Thursday, November 12, 2009

Playing Those Sooted Connectors, Plus an NFL Pick

Wow. I write a little bit about poker one day and I must have had 15 people tell me to do it more yesterday. You wanted another poker post? Well here comes another poker post.

But first, I will get on the record right now and pick the San Francisco 49ers -3 vs. the Chicago Bears on Thursday night on the NFL Network. I will pick my other four of my Pick 5 NFL picks on Friday as usual, but with Thursday Night Football starting up this week I will try to get in a pick on the Thursday night game wherever it makes sense for me, and that means it will have to go up a day earlier than the other picks. Thursday night's matchup is a battle of the losers in a sense, with the 49ers having lost four in a row heading into Week 10 while the Bears have chipped in losing three of their last four as well. Both teams started the season off hot but have since really cooled, although their problems are kind of opposite of each other. The Bears can't stop anyone right now -- they've allowed 45 to the Bungles and 41 to the Falcons in their last two games against NFL-worthy opponents. Meanwhile, in San Francisco the problem is that, after scoring an average of nearly 26 points per game over their first four outings of 2009, the team has now managed to scrape together just 18 points per game over their last four, and they've lost three games in a row by a touchdown or less as a result. I don't love how the 49ers are playing right now, but the bottom line is that, especially at home, I have more confidence in Mike Singletary and the 49ers finding their footing tonight than I do in Jay Cutler and the Bears. At Candlestick Park this season, the 49ers have scored in the 20's three times, and that's roughly where I expect them to end up tonight against the porous Bears' defense. But on the road, Jay Cutler has led his team to four separate subpar offensive outputs, including games with 15, 14, 10 and 21 points. If the Niners can run it up to the mid-20s like I think they will, that ought to be enough to cover against the reeling Bears who will then have to face the Eagles next Sunday night in Chicago to try to right their own ship.

OK, so with that out of the way, you wanted some poker. As I've gotten back into playing a little bit these past couple of weeks, I've started dipping my toe back into the mtt pool, something I really haven't done almost any of since my big score out at the Venetian last summer in Vegas. I was kinda burned out on tournament poker for a while after that magical weekend in the desert, and then the baby came, and before I knew it it'd been basically three or four months of very little mtt play for me. But as I've started playing again I've really been enjoy anew the process of building a stack from scratch in the earlygoing in these things. Especially online, where even the "slow" tournament structures are still actually super duper fast in reality, where the whole time you have to "build a stack" amounts to maybe a couple of hours, as opposed to a couple of days of poker in most live events. After some time away, I'm finding myself amazed at how easy it is to just slide right back into it and play the same aggressive way I've always played ever since I first learned the game. I've always been someone who tries to stir up action -- rather than avoid it -- early in most of the mtt's I play, again especially when it's online. I like to see a lot of cheap flops when the blinds are small relative to the stacks, try to flop a big hand and then figure out the best way to extract the most chips from the most players when I do. I don't want to sit around the starting stack for 90 minutes and then hope to pick up AA or to win a race with AJ vs 88. I want to force the action with lots of spec hands for cheap early anid try to turn one of them into a big big pot for me and get myself up to full chip utility as early as possible whenever I can.

Recently I was playing in the nightly 25k guaranteed tournament on pokerstars at 8pm ET. It has a $27.50 buyin and typically attracts between 1100-1500 runners or so, with four-digit payouts usually going to the top 5 or 6 spots, and a top prize somewhere in the 5k range. It's about as small of a payout tournament as I will generally play in the no-limit context at 25k guaranteed, as I generally prefer larger prizes for the final table to even make it worth bothering trying to wade through the level of donkery one must always survive to make a run like this. I think nothing would piss me off more than to outlast 1500 other shitheads in a $1 buyin tournament, just to end up in third place when my AK goes down to JJ and get paid a total of $500. For me that's just not worth the effort, and the luck, really, that it takes to last through a huge field of players like that, so I typically try to play 30k guaranteed or larger events only whenever I can. This way I can at least be assured that if tonight's going to be another magical run for me, I know I can win more than 5k or at least in the few thousand range for a top-few-spots finish.

So anyways, it's very early (first round) in the pokerstars 25k, and the UTG player limps for 20 chips. The next guy at our full 9-person table folds, and then the action is to me. I am holding 87s.

What do you do here?

I actually love to raise with sooted connectors in early position. In fact, as I've written here many times, when you raise preflop as aggressively as I do, it's basically a requirement to raise with these hands as well, just for balance if nothing else. From what I've seen and read, it seems like mostly all of the big tournament pros raise sooted connectors from early position as well, again in particular when the stacks are deep early in a tournament. However, in this particular spot, with one limper already in the pot, and him seated under the gun at that, I opt to check. To clarify my earlier statement, I like to open-raise with sooted connectors from early position. When the pot's already been opened for a limp from early position, now with a hand like 87s I am looking at a good possibility of a multiway pot if I just limp behind, which actually is my best pure math strategy for this kind of a hand. So where someone else has made the decision for me by open-limping ahead of me, and there is a decent chance of a multiway pot developing if I just limp as well, I will usually limp with connectors in this situation:

Two other players in late position limp in as well, as does the big blind, so we end up seeing a 5-way flop which is exactly perfect for what I'm holding. The flop comes down 962, with one of my suit, giving me the open-ended straight draw. The big blind checks, as does the UTG player, and the action is to me:

What do you do?

My answer is this: try to either take down the 110 chips in the pot now, or, if I end up building a little bit of a pot here, that's ok as well as long as I control the size of that pot such that I can profitably see at least one more card. Nobody has shown any strength yet before the flop here, and the flop is raggy enough that even most limpers should not really have connected with it in some huge way. More than that, the way I play I like to take a lot of little stabs at flops when the pots are still small, and this is a perfect opportunity to start creating that image of an active flop bettor so that the next time I am holding TPTK and of course decide to bet the flop, I will actually have created more action for myself by betting at flops like these as well. And, at this point in the hand, the pot is still super small relative to our stacks, so unlike at some point later in the tournament possibly, right now I have plenty of chips to make a move and still fold to a huge reraise or even to a turn bet or raise from my opponent. So I decided to make the exact same type and size of bet as I would make if I were holding top pair, or an overpair, on most flops:

90 chips into the 110-chip pot. In a pot with four other players, all of whom limped in and thus could be holding the middling-sort of cards that could have connected in some way with this flop, and with the flush draw on the board, I want to make sure I am forcing my opponents to make a poor call odds-wise at whatever they're drawing at. Remember, my game here is to play this flop exactly like I would if I were holding TPTK or something, because I know I'm going to be getting out there and betting at a lot of flops just exactly like that over the next hour or so here.

The late position player called my 90-chip bet here, while the big blind and UTG both folded their hands. So we saw a turn heads-up, and I was first to act:

Boom! I just made my nut straight on the turn. And I picked up a flush draw. And an open-ended straight flush draw. There's 290 chips in the pot, and both myself and my opponent each have around 10x that still behind. I'm thinking this is my chance to hopefully extract some serious chippage from this guy early on in an mtt and get some much-needed chip utility early, as the big blind will move from 20 to 50 over the next 20 minutes or so and I will soon be well below that magical utility level of 100 big blinds.

How do you play this hand now? If you bet, how much? If you check, why?

Back tomorrow with the conclusion.

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Blogger The Poker Meister said...


No way I'm checking here. He has shown evidence that he's either TPTK or on a flush draw, calling 90 into 110 on the flop.

Reasons not to check:
o What happens if the next card is a diamond? It's either going to kill the action or make his hand.
o If he checks behind, you give up a street of value, making the river impossible to get a lot of value.

I think you want to bet out like half to 2/3 pot. I understand you're taking the risk that you've shown too much strength and that he'll fold - but your goal is to get as close as possible to stacking this guy with the current nuts. Too bad you don't have poker tracker stats on him; if he's a VPIP +30, then you can put him on a range that includes drawing cards.

10:27 PM  
Blogger Shrike said...

A lot of good options here. I would lead out about 70% of the time, and size the bet according to my victim - anywhere from just under half-pot to an overbet. About 30% of the time I would check-call or check-raise, again depending on the opponent.

All-in all my preferred option is probably a smaller bet on the turn and a big overbet on the river if the diamonds don't come in.


1:01 AM  
Blogger Fuel55 said...

Im never checking here. Bet 220.

1:19 AM  
Blogger Fuel55 said...

i might rarely check the river it isnt a diamond to induce a bluff to which i would CR shove

1:20 AM  
Blogger Mondogarage said...

I would never check here, as villian is either on TP, or a diamond draw, with a slighter chance of being on A6 or A2 of clubs (still a drawing hand), or possibly even flopped dueces, though that seems unlikely, because a real man would have raised the flop.

This deep this early, limped pots often mean players chasing after drawing hands, and they'll often overbet to protect them.

Get your value in now, because on the river, you're likely going to have no value left, or possibly be behind.

Betting 220 here is sound, and hope for an overshove behind you.

2:21 AM  
Blogger Fred aka TwoBlackAces said...

I over bet the Turn. Alot. My thought is that your hand is pretty well disguised, and that kind of bet should confuse your customer. If your goal is to stack him, I think that's the right line.

10:00 PM  
Blogger HighOnPoker said...

I'd go with a tempting 240 bet. I think there is something psychological about that number that is likely to induce a call, even from weak hands. It's nice and round, and still less than pot. Plus, it continues your story uninterrupted. On the flop, you bet slightly less than pot, and on the turn you do the same, indicating that nothing much has changed for you, even though everything has.

12:23 AM  

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