Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Push Bets and Pull Bets

On Tuesday night I continued my streak of solid poker playing, although at the end of the evening the overall balance in my account at full tilt was pretty much unchanged after a solid session at the nlh cash tables, and two nice but no-cash runs in large mtts. The big story on the night for me was that 10:30pm ET 15k guaranteed $10 rebuy mtt that I’ve written about recently, in which I got to be that lucky guy last night with the uberass donkey mofo at my table for the entire first hour who kept double-rebuying for 3000 chips and then insta-pushing on the first hand without regard to his holding. Thanks to a quick identification of this player’s tendencies – a good 10 crucial minutes before anyone else at the table picked up on his true donkishness – and a run of decently playable cards showdown-wise, I managed to call his allins or get him to move allin probably 7 times in the span of 15 minutes and I won every time. The result? I was the chipleader in this event from about 20 minutes in all through the rest of the rebuy hour and through most of the second hour as well. I went into the third break in the top 10 in chips, and I was in the mid teens at 59k in chips with 77 players left when I raised preflop with something like KTo from the button and was called by just the big blind.

The flop in this hand came out QJ4 all spades, and with about 16k in the flop due to the huge blinds, antes and the preflop raise and call, I opted to push allin for my entire 52k stack remaining. My reasoning was simple – this bet will have to be folded to by anyone who does not hold precisely two spades in their hand. All this guy did was call my preflop raise from late position, so to put him on two spades exactly, when he had just checked the all-spade flop to me as it is, would obviously be regoddamdickulous. And with 16k in there and the ability to know he would have to fold this no-Ace and no-King flop after calling a preflop raise with anything but the actual flopped flush, I thought this was a fine move. Of course, when the anus instacalled and showed me AT of spades and I was drawing dead on the flop for the rest of my stack, I was reconsidering things just a li’l bit. So no money for me despite utterly ripping up that 15k tournament for over 3 hours and basically never at any time after the first 20 minutes dropping out of the top 20 in chips. But that play got me thinking, in particular about a notion that I think about all the time when I play, even though almost no poker books that I’ve read seem to address this concept with more than a fleeting reference: the notion of “push bets” and “pull bets”.

The premise is actually fairly simple: there are two kinds of bets in the world of poker. “Push bets”, which are designed to push people out of the pot, and “pull bets” which are designed to keep people in the pot with you. That play that got me eliminated from the rebuy last night was the ultimate in push bets – a massive overbet allin on the flop. There is little doubt that this bet was designed to do one thing – get my opponent to fold since it requires him to risk all his chips on an all-suited flop with a Queen and a Jack, where I basically know he cannot call for 52,000 chips here into a 16,000-chip pot unless he himself has flopped a flush, or possibly with AQ for TPTK including the A♠. That’s it. That’s a push bet right there. I want to push my heads-up opponent out of the pot here on the flop, probably because there are possible draws out there like the spade flush or the straight, and maybe because I have a middling hand like second pair good kicker or something and do not want to risk losing a large pot to a guy holding some kind of top pair low kicker.

There is another time when I love to make push bets, and that is in multiway pots –- usually 3-handed -– on the turn after the action is checked around on the flop and nothing scary has hit on the turn. No one has indicated any strength on the flop, and so unless my read is that someone is slow-playing or waiting to check-raise or that somehow the seemingly harmless turn card did help them, I will often lay a push bet out there on the turn to try to help "convince" the other two players to allow me to pick up the orphan pot. Typically with nothing but air in my hand. But these are push bets, make no mistake about it. I want to make a bet that will be perceived by my opponent(s) as not worth the risk associated with calling it. Get them out of the pot, and give the pot at its current size to me now.

The opposite kind of bet, the "pull bet", is when I have either a big big hand, or sometimes a big drawing hand in the right situation. So for example, if I limp from the big blind with A8o and see a 5-way flop of Q88 rainbow, I am liking my hand. Quite a bit. But here, does it make sense for me to push allin on a massive flop overbet, since I'm sure I am in front here? Of course not. That likely would have the effect of pushing other players out of the pot, a pot which for all intents and purposes I already have won here on the flop with trips and top kicker. Unless someone happens to hold pocket Queens or manages to spike a set with a pocket pair between 99 and AA on the turn or river, I'm not going to get beat here. And in a multiway limped pot, that is highly unlikely, although there is some likelihood that at least one other player holds a decent Queen, a decent pocket pair, or even an 8 with a lower kicker, all of which are at least somewhat likely to pay me off to some degree in this hand on later streets, if I can just make them believe they might be ahead right now. So here I want to make a pull bet, one that is not too scary and that one, or hopefully more than one, of the remaining players in the pot will call.

Similarly, sometimes I make a pull bet when I'm holding a big draw as well. For example, I call a raise from the big blind with JT to see a 4-way flop. The flop comes Q94♣, giving me the bigass open ended straight flush draw. Here I am tempted to make a pull bet, not trying to scare people out of this flop that highly likely has hit somebody to some degree at least, but rather trying to elicit calls (or even raises) from players whose hands have themselves connected with this board in some meaningful way. Again, as the current favorite in the pot due to my likely 17 outs twice, this is not a spot where I am necessarily wanting to chase any players out of the pot. My implied odds are clearly going to be greater from hitting my draw with the more players there are left in the pot when I hit it. Thus a pull bet is called for per my generalized poker strategy moreso than a push bet which is more likely to leave me heads-up and thus with a lower expected payoff if I do hit my big draw in this pot.

So, with the way I play the game, what's the practical difference between a push bet and a pull bet? Often as you might imagine, the size of the bet is the contributing factor as far as what differentiates the two types of bet. In most cases, I'm not going to overbet the pot if I'm trying to pull bet one or more players, and I'm not going to bet just a third of the pot if I'm looking to push people out of the pot. Generally speaking, a larger bet works better with people's human instincts as a push-out kind of bet than a smaller bet does, which appears easier to call to most people as a general statement.

Similarly, sometimes the situation itself dictates that a certain type of bet is likely to work better as a pull bet or a push bet. For example, if I call a half-pot bet on the flop with a flush draw on an all-raggy flop, and then the flush draw fills on the turn, most bets I make in that spot are likely to appear to be pull bets given that the only likely draw on the board just filled. Similarly, in the converse situation where someone bets the flop, a drawing hand calls and then the turn card clearly does not complete the draw that one or more players are likely trying to fill, any bet by the bettor who led out at the flop to begin with is typically going to be (and going to be perceived to be) a push bet in that he will typically try to price his opponents out of drawing at roughly 20% hands on the river card.

My last general advice about push bets and pull bets is to be careful. Any truly good player will be very attuned to this concept -- at least subconsciously or conceptually even if they have never actually thought of things like push bets and pull bets -- and you can't just use sizing alone to dictate how your bets will be viewed by your opponents, or rely on sizing alone to determine the nature of your opponents' bets in no-limit holdem. So, you can't just call an opponent every time he massively overbets the pot on a flop with a lot of draws. One of those times, if he is a good player, he will be purposefully mixing up his play and be pushing in there sometimes with very strong hands, flopped sets, and times when he's the one who actually flopped the flush. You need to do that in order to counterbalance things, but if done just enough to keep my opponents on their toes, I generally feel like I can make smaller bets most of the time with pull bets, and larger bets most of the time with push bets. This is just one of the tactics I tend to use on a pot-by-pot basis in my nlh tournament and cash game play that has helped me to make significant profits over my poker career.

Don't forget, tonight is the Mookie, where I will look to avenge last week's heads-up loss to Surflexus in my never-ending quest for just one week of Mookie domination. Full tilt poker, 10pm ET, password as always is "vegas1". I plan to be there and hopefully I'll be doing a lot of pull betting in your direction if I can get some effing good cards for a change in this thing. See you then!

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Blogger Steven said...

hoy..i dont even know how long ive been reading your blog..or silently railing your play, but its been a great much of what i see or read just seeps into my play...thanks
and this is the cool thing...last night while i was doing fairly well in the 10 dolla 6 handed while i watched you hover at 60ish for a were gone.
but then i could come here and find out what happened.
and learn some more.

okay..back to the OR.

1:33 AM  
Blogger Chad C said...

Hey, I am that push monkey guy in re buys. Be nice!

1:54 AM  
Blogger Julius_Goat said...

Hey Chad, where did your blog go?

3:31 AM  
Blogger KajaPoker said...

I really enjoyed reading this post. This is a concept I use a lot, especially against weak fields but also sometimes to vary my play. One thing I have seen recently over and over again is the overbet pull bet. I wrote about this, but to re-cap I will sometimes massively overbet with the nuts, making it look like a push play, but rather hoping for a call. This works more times than I would have originally thought.

The only problems I see with your push bet from this post is:
1) He had you covered so you were gambooling for your tourney life.
2) I have seen soooo many flush flops on FTP hitting a soooted donk, that I would not make that move myself.

3:40 AM  
Blogger Gnome said...

Also, I wonder if your overbet into the monochrome board looked suspicious. It's possible that a wider range of hands would call (such as two pair or a flush draw) such a large bet if they think there's no way you would bet so large if you actually had the best hand.

4:05 AM  
Blogger Dillo said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Dillo said...

Hey Hoy. Love your shizz, however ...

I just can't see the benefit of jamming there. As Kaja said, there's just too much at stake on that sorta flop. Often I try and represent part (or all) of a flop like that, but I go back to an addage that I use a lot.

I'm not going broke there.

Some peeps might see that as weakness, but I just think I'll get 'mine' later. Looking back, woulda/coulda you played that differently?! I mean your rationale seems fine... UNTIL someone flips up A 10s.

Keep up the great blogging tho. One of my truly regular reads mate.

9:30 AM  
Blogger Dr Zen said...

I am putting myself in the big blind's shoes.

Say I called with KhQd. I don't have a spade.

What does your bet tell me? As you say, it tells me you want me to fold. What would I put you on? A draw, and probably not a strong one. I'm calling it so fast the chips burn my hands, man. I'm astonished that a player as good as you thinks that this was a good bet. Sure, you might make everything less than top pair fold (although I think the BB has a tough decision if he has a decent jack) but you're risking being called by hands that beat you. I think you're completely wrong that anyone who doesn't have two spades has to fold. That would be true if you'd put in a potsized bet, maybe, but the push says "I don't have it but I want you to fold".

If you were trying to push the spade draw out, you'd bet less. It doesn't make sense to put in so much money with top pair or a non-nut flush.

Sometimes, a guy who makes a bet like yours is going to have AsAx or AsKs and has done a bit of level three thinking, but in this instance, you didn't get past level one.

2:20 PM  
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12:57 AM  

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