Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Free Card on the Flop Question -- Analysis

Thanks to everyone for their thoughtful responses to my question yesterday about giving a free card on the flop. To review, essentially my question yesterday was would you prefer to bet out, or check and give your opponent a free card, on a board of J73 when you have A7 in your hand and your single opponent checks to you on the flop (assume there were no raises preflop and just the two blinds are in the hand, and you have no reads on your opponent since you just arrived at a new table)? Then I asked if this answer would change at all if you held 88 in your hand instead of A7. Maybe I didn't do the best job I could have of explaining the essence of my question, but what I was really getting at was how the A7 vs. 88 holding would change your answer to whether or not to give a free card to your opponent in this spot after he checks it to you on the pretty raggy flop. In the first example, you have middle pair top kicker with your A7 on the J73 flop, while in the second example you have 88, a better hand that actually beats any middle pair on this flop. So the question is whether you would be more likely to give a free card in one situation than the other.

As with many of my questions, this one actually comes directly out of a poker book, and I thought the answer given was interesting, and somewhat counter-intuitive, which is why I wrote about it here yesterday. The book is The Theory of Poker by everyone's favorite pompous ass, David Sklanksy (seriously, this guy even makes me look humble!), which I am sitting down to read lately for the second time, as my poker skills and experience have improved dramatically since the last time I read this seminal poker text. Anyways, a couple of the commenters (most notably Doog) hit right on David's key point with respect to this question, which I was impressed with because it is as I said somewhat counter-intuitive, while Matt came very close to making Sklansky's point but then went the other way with his proposed answer despite nailing the analysis up to the point of the answer exactly as Sklansky had. Otherwise, most of the commenters did not really draw any distinction between how they would decide whether or not to give the free card here between the A7 or the 88 holdings, which I think makes sense but as I said it is against Mr. Pompass's thoughts on the subject.

So, on to Sklanksy's point here. On page 88 (at least of the version I am reading) of The Theory of Poker, Sklansky points out that he would be more likely to bet out in the exact situation described above if he were holding A7 than if he held 88. He reasons, much as Doog did at the end of his comment here yesterday, that the A7 has five cards that can improve it to beat a hand like, say, pocket Jacks (three Aces and two 7s), while the pocket 8s only has two cards that can improve it to beat the same hand (the other two 8s). Thus, Sklansky argues, since the A7 is so much more likely to improve than the 88, he is more willing to bet out with the A7, taking the risk that he is behind currently to a higher pocket pair or maybe even two pairs, while with the 88 he is much more apt to check it since he does not want to bet as much with a hand that is so much less likely to improve if he is in fact behind on this flop.

Funny enough, as I mentioned above, Matt correctly pointed out in his comment that you have fewer outs with the 88 than you do with the 77, but he therefore reasoned that he would be more likely to bet with the 88 because it is therefore more vulnerable. It's interesting because I think there is a certain logic to this strategy as well, and it's certainly a strategy that I follow often at the poker table in other situations (betting my more vulnerable hands early, and checking the ones I'm more confident about). I think in this case it really comes down to how possible you really think it is that your opponent is actually ahead here. If for whatever reason you were basically 95% sure your opponent did not have anything worth playing here, then I think betting the 88 a bit more strongly makes more sense. But, if you think there is any reasonable chance from the way your opponent reacted on the flop that he might really be ahead right now, then you would want to bet the A7 more strongly than the 88.

In any event, it surely is a close decision, but I thought this was an interesting point to post about because as I said it's somewhat counter-intuitive if you think about it. Clearly, the 88 is ahead of the A7 right now, in that the A7 is just middle pair top kicker, while the 88 beats all middle pair hands, and yet Sklansky says he wants to bet more strongly with the A7 than the 88. I will admit that this was not a distinction that I myself thought of at first, but this is exactly why I am constantly reading poker books, constantly striving to learn more about the game and to make myself a better player, and specifically why I would ever read a book written by such an abhorrent guy as Sklansky is to me. The pomp associated with his writing style irks me to no end, but I have to tell you, his analysis of almost every common poker situation and poker strategy is almost second to none in the poker authoring world as far as I'm concerned. There's a reason that The Theory of Poker is as popular and as oft-cited as it is, and analysis like this is exactly why.

And all this is not to say that those of you who said you would bet both the A7 and the 88 in this situation equally strongly are wrong in any way. First of all, I think that is a very smart way to play both hands, being aggressive on the flop when you believe you're ahead, and I think even Sklansky would not disagree with that approach. And secondly, FWIW I don't think betting both the A7 and the 88 is even necessarily in conflict with Sklansky's advice on this point -- he merely says he is more likely to bet the worse A7 hand than the technically stronger 88 hand, but he never says he would not bet the 88. If anything he implies that he would be inclined to think about betting the 88 as well, so I think most of the commenters were right on with Sklansky's thoughts as well as my own. But I do think he makes a very valuable distinction, one which again I find to be somewhat counter-intuitive, but very insightful nonetheless and one which I plan to incorporate more into my own game as a result.

OK, so tonight's Mookie is the second event of the Battle of the Blogger Tournaments, and I am really excited for it. Although I haven't been playing the Mookie too much lately due to it running at the same time as Lost on ABC, for the BBT I am going to be making an exception this week, and probably in future weeks as well. And believe me when I say that I am just about as addicted to Lost as any of you donkeys out there could possibly be, so if I can DVR and watch Lost while also donking it up at the Mookie, and if I can prevail over my own wife that it's cool for me to play poker while we share our favorite tv show together, then believe me you can too. I was knocked out early when my AK failed to improve against pocket Tens in the first BBT tournament at the MATH this past Monday, so I will be looking to rip some shit up tonight to get my revenge and stake my claim atop the BBT leaderboard early on in the challenge. And if you recall from my first post of 2007, winning the dam Mookie remains one of my unfulfilled goals for the year, so I would really like to get hot tonight and cross that one off my list for 2007. I'd really like to see the attendance list for the Mookie get up over 70 players with the advent of the Battle of the Blogger Tournaments, since so many players already get involved in this weekly funfest as it is, and now with all the great prizes available to the top BBT players it just seems to me like a friggin slam dunk that you gotta get in there. And please remember, although you'll still pay a $1 rake to play the $10 Mookie tonight at 10pm ET on full tilt (password is vegas1 as always), that $1 is coming right back to us as a group as full tilt has graciously agreed to return all the juice from every MATH, Mookie, Riverchasers and Big Game tournament over the next three months in the form of cash payouts to the top BBT finishers as well as for funding the BBT Tournament of Champions in early June. So if all that aren't reasons enough to play the Mookie tonight, then you're a jackace and probably don't deserve to be there with us anyways. So all you guys who've been skipping this thing for Lost or for bankroll reasons or whatever, now is the time to come out and play and get your game on with the largest weekly gathering of poker bloggers on the planet. Be there and give me your chips!

Edit: I finally added Trust Me I'm a Blonde to my non-poker blogroll today after months of reading everything this crazy chica has to say. If you're a red-blooded man and you like great writing about topics that will certainly interest you, then you cannot go wrong with the Blonde. She is an awesome writer and a great story teller, and she's from Philly like me and as you all know you cannot go wrong with that combination. Enjoy.

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Blogger Doog said...

Yeah! I win! Do I get a prize?

Seriously, I always enjoy reading your daily mini-novels, Hoy. If for no other reason than to chuckle to myself at your pompous-ass tourney recaps.

And what the hell ever heppened to all those screencaps? Man, that was this shiznit, but I don't see them from you anymore...

10:48 PM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

I am pretty awesome at being pompous, aren't I? Do I give Sklansky a run for his money or what?

And yeah I still take all the screenshots, but I don't use them as much as I used to. I'm still hoping to get back into it at some point, but it really does add an immense amount of time to the whole blogging thang.

Thanks for reading, brotha. Now make sure you play the Mookie tonight and I'll knock your ass out.

11:12 PM  
Blogger Blinders said...

If I understand correctly, in Theory of poker he is recomending that you adjust your bet size based on the strength of your hand (even the ever so slight difference between A7 and 88 in the example). That makes no sense from a game theory perspective, as your opponent can use the size of your bets to narrow your range. Once you make the decision to bet, it needs to be the same amount with A7, 88, or a semi or pure bluff. This minimizes the info that you give to the other player. Not betting either of those hands in a limped pot after it was checked to you on the flop is nuts, unless you have a huge read that your opponent will go for a big check-raise. I pretty much autobet in that situation with anything (unless the board bothers me) until the opponent proves he will play back at me with nothing (and most will not). So the bet all hands is probably +EV in that situation.

1:14 AM  
Blogger Eric a.k.a. Bone Daddy said...

I guess this should of been my resonse yesterday, "why the fuck are you playing ace 7 anyway".

Your question was clear yesterday and I understand his point about improving, I just think they are both shit marginal hands that I'll stab at and abandon abainst any play back.

2:35 AM  
Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

FWIW Blinders, Sklansky is not saying to adjust the bet size between the A7 and 88 holdings; rather, he talks specifically in his book about the likelihood of making a bet at all, presumably of the same size in either case.

Also, Sklansky does not agree with you as far as the 88 being a clear betting situation. I'm not saying he is right or wrong, but I do think there is some merit to his point that one should be less likely to bet a hand that is less likely to improve in case you are actually behind at that point in the hand.

2:41 AM  
Blogger CarmenSinCity said...

Hoy!! Thanks so much for your comment. That was really cool to hear because I thought maybe a lot of the poker bloggers might not like my blog so much anymore since I rarely ever talk about poker. So, it really really meant a lot to me to hear that from you mister hardcore poker blogger :)

Are you coming out here in June?

3:13 AM  
Blogger Blinders said...

This is a battle of the blinds or there is no reason for you to be heads-up in position in a limped pot. So you did not raise the SB who only completed with a couple of very strong hands for this situation. Proper play is raise from the BB with both hands preflop to win right there, or set up a c-bet in position. Now after limping instead of raising, you hit the flop with either middle pair top kicker or better than middle pair, and the SB checks again. Now you are going to check behind again???? This is about as poorly as you could possibly play poker IMO (weak-ass pussy poker). He must be talking about limit, or about someone he knows will check the flop with strength. If you bet middle pair, you bet the 88 as well, as you are trying to win the pot right there. If you get check raised, you fold. That line is +EV for sure long term. Checking behind the flop with either hand is -EV

6:54 AM  
Blogger Alan aka RecessRampage said...

I agree with Blinders about how the sequence doesn't tell the same story (no raise from the SB and yet he could hold a pocket pair better than 7's??) but given the situation (you wake up from a coma and find yourself in the middle of a hand where you were the BB), I think the analysis is actually very interesting. I didn't even think of the likelihood of betting. Goes to show I have a lot more to think about in terms of the "next step" in the hand. Either way, I would have bet out but I could see how A7 would be a hand you'd rather be holding on to than 88 in that situation now that I think about (even though in my comment, I went with the snapshot view of if your 88 is good, most likely your A7 is good as well).

10:02 PM  

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