Thursday, May 25, 2006

NL Strategy Rule #1

My NL Strategy Rule #1 is don't overvalue top pair.

Sadly, I violated that many times tonight and dropped half a buy-in over 2.5 hours of $50 NL 6-max (one table). In all honesty, I tilted a bit too. While $23 is only a tiny amount, if I want to break into higher NL I need to get rid of this simple leaks. I lost $24 with one pair hands according to poker tracker. Just following rule #1 would have made me winner.

Probably the majority of the money was succombing to calling bets on the river with a weak top pair. Of course, many times the mistake was on the flop, and it just put me in a bad river spot. For instance (all hands at $50 NL on Stars):

Hand 1: After raising pre-flop I end up out of position with QJo, flop is T52 rainbow, and my continuation bet is called. At the turn the pot has ~$9 with effective stacks of $30. The turn comes J (two clubs) and I check-call a $4.50 bet. River is offsuit A, and I check call $6.50 into an $18 pot to see a set of tens. I was very close to a fold on the river -- but I didn't.

There was very little I could beat -- any two broadway cards had me beat (except QT and KT, but I doubt they'd value bet). Plus, my turn play is suspect -- why didn't I lead out w/ top pair? At least then I have a better idea of where I am. Moral: Fold weak pairs to turn and river bets behind me that look like they're meant to be called. One pair is rarely good especially with a dangerous board. Bonus Moral: if I can't reasonably beat anything that would value bet, just fold even if the odds are better than 3 to 1.

Hand 2: Three players see a flop of Kd 8s 6s and a pot of $6. I'm on the pre-flop raiser on the button w/ KQo. Effective stack was $13. Action goes check, bet $1.50, and I raise to $5. UTG insta-pushes, initial raiser folds, and I insta-call. UTG had a set of 6s.

At the time I was in tournament mode -- I have to call the short stack's all-in because I was committed. But, although I was getting better than 3 to 1, what is going to check-raise in that spot? Flush draw? Doubt it. KJ? No way, they'd lead out. I was most likely against a set or two pair. Even against 8s over 6s, I may barely be getting 3 to 1 -- so actually I didn't have the odds to call. Plus, my read on the guy was very tight -- next to 0% that he would even semi-bluff. Moral: Take time to consider my read, my odds, and put the two together. If in doubt, fold.

Hand 3: This is a beauty in terms of my misplay. The big-blind and I see a flop of 6s 5h 9s. I'm in position with T9o, pot is $1.25, and effective stacks are $20. Big blind leads out for $1.50. I raise to $3, he calls. Turn is 3c, he bets $2, I call. River is 6h, he bets $4, I call after much debate.

The really interesting thing about this hand is I believe my best course of action was to fold on the flop. The flop is really dangerous, he overbet the pot, and I have nothing to fall back on and no real idea what hand he has (anything from a straight, two pair, to an uber-draw is possible). In other words, there are no real safe cards to fall, and a better TP than mine is a real possibility (many guys don't raise A9o like him, K9, Q9, J9 are also real possibilities). With so little involved in the pot and no redraws I think it is a fold, even with position. Just too much risk and horrible pot odds.

The small bet on the turn made me suspicious of a draw, but it is hard to raise in that spot. Again, dangerous board, etc, etc. The river bet seemed to be very much a value bet/blocking bet and there was little point in calling it. I just couldn't see that sequence with most drawing hands. Kind of a fold or push situation, although maybe, maybe he'd be betting a busted draw.

The point is that I had a lot of hard decisions in that hand which cost me money. I'm better off just mucking the flop and saving my money for better spots. Gambling and moves really aren't needed for low stakes NL. Moral: On a scary board, muck TPWK if I have no re-draws. Even a gutshot makes it worth seeing more cards.

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