(2 Mar. 2013) The now-we-know-they-have-top-pair check. Holding QJo I raise pre and flop top pair J, then get check raised by the BB. She might have two pair or worse. I call, ditto turn. River brings an overcard, K. She checks. This commonly means she is afraid I have a K, therefore she holds a J that she's fearing for. In this case I expect my kicker to be higher than the average BB preflop caller, so I bet, and am rewarded.
(3 Dec. 2012) Why the check-behind flop, raise-turn line is not a bluff. People believe strongly that bluffs must look strong to be successful, which is generally true. So we feel a bluff raise on the turn will not be credible, coming as it does after seeming to check behind something hopeless.. So when someone does wake up and raise, it's because they just completed a hand, or were trapping (lame). The only time I can imagine this not being true is if a heads-up player is getting too fancy, or an inexpierienced spazz is struck by an urge.
(27 June 2012) Paired board — what's the chance someone has trips? Very simple rule, multiply the number of players by 8. With three opponents there's roughly a 24% chance someone has it. Of course, the odds skew considerably up with high cards, vice versa for low cards. But's it's still a useful calculation and reminds us to not automatically fear trips. Tip of the hat to MApoker who did the math.
(9 June 2012) Don't make eye contact after using the grab-yer--chips fake out. We save countless dollars each year in live games by not bluffing after we see a villain reach for his chips to call. We induce this tell by grabbing our own chips and seeing if he reacts, and it is stunning how well this keeps working. Last night, I made the mistake of looking at the guy right after pulling this. His snear showed he immediately realized my actions were intentional, and I had unfortunately wised him up. I'll plan on fiddling with the chips more to make it seem my mind is elsewhere, and not look up after I check.
(5 Mar. 2012) Donk zone. Consider the following hand:
Preflop: Hero is BB with T Q
CO folds, BTN raises, SB folds, Hero calls.
Flop: (4.5 SB) JT 3
Hero checks, BTN bets, Hero calls, planning to either check-raise turn or let him barrel.
Turn: (3.3 BB) JT 3T
I like regularly betting out here against an experienced player, because he'll check behind many hands. Ace high, low pairs—these hands want to make it to showdown, but he knows they are often beat. From villain's point of view, hero's passivity on flop could easily be a ten, which turned trips and plans a check-raise. So villain checks behind (although a jack probably doesn't). Our betting out, however, is likely to be called by low pairs and high cards.. They still want to see the river, and a donk is always suspicious.
(12 Feb. 2012) Have been noticing how reliably you can tell if a decent opponent has a weak pair or a draw. If they are drawing, they semibluff raise. If they're calling a ragged board, they are limping to showdown with a basement pair..
(14 June 2011) Cake Poker is refusing to pay a $60,000 winner. Read it here.
(6 Nov. 2010) Late to the party, but I'm understanding the donk-3bet line better. When a weak player donks the flop, it usually means they have a basement pair or maybe a draw and hope to take the pot right away. It's more perplexing when a good player does it. But now I'm keyed in — they have a strong hand and want to 3bet, especially if it will trap some folks in the middle who get raised by a late aggressor — who gets his own surprise.
(19 Sept. 2010) Thought for the day: if you aren't constantly questioning if hands were played optimally, you're not focusing. Not marking hands for review indicates drift.
(5 Sept. 2010) Rush poker is the subject of a very interesting post by Stellar Wind over at 2+2. In Rush, the new game introduced by Full Tilt Poker, you are swept away from the table the instant you fold and start a new hand at a new table with other just-folded. Rush is bad for skilled players, it reduces our edge and increases the rake. Stellar Wind claims that sharks play twice as many hands as poor players because the fish play more cards. You've folded and been moved to a new table while the fish remains playing his 85s — and your new table is already full of quick-folding sharks. Stellar Wind claims we go from seeing four sharks for every fish to eight. "Everyone would be furious," says SW, if Full Tilt required us to play 100 hands with sharks for every 100 at a regular table. Do the same thing and call it Rush Poker and "you are a great
innovator with a wondrous new product." And we thought the problem with Rush was that the fish tighten up! SW concludes: "I really hope that patent holds up."
Interestingly, he is also critical of six-handed games because the rake is higher since it is spread among fewer players. Back when there were more bad players, six-handed really compounded their errors. But now, with the games so much tougher, the rake really tears into the edge of skilled players. Think I'll brush up on full-ring play.
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(31 Aug. 2010) I hereby proclaim an addition to poker terminology: basement pairs. These are the 2nd and 3rd pairs on the board. It is unwieldy to call them, say, 2nd and 3rd pair, and we can't call them under- pairs because those are pockets below the board. So basement pairs it is. Spread the word. Hey, look, I found a dictionary entry for it, so it must be a real term.
(19 Aug. 2010) At the Horseshoe, I was thinking about the common error of limping too much preflop, which is so much more prevalent live than online. Not only does it fail to isolate, limit the field, or pump the pot, but it makes villains so much more readable. Even good players are limping early with KQs, AJo. They should just announce, "premium pair" or "on a draw here."
(12 Aug. 2010) Playing live more means readapting to full ring since I play so much short-handed online. I'm reremembering that your lower pairs aren't worth so much in earlier positions since the field won't fold. But all that limping does allow us to punish them with liberal raises in position.
(9 Aug. 2010) The catch-phrase "gotta see it" is a bad impulse to have rattling around your brain anytime you have a finger resting on a mouse button.
(28 May 2010) Correcting connectors. I used to think that 54 was no better than 74. Yes, 54 makes more straights, but the 7 makes up for it in showdown weight. Based on the belief that if 54s is playable, then so is 84s, I did some simplifications in my starting hands charts. Turns out this was based on misleading simulations. When I first used trusty Poker Stove I compared 54 against a random opposing had, and found that 74 actually performed slightly better against a single random villain. But today I redid the calculations against a villain who played a realistic number of hands — 20%. This time, the 54 was clearly better. And when I did it against two opponents (20% and 30% ranges) the 74 was quite the dog. Yea, I'll have to rein in play with those distant connectors.
(27 May 2010) Rethinking stealing with any two. From a training vid I once got the idea that someone who folds the BB to steals around 40% and up is exploitable by raising most any cards, since at 51% there's an immediate profit, and you also win on occasion at show down. This may be true from the SB, but I was applying the principle a little broadly. And even if someone does have a rate of 52%, that's an average including defense against the SB as well as late position attacks. So if their fold rate is 52% and you steal from the SB, they actually defend more than that. Stealing from the CO and BTN also has to consider that someone besides the BB might not fold. Am revising upward my estimate of what constitutes folding the BB too much, and what hands are necessary to try.
(7 May 2010) The count-chips-then-check trick. Can't believe how well this works. It was once in a blue moon so I was playing live the other day in a 20-40 limit game in Shreveport. You don't know whether to bluff again, so you grab chips and start counting. At least three times a villain immediately grabbed chips preparing to call. Meh, I guess I'll check instead. Saved over $100 by night's end. If this motion took five seconds each time, works out to a very nice hourly rate for chip fondling.
(10 Apr. 2010) Ok, so the name is outdated. When I bought the domain name holdemtight, the state of knowledge in the field was that the way to win was to play tight. Actually, "tight aggresive," which is shortened to "TAG." Being a tag used to be all that was necessary to beat fixed limit hold'em. Now, there are too many capable players for that to be enough. Tight players are too predictable. The received wisdom today is that you must be a lagtag, with the "lag" part referring to "loose aggressive." Someone who is just a lag is bad, but a lagtag is tough and unpredictable. Lagtags bluff and semi-bluff often. It brings in the money by stealing a lot when weak, forcing opponents to call down the times when the lagtag is strong. But don't expect the name of this site to change, I just can't make holdemlagtag.com work.
(24 Mar. 2010) Drawy boards hard to bluff. We'll call this a relesson. It's not a lesson because we already knew it. But it's something that needs reinforcement and more consistent application in the moment. So class, why do we bluff less on drawy boards? Yes, because they may be drawing and less likely to fold. Why else? Yes, they know that we could be bluffing a draw, and will muck less.
(28 Feb. 2010) Spotting a worse two-pair. Here's a situation where we have to reraise or call with two pair. A new player raised his post, I called in SB holding A 5.
I check-raised, driving out the BB, and he 3bet! I called.
Turn: [K58] A
I check-raised, he called.
River: [K58A] 9
I bet, he raised.
I estimate he could have 23 hands that beat me (variants of 88, 55, 99, 89) and 33 that I beat: (85, 89, K8, K9). All the hands we beat are weaker two-pairs. So most of the time, a 3bet will be good, and we'll rarely be punished by a cap. Noticing a likely worse two-pair make happy.
(31 Jan. 2010) Two folds by Bryce. Was watching a Bryce Paradis training vid and he mucked a couple hands that I would not have known to get away from. In one, he called a raise in BB with 6A. (SB was also in hand.)
Flop: 678. (pot: 6 bets)
SB bet, and Bryce folded. Operating on the (safe) assumption that he's right and I'm wrong, he would have done that because his 6 is probably behind, and has to dodge a lot of cards if it isn't. I guess the five outs was insufficient with two big draws on the board.
Next hand: UG raised pf, MP called, and Bryce called in BB with p33.
Flop: J55 (6 bets)
Bryce checked, UG bet, MP called, Bryce folded.
Me, I'd have figured that flop probably didn't hit them, and would have jammed. But Bryce is the man, so we must figure out the fold. Our p33 is behind a jack, most any pocket pair, can't improve, and even if ahead, has to dodge four cards twice. I imagine Bryce would have stayed against a single opponent.
Update: in another context, Bryce emphasized the danger of flops that have three cards to a straight (like 678 above) that can hit opponents in so many ways.
(15 Jan. 2010) Combining stats. Some statistics take on more meaning when informed by other stats. If you find someone who has a high went-to-showdown rate and plays loads of hands, take special note. On a training vid there was a spectacularly bad player who not only voluntarily entered 74% of pots, but then went to showdown with 56% of them. That is a high WTSD, but combining it with the stratospheric VPIP, a whole new level of fishdom was achieved. This person was showing down 56% of absolute crap. This means that at showdown they turn over considerably worse hands than the usual 56% WTSD. Commentator Ijay at Stox Poker guessed he clung to any queen high. Ways to adapt: never bluff, and make thin value bets on the river, maybe even king high.
(7 Jan. 2010) River decision: call or raise-fold? The first hand for this blog is inspired by an internet discussion. The game is 4/8 limit, live, and the hero has to decide whether to call down on the river, or get tricky and raise, then fold if there's a reraise.
Villain bets, we call.
Villain check-raises! and we call.
I advocate a more conservative line: just call. The situation is too dangerous to raise, but too iffy to fold. A lot of times our raise will only elicit action from hands that beat us, like Q, pAA, p55. And a fold can hurt us the times villain has something we beat like A high or p77 (or A5s!), so I really want to show down, especially against a stranger. A raise by us and a reraise by him puts 11 big bets in the pot. So in those somewhat limited times we fold a winner, the raise-fold line loses11 bb, whereas a simple call has the danger of losing just 1 bet. Therefore this is a fold you would make only with a rock-hard read.
The fact that this is a live game, not online, makes it especially likely he really does have a Q, but since he is unknown, I still want to show down. After all, what read we have is that he is aggressive.
Now, take it from his point of view. He has to worry that WE have a queen. If he has something like pJJ and is trying to decide if it is good, mightn't he take a river line of bet-fold? Tough players will. All signs point to our calling the river.
Having said all that, do expect him to show a Q frequently, especially after the turn check-raise. But there's only one Q left in the deck, and far more A5s, pJJ, pTT type hands in his range.
(6 Jan. 2010) Inaugural blog entry! Bill Haywood here. The first purpose of this blog is to reinforce things I learn by writing about them, and maybe, hopefully, they'll be of use to others. I primarily play limit hold'em, so that's what most posts will be about. I don't expect to write much color — it'll be poker, not feelings.