Sunday, August 31, 2008

Look at the board

I was playing a 3-handed game the other night, we were playing 1/2 blinds with a $10 straddle on the button. I had about $450 in chips and the other two players each had a little more than that.

I had gotten stuck about $300 in the game before we got shorthanded and had recovered by just chipping away, mostly one of the two opponents. Both of them were pretty good players and the game wouldn't have been playable if one of them didn't have a clear tell. Whenever she really liked her hand her body got erect, shoulders back, head high. It was very obvious.

I had a J7 on the button and both the other's limped. I checked.

I thought the flop was 8 9 10 rainbow. It turns out I misread the flop, but I thought I'd flopped a straight. The woman with the tell bet $10. I could tell she liked her hand. I was unsure about whether my straight was good, but I made it $40 and she got deflated. So I was no longer worried about her having a better straight, I thought maybe a set, more likely top two pair, maybe even a T J.

The turn was a K. She sat up straight. She really liked that card. Liked it a lot. I could tell from her body language. She bet $40. I'm thinking she likely had KK. That's the only hand I could think of that would explain her first liking her hand, then not liking it so much after I raised on the flop, then liking it again when the K hit. She could have limped with KK preflop. She'd done that before.

I raised $120. She called but she clearly still liked her hand. The river was a 7, giving us the same hand if she had something like TJ or KJ. She checked. I bet $150. She raised, I had about $75 left. Now I didn't know what the hell she had, but I thought the same jack high straight I had was the most likely. Of course I called.

She had a K T. That would have been great if I'd have paying less attention to her posture and taken the trouble to look back at the board at sometime during the play of the hand. The original flop hadn't been 8 9 T. It had been 8 T T. I didn't have a straight. I had a pair of 7's against her tens full of kings.

I'm an idiot.

Position, position, position

Most players (and most writers) tend to think of position in terms of your distance (and direction) from the button.

Particularly in no-limit games, there's a lot more to it than where the button is.

Position 1.
The button matters. Having the button is having a large weapon. Being last is good. The more active hands the more valuable late position is.

Position 2.
Aggressive opponents also matter. It's usually better to be to the left of aggressive opponents, so that you know whether or not they've raised before you have to act. But hyper-aggressive opponents are usually better placed on your left - since you don't have to wait for them to act to know that they'll likely raise/bet. Acting ahead of them lets you check hands into them and trap other players between the two of you.

Position 3.
Stack size matters. You want to be to the left of big stack sizes (if you have a big or moderate stack size).

When thinking about position think in terms of the button, aggressive opponents, and big stacks.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Loose no-limit hold-em games

There's a short thread on rgp about playing in loose no-limit hold'em games.

Like many of such threads, some of the advice is really bad, some is pretty good.

Here's the original question in its entirety.

What is the best way to play a loose no-limit table, a
lot of limping, frequent raises with mediocre hands?

Here's the non-responsive response from one of the resident experts.
The big question is what do you mean by loose? Loose preflop, loose
passive, loose aggressive? Loose the whole way down? Do you get people
who will raise any 2, or people who call any 2? Saying "loose NLHE game"
isn't very descriptive.

If that's all the original question would have said then he's right. But that's not all he said. First of all it's very clear the question is just about pre-flop hand selection. That's a fairly easy question to answer without having to worry much about post-flop behaviors.

He's talking about a field that plays a lot of hands and does a lot of pre-flop raising and a lot of calling those pre-flop raises.

In such a game you should pay more attention to position. Play tighter in front, but play more hands from in back. Be willing to call multiway raises from the back. With a large stack be more willing to play for implied odds (play more hands). Especially if another large stack is playing from early position. If you have a large stack on your left be more careful if you have a large stack. (that's part of what it means to play position)

As the rgp thread progressed it became clear that I probably misunderstood the original poster's question. I had interpreted his "a lot of limping, frequent raises with mediocre hands" as a description of table conditions. It's more likely he meant that as a proposed answer to his own question of how to play at a loose table.

If that's correct then he's describing a passive table (you can't do a lot of limping if it's not a passive table).

My answer of "pay attention to position" still isn't far off, but it's not as critical as it would be at a more aggresive table.

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