Sunday, March 23, 2008

Push / Fold Poker - A Look At 'Robust Hands'

Today's post could refer to SNG or MTT play when short stacked. Those times you need to shove in all your chips to steal the blinds (and maybe antes) will happen to us all at some point.

My thought is this: There is a distinction between the hands you'd want to shove with 7 to 10 BBs in your stack compared to a 3 or 4 BB stack... of course, any hand looks good when folded to and extra short - this example will really be used as a counter-balance to the slightly higher stacked hand selection criteria!

When super-short it is the 'hot and cold' value that counts, since you have no ability to make people fold then all you need to know is how well your hand does in a showdown against random holdings (best case scenario that the BB calls you!). When less short you do have fold equity... now you should be more concerned with how well your hand does when called... that is the 'robustness' of your holding.

** An aside... why all in? Many new players miss this - so a quick aside worthwhile.... you have 8 times the big blind in your stack late in a tournament and pick up a hand which you decide to play... if you now raise 3 times the big blind, the pot (with blinds and antes) may well be 5 * the blind already - someone now chooses to re-raise you all-in! You are now faced with a pot of 15 times the blind and it costs you 5 to call.... well those are giant pot odds... in fact there is no hand against a reasonable re-raising range that you can justify folding when getting 3/1.... so, assuming you would rather not 'gamble' for all of your chips why not just shove your whole stack in to maximise your chances of winning the blinds and antes uncontested? **** (end of aside!)

So, continuing with the 8 BBs scenario - we have lost any resteal fold equity and the ability to raise without becoming committed.... it is push / fold time.... here is where the distinction between robust and vulverable hands may make a few more chips over time...

When we shove from late position the vast majority of the time we are hoping to steal the blinds and antes uncontested. Those times we are called the key element is going to be the strength of our hand against the calling range of our opponent.

This is different from the 'hot and cold' rating - Q7o is the 'middle' of this ranking, but only when compared to a random hand 1000000's of times. When our tournament is on the line then the key factor is not how well we do against a random hand at all - but how well we do against the range of hands that might call us.

An example....

Folded to us in the C/O, we shove expecting to get called (1 place only) by 66+, A10+ and KQo+

((This is probably too tight a range for most lower buy-in MTTs but illustrates a point.))

So we take 2 hands which each have a similar 'hot and cold' percentage against random hands, and see how they do against our calling range:

Vulnerable Hand: K60 - (Hot and cold = 54.1%)
Robust Hand: 9-10s - (Hot and cold = 54.0%)

K-6o % wins when called by range above = 29.5%
9-10s % wins when called by range above = 36%

Well, this should not be a big suprise to many readers... however it is certainly something to think about those times we find ourselves short in the later stages of tournaments... the key factor is that the less likely to be dominated by our opponents calling range the better... so medium connected and suited cards do better than ace-small hands and king-small hands.

Next week has been declared 'part #2' week here at Plan3t Gong - to clear up as many of the outstanding posts as possible... drop by again soon!

Gl at the tables, Mark

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