Thursday, February 28, 2008

Preflop Raise Sizing -- Take II

Greetings to all for a Thursday. Hopefully my post from Wednesday will be meaningful to a number of you out there. I know I got the post up very late in the day, so many of you might not have had a chance to read it yet, but in general I think it is one of my better posts as far as concrete poker tournament strategy goes.

The ideas I discuss in yesterday's post on preflop raise sizing in mtt's are mine and mine alone, and I do recognize them as opinion and not so much as fact, but I do think there is very solid logic to trying to use 3x as a standard preflop raising amount without antes, and to trying to retain that same roughly 1.5 to 1 pot odds for later position players with my preflop open-raises once the antes kick in as well. Kaja mentioned in a comment here on Wednesday that he reads some pros who advocated raising less than 3x once the antes kick in. I believe that specific idea is recockulous. Once there is more money in the pot to begin with, I cannot fathom a sensible justification for only then starting to raise less than the 3x standard. Personally I try to read every poker book ever written and I do not recall ever hearing a poker author espouse that particular strategy, but to the extent that it is out there, I don't agree with it and I would really like to understand the logic.

Whereas, there are some people that I know do advocate smaller than 3x raises in certain circumstances, and that strategy I think can make some sense if that's the way you want to play it. The Phil Gordon strategy of 2.5x from early position, I think there is some logic to that. And there are all the "small ball" players out there -- the Negreanu types for example -- who like to raise small amounts all the time and to try to see as many flops as possible for as cheaply as possible. This strategy can also work out I think, but you definitely put yourself in to some tough situations. If you read people like Negreanu does, then it can work. But I'm not that good. I'm nowhere near that good. And chances are, neither are you if you're reading this. So again, while 3x early in mtts, and 1.5 to 1 pot odds once the antes kick in, is just my own preferred strategy and I don't think something that is set in stone for everyone, most of the people that I meet, play and interact with on a regular basis seem to me to be best served by keeping their raises in that area.

One point I wanted to touch on again in a little more detail is how standardized I keep my preflop raising decisions. Now this is not to say that I literally never vary my raise amounts, but to be honest, I very rarely do. I can almost lay out for you what my standard raise amounts would be in every tournament every time I play it right here, right now, assuming roughly full tables as I will face for probably 95% of my time in mtts. In the 10-20 round, I'm open-raising to 60. Every position, every time. In 15-30, I'm raising to 90. In 20-40, it's 120. In 30-60, it's 180. In 40-80, it's 240. In 50-100, it's 300. In 60-120, it's 360. In 75-150, it's 450. In 100-200, it's 600. In 120-240, it's 720. Now say that after these 10 rounds, the antes kick in. So at 150-300-25, my standard open-raise in almost every tournament is going to be 550. At 200-400-50, it's going to be 1400. At 250-500-75, it's 1800. At 300-600-100, it's 2200. At 400-800-125, it's 2900. At 500-1000-150, it's 3700. And so on and so forth. I use these amounts in basically every single tournament I play -- be it blonkament, sng or mtt, and I have had a fair amount of success doing it this way. And it makes my time at the poker tables easier by freeing me up to focus on other more important things like reading my opponents, setting players up, and other stuff like that that is more worthy of my time thinking about strategy and the like. I just don't spend more than a half a second at any time trying to figure out how much to raise, because I already know for every level, every time basically what I'm going to do in most circumstances. And obviously, nobody can ever get a read on the strength of my starting cards when every single raise is of a preordained size, which is all good as well.

Another point that was raised by Kaja in the comments is that this all is changed if there is already a limper in ahead of me. First off, my raising range (or even my calling range, for that matter), is significantly narrowed if someone limps ahead of me. For example, in a blonkament I will often open-raise ATo from most or maybe even any position. I don't do that every time I play this particular hand, but I am apt to do it. However, if even just one person limps in ahead of me, then I will almost never play the ATo at all. I just throw it into the muck and move on. Raising is out of the question with that hand under normal circumstances, but even overlimping is just asking to get myself into trouble, if say an Ace flops and someone is in there with a higher Ace or with two pairs, etc. Similarly, a hand like 66 or 88 I might be very apt to raise with preflop, but if someone limps in ahead of me, I will almost never raise under normal circumstances. So my point here is that my actual raising and even calling range narrows automatically when I see a limper come in ahead of me before the flop.

But say I have a hand that I want to raise with. Maybe a QQ, maybe an AK or even maybe AQs on occasion. How do I adjust my preflop raise size when there is already a limper in ahead of me? It's actually pretty simple. I usually use roughly my same raise sizing guidelines as above, plus I will tack on the size of the preflop limp to that standard raise amount. So, for example, in the 20-40 blind round, if someone in middle position limps for 40 chips, and I look down to find QQ in my hand, I will probably raise to 160 chips intead of 120. 120 for the 3x the big blind, plus another 40 on top for the 40 chips that were already limped in by one player. Similarly, if two players had limped in for 40 chips in that same scenario, I would be likely to raise my QQ to 200 chips. 120 for the standard 3x raise, plus 40 and 40 for each of the two limpers. And, taking the example a bit further, look at the 200-400 level with an ante of 50 chips. In that situation, if a player limps in ahead of my QQ, I would probably raise it up to around 1900 chips. That would be 3x the big blind of 400, plus 400 for the earlier player's limp, plus another 300 or so for the ante adjustment at a full table.

Finally, this leads to the last question, which is what if someone has already raised ahead of my action. Now again, I won't go through these details again, but notice up front that my reraising standards are going to narrow significantly here, as far as the range of hands I am likely to play at all, or certainly likely to raise with. But a few commenters and people on Buddydank radio last night as well as on the girly wanted to know about reraise bet sizing. My general default for a reraise is a pot-sized reraise. However, if a pot-sized reraise would clearly commit me to the pot after the flop, then I am usually apt to just push all in instead on the reraise. So, for example, if I'm sitting on 100k in chips and the blinds are 1k-2k with a 300 ante at a full table lateish in a tournament, such that the pot has 5700 in it to start every hand, let's say an active, aggressive preflop player in middle position opens for 6,000 chips. Let's say I look down from late position to find JJ in my hand, and I feel confident I am ahead of the preflop raiser. I would be apt to reraise this pot up to around 20k or so. This way, my raise is more than large enough to make my opponent fold any hand that he's not willing to go to the felt with -- the AJs, KQs, 66 type of hands. But if I get reraised, I can still consider folding my hand just like I laid down that TT hand to PrahladF mid-late through that 50-50 win earlier this week. Alternatively, if I had 40,000 chips instead of 100,000 chips in the same scenario, I am likely to just move it allin right there. Because if I pot-raise to 20k and my opponent calls, now on the flop I will have 20k left into a pot of some 45k, and it will make sense for me to push on almost any flop because I am pot-committed.

That's all for today. Tomorrow's topic: the BBThree



Blogger Jestocost said...

I agree with the logic in your pre-flop bet sizing approach, although I will mix things up every once in a while. The only exception I can think of where a smaller raising strategy might be appropriate is close to the bubble in a satellite, when there are a bunch of stacks of comparable size to yours. Unless you are at a point where you can fold into the money, you have to pick up a few chips here and there to keep from slipping below the prize level. People are playing pretty tight, usually, so you'll scare them off with smaller raises in most cases and if you run into someone with a hand who repops you, then you don't do as much damage to your chances.

5:20 AM  
Blogger Jestocost said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:20 AM  
Blogger Astin said...

While I largely agree with the standard 3x bet-sizing, and the increases when there's a limper or antes, I think that mixing it up a bit is more profitable.

The 3x standard raise does hide your hand well. If you always raise the same amount, nobody will know if you have aces or the hammer. But by varying your raises slightly, you can often get more action on big hands.

For instance - if you have a raising range (be it Gordonesque and based on position, or just random) of 2.5x - 5x the BB, then people will try and associate what these bets mean. Does a 5x bet mean you want them out of the hand because you're not that strong? Is a 2.5x bet trying to sucker them in or are you trying to see a cheaper flop with a draw? When in reality your cards have nothing to do with the sizing.

As soon as they put a read on you (which will be wrong), you can start milking it in post-flop play, or by tightening your range and punishing them. That's the real reason for standardized raises - to make it difficult to read you, and take advantage of it. As Doyle said, "You have to give action to get action."

As for smaller raises once antes kick in - if you have a very large stack, this makes sense from a small-ball perspective I suppose, as the preflop pot-size would be significant with even one caller. Someone who has strong post-flop and turn play could do quite well here. If all you want is the blinds and antes though (which is pretty profitable in itself), then larger raises work. It also makes sense around a bubble, when people are tightening up and will fold to even a minraise to preserve their rank. Generally though, I agree that you have to increase your preflop raising when antes kick in.

10:47 PM  
Blogger KajaPoker said...

I don't advocate that the small raises in the antes are a good strategy because I don't understand the logic behind them either. But when I read Thomas Fuller's blog or watch a video by lilhodem854 or NSXT2 and I see them doing this over and over again, I wonder what that logic is. i will try to dig deeper and come up with an answer, though.

I actually love the simple rules of your strategy. I tried it the other night and it was such a relief to know that I know ahead of time what my raise would be. I didn't have to think about it at all when it was my turn to act. And for the most part it worked like a charm.

Thanks again for this post series. It's been extremely educational.

11:32 PM  
Blogger surflexus said...

If you are at a table and the blinds are say 500/1000 with a 100 ante then there is 2,400 in the pot. If you find you are picking up 3 out of every 4 pots with a 1.5x raise then you give up 2,500 to pick up 7,200. I have pulled this off with good results a couple of times when I find a table that is just looking for a reason to fold. That is the logic of a small raise. Conditions have to be correct and I'm not advocating it; just pointing out the logic.

5:00 AM  
Blogger Loretta8 said...

i'm a strong proponent of the 2.5x raise when the antes come in

on full tilt with their huge antes there is usually about 2.5x the blind in the pot preflop. so if a 2.5x raise takes down the pot more than 50% percent of the time, we can do this profitably

the bigger you make your raises, the more often they have to succeed to be profitable as straight steals.

i also dont mind giving the BB good odds, if the BB wants to call and play crap out of position thats fine with me.

5:24 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home