Monday, June 04, 2007

Small bets

Random Shuffle has some comments on a post of Brother Ed's about making minimum size raises.
A bet is a bet. Even a mini-bet means something a check doesn't. The fact that the player bet the minimum rather than checking means something. This distinction between checking and mini-betting is more important than Miller seems to be saying here. There's no benefit in deliberately conflating small bets with checks - if anything, this smacks of the sort of mental laziness Miller is railing at.

I often make a min size raise online because I was not paying attention and the time is ticking and I want to make a raise but don't want to fool around and risk a time out.

I agree that any attempt to lump all small raises into some standard category is pretty much just intellectual laziness.

The important thing to keep in mind is that in multi-way games (even if the action has gotten to heads up) you're going to have to do things that are unexpected and contrary to the norm to get the money. That's what strategic thinking is all about. It's important to consider the possible reasons for the min raise, and Random Shuffle is right that there's always a reason and the reason is seldom intellectual laziness. Other than the being in a hurry reason, the two main reasons are as an attempt to seem weak and entice a raise and an attempt to take away the initiative while keeping the pot small.

A player who is making the min raise for the first reason is hoping you'll think it's for the second reason.

One of the holes in Miller's thinking is a common 2+2 shortcoming, a failure to recognize that even when your opponent is making a mistake he often thinks he has a good reason to do what he did.

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Sunday, June 03, 2007

Fun with Poker Stove

I spent some time this morning just playing around with Poker Stove.

No starting hand is a favorite to beat nine other players. Not a single one. Pocket aces has about a 30% chance of prevailing against a field of 9 random opposing hands.

Of course getting 9-1 on a 30% proposition is a money winner, a very good money winner, but most of the time it’s going to be a loser.

As the field narrows the win percentage of AA grows a lot. According to Poker Stove it will win 85% of the time against a player who plays the top 20% of his hands.

But when Poker Stove says top 20% it means in terms of win percentage against a random hand. That includes things like A9o and A4s, which aren’t considered power houses against someone who’s shown strength or might show strength. Players who’ll call in early position limper with 20% of their hands aren’t likely to be playing A9o.

Here’s the top 20% against a random hand
AA KK QQ JJ TT 99 88 77 66
A9o ATo AJo AQo AKo
J9s JTs
Q9s QTs QJs
K8s K9s KTs KJs KQs
A4s A5s A6s A7s A9s ATs AJs AQs AKs

What’s the top 20% against a strong hand? First you have to define what we mean by strong hand.

How about the top 5%? The top 5% against a random hand are AA KK QQ JJ TT AKs AKo AQo

I think everybody will agree that’s a collection of strong hands. Some might quibble on the margin, arguing for inclusion of 99 and 88 77 instead of AQo. There are more combinations of AQo than 99, so to replace the same number of hands that are removed by taking AQo out of the mix you need to go as deep as 77.

Against the top 5% that includes AQs AA wins 84.4% percent of the time. But against the top 5% that includes the middle pairs AA wins 84% of the time. Not a big difference, but big enough to suggest that when you’re against a known strong hand, or even just a suspected strong hand you might want to steer clear of the offsuit Aces, even hands as strong as AQo might be suspect.

What to play when you put the other guy in the top 5% and he’s playing the distribution that doesn’t include AQo but does include pairs as low as 77?

Playing any pair against that distribution is a loser, winning only about 45% of the time.

Because he’s playing strong pairs, you don’t want to get involved with some of the more hopeless pairs. Playing only the same pairs he does (77+) puts you at about 56% winning.

But since he’s playing other hands than pairs you can include pairs smaller than the pairs he plays, just not all of them.

Against a distribution of hands

Here’s how you’ll do calling with various pairs

44+ 48.7%
55+ 50.6%
66+ 53%

When against any kind of strength, think about staying away from those little pairs, 22, 33, 44 aren’t likely to be winners.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

More on overplaying a pair

I fell in love with JJ yesterday in a 1/2 game and lost about $90 that I should not have lost.

I raised pre-flop, I think I made it $7 first in. One caller, he was in front of me, in one of the blinds.

The flop is 742, all black, my jacks are red. My caller bets into me, bets $10.

This is where I made my first mistake. I raised, making it $40. That was a huge mistake.

Why would I raise here? Yes, I think I probably have the best hand, but even if I do he's going to have outs. He probably doesn't have a 7, with a 7 he'd fear a bigger pair from me and check/call. He is more likely to have a flush draw or even a 35 for a straight draw. Should I raise to "charge him" for his draw. Well, if I know for sure that's what he has, then yes. But, what if he doesn't have a draw. Well, if he has a set of 7's or 4's or some such thing then I'm really in bad shape.

A much, much smarter way to play this hand is just call and see what happens on the turn.

What happened was a Qc falls, putting 3 clubs on the board and he fires right out with $30. Did I fold? Not me. Once I make one mistake I dig in my heels and try to make as many mistakes as I can. I call. I call again when a blank falls on the river and he bets another $30.

What I should have done was call the flop and fold the turn. He had 4c5c.

Probably ahead isn't good enough. Even if you're sure enough that you're ahead to make a raise an action with positive expected value it's not enough. You need to think you're probably ahead plus have some kind of extra protection in case you aren't. Even something as little as having the Jc in my hand might have been enough to feel a little more comfortable with the hand.

Whenever I make that kind of rookie mistake I just cash out and go take a nap. Which is what I did after this hand.