Monday, September 13, 2010

Blind Defense (tl;dr)

Why no 3bet to the CO steal? I'd have no problem trying to get it in PF if you get into a raising war.

Interesting line preflop. Why smooth call then lead out?

Above are the two comments posted by my loyal readers in my prior post. As a quick review, The cutoff raised. I didn't have many hands on him but the information I did have pegged him as a blind stealer and aggressive. I had AKo in the small blind, and chose to flat call.

Why flat indeed? Certainly three betting with what's probably the best hand is a +EV move. Building a pot when you have the best of it can never be a bad thing. And, truth be told, up until about 3 months ago, this would be my default play as well. +EV situation, do it.

But let's look a bit deeper as to WHY we're three betting. There are 2 primary reasons for putting money into the pot (and one slightly less important reason).

1) Value. Make worse hands than yours will call.
2) Bluff. Make better hands then yours fold.

Which are we trying to accomplish here by raising with AKo? Will worse hands than AK call this three bet? I'm sure we can find some hands worse than AK that would call to see a flop - AQs, some connectors maybe.

Will better hands than AKo fold? I argue yes - small pocket pairs fold (that cannot set mine profitably in a 3bet pot). So there is some bluff component to our 3bet as well.

On balance, a decent player who's stealing from the cutoff at, say, a 25% clip, is going to be folding the vast majority of what he raised with. He will continue with some hands (certainly JJ+, maybe TT/99, maybe AQs, we can argue the finer points of the range he continues with), he will fold most of the rest of his stuff, including a few hands that currently beat us. But on balance, our three bet with AK isn't weighted very strongly towards value or bluff.

If we had to categorize the nature of our 3bet, it's more of a semi-bluff with a good drawing hand (AK is the ultimate "drawing hand", no?, if you allow that we're "drawing" for top pair, top kicker).

To repeat, I'm not trying to argue that is -EV to 3bet with AK. I think it definitely is +EV. And I think our own style of play dictates exactly how +EV it is. If we are excellent LAGs with 11% 3bet percentage from the blinds, then thinking players may have to take a stand with worse hands than AK to combat us, and then our AK 3bet becomes a straight value raise. I'm not (yet) a 11% 3betting LAG, though, so I'm not sure someone is going to shove 88+AQo into us. So it may not be AS +EV to 3bet AK as it would for a good LAG.

So is there a play that might be more +EV than 3betting? Folding is absurd of course, we almost always have the best hand when judged against his current stealing range. So that's out. That leaves flat calling.

What does flat calling accomplish? Flat calling puts us in a post flop situation where we are ahead of the villain's range. This is a good thing. A villain open raising 25% from the cutoff might be raising with the following hand range.


And how does AKo do against that hand range? 65%-36%. Nearly 2-1.

"But we're out of position!" you would argue. And you would be right. Playing out of position sucks for 1000 reasons, we know them all. Especially when there's a +EV play available that works most of the time and prevents us from having the play out of position, and usually wins us 4.5 BB.

My (current) contention is that we stand to win MORE than this 4.5 BB, though, by flat calling and seeing a flop as a 2-1 favorite, even if we're out of position. I haven't read the article or worked out the math to back this up yet (I'm not sure I could work out the math even if I wanted to), but I keep thinking about the pots we win at showdown where we have AK and they have KT/AJ and we both hit, and we get 2 streets of value.

Winning showdowns in dominated situations is nice, but we won't hit all the time. Hell, we won't hit most of the time. And knowing that leads me to the next point in this little argument - if you choose to flat call with a hand like AK, it is not a profitable situation to play fit-or-fold postflop. You obviously can't check/fold every time and ace or king fails to hit. The preflop raiser is obviously continuation betting most of the time, and he's winning a 7.5 BB pot every time you check/fold. So you need to learn to play out of position and win pots when you don't hit. When you miss, there are basically three plays you can make on the flop to win the pot. Those three plays are:

check/call flop, lead turn.

I will readily admit that I'm still learning this part of the strategy. I'm still working on which play to use in which situation (villain's range, flop texture). On the hand from yesterday, I liked the donk on the rainbow, dry board. The villain basically has to have an overpair or a queen to continue. Or he can float, but there aren't many hands that can float and have much backup equity (and most people like to float when they have backup equity). NO play was going to work on this particular hand, of course, villain flopped a set of fours and then got my stack when I runner-runnered trips with top kicker. But imagine villain had raised pocket 5-8s instead. Donking the flop and then barrelling the turn king (that I actually hit!) gets the pot for sure. Or imagine he has KJ or KT. He might float with a gutshot+overcard, then call a bet when he hits the king, then pay off a BIG bet when he trips up and is outkicked.

So there's my tl;dr article on defending the blinds. I have thought (and read) a great deal about this topic since one of my coaches brought it up to me a few months back. Here are some other discussings about this topic

Article 1
Article 2
Article 3

The first post discusses specifically KQ - he actually favors 3betting with AK, but his assumption in this opinion is that opponents will definitely continue with hands we dominate, and is thus a pure value raise. If you feel like your opponent will call with worse, then obv. this is correct.


The Poker Meister said...

"1) Value. Make worse hands than yours will call.
2) Bluff. Make better hands then yours fold."

I think you misapply the concept in this case. I look at 3betting AK from OOP as a semi-bluff. You have a hand that needs to see a flop in which 22-QQ have you beat, and AA,KK have you dominated. Therefore, you have a drawing hand (loosely, a speculative hand - albeit a hand that is 50/50 with most pairs and dominates all Ax, Kx hands).

Moreover, even if the villain has 72o, you are a 65/35 (thereabout) favorite going to see a flop. Point is, you're usually about a 60/40 favorite against most "reasonable" hands going into the flop, and 50/50 against non- AA,KK pocket pairs.

What does this all mean? It means that you want to either juice the pot, being "generally" no worse than 50/50 going to see a flop, or you want to take the villain off a lot of his 50/50 range (i.e. 22-66). What you have written in this post makes perfect logical sense for hands like QQ+, where you ARE very likely FAR ahead of villains steal range... you can flat and extract value on the flop by letting villain hang / cbet himself to death. However [I feel] with AK, you have huge fold equity PF, and would rather announce the value of your hand right then and there - threatening stacks if necessary.

What you essentially do in this spot is not altogether unlike limping AK to wait for a raise and then limp / re-raise the raiser (OOP or otherwise). I think it's such a marginal spot to do that; AK [again,]certainly needs improvement on the flop and beyond. By raising / 3betting right off the bat, you're exercising the value of holding AK; you're generally not dead when you get stacks in, but you have a ton of fold equity to get your opponent's 50/50 splits to back down. You show an instant profit.

FINALLY, unless you put your opponent on exactly Ax or Kx, most unimproved pocket pairs are folding A high or even sometimes K high flops.

Personally? I'd rather take the pot down right then and there - PF - where I know I'm usually 50/50... and cut down on variance (unless I get it all in which kinda sucks to flip for full stacks). I'm happy to take a 4.5BB win in this spot by taking it down with a 3bet.

Sorry for the long comment

matt tag said...

I think I'll need to attempt a full spreadsheet to break down all of the possibilities.

The Poker Meister said...

I guess what I'm saying is that there's a lot of players who will flat your 3bet with worse hands, making this - at best, a value raise, but at worse, just juicing the pot.