Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Cash Game Question -- Conclusion and Analysis

Wow! What a set of responses to my actual real life poker question yesterday. Guess maybe I should post a little more about poker, huh? I will see what I can do about that. I am definitely still very interested in the game, and I'm still reading and thinking and playing quite a bit, although the new job combined with the slowing economy definitely has me playing a bit less than I once was. Hopefully both of those factors will start evening out over time, but who knows. In the meantime, I do not think it's a bad thing for me to be writing about topics other than poker, as I do have a lot to say on many other topics, and my readership has surprised me by growing significantly over the past two months since the fall of Lehman Brothers and the historic global stock market crash. And most of all, I find that I have really enjoyed writing about these non-poker topics, which is the best part of all since, as I like to remind everyone from time to time, this is my blog after all. So you can expect more of both in the coming days and weeks as the beat rolls on here at hammerplayer.

OK so back to the hand analysis question I posed yesterday. Now let me begin my saying that like a good little lawyer I chose my words in yesterday's post very deliberately, in that the hand I described did not actually happen to me. But it is a real situation that I read about, and was somewhat shocked at the result. I know last week I had written about the frustrations I was having reading Dan Harrington's Cash Games books, and specifically that I was starting Volume II despite being disappointed in Volume I. Well, the hand from yesterday comes directly out of Harringon Cash Games, Volume II, pages 84-87. I basically reproduced everything more or less directly as described in the book, and posed the question to you all as to how you would handle rivering a set in that hand with a ton of preflop action.

To review, here is a recap of the hand I asked about in yesterday's post:

You're playing in a $5-$10 no-limit holdem ring cash game, with all the stacks fairly large. The game can be classified as a fairly tough game with mostly good players, mostly fairly tight and aggressive types generally typical of a 5-10 game in my experience. UTG+1 limps for $10. UTG+2 also limps for $10. You are UTG+3 with 88, and you opt to raise 5x to $50. The button reraises to $150. The small blind calls the $150 cold. The first two limpers fold to the $150 double-raise. There is $380 in the pot and it is $100 to you to call with your pocket 8s. As the other two players both have larger stacks than yours (all more than 100 big blinds), you opt to call the reraise and do a little set mining.

The flop comes AQ5 rainbow. The big blind checks, you check given the Ace on board, and the button checks as well.

The turn is an offsuit King. Again the big blind checks. You check as well, knowing you must be behind with all that action before the flop. The button checks as well.

On the river falls an 8, giving you the rivered set. Now the big blind bets out for $200 into the $480 pot.

What do you do here?

So that's the question. The many comments to yesterday's post basically went right on along with my own thoughts on the hand. I figured the rivered 8s was probably ahead, but not definitely since the possibility of a set of Queens, Kings or Aces had to be out there given all the action before the flop in this hand. One thing I thought was that there was a significant possibility that one of these players was sitting on AK, and given all the checking-around on both the flop and the turn in this hand, the raggy 8 on the river would have to make that guy with AK believe he was in the lead. Thus, as I read this hand in Harrington's book, I was torn between flat calling the bet, or possibly putting in a small raise which was designed to elicit a call from the likely player with AK. As I mentioned, this is exactly the range of responses I received to yesterday's post. Almost everyone said to call or perhaps minraise, and I think both of those answers have merit. A number of the commenters hit on the fact that the set of 8s could surely be behind a higher set here, since with all that action preflop anyone holding AA, KK or QQ has you beat, so a raise, or at least a significant raise, is not really in order in a cash game context here, in particular with all players involved holding more than 100 big blinds.

You will notice not a single player suggested that the set of 8s fold his hand at the river. A number of people thought the situation does not bode well for the 8s, but the bottom line is that, with both the flop and the turn checking around, you are a donk if you fold your set of 8s in this spot. To say that such a move is exploitable, weak poker is understating things. Again, I'm not saying that you're definitely ahead with the pocket 8s and you should clearly jam here, but for $200 into the $680 pot at this point, it is very difficult to imagine folding given the absolute dearth of action on both the flop and the turn heading into this river bet. If just the flop had been checked but then the turn was bet and called, that changes things significantly as a big flopped set might quite often bet the hand in just this way. But there is a good reason that not a single commenter, nor myself, thinks that folding the hand to this one nearly half-pot river bet is the right move here.

You want to know why I dislike Harrington's books? Remember I was saying last week how annoying it is that he uses examples where he clearly knows the outcome and uses that knowledge in designing the advice he gives on the hands, thereby making his entire array of advice basically useless and worthless for someone trying to pick his brain about cash games? Well, here's Harrington's response on the hand, directly from page 86:

"On the river, you hit your set and the big blind bets. You're getting 3.4-to-1, but it's actually a very tough call. (Give yourself many demerits if you actually thought about raising.) The big blind probably has a set of kings, and there's a decent chance the button has a set of queens. Your set of eights, in this situation is just a hand with some value. The 3.4-to-1 odds look good, but you can't be sure that another raise isn't coming from behind you. At a loose table I would most likely call here, but at this tight, tough table I'd regrettably let this go.

You fold. The button calls. The big blind shows a set of kings and the button mucks his hand."

What a fucking genius!! How oh how did Harrington know that the button had that set of kings? Is he the best hand reader of all time? Oh no, wait. He knew the answer before he wrote his analysis of this hand! This is a perfect example of what I'm talking about with why Harrington's cash books suck so horribly. In a situation where the call -- albeit a crying call -- is more or less mandatory in reality, in a book that is supposed to be helping the readers with their cash play, Harrington uses his foreknowledge of the other players' holdings to make himself look like a fucking genius and therefore give out the clearly wrong advice under the guise of advocating good, tight play. What an ass.

Do not buy Dan Harrington's cash game books!

Thanks to everyone for your thoughtful comments though, that was really fun. I will get some more hands up here shortly for people to chip in with their thoughts.

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Blogger KajaPoker said...

After reading today's post I also believe the blind has a set of Kings and is betting for value. What a donkey call that was! I forgot to comment on yesterday's post, but clearly the blind had a set of kings then too. In this tough, tight table I would fold as well (if I knew the result). Harrington is cash game genius!

1:27 AM  
Blogger Gnome said...

Imagine how shitty Harrington on 6-max will be. I'm sooooo not buying it. http://www.twoplustwo.com/magazine/current/

4:18 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

OMG why is that guy even allowed to write a 6-max book?!

4:57 AM  
Blogger Fuel55 said...

Chalk one up for Hoy.

8:25 AM  
Blogger Rock said...

Hey, the big blind had the set of Ks, not the button. And it was the big blind that bet the river.

When I read over this hand initially it immediately crossed my mind that the big blind could have hit the turn with ppK or (heaven forbid) JT and then checked planning to check raise. His plan to check raise was foiled and now it looked like he was value betting the river hoping, but probably not really expecting, to get some action.

But I couldn't quite see folding here and so I didn't reply to your original post as I couldn't really defend a fold. The best I could come up with was call and fold to any reraise. To wimpy a play to get excited about.

I know this bit of analysis smacks of MUB syndrome and you might even suggest that I only came up with this after I knew the outcome, but I disagree with those assessments.

Does this make me want to by the Harrington book? Not really.

9:06 PM  
Blogger vega687 said...

I would have folded. Having played alot of cash games and having encountered many TAGs that hold consistent large stacks.
Betting 5 times the big blind is almost significant to pocket aces and pocket kings. The one with pocket queens was probably shitting his pants all the way to the river :P

8:20 AM  

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