Friday, June 30, 2006

I just got around to reading an article of Miller and Sklansky that was taken from their new book on no limit poker.

I havn't read the book yet, although I'll get around to it eventually. If this article is typical of the level of analysis in the book it will be down towards the bottom of my reading list for a while. only keeps such articles available online for three months, so download that article if you want to refer back to it.

I'm going to spend a few posts talking about the article.

The article starts with an example hand to illustrate that sometimes a check raise bluff will be more effective than just betting as a bluff.

I certainly don't disagree with that, but it's unclear to me what the point is. Yes, if you use a betting pattern that shows great strength you'll more likely be effective in the bluff than if you use a betting pattern that doesn't show great strength. That's true. But, does it really mean anything?

A check raise bluff puts more chips at risk than just betting out as a bluff. For it to really be effective it'll probably be a lot more. So, even if it does have a higher frequency of success it's not clear it's the preferred alternative.

In their article they pull some numbers out of the air, such as the bad guy will call a bet 70% if the time but fold to a check raise about 75% of the time. In their contrived example it pays to make a small check raise.

Well, gee. Putting arbitrary numbers to something doesn't make it logical, it does sometimes make it appear logical. This example isn't logical. They assume the opponent almost never makes thin value bets but makes complete bluffs often. Well, against an opponent like that checking then bluff check/raising will pay off a lot. But, it's those particular characteristics of that particular opponent that matters. It's not an outcome of some easy to do algebraic analysis. But, sometimes it's better to let a player like that win a small pot, it encourages them to make a big bluff later.

It's not so much that what they're saying is wrong, it's that the explanation just ignores the factors that matter in making the decision.

Am I missing something here?

There's something else about that example I don't like. It looks like the hero is focused almost exclusively on being cute, missing a simple straightforward opportunity on the turn. I'll get back to that in a later post.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Big blind with 2 limpers, flop is T23 rainbow. Bet at it, it missed them both.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Key to winning poker

There's a thread on rgp where somebody is in a tough spot in the play of a hand and didn't know what to do. Many responders don't address the question he's asking but are talking about mistakes he made earlier in the play of the hand that resulted in his being in the tough situation.

He doesn't want to hear that. He wants to focus all his energy on the final decision he had to make.

The point he keeps missing is that playing winning poker isn't about making small distinctions in hard choices but is about avoiding hard choices.

That's particularly true in no limit poker.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

On the button with a couple of hands.

In a Tuesday afternoon 2/5 NL HE game in Durant, OK. Buy in range is 300-500. I have a little more than 300 in the first hand I'm going to describe.

I'd been playing a little tight for about an hour, hour and a half. I'm on the button, have 3c6c. Three players limp in for $5. They are all fairly straightfoward, unimaginigitive player. The first player doesn't seem to play position well, the second player is a little loose, finds it a little hard to throw a hand away. The third player I don't know much about, seems solid, but I don't know. (This is the second day I've played with those first two players).

I thought I could just pick up the loose change with a $30 bet. I'd been playing tight. If they called and I got lucky on the flop I might be able to double up. I made it $35.

The first player called, the other two folded. Foiled.

The rainbow flop was actually perfect -- TJQ. When you raise preflop and they call they almost always put you on AK. So even if this flop paired him he might be afraid to pick it up.

He seemed like he wanted to bet. He took a long time to check. Not really tanking, just uncertain about what he wanted to do. I grabbed a handful of chips and bet, turned out it was $45. He tanked some this time. Finially he folded.

I usually don't show bluffs. But for some reason I did this time. He said that he had the bet hand, a 56. I think he actually had closer to a 9T. But, anyway, I won it, and everybody at the table noticed the bluff.

Right or wrong, that's how I played that hand and it's relevant because of what happened two rounds later when I'm on the button with KK. I have close to $500 in chips.

The same player who had called my preflop raise before limped, all others fold, I made it 25, the small blind, a generally tight young careful and attentive player, quickly called. The limper called. Flop is 34T, two diamonds and a spade. I had Kd. The small blind bet 30, the limper folded.

I made it 130, saying, "Let's make it 130 and see where we are". He moves all in, another 340. I have that covered.

I'm not sure about this one. Another player said, "Well, now you know where you are". I said, "I was much happier when I didn't know".

The other player had acted quickly, and was giving off "toughness" vibes, whatever that means. It was just a feeling I had. Also, I had recently folded a couple of hands to a raise or re-raise, so that with the bluff I'd shown probably meant to him that was likely weak and probably wouldn't call. And, having the Kd helped, so I called. It became an easy call, but I had to think about it and I didn't like it.

He was bluffing, or else he just put me on AdKd. He had an ATc. I won.

I'm going back to Durant soon. I'd forgotten how lucrative it can be to play with the same batch of predictible people everyday. Espeicially when I'm not that predictable.

Anybody have any comments about this? I'd like to hear them.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Must Move

This isn't really about no limit poker, but I think some discussion of must move tables will probably appear in the book this stuff will eventually become, so I'm going to make some comments about must move tables.

I was playing in a Monday afternoon 2/5 no limit game at Choctaw Casino in Durant Oklahoma, just North of Dallas.

Monday afternoon is an important part of this story because that generally means the table is generally populated by a bunch of retired tight ass regulars.

I don't expect this to be a great game, but I'm on the road between Corpus Christ and Cushing and decided to stay a night in Durant and check out the room. So, I'm going to play for a couple of hours at least.

There was a conversation about an event on Sunday where a second game had been started without designating it as must move, and after a little while the oldest game broke up. There were not enough seats on the second table and the broken game had to draw for who got the seats and who got on a list. A lot of whining ensued by those who lost the draw.

What's the matter with these people?

The Monday floor made the comment that it's not fair to the original game to not designate the new game as a must move. They get punished if the new game isn't must move, he said.

I made the observation that they get punished more if the new game is designated as a must move. They're going to get punished if they're in a bad game, not matter what the floor does, and making the other game must move just serves to harm the orginal game more if the original lineup isn't a lineup of a good game.

My thoughts are that making the other game a must move means that the original game never gets a random new player off the street, it only gets replacements from the ones who last the longest on the most move game, making a tough original lineup even a tougher lineup over time.

Do any of y'all have any thoughts on this?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Free card raise in no limit hold'em

I saw an online discussion on raising for a free card in no-limit hold'em the other day. The conclusion is that it doesn't apply to no limit games. The reason for the consensus seemed to be that for such a raise to be effective you need to make a substantial raise, the the risk of getting re-raised an even larger substantial amount negates any small value you might accrue if the raise succeds.

That doesn't mean that semi-bluff raises aren't effective in no-limit, it's just a conclusion about free card raises.

Of course the raise doesn't know the purpose of the raise, and the name comes from that purpose.

A free card raise is a raise that's intended to induce the other guy to check to you on the turn, so that you get a free look at the river without calling a turn bet. With structured bet limit hold'em the turn bet is twice the size of the flop bet so a flop raise costs 1 small bet while potentially saving you 2 small bets on the turn, a net gain. In spread limit hold'em or in no-limit hold'em, such a bet differential doesn't exist. In spread limit, by the time you get to the flop pretty much all bets are usually maximum bets and any raise you make on the flop is just going to be the same size as the turn bet you're trying to save, giving you a net of no gain. The same thing is pretty much going on in no-limit, for the raise to be effective it will need to be about as large as the turn bet you're trying to avoid will be.

A semi-bluff raise is a multi-purpose raise. It's a value raise where the value raise comes from the combination of possibilities of winning right now without the best hand, or actually having the best hand, plus the chances of improving to a winner just in case you get called by a better hand. The classic situation is a raise with second pair and an overcard. The bettor might be betting a draw, in which case you have the best hand. The bettor might be betting top pair with a weak kicker which he might fold to a raise. And, if the raiser does have the best hand and calls you probably have 5 outs even if he has two pair.

But contrary to the conclusions reached by that online discussion, a free card raise does have have a place in no limit. Most writer's miss it because they tend to analyze heads up sitations. The free card situation in hold'em most often arises when you have a flush draw in late position. If you have two opponents and expect them both to call if you make a small raise then a flop raise itself is pretty much neutral value with a flush draw. If they check to you on the turn after your raise then you'll see the river for the cost of that raise and if they both call you'll get 2 to 1 on the raise, exactly the price you need to value bet a flush draw on the flop if you know there won't be any more betting on the turn.

Combine that neutral value with the idea that by making the pot bigger now you're more likely to get paid off if you make the flush, and you have a positive value free card play in no limit if the situation is right.

Because of that risk of getting reraised you do need things to be right. You need two callers with plenty of chips who you have reason to beleive won't re-raise (figuring that out is a whole 'nother topic). You should be drawing to the nut flush and should have at least one overcard. That overcard gives you an extra three outs against top pair and gives you enough extra equity to offset the chances you're wrong about not getting re-raised. And you should probably have something a little extra to go along with it. Maybe a 3 card straight or two overcards instead of one. Every little bit of extra juice helps offset that risk of getting re-raised.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Friday, June 09, 2006

A book on No Limit Hold'em

I've been working on a new book on no limit hold'em and had actually made some pretty good progress. The manuscript was on my laptop and a few months ago the laptop was stolen. It put me in a real funk and I just couldn't get myself to get back to work on it.

But, okay, I'm back to work on it I think.

I'm going to be using this blog to post stuff from my draft of the new book. Of course comments are welcome, even if I don't like them.