Monday, November 29, 2004

Momentum, and Some In-Depth Hand Analysis...

Another day, another $100 in profit. Though I haven't played too much during this holiday "vacation," I've still managed solid results. Kind cards and horrid play from my opponents on Party have been the main driving forces. The opposition was particularly irrational today, showing down Q-high on several occasions in multiway, raised pots. Add to that the fact that guys were trying to stone cold bluff in multiway pots (unimproved A5o w/no draws, J2o with no draws, etc), and you get the idea...

For the second day in a row, I had to forefeit my stack in a $5+1 2-table limit SnG, as family dinner called me away. This time, unlike last, I was far and away the chip leader (T3220, 15 players remaining, blinds 50/100). It was painful, but probably my own fault for failing to plan. I clicked "post and fold" before leaving, praying that my 2x average stack would somehow coast into 4th. Sadly, e-mail tells me it was 6th. The fact that 8 people were outplayed by a folding station does make me laugh a little, though.

After returning from dinner, and learning how autopilot had blown my stack in the SnG, I went to work on the 2/4 tables, fortunately hitting one particularly fishy table right up front. Four of the 9 other players I sat with at first made their ways onto my buddy list, if that's any indicator. I did river a 5-outer to win a 24BB pot with 88. All told, I netted a total of +25.5BB on the night... a great session.

A worthwhile hand analysis expedition: trust me
Since I was pained with decisions throughout (which happens rarely, even at 2/4), I thought I'd post it. This is the kind of thought exercise that the 2+2 bunch have turned me on to, and it has helped immensely. If you are looking for ways to improve your game, or battle back against the "schooling fish" and their legions of suckout attacks, this is the path to profits... walk with me for a moment if you will through the following hand.

Party Poker 2/4 Hold'em (9 handed)

Preflop: Hero is MP2 with 8d, 8c.

2 folds, MP1 calls, Hero calls, 1 fold, CO calls, 1 fold, SB completes, BB raises, MP1 calls, Hero calls, CO calls, SB calls.

Flop: (10 SB) 9d, 5s, 3d (5 players)

SB checks, BB checks, MP1 bets, Hero calls, CO raises, SB folds, BB calls, MP1 calls, Hero calls.

Preflop action was a no-brainer. But what do you do on this flop? The two diamonds on the board gives me pause, I don't have top pair, and will need either one of two other eights, or runner-runner to improve. That said, I may have the best hand, and the betting pattern indicates that 9's are not the most likely holdings for my opponents (SB is most likely to have a 9, and he check/called). MP1's likely holdings include a flush draw, A9, A5, A3, (each with or without diamonds) or possibly a set of 5s or 3s, roughly in that order. Mathematically, I believe this is also the ranking of most common scenarios, as well (think about it: there are more XdXd combos than Ax9x, and more of those than 55 and 33). CO's action suggests a range of hands similar to MP1, though I had this player targeted as a LAGgy fish. BB now looks likely to hold something like AK, with no diamonds.

My flop call/call was the wrong play, no question. In terms of maximum EV, I needed to either raise to get information from my opponents, or get the hell out based on the thinness of my draws. My only saving grace was the pot size, which offered me 11:1 on the initial flop call, and 17:1 on the second. My contribution to the pot by the end of the turn action was 4SB, or 20%... my raw equity was 25% with 4 seeing the turn, but as a matter of actual equity I was probably closer to 15%. So my mistake wasn't severe.

Turn: (9 BB) 6c (4 players)

BB bets, MP1 calls, Hero calls, CO raises, BB calls, MP1 calls, Hero calls.

On the turn, the 6c helped me in a number of ways. First, it clarified the situation as far as flushes: we'd be seeing a made flush about one in five times on the river. Since it looked like between one and three of my opponents seemed to be holding flush draws, that number might be lower (fewer diamonds left in the deck). Plus, if more than one had a flush draw, those opponents would be SHARING the pot equity for diamonds on the river. These two factors worked together to help me immensely.

So there I sat, a pair of 8's and a gutshot straight draw. The way I saw it, the 7d was no good, as it would make at least someone's flush. So I had five outs: three sevens, and two eights. The eights might be dirty, since other players could have straight draws that would be completed via an 8. But I couldn't assume that to be true more than a small percentage of the time, and the betting pattern further forced me to discount this possibility a little as well.

When it came to me initially on the turn, I wasn't sure what to do. The pot was laying 11:1, far more than was necessary for my 5-outer. I wasn't sure if CO would raise again, but I knew that if he did, the others were probably along for the ride. That meant that if forced to call a second bet, my 2BB on the turn would be giving me access to 17BB plus future bets on the river (8.5:1 at a bare minimum). I also knew that if I hit the 7 or the 8, nobody would see me coming, and I'd get paid off for sure. So I called. The CO raises, reinforcing my inclination to think he's got something along the lines of A9 -- as most uber-LAGs think to themselves "I have top kicker and top pair! I don't care that several others are calling, or that there are several draws on the board, I'm raising!" Its called back to me, so I call again, this time with a shrinking degree of confidence.

A little voice inside goes off "the implied odds made me do it!!"

River: (17 BB) 7h (4 players)

BB bets, MP1 raises, Hero 3-bets, CO folds, BB folds, MP1 calls.

This was the best card in the deck for me. It made no flushes, and helped only the following hands, in order: T8, 88, 8x, 4x, 77, and 7x with x being a card already on the board. I was very sure T8 wasn't out there, esp. since T8 in diamonds was the most plausible way for it to be out there, and I had the 8d. So I had the probable nuts. I was fortunate to get there -- not a miracle draw, but not one reached by solid, rigidly +EV play either. I was ready to fire away, and did so. River action was, like pre-flop, a no-brainer. Getting my opponents to pay me 4BB on the river was a little more than expected, but certainly welcome. Take these bets into account, and I paid 2BB on the turn to win 21BB... certainly good enough for my 5-outer.

Final Pot: 24 BB
Main Pot: 24 BB, between MP1 and Hero. > Pot won by Hero (24 BB).

MP1 has 7s 7c (three of a kind, sevens).
Hero has 8d 8c (straight, nine high).
Outcome: Hero wins 24 BB.

Implied odds were my saving grace, and I turned out to be right about getting paid off if I hit my draw. Whenever you find yourself in a jam, where the pot odds are too long to fold, but too thin to continue, look at your likelyhood of being best if you do catch your draw, and then to the probability that you'll reap future bets when you do so. These two factors play a vital role in guiding you to the best decision.

I know Sklansky already wrote this in SSH, but I thought it might be worthwhile to post a real online hand were it came into play. And of course it never hurts to examine play action-by-action, especially when it is your own. The hand above transofromed my night session from a miniscule win to a monster. I'm very thankful to all the folks who have helped me learn along the way for the tools that helped make the difference.