Friday, September 18, 2009


Live Thursday game - basically the exact same table as last week. All solid players - no dead money to be found.

I had been thinking very hard about working a a new play into my game since the end of last week's game - a play that I think would work very well on this table. I had learned the details from an Ed Miller video on StoxPoker.

The play is the light 3-bet. Our table rarely gets to see a flop with limps - there's usually some type of preflop raise. After the raise, the tighter players often fold, the looser players often call, the math guys like me will do either/or depending on the implied odds and so forth. As I mentioned, all of the players are solid/decent in their own way, so implied odds are harder to come by.

But at our table, the 3-bet - the preflop re-raise - that pretty much universally means "I've got a big hand". Let's say JJ+ or AK.

After the light 3 bet, as the video instructed, if you get called, your hope is to hit the flop in some way. Ed Miller's exact phrase stuck with me - he said you just need to graze the flop. Say middle pair with a gutshot straight draw. An open ended straight draw or flush draw is more than enough. If you get that kind of flop, you shove all your chips in - simple as that.

The math works. Firstly, the 3-bet gets so much respect that many people will be folding preflop. All the late position steals with Ace-rag and King-Ten don't want to play in 3-bet pots, potentially for all their chips. The implied odds guys with suited connectors and small pocket pairs no longer have their implied odds - the three-bet has hosed up their stack-to-pot ratios. (read more about SPRs here). So they're playing wrong by calling. So, at least at my table, you'll get lots of preflop folding.

Now, once you see a flop, and you can get all your chips in, you're just screaming "I have pocket aces". Look at it from the villain's point of view - he's watched a known tight player put all his chips in the middle before the river, on a big preflop 3-bet and a flop shove. What else could it be?

So, to start, what percentage of the time do you think you're actually called when all-in on the flop? Anyone with less than top pair/top kicker is sweating at least (remember, I made the proviso that we're doing this against a solid player - not a guy who hits middle pair and chases to the river hoping for two pair). The setminers have missed 7 out of 8 times. The implied odds guys shouldn't even be in the hand.

On the negative end, you might have run into aces/kings yourself. Most of the time, you would find this out preflop when they 4-bet shove over your light 3-bet. Some tricky players would just call with aces preflop and let you stack yourself though (especially if they think you're capable of the play I'm describing here).

For the sake of argument, we'll say that you get a fold by the flop shove 50% of the time, but I think this number is too low. And now, if you get called, you've grazed the flop in such a way to have say 25% equity (6 outs would be pair+gutshot). So now, in the other 50% of the time you're called, you will win 12.5% (1/4 of 50) of those. That's 50% + 12.5% = 62.5% equity. That's a winning play.

If you agree that my 50% flop call number is too low, then the equity shoots even higher. I say the fold percentage is more like 60-65% in my game, and that makes the total equity of this play fall between 70% and 74%. That's not just a winning play, that's like having AK vs. AQ.

Would you play in a hand where I told you that you had AK and your opponent had AQ? Yeah, me too.

Now, if you want to play hands this way, you also have to play your pocket aces and kings the same way. If your opponents start to suspect you're 3-betting light, they'll be more apt to look you up, say with top pair, and you need to show up with the overpair or top set every now and then.

Two seemingly inconsequential hands early in the night reassured me that this play was going to work. In the first, an aggressive player raised preflop, and I looked down on pocket aces. There were still many people to act behind me, so calling the raise for deception was out of the question. I three bet to $12. The opponent said out loud something to the effect of "uh-oh - that's a big hand" and folded. I three-bet, he put me on aces, s
imple as that.

In the other hand, action got heavy on a draw-heavy board, and one of the tighter players at the table folded to a turn raise. He folded face-up, revealing pocket kings, which were still an overpair! He was out of position and didn't feel like guessing about which draw the looser opponent had, and just decided he didn't have to lose his money on an overpair to some crazy straight.

So we've got players who assume the worst when they see a three bet, and players capable of laying down overpairs on scary boards. Yup, sounds like the mood is right for the light three bet.

My own play for the night was starting to spin away from me a little bit. I had failed to get my implied odds, well-hidden full house paid off on the river. I ran into trips on a paired board twice - the first of which I paid off handsomely because I failed to believe an under the gun raiser had a deuce in his hand (he did). I also paid off a somewhat-ridiculous $12 river bet with two pair on a 4-club board, only because my opponent was the only guy at the table I felt capable of representing the flush without having it (but he had it).

It was getting late, and my usually-even stack was down to about $45. I felt like it was time to try the light three bet. Wiley was the raiser - he had knocked me around all night (he was the one with an under the gun deuce, and the other trips as well). I decided I would three bet any playable hand, and looked down at my cards at 6s7s. Yup, good enough - I made it $12.

Wiley asked "twelve more, or twelve total?". It sounded like he might fold to the former, but call the latter, but my intention was an $8 raise to twelve total, so I told him so. He mused about calling out loud, and while doing so, said something very prescient - "looks like Matt is ready to make a stand here". He was dead right, which didn't help my cause. In the end, he called, somewhat reluctantly.

Now all I had to do was graze the flop. The poker gods did not cooperate - we saw something like QJ5 instead. One spade. I had whiffed badly.

Wiley checked to the raiser. Should I carry the plan through anyway and just shove my chips in on a naked bluff? The idea crossed my mind, but in the end I felt like the two broadway cards gave him way too many reasons to call, even on a hit-nothing-draw, which still was ahead of me. I also remembered that he had somewhat predicted out loud that my range might not be as strong as the normal 3 bet.

I abandoned the idea of the shove, but I did make a regular continuation bet. Maybe this was wrong, too - if I have no chance of winning, then either shoving for maximum fold equity or giving up might have been the best decisions. Wiley, still leery of the possibility of a big hand but going with his read, put me all in. I tossed my cards away like they had acid on them, and everyone at the table went "ooooh", suspecting they had caught me in "a move". And they were right.

With 20 minutes left to go in the game, and me deciding to stay play some short stack to round out the night, I threw the rest of my chips in on a squeeze play with Wiley raising and getting two callers. I had KQs - a great hand to attempt the squeeze, but they key to this play is getting the initial raiser to fold. Wiley did not fold -he called with AK, and my dominated hand sent me to the rail.

I watched the last 20 minutes of play instead of buying back in. I was somewhat (but not overly) steamed that my plays hadn't worked out, and I was trying to work through it. Working the light three bet into my game will increase variance, obviously - the play basically involves putting all my chips into the middle with substandard hands, mainly relying on fold equity to win me pots. If I'm going to steam away when I lose a buy-in, then I'm probably simply not cut out for this LAGGY style. I'm going to have to accept pissing away a buy-in or two along the way, knowing the math will work out enough to pay dividends later.

I'll call last night's buy-in my first quarter's tuition to LAG school.


bastinptc said...

Might I suggest coming to PA to work on the move?

matt tag said...

A great idea - can you transfer some PAX to me? (I only have 1100 or so) [g].