Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Hand Analysis Continued, and The Freeroll

Well guys, tonight is really a special night to me poker-wise. A lot has been said and written about the BBT, the three-month blogger poker tournament series that concluded its official schedule on Sunday, July 1. But from the beginning, one the key aspects -- in fact, in my view probably the key aspect behind the success of the BBT this year was the BBT Freeroll tournament at the end of the challenge, which would be an invitiational tournament open only to the top-ranked players and those who participated in a majority of the events. In the end as I have written about in the past, the BBT proved to surpass our expectations in terms of participation, and as a result we ended up with something around $3600 in the BBT coffers by the end of the three months, $1800 of which will be up for grabs in tonight's series-ending BBT Freeroll.

I think I mentioned this once before, but one of the coolest things about tonight's Freeroll is the payout structure that Al had set up. To Al doing this kind of thing is probably easy peasy but as with the rest of us I am continually amazed at this guy's ability to Get Shit Done, even where others -- myself included -- are completely lost. But Al talked to full tilt and got them to agree to a very flat payout structure, enabling us to pay out the top 12 finishers out of the 56 players running tonight. My guess is at least one or two of you donkeys won't show up to play tonight, you'll forget about it, you'll work late, be out of town something like that. So basically, all you got to do tonight to make some free cashish is finish in about the top 22% of the field. Payouts start I think around $50 for the bottom few finishers starting with #12, and they escalate to a number solidly in the $400s for first prize, which is basically at the top the same prize pool as Mondays at the Hoy usually gets, if you want to think about it that way. So tonight, for all you guys who helped make the BBT fun and exciting and special and interesting to hudnreds and hundreds of blog readers and poker players out there, you are getting the equivalent of a free buyin to a 56-person MATH, but one that pays out more spots at the bottom and the same amounts at the top.

In the end, winning the BBT Freeroll and the $400-something first prize will be about more than the money. To me anyways. I would love to win the freeroll because, to a large extent, it contains most of the best poker skill among our group, as measured over a 3-month and 20+-tournament period. I will be expecting the play to be -- cough cough -- a bit -- ahem -- better than in your typical blonkament. Just a little maybe? Please? Ok well we all do what we can. Anyways in a way I do view tonight as a good chance for someone or a group of people to make a statement and walk away with a nice free cash prize to boot. I'm looking forward to tonight's BBT Freeroll, which again is only open to the 56 bloggers and players who were in the BBT Leaderboard top 50 or participated in at least 20 of the BBT tournaments this year. $1800 up for grabs, for free, tonight at 10pm ET on full tilt poker. This is in place of the regular Mookie tournament, a slot Mookie was gracious enough to give up for the evening so the BBT Freeroll could take place at the time when the biggest group of bloggers regularly get together already anyways at full tilt. So it's 10pm ET on full tilt, and no registration or password is required for you -- if you played your way in, then you have already been auto-registered and all you need to do is have your pretty little selves there at the pc at 10pm ET tonight for the slugfest to begin.

Before I get to the continuation from yesterday's hand analysis post, I wanted to say one thing in response to Blinders' recent run of posts in response to my restealing posts from the last week or two. Blinders' basic contention in his follow-up posts is that while restealing may have its (+EV) place late in tournaments, in general restealing in cash games is -EV. He then goes on to provide an incredible amount of detailed mathematics -- which for once I get to be the one to say about someone else's blog that I didn't read all the way through -- and it seems that a lot of people are questioning the conclusion. While I think the detail is probably best left for another discussion, maybe a future blog discussion even, let me just say for the record that I agree 100% with Blinders' assertion. I don't usually resteal in cash games -- I do it for sure, but not nearly as often as I do late in large mtts, because the most attractive thing that makes a resteal so great to pull off is the blinds and antes that go along with restealing another player's preflop steal-raise. By the end of the big tournaments, those blinds and antes are really effing big in relation to the stacks and the tournament average chipstack, and that's the thing that really makes restealing (just plain stealing too, for that matter) so attractive -- so necessary, really -- late in large tournaments. There is just not corresponding situation at the cash tables. So while I do naked resteals with some frequency in my cash game play, it is only where I feel I have a really good read and where I feel the need to show a particular player that he can't just steal-raise me with abandon. Remember, I play 6-max nlh when I play cash, and in that game on-line it is absolutely customary for the button to pot-steal (my term for stealing with a pot-sized raise, which is the standard raise at all the 6-max tables before the flop) if the action folds around to him. But Blinders, I feel ya brotha! The naked resteal in cash games is probably going to be -EV over time for all but the very best players out there, period. Nicely done.

OK, on to yesterday's hand analysis questions. First of all, that was some of the best slate of comments I've seen to a poker post in a long time, so thank you guys for that. There was a lot of disagreement, more than we usually get I think, on some of the basic points of playing this hand on both the flop and the turn, so I will take some time and go through my thoughts here. To refresh everyone's memory, I saw a 4-person flop with 88 after all four players were in for one preflop raise, and the board of 864, all spades (obviously I had no spades, for those of you who have not used playing cards too many times). Top set, but no part of the flush draw and four players in the pot. I ended up checking and calling a $40 bet into what would be a $173 pot to see a 3-way turn card. It came an offsuit King, and again the first player checked to me. I opted to check again, and the player after me led out again, this time for $140 into the $173 pot. The first player folded, leaving me here at this point as we start today's post:

Before we get to what to do now, I want to go back to my play on the flop, which really goes back to my own personal experiences over hundreds of thousands of hands of poker in my life. In general, over time I have had the best success playing against 3-suited boards very slowly on the flop if there is not a realistic expectation of pushing everyone out with a flop bet. And it's funny, because I actually think I came to this realization from playing Omaha. In Omaha, because of the four hole cards for every player, it is rare for someone to ever fold a big Omaha draw on the flop, no matter how big the betting gets. As a result, when I flop a hand like top set in Omaha against a flop with a high straight draw and a flush draw, I tend not to bet on the flop in that spot. The draws aren't going away anyways, and therefore you can get out cheaper if a draw fills on the turn, or more effectively price out the drawers by betting with just one card left once the turn card is already out. This is consistent with several well-known Omaha writers' and authors' strategy for playing these kinds of hands, and it is something I have adapted a bit to my holdem game as well.

In the spot I was in in this hand, flopping top set on a connecting and three-suited flop, I like the flop check, with the intention of seeing a cheap turn card. Obviously there is nothing wrong with betting out here, though I think if you bet you have to put in a big bet -- I'm thinking of around the size of the pot, given the ease with with someone can have a playable draw on this particular flop. A small bet will for sure entice callers, and with so many draws that can beat my set I do not see it as good poker to throw in a pot sweetener in this particular situation. That said, a large (pot-sized) bet makes some good sense to me here, but unless you're willing to fold to an allin push from any kind of a large stack, I think this can commit me to the hand where I have to admit I have lost to the flopped flush or flopped straight on many occasions, sadly.

That's why I like the check better here. With four players in this pot, the odds that at least one of them has a high spade seemed, to me, to be very good since they are likely playing high cards having all called a preflop raise. I also figured that the odds were pretty good that at least one of the four players in this hand had at least an inside straight draw if not an open-ender with a hand like 97s. Any spade, any 2, 5, 7 or Ten and I may be running a very costly set into a made straight or flush. That is 21 cards that I will not be happy facing an allin bet with if they fall on the turn. That's over 40% right there to hit on the turn, and if I get it allin on the flop then I have to see both the turn and the river and face potentially 21 bad cards twice. With the four players in this pot, this situation seems to lend itself more towards the flop check for the same reasons as in the Omaha situation to me. Cmitch commented that this seemed like a contradictory position, but I don't see it that way. To me, with three other players, one of them will have a primary flush draw that they believe will win them a 4-way raised (i.e., eventually big) pot, and the other probably has some form of straight draw along with something else going maybe. I do not believe that even a near-pot-sized bet will chase everyone out of this pot, just like in the Omaha context. So, just like in the Omaha context, since I likely cannot win this pot on the flop even with a bet and since there are a whole lot of turn cards that will make my hand very difficult and uncomfortable (and potentially unprofitable) to play on the turn, for me I have had the most success in this spot by checking and trying to see the turn as cheaply as possible.

In the end, I was perfectly fine with the way this went down. If I had bet out, the player to my left might well have raised (he did bet both the flop and the turn, after all), and then what? Then I'm going to be forced to call allin for an entire stack of bills on the flop with a whole mess of outs to fade. No thanks. I've lost in this kind of situation making a play like that more times than I can count. Yes I might be better than 50-50 to win that allin confrontation, but that doesn't necessarily mean it is the best play available to me. I still prefer the option of waiting until the turn to make my move, when I actually have some good fold equity by making a big bet, because by that time all those 34% draws on the flop will have turned into 18% draws on the river, chances which I can easily price anyone else at the table out of playing for just one more card.

To be clear, and I've written about this many times on the blog, but if there had been just one or two opponents with me when I make top set on this connecting, suited flop, I would be much more likely (though still not sure) to bet out to try to price out the draws. What I'm going for in that spot is taking the pot down immediately. I do not want to slow-play even top set on the connecting, all-suited flop against just one or two opponents when the odds are much better that my opponent does not have enough of a piece of this board to call. But with 3 other players in there for a raise already in this situation, the odds have increased dramatically that at least one of these guys is going to call any reasonable bet I come up with on that flop, in which case I think I'd rather keep most of my money still behind until I see a turn card and can re-evaluate from there.

OK so that was my line on the flop -- the check with the intention of seeing a cheap turn. Now when the turn came an offsuit, non-straightening King, and the action checked around to me, my intention changed entirely. Whereas on the flop I checked with the intention of seeing a cheap card, on the turn I checked with the intent of checkraising. At that point in the hand, many of the commenters felt I should have bet out solidly on the turn, chasing out those draws with what is more likely to be the best hand. While like on the flop I think betting out here is a fine move, I like the check-to-checkraise more, for two main reasons:

First, the cutoff bet out on this suited, straightening flop, showing strength into a board replete with easy draws. That to me means one of two things, either he has a strong hand (could be made straight or flush, a set, set plus a draw, two pairs, etc. or maybe a primary draw), or he has a vulnerable hand that he wants to find out if it is best. This could be an overpair, or top pair good kicker, something like that, maybe a low two pairs. Given that information I have gleaned from my opponent's bet on the flop, I think I can really refine that information if I can see him bet here on the turn before I make any big commitments. If I bet into this $173 pot, it's going to have to be a big bet, and basically both of us will be pot committed if anyone shows any more interest at all in this pot. But if I check here, this guy will either (1) check -- probably meaning that he missed his draw, or maybe had an overpair to the flop but one that is lower than Kings and now he fears AK, or something like that, or (2) bet -- and from the nature of his bet I should be able to tell whether he is trying to buy a relatively cheap river card or whether he is trying to price out the still many draws with some kind of a strong hand.

And so I checked it here, again intending all along to go for the checkraise if the guy to my left bet. This move carries some risk, don't get me wrong, but with that risk comes the reward of possibly reading from his turn action that he might have flopped the flush or the straight, and what's more, from his flop bet I figured the odds were fairly high that he would in fact bet on that turn card. So why not check and get a little more information in this spot, before I (probably) commit my entire stack on a checkraise now where no opponent could possibly be getting the right odds to chase whatever they are playing for on the river.

When my opponent bet out $140 into the $173 pot, my mind was basically made up. I think Blinders said it best in his comment although a few of the commenters did make this point -- that size bet is not typically one that would be made by a made straight, and almost certainly not by a made flush, given that offsuit turn King♥. A guy with that hand -- that at this point he would basically have to believe is well ahead of any other likely holding given the action so far -- would probably bet out on the turn here, but not that big. Yes a tricky multi-level-thinking player might put us on this read and therefore make the largeish bet, but generally speaking $140 into a $173 pot on the turn is not the best of the flopflush or the flopstraight here. The flush would want to bet less, maybe $80 or $90 into this pot, to try to induce a lesser hand to call or maybe even raise what appears to be a weak bet. The straight might bet more towards the high side there, to apply solid pressure to the flush chasing hand, but remember even $90 into a $173 pot doesn't give near enough odds for a normal primary draw to chase in this spot. So when this guy bet out $140 into the $173 pot, I felt I had gotten all the information I needed, and now with just one card to come I was comfortable ending the hand right here, or eliciting a call from a worse hand:

"I'm all-in baby!" And what I like most about the way I played this hand was that I ended up getting my opponent to commit their entire stack with a hand I figured was almost surely behind mine, and yet I managed to avoid committing a big portion of my stack until after I had seen the turn card and got a good read from my opponent that he did not hold one of the two hands I was most afraid of in this spot. To me this is a far preferable outcome to getting it allin against a guy willing to call off a full buyin on a straightening, 3-flushed flop, where at the time my odds of winning were probably fairly close to 50% or so one way or the other. And yes that was the most pathetic, least thought-out math estimate I have ever used here in the blog. And I'm sticking with it.

Anyways, the guy called my allin checkraise here after thinking for maybe 3 or 4 seconds. You wanna guess what he had? So after all the betting out on the flop on a scary board, then betting out big again on the turn, he called my allin checkraise on that turn card on a board of 468K with three spades. What do you think he had here? Formulate your guesses, and then I will skip down some room and show you the exposed cards.

Blimmitty Blam!! Set over set baybeee, and no not the pocket Kings that would have crushed me, and obviously no spade over there either. And for once in my fricking life at the cash tables my opponent did not hit his one-outer on the river, sending an $857 pot my way and putting a nice cap on what has been another nice little run from me at the 2-4 6-max tables again lately on full tilt.

I would love to know your thoughts on how I explained my strategy for this hand, should you have any.

And I'll see you lucky 56 people tonight at the BBT Freeroll at 10pm ET on full tilt! Long live Buddydank Radio!!

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Blogger cmitch said...

I see your point Hoy. I don't mind the check on the flop if your plan is to get it all in the turn if no spade comes. It looks like you would have gotten the same result with a CR on the flop or the turn. It is definitely an interesting hand that could have been played a few diff. ways.

See you tonight at the freeroll.

9:59 PM  
Blogger Matt Silverthorn said...

Well, his betting makes sense with the set as well. I probably play it the same as he did. Not much you can do there.

See you tonight at the freeroll.

10:53 PM  
Blogger L'artiste said...

You talk about all these outs you'll have to dodge but your hand is still very live to improve to a fullhouse or better. Yeah, sometimes your opponent will have a flush and you'll bust. So what? That's why we have bankrolls.

But MORE OFTEN, your opponent will show a smaller set, As or Ks-x, two pair or a pair+flush draw and your hand will prevail.

BTW, what would you have done if the turn brought another spade and the other guy pushed?

11:20 PM  
Blogger L'artiste said...

Oh, and check calling the flop to push a non spade turn is retarded? DUCY? If he flopped a flush, he's obviously going to call your turn push. By checking, you're giving him a shot at a free card to nail his one card flush.

Push the flop and put HIM to the test.

11:25 PM  
Blogger DaSwam said...

I wish I'd been around to read/comment on yesterday's post. I don't think I would have checked the flop here, but the way it played out the only thing I'm worried about with his betting is the straight. IMO, the big bets on the flop and turn were protecting his hand against the draws.

If I'm him facing the turn check/raise you played one of two hands that way:

1) AsKx - The check/call on the flop showed a little weakness after the PFR with a monster draw and more than enough outs to stick around for one more card. When the K hit the turn you had top pair with outs to the nuts.

2) Flopped flush - The check/call then check/raise is how most on-line players would play the flopped flush.

If you are in his shoes, could you fold the set based on the turn betting?

1:51 AM  
Blogger Chad C said...

It was obvious the guy had a good hand. After your smooth call and check raise on the turn you would think that he would recognize the fact that you either have 888 or a flush already?

2:49 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Chad, are you saying that you would have laid down the set of 6s there? I think with the way I played the hand there was almost no way he could be expected to lay it down.

2:51 AM  
Blogger HighOnPoker said...

My only problem with your analysis is you belief that a flush or straight wouldn't make the $140 bet into the $170+ pot on the turn. I would argue that the bet could be a weak flush worried about getting counterfeited with another spade OR likewise, a straight worried about someone making the four-flush. If this particualr player is willing to play middle set as he did, he is probably also willing to play the straight/baby flush that way as well. But, overall, I like your play and analysis. I would've playedit the same way.

3:30 AM  
Blogger Poker Brian said...

I'm kinda on board with Chad there.

The way you played the hand (raise pre-flop, check-call, check-raise) it makes it seem like you flopped the nut flush. I would put you on As-Ks or As-Qs, maybe even As-Js.
At that point I'd reassess and figure I have 1 card to come with 3 4s,1 6, 3 8s, 2Ks (if I decide A-K) so 9-10 outs with the river is approx 18-20%. I just don't think I could risk my stack against that. 100% would not call that in a tourney, maybe 80-90% not call that in a cash game if I had been watching your previous hands.

Too much risk, but either way you played that beautifully.

4:23 AM  
Blogger Dr Zen said...

"Too much risk, but either way you played that beautifully."

LOL. As usual, Hoy butchers a hand, posts it because he scooped a big pot against someone too retarded to lay down their obviously beaten hand, and gets applause for his beautiful play.

5:58 AM  
Blogger Alan aka RecessRampage said...

Well, I guess I was way off last night. The dude had a much better hand than I expected.

Interesting comments by some but I think this would be a totally different scenario if it were full ring vs 6max. Assuming the worst case scenario each time is just weak tight poker. If the guy had a flush, so be it. It happens. But pushing on the flop makes no sense. That sounds more like tournament poker to me.

If the turn brings another spade, it's an easy fold if the guy bets out. So instead, why wouldn't you let the guy hang himself? Again, if he has a flush, that's too bad. But you can't just put a guy on one hand unless you have a perfect read on him. Again, assuming the worst is what I used to do and a weak tight game works in 1-2NL and below but that's about it.

NH Hoy, see you tonight.

6:26 AM  
Blogger RaisingCayne said...

Nice post Hoy! Well thought out play on the hand, not to mention the great result! Per my comment yesterday I definitely would've played it much more aggressively on the flop and wouldn't have been able to even check myself, let alone just check/call. After reading this post I have a much better understanding as to the logic behind your decision to NOT push until more information was available. Thanks for the insightful post, I really enjoyed following through your thought process. Congrats with the nice pot, well played.

And thanks for the details about tonight's freeroll, explains why I must wait another week before my first Mookie. Good luck tonight!

6:26 AM  
Blogger Dr Zen said...

"why wouldn't you let the guy hang himself?"

Because I have no idea he has a smaller set? Because if I let him check behind I feel like a retard when another spade comes on the turn?

10:59 AM  

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