Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Mid-Game Tournament Question Revisited

Congratulations out to corron10 for taking down this week's Skills Series in Stud Hi. He beat out another record field of 86 runners to nab the first prize of over two hundy in cash plus the all-important third Tournament of Champions seat in the new Battle of the Blogger Tournaments challenge. Having survived only around an hour or so in this thing thrashing around like a little girl myself, I can only assume that corron had to play some very solid stud poker, and get a solid amount of decent hands dealt to him to make it all the way to the title.

I wanted to spend some more time today talking about the question I asked yesterday about that play from Mondays at the Hoy on Monday night. #1, I wanted to review the comments and give my own thoughts on the hand in question, which I think was very interesting as shown by the comments that were made. Moreover, one of my favorite things about blogging as a medium happened with that debate, as I think a brand new question was born from the analysis that I would also like to address here today and maybe get your thoughts.

So first, a recap of the hand in question, copied directly from my post yesterday:

A hand went down in the MATH this week that I wanted to discuss today, and frankly I think both sides of the equation merit some discussion and analysis. There we were, one hour and 43 minutes in to the Hoy, and the player in the cutoff had just taken over the overall chip lead in the tournament with about 35 runners left at just under 19k in chips, while the big blind was in the top 10 in chips as well of the remaining players. Then the following hand occurs between the Cutoff and the Big Blind:

Full Tilt Poker Game #5492581154: Mondays at the Hoy (41405249), Table 16 - 120/240 Ante 25 - No Limit Hold'em - 23:42:56 ET - 2008/03/03
Seat 1: Cutoff (18,995)
Seat 2: Button (6,025)
Seat 3: Small Blind (3,468)
Seat 4: Big Blind (13,188)
Seat 5: UTG (2,470)
Seat 6: Hijack (11,200)
*Players each ante 25
Small Blind posts the small blind of 120
Big Blind posts the big blind of 240
The button is in seat #2
*** HOLE CARDS ***
UTG folds
Hijack calls 240
Cutoff calls 240
Button calls 240
Small Blind folds
Big Blind checks
*** FLOP *** [3s 4s 6h]
Big Blind has 15 seconds left to act
Big Blind checks
Hijack checks
Cutoff has 15 seconds left to act
Cutoff bets 720
Button has 15 seconds left to act
Button folds
Big Blind raises to 2,000
Hijack folds
Cutoff has 15 seconds left to act
Cutoff raises to 18,730, and is all in
Big Blind calls 10,923, and is all in
Cutoff shows [Ks Qs]
Big Blind shows [8s 5s]
Uncalled bet of 5,807 returned to Cutoff
*** TURN *** [3s 4s 6h] [Tc]
*** RIVER *** [3s 4s 6h Tc] [8d]
Cutoff shows King Queen high
Big Blind shows a pair of Eights
Big Blind wins the pot (27,076) with a pair of Eights

So yesterday I asked what everyone thought of the way each player played this hand, and as usual I got a bunch of well-thought-out comments. I think most of the commenters seemed to think generally that this was not a situation where either player had much reason to get involved in such a huge pot with such marginal holdings. I tend to agree, although I think the relative merits of each player can be debated in a bit more detail. Generally speaking, though, we are talking about two top-10 stacks -- one of them the actual chip leader at the time -- with 35 players remaining out of 103 starting runners. With a nice stack getting lateish in the blonkament (or mostly any mtt for that matter), my general strategy tends to be more protective of my stack than accumulative. In particular as the chip leader in this spot, I do not believe I would ever want to get involved to this degree in this particular situation.

I think of it this way: I am the chip leader in a tournament, getting kinda late in the event. Now someone offers me the chance to race with essentially 14 of 15 outs for 2/3 of my stack. Given that the big blind has already raised this flop, and that he is a fairly tight player to boot (something which I did not include in the original question, I know) I see the odds as fairly high that he is going to call if the cutoff pushes allin on him, so I don't think there was a whole lot of fold equity here from the cutoff's perspective. Let's say that the cutoff assumes he has 14 outs like it is reasonable for the cutoff to assume (9 flush outs plus 6 for the King and Queen overcards, less one out I would say to reduce for the possibility of the big blind holding AK or AQ). So the cutoff is roughly 48% to win the hand if the big blind calls, and the big blind is pretty likely to call in this spot. So the question becomes, does the cutoff want to take the 48% gamble for 2/3 of his stack?

After much reflection, my answer is no. That approach is not consistent with the way I tend to play when I have the midway-lateish chip lead in any tournament, which is to say that I would expect the guy with a 4k stack, who knows he basically has to start doubling up or going home, to be the guy who jumps at the chance to race for 2/3 of his stack. He is out there actively looking for that kind of a pot to get involved in. I've had this happen to me a million times -- some rat bastard flops quads on me when I get allin preflop with a higher pair, and suddenly I am down to 500 chips 15 minutes in to the Mookie or some other tournament. Now I am looking to play a pot against two high cards with my 88, or looking to get it allin with my AJo against a middle pair, KQ, something like that. That's what I expect the short stack to be wanting to do here. But the chip leader at this point in the event? I have not done any math to back this up, but I tend to approach this from the opposite point of view of the short stack if I am the chip leader. I want to avoid racing for my stack against the only other player at the table who can actually hurt me right now. Yes there is obviously something to accumulating chips at all points in a tournament and especially still with 35 players remaining, but as a general statement I don't love the idea of actively pushing in all my chips as the chip leader with little fold equity and figuring I have 14 outs to win. That IMO is a short stack's move, but not my preferred strategy for playing with a big stack.

I have some of the same questions about the big blind's play in this hand. Here he raised the flop with just an 8-high flush draw and an oesd. Some of yesterday's commenters stated that the big blind's raise from 720 to 2000 chips was weak. That comment I do not get, as I think 2000 chips is within the normal range for a raise from an 720-chip bet on the flop at nearly 2.8x the size of the original bet. So personally I view that as a poor read, in that I do not think the raise looked weak or actually was weak. But with the big blind reasonably thinking he has 16 outs here (9 flush outs, less maybe one out for the fact that his flush draw is only 8-high) plus 8 oesd outs, I think that raise was not a bad move. But raising with the intention of calling an allin reraise there like the big blind did is also somewhat reckless for a guy in the top 10 of chips with 35 players left in an mtt.

Imagine these possible resolutions to the hand instead, which is probably the way I would have played each player's situation if it had been me and the action otherwise went the way it did go in this real-life example. I will skip the preflop action for a minute and get back to that in a minute. So, starting with the cutoff, the flop comes down and it give me what I view as 9 flush outs plus another possible 6 overcard outs. The flop is somewhat connected though which can obviously be trouble since the big blind literally limped in with any two cards for free. Given all this and given the cutoff's big stack at the time, I think the betting out was a good move here, and it is what I would have done in most cases. I am probably more likely to bet a little more than 720 into I think a 1230-chip pot at the time, but probably more like 1000 or so since the flop is so coordinated, but I don't think that is a major thing either way. Most of the people that a 1000-chip bet will fold out, will also fold out for 720 chips so that's no big thing in my view. But when I get raised on that flop, and I quickly determine that I do not have much fold equity and that I will likely end up playing this pot for the big blind's entire stack, I think the much more prudent move here would have been to fold. It is what I would have done in this spot, and in general this approach when in the chip lead has served me well over time. And to be clear, again with these exact same cards and this exact same action heading into the flop, I would happily make the exact allin push that the cutoff made if the cutoff were sitting there with an average or slightly below average stack. But with a chip-leading stack, I think the most +EV move here is to fold to the flop raise, rather than willingly put in the rest of my stack when I know I am likely going to be racing as a roughly 50-50 shot to either add 2/3 or lose 2/3 of my tournament-leading chip stack. I should be perfectly happy avoiding that very chance that reraising allin forces me to take on when I am the tournament chip leader and have confidence in my poker abilities.

Now from the big blind's perspective, the same hand, ignoring again the preflop action: Once I had limped for free into the 5-way pot and I flop what I view to be a good 16 outs, I would be looking to play here and to maximize my fold equity to boot. Since I am still a top-10 chip stack, however, I don't want to needlessly toss in my chips even as a 55% favorite without getting a good amount of fold equity to go along with that situation. So when the cutoff bets out on this flop and I believe I have roughly 16 outs with that chip stack, I think I only have two moves in the running for being optimal. I don't want to tempt the cutoff to call me (or to reraise, thinking he will have some fold equity of his own) by raising only to 2000 chips. A call there is not a great outcome for me as I am not likely to win much if the straight or flush completes on the turn, and I only have roughly a one-third chance of improving anyways or I am likely to have to fold after the turn card hits the board. No, I think there are two options that are both better than the raise to 2000 chips here. Either I would raise allin, thereby giving me significant fold equity of maybe, what, 30-40% chance of a fold, depending on what the cutoff is holding, and knowing that even if called, I am probably a 55% favorite to win the hand nonetheless. That is a good situation for me, giving me a good what, 70-80% chance of winning the hand by playing in that way, regardless of specifically what the cutoff does in response. My other option as the big blind facing the flop bet from the cutoff would be to fold. I have nothing but outs right now, but my best made hand is 8-high, and that's it. Personally, folding in this spot is probably a bit soft for my tastes, but I think it is easily defensible given the big blind's decent chip stack in his own right. If he had been the chip leader, once again I might be recommending folding in this spot rather than jeopardizing that chip lead with only a bunch of outs, but the smaller his stack becomes, the more reasonable I think the push is here. I do not love the raise to 2000 chips since I think you should want to maximize your fold equity in this spot as much as possible, and given that since all you have is outs, and since you have a nice stack already as it is, your #1 outcome here should not be to race with your (hopefully) 16 outs for all your chips, but rather it should be just to get the cutoff to fold and give you the 2k in chips or so already in the pot at that point in time.

So that's my thoughts on the hand. Given that the big blind only raised to 2k, and the cutoff then pushed, at that point it became simple pot odds and I believe the big blind had to call around 11k into a pot that at that point was well over 30 or 40k, so with 16 likely outs he kinda has to call there. But I think the big blind got himself into that ugly spot by not maximizing his fold equity at all with the raise from 720 to just 2000 chips, knowing he was committed for the rest of his stack if the cutoff pushed.

In all the analysis of this hand in the comments, a new issue emerged that I think is worthy of some further discussion, and as I mentioned above this is one of my favorite things about discussing hands over a public comment-ready forum such as a blog. Several of the commenters, some of whom were even at the table during this particular hand, mentioned how much they think the preflop limp of KQs from the cutoff was a bad play behind the UTG+1 limp that had already taken place. Curiously, not one person thought she should have folded the hand after that preflop limp -- something I personally would almost always do in early-middle position after an UTG+1 limp at a ring table btw -- and also the vast majority of the commenters mentioned that they believed a raise from the cutoff was more appropriate preflop than the limp. In fact, most of those people who made this comment stated it as if it were more of a foregone conclusion than a statement of opinion. I found this very interesting because, frankly, I liked the preflop limp there and that is definitely the way I would be apt to play this hand more often than not in the cutoff's exact situation before the flop.

Here's my thinking: KQs is a good hand, and it is actually one of the hands that does not mind seeing a flop with many opponents. But KQs is also behind to any Ace and to any pair, and that is most likely what you are going to be up against when the UTG+1 player limps in to a pot ahead of you. And, the UTG+1 limp should also be a tad bit scary to many of you since it can often be a big, big hand laying in disguise. Personally, I think raising an UTG+1 limper with KQs from the cutoff, with still the button and both blinds to act behind you, is not a good move generally speaking, at least not for the way that I view the strength of KQs heading into a random flop, and that is what I found so interesting about the opinions on this hand in the comments, and the matter-of-fact nature with which most of those opinions were delivered on this particular point. I don't think it is well-settled at all whether or not a raise or a call is better in that spot, and I am still struggling with why there seemed to be such a nearly uniform negative reaction to the preflop limp with KQs by the cutoff in this hand. If the cutoff was acting in an unopened pot, then I definitely agree that a raise was in order. If the cutoff was in the big blind and wanted to get some information from the late-position preflop limper, then again I can easily see where a raise might make good sense in that spot. But with an UTG+1 limper and still with three players behind to act, raising in this spot means you are facing the possibility of a large reraise from the button, the small blind and the big blind that you basically know you will have to lay down to (unless you want to be a donkey), and even if the UTG+l limper calls you, you are heading into a flop into a now large pot with a hand that is almost surely behind whatever the original limper is holding. To me, a limp with KQs under those circumstances is a far preferable outcome, and just take my chances on flopping a flush draw with or without overs, two pairs, top pair second kicker, etc. and then reevaluate from there.


Don't forget the Mookie tonight, the next BBT3 tournament, at 10pm ET on full tilt. This is an $11 buyin nlh tournament every Wednesday night, and it is normally already the best-attended blogger event most weeks, so it will be interesting to see the final tally on players in this thing this evening. I will make the first guess at 155 runners.

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Blogger Alan aka RecessRampage said...

You obv know more about tournaments than I do so take this for what it's worth. I totally disagree. UTG+1 limp can mean anything. To automatically assume that it's a monster hand is silly... especially in a blogger tourney. Why give someone credit as being trappy when they've shown nothing to indicate that previously. Maybe you read players better but if I limp there and get a Q high board, do you fold under heavy pressure assuming that UTG+1 must have a big hand?

I think the stack sizes were such that the CO could raise and at least take control of the aggression AND possibly be the last to act on all the streets AND get two totally random hands out of there (the blinds).

If UTG+1 comes over the top preflop, you can let it go, your stack is still fine and you now can label the UTG+1 limper as a potentially tricky player.

I could go on but at this point, I don't see the point. I think there are different styles and again, I'm clearly not questioning your thoughts since you actually have the results to back it up. I'm only talking from imaginary world.

1:44 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Alan, I'm not intending to say that the UTG+1 limp always means a monster hand. But I would say the odds are exceedingly high that that hand is ahead of KQs heading into the flop. And it could be dominating the KQs, with a very very low likelihood that KQs dominates it. And there are still three players to act behind it. All of that makes me concerned for the raise there.

But no need for the million caveats, everyone's opinion is equal regardless of tournament or other success.

1:56 AM  
Blogger Alan aka RecessRampage said...

Funny because the fact that there were 3 others to act would precisely be the reason why I want to raise instead of seeing a 4-5 way flop even though I do agree that KQs is not a bad hand to see it that way. I guess I am too eager to try to steal the pot away and that's made (generally speaking) easier by taking control of aggression and having position.

I have to say though... with no idea on EP limp, it could be any suited connector, low pocket pair, maybe AK if he's tricky or a JT-ish hand... if I raise and the flop is either Q high, K high or A high, I would generally think that more often than not, I win the pot. So I guess in that sense, I disagree that KQ is behind a lot of EP limpers range. Again, it depends but until I see someone do it with a strong hand, based on my experience (which is heavier in cash obv), I've seen a lot of EP limpers with suited or unsuited connectors or low PP.

2:25 AM  
Blogger heffmike said...

In a full ring tourney, early on, without antes, yeah, I can see overlimping KQs in the cutoff and playing a smaller pot.

In 6-max, when UTG+1 is really the hijack, and when there are antes involved - I'd rather take the chance I get squeezed behind me, or the HJ is limping something huge, and raise to get heads-up with position. It's not like you can't fold to a legit four-bet behind you....

Preflop choices with hands like these - overlimp, raise, fold KQs in the CO to a MP limp.... aren't they kind of neutral EV in the long run anyway, because the real decisions with these marginal holdings get made after the flop?

Play them preflop how you want, and just understand what it means to the table postflop.

2:43 AM  
Blogger Astin said...

Have to agree with Alan here. A few other notes:

1.- This is 6-max. An EP limp doesn't mean a monster by any means. It could JTo, any suited connector, A-high, a low pp, or even an unsuited 1-gapper hoping to catch. Especially in a blogger game. Also, with 6-max, KQs is much stronger than full-ring. You say MP, but in reality it's the CO, so it's LP after the flop.

2.- Since I was the button, I can tell you the ONLY reason I was in at the flop was because the CO limped. I was getting 4:1 pot odds here with K4h, and was amazed the SB didn't complete. A raise by the CO and I'm out of there, and chances are the 58s is gone too. I'd rather be heads-up with KQs than in a potential 5-way pot.

I don't like the limp at all. I can't see a fold, but a raise to 4 or 5x the BB would be enough to have an idea where you stand here. You get rid of 3 potential players, and if UTG+1 calls, you have position on them and you love that flop, but can still get away from a huge raise (which would scream AA or AK). If UTG+1 raises, you can get away from the hand for a minimal hit to your chipleading stack. Saying the limp is good seems to go against your plan of preserving your stack, because you're blind on the flop if a K or Q hits. It only preserves your stack if an A hits or the board sucks for you.

Then again, I never get dealt anything lower than a K, so I don't have much experience with KQ :).

2:43 AM  
Blogger $mokkee said...

limping KQs from the CO in a 6-max game with one limper already in is not a good idea IMO. then, you wouldn't try to get all in after seeing that flop? what are you hoping for when you limp KQs in the 1st place?

big stack gobbles another big stack = GINORMOUS STACK

i really like the idea of gamboooling in that spot. like i said yesterday, i wouldn't fold either hand post flop.

3:30 AM  
Blogger Rock said...

You said that the chip leader just took over that spot. When I do that in the middle or late stage of a tourney, I try to tighten up significantly for a few hands. That allows my adrenaline level to even out a bit before having to make another big decision for a lot of chips. I see a lot of players go on "chase tilt" just after winning a huge pot so I know that I am not the only player that is affected by adrenaline.

3:36 AM  
Blogger columbo (at eifco dot org) said...

I wont comment on the KQ as I LIKE the limp there as much as a raise. You NEED to mix up your play.

No, I think there is a psychology factor at work in the hand also. Remember, the CU took almost HALF of the BBs chips a few hands before with an all-in call with AQ. Listen, an all-in CALL with AQ. The BB had KK.

Now, this can either make the BB believe that a push will always get called, OR it may send a message that the CU is not as experienced and should lay down most hands (albeit not KQs) in this situation.

Would the BB act the same way if he saw that cards? No. So by Skalansky measurement its a mistake. (but then again, Skalansky is partially insane.) Most hands are laydown candidates here and the BB was counting on that.

4:19 AM  
Blogger Astin said...

Umm... methinks you misremember Columbo.

It was AK vs KK, with the KK in the BB. AK raised, KK re-raised, AK pushed, KK called.

BIG difference from AQ calling a push.

4:42 AM  
Blogger Fuel55 said...

Sorry I didn't get around to this yesterday but here is the reality from my perspective:

KsQs is WAY WAY WAY behind any reasonable range of his opponent. Given the betting action 8s5s's range has to be flopped sets, str8s, perhaps slowed play AA, maybe 55, double draws and nut flush draws (he isnt going to down with Ts9s here). Given this, KsQs is a 65:35 dog to AA, 66-33, AsJs, AsTs,As9s, As8s,As7s, As6s, As5s, As4s, As3s, As2s, Js5s, Ts5s, 9s5s, 8s5s, 75s, 6s5s, 75o. KsQs MUST fold to heat especially after limping (which is HORRIFIC - wtf was he planning to do? Chckraise PF?).

8s5s played the hand much better. With his double draw he knows he isn't much behind a coinflip to KsQs's range of TT+, 66-33, AsKs, AsQs, AsJs, AsTs, As9s, As8s, As7s, As6s, As5s, As4s, As3s, As2s, Ks5s, Qs5s, Js5s, Ts5s, 9s5s, 75s, 6s5s, 75o. Indeed its 47:53 in this case.

I don't think either player needs to go the felt here but I would consider going all the way with 8s5s but NEVER KsQs in this spot.

4:47 AM  
Blogger Fuel55 said...

I will add that Columbo is nuts with his statement "I wont comment on the KQ as I LIKE the limp there as much as a raise. You NEED to mix up your play."

Poker profit is partly attributing to mixing up your play but PF it makes no sense - pots are too small. Mix up YOUR PLAY postflop - that is where the profit is.

4:50 AM  
Blogger Eric a.k.a. Bone Daddy said...

I think the hammer man is a genius at posting hands that will stir the blogger pot.

Only 3 events complete, and the gloves are off and the sticks are dropped.

I can't wait to see how pissed off everyone is after 50 events.

4:58 AM  
Blogger Drizztdj said...

I think the married folks should start a Wife-o-meter on a scale of 1 to 10.

1 - totally in love, can I supply you with a blowjob before the Mookie?

10 - took half your assets and moved in with a latin lover she met at a downtown club while you bubbled the Riverchasers

And we'll see how far the scale drops by the time event #55 hits.

5:03 AM  
Blogger AnguilA said...

I agree 100% with Alan and Fuel here.

Raise preflop: it's 6 max, you are likely to get hands out of the way and then play a pot heads up with position. Pretty standard imo.

On the flop I already said yesterday that I would probably go broke or double up most times if I were the BB, but I thought it was a misplay by the CO because vs the range of hands of the BB he can't think that he has more than 9 outs to lose 2/3 of his chip leader stack.

5:40 AM  
Blogger Eric a.k.a. Bone Daddy said...

drizz that is the funniest thing I read all year.

8:49 PM  

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