Monday, June 23, 2008

Firing That Second Bullet With Air

So today I had been planning to return to that early-mtt hand I had profiled last Thursday, but I was flipping through one of the bibles of limit holdem over the weekend, a book that I have worn thin from reading and re-reading it at least 10 or 12 times, and I had dog-eared a page with one of the coolest thoughts I have seen regarding aggressive limit holdem play. It's so cool that I'm thinking about it here again as the new week begins, so I figured today's post would be about that.

The book is Small-Stakes Hold'em -- Winning Big With Expert Play. Sklansky, Malmuth and Ed Miller. As I mentioned this is indisputably one of the bibles of limit holdem play, and anyone who does even a medium amount of reading about holdem has obviously read it. This thing is chock fuckin full of good stuff. Many great, original ideas about poker strategy, and interesting variations and recommendations for loose, normal and tight games, and detailed and useful treatments of various poker situations like semi-bluffing, playing overcards, etc. It is really great. Anyone who wants to develop a deeper understanding of the nature of the game and is looking to read one of the best books out there, Small Stakes Holdem is probably just the thing you're looking for.

Anyways, it is the section dealing with how to play overcards after the flop where the poker point I like so much is hidden. So again, as you already know if you're an avid Sklansky reader, he advocates generally speaking a tight-ish but position-based starting hands play range, so the assumption behind the upcoming statement is that you are not in the pot to begin with unless you have something worthwhile in the way of overcards. Like, the below statement does not so much apply to playing overcards like 97o on a 642 flop, as opposed to playing AKo on that same 642 flop. What we're talking about here is when you raise before the flop with two high cards, typically in the AT+, KQ+ range, and then the flop comes with three undercards.

The next thing to understand is that in limit holdem, the Sklansky-Malmuth-Miller approach would have you c-betting the flop in most cases where you were the preflop aggressor. So again the assumption here is that you are playing two solid high cards with a preflop raise, you get called, the flop comes with three undercards, and you make a continuation bet on the flop. We've all been there. If you haven't, then you blow. You raise preflop, someone calls you out of the big blind with probably a shit hand, and the flop comes with rags. You have to bet out in a game like holdem (limit or no-limit) a significant portion of the time here with the c-bet, or you are undinably giving up value. You're only going to make a pair or better with two unpaire hole cards what, 32% of the time or something? Those other two-thirds of the time, if you take the aggression preflop but then give it up on a bad flop, you are passing the baton to your opponent to steal that "dead pot" away from you. Who's going to win that other 68% of the time when you don't flop a pair with your non-pair hole cards? If you don't c-bet regularly, you are definitely not following the Sklansky et al way.

So the question being addressed for this situation in the book is when is the best time or the best situation to follow up with a second bullet on the turn card when you play overcards on the flop? And the answer is what I thought was so interesting. The authors explain:

The best time to follow up with a second bullet on the turn after c-betting the flop is when the flop was moderately coordinated.

That's it. It's so simple, but simple little rules like this are a lot of what I'm reading poker books for in the first place. I love the easy little rules that explain quite well how to play in a particular spot, especially when I've never quite thought about such decisions in nearly as simple a way as it is dealt with in the literature. I rememeber posting here way back when about a quick n dirty rule I found in Professional No-Limit Holdem regarding when to semi-bluff on the flop, which was another little heuristic just like this one and also something I was really into because of the fresh way it presents of looking at an often-encountered situation by all successful holdem players.

So the best time to follow up with a second bullet on the turn after c-betting the flop is when the flop was moderately coordinated. If the flop was totally uncoordinated -- say like a Q75 rainbow flop -- you c-bet it and someone called you, then that caller is not likely to have a draw given the nature of the flop. In this case, they are highly likely to have at least one pair, and therefore are not likely to fold on the turn either in limit play. So you might consider not firing that second bullet on the turn with just the overcards since your opponent is not going away even if you do bet, and since you have nothing but a high-card hand at this point.

Similarly, if the flop was highly coordinated -- say a flop like TJQ double-sooted -- and you c-bet and got called, that caller is likely to have a strong draw or to be slow-playing a big hand. In either situation, once again your opponent is not going away for just the one bet on the turn after the pot was raised preflop and bet and called already on the flop in limit poker. Plus, in this spot you could be facing a raise on the turn, and you might not even know if your hand would be ahead even if you manage to hit one of those overcards on the river.

This is why the best time to lead out again on the turn in the hopes of taking down the pot uncontested with just overcards is when the flop is moderately coordinated. It is in these cases where the likelihood is highest that your opponent smooth called your flop c-bet with just a hand like two overcards, a gutshot or similar low-quality turn hand. These are the times you want to be looking to fire that second bullet, because your chances of folding your opponent out are higher than if he stayed in on the flop when it was highly coordinated or highly uncoordinated. This is a rule that I have used to significant benefit over the past few years since I first read it in the book, and I thought I would get it up here today in case anyone has any thoughts on the concept or might be able to make use of it in your own games.

Mondays at the Hoy is tonight again at 10pm ET, don't forget. Password as always is "hammer", and as always we are always looking for new and first-time players, so if you're out there and you've been reading for a while but have never sat down to play with the bloggers, come on out tonight and see what it's all about. First-timers have traditionally had great luck in the Hoy so perhaps tonight will be no different. The game is 6-max nlh and the buyin as always is a mere $26 or a Tier 1 token, so hopefully we will see you tonight under the "private" tab for Mondays at the Hoy on full tilt!

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Blogger Drewbabez said...

Is that from the 10 dollar rebuys on pokerstars? I'm a fan of their 55k guaranteed every night, and your right that you have to play those powerful draws strong on the flop. I have a few hands like that I talk about in my blog:

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