Thursday, June 16, 2005


Maybe it's the inner cynic in me, but I find it fascinating that I'm largely unsurprised and blase when I get fairly stuck during a session, but downright amazed and giddy when I somehow end up unstuck.

The capacity for people to wager large sums of money at activities they aren't particularly good at is staggering.

15/30 is forcing me to be a lot more aware of table selection, which is a good thing. Table composition changes very quickly. It's not even a matter of chasing certain players, but more a matter of avoiding certain combinations of playing styles.

GameTime+ is the best thing since sliced bread.

I still have the capacity to play like a donkey at times.

The thing I'm enjoying most about stepping up in limits is that it's actually forcing me to think again when playing. Interesting hand from last night:

I'm in the BB with Q7s. It folds around to the button, who raises. So far he's shown himself to be a reasonable smart LAG, has pimped my blind a lot but I've had absolutely nothing to defend with. Not that Q7s is a strong hand but it's something and I can't keep folding and let him run over me. SB folds and I call.

Flop is Q 9 2, rainbow.

I'm fairly sure I'm ahead, as I have a feeling he's stealing from the button with basically any two cards. My first impulse is to bet, to see where I'm at in the hand and to make him pay for cards if he has overcards.

He's likely going to raise, though, no matter what he has, as that's the proper LAGgy thing to do in that spot. If I call, I really gained no information and am back at square one. If I re-raise and he folds, I only extract 1 extra BB from him. If he calls or caps, though, I'm still likely commited to this hand, given the situation and his nature.

Heads-up against a LAG on the button who's likely trying to steal blinds, I pretty much have to commit to taking my hand to the river, despite the fact that I only have TPCK (top pair, crappy kicker). I'm very likely ahead but if not, I'm way behind, and have relatively marginal hopes of improving my hand.

I just check on the flop. He bets and I call. Yes, I'm giving him free cards which could be dangerous, as he likely has an A or K in his hand, but my goal with this hand is to get it to showdown with minimal exposure to risk, as I've already committed to taking it to showdown. A nice side benefit of that line is that a LAG will likely continue to bet on both the turn and river, even if he doesn't have a hand and doesn't improve, trying to induce a fold.

Turn is a blank. I check, he bets, I call. I could check-raise here, as my hand improves with every blank, but it's the same situation as the flop. If he has nothing, he folds. If he re-raises, I can't get away from the hand, and would call, and then check call the river. If he's playing just overcards, he'll may continue to bet out even if he blanks on the river, trying to induce a fold or win with A high, etc.

River is a blank. I check, he bets, I call. Again, same logic, as betting out or check raising induces a fold if he has nothing and costs me dearly if he has a hand.

He flips over AKs, I take down the pot with my pair of queens.

First things first, yes, indeed, I took a really passive line that didn't attempt to punish him for his overaggression, and I allowed him two shots at improving his hand. That said, I think it's an interesting hand, as it made me think about a few larger concepts.

1) Betting or raising for information: When the aggression factor is amped up (as if often the case in 15/30 games), betting out or raising for information is less effective, especially heads-up. Players will still raise and cap with overcards or on a complete bluff. If you have a good but vulnerable hand and it's heads-up, simply xheck calling is sometimes much more effective than betting or raising.

2) Controlling your exposure to risk: If it's heads-up and you're not the aggressor in a typically aggressive game (due to position or betting the previous round), you need to decide very early if you're going to take your hand to showdown. If you're committed to taking the hand to showdown, then you want to do it as cheaply as possible, especially if it's a decent but vulnerable hand. The only advantage you have in this situation is that you can control the bets that go into the pot by not betting out or raising. If betting or raising doesn't buy you more information, all it does then is expose you to more risk in an good but uncertain situation that you've committed to taking to the river.

3) Letting aggressive players bet your hand: Smart LAGs hate players that simply call. Simply check-calling down with a medium strong hand against a LAG that's prone to stealing your blinds is a good way to disabuse them of stealing tendencies. It also adds more weight to future similar situations where you bet out or check raise against them. An interesting side effect is that if you check raise early and they fold, they get no read on your playing tendencies as it doesn't go to showdown. If you check-call to showdown, though, everyone at the table sees what just transpired. Being passive (and giving the outward appearance of passivity) just means that you played that hand passively, not that you're a passive player.

4) Know thy smart LAG from thy dumb LAG: I'm mainly just guessing here, but I would bet that the players that show the highest BB/100 win rates at higher stakes games are actually smart LAGs and not TAGs. The average winner would be a TAG, but I think a smart, relentlessly aggressive LAG is capable of achieving and maintaining the highest BB/100 of all player types. That said, there's a huge difference between a smart LAG and a dumb LAG. Smart LAGs can dump hands in an instant when the feedback loop signals they're beaten, and amp up the aggression when they sense weakness. Dumb LAGs just fire and fire and fire, ignoring all input. Don't lump all LAGs into the same bucket, especially if they've previously shown the ability to shut down and get away from hands.

In other non-poker related news, I may get to start telecommuting a second day each week, starting in a couple of weeks. Wait, that's actually poker-related news. Heh. I have to admit the idea of coming to the office only three days a week is very appealing, almost enough so to make up for other silliness. My problem with my place of employ isn't the work necessarily (although it is pretty mindless and non-stimulating these days), but the things that go on at the place of employ. Remove the bulk of that from the equation and hmm...

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