January 21, 2010

Playing AK, or is that Ace-King?

One of the things that never ceases to amaze me is just how unsure people seem to be when playing AK. At 6max, players seem positively desperate to get all their money in with it. I don’t get it.

In this post I will talk about having AK and facing a raise preflop.

AK is 47% against a range of all pocket pairs, AQ and the medium suited connectors up to JTs. You hear that…….47%!!!!!!

Therefore the skill with AK is in either making everyone else fold (who wants a call with AK..), or make weaker aces call. That’s making weaker aces call!!!!

Lets discuss making people fold, or fold equity first. Making people fold is a skill. Shoving isn’t. Understanding fold equity is about reads and betting patterns. It’s complex and requires experience of player types and board textures. Pre-flop, knowing whether your AK shove is going to show a profit is entirely down to player reads, and is therefore much more about guesswork due to the lack of information available. And guessing in poker means –EV generally. Especially as most who play the micros lack experience and should therefore avoid tough spots. In my experience, 99+ will call a 3bet almost always from almost all 100nl regfish. They just can’t bring themselves to fold. But after 3betting your AK, and then your automatic cont bet when called (and almost certainly behind) of usually around 18bb puts you in a horrible spot. Yet you miss the flop 60% of the time. Now you don’t need me to do the maths here for you I hope to show how horrible this is for you.

Lets look at it from the other point of view.

How do you make weaker aces call? Lets think…..ummm….by floating. But what do almost all TAGS and LAGS do at the micros? They 3bet. Regardless of the position and history of the other guy, it’s an automatic 3bet. But thinking for oneself just doesn’t seem to be the way it’s at just now in no limit, probably due to the massive amount of information out there that says auto 3bet AK. Very simple really. Everyone 3bets because……well…. just because. Do you think about it? Do you?

Successful cash poker is about extracting value from weaker hands. Not throwing your pile in the middle with 47% equity, as noted above, because that’s the range that’s calling your shove in 4bet pots. Extracting value entails not blowing dominated hands like KQ, KJ and any ace out of the water preflop.

If you can’t understand this premise, you won’t progress.

Finally lets illustrate this idea of extracting value by showing how to play AK in pos against a 20/15 villain with a 100% fold to 3bet. Villain steals 25%.

$0.50/$1 No Limit Hold'em Cash Game, 6 Players
Poker Tools by Stoxpoker - Hand Details

MP: $193.05 (193.1 bb)
CO: $101.50 (101.5 bb)
Hero (BTN): $174.25 (174.3 bb)
SB: $107.50 (107.5 bb)
BB: $60.60 (60.6 bb)
UTG: $100 (100 bb)

Pre-Flop: Hero is BTN with K of hearts A of clubs
UTG folds, MP folds, CO raises to $3, Hero calls $3, SB folds, BB calls $2
We avoid 3betting here in position, and conceal the strength of our hand.

Flop: ($9.50) 3 of hearts K of diamonds Q of clubs (3 players)
BB checks, CO checks, Hero bets $7, BB folds, CO calls $7
KQ and 33 beat us. JT will bet, as will AQ, KT, JQ etc etc. standard to call here to maximise value due to concealing hand.

Turn: ($23.50) Q of diamonds (2 players)
CO checks, Hero bets $13, CO raises to $26, Hero calls $13
My feeling is a full house and trips against a standard player here continues betting. I am not in love with the check raise but it seems a bit fishy.

River: ($75.50) 6 of spades (2 players)
CO checks, Hero checks

Results: $75.50 pot ($3 rake)
Final Board: 3 of hearts K of diamonds Q of clubs Q of diamonds 6 of spades
CO showed 9 of clubs K of clubs (two pairs, Kings and Queens) and lost (-$36 net)
Hero showed K of hearts A of clubs (two pairs, Kings and Queens) and won $72.50 ($36.50 net)

I hope you see that if I had 3 bet AK preflop, I would have won a paltry 4.5bb as he was pushing the fold button quicker than light, whereas I ended up winning nearly 10 times that, by maximising value and being prepared to play a bit of poker.

January 14, 2010

Moving down when running bad? Not me….

Bankroll management is the key to winning in the long run in poker. Strategy comes a close second. Edges are so slim nowadays that if you get your buy in level wrong, you can go broke and it can be very difficult to get back to where you were.

Part of that, and rarely disagreed with, is the link between physcology, a downswing, and the idea of moving down limits whilst you steady the ship.

I strongly disagree with this notion.

Let’s assume you are a small winner at a given limit, say 1ptbb/100 before rakeback, over say 150k hands.

Then lets say you go on a 10buy in downswing over 5k hands and lets assume you continue to play solid poker, as you were when you were averaging 1ptbb. Common thinking is to move down a limit or 2. But I don’t get that. That means you have to double your win rate to get back to where you were. Or play twice as many hands at the same win rate but at the lower level. What I do agree with is that variance evens itself out over the long run. Which means that, provided you are adequately bankrolled and still playing your best game, it will even out, and therefore, without, changing anything, you will naturally “catch up”.

All this may seem obvious, but it surprises me just how low the perceived bankroll limits are in the forums, and therefore isn’t obvious at all if you are actually in the middle of a downswing. Many talk about 20 buy ins before shot taking. I can, on a good month, win 20 buy ins within 15k hands. Does that mean I am ready to shot take at, say, 400nl. No. I would get owned. I have lost 14 buyins in one day before, in 2000 hands. Imagine if that was the day after I took a successful shot at 400nl.. Maybe at 10nl and below that’s fine, but in order to cope with the swings, you need to have 100 buy ins. Taking shots is fine, but if you want to avoid tilting when the bad variance kicks in, and I am talking a downswing of 10-15 buy ins over a few sessions, and it inevitably will, you need to have this factored in to your bank roll.

So, after your downswing, when your EV line evens out , as the maths dictates, and having moved down to a lower limit, as you had to do because you were not adequately bankrolled with your paltry 20 to 30 buy ins, then you are effectively cutting your dollar win rate (as opposed to your BB win rate) by half.

So when you have the inevitable doomswitch, don’t move down, grind through it. Just don’t be at a level that you cannot cope with 10-15 buy in down swing.

January 08, 2010

suckout? Me? I don't think so

Online Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker! The WBCOOP is a free online Poker tournament open to all Bloggers, so register on WBCOOP to play.

Registration code: 904254

An interesting hand came up where many may feel I sucked out and/or played it bad, including the other players at my table at the time, judging by the comments. But I don't think so. What do you think?

$0.50/$1 No Limit Hold'em Cash Game, 6 Players
Poker Tools by Stoxpoker - Hand Details

Hero (BB): $138.10 (138.1 bb)
UTG: $127.60 (127.6 bb)
MP: $103.65 (103.7 bb)
CO: $151.30 (151.3 bb)
BTN: $140.25 (140.3 bb)
SB: $95 (95 bb)

Pre-Flop: Hero is BB with T of hearts T of clubs
2 folds, CO raises to $3.50, BTN calls $3.50, SB folds, Hero raises to $15.50, CO calls $12, BTN calls $12
I squeeze TT, sometimes I just flat, it just depends. But, after my 3bet, when I get a caller and an overcaller, then their ranges (both standard regs who are capable of folding, and of making semi-bluffs) become quite polarised to 99-QQ type pocket pairs to the original raiser and speculative hands like JTs and baby pairs to the overcaller.

Flop: ($47) 2 of clubs 6 of hearts 5 of clubs (3 players)
Hero bets $41,
I have to represent AA here and I need to do this with a very big bet, which will fold out JJ-QQ.

CO folds, BTN raises to $124.75 and is all-in, Hero calls $81.60 and is all-in
Original raiser folds, but overcaller shoves his full stack, which is a further 120bb. So he has a set....

But does he?
Would you just shove a set against a guy who clearly has a lot behind and likely overpair? My guess is a thinking player wouldn't.

Believe me I tanked this for a while, but finally decided to call. I will give the full analysis of why after the result below.
Turn: ($292.20) Q of clubs (2 players, 2 are all-in)
River: ($292.20) 2 of spades (2 players, 2 are all-in)

Results: $292.20 pot ($3 rake)
Final Board: 2 of clubs 6 of hearts 5 of clubs Q of clubs 2 of spades

Hero showed T of hearts T of clubs (two pairs, Tens and Twos) and won $289.20 ($151.10 net)
BTN showed 5 of diamonds 6 of diamonds (two pairs, Sixes and Fives) and lost (-$138.10 net)

Why did I decide to call? Well the pot was laying me 28% due to the large amount of money that had gone in. Even ignoring an unlikely but possible (say 10%) total bluff, given his overcalling range with the possiblity of so many semi-bluff type combo draws, I reckon my equity is actually around 52%. I also have a club to take away one of those possible combo outs. And even if you just go by what he actually had, (2pair) I still had 30% equity so was about the right price (just..) for a call.

Gritting your teeth and calling is not great, but as long as you use your precious timebank seconds to think through what he could be doing that with, rather than blind hope, logic can really help you.

In this case therefore, I don't think i sucked out, in fact I actually made a good call. And most importantly, before you criticise the size of my bet on the flop, note that in the chat box after, as my TT was shown down, the original raiser who timed down, but finally folded to my pot cbet, on the flop, did indeed have JJ, and I achieved what I was setting out to do, by repping AA.

January 06, 2010

Charitable Poker

It never fails to surprise me when I see some of the card combos people are prepared to play online, especially when you realise it's all for real money. I just wonder how some of these droolers actually manage to dress themselves in the morning, never mind them being able to figure out the process of how to deposit money on a poker site. Some seem positively determined to just give their money to you, and it makes me wonder if they wouldn't get a little more satisfaction by donating this cash to some kind of charity or worthwhile cause, even going up to a random person in the street and handing them $100 would get a startled and happy reaction from them, which is surely superior to donating within the faceless environment of an online poker room.

As an example I illustrate with this hand. The worrying thing is, this type of thing isn't that unusual.

$0.50/$1 No Limit Hold'em Cash Game, 5 Players
Poker Tools by Stoxpoker - Hand Details
CO: $160.50 (160.5 bb)
BTN: $30.20 (30.2 bb)
SB: $204 (204 bb)
Hero (BB): $100 (100 bb)
MP: $80.10 (80.1 bb)

Pre-Flop: Hero is BB with A of diamonds A of spades
MP calls $1, CO folds, BTN folds, SB folds, Hero raises to $7, MP calls $6

Flop: ($14.50) Q of hearts T of hearts 9 of clubs (2 players)
Hero bets $10, MP calls $10

Turn: ($34.50) Q of clubs (2 players)
Hero bets $16, MP calls $16

River: ($66.50) 7 of diamonds (2 players)
Hero bets $54, MP calls $47.10 and is all-in

Results: $160.70 pot ($3 rake)
Final Board: Q of hearts T of hearts 9 of clubs Q of clubs 7 of diamonds
Hero showed A of diamonds A of spades (two pairs, Aces and Queens) and won $157.70 ($77.60 net)
MP mucked 5 of spades A of hearts (a pair of Queens) and lost (-$80.10 net)

He called the flop, turn and all-in on river with no pair and no draw, giving his stack to the BankofMBB, which I can assure you, is not a charity.

January 02, 2010

Looking forward...2010 and 2009 graph

One of my first posts here shows what my aims for 2009 were. I think I managed to just about get there.

I looked into the Pokerstars VPP thing, but in order to take advantage of it fully, you need to have a lot of volume. After a bit of experimenting with multi-tabling and AHK, I realised I still had so much to learn in just playing the game, so went back to playing 4-6 tables on a rakeback site where volume and rakeback are not related.

The big question we all ask ourselves is whether we are good enough to make a living from the game. As you can see from the graph below, there is no doubt I can beat the game just now, up to 100nl, as the majority of that sample is 100nl, both full ring and 6 max. I currently play around 15 hours a week at poker, seeing 20k hands per month. Some could actually live on just what I have earned through poker this year. For it to be more than just a decent side income however, with that volume, of course I have to be beating 200nl by this time next year, with an eye on shots at 400nl and 1000nl. I need to ask myself whether I want to put that kind of pressure on me, given I work for myself, and don’t always want the distraction of poker, especially when things are going bad. I would also have to think about whether I need coaching or should I carry on with my own brand of betting.

The alternative approach is one of an immediate start of 200nl tomorrow and balling it to 400nl by March to be a reg there by May or June. I am certainly bank-rolled for it. And certainly I could have a heater at the right time, which is probably all you need to cement yourself at the limit. But I have also heard the transition form 200 to 400nl is the hardest, and losing 10 buy-ins trying doesn’t appeal to me, which could happen even if I played perfect poker, as we all know.

The fact of the matter is, I have only been playing online cash poker for a year, and feel I still have a lot to learn. I think, like all businesses, (and I think of poker as a business) we need to think in 5 year plans, and therefore there is more than enough time for me to reach mid stakes without having to risk much too quickly.

Away from Hold’em, I have recently added PLO 6max to my game, which will add discussion and extra dimension to my blog, once I have something to say.

Finally, through my email above I have had a few tentative requests for coaching, which I haven't so far taken up, as I wanted at least 250k hands under my belt. If further requests came in, I would think about it for limits up to 50nl probably, if anyone was still interested.

Well that’s it, enjoy 2010.