Monday, August 07, 2006

Distracted Thoughts

Was in a team meeting at work today and somehow found my mind distracted from RFID and Distribution Centre's onto matters more poker related....

After quite a few hours play over the weekend I had found myself in several multiway raised pots where I was first to act (usually with something like 55-JJ or AQs). Quite a few times the flop came out and left a pair on the board. Given that a paired board is far less likely to have helped your opponents, my thoughts on how to play this situation are as follows:

If you are first to act in a SH raised pot, you are more than likely to be in the blinds or under the gun, probably with a the aforementioned mid pair or big suited A (if you find yourself without either of these you're a far better player than I!). I will ignore the cases where you flop a monster and focus instead on the more likely event of you flopping nothing, leaving you with an underpair or more likely A high. Which means you're effectively going to have to bluff at this pot to win it. Here's how it could go against 2 opponents, B and C.

You (A) check the scary flop, and B bets. C hasn't got anything strong and fears A could be sandbagging so he folds in the squeeze, leaving you out of position (if you call) for the rest of the hand. No good.
You check, B checks, and C bets. Now you're in the squeeze so you fold, leaving you with negative pot equity. Also no good.
You bet first.

There are 2 bets you can make here: the probe bet (say 1/3 pot), or the aggressive bet (2/3+ pot). Now if you choose the probe route, you are more than likely going to face a raise from either B or C which doesn't sound attractive, so first we'll examine the other option.

By betting aggressively, there are 3 most likely events.

1) With the first in vigorish, players B and C both fold. Very nice, alas not the most likely.

2) B folds, and C raises or calls. You don't know where you stand, and the pressure is back to you either now or on the turn. Say the pot was 60 preflop and you are willing to fire at it twice. If you bet 40 on the flop and get called, you are going to have to bet a decent amount at a 140 pot on the turn, say another 80. This will cost you 120 in total to take down the pot if it succeeds.

3) B calls* or raises and C folds. Same situation as above ensues, where you now have to big bluff again on the turn with no more information (optimistic), or call a raise only to try an even more expensive bluff on the turn (downright foolish).

*If player B ever flat calls, regardless of what action C takes, (barring a miracle)YOU ARE DONE WITH THIS HAND. Player B has clearly shown he has no concerns about what C has by flat calling an aggressive bet.

While betting aggressively into 2 people gets maximum respect, chances are still good that you're doing it into a strong hand, whether or not it has connected with the board. Also, not many people bet out with the nuts, so expecting B and C to both fold will happen at best once every 5 times. Out of position, you'll find a call or a raise much more common, and as outlined above, things will quickly get expensive if you decide to continue.

I propose that a probe bet is more effective in this situation. First off, it looks suspicious. B and/or C are very likely to flat call this bet, so you can get at least a cheap turn if you have any sort of draw. If you bet say 20 into the 60 pot and there's a raise, here's what will most likely happen:

1a) B raises your 20 (to say 60), C will most likely fold under the squeeze and the action is back to you. Now, assuming we aren't playing tricky dicks either B has a good hand that he wants to define early on or has a good draw and wants a free card later. Action is back you.

2a) B folds or calls the probe and C raises to 60. Again, C most probably has a good hand or a strong draw and wants to find out where he's at. Action is back to you.

Now, you have put out a suspicious bet (20) and it's 40 more to call the raise. I advocate a reraise here. In both scenarios, thanks to the squeeze you're effectively against a single player, and a min-raise to 100 along with the action so far will cause him to abandon anything but the strongest of hands, so if he does call, once again YOU ARE DONE WITH THE HAND. This gives a net expenditure of 100 to win a 120-140 pot, and given the scary looking board and your suspicious opening bet into 2 opponents, should work easily often enough to make this a valid weapon in your poker arsenal.

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