Saturday, January 08, 2005

Posted by Junelli 1:08 AM
Poker Pro Rolf Slotboom is writing a ten part series on "plugging leaks in your game." I came across this article and found it particularly interesting, certainly worthy of a post:

Focusing too much on starting hands in big-bet play

Limit players know that in games like limit hold’em, a large percentage of the pots end up in a showdown. Consequently, in order to win, you usually need to have the best hand at showdown, and the best way to accomplish this is by starting with the best hand. But in no-limit hold’em, especially in tournaments and/or cash games in which the money is deep, a large number of pots are decided way before the showdown. This means that it is often not as important which cards you hold as it is how you play them.

However, people still try to come up with some hard-and-fast rules for hands that should or should not be played from early, middle, and late position. They want the same kind of starting-hands table that they have in limit hold’em, but what they forget is that in no-limit hold’em, other things are much more important: reading hands, stealing pots, playing your position, playing the player, and so on. This doesn’t mean that you can play a hand like 10-5 offsuit as often and as profitably as you can pocket kings, because even in no-limit hold’em, it is highly recommended that you start with some solid values. But the people who think they can beat the games easily simply by learning some hard-and-fast rules on preflop play are horribly mistaken. They should probably broaden their horizons, and focus on some entirely different aspects of the game than they are currently doing. In general, this means they should try to play well on all streets — and not just play what they perceive to be the “correct” hands before the flop.

Leak No. 4:

Too predictable/exploitable preflop raising strategy in no-limit hold’em tournaments

In any big-bet poker game, being predictable is a big no-no. For no-limit hold’em tournament play, there has been quite a bit of discussion as to what constitutes a “good” size preflop raise. The common view is that raising three or four times the big blind is usually correct, and if there are one or two limpers or an ante, as well, one should adjust this to about five, six, or seven times the big blind. The reasoning: You don’t give your opponents a cheap shot at trying to outdraw you, and you show that you probably have the best hand and are serious about trying to win the pot. Finally, if after showing this much strength, someone comes over the top of you, you can safely fold all but your very best hands, because this person is announcing that he probably holds a premium hand, most likely a big pair or A-K. But if you’re up against players who are aware of this tendency of yours to bet heavily and then fold against a reraise, that’s a problem. If you are up against someone who knows you will not call his reraise without a premium hand, he might come over the top of you almost regardless of his holecards. Now, instead of winning the small and big blinds that you were aiming to win, you have lost much more money than the amount of the blinds. And perhaps even worse than that, you will have lost these chips when in fact you may have had the best hand! If your opponents have found this exploitable weakness in your play, you can be certain that they will take advantage of it, and your theoretically good raising strategy will now have become a major leak in your game.

For example, I recently witnessed a heads-up match between an inexperienced Internet player and a tournament superstar, a well-respected and highly experienced player who uses this exact same approach of showing aggression early and then folding to a raise. The young and inexperienced unknown was, of course, a big dog to win this match, and it was also one of the first times he had ever played in a brick-and-mortar cardroom. As the tournament reporter of the event, I was able to watch this match very closely, and saw that in less than three hours of play, the unknown came over the top of the star’s bets and raises no less than 17 times — and on all occasions, he made the star lay down his hand! When, indeed, the unknown won the match, the star cursed his bad luck, claiming that the young man had gotten lucky on those occasions when it mattered most. While he was correct in that assessment, he forgot to mention the fact that he had given his opponent the chance to get lucky simply because of this one leak in his game that the young player had identified.

At the same time, there are people who are called “move-in specialists.” Because they want to avoid the scenario I described above, they have concluded that every time they make a preflop raise, they might as well push in their entire stack. While this may be good strategy when having relatively few chips left, it is a horrible way to play when the money is very deep. If your opponents know that you will move in often for all of your money, they will wait for you to hang yourself, and will call you only with aces, kings, or some other premium hand. You might be able to win the blinds seven or eight times in a row, but when you finally get called, you can expect to be up against the nuts or close to it — and you are likely to lose many more chips than the ones you have won in those previous pots. (Of course, if people who play like this get lucky on the one or two occasions that they do get called, they might actually go on to win the tournament. These are the types of players who usually bust out early, but who, with a bit of fortune, may actually reach the final table with a truckload of chips.)

Anytime you do things habitually in big-bet poker, you can rest assured that your opponents will make the necessary adjustments. They will try to take advantage of the predictability of your otherwise good strategy, and if you don’t take the appropriate countermeasures by making some changes in your basic game plan, they will succeed.

3 Comment(s):

Posted by Blogger Johnnymac, at 8:07 AM, January 08, 2005  

This is a nice article. I think that hand selection is likely over-rated in NL play and I think that I personally sometimes give away a little value because I play too tightly preflop in NL. So that's a good reminder...

But I think the second point ("Leak #4") is the best point, and I familiar with both sides.

1.) There is nothing better in a SnG to patiently set a guy up and to let him make wild all-in raises and then punch him in the nose when you finally have a monster hand and he decides to try and steal the blinds with something like Q9 or J7s.

2.) Similar to my point above about starting hands, I am probably a little too weak-tight with hands like AJ and AQ where I will be the first into the pot and make a 3x raise and then fold to a big reraise and I am sure that on more than one occasion someone has caught on to that and pushed me out of the pot with an aggressive all-in.

That Rolf guy's articles ("A bit of maths") are sometimes a bit dry for me, but this seems like a good one.


Posted by Blogger Dr Fro, at 6:04 PM, January 08, 2005  

Paul Samuel write "A bit of maths"

And "maths" is the British way of saying "mathematics"



Posted by Blogger Johnnymac, at 8:07 AM, January 10, 2005  

and "bow it out your rear, you smarty Anglophile &#@%" is American for, "thanks for the correction"

heh heh


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