Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Early Tournament Hand Analysis Question -- Conclusion

Back to yesterday's hand analysis question. To review:

It's early in the first hour of the nightly 50-50 on pokerstars (this is actually a 70k guaranteed tournament nowadays, I just always call it the 50-50 still). The Hero is basically right around where he started it at 3000 chips, and the blinds are 25-50. UTG+2 opts to limp with JTs. The player in the cutoff seat raises the 50-chip blind to 150, and all other players fold. Hero (UTG+2) opts to call the 150 with his JTs.

The flop comes KT9 rainbow. Hero checks his inside straight draw to the preflop raiser, who leads out for 300 into the 375-chip pot. Hero opts to call, admittedly a somewhat loose call as he's got nothing much so far, but thinking that his second pair could be good here and he has an inside straight draw and a backdoor flush draw as well to boot.

The turn brings a miracle Queen, filling Hero's inside straight. This time Hero opts to lead out for 600 into the pot which currently contains 975 chips before the turn betting begins. The Villian calls, making the pot 1575 chips heading into the river, and leaving roughly 2300 chips in each player's stack.

An offsuit 9 falls on the river, pairing the board. Hero leads out for 800 chips with his straight, and the Villain min-raises him to 1600.

I then asked what should Hero do here.

I was surprised by the responses, the majority of which recommended that Hero should fold. In my mind, Hero is probably beat, don't get me wrong, although I think it is more likely by a rivered boat than by a higher turned straight. So I don't think it's a great call to make. But this is the pokerstars 70k, not the Main Event of the World Series of Poker. The buyin is $50, many players qualify by satellites and thus pay even less than that, and generally speaking the quality of play in this thing is somewhere between bad and worse. Even down to the final table, where I have been several times this year, the play is generally pretty dam awful in this tournament. So, while I think Hero is likely behind in this spot, with 4000 chips in the pot and only 1500 behind in Hero's stack, to call he only has to be ahead ortie about 1 time in 2.3 in order to make this call good. In this situation, in the Stars 70k, I think the odds are there to make the call. It's a crying call for sure, but I just don't see how a fold is the right move here, leaving yourself with half the starting stack and trying to fight your way back from 1500 chips. And it's not that 1500 chips is too little to do anything with -- I've run deep in this or similar tournaments after losing half my starting stack enough times to know that 1500 chips with still 30 big blinds is more than enough to claw your way back in -- but rather that the chance of splitting (or winning) the pot here and having 4000 chips to play with is great enough that it outweighs the certainty of folding down to just 1500 chips remaining. My suspicion is that some of the commenters who recommended a fold in this spot would be much less likely to fold this hand in reality than they are in the comments on some donkey's blog, but who knows.

In any event, this hand came from the latest poker book I am reading, a fun one called Winning Poker Tournaments One Hand at a Time by Eric "Rizen" Lynch, Jon "PearlJammer" Turner and Jon "Apestyles" Van Fleet. This is a fun book, following in the footsteps of Gus Hansen's Every Hand Revealed in that it shows how to play all kinds of hands, starting from the beginning of a tournament with very low blinds and very deep stacks and no reads on anyone, all the way down to the bubble in large mtts. Again, much like Hansen's book, it ends up reading very much like the hand questions I pose on my own blog, which is probably why I enjoy this structure of poker literature so much as I have always firmly believed this to be the optimal way of really explaining winning poker tournaments to others. I mean, sure you can read Super/System a million times over and really understand it, but imagine how much more valuable it would be to actually get to see hwo Doyle Brunson played every single hand when he won the Bellagio Five Diamond Classic a couple years back or whenever it was. Imagine getting to literally watch every single hand from start to finish in a tournament from Doyle's eyes, knowing his holecards and getting to hear and understand his thinking every step of the way. That's what this book is like.

There are limitations to Winning Poker Tournaments One Hand at a Time, however, as there are with basically any book. In this case, only PearlJammer's section really hits home for me as someone going out of his way to share all of his knowledge. Frankly, I have been most disappointed in Rizen's section, as he appears very much close to the vest, clearly not willing to share everything he is thinking about poker tournaments, and thus his section is not nearly as useful IMO as the other two writers. Apestyles, the only player with whom I was not familiar prior to purchasing this book, writes a section that is helpful and insightful, but still not as down-to-earth and forthcoming as PearlJammer's, but overall the book is a very enjoyable read and I think would help just about anyone's tournament game who is interested in learning more about how definitely great players approach tournaments.

Anyways, in the book, when I read the hand example above, I was shocked and disappointed when all three writers said they would fold the hand in question if they were Hero. Again, it's not that I believe Hero is definitely ahead here, but rather than I don't think he is losing often enough to justify folding and therefore ensuring that he is down to 1500 chips remaining. One thing I have always harped on even in my own tournament recaps when I win a big tournament is all the big laydowns I have made, so I am always intrigued when I read about other proven successful tournament players making similar types of laydowns in big spots. I have to admit, I have had a lot of success in the Stars 70k this year and I would be highly unlikely to make this laydown, and I would expect to split (or rarely even beat out trip 9s) in this spot probably a little over 50% of the time. But from reading everyone's comments to yesterday's post, along with the three pros who wrote the book from which the examples are pulled, this is apparently yet another example where I can learn something from others who would play a hand differently from me. And that in the end is what reading poker books is all about, at least from my perspective.

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Blogger Craig Berger said...

What you need to consider is how clear the board is. Its K T 9 Q 9. It's brutally obvious to everyone that a J makes a straight, and with a min-raise it seems like he can't possibly be expecting to move you off the hand. His play is totally consistent with AJ, KK or TT. This means that at best you are calling to chop. It's hard to see why he wouldn't just call for value with a bare J, since a reraise would put him in a tough spot. And 1500 really is still a lot of chips at this stage of the tournament.

7:58 AM  

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