Sunday, March 30, 2008

GC Tonight

I snapped my losing streak last week (winning $180) but haven't bothered to write about it. In a way, I think I needed a break from limit. Even with the win, my confidence was a bit off.

I feel regenerated and eager to play tonight, but a little disconnected as far as my strategies.

In fact, I'm going to be so lazy that I'll just copy my goals from last week:

  1. Play ABC poker. Again, tighten up a little bit pre-flop (not to say play tight, but don't call ATo in EP on an aggressive table). And continue doing things like raising in position for free cards.
  2. Take extra time for my decisions. Don't play on autopilot. Think through my options. Trust myself (not necessarily physical tells, but the sum total of patterns, reads, and tells).
  3. Play against bad players. This means move tables if my table is tight. I play best against loose players (either aggressive or passive) so I need to seek them out.
Last session, I think I did a pretty good job of playing ABC poker. I did insta-fold at least twice on the river because a very tight, never bluffing guy bet into a scary board, and I'm pretty proud of that.

Playing against bad players is especially important, but it shouldn't be too hard to find a game. I'm not sure if I'll play 6/12 (w/o backing) or 8/16 (w/ 50% backing) because it depends on where the seats are open and then which table is better.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Officially a losing streak...

Well, it's officially a losing streak. Had another decent loss on Saturday (-$296) in 6/12 and now I've lost $700 straight ($150 is out of my backer's pocket though). Time to get back on track.

It occurred to me late in Saturday's session that I've gotten away from my break and butter: playing tight and solid. With the big wins of a week or so ago, I think I started to loosen up, playing T9o on the button, 86o in the SB, etc. Again, not big mistakes (and in some cases the play might be +EV). But, when I'm losing, it is increasing my variance and punishing me when I play poorly after the flop.

One thing I think I'm doing wrong is playing too tight on the flop and too loose on the turn and river. For instance, in one hand I held KJo on a flop of K44 rainbow, but folded when the SB raised me. I think was afraid of monsters. Yet, in other cases, I've been calling down when I shouldn't, like second pair against a button raiser who most likely has top pair.

I think part of my problem is I've been so focused on being more aggressive that I've forgotten some of the things that earns me money in the first place: playing against bad players, playing tight(er) than the rest of the table, and value betting.

So, tonight, my goals are:

  1. Play ABC poker. In NL, this is usually a bad thing, but in limit, it is a good way to make money. ABC poker for me means tighten up a little preflop, value bet, and use raises to get free cards and free showdowns in position. Don't make any big folds on the flop, but don't call to the river if signs tell me I shouldn't.
  2. Take extra time for my decisions. When I'm not playing well, I start making quick decisions. Take extra time for every decision.
  3. Play against bad players. This means move tables if my table is tight. I play best against lose players (either aggressive or passive) so I need to seek them out.
  4. Have fun and relax. Losing three times in a row has left me a little beat down. So work extra hard to keep tilt away. That means sitting out and taking a walk if I need to.
Realistically, this losing streak isn't that bad and its been padded by the hot streak I had at the beginning of the month. It seems like a lot of money, but realistically, it is only 50 big bets.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Poker Today

Well, I played $8-$16 Wednesday night and lost $300 over approximately five hours. The good news is I felt pretty comfortable. The bad news is I made a mistake or two and just generally had a bad session.

When I initially got there (a little after 6 pm) the table was pretty tight and we went about an hour and a half without a kill pot. Slowly, the after work crew got up and went home, and the table got significantly better. But, for the first 2-3 hours, every decent sized pot I got outdrawn in, quickly dropping $200-$250. After that, even though we had some fishy players sit down (one in particular, actually, who kept me there until after 11 pm) I had a hard time making any significant progress.

As far as my goals from last post, I did horribly. I had one call down to the river which cost me two big bets (with second pair, but two overcards came, and he kept firing). I figured him for top pair on the flop so the call-down wasn't that good, although he had a history of bluffing, but not a history of bluff-raising the flop and going three-barreled. In hindsight, I should have bluff-raised the turn when an overcard came and I might have gotten him to lay it down.

I also never pulled the trigger on a bluff-raise. At one point I almost did, but I stopped myself at the last minute because the guy wasn't that good of a player and I wasn't sure if I could get him to lay down his hand.

Overall, I felt like I was being a little too passive, which was probably partially due to the raise in stakes, and partially due to my lack of decent cards.

I did count the pot pretty well though!


Today, I'm definitely going to try to play $6-$12. Why? Because in the past two Saturdays, I've taken $1200 out of the 12 game. I'd be silly not to play if Saturday's game is so soft.

Goals for today (keep them simple):

  1. Take my time before each action. I've got up to three choices (fold, call, raise). Consider each possibility every time I act and open my mind to new plays.
  2. Bluff-raise the turn or river at least once.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Preparation and Turn Play

First, a few basics.

I've terminated my backing arrangement for $6-12 LHE but picked up a 50% arrangement for $8-$16. After thinking about it, I realized there's really no reason to wait to move up. My earn rate with a 50% arrangement in the $16 game should be only a little less than the $12 game without backing because of the half-kill, and there's no time like the present to get comfortable in the game. Variance (for me) should be about the same between the two games.

I'm playing tonight, and this 20-30 minutes to write this post is my way of getting into the right mindset. I just hope the tylenol I took 10 minutes ago kills this headache that's starting.

As to what I'm playing tonight, I really haven't decided. Either the 12 or the 16, depending on what is open. It also depends on how I feel. If I'm not feeling really excited, I'll just play the 12 game and try the 16 another day.

What I do want to focus on is an area where I'm leaking a bit. It has to do with paying off or not paying off, and I'll start the discussion with two hands. Not much commentary, just the facts. Try to avoid reading the result before you think about it yourself (I'll put it farther down the post):

  1. I have 9d 7d in the big blind and check my option with five other players in. The flop comes 9s 4d 5h, SB checks, I bet out. Only one guy in late position calls (pretty good player, middle-aged asian guy, or MAAG; he's neither loose nor tight, but definitely aggressive and can read hands). The turn is the 2h and I lead out. MAAG says something about, "You feel all safe until someone raises you on the turn like this..." and raises me. Now I think about it. I'm getting 7:1. What should I do?
  2. Ah Th in late position with two limpers. I raise, everyone calls including the SB and BB. [aside: yes, I'm starting to remember to raise with suited aces against a large field]. Flop comes Tc 6h 5d, it checks to me, I bet, and the SB and BB call. The turn is the Jh. I should mention at this point that I've been pretty talkative with the guy next to me, so when somebody says something about the second heart I say, "I'm not worried, the flush isn't made yet." BTW, I've been losing, down about $250, and I've been complaining a little bit (but not really tilting on the inside; I won't lie, I'm not perfectly tilt free, but I can't point to any mistakes I've made and I'd get up if I was really having a problem). Anyway, it checks to me, I make my speech then bet, and the SB raises pretty quickly. My assessment of him is he's pretty tight (he's even folded his SB in a multi-way pot), he's been listening to music and working on something (homework?) most of the time, yet he doesn't seem very experienced (just some of the stuff he said). I take some time and... call. Obviously. The pot is 7 BB and I've got the nut flush draw with a pair. Most likely, I think he's got me beat with a set or two pair; possibly a naked jack. The river is the 2d, he leads out, what do I do? (9 BB in the pot)

Results: For both hands I called down. In hand number 1, MAAG had 44 for a set of fours and I lost. In hand #2, the SB had 99 and I won.

So what do I need to work on? My turn play.

Take hand #1.

I 100% should have folded. And I'm not just saying that because I know he had me drawing dead.

MAAG is a knowledgable, smart player. He's representing a big hand. And I can only, really beat a bluff. After he raises, I'm getting 7:1, but really, if he has me beat, I'm getting 7:2 to call him down. If I think he's bluffing even 28% of the time I should probably call him down. Except, the problem is, my best case situation is he's semi-bluffing with a pair, a straight draw, or a flush draw. Most semi-bluffs he'll have more outs than that, somewhere between 4 and 13 or more. So even if I'm right, he'll still get a better hand 1/3 of the time. So, without doing the math, he needs to be semi-bluffing more than 50% of the time for the call-down to be profitable. Furthermore, if I call, I am drawing dead or near dead. Finally, speeches usually mean not bluffing. So, overall, this is a hand I need to lay down in that spot. If I had as little as a gutshot, I could continue on (or close to it, but not here).

Hand #2, I 100% need to call to the river, and again, not just because I won in this case. The first difference is I had the odds to call the turn simply from my draw. And once I get to the river, I pretty much need to call with anything that can snap off a bluff; I had 9:1 odds so he only needed to be bluffing 10% of the time. After I called, one of the guys said, "Wow, good call, I could never make that call!" Sure, if I had no redraws on the turn, I should probably muck (that's the strength of the raise on the turn, BTW), but once I get to the river, I have to call.

No sense in making a big laydown.

The common thread between these two examples is turn play, one of my weaker areas. I'm getting better at deciding my course of action on the turn, but the first hand shows that I'm still making mistakes. Here are my goals for tonight:
  1. Tighten up my turn play. Well, not tighten up, but think through the range of my opponent, my redraws, his redraws if he's bluffing, and continue accordingly.
  2. Bluff-raise on the turn or river at least once. I'm really going to stick to this one to force myself to find a spot to bluff-raise.
  3. Count the pot -- I've been getting away from this, but need to get back to it.
  4. Look at my opponent when I've got a touch decision (like on the turn). Any info can help me decide what to do.
That's it for now. My headache is mostly gone and hopefully I'll have a report tomorrow!

Sunday, March 16, 2008


The bulk of this post was written Sunday night but I ran out of time before I could post it. I lost $99 in 6/12 Sunday night, and I've got a few hands from that session later too.

Well, after my first three months of $6-12 LHE (up to the beginning of March) were essentially break even, I never thought I'd be considering dropping the backing arrangement two weeks later. After yesterday's $681 win in 3.5 hours, I'm up $1390 in $6-$12 (before paying my backer) for March. My bankroll is reinvigorated to $2400+ and I'm ready to take on $6-$12 on my own dime.

I'm not dumb enough to think that I suddenly started playing ten times better this month; I've just had a nice hot streak. But I think 200 big bets is plenty bankroll for the California 6-12 games since LHE is generally low variance, I feel I have a significant edge on the field, and my playing style is relatively low variance.

Yesterday, before I played, I made the following goals:

  1. Bluff-raise the turn.
  2. Plan river play on the turn (i.e. if I call the turn, expect to call the river). Be willing to fold the turn if I have multiple reasons.
  3. Don't miss value bets! Be aggressive, aggressive, aggressive!
  4. Read players. Look at them!
#1 and #4 I did a horrible job at, mostly because I never really needed to. When the deck hits you over the head, bluffing is secondary and who cares what the other players have!

#3 I really pushed to the limit though. I never felt like I missed any value bets, although getting check-raised on the turn and river is happening more and more. More on that in another post. 6-12 is all about the value bets (actually, it's all about the benjamins -- it's nice to cash out 9 of them!).

#2 I think I did ok in, although I did call a few rivers where I was certain I was slaughtered (like when I was check-raised) but the pot was monster and I just paid off. Most of those spots I had an overpair or two pair.

As well as I'm doing, I'm actually going to try hard to stay focused. It is easy to think I've got everything figured out after a hot streak and relax a little. I've worked hard on my game and I need to keep it up. The last thing I want to do after earning my backing independence is lose a bunch back through bad play (bad luck is fine though, and I fully understand that could be coming).

Here's some random comments:

It is amazing how the aggressive guys keep betting into the fish. Like the guy to my right, he was playing at least 60% of pots, calling to the turn (and river) in most of them no matter what the cards, yet the 2-3 aggressive guys kept trying to bluff him out of the pot. He won a lot of pots at showdown with third pair. He also had an amazing habit of never raising big aces.

For example, one hand: 5 players in total pre-flop for one bet. Flop is all low hearts, BB (aggressive guy) leads out, only guy to my right (MF) calls. Turn is a medium non-heart, BB fires, MF calls. River is another blank, BB checks, MF checks and says, "I missed." He rolls over AQo (with the Qh) yet the BB rolls over A8o (Ah). Ace high wins!

Another really aggressive guy kept on betting through to the river and then saying 'No pair.' Sure, sometimes he had a monster, but he was trying to blow the calling stations out of the pot and it never worked! The aggressive guys kept giving chips to the loose passive guys and then I'd get the paid off for my hands by the loose-passives. At first I hated the table but as time went on I realized how nice it is to have a mix of LAGs, calling stations, and TAGs (and to know who they were!). For example, in one 6 way limped pot I had 99 and the flop came 226. I bet, late position calling station (LPCS) called and MF called. Turn was a 5. It checks to me, I bet, LPCS calls, MF check-raises(?), and I think for a few seconds and fold. MF never raised without a good hand and he had at have at least a 2. LPCS paid him off and he had quad 2s!

Random question: should I limp with 89o, 76o, T8o, etc in SB (or on the button, for that matter) with 5 players in (not counting me)? It seems too loose, but I know I play well enough after the flop to make up for some of that. Is it +EV?

Rivered tilt: Why does it bother me when someone rivers my two pair? Most things don't, but even with $800 stacked in front of me, I got a little tilty and had to control it last night. Considering how good I was running, why should one or two pots bother me? FYI, I got it under control and I don't think it changed my play at all. Again, it probably hurts more when they river the flush and I let them get in a check-raise, but like I said, that's another post.


Some random hands:
  • 97o on the button with 6 other players in (is this a bad call?). Flop comes 5 6d 9d and I call one bet with my second pair and then check to see if I have a diamond blocker... Oops! I don't have 86, I have 97! I'd normally raise in that spot. Anyway, turn comes 4x with four of us left (6.5 big bets). Aggressive guy bets again, and I raise to put pressure on those behind me and to make up for lost time. He calls. River is Jd, check-check. He has K9o. Should I have bet the river? (doubt it, he was paying off a lot). Was the turn raise a dumb idea given I probably didn't have the best hand? (I figured him for a better 9 than me, but only after he called the raise)
  • K2o in the big blind and one poster between the SB and button. LP raises; he's a very aggressive guy and has been firing to the river with air on a lot of hands. The poster and SB fold and I call since I figure I'm not in bad shape against his range and I'm getting good odds (was that a mistake? I was getting around 4:1). The flop comes T66 and I lead right out. I figure this will get me a read if he's got just overs and I have a pretty tight reputation. He just calls, so when the turn is an 8, I fire again. He raises! Well, that's it for me, I fold. He tells me that he had JJ, but if I three-bet, he'd have gone away. If he hadn't raised, I would have fired on the river too. He had demonstrated he could fold earlier. Thoughts?
  • 64o in BB. I get a free flop (about 6 players total) and the flop comes 58Q rainbow. I've got a gutshot and I'm not wild about it, but an aggr LP player bets (same guy as the 97o hand), there's at least two callers to me, so I take a card off. The turn is a 7, my perfect card. I check, aggressive guy bets, and I raise. It folds around to him, and he three-bets. Now I think for a few minutes, and say, "Cap it." He says: "It's heads-up, no cap, but I call anyway." River is some random high card, I bet, he calls. He has 64o also... He was in shock that I put the fourth bet in without the nuts -- I just figured it was too likely he had two pair or a set. After all, I didn't expect him to be betting into the field with a gutshot!
  • JJ in SB with two limpers to me. I raise and the BB folds but the limpers call. Flop comes KJ8 rainbow and I love my hand. I lead out and only the LP player to my direct right calls (the fish I talked about earlier -- he was a nice old guy but was obviously playing far from optimal, way loose and he didn't raise AK). Turn is a 6 (still no flush draw) and I lead out again. He raises! Well, I raise him back after checking the board for a straight possibility, and he puts in the fourth bet. At this point, I just call, and start thinking about what he could have. I've also never seen him go real crazy with a draw, so I figure he has two pair or a set. I just don't see KK since he didn't raise pre-flop, yet I've seen him raise most big pairs (and K4o). By the time the river, a 7 hits, I realize that I most likely have him slaughtered and the 7 can't help him. So I lead out. He raises, and I three bet, which he just calls. I show my JJ and he gives that long look that lets me know I won. He mucks, I speculate that he had a low set, and he confirms that he had a set of 6s. Ouch. Anyway, this hand is notable because I both narrowed down his holdings to make a strange value bet on the end, yet I also played it strangely and won the maximum. If I put in the fifth bet on the turn I'd have to think he'd slow down and just call the river too. The stop then lead out (which I'll sometimes do with a monster hand out of position) seemed to confuse him enough to put in another raise and earn me two extra bets, but I have no idea why it worked. Thoughts?

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Post of Bluffs

I was replying to this post when I realized I should just make a new post about bluffs. Bluffing is one area I need to work on in $6-$12 LHE, especially if I desire to move up in stakes later.

These ideas aren't new. Many of them are from The Book of Bluffs:

And some are from the Theory of Poker:

Thuan, in a comment, suggested a semi-bluff raise move on the turn. A similar move is a turn check-raise semi-bluff if you are out of position but then you lose the opportunity to check behind on the river if you hit and no longer need to bluff (i.e. holding Js 6s on a board of 3s Kd 5s Th Jd you no longer need to bet the river since you hit a pair). I've definitely done those before, not recently though. I pull a lot of raise semi-bluffs on the flop, but I should probably be doing more on the turn and following through with a bluff on the river if I miss.

Like Thuan said, there are a number of key elements to make a bluff work:
  1. Your opponent needs to be able to fold. Not a trivial problem.
  2. You should only have 1 or 2 opponents otherwise the risk someone will call you down is too high.
  3. Your bluff should tell a believable story.
  4. (optional) Semi-bluffs are much safer than pure bluffs. Even two outs reduces your risk since 5% chance to win the pot has a lot more value than 0% (I think Theory of Poker does the math on this).
I won't lie, I need to make more bluffs. I think I attempted more bluffs early on, but since then I've tightened up a bit. Actually, I do a lot of semi-bluffing on the flop, but play pretty straightforward on the turn. One of my goals for my session tomorrow night will be to try a few turn bluffs.

Here's a list of bluff examples. If you've got other ideas, leave a comment!
  • Steal with follow-through: I accomplished this last Sunday, which is really surprising since 6-12 is usually so loose. I'm in the cut-off and I raise T9s (not something I always do, but it seemed like a decent spot). BB calls, flop comes harmless (Q53), he checks, I bet and take it down. Seems like a minor move, but it earned me almost a full-bet and the BB will not usually mix it up there without a decent hand since the odds are bad.
  • Pseudo-bluff: This probably wasn't a bluff, but it felt like one. I was in EP and I raised with TT. 4 players called! Flop comes A84 rainbow, and I went ahead and bet when checked to. Everyone folded! I was so shocked... It just goes to show, if you raise pre-flop, it is worth betting any flop with an ace because players are scared of the ace. I won ten small bets with one bet risked. Works well if you raise KQo and miss though, often the small pairs will fold right there.
  • Flop semi-bluff raise: I won't list a hand here, but this is the standard free-card or free showdown move from late position. I use this a lot, often with my flush draws and sometimes even with an unpaired AK to get a free turn card and fold out some small pairs.
  • Flop semi-bluff check-raise: Like above, but out of position (typically, the blinds). This is useful if the flop comes 844 with two spades and you have a spade flush draw with a late position bettor. You can free up outs and represent trips. The thing I don't like about it is you'll pretty much have to fire on the turn and river and risk getting raised on the turn.
  • Turn semi-bluff raise: This is Thuan's hand, but the idea is the same as on the flop. In position, you raise the flop and turn bettor with a flush draw. You might get a fold immediately but if you don't (and you miss) you should fire at the river to keep representing two pair. Definitely +EV.
  • Turn semi-bluff check-raise: I like this one less, because you really need to have a board you can represent a check-raising hand on. I don't do a ton of check-raising, so when I pull this move it is less believeable. Good boards are possible (obvious) straights, three-card flushes, or a paired board to represent trips.
  • Orphan pot on the flop: With a few players in a limped pot and a raggy board (Q52 rainbow) sometimes it is worth taking a shot at the board in late position with any two cards. Just shut it down when you miss (unless you have one of those players that will call any flop bet then fold the turn a lot of the time). Harder in early position but possible.
  • Orphan pot on the turn: On a low flop that checks through, it is often worth firing at on the turn. It looks consistent because many players won't bet second pair until the turn (or if a low card pairs) and you are offering the other players such bad odds that they'll often be mathematically forced to fold even flush draws. Of course, for that reason, this works better online than live -- live players will call you down no matter what the odds are.
  • Float and bluff scary cards: This is one that Thuan and I have been talking about more lately since it has come up at GC. On a three-flush board on the turn, especially if the pre-flop raiser keeps firing and you are in early position, you can call the turn and then fire at the turn. Often, since the PF raiser has something on the board or a pair, they are unlikely to have a made flush and probably (50-75%) don't have a flush. So you'll pick up the pot enough to make some money if you know the raiser can fold. You could even get someone to fold a low 5th flush card (I've seen players get bluffed out by a set when they folded a 7 or 6 of the given suit). Four-flushes are great for this move because they are so darn obvious.

I know there's more spots, but I can't think of them now. So, to close out the post, I'll share a conversation Thuan and I had about floating scary bluffing cards and leading into the raiser:
I have AJo UTG and raise it. It folds around to the big blind and he calls. He's been playing quite loose pre-flop but seems to play well post flop. I haven't seem him call down too much and lose, he semi-bluffs draws, and he check-raised me on the river at one point when he hit a flush on me. I'd say he was one of the top players at the table except he had a VPIP of like 60-70%.

Flop comes KcTc9x. He checks, I bet, he calls. Turn is 4c. He checks, I take a look to see if I have a club (I don't) and then I bet right after I look. The river is the Jc and he leads out. I'm getting 5:1. What should I do?

sheesh... anyone that loose will usually have what they're representing. If you say he plays well post-flop, then he isn't calling you w/nothing on the flop esp. if you raised UTG and have your usual table image. So, he may even have a weak King w/a club. I guess he could have AcT, Ac8, etc... and lots of hands that beat you. Can he have a hand that you could beat? This depends on your read. Sure, but again if he's good, he'll put AK has a big possibility for your hand and wouldn't call the turn w/o a club. I think you can lay this one down because 4/5 times you are beat. what did you do?

Yeah, I laid it down. How could he have possibly called the turn without a club? He flipped over T7 of hearts. I said to him... is that a bluff? Because I honestly couldn't remember the board (who knows, maybe there was a 7 out there?). Assuming there wasn't, that was a genius bluff (or desperation, I can't tell which).

Normally I don't like getting bluffed out, but this hand I didn't feel bad about at all. It was just a really great bet on his part. In terms of odds, especially if I hit the board (which I would in most cases) there's basically 1/4 chance I have a club plus a decent chance I'll call him with a queen, two pair, or a set. I'd probably call him half the time in that spot, so his one bet bluff is actually highly +EV. In that spot, should we be making that bet 100% of the time?

BTW, if I was getting 10:1 or more, I would have called.

This is a very, very advanced play on his part... It's actually something I've done in the past as well. You don't just play your cards, you play what your opp. is afraid of. He's basically betting that you will fold if you have no club or a club smaller than x. THis is not a bad bet at all bc he will win at showdown a small percentage of the time. So if you add in your fold equity, he has probably 17+ outs (straight, two pair+, scary flush). There was 1 guy at my table who i'd try this against. Anyway, do you see how he set up this bluff? It wasn't done out of context... he played the hand exactly how he would've w/a club. In a way similar to NL...sometimes you call w/nothing to set up a bluff on a later street (I've seen this a lot on High Stakes)

Originally, I was gonna say that you should call because his range is so wide, but I think this is pretty close to 0EV, anyway. Besides, if you're not getting bluffed out ever, then you are calling too much. The funny thing is... you say that you'd call w/10-1, but in that case there would've either been more players in the hand or lots of raising. In either case, I'd say it's MORE likely that he'll have a club. I think this is the hard part about poker. Sure, you're getting better odds, but I think he's much less likely to run that bluff.

Yeah, you're talking about the 'float', which is pretty common in NL. Call without odds with the intention of taking the pot away later. I definitely haven't seen the play very much at limit, mostly because it is so hard to get a fold. Obviously, in this spot, he did a great thing and was near optimal against my hand. The thing is, if the straight card didn't complete the flush I probably will pay him off (gutshots are hard to hit in that spot). The flush card was just a little too much for me to do it (I figured that he had to have a club to call the turn, but I should know better). Assuming I had a king, then he had 5 outs to two pair + the flush bluffing outs (if neither of us have one, then there are 10 outs for him). That's 15 outs and he was getting 2 + 1 + 1 or 4:1 (oh, crap, I think I was getting 6:1 on the end there). Really though, ignoring the cases where his second pair is good, he's getting 4:2 on the bluff since 1/4 of the time I'll have it and call him. Geesh, I'm confusing myself. How can we analyse this?

How about straight EV. Assuming two pair or better is good for him, he's getting 4:1 with a 8:1 shot... well, lets add in a call on the end to pay him off, so 5:1. That means he'll win 5BB about 12% of the time and lose 1BB 88% of the time = -.28 BB.

But, a club will hit about 22% of the time (I'll assume a club doesn't hit when he improves). He'll bet, and 25% of the time I'll call him and he'll lose 2BB on the deal. 5.5% * -2 = -0.11 BB. The other 75% of the time, he'll win the 4 BB in the pot so he'll get 22% * 75% * +4 = .66 BB. Meaning the float and bluff a club is worth 0.66 BB.

Wait, I did the math wrong, how about this:
22% club + 78% no club = 100%
22% club + 12% he improves + 66% he misses and folds = 100%
5.5% get caught | club + 16.5% succeed | club + 12% he improves + 66% he misses
-0.11BB + 0.66BB + 0.60BB - 0.66BB = +0.49 BB

Wow, that's pretty high EV!

Note the first number I computed (-0.28 BB) was the EV for just the 5 out draw with implied odds. If we include the bluff cards it actually softens the blow of drawing against odds to almost even out.

Another common situation would be if you are up against someone with AA or similar (and they've bet it down) and the river has four of a suit. Then the bluff only works 50% of the time, and the math goes to:
-0.22BB + 0.44BB + 0.60BB - 0.66BB = +0.16 BB

Much less +EV, but still worth it. Plus, this was on the small end for a pot -- if the pot size doubles, then the win EV approximately doubles, and even for the 50/50 situation of the bluff working, you are look at about 1BB EV!

I think this is something we should incorporate into our repertoires, especially against the type of people who fold disgustedly on the river thinking they're tight players. In a three-way situation, obviously the EV goes way down though, and it is better to be in EP than LP (since EP looks less like a bluff). Bluff-raising might have similar odds too.

BTW, I actually had a guy try this on me. We had a pretty big pot with three of us in at the turn. I held KcXc for a made flush, the guy behind me had been betting the whole way, and the guy in the SB was an aggressive, tricky player (ATP) with at least $600 in front of him. Anyway, if I remember correctly, I think I led into the three-flush board after ATP checked, and Ron (the LP guy with a big pair) moaned and groaned and called. ATP thought for a while, then called. The river came a fourth club and ATP immediately leads out. I moaned and groaned but called since I was getting over 10:1 (I can't lay down a Kc or even Qc or Jc there) and Ron immediately folded. ATP says "You got it" and flips over 76s for maybe a gutshot draw and no clubs. That was a beautiful play by him because Ron taking so long to call indicated no clubs (it was easy to put him on a big pair the way he was played the hand and took so long to call on the end -- someone with an Ac or Kc in his big pair would have called quickly). So ATP only needed to worry about me, and it is back to the 50% spot above, plus I might lay down a mini-flush. The only downside is I had already represented a flush, so it is more likely that I'm going to call.

Wow, I just wrote a book there. No matter, I'll post it on the blog. Mostly, I'm happy that I was able to mathematically analyse the situation.
Ok, that's it for now, let me know if you have any common bluffs to add to the list!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

When To Slow Down

I've got stuff to talk about (I played twice over the weekend and won over $700 in 6/12 HE) but I figured I'd put up a fluffy, rarely important, hypothetical question first.


So, you buy in to the Garden City 6/12 for $200.

You post behind the button and look down at two kings... Great! It folds to MP who raises. You've never seen this player in your life, and there's nothing supremely notable about the guy (i.e. he doesn't look like either an idiot or a genius). You three-bet, it folds back around to MP, and he four-bets. Assume he did it quickly and you have no tells either way.

Normally the raises would be capped, but since you are heads-up, there is no cap on the bets. Do you raise again? How many raises are you planning to put in? FYI, you've got over 30 small bets in front of you. What is your plan for the hand?

Take a second to think about it. This situation would be SUPER rare in the typical 6/12 game, but the idea carries over to a few other very rare situations like nut flush vs straight flush.

What if you had $100 in front of you? Would your plan change? What about $50?

Leave a comment to let me know your thoughts. Don't let the story below change your answer (or at least make a note of it).


This is exactly the situation that happened to a guy that was sitting at my table on Saturday. I mean, it didn't happen Saturday, but he shared the story with us on Saturday.

The action went down as I described, with the hero (victim) holding KK and his opponent in MP had AA. I didn't hear the details, but the hero got all-in and lost the hand. The kicker is that he had just sat down and the chip-runner hadn't even brought him his chips yet. So when the rack of greens arrived, he just pushed it over to the other guy. As he said,

"What a kick in the balls. I didn't even get to play with the chips. Not even one little riffle!"

It was pretty funny (not that I want to live through it), but it does bring up a point. In no-limit, with 30 big blinds, you have no way of getting away from kings in that spot even if the other guy has pocket rockets. But, since bets go in so slowly, you should be able to avoid losing your stack in limit.

What's a reasonable loss? Could you ever fold?


Bonus related hand:

In one hand on Sunday night, the river put four clubs on an unpaired board. The guy in the blinds led out and the only other play (I think) in MP just called with the Ac. The EP guy showed down a straight flush.

That can't be optimal!

(although, truth be told, I may be remembering the details wrong -- there may have been one or two players in the hand after the nut flush guy which would make the smooth call more appropriate).

Friday, March 07, 2008

March 4th Results and Analysis

Tuesday night was a night of tilt of many forms. I think I did a pretty good job of maintaining my play, but I was definitely fighting tilt at different points. It was one of those sessions that was a bit of a roller coaster but I learned a lot. Overall, I won $101, which is pretty great considering I was down $200 an hour in.

More on that in a bit, for now, I'm going to start by grading my previous goals. Oddly enough, most of these are related to tilt in one way or another.

1. Maintain aggression. At first I was doing well, but I got nailed by a check-raise and later missed a few value bets on the river (I was a little gun shy, which I didn't realize until later). B.

Here's the hand in question, at least what I can remember of it. I had K9s in LP and limped in, getting 6 total players for one bet. Flop comes K96 rainbow. Someone in MP bets, two callers to me, I raise, and Funny White Guy (he's older, plays quite well, but is a touch loose) calls after a bit. He and I had been chatting a bit (he was razzing me because I drove a non-American Honda although he admitted later his wife drives a Honda) were going back and forth at this point. He had just switched seats so I was telling him he left a good seat. Two other players call too. Right before the dealer flips the turn he yells, "Club!". And the 3 of clubs comes out, putting two clubs on the board. He checks, a guy in MP leads out, the other folds, and I think for a bit then raise (the guy who leads was playing pretty erratically so I felt that I had him). FWG calls, MP calls, and the turn is another club, something like the Jc. It checks to me, I think, then fire. FWG raises! Damn it, I walked right into that one, but I paid him off and he did have clubs with a pair...

That hand tilted me a bit because I had plenty of tells to know the he had clubs there and I should have saved the two bets. I was getting 16:1 on the final call so I had to with two pair. More importantly, he had clammed up on the river and that alone should tell me that something is going on.

Later, I missed a couple of value bets on the river (in one, I had JT on a Jxx x x board and I just didn't think I could beat enough hands on the end -- he had third pair). In the second, there were very few draws on the raggy board and an ace came on the river, so I checked behind thinking a value bet would be too risky. He had 33... In hindsight, I think the check-raise on the one board made me fear the CR on those later hands, which is, of course, a form of tilt.

This hand was earlier in the session, and at one point I went for a walk when I was down $200. When I got back, things turned around and I got back above even in less than 20 minutes.

2. Avoid loose river calls against obvious strength. I took this too far and got nailed. C. I've got a different theory (which actually evolved since Tuesday night) which I'll share later. Some folds I think were decent, one fold was horrible. Let's start with that one.

The guy to my left (I'll call him Cold Fish, since I figured he was a fish and he didn't win many hands). It seemed like he wasn't a very good player and he was a short stack most of the night (including when he got all-in and cracked my KK on the river with a gutshot). In this hand, I had Q9s in late position and CF had the button. We got 6 limpers to the flop of J94 with two hearts (not my suit). It checked to me, I bet, CF raises, guy to my right (a loose-passive fishy older guy) calls, and I call. Turn is an offsuit 8. FOG checks, I check, CF bets, FOG calls, and I think for a while. I counted the pot (8 big bets) and called since I figured I had somewhere between 5 and 9 outs. I figured CF for at least a jack, and FOG was probably on a draw or a pair weaker than mine. The river was a low blank, we both checked, CF bets, FOG folds (damn, I wanted him to call), and it was on me. I thought for quite a while, getting 10:1, but finally folded. I just couldn't see CF not having me beat. CF promptly shows Ah2h (a 2 hit the river) and racks up his chips. Crap.

Folding in that spot based on my read is reasonable. But I was disappointed that I neither noticed the flush draw on the board nor actually looked at him on the turn or river. One look might have given me a better read. I will admit that I thought him incapable of a three-barrel bluff but I didn't consider he was getting very short (nearly all-in on the river) and that makes large bluffs more likely. So, yeah, I was a bit disappointed in myself.

Later on, I made another borderline fold which I thought was good. I limped in the SB with Q9s (one EP limper) and the BB made it two bets. Actually, to be honest, this is what I think happened -- at the time, I couldn't figure out who raised, but now I realized it had to be the BB if this is the action. I know I was in the SB. Unless I have other details wrong... EP and I called to see a flop of Q94 all hearts. BB leads out, EP raises, and I three-bet (not screwing around at this point with three hearts out there). BB calls pretty quickly, and EP calls. At this point, I'm thinking 'No heart, no heart!' when the 6 of hearts pops off. I check, BB bets quickly, EP folds, and it is on me getting 8:1. At this point, I have EP solidly on a large pair with at least one heart (I don't think he can cold-call and then lead the flop like that without the Ah or Kh). BTW, he was a middle-aged asian player who I've played with a little before. Maybe slightly loose, but Tuesday he was playing very solidly and I don't remember him raising pre-flop much. My check on the turn was to gain information, and I pretty solidly thought he had me beat. But I called since my quick pot count told me I had the odds (which, now, I think I barely didn't even counting the river bet). Anyway, the river blanked, I checked, and he bet. I thought quite a while, getting 10:1, and finally folded. During the time I turned to him and asked, "I can't remember -- was it you who raised pre-flop?" and he stone-faced me looking down. I'm pretty positive he had it.

There were a few more laydowns that I might not normally make but I can't remember them (see #5).

3. Look for bluffing opportunities late in hands. These situations never really materialized, or maybe, more accurately, I never recognized them. My method of play pretty much requires I have something (be it a hand or draw) to simply get to the turn or river. I think I'm not seeing the opportunities when they are out there, and like Thuan said in a previous comment, most good bluffs start on the turn anyway and require two bets.

4. Study my opponents. I'm doing much better at this and have started asking questions sometimes to get a read. I'm still forgetting to do it in some spots (like the bad laydown) but I'm getting much better about remembering. B. One thing I need to do is lean toward calling if only to put the data next to my read a little more often (whenever I'm not sure). Likewise, I should also do the same process (looking at my opponent, maybe asking a question) even when I'm 100% going to call or raise, just for the information. I think reading people is one huge edge I'm not using enough.

Here's a quiz: In one spot, I had a medium strength hand (like top pair crappy kicker, or second pair) and a guy bet into me on the turn. I gave him a look and we made eye contact. He then looked down, but a smile was at the corners of his mouth. What should I do?

5. Take notes. I actually did a good job of this Tuesday night. A! Of course, I neglected to bring them to work where I planned to type this up, F!

Well, I've got more, but I'm going to wait until later for the rest.

Back to work!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Odd Things

Each of my last three sessions had something notable about it:

  • On 2/26, there were four women at my table. When the dealer was female, us men were actually outnumbered!
  • On 3/1, I went all 90 minutes in 6/12 without winning a hand.
  • On 3/2, I found my aggression. It had been hiding behind my right ear.
Of course, just finding my aggression doesn't mean I won big. I won a little ($58) last night and lost a medium amount ($166 at 6/12, $69 at 3-100 spread) the day before.

And I'm going back tonight...

The main way I knew I found my aggression was I started to occasionally get raised out of pots sometimes was called down to lose. You can't win all your value bets. But I wasn't getting over-aggressive, and all of my bets were made for a reason. I still have yet to bluff anyone out at the river though, and I have trouble spotting situations where a single bet (or bluff raise) can take the pot. Although sometimes I can spot them after the fact...

So, time to grade myself on my goals for the last two sessions and set some goals for tonight, starting with the old goals:
  1. No fancy play syndrome. Didn't have a problem with this, although the 3/1 session I never got a good enough hand to make that mistake :( Well, I guess one hand on 3/2 I did a 'fancier' play, but it worked and it was appropriate: ...four players in to the turn which completed my flush, I checked after the SB, pre-flop raiser (who I put on a big pair, he was relatively inexperienced) fired, two calls to me, and I put in my raise (at which point everybody folded!??!). B+
  2. Aggressive, aggressive, aggressive. Like I said, I got it back. In one hand, I fired a double barrel bluff on an ace turn after a semi-steal from the cut-off with K9o (sadly, the small blind cold-called my raise with A6o...). But that is a high percentage play, especially when the scary ace hits. Still, though, I'm not spotting many bluffing opportunities when I don't have the lead in the hand, which I believe is a huge area of hidden profit in 6/12 (probably one pot a session on average). B+
  3. In any close decision, spend five seconds looking at my opponent. I'm still horrible at this. To be honest, I think I'm afraid of making eye contact. I occasionally remember to look at my opponents in a hand, but not nearly enough. D-

So, some new (and more specific) goals:
  1. Maintain aggression. Keep firing, but keep firing intelligently.
  2. Avoid loose river calls against obvious strength. In my first hand on 3/2 (first position), I had A9o on a turn board of TT49 with two spades. It had checked around pre-flop so I bet the turn and two players called, including the BB. The river was a 4, so I bet (thinking I'd get value against another 9). The big blind raised, it folded back to me, and I thought a little (I didn't look at him though!) and called. I think this is the type of call that I can stop making and avoid -EV. Studying his face could also tell me that he wasn't bluffing, but that's a hard spot to bluff raise in anyway, with that board. Note: this is not making big lay downs... this is not making loose calls when I am unlikely to have the best hand!
  3. Look for bluffing opportunities late in hands. Specifically, look for places I can bluff at scary boards (i.e. four to a straight when no one has shown much strength) against players who might lay it down. And look for opportunities to bluff-raise (or semi-bluff raise) the turn and river against tighter players who I've got read pretty well. I'd rather overdo these bluffs tonight (like maybe 2-3 times an hour instead of the 1-2 an hour I expect would be optimal) and learn the boundaries than be too conservative (like usual).
  4. Study my opponents. This means: look left before I act to figure out who's folding. Watch an opponent every time the flop, turn, or river comes out. And EVERY TIME I have a close decision, look at my opponent.
  5. Take notes. I've been lax on this, but I need to take notes when I experiment with bluffing or avoiding bad call-downs. Even if I don't bother typing them all here (which is really a chore sometimes), I should take the notes anyway.