Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Adapting Your Game, and the Vegan213 Hand Revisited

First off, kudos to me for my cash in the first-ever MFG tournament hosted by StatikKling, where I ended in 3rd place after maybe an hour of fun times where I raised or reraised with the Hammer, won and showed it at least three or four times. I enjoyed the game and look forward to defending my cash in next week's event.

Now on to today's post. I was really interested in the comments to yesterday's post, moreso than I have been in a long time. Some of the comments surprised me, others I thought were right on the mark, and some of them seemed flat out wrong, or something. I want to spend some time going over the hand again in light of some of the specific comments posted here on Tuesday, and I think the discussion will be interesting. For me it will be I think -- I started to write a comment late on Tuesday night to respond to the other commenters, but after I crossed the 500,000th word I realized this is probably more of a post unto itself than just a 20th comment on the board. So here we are.

For starters I really want to address something that came up a couple of times in the comments on Tuesday, and was also written about at least once by one of the wonkas. I know it was Evil Wonka, but I can never really remember which is Evil and which is Good anymore. Nor do I remember which of them the original hand first occurred with, but I'm pretty sure it was one of them. Anyways, let's go back in time to early April of this year....

So it's very early in the MATH tournament, the second tournament of the BBT in fact, and blinds are 20-40. Evil Wonka open-limps for 40 chips from middle position, and I raise to 240 from the cutoff. It folds back to EW, who thinks for a few seconds and then calls my 6x raise. As the hand unfolded, I pushed like a donkey with 2nd pair top kicker and got called by EW's JTs, a hand I could not conceive of him calling my 6x preflop raise with into a heads-up pot. I still maintain that this is a -EV call for most players, but basically at the time I was mired in a big funk in the blonkaments and I let off a lot of steam about that play on my blog that week. And you know what?

I got a lot of flack for it. From many of you. Now let me repeat, I still maintain that this is surely a -EV play for the majority of players. But, after reading comment after comment, and post after post, saying why JTs is the perfect hand to call with in this spot, yaddayaddayadda, I spent a good deal of time thinking about the scenario. As someone who takes my poker play tremendously seriously, I am constantly evaluating and re-evaluating my game, trying to tweak what needs tweaking and optimize what can be optimized. Anyone who isn't doing this regularly is simply not going to be able to maintain high quality poker for any sustained period of time. It's not possible without constantly adapting your game, either trying to refine your three- and four-betting preflop strategy in limit cash games, reviewing and analyzing your recent mtt bustouts if you're a tournodonk like me, or thinking over how you've been leading with middle pocket pairs at the nl cash tables. One of the many keys to successful long-term poker play is constant analysis. Any pro will tell you that, and frankly the analysis is the biggest reason why I started the blog here as it is, as I've written about many times before.

So anyways, suffice it to say that I spent a lot of time thinking about everyone's comments regarding the notion of calling a 6x preflop raise into a heads-up pot with JTs. And after all that reflection, here is where I came out on the point: it's the truth that a large soooted connector is the best hand to make a light preflop raise-call with, in that it's going to have the best chance of making a hand or at least a draw on the flop that can crack a big hand. And it's also true that, in the end, the reason this kind of a light call of a preflop raise is problematic for so many people is at least partially because you can flop to it a little and then find it difficult to get away from the hand, and suddenly you end up losing to a better, often dominated hand. And the more I thought about what everyone had to say, I actually changed the way I play hands like this, just a little bit.

I'm sure it's still a moneylosing play over time generally speaking for most people to call a preflop raise heads-up with a big soooted connector. But, unlike the way I played previous to the play with Evil Wonka, I am now willing to call certain raises in certain spots with speculative hands like the big soooted connectors. What I do not like to do with them is call a raise from an EP or MP hand into what seems like it is or is going to be a heads-up pot. In such situations, for the way that I play the game, I decided after careful consideration that such situations do not offer me sufficient pot equity or implied odds to really profit overall from the times that I do flop strong to these hands. However, on the other hand, in spots where it seems that a multiway pot might be brewing, where I feel very confident that my opponent has a monster pocket pair and/or in situations where I have some reason to believe I might be up against a weaker-than-average reraising hand -- such as in the 1k this week when the raise came from the cutoff and from a stealy and restealy player sitting in the cutoff -- then I will sometimes make the call. As I pointed out even in my original post on Tuesday, this is still not a real strong move to call a preflop raise with a hand like the QJs I held in the 1k, but as a direct result of all the brilliant things that Evil Wonka and everyone else had to say about my rant that day of EW's preflop call with the JTs, I adjusted my game in a way that seemed to make sense to me.

Poker-wise, I have a lot to thank the blog for in that regard. It's only because of this blog and the discussion that was generated here on EW's preflop raise that I ever made this small tweak to my game, and it is something that has worked out well for me over time as long as I have stayed within the limited situations I described above. So, for example, in the Shorthanded No-Limt Holdem event at the World Series of Poker this past summer, I described a hand where I called a preflop raise with a JTs in my hand. I would never have made this call before the whole wonka business, and I only made the call because of the thoughts you all shared and that I gave serious consideration to when that hand first came up in April. The guy whose raise I called was bullying the table, and from late position seemed to me to be likely pushing a weaker-than-average raising hand (which he in fact was). So I called him, flopped a flush draw, turned the flush and took a huge portion from the other big stack at the table, on my way to cashing in the event and having a lifetime of invaluable poker memories as a result. Similarly, the other night in the 1k, once again I felt it was ok (not great as I said in my post, but acceptable) for me to call the preflop raise because the player in the cutoff was reacting to my stealy-looking raise from the hijack, a spot I had open-raised from several times already on blind steals, so that made his likely hand range in my eyes that much weaker and thus made my QJs hand that much stronger in comparison, and that much more worth seeing a potential flop with. It worked out for me. Other times when I've made this call, if I've done it in the right spots in accordance with my criteria above, then I've managed not to lose much when I miss and to take down some small or large pots when I've hit. Overall, it has added to my game like most of the tweaks I make on an ongoing basis and I am glad for that.

So imagine my surprise when I see commenters and blog posts calling me a hypocrite and suggesting that I would have ranted about the other guy playing my hand exactly the way that I did here as well. Calling me a hypocrite about the fact that nowadays I might play a QJs or JTs a bit more aggressively than I used to after a bunch of people suggested that the play might have merit is seriously silly guys. My game evolved, my strategies with certain hands changes according to the situation. I complained about a play, a ton of you told me why I was wrong, I heard everything you said and have adjusted my play accordingly. Now you're going to call me a hypocrite? Learn it and learn it well: the best players at this game we all love are constantly adapting their games. Constantly. Anyone who isn't, sucks. Or they will suck soon, that I can guarantee you. I feel like my change in how I play the sooted connectors to a raise preflop is an example of one of my best qualities as a poker player -- my open mind and my willingness to continually analyze and improve my play in ways that are +EV for me -- and here some players who I guess just don't get this are citing that as some kind of a slam. Bad move IMO.

So don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying anything about those who question my preflop call with QJs in that hand early in the 1k. I view that as a judgment call for each individual and frankly I don't think I have any disagreement with those who say they would not have made the call. I like those people and I like the way they think, and to be honest I probably think more or less the same way in most cases. But the people who question how I could make this call after back in April disagreeing with making a similar call, those people IMO are completely missing the point of constant adaptation and improvement in one's poker game, and I'm sure this lack is to the detriment of anyone who does not think about their game in this way.

Now moving on to some other aspects of the comments from yesterday, another thing that was really confusing to me were some of the comments using the results to justify the decisions made in the hand, which can always be a dangerous thing to do, which I will explain more in just a minute. Specifically, a couple of the commenters basically made the point that of course I played like a donkey because I got someone else allin with me when I was a 40% dog in the hand. Others of the commenters reason that since Mr. Small Penis Vegan213 was ahead the whole time, that automatically means he made a good play, or at least didn't make a bad play. To me, these statements could not be further from the truth, and I want to use an example to show what I mean:

Say I am in 2nd place in a large buyin mtt with 100 players left, nearing the ITM positions which start to pay out at say the top 80 spots, and with the blinds currently at 800-1600 in chips. The average stack size is 10,000 chips, I have 100k in my stack in second place, and the chip leader is also at my table and has a stack of 150k, while everyone else at the table is say 20k or less in chips at the time. So I'm in middle position and I open-raise 3x the blinds to 4800 chips with pocket 2s, a fairly standard move for many players at this point in an mtt. Now say the chip leader reraises my 4800 chips allin for 150,000 chips, enough to cover me and knock me out of the tournament if I am wrong. Hypothetically, let's assume he does this with AK. In fact, let's make the hypothetical more interesting: let's assume that after he puts in the allin reraise to 150k, he accidentally exposes his hand to me and the rest of the table, and it is AKo. Should I make the call here with my pocket 2s?

Hopefully it is obvious to the readers here that I should not in fact make the call. Even though I "would be ahead the whole time", making the call for my last 96,000 in chips with pocket 2s would be IMO a recockulously moronic move that would be worthy of me getting beat in this kind of race situation despite my large stack at the time. So just because making a call in a particular spot would leave you "in ahead", in a tournament context I think it is fairly obvious that many other considerations could work together make making such a call a truly terrible move. This is less true in a cash game, and I think that might explain why at least a few of the commenters with this specific point of view don't seem to get the point I am making here, but in a tournament context, calling an allin with a tiny pocket pair is almost always bad poker, unless pot odds considerations or short stack size dictates otherwise.

The heart of why this is such a terrible call to make in a tournament context lies in the extremely valuable difference between betting someone allin, and calling someone allin. In the hand in the 1k on Monday, once the flop came down and gave me 12 outs to a monster hand, one where I thought my opponent had made top pair big kicker, I played the hand in a way specifically and very purposefully designed to get me in a situation where I was raising my opponent allin for his entire stack on a large bet, such that he would be likely to fold the hand that I had put him on, and knowing that even if he did call, I still had a 40% or better equity in the pot. Now that is the way I like to play no-limit holdem tournaments -- put your opponent to the big decisions with the big pressure due to your bet sizing. The best tournament poker players all understand the value of fold equity -- the ability of your opponent to fold to your bets -- and play their game in such a way as to try to always be the one putting your opponent to the big decisions with your bets. So, being the guy raising allin preflop with 22 in your hand against a guy you think is likely to fold his hand may not be a bad play at all even with a big stack lateish in an mtt, but being the guy who calls the allin with the pocket 2s is a true mtt donkass in my opinion. He knows -- knows, beyond any shadow of a doubt -- that his opponent is roughly 48% with any two non-paired holecards, or roughly 80% with any pocket pair, against his hand, and why on earth would you call allin, with no chance of making the other guy fold, in a situation where you're either roughly racing or a huge dog in that spot in a tournament.

So really, the fact that the guy with 22 could call the huge overbet allin raise and "be ahead the whole time" of the AK preflop is totally immaterial to the analysis of the play of calling the big allin with the 22. It's what we call a bad play, plain and simple. Even if he calls and wins, it's still a bad play. Ahead the whole time, wins, loses, those results are all irrelevant to the decision in my book. They literally have no relevance at all. The only thing that matters in my book is the thought process and the guy's chances of winning or being busted out right before he made the call, and in the example I've given I hope it is crystal clear why calling the allin with the 22 is hideous, fideous poker.

Fold equity is one of the very most valuable aspects of tournament poker. That's just a true statement, and if you don't know what I mean when I say that then I suspect you are someone who agrees with the comments from Tuesday that I was the donkey since I got a guy allin when I was a 40% dog in the hand. In reality, though, let's look at this decision from a tournament poker player's perspective instead of a cash game player's perspective (FWIW I think my play from the 1k on Monday was equally fine in a cash game context, but tournament poker considerations make that all the more obvious I think than in a cash context). I knew I had approximately 40% equity in the pot, meaning that I had approximately a 40% chance of winning the hand if called by an Ace with a big kicker that I felt fairly sure my opponent was holding. But instead of the way some of the comments portrayed my move -- just "getting allin as a 40% underdog" and then calling the 60% favorite a donkey -- that analysis leaves out by far the most crucial piece of the equation. I figured there was a 40% chance of me winning if he called my allin raise there, and about an 80% chance that he would fold to my allin raise so I wouldn't even need to rely on that 40% chance. So, in my head, 80% of the time he folds and I win a nice big pot that adds about 60% to my stack early on in the tournament. The other 20% of the time, he calls my allin raise, and I still win 40% of those times and lose 60%. So, assigning some values to these probabilities, imagine I make this play 100 times.

Eighty of those times (80%), he folds to my bet, and I win about 1900 chips. 20 times he calls my allin raise preflop, and of those 20 times, 12 of those times (60%) I do not hit one of my 12 outs and I am eliminated. The other 8 times I do hit one of my 12 outs and I double up and get back about 8000 chips overall. So, here my equity calculation for risking my last 2500 chips in this way is:

1. I raise allin, he folds: 0.8 times 1900 chips = 1520 chips.
2. I raise allin, he calls and wins: 0.6 times 0 chips = 0 chips.
3. I raise allin, he calls and loses: 0.4 times 8000 chips = 3200 chips.

So I am risking 2500 chips on a draw early on in the tournament, no doubt. But, do I need to point out how overwhelmingly positive this move becomes for me, even as a 40% dog if he calls, given the tremendous chance that he probably will fold to my raise? It's a slam dunk guys, and that is all because of fold equity. We're looking at me risking roughly 2500 chips on a play whose overall equity to me is positive 4700 or so. Now for sure a lot of these numbers are just estimates, but it's what I was thinking at the time, and frankly in any event I think it would be exceedingly difficult for anyone to change my assumptions there so much as to make this move anything but dramatically +EV over time for me, all because I was the aggressor in pushing allin, creating fold equity for myself and knowing I had a ton of outs even if called.

Now look at things from his perspective. I check-raised him allin on this flop. While I agree with Alan that sometimes a flop push is indicative of a flush or straight draw of some kind, in general I do not think that is true about a check-raise on the flop so much as just an allin raise on the flop. But I put him allin for most of the rest of his stack. His equity calculation is much different. He doesn't get to build in an 80% chance of me folding to his matching what I've already moved into the pot. I can't fold since I've already gotten allin ahead of his action here on this flop. So he has zero fold equity, which leaves him as just the guy calling an allin (and insta-calling at that, mind you, which is I think my favorite part of his small-dicked donkery here) with just one pair, top kicker. So I could have a set, I could have any two pairs, I could have an overpair, or I could have any number of draws with both two hearts as well as the Ace and the Ten on the board. He should view this board, along with my allin check-raise, as a scary proposition (I certainly would), and by all means never something worthy of an allin instacall. Any of the really successful cash or tournament players will tell you that it's bad business to call allins for large bets with just one pair, even with top kicker.

And don't get me wrong -- I'm not trying to say this guy is a donkey. I mean, I know I have said that, many times here, but think back to what gave rise to me posting this whole hand in the first place -- the other guy called me a donkey, and followed me around for four fucking small-penised hours in the chat berating me like an cockhole. You honestly would have thought that I played this hand in the worst way imaginable, called his allin when he had the stone nuts, and then sucked out the runnerrunner straight to knock him out of the tournament when he had been a 99% favorite when the money went in. Hopefully this discussion helps to illustrate why I think I actually made a good play, and a clearly +EV play, and why IMO it was my opponent who made the questionable call on the hand, along with my admittedly questionable preflop call of his raise. But it is Fold Equity that I think makes my play not a bad one on this hand, and I suspect that somehow my opponent does not fully understand the concept or the importance of fold equity in a freezeout tournament context.

One commenter suggested that I should have bet out on the flop in an attempt to get the aggro opponent to move in on me, rather than to check it like I did and go for the check-raise. This approach I think again completely ignores the crucial factor of fold equity in this hand, and it's an approach that I would never take in this situation. If I bet out, I already put this guy on a big Ace, so he's not going to fold to my bet, and he might very likely do just what the commenter suggested and go ahead and raise me allin right then and there on the flop with his TPTK. Then what do I do? If I take this line, now I've just gone and done exactly what I've just spent all this time questioning the strategy of. Now I would have to be the one calling instead of raising allin, now I would be the one with no fold equity, and now I'm basically looking at folding and losing half my stack on the hand, or calling when I believe I am only 40% to win the hand in a showdown. The much, much better play IMO in this situation is to check, let him lead a bit at the pot like I knew he would, and then put him allin. That's how I get the benefit of my 40% chance to win if called, plus my 80% chance of him folding to my allin bet. Make no mistake, when you're only a 40% chance to win a given hand, you're going to be what we call the underdog unless you can make fold equity work for you in this spot. With the way I played the hand, I felt like I had created for myself a far, far +EV situation out of one where my actual pot odds with 12 outs only gave me a roughly 40% chance to win the hand in a showdown. But to bet out in the hopes of being raised allin, that would be the exact opposite of what I thought, basically tying myself down to just that 40% chance of winning the hand by forcing me to either fold or call allin with just 12 outs and two cards to come. No thanks. I like to make fold equity work for me, to make my 12-outers that much more profitable for me in light of the chances of eliciting a fold from my opponents when I throw sizeable bets and raises at them with hands with lots of outs like this one.

OK that's enough of this for today. Tonight, it's back to the Mookie at 10pm ET on full tilt (password as always is "vegas1") for my weekly junk-kicking, Kevlar cup and all. Can't wait to see the bullshit I get busted with tonight. Hopefully you'll be there to see all the fun unfold.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


Blogger L'artiste said...

How is this example relevant to your hand? The QJ hand was nowhere near the bubble. Apples and oranges IMO.

1:25 AM  
Blogger smokkee said...

if you really wanted to use folding equity to your best advantage here, shouldn't you just push on the flop instead of check/raise?

he's already committed a 3rd of his stack with both his bets. i really don't think most players are gonna fold TPTK after committing that many chips.

2:35 AM  
Blogger ScurvyDog said...

Whether or not to call the re-raise pre-flop with QJs (or J10s or whatever biggish suited connectors) is a bit of a moot point. Good arguments can be made for calling and folding. It's akin to a coinflip, even for good players. If it's +EV for you to call there, it's only fractionally +EV, as you're meekly check-folding on a vast majority of flops and donating a decent chunk of your chips that you called the re-raise with.

(I like calling there a lot less in a tournament than in a cash game, for all of the obvious reasons, but it's well within the realm of possibility that it's a +EV call for you to make, and that you were right in doing so.)

But that has nothing to do with hypocritical rants, which is what the majority of comments were reacting to and pointing out. Hypocritical isn't the word I'd use, though, as it's more a self-centered rant.

For me, the interesting part of the hand is that a good argument can be made that both players played it correctly, if you allow a little leeway here and there (giving you leeway for the light call of the re-raise preflop, and your opponent leeway for calling your all-in shove when he just has TPTK).

My point was that if you put yourself in his shoes holding the AK, you'd have been spilling much virtual ink and vitriol ranting instead about what an overaggressive donk he was, and how your read was spot on when you called his all-in with just TPTK (which you'd have likely pointed out you'd have never otherwise done without such a strong read, etc.), and how the lucky donk got bailed out as a big dog when he hit his straight on the turn.

Protest as much as thy like, but that's exactly what would've happened, had you been in his shoes. And the interesting thing is that your rant would have been spot-on, just as it was spot-on based on the action of the actual hand.

So my comment, at least, had nothing to do with pointing out hypocrisy. Just that you've got a definite case of results-oriented rant-bias. Which we all do, if we're honest, so, you know, what the hell.

2:36 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Well let's just look back at all the rants I've done about guys putting me allin with bigger-than-primary draws and me calling them instantly with TPTK.

Oh yeah...there aren't any.

2:54 AM  
Blogger TripJax said...

How the fuck do you find the time to write these posts???

I'm way behind on my reading - and haven't had a chance to read this post, but will - just wanted to drop by and tell you your comment on my post today gave me a chuckle. Good stuff. Good luck tonight...

3:04 AM  
Blogger Alan aka RecessRampage said...

I agree that the key issue here is that the dude instacalled. I mean if he thought about it and deduced that there was enough of a chance for you to be doing that with draws or lesser kicker along with the idea that you could have a better hand, then it would probably make more sense. And I agree that the fact that the dude called you a donkey and stuck around for 4 hrs is just downright loserish.

3:40 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

My only point here is that there is no way my play on this hand was so bad that it justifies the ridiculous 4-hour stalking session and flaming in the chat. I think his instacall with just TPTK for all his chips on the flop is a laughable move made by a clear TPTK donkey, and is at least as bad as anything I did in the hand.

And Smokkee, the flop checkraise looks 10 times stronger than the flop overbet push. That's why I played it the way I did. In retrospect it clearly doesn't matter anyways, since the instadonk was instacalling me on the flop checkraise, he woulda instacalled me on the flop push regardless.

3:46 AM  
Blogger GrayCalx said...

You've made so many other hypocritical posts who knows which one they were talking about.

4:04 AM  
Blogger WillWonka said...

I never really knew I was the "evil" wonka... good to know. It was fun revisiting that hand and I'm glad that we can all learn and adapt our games.

Great Post... as usual

5:12 AM  
Blogger emptyman said...

I'm not sure about the equity calculations, nor am I sure about mine, but I will take a shot at it: (where's Blinders when you need him...)

H: 3770 chips
Pot: 1995 chips

If you shove, assuming your fold/call percentages of 80/20:

Fold -- 0.8 * (+1995) = +1596 chips
Call, V wins -- 0.12 * (-3770) = -452 chips
Call, H wins -- 0.08 * (1995 + 3770) = +461 chips

Total equity = +1605 chips.

I will go on record as loving this play. EVEN IF HE CALLS 100% of the time, it's break even because of the pot odds. Betting 4000 to win 10000, winning 40% of the time.

But as you point out, fold equity increases the value of the hand. The more often he will fold, the more +EV this becomes. At the other extreme, if he folds 100%, total equity = +1995 chips.

AK vs. TT both all-in is even money.
AK jamming against someone holding TT is +EV. (b/c they will sometimes fold)
TT jamming against someone holding AK is +EV. (ditto)

5:27 AM  
Blogger Blinders said...

I love the post flop play on the hand by you, but the preflop call is very, very loose. You say that big suited connectors are the best way to crack a big pair. That is not true. You are actually more likely to crack a big pair with a small suited connector (more straights availiable), and even more likely with a small pair. With a small pair you will make your hand on the flop. Best case really is flopping a draw with a suited connector, unless you are shotting for a 100-1 longshot flop. So best case and you get what amounts to a coin flip here, and he also will push you off when you hit a Q or a J (when he misses) if you can truely lay that down post flop. The call is severely -EV post flop as you are not nearly deep enough.

Post flop you played it about as well as you could have, but if you are arguing that he should not call you with TPTK then you are arguing down your EV as well. How do you get paid on the rare times you flop a monster if this guy releases TPTK or an overpair on the flop?

5:54 AM  
Blogger Dr Zen said...

If the guy pushes with AK, shows you it, and you hold QQ, you're folding, right?

6:19 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Zen, is there any other reasonable choice? I guess we'd have to look back at the pot odds again but yeah I think you have to fold the QQ there in the general case.

But only if you literally saw the AK. Otherwise I'd have to be a lot more sure he didn't have JJ or TT or AQ or something else donkish.

Btw wonka I don't know which one you are. But one of you is evil, yes.

7:04 AM  
Blogger Irongirl01 said...

I havent had time to fully digest this post (speed read thru it). Im not going to give you flak on the hand.

After reading Andy Bloch and the FTP strategy guide section he wrote I know you cant lay down every reraise you face. You have to call some of them or you will be runover. So I dont think calling the re-raise was out of whack and I know you carefully consider all your moves.

What people dont understand is that you cant just look at the hand in question and fault someones play for why they did what they did. The table dynamics (prior hands played against opponents etc) of what led up to that decision has to be considered. Looking at one hand is separating the tree from the forest.

I cant fault your play HOY. Gutsy players make gutsy moves and make their luck and success.

8:24 PM  
Blogger Wwonka said...

Nice post. But just like the orginal post you have the facts wrong again.

RakeFeeder Not I is the one who called you with JTs.

I am just busting your balls. Much respect.


9:47 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home