Saturday, May 5, 2012

Lack of Fundamentals

"I can't win here", my table-mate TW muttered as he stood up from my cash game table, stacked again. He cursed his luck and made the walk of shame up my basement steps, as he has done a dozen times before.

Tonight's bustout hand was a limp, then calling a raise behind him by the tightest player in my game. So tight, in fact, that this limper-punishing move could only be one of two hands in my estimation - pocket aces or pocket kings.

The flop came all low, something like 458 with two clubs. TW lead out, got raised, then shoved the rest of his stack in. His stack was nothing to write home about - he started the hand with about 35 big blinds. Mr. Tight called and showed his pocket kings. TW flipped over 36, both spades. His straight didn't come, nor did his backdoor flush, and he was left to curse his bad luck once again.

TW has some fundamental mistakes in his game that will prevent him from ever winning in poker. He likes to limp often and see a lot of cheap flops with raggy cards, but he never plays a deep enough stack to win money in those few times that the raggy cards hit.

Fire up your copy of Flopzilla (or go buy it if you're serious about poker and don't have it yet). Enter 63s into the starting hand chart, then click on the green Flopzilla monster to calculate how often this hand will hit the flop. For me, it's registering that it will hit twopair+ about 5% of the time, or 1 in 20. These are the hands that will crack Mr. tight's pocket kings.

What about flush draws and straight draws, you say? Well, true, you can flop a decent draw around 15% of the time. But when you're playing a tiny stack, your draws don't mean much against an obvious overpair. You're going to have to shove your stack in and get called, and then run the cards out to see if one of your outs hit. You might as well shove preflop and get called by the kings. No fold equity, but at least you get to see all 5 cards, at which point you'll crack the kings one time in 4.

So let's do some math. You limp with 36s, get raised by Mr. Tight, and shove your whole $35 stack in just to guarantee you see all 5 cards. He calls 100% of the time (because all he ever has is AA or KK). 20% of the time, you'll win 36.50 (Mr. Tight's 35 and the blinds). 80% of the time, you'll lose $35. So (.2 * 36.50) - (.8 * 35) = -$20.7 on average. A wildly bad play that loses 21 big blinds in the long run every time you play it.

So open shoving isn't going to cut it. Let's try calling the $4 raise and only shoving if we hit our king crackers on the flop. This happens 5% of the time, let's say he never folds when we crack the kins, so we win (36.50 * 0.05) = 1.825 big blinds. We have to fold and lose 4BB the other 95% of the time, for a net of -$3.8. (-4 * .95). -3.8 + 1.825 equals -1.975, or roughly a 2 big blind loss every time we run this play. Not as bad as 20BB, but not positive, either. A losing play.

In actuality, it's even worse than a 2BB loss per hand. We assumed we would auto-double up every time we crack Mr. Tight's kings but that's not going to happen. Sometimes we'll flop a flush, straight, or two pair, but an ace will come on the board, and Mr. Tight won't put his whole stack in with kings. Or maybe the board comes all spades and Mr. Tight with the two red kings or aces simply folds. So we're not guaranteed a double up even when we hit our rags.

Conclusion: there's no way to profit playing a 35 big blind stack and a raggy hand like 36s against a nit who almost always has an overpair. No way at all. My friend TW said "I can't win here", but really, he can't win anywhere without fixing some big fundamental problems with his poker game.

1 comment:

Memphis MOJO said...

Most players like TW can't change, even if they know they should. Something about their personality or why they the game won't let them.