Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Misdirection and Reads in One-Pair Cash Hands

I've been thinking about how I have managed to have as much success as I have with one-pair hands at the cash tables in 6-max no-limit holdem. Through around 3000 hands I am up more than a buyin with hands where I ended up holding just one pair, nothing more. Of course, part of it is just that at 6-max, one pair wins startistically noticeably more often than at a full ring table with 9 or 10 players (or 11 if you're playing WSOP circuit events, blech). But it's more than that, as one pair is a significant losing hand for most of the players I run into on my Poker Tracker software, mostly all of which are mined from 1-2 or 2-4 6max nlh play. And from careful study and review of my hands over the past week or so, I believe I have figured it out as far as why I have success playing one-pair hands in nlh 6-max cash. I'm not just playing any old one-pair hand and winning more often than I'm losing with it. I am playing my hands such that I'm taking it to the river with my one pair only when I've done something with the hand to suggest that I am likely to be best.

A large part of it is misdirection, plain and simple. I'm not about to call off a big chunk of my stack with just one pair, unless I've specifically done something in the hand such that I know my opponent may think that his worse one pair is actually ahead. So I'm not calling a big bet on the river with 77 on a board of AK954 when my opponent has been betting into me solidly ever since the flop. If I played hands like those, I would never be up over time with one pair on Poker Tracker. But, I might instead call that big bet on the river with my KK or JJ on a board of QQ974 if I have played it slow enough, and managed to get enough of a read that my opponent only has a 9 in his hand, such that there seems to be a good shot that I can win it.

Here are some examples from my play last night, where incidentally I ended up losing about half a buyin overall thanks to just playing too long and too loose, after I had previously been up 2.5 buyins on strong, solid play and a few big hands to boot.

First, I have AQo in the big blind at a 2-4 cash 6-max table, and MP open-raises it up to the standard pot-raise of $14. The action folds around to me, and I call with what I figure is the best Ace. So, most likely either I'm behind a smaller pocket pair with many chances to draw out with a straight draw, a Queen or an Ace on the flop, or I'm already ahead and dominating a lower Ace in my opponent's hand. The flop comes 752 with two spades. I check from the big blind, and MP leads for $24 into the $30 pot. Now I've got the two overcards, and frankly my read on my opponent was that he had a lower Ace. I've seen him c-bet before pretty consistently when he raised it up preflop, so his lead bet of $24 here tells me precisely zero about the hand he's holding. Sure he could have pocket Aces, but he would make this identical bet with pocket 7s for the flopped set, and he would also make the bet with a total miss hand like A9s, which he would have also raised with preflop like he did. So, since there's a chance that I'm already ahead here and I've seen no information to tell me otherwise, and since any Ace or Queen will in my mind likely move me ahead even if I am currently behind here, I call his $24 bet, signalling to my opponent that I like my hand here and will not be pushed off with nothing:

So there is now $87 in the pot as we see a turn card:

Bingo! Now this is a really good card for me, in that I have put this guy on a lower Ace than my AQ all through the hand, and now I've hit top pair and probably a better kicker against a guy who (1) must think his Ax is now the best hand since I called his flop bet, and (2) I am actually dominating. Plus, if he did have some kind of medium pocket pair, now I am back out way in front with just one card to come with my top pair Aces and second kicker. So I know I can bet out here, but instead I check it as you can see above. Why? Because if this guy has an Ace in his hand, I've shown no real strength in the hand so far, basically just calling his bets without moving at the pot at all myself, and now this guy has (I think) just turned top pair in a situation where he is probably not going to put me on an Ace as well given how I've played the hand so far. I know he's going to bet his top pair here, with the $87 in the pot already making the pot worth winning, and then I can check-raise him with what is probably the best hand, and where he will probably think he has the best hand because I have not pushed at all with my AQ either preflop or with top pair second kicker on the turn.

He bets after I check:

And I'm going to stick with my plan to checkraise, hopefully taking the pot down here:

Now that is surely a big bet here, but what can I say I had a read and I went with it. And when he bet out the $80 into the $87 pot on the turn, I all but knew he had an Ace. If he was sitting on a hand like pocket 9s or Tens, is he going to bet that big when the Ace falls on the turn, when I've been a caller (indicating some kind of a drawing hand, like a decent Ace on this raggy flop) since the very beginning. No, I don't think he bets it out quite this strong. I now have him more than ever on that medium Ace, so I'm moving in for the kill.

He reraises me allin:

and now I'm thinking for the first time that I could be beat. I still think he has that A8 or A9 type of hand (these kinds of donks are all over the place online), but no way I'm folding for just another $132 here, giving me basically 5-to-1 pot odds where I think I may actually be ahead anyways right now.

I call, and voila:

Donkey. And I win a $799 pot with one pair, just top pair second kicker:

So you see, I don't play my one-pair hands like he does. I don't take AT against a guy who could have a stronger Ace and reraise over the top allin with it against a very large reraise from my opponent. That's what my opponent did in this hand here, and that's why he has a significantly losing record with one pair like most people, while I remain positive overall with one-pair hands.

Here's another example. Again I'm at 2-4 6max, and again I'm in the big blind. The cutoff open-raises the standard pot-raise to $16, which means nothing since this guy is a known and observed preflop stealer with the potraise, and the small blind calls the $16 ahead of me. I've got TT in the big blind, so I call as well for $12 and we see a flop with $48 in the pot:

J83, no flush possibilities, and no realistic straight draw either since I'm holding two of the Tens. The small blind bets out very small, $12 into a $45 pot. I don't see him just calling (and not reraising the stealer) preflop if he held a big overpair JJ through AA (maybe with JJ, surely not with QQ, KK or AA), so unless this guy has a Jack, my Tens should be in good shape here. And if he did hold a Jack in his hand, would he ever have bet so small into the pot on the flop here, basically making a bet of around 25% of the pot? I say no. So I'm raising with what I believe is the best hand, and unlike the small blind, I'm raising big. I want to find out now if my Tens are ahead, and if not, if my opponent can maybe be pushed off his hand:

The cutoff folds to my big raise, and then the small blind just calls. When the turn brings an ostensibly harmless and offsuit 5♣, my opponent checks the action to me to see what I'm going to do here. This to me simply does not seem like the actions of someone who has flopped top pair. He called a raise preflop -- albeit from a stealer on the button -- but if he has a Jack of some kind it is probably something like J8, J9, JT or JQ since I don't see him calling the preflop raise with a hand like J2 and since I see him reraising with AJ or KJ probably preflop since the raise came from a button stealer. That's the way 6-max is generally played online, at least at this level. So, I'm thinking, if he did have the Jack with a decent kicker, why not reraise me on the flop instead of just smooth calling my large raise, or at least bet out after another raggy card on the turn, if you have a decent top pair hand? Since I also called a raise before the flop, he needs to figure out as soon as possible if his top pair decent kicker is ahead, dominated by a higher Jack or maybe even an overpair. So, when he checked this turn card to me, I figured he either does not have a Jack after all (i.e., he called my flop raise out of stubbornness, maybe with middle pair, a draw maybe or something like that), or at least as likely, he has a Jack that is not AJ and probably not KJ either.

So, since I think he likely has a Jack of some kind, and since I haven't been able to get out of him just how strong that Jack is, but I know he did call a $47 raise on the flop, I checked behind on the turn, hoping for some love at the river or at least to be able to get him to lay down with a bet on the river if he shows some more weakness to me at that point:

The river brought an Ace, a perfect scare card once my opponent checked again to me on that river:

Incidentally, this was a bad check by him, as if he had bet big on the appearance of the Ace on the river, I am clearly folding my pocket 10s. But his check on the turn followed by another check on the river told me beyond a doubt that he was frightened at this point. Probably he never had a Jack to begin with, or if he did it was a weak Jack and in any event now this Ace makes him think he is behind. He made a big mistake not betting that Ace on the river, because, with me having just checked behind on the turn, he can't possibly be sure enough that I'm going to bet and let him checkraise that he would risk checking to me with a monster. No way. So, since I clearly have him on a weak hand at this point, I'm going to go and take this pot away with the appearance of that beautiful Ace:

This pot sized bet is clearly going to do the job if he in fact does not have an Ace. Even if he had been slowplaying a little with a hand like QJ or KJ, at this point he is going to fold to my bet. I know it even before I made that bet. And I was right:

So there's another $139 into my PT stats for one-pair hands.

Again the secret to both of these hands? Sticking with my reads, and misdirection. On all streets. Sometimes I am smooth calling before the flop with a solid pocket pair, sometimes I'm betting small or outright checking a strong hand on the turn. Other times I'll bet the flop but then purposely slow down on the turn even though in reality I am confident that I'm ahead. And at all times I am actively putting my opponent on a hand, refining that prediction, and just generally letting my instincts tell me what he has, while trying to send off incorrect or at least mixed signals about what I've got in my own hand. That's how I won $800 on the first hand above, by playing slow with a good starting hand and then again checking when I made top pair second kicker on the turn, and I then turned that around and won $139 on the second hand by starting with a decent pocket pair, and then using enough misdirection and taking advantage of a river scare card to take it down with just my one pair, not even as high as second pair on the board by the end.

On the slate tonight for me: Mookie: The Return I'm looking very much forward to playing in my first Mookie tournament without Lost to distract me in...oh...about 18 weeks, so I am more than thrilled about that. Time to get back on the horse with my goal to win just one frucking Mookie tournament before this year is out. And my quest to avoid the suckouts starts tonight. So, knock me out of the Mookie this evening with a hand that is behind mine when all the money goes in, and I'll buy you in to next week's Mookie tournament by transferring you $11 cash money tonight. Talk about the easiest bounty in poker, just call my preflop raise or reraise with AJ and you can't lose. Enjoy, and I'll see you tonight at the Mook.

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Blogger WillWonka said...

Of course, I'm not the player that you and many people are; but both the hands seem to warrent a re-raise from the BB.

I think it does a couple of things. It let's people know that they can't attack your blinds and potentially gets you the pot right there and then and you don't have to face so many 60-40 / coin flip type situations.

Your "read" was that he had a lower ace. Why was that... just because you had a higher ace. To me he could have easily had AQ+ or and decent pair.

It just seems from a 6 max type perspective is that you want the lead; but then again, most of my experience comes from limit which of course is a different animal; but some basic rules would seem to be the same. I do realize that you would be out of position.

Both hands worked out for you so I'm glad for that.

1:56 AM  
Blogger HighOnPoker said...

Hey Hoy. You pretty much ignored the Ace-Ten player's flush draw. You had the right read as far as cards, but the suits matter once he flops that flush. I don't think it necessarily changes your play, strategy, or analysis, but it does make your opponent's play less donktastic, post flop.

2:11 AM  
Blogger Fuel55 said...

Hand 1 - AT is spewage here. A with Tc maybe for a redraw but spear1 should have given it up for sure. This is a good case for not reraising AK and AQ preflop since you get him to think his ace is good.

Hand 2 - I don't like the positional check on the turn - he is handing you the pot here so take it. To your credit you did just that on the river.

2:11 AM  
Blogger lumpy said...

Hand 1 the player has the nut flush draw, didn't see any mention of that in the analysis.

2:29 AM  
Blogger Fuel55 said...

In reading the other comments I see that the turn card in hand 1 made 2 spades and 2 clubs - on the small screen I saw 1 spade and 3 clubs. In this case he cant fold.

2:33 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

FWIW I think he should have unquestionably folded to my big reraise on the turn in the first hand. Since this was the turn round and not the flop, he had just one card to come and should clearly have known that his AT was behind from the action in the hand thus far. Reasonably he could assume that any of 9 spades and 3 other Tens were outs for him, so that gives him 12 outs or roughly a 25% chance to win the hand on the river card. My big reraise on the turn made it $144 to him into a $391 pot. Those odds are no good enough to draw to that 25% chance on the turn in my view, not when he was pretty much obviously behind in this spot. So IMO he needed to fold to my reraise on the turn there. Instead he adds insult to injury by not only not folding, but by re-reraising me allin in that spot. So he's moved all of his money in on the turn when he has just a 25% chance of winning the pot, and where I am obviously not folding to the paltry re-reraise given my action so far on the turn card. That play made no sense by him and was IMO the definition of chip spewage. $800 worth spewing into my stack, to be exact.

3:27 AM  
Blogger Alceste said...

On the first hand, if he could reasonably assume he had 12 outs to win, he needed 3:1 odds and you were laying 2.7:1 - he only needed to get paid off roughly 1/3 of the time on the river for a turn call to be +EV (and chances are you are going to call when he hits a ten and at least some of the times he hits the flush). A marginal call but I don't think it's an unquestionable fold (the push, on the other hand...)

4:23 AM  
Blogger Alan said...

Great post as usual with the details. On hand #2, I actually disagree with Fuel and agree with your analysis (I'm not taking sides, just hear me out). If he had a weak jack where he couldn't fold to a raise on the flop, why would he fold to a big bet on the turn when it brought a harmless card. And if he does call the turn, the pot might be big enough where even with the ace coming as a scare card, he might just be inclined to call because he's got so much committed. Instead, by checking, even though it gave the villain the chance to reclaim the pot, it also gave you so much more info about how weak his hand is (or how uncomfortable he was with it) so that a strong bet on the river was enough to let his hand go.

On a side note, how do you put together so many screen shots? Are you constantly doing screen shots or does vista make it easier to do that? Your screen capturing never seizes to amaze me.

8:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You go bust fast with these plays imo...

TT multi-way J high fop... garbage hand, dump it.

ATs vs AQo you hit a 2 outer on the turn and he still had almost 1 in 3 chance... on the flop it was a coin flip.

9:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never mind, those are good plays... how would I know what I'm talking about.


10:48 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Two-outer, huh dp?

8:39 PM  

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