In the poker game of life…

Women are the rake! A little harsh, but I haven’t been able to play much lately because of family, and my wife’s friend is in town from Sweden, so we’ve been entertaining. What’s worse, they got a two night trip to Vegas (I’ll be at work) next week for $300, airfare included. And they’re staying at New York, New York. No, I’m not jealous.

Great blogging going on out there. My boys Chris H. and TFG both hit royal flushes last night. Again– No, I’m not jealous. I think I hit my only royal flush after about 7000 hands, and do you know how much I won for it? $30 pot in a $5-10 game. So I won 1.5 BB. Bah humbug. Iggy has moved on to Multi-table NL, where I think he should have been all along. Pretty soon you’ll see “Congratulations to HornyBabe2003 for winning multi-table tournament,” and we’ll just have to wonder if that was Iggy’s screenname.

Since my play has been sporadic, I’m going to offer a little bit of theory, and since it’s playoff time, I’ll give a full treatment to NFL playoff predictions. I love the $3-6 tables, and I’ve definitely found a new home… I was up $50 after 45 minutes last night, but ended up pissing away my winnings playing too loose and attempting some ill-advised semi-bluffs. As a tribute to Mean Gene, I even tried a semi bluff checkraise with bottom pair and a flush draw, but it failed miserably. Obviously, use this play cautiously.

Theory: Decisions on the river
Feeney’s “Inside the Poker Mind” really has me thinking. I think this is probably the best book for Intermediate players (which I would classify myself as), and really breaks down poker into its most crucial elements. Between draughts, veteran poker blogger referenced Feeney’s “strategic moment” concept, which basically says that there are moments in the hand where the player must use all of the inputs given to him, and use that information to choose the best action.

One of these strategic moments is “what to do when you are heads up on the river and first to act”. I think this decision is one of the hardest to make in poker, and I often find myself making the wrong move here. Let’s take an example hand here (here’s how my thought process would work)…

I’ve got KQo in middle position, and limp after 2 other limpers with 2 players (it’s a passive table, so we’ll play this in middle position). The Button and BB call. Flop is K 7 8 rainbow. BB checks, and the 2nd limper folds. We’ll ignore the strategic considerations until we get to the river for now, but I bet out, trying to protect my hand and making straight draws pay. The button and BB call, and the turn is 7d, putting 2 diamonds on the board. I bet out again, and button calls while BB folds. The river is 2d.

Now for the strategic moment…
We have some choices here.
1. Bet our top pair for value. We believe we have the best hand, and we believe that the Button will call with second best hand, perhaps KJ. If the button was on the straight draw, he will fold.
2. Check, since we are afraid we might be beaten. It’s possible that the Button has A7d, a reasonable hand to limp in with, considering the hand was 3 way before it got to him.
3. Check in the hope of check raising. If we put the button on something like AQ, we may induce a bluff. If the button bets, we call, and get an extra bet (since he probably would have folded had we bet)

Sklansky and Krieger argue that 2 is often the best choice… unless we know a lot about the player, we don’t know what kind of hands he will play on the button, and it is definitely possible he has caught trip sevens on the turn, or backed into a flush. On the other hand, given no evidence to the contrary, and knowing that most low-limit players tend call too much with second best hands, we don’t want to miss a value bet.

This is a very tough decision. Probably what I would do is bet out, and this will put the button to the test. If we are reraised, we can probably fold (the bluff check-raise on the river is very rare, so we can assume that he backed into the flush or turned trips). Since if we check he will bet anyway (and we have to call, because there is a decent chance he is bluffing), our betting out gives us a chance of winning an extra bet, but exposes us only to a bluff-check-raise, which is rare.

This example shows how valuable the ability to read players is… if we had any read on the button, the amount of information we have available at our strategic moment is far greater. In B&M play, we can use visual input to help us– loosely stacked chips might tell us that the guy is more likely to hold KT than A7 (maybe), or a neat stack might tell us the guy was on a straight draw and will fold to our bet.

Ok, I suppose I should do some work now, so the Playoff picks will have to wait. Keep up the great blogging, and may karma reward you. Comments? For all you Sklansky disciples, I’m debating if I should reread HFPAP and/or Theory of Poker. I think I probably missed a lot of stuff, and haven’t reread it since my “beginner stages”. I didn’t like his stuff that much, as it seems to apply mainly to tougher games. But I’m listening to recommendations.

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply