Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Profiting From Formulaic Cash Play, and Lost

No time today for a typical long post as it is "Bring Your Children to Work" Day and I've packing all the Hammer girls into the car and driving 'em down to my office to get a taste of what Daddy does during his allegedly "real" job, the one I do when it's actually light out, when I actually wear something other than boxers, the one where I actually get paid regardless of how I perform or how any luck factors in day in and day out.

Instead today I will show you a couple of new cash hands from last night's play, which I think show how comforable I'm getting in my $200 nl 6-max play (despite losing about 1 1/2 buyins overall last night on two horrible moves by me). Both of these plays are examples of what I would say is the single biggest weakness among the 1-2 players that has led to the vast majority of my profits at this game -- a formulaic style of play that I would estimate more than 75% of the players use which sees them always open-raising the pot in position preflop, and then almost always continuation-betting the flop regardless of what three cards happen to fall, or their connection to the players' starting hands. In my experience you really can make money by just coming into these games, folding your weak hands, and otherwise playing a very robotic, reactive game. You'll be put to the test with a tough kind of decision once or twice an hour, and how you fare in those hands will determine whether you're down $20, up $60 or up $150 for the session. But otherwise you can just come in, play good starting cards, raise and reraise aggressively when you believe you're ahead, and otherwise let the robots do their robotic moves, and take advantage of those moves in a very robotic way yourself.

First, this is me getting a little bit floaty on a preflop raiser whom I just didn't think hit whatever he was raising with preflop, because of the position he robotically raised from every single time he was in that situation. He pot-raised before the flop from middle position, and I called with A2s. Not my strongest move, but I had seen this guy raise enough to know that he was basically raising the pot with any Ace, any two high cards as well as some other unknown hands as well. When the flop came 9-high, he c-bet a little less than the pot, following the exact formula that I find the majority of 1-2 6max cash players play, and I just did not think that the 9-high flop was likely to have connected with his hand. So I smooth called:

fully planning on taking this pot away on a later street. I had also made third pair on the flop, but I wasn't really giving much value to that pair unless a third two happened to fall on the turn or river here. So, the turn brings an offsuit Jack, which I also did not necessarily see hitting this player's hand, and I figured now is the time to take this raggy-boarded pot down, knowing from having watched this player that he was going to check behind if I checked here on the turn. So I bet out, again a little under the size of the pot:

and he folded:

winning me a small pot in the process. Now as I review the screenshots, to any experienced cash player this is just about the most boring hand in the world. But to those of you who wonder who I play at the cash tables or who don't play at the 200 nl stakes, this might have some interest for you, in that this is how the majorty of the pots I win tend to go. The biggest pots I win have me holding a stronger hand that fourth pair top kicker as I did in this case -- although I'm fairly sure I was ahead here as well -- but it's the large number of little pots like this that help me to build slowly but surely almost every time I sit down to the 1-2 tables.

Following is another fun example of sticking with my read and putting my money where my mouth is, and it's another move that I do with some regularity to much success at the 1-2 6-max tables.

Cutoff+1 raises the pot preflop, a spot I had observed him and noted him raising from with trash such as medium offsuit connectors and Ax before in this session, so I opt to call heads-up out of the big blind with JTs. Again not necessarily my strongest starting hand, but I'm confident enough that I can get away from this hand if I don't hit the flop that I'm willing to take a shot with a hand that can make a lot of top pair decent kickers, straights and flushes:

I make top pair on the flop, which I have every reason to believe is ahead right now. But, I act first here, and I also have every reason to believe that my opponent will once again follow the highly formulaic, pot-raise-then-c-bet strategy that the majority of 200nl 6-max players seem to play these days. So I'm going to check it and let him come to me a bit. I check it:

and he bets $12 into the $15 pot. How perfectly formulaic so far. This time since I actually have top pair and good reason to believe I'm ahead, I'm going to take this thing down right now before an overcard falls and takes away my pot:

My opponent smooth calls my raise, which is strange at first blush. But the thing is, part of the formula that most of these players seem to play is to occasionally call this kind of raise, putting me on a steal attempt in reaction to his formulaic play. I am heartened by the fact that he did not reraise me there on the flop, which discounts greatly in my mind the chance that he holds an overpair or a higher Ten. When the turn comes a raggy offsuit 5, this time I'm checking to see what my opponent has to say:

When he checks behind, now I am fairly sure I'm ahead. Maybe he has a middle pocket pair, or maybe a small piece of the board, but I don't think he has top pair decent kicker. So when the river is an evern raggier 3, I make a bet that I actually don't mind if he calls. And, more than that, it's designed to elicit a fold because I know he's going to know that this bet wants a call because it's a little under half the pot. Since I think I'm ahead but am not 100% sure, I'd like to see him fold here, so my smallish bet accomplishes both keeping the pot small with just one pair, and also giving the appearance that I want him to fold:

He folds, sensing he is in fact behind:

and I take down a 3/8 of a buyin pot. All once again attributable really to my opponent's formulaic play on all streets. Reacting to this sort of formulaic strategy in my opponents, one which I'm sure is not present at the higher levels, has single-handedly helped me to be a profitable cash game player over the past month while I continue to learn the ropes of basic cash play.

OK before I sign off for the day, I wanted to chat briefly about Lost from last night. Let me just say this -- the episode as a whole was somewhat boring to me. It is an interesting surprise that Mikhail is alive and well once again -- I'm sure there is a good story to that but I don't know what it is, probably related somehow to the regenerative properties that the island apparently has. Nonetheless, the big kicker to Wednesday night's episode was the Portuguese girl at the end telling Hurley that their flight crashed, the authorities had found the plane and the all the bodies and that there had been no survivors. That was definitely not something I was expecting, and I think it only leaves a couple of realitic explanations (assuming she is telling the truth, which admittedly is no guarantee on this show):

First, as Goat suggested to me this morning, the Others (or someone else entirely, for that matter) could have staged the entire other airplane fuselage that was found, and staged all the dead bodies, in fact staged the entire crash, just to move the Losties' bodies over to this island in a situation where no one would possibly come looking for them since they thought they'd found the plane and all its passengers' bodies already. This seems a little farfetched, but first of all, saying that about just about anything on Lost seems kinda silly if you think about it. And, it certainly does match up with the way everyone woke up in the very first episode of the series, how they were outside of the plane, lying down, in Jack's case off in the woods even, and all pretty much not injured at all. In some cases (Locke), even healthier than they were before the crash. So, I think this is a possbility, and an interesting one though I think that kinda takes the show in a different direction from where they've been heading, since they specifically showed the Others watching in surprise as the Losties' plane crashed 90 show-days ago.

The second option, one which I do not really like in terms of the story but which I had basically already discussed last week in a post, is that the Losties are somehow in another dimension, or maybe even an alternative universe of some kind. As I said I don't personally love them to be taking the show in this direction either, but something just tells me that their plane maybe really did crash and burn, and they really were all found, dead, in the "real" universe. The one we live in now, in our own time. However, Desmond's failing to push the button in the hatch, the event that caused the plane to crash in the first place, could have somehow opened up a "hole" or whatever to transport from the universe we all live in to this alternative dimension, where the plane did crash, but some of the passengers lived, maybe due to the regenerative properties of the island. I don't know the specifics, but something just tells me that this is where the producers are taking the show as we head into the last few episodes of the third season. What this means will happen in the future is beyond me, and frankly I admit that I hope I'm wrong about this plot line because I'm not entirely in to it to be honest, but that was the first thing that jumped into my head when the chica told Hurley they had found the plane and all the passengers' bodies had been ID'd as fatalities. Interesting stuff.

Just don't let it be that the Losties are really just dead and in purgatory or something here, as has been suggested by some of the more religious types from the very beginning of this show. That would be such a disgustingly stoopid outcome to me that I'm really hoping that's not it.

Tell me something though, can anybody even wait until next week's episode now? Dam those writers are good.

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Blogger Eric a.k.a. Bone Daddy said...

Just be aware the reason for Formulaic play like this is to get you off your game and to play cards out of your normal range. This is what lucko was talking about about taking many stabs at small pots, it creates the illustion that you are loose and over aggressive, where in reality, you are only risking small CBs each time.

When he finally has a hand, you will pay him off. Its great to play back at them, but not too often.

8:53 PM  
Blogger lucko said...

"...I know I'm ahead. Maybe he has a middle pocket pair, or maybe a small piece of the board, but he doesn't have top pair decent kicker. So when the river is an evern raggier 3, I make a bet that I actually don't mind if he calls. And, more than that, it's designed to elicit a fold..."

Hoy- Can you explain your thought process here, I don't get it.

9:21 PM  
Blogger cmitch said...

As Bone Daddy said...(On the J10 hand) Be very careful of the players like this that can adjust to your actions - especially OOP. If I see a player always firing on the river after a raise on the turn, when I have a monster I will probably flat call the turn raise and get all the money in on the river.

I am curious - What do you do if he shoves on the river? (insta-fold in my mind)

All that said, if this is an occassional play and if you play your big hands the same way, then I like the way you played the hand. It should help you get more value out of your big hands against the same player later in the session.

9:31 PM  
Blogger Scots_Chris said...

Yeah, like lucko, I'm also a little confused about your thought processes on the second hand - you said your read puts him on raising with medium offsuit connectors (gap connectors?), if so, he could have hit this flop in a pretty huge way. He may be on the straight or two pair by the time that turn peels off, so I'm not liking your position very much for the endgame play.

10:09 PM  
Blogger Blinders said...

Formulaic play can be very successful, even against your strategy so be careful. The problem is these guys are going to manage the pot when they don't have the goods, and let it get huge when they have it. Floating someone when you actually beleive you are ahead with bottom pair is -EV IMO. If you beleive you are ahead with a hand as weak as bottom pair, reraise the c-bet and take it down right there. Otherwise you are giving him a great chance to catch-up and have no idea if he was already ahead. You do not want to play for a big pot with a pair of ducks in NL holdem, but I though most people knew this.

1:05 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Eric, people play back at me all the time when I'm at the cash tables doing things like this. No one said I'm automatically going to pay him off if he pushes back. Usually in those situations, I'll fold, having lost only a minimal number of chips in the process, for the most part chips that I've already won from previous pots with these players where I've been making lots of those stabs at small pots you mentioned and taken a lot of them down.

Lucko, after his turn check I had a strong suspicion this guy was not strong. I had observed him play and felt fairly sure he would have bet there after my check if he had something better than my top pair decent kicker. The small chance that he could have filled a straight on the turn really diminished for me, having watched his play for some time, when he checked behind on the turn. So, on the river when I was prety sure I was ahead, I bet just under half the pot. It's smaller than most of the river bets I seem to run into in my travels at 1-2 6-max. So if he has something like the 2nd or 3rd pair that I think he was on all along, and he wants to call, I don't mind because I'm pretty confident I'm ahead right now. But the bet was small enough that I figured he would know I wanted him to call, so if he is any kind of a player, he should be folding here which is what I really wanted. Not being 100% sure what he's got, my #1 option there was for him to fold in case he did have QT or JJ or something like that. But I wouldn't have minded if he had called either as I figured I was ahead. Of course if he raises me there then I'm in a tough position, and depending on the size of the raise, I might call but more likely would have to fold. Maybe the confusion comes from my word choice of saying I "knew" I was ahead, when in reality what I meant was I felt fairly confident I was ahead with my top pair decent kicker. I still preferred a fold first and foremost, because I figured my hand could still be vulnerable to a number of hands that might call my half-pot bet but might still beat me.

I welcome everyone's comments on these hands because as I said yesterday I am just starting off with online nl cash games and always love hearing if people think I am leaving chips on the table or taking unnecessary risk. FWIW I have agreed with most of the comments I've gotten from you guys over the past few weeks, and I've been consistently working these tidbits from you all into my game, and I quickly went from donking to making money. Some of the advice I've read here has made me laugh, but most of it has been really solid, profitable advice from people with a lot more experience than I, so it's great hearing what everyone thinks.

cmitch -- I agree you have to always be careful of people who can adjust, and that is great advice. And yes I'm quite sure I have to fold there if he shoves for all his chips on the river. That's probably true in a pretty large % of the pots I play, if the other guy shoves all his chips in, unless I have something stronger than any one pair I would not usually consider calling a big allin. And of course I play a good portion of my big hands the exact same way -- I don't think one advances beyond a certain point in one's poker career without learning how to adequately disguise one's good and bad hands.

scots chris, I find your concern that he *could* be on gap connectors and thus *could* have hit this flop in a big way to be far far too tight for my tastes. I know others who play the game the way you do, and it may work for many of you as there are surely many different ways to play profitable poker, in particular at the donkey levels like 1-2. That said, fearing two pairs or a straight given the action to that point in the hand is not what I put him on and I think would not be the right read. If he raised me on the river then I might start to think that. If he had raised me on the turn, I might have thought that. But after that flop call and turn check, my read was no he had not hit this board hard. Personally I find a lot of tighties out there constantly fear the nuts far more than is appropriate, and I think that is probably the single greatest contributor to my poker tournament success over time. Not saying that is the case with you here, but again after the way he played the flop and the turn, I thought and think it was appropriate to discount the likelihood of him sitting on a monster here.

Blinders, hard to say I really thought I was ahead with my pair of 2s in that first hand. I just know for a fact that my opponent would have c-bet with any two cards and any three cards on the flop, so his c-bet told me presicely zero about the strength of his hand. Again, I had sat there for a while watching the guy play and that goes a lot into my read here. So it's not like I was sure I was ahead or anything. But when he bet the flop, I figured I'll call his automatic c-bet and think about taking this pot away on the turn, after I see one more card on the board. And, since I'm sitting on 3rd pair and also an Ace kicker, not raising there I think was not the bad play you describe, since it is giving me with my pair and ace kicker a better chance than it gives him of improving. Any pair on the board or any Ace on the turn, and I feel much more confident about my hand than I did on the flop. If I had a shit kicker, that's I think a better argument for raising right away to try to take it down, a tactic I've been using quite often when I'm more confident that I'm ahead on the flop.

And calling a $14 pot "big" with those pair of deuces? Even for you, that's pussy. Even for you.

1:50 AM  
Blogger meanhappyguy said...

The biggest thing I got from this post is that in these hands you are putting the pressure on your opponents to make difficult decisions. I don't see many difficult decisions that you, yourself are having to struggle with, although in your comment afterwards it is nice to see the complexity seeping in.

The fact that the "if he pushes on the end, I'm faced with a tough decision" is in reality "he folded, do I muck or show?"

How do I sign up for this girlie chat you speak of? Is there any initiation? Because my butt is still sore from falling on it last week.

4:09 AM  
Blogger lucko said...

If the river raise with the JT was a blocker bet maybe, but the hand didn't play in a way that you would need one, at least to me. I think your river bet folds almost every worse hand and gets called by almost every better hand.

I am almost never betting that river out of position. Check\call and induce the bluff from some worse hands. Better hands you are just paying off anyway.

4:20 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Interesting, Lucko. Maybe you're right. I thought he might call me with 2nd pair top kicker, or maybe a slightly lower top pair as well, when I made that kinda small bet. Maybe you're right, I haven't played that much cash to know for sure. It was just the feeling I had at the time in that hand.

4:49 AM  
Blogger Dr Zen said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:50 AM  
Blogger Dr Zen said...

I'm not understanding this. You made a loose call with JTs and were lucky enough to hit the flop decently hard. You gave your opponent a chance to catch up on the turn and then made a dodgy river bet. Your action screams "I have top pair" to me. If you'd checked the river, you'd have maybe induced a bet from a middle pair because you look like you've stealraised the flop. You were just lucky that the river didn't fill any reasonable draws or you'd have been pushed over and got punished for your play.

I think you should post the hands you lost money on. That would be more instructive. I already know donkeys will call my raises and get lucky.

6:58 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Dr Zen, thanks for the breath of fresh air. I don't agree with your analysis of the hand and I certainly don't find your commentary constructive in any way. That said, I refer to you to the past two years of posts for tons of examples of hands I've lost (and a number I've won as well). I fucked up a pocket Aces hand just this week at 200nl cash and it's up on the blog for you to relish in in your broke tiltedness.

Letting your anger out about your losing in the form of blog comments. So sad :(

8:16 AM  
Blogger Christopher said...

Hoy, I think you've misunderstood me. I'm not fearing the nuts based on my view of how the hand has been played - I'm considering possible hands to put him on when he calls that flop raise and so should you, rather than just putting him on the post oak bluff.
Your read considered the raise possible for medium connectors, that's a very connected flop for that kind of hand, a bet and call of a raise should give you more cause for concern than it simply being the first stage in a 2-act play to take the hand away from you on the turn.
You say that maybe you would think he has 2-pair or a monster if he raises you on the turn, but I would contend that you yourself often talk about trapping with your monsters in this very way - feigning weakness.
I'm sure I've seen you reason through acting very weak on the flop and turn with the intent of setting up a turn or river value bet that smells like a bluff and induces a call or a bluff reraise.
That's all I was saying. Your read was correct, I'm just concerned that you're putting yourself in a spot where you may end up facing a difficult river decision if he has correctly understood your play and you've undervalued his hand.

8:47 AM  
Blogger StB said...

Another day and still no trip to live in the houses on the other side of the island. WTF?

But what got me about Lost this time around, was the people getting freaky. So far we know that Kate and Sawyer have done the deed a couple of times, once on the beach with other people in nearby tents. Way to get freaky with revenge bang!

So Gin and Sun found time to do it. Who else? You cannot tell me others don't have urges. We know Charlie has his MILF but what about the rest of the group? Has someone given Hurly a pity tug?

Just asking.

9:36 PM  

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