Friday, December 4, 2009

Thin Value = bluff

I'm certainly not very good at it yet, but I feel like I'm starting to think through hands the right way as they play out. As Professional No Limit Hold'Em would say: "REM: range, equity, maximize". That is, put your opponent on a range of hands, determine your equity against that range, then choose the course of action to maximize that equity.

The hard part for the learning player is putting opponents on ranges of hands. Sometimes I get their hand exactly right. When FA raises up a limper to $3 in our .50/$1 game, I know he has a big hand. (last night he did this, he had aces). When Tony looks at a 567 rainbow flop, checks from the blind, then thinks long and hard about calling a bet, I'm able to put him on pocket threes or fours pretty quickly. (pocket eights or nines might have garnered a raise preflop to a bunch of limpers, and wouldn't take as long to consider his actions with an overpair). When I raise up pocket eights and Tony comes over the top for his only three bet of the night, I reason that at best I'm up against ace-king here, and more likely a bigger pair - especially due to my tight play for the past 2 hours. I fold and he flashes pocket kings.

These times are rare - once or twice a night, maybe, but several more times I'm getting closer with ranges like "well, he's got a random king with a kicker he's not thrilled with, or some sort of second pair, or a flush draw". And then, lo and behold, we get to showdown and his hand fits into there somewhere!

I wasn't able to use this information to make much money last night for myself. I had a few second-pair-ace-kicker type hands (like ace-seven from the blinds on a board of king-seven-rag), where I was trying to get value from other sevens, but instead value-towned myself to someone holding king-jack or king-ten.

My night basically came down to two hands where a checked flop was enough to open the dyke of a runner-runner loss. In one hand, I called a standard raise with ace-jack in the blinds, and hit a sweet looking KJJ flop. I checked as did everyone else. The turn brought a second club, so I bet, and a straightforward player called me. I had him on a king or the flushdraw. The river brought the flush - I made a small bet anyway, and the villain called with his small flush (thankfully, he didn't raise). He's nowhere near the river if I bet the flop, but would you really bet the flop if you could see his cards and see the only way he could beat you would be to runner-runner clubs?

In the second hand, Tony set up a straddle for the first and only time of the evening. A couple people paid the $2 to see a flop, but I woke up with Big Chick - ace-queen of diamonds, and tried to chase them all away. Tony defended his straddle.

I hit my ace and went for a checkraise, out of position, but Tony didn't bite. The turn was making the board a bit too broadway and clubby for my tastes, so I lead out and Tony called. The river brought all kinds of bad news - a third club and more high-card-ness, but again I felt like there was thin value to be had with AQ (probably very thin), so I bet the same 7.50 that I did on the turn. Tony had runner-runnered into a straight.

Another common thread between these two hands was being out of position, something in which I found myself much of the night. I'm pretty good about folding my small blind, but this night there were enticing hands like suited kings for flushes and pseudo-connectors like eight-ten-o-diamonds, beckoning me into the hand like Charybdis luring me towards the rocky shore. My button hands were pretty lousy overall - I punished the limpers a couple times with hands I would have formerly either limped along or folded - this move has worked nearly to perfection in the weeks that I've used it. The effect of this move is less POSTflop hands in position, because I'm often chasing people away preflop. This isn't a bad thing, per-se - winning 3 big blinds with ace-eight-offsuit works just fine, thanks for asking, but I found my postflop game, at least last night, was often happening as first to act with several behind.

Final tally on the night was $27 in the hole. I'm hovering at even if my trip jacks or my Aces-queen kicker win a small pot, or if someone calls my only pocket aces of the night (everyone folded, fooey), so as always, the line between a plus and minus night is often just a hand or two.

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