Loosening up, and “The Migration”

”. . . to be acutely conscious is a disease, a real, honest-to-goodness disease.”
–Dostoevsky, Notes from the Underground

It’s been a while since I posted anything about theory, but recently, I’ve felt like my game has hit a plateau. So I’ve been hitting the books to try to get over the hump. I’ve been running good lately, but it’s been mostly the cards, not my play. I’ve always been extremely critical of myself in whatever I do, and poker is no different: good plays are expected (and therefore forgotten), while bad plays stick to my memory and beg for a fix.

My time at the wild no-fold-em $6-12 tables at Hollywood Park have also inspired some thought about hand selection. The juiciest of these games involve huge multi-way pots (at least 5 seeing the flop) and few pre-flop raises. Obviously, the implied odds go through the roof here, and if you flop to your hand, you can collect a lot of bets.

How strong are suited connectors?
Much has been written about the value of suited connectors, and Abdul and Izmet say that we should happily ram and jam with these hands, since they will win more than their fair share of multi-way pots. But other writers have said that the medium suited connectors are overrated.

In his excellent no-fold-em simulation, Todd Mummert says that Sklansky, among others, overrates the strength of the medium suited connectors:

“In fact, as the games become looser there is a clear trend visible in Table ___ for the showdown linearities to dominate. Even if you think you’re playing under the ideal conditions for medium suited connectors, if one player leaves or a new player joins the game your assumption may suddenly no longer be correct and inertia could easily lead you to end up playing what are just relatively weak hands.”

His point is, since these hands are so dependent on the number of players in the pot, it is easy to misplay them. However, if you have a good handle (well, as good as one can get) on a loose game without too much raising, then it is clear these hands are extremely strong.

Lets looks at some odds: the medium suited connectors have excellent odds to flop to a strong draw or better. Medium suited connectors are 5:1 to flop either a draw with 8 or more outs or a made hand. 5:1! I found that a little bit surprising, since the odds of flopping a set is 10:1. This illustrates the power of the suited connector, and we see why it is so popular in No-Limit. With a few passive players in the pot, we can be fairly confident we’ll get enough callers if we flop to a draw or a made hand.

However, it’s not that simple. Suppose we hold 87c and the flop is 2c Jc Qd, with 5 players in the pot. Although we’ve flopped the flush draw, we have a lot to worry about. Expert players are good at accounting for the “negation of outs,” or outs that will make our hand but make someone else a better hand. There is a good chance we are drawing dead on a flop like this: someone may be holding Axc, and we are drawing dead. Someone may hold QQ, JJ, or QJ, and that eliminates a bunch of our outs, and guarantees that it will be expensive to make it to the showdown.

So, the theory tells us that while these hands have great implied odds, they are extremely dangerous. They require excellent post-flop play, and if you aren’t able to read your opponents well, you will end up discovering that you just threw away 7 or 8 big bets to someone holding a bigger flush than yours.

But what does the data say? Although the sample size is small, PokerTracker gives me some empirical evidence:

T9s  34  -.33  59%
98s  119  .26  58%
87s  38  .26  53%
76s  36  -.22  25%

Well, it’s not very conclusive, but it’s interesting. Why did I get 98s 4 times more than the other medium suiteds? I’ll have to ask Russ Georgiev about that one… but the -.33 BB/Hand with T9s I attribute to poor play, such as going to the showdown with the idiot end of the straight a couple times. 76s I only played voluntarily for 9 hands, so the sample size is way to small.

So my conclusion: suited connectors are big money hands, but make sure you aren’t drawing dead. Thanks, Captain Obvious. What I really mean is, play suited connectors strong, but realize that a lot of your outs might make someone else’s hand a winner.

Poker Blog Patrol
My favorite entry of today has to be Royal’s attempt to answer the question, “Why do I play poker?”

“I play poker to get better at poker.

As mentioned above I’m learning a lot about table selection, but it goes against every competitive bone in my body. I want to play the 9 best players in the world…”

I’m with Royal here (check out my attempt to answer this question in a previous post), but I’m still on the fence as to whether tough games should be enjoyed or not. As an ex-footballer, I always wanted to play my best against the best. But what do you do when you crush Johnny Chan in a single session? Celebrate that you got good cards and made good plays? The great players view poker as one long session. You win by having more knowledge than your opponents, so why play against the best? Just ask Ignatius.

Speaking of the guinness fiend, Iggy hit the big time, and represented all us poker bloggers in his new PokerSavvy article. Check it out! Igs writes in his own blog that he’s going back to the grind after a long run on the multi-tables. I’m sure you’re tired of hearing me pimp his blog, but how can you not when you get gems like this:

“But I’m glad I shifted gears for a bit. Stasis in poker = death. You constantly need to be evaluating your game, your mentality, your emotional quotient. The difference between the long-term winners and losers is character. Discipline.”

I can barely keep up with Pauly, who posted his Foxwoods trip report. It took him 4.5 hours to get in a 2-4 game! I get mad if the wait is longer than 10 minutes in LA. Pauly knows a sucker when he sees one:

“Although I dropped $50 at Foxwoods, I made all my money back when I took some of Haley’s friends for $200 betting on various Golden Globe categories (Bill Murray’s win was clutch!)”

Pauly emailed me to let me know he may be in LA sometime in the future… I hope I don’t have to watch his back when he starts a rumble in the $2-4 game after dropping the Hammer. I really miss the East Coast (but not Foxwoods), even if it’s freezing over there… Yesterday I saw in the log files that 55% of my readers are coming in from the East Coast… confirming my suspicions about the literacy rate in LA.

I wish there was some sort of BlogCenter highlight reel for BG’s posts… he put up SIX today, and I’ll be catching up at work tomorrow…

In the low limit world, Sean sounds like he’s climbing the learning curve after a trip to Borgata… and my man Paul is battling a “frozen wave of cards” to go with the cold weather.

Lord G takes us along on his Vegas trip, and concludes with a brilliant victory in the Orleans tourne
y. Congrats LG, you da man! The guy goes to Vegas for the first time and wins a tourney. Keep an eye on his blog…

Felicia got great news from the docs and was nice enough to give up some tourney play, and play cash games with her lucky husband. I’m sure the regular tourney crowd was happy.

Actual Poker Content
For a little variety, I sat in the $50 max buy in NL game on party last night. My NL game is much weaker than my limit game, but from my limited experience on the $50 tables, if you sit and wait for the nuts and pick off the bluffs at the right time, you can make a lot of money. I found a very weak-tight table and started throwing my chips around. I’m sure you’re wondering when this post will end, so I’ll keep it short:

Hand 1: On the BB I have T3o and see the flop for free. 3 limpers. Everybody checks all the way to the turn, and the board is 9 Q 5 5, with 2 hearts. The river comes Td, and it’s checked through, but the guy in last position bets $10. I feel like this has to be a bluff, and I know that I’m outkicked if he has the ten, but my gut says its a bluff. I call, and he shows KJ for the straight. I told you I was a bad NL player.

Hand 2: The very next hand, I get AKo in the SB. Amazingly, everyone folds to me, and I overbet ($5), trying to convice the BB that I’m stealing. He raises it up to $10, and I have to decide if he’s got a pair or overcards. I call, waiting to see what happens on the flop. Flop is 2c 4d 2s, and I check. He bets 15, and this screams bluff to me. He could have a pocket pair, but this guy has been bluffing, so I put him to the test, pushing all in for $37 more. He calls, and I get ready to rebuy for $50. The turn is Jh, and river 9s, and I am sure I lost, but he turns over… KQo! Nice call, fishie. HDouble doubles up, and I can’t help but think my horrible play on the previous hand won me this pot.

Hand 3: I get AQ on the button, and raise it up to 4 after 2 players limp in. the BB calls, and the limpers also call. Flop is 9d 2c Ac, and I don’t want to mess with a flush draw, so I bet the pot ($15) and I get one caller. I fear AK here, or a set, but I’m here to win money, so I bet $20 when the turn shows Js. He calls again, and the river is 8s. He checks, and I check, raking in the $45 pot when he shows T9c. Dodged a bullet there.

I mostly folded the rest of the time, but the above three hands put me up $70 for 25 hands. That’s why they say it’s the golden age of poker. Even if your play is a bit fishy, you can still escape with a nice little win.

Party sinks to new low
I received the following email from Party yesterday (this is not a joke):

Dear Henry (hdouble),

PartyPoker.com, the World’s Largest Poker Room, brings you the opportunity to be at the venue of the most happening event of this year – The Lingerie Bowl.

The PartyPoker.com sponsored “Lingerie Bowl” is the biggest and the most talked about Super-Bowl party. The event will feature two teams of supermodels who will play a seven-on-seven tackle football game.

The Lingerie Bowl will take place on Sunday, February 1, 2004 at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

For more details check out http://www.lingeriebowl.com/

To be present in this extravaganza, immediately mail us back at promos@partypoker.com.

We have limited tickets to the show and they will be offered to our esteemed clients on a first come first served basis.

PartyPoker.com Team

The migration begins
In Geek news, I’ve begun migrating my blog to my server at home. This should please Chris and TFG (who has been hounding me to move to a nicer home– are ya happy Scott???), and the next step is to install movable type. But for now, please click on the link below… I’m not sure if my PC can handle the massive amount of traffic this site generates (all 10 visitors), so I’ll have to see how it holds up over the next few days.
The Cards Speak, now with images! (warning: probability that server is down = 80%)

Good luck and keep the blogs rollin…

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