent can only call with a monster here....' famous last words when I'm insta-called with A-3 off and end up bubbling. There is no excuse - the evidence that the specific opponent did not understand $ev was there... it is a leak!!

Hope this gets you thinking!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Defining Your Hand Pre-Flop - Reprise

Another post on the subject of defining your hand - that good old error you see again and again where an opponent defines their hand at exactly the same time as giving you perfect odds to outdraw them...

This time a twist - the game is not a Sit N Go but a Satellite (to the 300k Gtd Sunday on Party) 277 people started and we are down to 13 at this point with 9 getting the seat and the next 3 getting small cash prizes.

Table $300K Gtd Sunday Qualifier Rebuy 9 Seats Gtd (1148794) Table #1 (Real Money)Seat 2 is the button
Total number of players :
6 Seat 2: Love_J ( 162,506 )
Seat 5: zmax1979 ( 511,214 )
Seat 7: Plan3t Gong!! ( 273,460 )
Seat 1: ferenc64 ( 223,438 )
Seat 4: vovik01 ( 207,863 )
Seat 3: ANTONY13130 ( 336,749 )
Trny:35422971 Level:16 Blinds-Antes(6,000/12,000 -200)

Comfortable stack but not yet guaranteed a spot (2 tables at this point). Based on reads I had decided not to fight with seat 1 (donk / calling station... really bad and too risky!) or seats 5 and 3 (stacks too big, could easily repush me). Seat 4 was in the BB which I had already decided was a stealing spot... pre flop pot = 19200.

Dealt to Plan3t Gong! [ 7c 7d ]

Great, a little something to steal with!

zmax1979 folds
Plan3t Gong! raises [26,550]
ferenc64 folds
Love_J raises [41,100]
ANTONY13130 folds
vovik01 folds
Plan3t Gong! calls [14,550]

Standard raise of just over 2X (my standard raise that is - others were limping, min-raising or going 3 or even 4 times!!). Now we see a mini reraise!

Quick side note on the mini-raiser, he had been pushing (a lot) when folded to, over limpers, over min-raisers... good play so no problem with that - but the mini-reraise was very unusual.

So it folds back to me and we see a pot of 86850 chips - and only 14500 for me to call... hmmm. Actually said 2 things aloud at this point (other half was with me!!) 'Aces or Kings' quickly followed by "and 6 to 1".

So what had my opponent done - he had defined his hand to a very narrow range (based on his previous behaviour and his mini-reraise) then given me perfect odds to outdraw him (ok well I'd need 8/1 but realistically we get at least a half pot out of the hands he holds and quite possibly his entire stack).

So I make the call.... ** Dealing Flop ** [ 4d, 9d, 7h ]

Say no more. This is not mean't to be a 'lucky me I spiked a set' post, the idea is to re-enforce the previous idea about these mini-reraises.... will say it one more time:

Do not 'define your hand' and then give your opponent(s) the correct odds to outdraw you.

Just don't do it.

(Love_J shows [ Ad, Ah ]a pair of Aces.)

Ever.

(Player Love_J finished in 12 place)

GL at the tables! Mark

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Sit N Go Strategy - Bigjoe2003 and Limping!

Lucky enough this week to watch a couple of Bigjoe2003 SNG training videos over on SNGicons, took a look at some of the lower limit (stars 16s / 27s / 35s (ish) level. First impressions were good, Bigjoe2003 takes the time to talk through his hand reading and seems to have a good sense of humor too.

Not going to go into detail of his strategy here, just comment one particuar first impression - BigJoe is not adverse to limping - particularly early.

Do not often limp myself, small pairs in late position or medium ones in early-mid-position during the early blind levels yes - but the kind of hands Bigjoe2003 limped (even open limped) are the A-J suited, A-Q off variety, even a K-Q if I recall correctly. These are the kind of hands I ditch early and raise aggressively with in the mid-game.... but hey, Bigjoe is a far better SNG player than me - so what can we learn from this?

Not actually sure for now - will try to mix in a few more limps and see how it goes, when playing 6+ tables this is a bit of a hassle (actually trying to avoid too many post-flop decisions!). On the other hand it avoid those situations where you raise 3 or 4 times the blind, get flatted, miss and have to fold to a reraise of your continuation bet!!

Will conclude by saying I'll post some more thoughts on bigjoe2003's SNG strategy as I have the time to see a couple more vids - in the meantime.... if limping is good enough for bigjoe, then it is good enough for me!

Cheers, Mark

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Pot Limit Omaha Cash Game Strategy - Balance Those Raises

Back to Pot Limit Omaha Strategy for today's post... quick note here, was writing about Omaha s*n-g%s and found that my coveted Google searches contained text about Omaha for terms that NLHE players would be searching for... so I left the Omaha for a while to get things back to normal there!!

Anyway, todays thought is not specific to any one format, equally valid for Omaha cash games, PLO tournaments or the 0ne table tournaments that shall not be named (in this post at least).
Sticking to the basics and building blocks theme. Today the thoughts are about Pre-Flop Raising In PLO Game Strategy...

Going to start with an 'extreme', yet something you should be able to spot at the tables all the time. The PLO player who only ever raises pre-flop with aces!

Spot one of these and you have an instantly profitable situation. They will fold most hands, call or limp with some strong 4-card holdings and then *bam' suddenly stick in a pot-sized raise. This breaks one of the 'golden rules' of any form of poker - defining your hand (telling obsevant opponents what you hold) at exactly the same time as giving your opponents the right odds to outdraw you!

If you spot an aces-only raiser then call, every time with anything but the worst hands. If you hit 2 pairs+ or an unlikely straight the likelihood is that your reward will be the ace-only-raiser's entire stack... experienced PLO players know that an overpair is not worth building a big pot with (though a perfectly good hand to semi-bluff from position - particularly with other draws), the kind of player who only raises aces will not!

The key factor:

- No hand is that much of a favourite pre-flop in Omaha... it is a post flop game. - Since you know your opponents hand you can get away cheaply when you miss.

Of course there are variations on these opponents, some people will raise with KK (even 3-bet with them sometimes) while others will raise all sorts of hands (up to 80% in some extreme cases).

If you want to raise your aces pre-flop in Pot Limit Omaha then you must raise other hands too... must, must, must. Great candidates are 4-card hands such as 8-9-10-J or even 5-6-7-8, double suited hands containing high cards A-K-10-8 with 2 suits to the A and K is a strong holding, even 2 pair holdings on occasion to mix up your play.

You want to build a pot when you have the advantage, if you define your hand by only ever raising aces you are actually building in such a way as you'll lose the pot when it gets big and win it when your opponents miss and it is small... and that is not how you make profits in poker!!

So todays thought is to make sure you have a balanced raising strategy in pot limit omaha poker, raising those strong hands is fine (and in fact necessary - otherwise you give opponents the opportunity to limp all kinds of speculative hands without fear of a raise from you) what you need to avoid is giving away too much information about your hand when you do raise!

Cheers, Mark

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

2 Table SNG Strategy - Any-2 Will Do!

A simple yet interesting hand came up in a 'friendly' tournament on Sunday with the readers of the UK Motley Fool website. No hand history so this will be from memory - the reason it stuck in my mind was that someone called me a fish! (been playing poker long enough never to worry about that - just did not understand why the play was not clear cut in my this opponent's mind as well as mine... which of course got me thinking that this might be worth sharing here in case others miss these opportunities!).

Its the last table of a 2-table tournament - blinds have got to 200 / 100 with a 25 ante - 8 handed so the pre-flop pot was 500 chips. My stack is just over 3400 after posting when it is folded to me in the Small Blind - the guy in the Big blind has 900 left after posting. This guy was desperate, but not yet on the 'critical list' so I figured he would call my raise with around top 25% of hands... to include a margin of error we will instead go with a top 33% - a pretty wide range!

So I shoved.

Wait a minute - astute readers might ask... what hand did you have??!?

It does not matter (though I'll tell you at the end!).

Here are the critical factors - if I lose the hand I still have over 2500 chips, not great but good enough to continue. If I win then I have >4400 putting me in a position to apply pressure to some of the shorter stacks at the table.

So let us run the hand 100 times... (using Chip-ev not $ev... as bubble was some way off)
67 times my opponent folds and I get the 500 chip pot.
33 times he calls - and my random hand would have almost 40% equity... we will work with my actual hand instead which was less than average and would have had 35% winning chances.

11 times I win and pick up 1400 chips
22 times I lose, minus 900 more chips.

So the maths looks like this (67*500)+(11*1400)-(22*900)/100 = Net Gain of 291 chips per attempt. A nice profit and a clear 'any-2 shove' given the circumstances.

Of course the less experienced players might see shoving junk as 'fishy' but they are not the kind of people who try to spot and exploit profitable situations at the table (and almost certainly not the kind of person who reads Plan3t Gong!!).

My holding? 9-8 off suit... even better than random as it is not easily dominated by the majority of peoples calling ranges - he called with Q-8 suited and was unlucky that I caught my 9... but that's poker!

Cheers, Mark

Monday, September 03, 2007

SNG Strategy - Playing Ragged Flops From The Blinds

Crazy week over - this week should see me back to the usual daily musings... have a healthy list of things to make readers think about in the trusty notepad too!

Today the subject is playing ragged flops out of the blinds in limped pots - early in a SNG particularly. Not going to happen every game - but then again anything that is worth a few chips is worth the time to think about!

Here is the scenario - you are in the BB with a couple of limpers - say its early in the game and the BB is 60. Your cards do not matter here (we will assume you missed the flop). So, the flop comes rags 2-4-7 of 3 suits for example... what to do?

- There is an argument for betting here of course, most opponents tend to play high cards and this flop will likely have missed them. Are your opponents capable of thinking that this is the kind of flop that might have hit a BB who checked?

- An alternative line is to check and call a small bet, hoping for a 'scare card' on the turn. After all there are plently out there... anything that pairs the board (9 outs) a 3 or 5 or 6 (12 more) would also do the trick.... thats a lot of cards! Again we are working with the assumption that your opponent will realise what you are representing (and not call with a missed A-J off anyway!).

- The 3rd line is to check and fold if someone bets (in fact this is probably the best line most of the time), but bet out on one of the 'scare cards' on the turn.

Well, a balanced SNG strategy involves all sorts of small things like this one!

Cheers, Mark