Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Hot Hand #11 -- Blogger Razz (Part II)

What a great set of comments to my first ever Razz Hot Hand post. I truly appreciate everyone taking the time to post their thoughts on whether or not I should reraise or just flat call in this situation from the Mookie 2nd Chance Tournament (Turbo Razz) last week:

So here I am with the best possible starting hand in Razz, I've raised it up preflop, got a caller and then got reraised by the newly-engaged Love Elf. So I put the question to you all as to whether or not you advocate a reraise here on third street, or just a smooth call.

There were lots of great comments here. Mike and JJ both advocated the smooth call in this situation, for the simple fact that you just don't know yet how good this hand is going to get. Having only seen three cards so far, they argue, with a game like razz especially, this thing could still turn into a full house or quads or something before all is said and done, so why get too much money into the pot when you've only seen such a small portion of your ending hand? On this point, I do not agree as a general statement, though in many individual cases I think this ends up being good advice. IMO, as I have played lots of stud games for many many years, I have found that I absolutely, positively make more money by getting my money in when ahead, even before I have a made hand. Moreso than in a game like holdem, because in stud there are still 4 more cards to come after you see your first three and the betting begins, you are just never going to maximize your potential in any stud game if you are never willing to bet before you've got a made hand. This is not to say that I always, always bet every single time I am ahead through 3 or 4 cards in razz, but as a general rule I do not subscribe to the theory that says not to raise any time on 3rd street. There are plenty of situations where I will put in a raise, or even a re-raise, on 3rd street in razz, if the situation seems right.

In contract to the above position, many of the commenters to Part I of this Hot Hand post took the opposite approach, also logically defensible IMO, that since I know I am ahead here, I ought to automatically be looking to raise, raise, raise with reckless abandon. Jordan seemed to be the biggest proponent of this approach, and I'd like to discuss that for just a minute. Jordan commented that he would re-reraise here without a doubt, and keep raising as much as he could here given this set of circumstances. As Jordan explains in his comment:

"The raise here does nothing but get more money in the pot while you are ahead, which is optimal in Razz."

Jordan also goes on to ask in a later comment:
"Also, what is the upside to flat calling? Are you protecting yourself from losing more when you fall behind? Why? You are still ahead and there is no reason to be scared. Are you inducing more action later with deception? Why? Most players will be too focused on your board, so they'll be no deception if you proceed to hit a bunch of low cards, and likewise, none if you start to brick out."

Now I'm going to address these points, and this is where my personal strategy in razz may differ from many of yours, and from what I've read in a number of poker books that cover razz in any meaningful way. For me, I like the initial raise here since it gets more money into the pot when I know I'm ahead. I also have the lowest upcard showing, so my raise is very well disguised in a way, in that it gets more money into the pot, but it does not necessarily scream "I have a monster starting hand!" since I am the lowest upcard, and many players (myself included, usually) will put in a raise anytime they are the low up card on 3rd street in razz. That's the beauty of that initial raise to me, not so much the additional chips it adds, but rather the combination of the additional chips in the pot and the fact that it still does not betray too much about my hand.

See, I have made lots of profits in my razz game by hiding the ball a bit early on in the hand. Seriously, this has been generally one of my most profitable moves in all of razz. Sometimes when I am very strong to start, I like to not give away just how strong I am until later in the hand, when more cards are out, and the bets have doubled. In fact, I would say that any time I am giving away information to my opponents about more or less exactly what my upcards are, I am at a disadvantage, and that is a situation that I always try to avoid playing in this game whenever I can. For example, if 4 players call a raise on 3rd street with upcards between A and 8, and then I call with a King up, I am basically telling my opponents, beyond a shadow of a doubt if they are paying attention, that I have two very low cards underneath. I'm not calling a raise on 3rd street with (87)K. No way, no how. I'm not even calling that raise with (82)K. No way no how again. If I call a raise with a King showing on 3rd street, then everyone around that table should know I am sitting on A2, A3, 23, etc. underneath, and nothing much better than that. So, armed with that knowledge, if I go on to make three more good low cards on 4th, 5th and 6th streets, then my observant opponents should know to fold their hands. If my board comes (xx)K345 by 6th street, and I had called a raise on 3rd street with that King showing as my upcard, then I would fold to me any day of the week unless I was working on a smooth 7 low at worst, and maybe even a 6.

So, that's why I don't like to give away too much information about my specific hole cards early on in razz hands. If I re-reraise Tina here, then Tina and everyone else will have to know that I am sitting on two other very low cards to go with my 2 upcard. For only another 40 chips into the pot -- assuming maybe Budo will fold rather than having to call two bets cold -- I will be telegraphing to Tina more or less exactly what my hole cards are. And, in my experience, that telegraphing is worth far more to me than just one small bet on 3rd street.

For that reason, I elected to just smooth call Tina's raise here:

I didn't mind Budo joining in the hand either given my lack of a reraise, as his 6-up figures to be well behind what I'm holding right now, and the little bit of deception I get from not re-reraising Tina on 3rd street here can become very useful later in the hand. So, in general, that's my answer to Jordan's very good question above, asking what is the upside of just smooth calling here? To me, that answer is simple: I have already raised so I've gotten some more chips in the pot early on, and yet by just calling here, I've also allowed Tina (and Budo, should he decide to play) to convince herself that maybe I've got a 7 or 8 buried under there along with another lower card. Or, maybe I've got one great low card and one brick, like (AK)2, and I was making play on the strength of just my two very low cards to start with. By re-reraising, I am guaranteeing Tina and Budo that I have 3 very low cards, so if they see two more low cards hit my board, I'm going to lose them, and the opportunity to maybe make 3 or more big 80-chip bets from them, all because of the 40 chips I re-reraised with up front here on 3rd street. So while I respect and agree with Jordan's general feeling about raising when you know you're ahead in a game like razz, I flat out disagree with the automatic nature of Jordan's raising here. As with all forms of poker the way I play them, there are basically no "automatic" decisions, and this is just another example. I will raise a hand like this once -- for pot-building purposes and for thinning-the-field purposes, but generally do not see the benefit of one more 40-chip re-reraise here, which could easily end up costing me several hundred in chips on the later rounds if both of these players stay in. So, I smooth called here, opting not to give too much information, and maybe Tina is thinking I was just raising because of my lowest upcard and I really don't have anything. Who knows. And that's just the point -- now I've got more chips in the pot, and yet Tina and Budo don't really know what I'm holding now at all. Let's see how that ends up impacting this hand as it plays out.

So, on 4th street, I picked up a beautiful 5, giving me a 4th street board of (A3)25, while Budo picked up (xx)68 and Tina got (xx)49. With my 25 showing, and having already raised it up on 3rd street as it is, I went ahead and bet out again here for 40 more chips, the last of the small-bet rounds. And my bet was quickly called by both Budo and Tina, an outcome which I obviously loved at this point, given that I was holding A235, a draw to a wheel and was clearly well ahead of whatever my opponents were holding at the time. And, I know that at least some small part of both opponents' decision to call me was that I had not re-reraised it on 3rd street. If I had re-reraised it there, basically screaming out to my opponents that I had A23, A24 or something similar, are they going to call me with 8-low and 9-low hands showing, when I've just picked up a 5 to go along with my A23 or A24? Would you call there? I'll give you a hint -- generally speaking, if I know someone is working on a wheel on 4th street, and I have only a rough 8 or a 9 low working through 4th street, I am done. Finito. Maybe I call one more cheap bet on 4th just to see what happens and just to throw some money away, but I'm cognizant of the fact that I am doing just that. I'm throwing money away. Now if my opponent picks up any low card that is not an open pair, I have to figure I'm probably beat, even with an 87 or maybe even 86 low. Why put myself in that situation? That's why I'll usually fold in this scenario, and why many opponents will usually fold as well if I have 25 showing and also basically confirmed beyond a doubt for them with my actions on 3rd street that I am super-low underneath as well. So, in my book, my smooth call of Tina's reraise on 3rd street has already netted me at least 80 chips in calls from both Budo and Tina on 4th street, even despite me picking up yet another wheel card on 4th myself.

So I bet out the 40 chips on 4th street, and got called in both places:

This is where things get interesting in this hand. 5th street comes out, bringing me an unwelcome Jack for a board of (A3)25J, Budo picked up a King for (xx)68K, and Tina pulled a 9 for (xx)489. Now here, given that I know I projected a bit of weakness by only smooth calling Tina on 3rd street, and now I've picked up a Jack to go along with that projection of weakness from early in the hand, I am going to bet out here again for the big bet of 80 chips. Only I know I am still working on a wheel draw with just one brick through 5th street, but I also know that my opponents may have their doubts as to whether I might already have two bricks and be in a bit of trouble here. So, since I think I can get one or both players to call me, and since I have such a great draw with two cards to come, and since the bets are now bigger on 5th street, I want to make the pot bigger here and try to get as many chips in as I can while I still have such a great draw and two cards left to make it:

Budo calls me again as you can see above, and then Tina goes aggro once again, raising my action for the second time already in this hand:

Now what? Do I fold, since I have only a Jack low and Tina is likely working on a made 9-low at this point in the hand? Almost surely I need to hit a card now in order to beat Tina's hand, so is it worth it for at least one more big bet of 80 chips to draw in this situation? If yes, am I smooth calling here, and hoping to make my card on 6th street before re-evaluating my position and whether I can call another big bet on 6th street? Or, am I committed to taking this hand through 7th street at this point, just based on the size of my draw? What is the best approach for me given where things have progressed at this point in the hand?

Let me know your thoughts, I'll be back tomorrow with more of the goods.


Blogger Tommy said...

Interesting that you continue to claim that you have the best hand and that you are ahead, even though you have no proof.

Please feel free to ignore this comment the same as you did my others.

Fuck the math, right?

1:54 AM  
Blogger Tommy said...

I'll also add that you should probably be raising here again.

Even though that isn't one of your options.

2:03 AM  
Blogger Mike Maloney said...

Well, there's no way you fold here, because you are still the favorite to win the hand. Isn't a 4 card draw to a wheel favored over a made 8 or 9 lo on 5th street?

Anyways, I'd be inclined to re-raise here. I know that I have the odds to draw to the better hand, and her raise seems to me like she thinks your hand isn't all that great (due to your call on 3rd). Although by re-raising, you might lose Budo, but given his hand, if he draws another bad card anyways he's probably done, so driving him out might not be such a big deal after all.

Based on your strategy of getting your money in while you're ahead, that would seem to be the best play here. I guess you could call as well, but I don't know that deception of your hole cards is as important anymore.

Thanks for your insight on when you raise/call when you're ahead on 3rd street, that was very helpful.

2:30 AM  
Blogger jjok said...

~15 outs depending on what the folders all's a big draw......

4, 6, 7, 8, 9 all help you here

If you reraise here, I might expect an additional reraise (not sure) and you may as well cap it with 2 cards coming......if you don't hit on 6th, you call and pray.

2:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

love the razz post again considering i played it last night and made money having no clue what im doing. Thanks to this post I can now be less of donkey then before. Ps tough beat last night in ur 30k tourney was watching ur play for an hour or so and saw ur TP go down to the set of ducks. You were playing pretty well up till that point too just at the tables.

2:51 AM  
Blogger SirFWALGMan said...

First off I totally play the hand up to now how you did. The call on the 3rd street betting is perfect to convince people you have a bad hand.

Now we have Tina who is ahead (if the hand ends now) betting into you who has a MONSTER draw. The best hand Tina can have is an 9 drawing to an 8.. and you have 2 cards to go.. I probably re-pop here here.. as almost any low card is going to help you and almost any high card is going to bury her.

I will also say once you have a 4-low draw by 5th street you are NEVER folding. The point to fold is 5th street. If you had 2 crappy cards or she had a better looking made hand I let this hand go.. but you are so likely to win this that re-popping here here and maybe even on 6th is a good play. I probably let her cap me here (she may not, she might just call the 3-bet).. I think I let it be capped here, go for 2 bets on 6th if I do not improve and maybe make a crying call on 7th.. I hate folding to that one bet on 7th street..

2:59 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Tommy, I love to have you reading the blog, and I'm sorry that you feel ignored. Obviously there were a number of commenters whom I did not call out specifically. I do love having that discretion; it is my blog after all.

Also, I am puzzled about your comment about me having no "proof" that my A23 starting hand is the best possible starting hand. I think you made a great point about the exposed upcards in your comment to part I of this post, but I'm still just fine with my statement that A23 is the best possible starting hand. Is this really an issue that is worthy of getting all worked up about?

Thanks as always for the comments.

3:08 AM  
Blogger Mondogarage said...

Again, I think you have to raise, and call a cap, if it comes. You have the 2nd best hand, and a draw that no one else can draw to. The only thing that might give me pause to just call on 5th here, is the fact that you need a 4,6,7, or 8, and at least four of those cards are already out.

I'm not sure a 9 would be enough of an out here for you to re-raise 5th street on, because Tina could actually be drawing to an 8432A, which would beat any of your 9 highs (and even your 8 highs). You have lots of outs, but the the present board, the only draws that actually give you nuts are 4,6,7.

That said, you still have to raise here. You have an absolute nut draw with two to come, and don't need anywhere near the absolute nuts to win this hand at showdown. Given the somewhat borderline nature of Tina's hand, the odds of her capping are probably less than you think, on 5th street, and you can easily just call a 1-bet on 6th if you're still on a draw. Waffle appears to be a bright man.

3:26 AM  
Blogger Mondogarage said...

I meant to add that, I don't see the benefit in trying not to confirm your hand or draw at this point, because Tina would have to already realize that you probably wouldn't even call a 2-bet at this point if you didn't have a draw that could at least beat a rough 9 or smooth 8.

By smooth calling here, if the hand ends up at showdown, the table ends up seeing that you call with possible monsters, which increases the likelihood of them calling your future early raisers, which they can more easily read as attempts to get them off of hands. I think you want them knowing you'll bet/raise/re-raise your best hands, so that you can more easily steal with random (xx)2 or (xx)3, where (xx) are bad cards), when the antes are much higher. You want to establish the pattern early of your raises deserving table respect.

Anyway, thanks for the blog...your thoughts on the subject are really giving me cause to question my own ideas, as it is.

3:34 AM  
Blogger Tommy said...

"...I'm still just fine with my statement that A23 is the best possible starting hand."

But it's not. The best possible starting hand is any 3 cards to a wheel that have the most duplicate cards exposed on the board.

Again, the door cards are critical. If you looked at the link I provided in the last post, if Loveelf were to have a 62 (note: not even 3 cards to a wheel) in the hole, you are behind. Hell, if Bud has a 42 in the hole you may still be a dog, but that doesn't change the fact that you should have raised in an attempt to drive him out of the pot.

A23 is a dog to A24 if there is another player showing a 4 on the door, and no exposed threes.

The raw starting power of A23 is a common misconception in Razz. It is one of the many counter-intuitive things about Razz that make it such a profitable game to those that understand statistics better than the average bear.

When you say that your 3 cards are all lower than any cards showing on the board, I immediately think to myself that you are probably behind based on that information alone, and I probably wouldn't have raised to begin with. But when you have the opportunity to 3 bet it the second time around, and attempt to drive a 3rd player out of the pot (which I would immediately assume was the reason Tina raised), smooth calling is a mistake.

And you're good enough to know that no matter how the hand turns out, when you make mistakes, you lose money.

"Is this really an issue that is worthy of getting all worked up about?"

Depends on your point of view. The timing between your question and a recent typographic assault on my Razz skills by an anonymous online player who I knocked out of a tournament "playing like a donkey" was unfortunate. He was behind on 3rd with an A23 as well, and since I never school online opponents, I'm just taking it out here.

4:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure some/all will disagree, but I like the call here. For two reasons: 1) Same reason as the first call, it's only 5th, you still want people to think you are not that strong. If you do land the nuts on 6th you've got a great opportunity to get tons of chips in the pot. 2) In stud games I'm probably more conservative than most. I prefer to only go crazy with the raising AFTER I have made a hand. A jack-low is not a made hand, despite the great draw. I've been burned by brick-brick on 6 and 7 too many times.

4:13 AM  
Blogger lucko said...

You have the best hand here even if they both have perfect-perfect underneath. I am raising here every single time. Get as much money in while you are ahead.

4:29 AM  
Blogger bayne_s said...

You have 12 outs to a hand that is guaranteed to be better plus 3 8s to a hand that is probably better assuming Love Elf improves. Of course calling is in order.

4:38 AM  
Blogger bayne_s said...

Make that 10 outs as I messed up subtracting up outs, still with 2 to come pot odds make you behind with reasonable shot to catch up but clearly behind. Having had too many A234 starts finish as 3 pair not a fan of a raise.

4:45 AM  
Blogger smokkee said...

just fold already. sheesh.

obv Love_elf is setting you up to go busto!

7:31 AM  
Blogger Pokerwolf said...

I like the call here as well. Elf's move smacks of a "I didn't brick and you did" move, plus the deception factor is fantastic.

10:47 PM  
Blogger Jordan said...

I've rethought my last comments. There are 2 reasons to just call instead of re-raising preflop. You mentioned the first: giving away the fact that you have 3 low cards. The second is that it may get Budo to call with bad cards and this way if one of them bricks, you still have the other player (Tina or Budo) to pay you off. Thanks for getting me to think this out more.

As for now, you are in great shape. Raise! I always explain to newbies (not you, Hoy) that you have to keep in mind where you are going, where you were and where you are. You were in great shape. You are now behind. But where you are going is usually only going to be good. An 8 on the next card for you is enough for you to retake the lead, even if she gets another low card, you are still probably ahead with your 8542A to her 8-low. Raise, cause you know she'll call at the very least. If she pops you back, Cap!

11:00 PM  

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