Monday, December 24, 2007

A Leak, Small Pots vs Big Pots Style

Here's a hand from UB last weekend which really hit me as far as a small pot vs big pot leak. Ed Miller's general idea of small vs big pots is this:

In small pots, fold marginal hands because, if you have the best hand, there is a small reward for the amount of money you'll need to put in if you have the second best hand. In big pots, stay in and do everything you can to win the pot, especially by freeing up your outs.
Those are my words, not his. He says it much better in his book, Small Stakes Hold 'em: Winning Big With Expert Play. Buy the book, it is brilliant if you play small limit games live. Online, it is less useful, IMHO.

Put another way: fold marginal hands in small pots (i.e. if someone raises you and you don't have top pair/top kicker or a monster draw, you probably have a marginal hand). The penalty for being wrong in a small pot is big since you won't have odds to chase.

In large pots, you'll almost always have the odds (or near the odds) to chase so folding marginal hands is less of a mistake (schooling of the fishes at 3/6). Instead, try to put pressure on other players to free up outs for yourself; you'd stay in anyway, right? A side effect of aggression in big pots is you'll grow the pot and could get a better hand to fold.

Miller also puts a lot of emphasis on reading the flop; sometimes it appears you have a strong hand but in fact your hand is marginal. Again, well worth the read. I don't recommend trying to finish it in one sitting though, because many of his ideas require table time for them to percolate into your game.

Try to figure out how and why I misplayed the hand below:

Ultimate Bet 0.50/1 Hold'em (10 handed) Ultimate Bet Converter Tool from (Format: HTML)

Preflop: Hero is UTG+1 with Kc, Jd.

Hero calls, UTG+2 calls, 3 folds, CO calls, Button calls, 1 fold, BB checks.

Flop: (5.50 SB) Ks, Ad, Td (6 players)

BB checks, Hero checks, UTG+2 bets, CO calls, Button folds, BB folds, Hero calls.

Turn: (4.25 BB) Jc (4 players)

Hero checks, UTG+2 bets, CO calls, Hero calls.

River: (7.25 BB) 6h (4 players)

Hero checks, UTG+2 bets, CO calls, Hero calls.

Final Pot: 10.25 BB

So, do you know what I did wrong?

The pre-flop call might be a little loose, but no big deal. Folding might be better preflop (the table was loose, but a bit aggressive). If it is a mistake to call, it isn't a big one.

The flop is six-handed, which Miller calls a 'big pot'. Realistically, it is on the border of a big pot and a small pot.

Analyzing the flop for me, I have second pair, decent kicker, and a gutshot. So that'd be 9 outs for two-pair or better, right? A strong hand!

Look again...

I could already be drawing to a chop with the straight. Any diamond will make a flush, taking away one of my straight outs. If I hit two pair, any queen has me in bad shape (4 outs for a full house).

Also, think in terms of playing tendencies: most people play any two face cards. So I could easily be up against other jacks, an ace, straight, two pair, etc, or an AJ! Trips is unlikely but possible with JJ or TT if someone didn't raise. And this guy is betting into me. He could have anything from a gutshot to two pair, although most likely he has an ace or two pair.

Realistically, while I have 9 outs to two pair or better, my effective outs are more like 3 (the three non-diamond queens, although some will be chops, and some other cards will work depending on what others have). I get 8:1 on my call, with only 15:1 odds. And the pot isn't that large, plus I'll never really be able to bet with too much confidence.

Clear fold on the flop.

In reality, UTG+2 had AQo. I realized on the turn that I had made a mistake on the flop, but couldn't get away from it with the money in the middle.

If you play a lot, these kinds of pots come up all the time: smallish pot, marginal hand, not as many outs as you'd think at first glance. These pots are a major post-flop leak that most live players have!

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