The Tsunami

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Don’t Just Look at Your Big Hands

My last blog post discussed the importance of making the most of your time. When you’re reviewing hands you’ve played, are you making the most of your time? Many players focus only on hands where big pots were played. One mistake in a big pot can cost more than mistakes made in five (or more) small pots. However, since small pots occur much more frequently than big pots, mistakes that you make in small pots may actually be bigger than those you make in big pots.

Here’s a hand I played in a recent multitable tournament (large field; top-heavy payout structure).

Full Tilt – 10/20 NL – Holdem – 8 players
Hand converted by PokerTracker 3:

Hero (CO): 2,990.00
BTN: 2,970.00
SB: 3,010.00
BB: 3,000.00
UTG: 3,000.00
UTG+1: 3,000.00
MP: 3,170.00
MP+1: 2,860.00

SB posts SB 10.00, BB posts BB 20.00

Pre Flop: (30.00) Hero has Kd 7d

fold, fold, MP calls 20.00, fold, Hero raises to 80.00, fold, fold, fold, fold

Hero wins 70.00

This was the third hand of the tournament, so I had no reads. Given the large field and the top-heavy payout structure, my goal is to accumulate chips from the start…taking all the +cEV opportunities I can get. If action had folded to me, I would have opened from CO with K7s. My default deep-stacked CO opening range is something like { 22+, A2s+, A5o+, K5s+, K8o+, Q9s+, QTo+, J9s+, JTo, T9s-65s} (just over 30% of possible starting hands).

The limper in the pot changes things a bit. Because open limping isn’t part of generally sound strategy, I’m forced to go into exploitative mode against an unknown opponent. Before thinking about the limper’s range, there are two important things to keep in mind:

1.) Raising with a limper in the pot will generally take the pot down uncontested less often than open raising. Because of this, it seems logical to raise with a range that’s tighter than my opening range

2.) Even though the open limper reduces my fold equity, I have the advantage of being in position deeply stacked. As a result, I shouldn’t tighten up a whole lot.

Now, let’s think about the limper’s range. Most likely, players who limp here have a pocket pair, a suited connector, Ax, or something like KT or QJ (most of which are hands that this player should be raising with instead of calling with; and the hands that this player isn’t raising should be hands that this player is folding). Players who limp here are also typically playing hit-to-win poker (i.e. they need at least a decent pair on the flop to continue; and if they entered the pot with a pocket pair, they’ll often fold if they don’t flop a set). As a result, I could think of limping behind and playing takeaway on the flop. However, limping behind allows the blinds to take a chunk of my rightful equity. Limping costs T20 to see a 2-3 handed pot with either T50 or T60 additional in the pot. Meanwhile, some of the most likely results of raising to T80 are:

1.) I win T50 immediately

2.) The blinds fold and the limper calls, meaning that I invested T80 to be in position with T110 additional in the pot. I should be able to take the T190 pot down with a T100-T125 continuation be a good percentage of the time. There will also be times that I hit a hand and get some value. There will also be times where I hit a hand and lose (the big key here is ensuring that I don’t cough up too many chips in these circumstances; K7s certainly isn’t the easiest hand to play postflop…even with position). Overall, given the range that my opponent is on, I should be happy with this situation if I’m raising with the top 66%-75% of my opening range.

3.) One of the blinds defends, in which case I’m facing a better range than I would be if I was against the limper. Because I’m against a better range, this situation isn’t quite as good as #2. However, I get in this situation sometimes when I open raise from CO…so I’m no worse off.

4.) One of the blinds 3-bets. This happens naturally sometimes after open raising. Again, I’m no worse off.

5.) The limper 3-bets. When this happens, some players wish they had just limped. However, if you limp and hit something, you’re likely to be in a situation where you would have lost more than T60 postflop (for instance, you have K7 against your opponent’s AA, KK, or AK). In other words, I’m not worried about getting limp reraised here. If I get limp-raised, I simply fold and move on to the next hand.

The bottom line: raising here is a +cEV play. Some of the chip preservationists out there might be thinking, “why risk 80 chips (and possibly more postflop) so early in the tournament…when the blinds and the limp don’t amount to much.” In response, let’s take two players. On average, player A gets to the 50-100 level with 3,500 chips, and Player B gets to the 50-100 level with his starting stack of 3,000 chips. Which player has better tournament results? Player A.

If you currently identify with player B, don’t feel bad…MTTs are heavily populated by player Bs. However, you should figure out what’s needed to become player A. A big part of becoming player A is remembering that the small pots are important. Keep this in mind the next time you’re going through hand histories on your own or finding hands to talk about with friends/forums/coaches.

May Your EV Always Be Positive!

The Tsunami


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6 Responses to “Don’t Just Look at Your Big Hands”

  1. Ray Karp says:

    Look forward to the newsletter. Just listened to your podcast and near the end you were talking about points earned on the different sites. You mentioned to the caller that it was more profitable to play at night but didn’t go into detail as to the hours you are referring to. Could you be more specific as to when “night” starts. I live on the Pacific Coast.

    Thanks, Tony

  2. george epstein says:

    Best of GOOD luck.

  3. Ray: On Full Tilt, there’s usually a happy hour at 8:00PM-10:00PM PT (except on Fri and Sat, I think). It also seems that table selection is easier around 5:00PM-10:00PM PT; however, it’s more of an impression of mine than something I’ve rigorously looked at. If you’re a SNG MTTer, then you also have to balance this with the fact that the SNG MTTs fill up faster when traffic is at or near peak. And that’s typically a bit earlier in the day. The bottom line is that, despite UIGEA, a bulk of online poker traffic at US friendly sites comes from US players. As a result, it makes sense that softer conditions are going to be found when people with normal jobs aren’t at work.

  4. George: Good hearing from you!

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