Moving on Up: Playing Defense

“Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority.”
–Thomas H. Huxley
My first real foray into the big games is now a week old, and I’m happy to report that it has been (mostly) a success. Back when I was playing $3-6 I used to think that the $15-30 players were all sharky mathematicians who had memorized the odds of every possible situation. It was a bit depressing to discover that the PartyPoker $15-30 doesn’t play that differently than the $3-6 game. Yes, there are a few sharks and a lot more 3 betting preflop, but otherwise the game isn’t much different. Fewer showdowns and tougher calls to make, sure, but there are plenty of $3-6 players that would clean up in these games. I’ve been extremely lucky to avoid too many suckouts, but I’ve seen plenty of terrible beats. Before I move to playing these games full time, I’ll be sure to have plenty of big bets to handle the variance.
The main difference between these games and the lower stakes games is that fewer people see the flop, making heads-up play more common. This forced me to improve my play in the Big Blind, since you’re often facing a steal raise, getting 3.5:1 on calling the raiser in middle position. I ran this by a grizzled veteran and he of course dug through the archives to find some literature that proved my instincts to be true. One reason Hold ‘Em is so popular (not including TV) is that no hand is that big of an underdog before the flop. So getting 3:1 against what is likely a steal raise means that you should defend your blind unless you’re holding one of the worst preflop hands.
Here’s the gold nugget dug up by Ignatius (check out this post for more):
“Suppose in Holdem an early position raiser who happens to hold AKo raises your big blind. Everyone folds to you. You hold 98o. What do you believe is *your* most profitable action here? Let’s assume no one says reraise, so that leaves call or fold. You are getting 3.5-to-1 on your call. Depending on how the suits are lined up, if both hands always went to the showdown, you would be about a 64/36 underdog, or less than 2-to-1.”
Yeah the raiser may have Aces or Kings and punish you when you flop your 9, but this is poker! Have faith in your postflop play and take the odds when they’re in your favor! Defending the blinds requires everything that’s beautiful about poker– knowledge of odds, reading players, and of course, gambling. Heads up in the Big Blind is one of the few frequently occuring events in limit that allow you to go beyond ABC poker and use your skill to make a profit.
But enough preaching. I braved the dangerous waters of the top section at Hollywood Park last weekend and came out a big winner. My 3 biggest pots all came from flopping big hands in the Big Blind, so it seems the Poker Gods thought highly of my newfound courage to defend my blind. The HP $15-30 was MUCH different than the $6-12, and it felt good to actually be able to put people on a hand and make some tough calls (without the nuts).
And yes, getting rivered at higher stakes is considerably more annoying than at lower stakes.
Alright, this post is going down the drain, but what can I say, I’m going to Vegas this weekend with my younger sister, who was able to hook up free rooms at Paris. Not a big fan of the place, but hey, it’s free. We’ll also be meeting RDub there, who is making his first trip out… who knows how much poker will be played, but I’m determined to sit the Bellagio $15-30 for a couple hours at least. From what I’ve heard, it’s the softest game in the country, and I’m determined to verify the truth of these rumors. So that means no posts until next week’s trip report.
While you’re waiting on the edge of your seat for my return, go over to Pacific Poker and create an account if you don’t have one yet. The Iggmeister is hosting another Blogger tourney, and this time its open to readers. Check out his blog for details.
Some congrats are in order. First, congrats to Monk who’s been on a tear lately, cashing in big in a tourney this week. My favorite part is that he actually sprinted to work IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FINAL TABLE ACTION. He ended up getting fourth, and won almost enough money to cover the cost of a new laptop poker machine. It’s only a matter of time until his winnings dwarf my own meager loot…
Also a shout out to Poker Dealer Extraordinaire OJ, who’s been on a rush that poker players dream about. The high point was a win in the 99 player limit tourney on Monday night, taking the biggest slice of the $75 * 99 prize pool. We’ve been playing at the same table a fair bit the last couple weeks, he’s just won about 10 times more money than I have. No I’m not bitter.
Viva las vegas!
hdouble bet $160, collected $592, net +$432 [ 9h Th ] [ a straight flush, ten high — Th,9h,8h,7h,6h ]
hdouble: nh
Dealing Flop…
hdouble: tx

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