Sunday, September 20, 2009

Back to basics: maximizing your wins

I've been working on incorporating thinner value bets on the river in my game during the past month or so in my regular LHE play at my local cardroom with the stated goal of maximizing my true winrate -- although, this increases your variance, which is a consequence one must learn to cope with. This guy's last couple of blog posts gave me a prod in posting a few thoughts about this concept, since optimal play on the big-bet streets in LHE is every bit as important as it is in PLO or NLHE. Delving into these psychological issues is, I think, a key improvement to make once you have reached a certain plateau and are looking for ways to grow one's poker game to a new, higher level. If your "A-Game" can become even better, and you master ways to play your best game more often, you should see better results in the long run.

Here is a recent example from my regular game where I think I clearly wussed out and missed out on significant value. After I raked in the pot, I forced myself to sit out for an orbit as I mulled over the mistakes I had made and refocussed for the remainder of my session.

I found myself on the button with AcKc. Naturally, I put in a re-raise to three bets when given the opportunity, as a player in late position had put in a raise over a couple of limpers. The small blind, a middle-aged Asian woman who was lighting money on fire that night, although she is probably a small long-term winner in the game from what I've seen, called three bets cold and five players saw the flop (with about 8 big bets already in the middle). The beauty of this situation is that I had well over my fair share of pot equity; with a lot of dead money involved, I was in a good spot with position and a premium hand.

The flop came down KQJ with two hearts (and one club, for a backdoor nut flush draw). It was checked to me, I bet, the small blind check-raised and the original preflop raiser called two bets cold. I overcalled. The three of us saw the turn, which was an offsuit jack. She led out, the other player called, and I overcalled, even though I strongly suspected (due to past experience with these players and some fairly reliable tells) that I had the best hand. Consequently, it follows that I missed a raise for value against the range of hands my two opponents were playing, and I failed to charge all the drawing hands and worse made hands to outdraw me. This was a major error, to my mind. If I had been re-raised, I could safely throw AK away (I don't think either of the two players I was tussling with was capable of 3-betting a worse hand than mine); if I trusted my read at the time, I should follow through and attempt to maximize my equity whilst making a strong play with the benefit of position.

The river blanked and it was checked around. Again, I arguably missed a value bet, even though the board was scary. Why should I expect these players to check better hands than mine in this situation? Answer: I shouldn't, so I should bet for value and strongly consider bet-folding if I were check-raised on the end.

As it turned out, the small blind showed KhTh for missed straight and flush draws and the other player mucked, claiming to have held KTo. I played the river horribly, I think - nearly as badly as I misplayed the turn. Heck, you could even argue that I should have 3bet the flop (although the small blind would have been justified in capping it against me).

Comments on the larger issues are welcome, as well as duly-earned criticisms on how I butchered this hand.

As an aside, happily my local cardroom is regularly getting a 10-20 LHE game going Fri-Sun. I should be regularly playing in this game very soon and hopefully will be able to report back with some interesting hands during the next few months. The 5/5 PLO game still goes regularly and is good but I don't feel the time is right to take shots at that game, mostly due to expected variance issues given the fact that I am not properly rolled for it yet and would prefer not to have to rebuild my BR if I went on a string of losing five buyins.


DrChako said...

First of all, you are guilty of pulling a "Chako." Namely, you erred in writing about your hands.

First off, you did 3 bet the flop (or maybe you didn't; your post is a little confusing). Also, both other players had K10?

On this hand, you are correct that you should have 3 bet when you got check raised, although I'm not sure what you can beat here. It's a terrible flop for AK.

When she leads out on the turn (when the 2nd J hits) it's confusing. In my mind, she either hit the J and is afraid of the straight draw or she flopped 2PR and the wrong card paired the board. Overcalling here is simply giving up and hoping another K or J comes. If you thought you had the best hand, I agree you should have raised.

You say you missed a bet on the river but again I disagree. Based on your betting patterns, you gave up on this hand and should be happy to show down at the river for no extra bets. Anyone who calls you here has you beat (usually).

Can't wait to hear about your 10/20 hands. That game is maniacal, but you can occasionally play defense. I agree - avoid PLO. According to Dr. Pauly, it will break your heart.


Shrike said...

Ok, I'll clarify the action.

I 3bet preflop.
I bet the flop and called a raise.
I called on the turn.
I checked it down on the river.

KenP said...

Maybe I misread it. I'm a visual guy at cards and often screw up HH.

Y: Ac Kc
1: Kh Th
2: K? T?

Flop: KQJ 2H 1C

I don't think so. If it is two hearts and he holds the K then the K of clubs in your hand fell on the flop or that happened for Mr Suited with Hearts because he needs the other two and you need one of them. No way that hand plays with an honest deck. :)

I missed it at first too. I went to put it in Poker Calculator to get an idea of what value is. Didn't work.

We tend to throw hindsight into the mix -- even trying to be honest. You had a good hand that won on a scary board. Nice but potentially costly. Reasonable pot. Any extra action is a bluff instead of a value bet, IMO.

Shrike said...

Ken - thanks for reminding me. The small blind showed her KhTh as she mucked, but I never actually saw the third player's hand, but he verbally claimed to be holding KTo. However, he might not have been lying, since the flop could well have been the fourth king and QhJh.

Shrike said...

... and where I might well have misreported the hand was saying that the flop contained a club.

Memphis MOJO said...

I agree with DrC about not betting the river. Unless they are really loose, no way a worse hand will call.