Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Mookie, and Middle Pairs Comment

I came in 6th in the Mookie last night. That is two blogger final tables in two days. It feels like it's been months since that happened. So anyways, last night's Mookie performance from me was good, but I was bubble boy for the second time in 4 weeks in this event as only the top five spots paid, so I certainly need to do better. I've also made a couple of nice mtt runs on partypoker and ftp the last few nights, although nothing earth-shattering. So I'm feeling better about my nlh tournament game, also for the first time in a long time, so it's been a good week overall on the holdem front.

Oh and one more thing, xkm (I believe his name is Craig) played in the Mookie with me, and I'd like to say for the record that he had the most recockulous suckout on me that I've seen in a long time, or I'm sure I would have won the event. Getting sucked out on like that at the final table is something which I have had to endure many times, and I won't bore anyone or repiss myself off with the details, but suffice it to say that xkm is one lucky bastard, and you owe me one after that suckout last night. I mean, I made the best read I've ever made in my entire life on someone, and then I got screwed again by riverstars. Unbelievable!

Enough about the Mookie, which again was one of the most fun tournaments I play every single week. Now I'd like to spend some more time discussing a comment that Matt made to my Middle Pairs -- Part II post from earlier this week. I'm going to post Matt's comment, and I will include my responses in italics along the way in the text of his comment. I just want to thank Matt for taking the time to read my posts and to really think about what I have to say, and for asking questions in his comments which, to me, is one of the things that really makes blogs, and bloggery in general, superior to many other forms of media and expression.

Matt Silverthorn said...

Some interesting stuff, Hoy. I have some questions, though. I would like to preface this by saying that I know I'm no poker guru, but am just expressing my doubts and opinions while trying to learn from and possibly help a fellow player (read: I'm not being an ass). I'm sure you wouldn't read it that way, but with recent strained blogger relations, I figured I would be careful. :-)

-- No problem! I love discussing poker in any form and couldn't care less if anyone dissents with my feeling on something. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I think strained blogger relations are ghey. There, I said it.

More than that, it is important for me to say that this is purely the way that I play middle pairs. I don't mean to be saying that anyone other than I should be playing them the way that I do, nor do I mean to suggest that anyone else will make money playing them the way that I do. I acknowledge without going back and reading through everything that my tone in the Middle Pairs posts may have come off that way, but that's not at all what I'm trying to do here. I'm just posting about the way that I like to play these hands and what I've learned over time about doing so.

1) Most of your advice deals with situations where you are the aggressor after the flop. How do you deal with situations with lower pocket pairs when you are reacting to aggression?

-- I tried to make it clear (but obviously failed) in the post that my general inclination after the flop is to not lose any more money with the hand, unless I hit the flop or one of my other exceptions from Part II applies. This means I will generally try to check-fold from the flop on if, say, I'm in there with a pair of 5s, I had raised it up 4x preflop and I got called preflop, and then the flop comes K32 and my opponent bets. Even if he checked, and I had decided to bet, if I get raised on that flop, I'm not staying in unless I get a good read from someone as to what their cards are and I think I am ahead. So, postflop I'll either fold, or make one bet on the flop if one of my exceptions applies or I like my read.

This is the one major aspect that leads me to believe that pre-flop aggression with medium to low pocket pairs leads to -EV situations in most cases. (I do not include 9s here, though they are sometimes even more dangerous as they look stronger than they really are.)

I think that most of the time you are going to be throwing pre-flop money away in the face of aggression post-flop. Although your examples show you coming out ahead in the majority of these situations, I feel that this can't possibly be the norm. Then again, I didn't win the Party $40K :-)

-- Not sure what to say here, other than to make it clear that this is the way I play my middle pocket pairs all the time, against bloggers, in one-table sngs, in the nightly 20k and 40k tournaments, etc. And that I'm sure I have made more money than I've lost with pocket pairs, probably by a significant margin. It seems like I win preflop or postflop by playing pairs this way much more than I end up folding to someone else's aggression. Maybe it has something to do with the image I have at this point. Or maybe it's because the flop misses a given person so much more frequently than it hits them. Or maybe it's the size of my bets, which are generally largely than a pure Harringtonian continuation bet. Most likely it's a combination of all of these things and a bunch of others. From the poker books I've read, there are certainly any number of professionals that play these hands more or less the same way I do, so it's not like I'm suggesting something that doesn't possibly work or something like that. If played well, and as long as I do a fairly good job of using my reads not to get roped into playing 2nd-best type of hands after the flop, I have found this a very profitable strategy with middle pairs. Maybe people disgaree. Maybe they're right.

2) As an example to my previous question, I point to the screenshots in the first exception (1a) of Part II.

How in the world do you let yourself get all-in in this situation? The guy obviously reraised your flop bet here, and unless he pushed immediately (which definitely smells like a steal, but even then...) how can you place him on a hand that you can beat?

This looks to be in the first ten or fifteen hands of whatever tournament you were in, so I can't believe that you had that solid of a read on your opponent, and you're behind to more pocket pairs than you are ahead of. Then there's the jack and flush draw as well, and any hand of overcards 9-A has a 25% to beat you. This doesn't seem to be a wise play, although it did work out for you.

-- All good points. Let me rehash directly from my post the hand example which is referred to here:

"The more common situation is where the flop comes with two cards below my pocket pair, and just one card higher than my pair, where that one overcard on the flop is not an Ace (the card that people typically see flops with, especially online). This is much more common when I am holding a middle pair like Sevens through Tens than a flop where my pair is higher than all three flop cards, and yet it can still be a very profitable situation since there are only three cards out there that my opponents could be holding that would have them ahead of my pocket pair after the flop. In most situations where my pair is higher than two of the three flop cards, absent a clear read of strength from my opponent, I will make that same bet of 2/3 the pot to the full pot, attempting to take it down right there on the flop before another overcard comes out and threatens my hand. For example, here is a situation where I have a pair of 8s in the pocket, and the flop comes a non-threatening J62:

Here I bet the size of the pot, and got called by someone who thought that his pocket pair was good even though there were not one but two overcards to his pair on the flop (something which I am much less willing to do as a general rule):

Again, all I can say is that this is the way I play the game of holdem. Sometimes I win tournaments doing it, and some people might say I've had a (very) slight modicum of success at doing it. A great many times this style of play leads me to bust out of tournaments earlier than I think I should have. This style of play is practiced by many professionals, and these are guys who tend to bust out a lot but also do well a lot in multi-table tournaments. Playing too aggressively for the situation is something I'm constantly working on, and the times I've been most successful in mtt's as I look back tend to be my tighter games instead of my looser ones. Nonetheless, this is the way I play.

I don't know how many hands into the tournament the particular play was when I had the 8s and called my opponent's allin on the King-high flop. All I do know is that when he made the push-raise on my c-bet on the flop, my head kept telling me he had two high cards but had missed, or had some kind of a club draw, etc. If I could explain specifically why I thought that in that specific situation, I would. I think my feeling came from the following information:

(a) I had raised 4x as the first player in from late position.

(b) He had flat called the 4x raise from immediately behind me.

(c) I had observed this guy steal and re-steal blinds already in this tournament, or had some other reason to know he is willing to be aggressive preflop.

(d) I had therefore read his preflop smooth-call as weak.

(e) I knew that, in order to be ahead of me, he would have needed either (i) a pocket pair higher than 8s, which I felt confident he did not have, or (i) pocket pair of 2s or 6s, which I thought was very much within his likely hand range, but also not highly likely just from an odds perspective, or (iii) a King, which there were three of left in the deck. So basically, of all the possible hands I think he might have called my 4x LP raise there preflop, the only hands I'm actually afraid of are AJ, KJs, 22 or 66. Now I'm not going to do the math of all the other possible hands I put in his range on the flop, but what I do know is that AJ, KJs, 22 and 66 comprise a very small proportion of the total hands I could put him on. So to me, the odds were very low that this flop had actually helped him.

(f) add to this that he quickly reraised me allin on the flop, a move which again seemed like desperation to me. Two weak reads from the same guy, one before the flop and one again on the raggy flop. Again if I could say specifically why it "seemed" that way to me, I would love to tell you, but it's really not something tangible. I guess I just didn't get what he would be holding that would make him do that. Truth be told, at that point I think I put him on a flush draw with an Ace of spades and another medium-type of card higher than the 6. That might justify him smooth-calling my 4x raise preflop since my preflop move looked like a steal attempt, and might also support the move-in here. AJ might also have moved in here, but even then I thought at this point, if he's smart, he ought to at least consider that I could have an overpair -- I did raise it up 4x before the flop after all, and it's not like I raised as first one in from the SB or something. I just see that allin reraise with just A-x and the nut flush draw on the flop all the time at the levels I play online, and this one looked a lot like it.

On another note, to be clear I am reading players from the moment I sit down at the table, virtual or real-life. While there is no doubt that I would have a much better read on a guy after playing at his table for an hour or two, in this case (and again I don't know exactly how long into the tournament it was, but it is early since we're still at 10/20 blinds) I felt I had a decent enough read to call what I thought was a desperation move. In fact, I'll take it a step further -- I am so into playing by my instincts that some nights, I will call a guy down on an allin bet within the first orbit, where I have no hand experience with the guy yet. When I sit at the table, if I have a strong feeling that someone is bluffing me on the first hand or two, and I think I am likely ahead, some nights I will just readily call their allin that time, because I think I'm on to them. As I mentioned above, playing in this style may not be the most logically cost-effective, I don't know. It may not be the most logically designed style to get me to the most final tables, or to the most cashes, or to the most cash. I don't know. What I do know is that it is the style I play, and I like playing that way and I think I am fairly decent at playing that way. I don't mind losing a $10 or $20 buyin, even early in a tournament, if I end up being wrong about a read I felt good about but ended up making a stoopid call. It's happened to me before and, as necessitated by my style of play, it will definitely happen again. And again. And again. But over the long run, my poker instincts have been very, very good to me and my bankroll. So I like to stick with them. That's what works for me.

I would like your input on these kinds of situations and maybe some more information on the particular hand I mentioned.

Thanks, and keep up the good work!

-- Thanks again, for the thoughtful comment, Matt. And to all of you for your many thoughtful and reasoned responses. Of course I welcome all others. Again, to me the interactive discussion is really what makes poker blogging so great in the first place.


Blogger Matt Silverthorn said...

I was hoping that the only way you'd get all-in on that flop was if he insta-pushed after your bet, and it looks like that was the situation. I think you played it fine, but not having that information in the original post made it look iffy. Thanks for the response!

10:16 PM  
Blogger slb159 said...

Can't wait to min raise + 1 again in the next M00kie. Hehe.

10:38 PM  
Blogger jjok said...

I almost always raise in cash games with a pocket pair in an unraised pot.

I look at my tracker stats and see that I am very much in the black for all of my pocket pairs.

Amongst alot of my wins is me winning the blinds......these add up over time as Hoy says.

However when facing aggression, I also noticed I much more able to drop them on the flop if I don't hit. That's actually one of the most beautiful aspects of middle pairs......they can be very easy to drop on aggression.

12:34 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

JJ, I agree with your post 100%. Including the last thing you said -- this was the point I made at the beginning of my Part I post about the middle pairs -- I actually don't think they're the hardest hands to play, because I have little trouble laying a middle pair down to overcards on the flop. It's the high but not high enough cards that cause me the most trouble.

Off to check out your blog now for my daily dose man. Missed you last night at the Mook, though enjoyed feasting ravenously on your blinds.

12:57 AM  
Blogger Pseudo_Doctor said...

hey whats up hoy love your blog by the way even though i dont comment on it much, def one of my favorite strategy blogs to read....nah i went to the University of Maryland but had a friend that went to geo but he grad in 2003. Been there to visit though love the school though UMD basketball is

1:11 AM  
Blogger Pseudo_Doctor said...

but speaking of geotown here is the article my boy wrote at geotown for there paper...its now publish and bought up by a couple of mag's

1:12 AM  
Blogger Pseudo_Doctor said...

1:13 AM  
Blogger Pseudo_Doctor said...


1:14 AM  
Blogger Donnie (aka Shadowtwin) said...

I know what you mean when you say that you just "have a feeling" that the other guy is weak. The more I play, the better I get at trusting those instincts and making calls when I don't have a hand, but figure my garbage to be better than his garbage. The downside to that is that it occasionally leads to busting out with a K-10o (for instance), leaving the entire room wondering WTF you were thinking. ;)

I like your strategy with pocket pairs, and have been blatantly ripping off portions of it and adding it to my own game lately. It really is amazing how often aggression can induce people to fold when they have two overcards and a lot of outs.

1:15 AM  
Blogger Pokerwolf said...

Hey, Hoy.

My daughter will be 2 the second week of September.

We're not driving because it's a 9 hour drive to Albany, NY from DC. Our daughter couldn't take that long of a drive at this point, so we'd have to break it into two 4.5 hour sections of driving with an overnight stay in the middle.

Great post about pocket pairs, btw. Keep these sort of posts coming! Great stuff!

1:32 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Thanks, Donnie. I'm totally with you. I knew exactly what you were doing in that hand btw, don't get me wrong. The trick I'm still trying to get better at is that sometimes, even when I'm fairly certain the other guy ain't got shizz, I still need to fold because my shizz isn't even as good as his shizz, and he might be willing to call me down with his shizz vs. mine. It's always hard to know when you're in this situation. All I do know is, I was damn surprised and damn happy to have won that hand.

Pleasure playing with you as always. See you next week.

2:19 AM  
Blogger mookie99 said...

Thanks for playing last night, congrats on the run to the final table. Bubble sucks, but it will be fun keeping an eye on your play in the next tourney.

4:43 AM  
Blogger C.L. Russo said...

Two questions:

1. How do you have time to write such in-depth, detailed posts?

2. Should I min-raise my aces?

9:14 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

CLRusso, here's your answers:

1. Stay up till 2am every night writing, then get up at 5am with the kids.

2. I hate min-raising and it's never the "right" thing to do in my view. I would only ever min-raise if I was doing it specifically to eff with someone in that specific way.

I much prefer the "slow-raise" approach with my Aces. Check out my "Anatomy of a Slowplay" series on the left column and you'll see what I mean. You can do a lot better than minraising these.

7:50 PM  
Blogger C.L. Russo said...

Thanks, man. Three hours sleep? That sucks.

7:56 PM  

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