Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Skills, Mookie and Smooth Calling with Draws on the Flop

Another holiday weekend, another awesome time with the family. We headed out to the same indoor waterpark for the weekend that we went to last fall, and the kids went nuts for it once again. It was great. And I got to see how much they had each grown during the just seven months or so since we were last there. You out there reading this, and me, we all know how little time seven months really is. It's nothing. You don't change over seven months, I don't change over that period of time. But for these kids, seven months is sick. My youngest daughter, K, is 2 1/2 now, so compared to when we went to this waterpark last year, K is now basically 25% older than she was then. Even my older one, who is 4 1/2, is a good 12% older today than when we were out there last year. So I got both girls moved up to the next level of waterslides which was great, and on top of that, my oldest M is now a swimming fool. Throw one of those kid-life-jacket things on her and she will just tread water and doggie paddle in the middle of the pool for 15 minutes straight. Good, good times.

And, I played no poker for a few days there either, which was also all good as far as I am concerned. Ever since I got sick a couple of months ago and was basically unable to play poker at all for a few weeks, not playing on a given night has taken on a whole new meaning for me. I still play most nights, don't get me wrong. But I also skip a night entirely with much more frequency than I had been previously, which used to happen almost never. Now, I am not playing a whole lot if at all on most weekends, and while I used to be a regular Iron Man on full tilt, I'm sure these days I am nowhere close. And I don't even care. Although I don't have a whole lot more than a few sng wins to show for it, I am liking my game over the past couple of weeks since getting back into the poker rotation after my recovery, and I'm sure the good results will come in time.

The good results were nowhere to be found in this week's Skills Series game for me, however. I did manage to play very solid for the first couple hours or so of this thing, maintaining and even growing my starting stack, but eventually I got called by pocket Kings or something and IGH around the middle of the field. Other than my one big BBT3 win in the Stud-8 Skills event a few weeks back, I have just not performed well overall in the Skills games for whatever reason. I have won blonkaments this year in nlh, rebuy nlh, O8, PLO and Stud-8, so it's not like I don't know how to play these games and play them well. I'm just not playing them right, for whatever reason. I think I have finally solved my issues with playing too loose early in these events, but I still seem to be missing something with my middle game now, where I still think in the end I am opening up and taking double-up chances with more marginal hands than I probably should be for that point in the tournament.

I saw in the a.m. that blonkament killer Surflexus managed to win his second BBT3 title in the Skills PLH tournament on Tuesday, succeeding not only in adding to his already very impressive resume of blogger tournament victories but also in further shrinking the series-ending BBT3 Tournament of Champions in a refrain that has become more and more common as the BBT3 has rolled on towards its conclusion this coming Sunday evening with the Big Game. What are we down to now? 47 seats maximum in the ToC? This thing is so much sicker than I ever thought it would be, as we march on towards basically better than 1-in-12 odds of every player in the ToC of walking away with at least 2k in cash to be used at the World Series of Poker event of your choice. Surf's winning a second event this week only serves to further ease the burden on the rest of us tournament winners in the upcoming ToC, and that I think is all good.

Speaking of the Skills game, I was on the girly chat last night with a fellow blogger, and we had an interesting exchange about a hand at our table where my IM chatter's opponent bet out for about 25% of this blogger's remaining stack into a large pot on a flop of something like AT9 with two suits, and this blogger ended up pushing allin on a raise on the flop with a king-high flush draw and an inside straight draw for what he figured to be 12 or 13 outs. He got instacalled on his allin flop raise, with his opponent holding top pair and the nut flush draw, which filled on the turn and sent my blogger friend home also somewhere in mid-field.

What followed was some on-the-spot analysis of the hand between he and I, where this blogger opened the conversation on the particular point of his flop raise by pointing out that if he had just called on the flop, with a bet that large he would basically be declaring himself to be on a drawing hand with such a move. Not wanting to be so obvious about his holding, he figured an allin raise was better since he planned to get it allin anyways with a likely 13 outs on straight and flush draws on the flop.

The more I thought about it, though, and the more I think about it here now, I am really not sure I like this logic. I mean, let's assume for argument's sake that you truly are basically telegraphing that you're on a draw on an AT9 flop with two to a suit. I don't think this is necessarily true, with an Ace on the flop especially you could easily have some kind of a medium-high Ace here, an AJ or A8-type of holding, but again for the sake of this discussion, let's assume that you will basically telegraph the fact that you are on a drawing hand if you smooth call an opponent's flop bet at these blind and bet levels and with these pot sizes at this point in the tournament. My answer is: so what?

Sure, it is an obvious poker truth that the less you give away about your own hand, the better you will perform overall in this game. As a general poker maxim, there is no doubt about the veracity of this point. But, in this case, does it really matter if you betray the true drawing nature of your hand at this point, on this flop? My answer I think is no, and here's why. It's one thing when I am only on a 7- or 8-out draw, something that I would like to stay in for cheaply, but which I'm not about to call off my entire stack chasing after given my only roughly 1/3 chance of filling by the river. I think this is an especially important interest on a particular kind of flop, one that has only one kinda obvious draw on it -- say a K72 flop with two clubs, or a rainbow flop of T93 or something where your opponent generally can reliably put you on a particular draw, and will therefore be likely to know if you hit your draw on the turn or river.

But in the Skills hand from last night, remember the flop in question was AT9, with two suits. So first and foremost, given the bias towards high-card and Ace-having starting hands, the opponent in this hand likely had some kind of top pair hand as opposed to hidden two pairs or something like that. The likelihood of one's opponent having precisely one pair is one factor that I think weighs in favor of just making the smooth call in this spot. With a likely 13 outs working for my blogger friend, I worry much less about telegraphing that I might be on a draw, because the player with just one pair on the flop is not likely to go too crazy on the turn once I have smooth called his normal-sized bet on the flop.

But the bigger reason I don't mind the smooth call on the AT9 two-suited flop, even if you are sure your opponent will know you are on a draw by your smooth call, is that the two suits on the flop, combined with the two consecutive cards on the flop, and the fact that the two connected cards happen to be high cards as well, the bottom line is that I just don't think my opponent has any way of knowing if I've hit my draw even if it does fill. For example, if an offsuit King hits on the turn, I see it as a solid betting opportunity -- especially if I can reliably put my opponent on just top pair or some kind -- because he reasonably has to fear that I hold QJ for the oesd that just hit its mark on the turn. Similarly, if a 6 falls, he once again has to worry that I have just made a straight with an 87 in the hole. Technically, even if a Queen or a 7 falls, I can bet out and there has to be some chance in my opponent's mind that I have hit some kind of an oesd with semi-connected cards. Or how about if any flush card falls, and once again I can lead out with a good chance of successfully getting my opponent to fold based on the scare card.

So in this case, on an Ace-high board and one with several possible draws on both the flush side of things as well as several possible straights, I really don't mind as a rule if my opponent can sense from my actions on the flop (usually a smooth call) that I am in fact drawing. There are just too many possible draws I could be on on this particular kind of a flop for me to be too concerned if my opponent knows I am drawing. Let him know I'm drawing. On the AT9 two-club flop we've been discussing here, any 6, 7, 8, Jack, Queen, King or club give me a hand that could have filled on my draw. That is over half the deck that can have hit my draw on the very next card. So let him know I'm drawing on the flop, I don't really mind because I don't think it hurts me much with so many possible "hit" cards for me on the turn or river. Sometimes I prefer to smooth call on the flop with big draws -- in this case, an expected 12 or 13 outs -- and see if I can either hit one of my draw cards on the turn, or at least hit a card that is sufficiently scary to my opponent to enable me to win the pot. Sure, as a rule I am not a big fan of smooth calling a whole lot in no-limit poker, and I think a strategy that minimizes smooth calling in general other than in slow-play situations is probably a more profitable one than most people, say, in the blonkaments, tend to pursue. But sometimes, in just the right situations where there are lots of outs, lots of possible draws I can be on, and a higher than usual likelihood that my opponent has just one pair, I think the circumstances can line up to make smooth calling the flop on a draw a perfectly acceptable move, at least as a variation play if not as a downright good chance to get into a position to win the pot with big bets on the turn and/or river.

Hopefully that all makes sense to you. It was just one of the many poker conversations I have with girly friends on a nightly basis while we're out playing together in our regular private blogger tournaments. And speaking of which, don't forget the Mookie tonight at 10pm ET on full tilt (password as always is "vegas1"). This will be the third-to-last event in the BBT3, so everyone should be out in force to take one of their last shots at winning their way into the Tournament of Champions like I did. And since it's the Mookie, all the cockfonkeys especially should be chomping at the bit this evening to be the latest loser to wear the weekly Mookie belt. I have cashed in I think three consecutive Mookie tournaments though -- clearly a first time for that situation -- so who knows, maybe tonight I can make it four in a row. See you there, I wouldn't miss it for the world.

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Blogger Loretta8 said...

1. theres an easy way to keep your opponent from knowing you have a draw: play your big made hands and big draws the same way on the flop

2. in the example given it seems clear that the guy with the big draw has fold equity, you didnt give the preflop action but i find it highly unlikely that JJ-KK are calling a shove on that board, so we can get hands beating us to fold, and since we'll have very good equity against his calling range we dont need him to fold very often to make a raise profitable.

it would take a very unusual situation for me to not raise a big draw on the flop

9:15 PM  
Blogger columbo (at eifco dot org) said...

You have just disclosed one of my biggest "secrets". Calling a flop bet with a draw and if the turn is within the 50% range of scare cards, measuring my opponents "fear factor".

9:40 PM  

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