Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Hating/Loving TPTK

For whatever reason I've fallen into playing baby NL games of late, usually $100 NL. It's been interesting, especially coming from a background as strictly a LHE monkey for quite awhile.

Poker is obviously poker, so I can't claim any grand epiphanies, but it is interesting experiencing some of the things you've seen bandied about by others, as far as the major differences between the games, and common advice given to limit players who are taking up NL. I repeat, none of this is rocket science, and old, old news to you NL superstars out there. This is more a reminder to myself, than anything.

1) Don't go broke with TPTK : You learn to push TPTK pretty hard in limit, and rightfully so. For every one time it goes down in flames and you lose a big pot, you'll win two pots.

NL, though, is a different story. Consistently shoving your stack in with TPTK will more than likely result in you going broke, over time. Most of your real money comes from sets taking down TPTK/overpairs, not from bludgeoning opponents into submission with just TPTK.

I'm still struggling with this one, especially at some of the crazy Party NL tables. If you're playing with opponents that will merrily shove into you with KJo on a K 10 4 flop (after calling a $4 raise from you pre-flop), AK looks pretty damn good, and it's next to impossible for me not to call. That same monkey can just as easily have K10, though, and be reaching for your stack. As much as I tell myself to wait for a better spot and to not get caught up in the push-monkey game, I still am tempted too often to call in that spot.

2) Sets are where you make money: The logical application of this is to be much more willing to call with any pocket pair, from pretty much any position, even if/especially if it's raised. I have to work to get myself out of LHE autopilot mode, as far as automatically mucking 22 if there's a raise in front of me. Obviously you have to temper this if someone later to act is persistently coming over the top, but baby pairs are a lot more valuable in NL, and you can't be mucking them consistently just because someone has shown strength.

Where I'm still flailing around here is how to play the baby pairs when I'm opening the action, as far as whether to try to limp or to go ahead and bump it up 3-4BB. Being aggressive is almost always better than not being aggressive, but a lot of the value in 22 is in flopping a set, as it's hard to continue otherwise, even when showing strength pre-flop. I tend to open-raise with baby pairs but I feel lost when a couple of people call, the flop comes all overcards to my baby pair and someone leads into me.

3) Don't be afraid to lump it all in on the flop with a really big draw: This one is pretty self-explanatory, but a bit different from LHE. While you'll often pump your big draws on the flop in LHE, the psychology is a bit different, as you've got assorted escape hatches if you blank on later streets.

In NL you might currently be behind on the flop, but have a big enough draw to not mind getting it all in. The dilemma is that you want to see the river, and not be faced with a difficult call on the turn if it blanks. So the relatively simple solution is to not be scared to lump it all in on the flop, with your monster draws, and hopefully pick up some fold equity while removing the temptation to abort the mission on the turn if it blanks.

4) Junk is pretty much junk in LHE, but junk can be valuable in NL: This one is completely self-explanatory, but deserves a token plug. If you're on the button in a LHE game and there are three limpers ahead of you, 68h is a junky hand that you fold 100% of the time, even if you know the blinds will just call.

Give that same hand to a skilled player in that exact situation in a NL game and they can probably extract a decent profit from it, over the long run. It's still pretty much junk but the ability to take someone's entire stack in one fell swoop puts a bit of a shine on otherwise junky hands.

This one is still hard for me, not so much when I can limp in behind a few others but when there's a raise after me, and only a few callers. I realize I need to limp/fold in most of those cases but I get a little greedy at times and call the raise too often.


doubleas said...

nice post.

It looks like you answered your own indecision about how to play small pairs. I like limping with low pairs. If I raise, it doesn't accomplish anything. If I win the blinds, so what. If I get called, and follow through, I only get called/raised by better hands. What's worse is that I can't fade much of anything including semi-bluffs unless I connect myself.
Also, I don't want to reduce the field. I need somebody to catch something that will be good enough to pay my set off. A pair and flush draw, two pair, etc.
If I get somebody behind me raising preflop, all the better. They've narrowed their range and I really have set value now because there is a good chance they'll have an overpair or TPTK if I hit my set.

I'd also caveat your junk hands section for beginning players. Junk played poorly costs a lot of players money. If you're going to play junk, you've got to have good poker skills in general. You need to know when you're ahead and when your opponent is strong/weak enough to push hard. Flopping bottom two pair in a multiway pot is -EV for a lot of people. Flopping an OESD and getting strung along and missing your draw costs money. Knowing that your opponents are trying to avoid going broke with TPTK or an overpair makes it that much harder to get junk to pay off. In the cases the opponent does come along, they probably have a lot of outs themselves or some strong like top two pair or a set.

I think people reading your post to learn how to play should avoid playing junk hands until they're competent playing quality cards.

Bloody P said...

doubleas hit it on the head. I never raise with baby hands. I'll limp from any position, and if a big raise comes behind me, it's easy to get away from. Same thing if you don't hit the flop.

Of course when you have 33 (and the board shows AQ2 rainbow) and you throw away your baby pair to a raise just to see another 3 hit on the river, you tilt a little bit.

Absinthe said...

If I'm on the button with 6h8h in a limit hold 'em game, there are three limpers and I know the blinds will just call, I might be raising, I'm definitely calling, and no way am I folding.

But that's just me, and as usual, great post.

Nick Christy said...

great post,

I am actually working on a "playing junk in late position" post.. I will definitially reference your post.

ScurvyDog said...


I hear you (and I probably have overcorrected too far to one extreme with hands like the 6h8h ones) but over time I finally came to realize that I'm just not good enough to do much more than break even with those hands, if I'm playing perfectly.

I'm more than happy to pump J10h in that same spot, but I think 6h8h is significantly worse, so I just fold and move on.

Not to say everyone should fold it, or that it can't be played profitably by monkeys more skilled than myself. I should have qualified that to say "that I fold.." instead of "that you fold...", as results will obviously vary.

Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Sounds like maybe I'm the only one, but I raise probably 2/3 of the time at least with all pocket pairs, if I'm the first one in the pot. Not all the time, but enough so that I can still get some action whenever I raise preflop with my monstrous hands. If I'm in MP and it's folded around to me and I find 33 in the pocket, I'm usually bumping that to 3x or 4x the big blind. Again, it's not that I disagree in any way with the theory of limping with small pairs, trying to keep people in the pot, and hoping to flop a set. That's still exactly what I'm hoping for if anyone calls me. But, I will happily pick up the blinds with any pocket pair and just be satisfied with that. I used to always be playing my pocket pairs to hit trips on the flop and try to really bust somebody, but what I've found over time playing a whole lot of nlh online is that, for me, I flop trips so infrequently when I have my pocket pairs (this is especially true for the baby pairs) that I would rather win just the blinds than inevitably folding to a bet on the flop from someone who I'm quite sure is ahead of me when that bet is made. And still, I bet and raise enough preflop that when I get KK or AA and raise it up that same 3x or 4x preflop, I get action, sometimes lots of it. That's where I make my bread and butter, rather than waiting for 55 to flop trips and then hope no one sucks out a straight, a flush, or even a straight flush on me.

Just my two cents. Obviously there are lots of ways to play any hand profitably. See you in the WWdN tonight if you're playing.

RikkiDee said...

I'm down with seeing flops for "set value" with baby pairs. As DoubleAs said, raising accomplishes almost nothing as if you get a caller or two, undoubtedly you'll be facing at least one or two overcards and since calls and raises are so ambiguous if you follow through with a c-bet, it's tough to continue in the hand.

I think it comes down to which pairs are you willing to play for set vaule and which for pair value. I draw the line somewhere around 88 depending on who I'm against and will usually continue with 88+ as long as the flop isn't AKJ

One thing about your "Don't be afraid to lump it all in on the flop with a really big draw" is fine assuming you are getting it in there with 15+ outs. Flush draws / overcard or a pair and 1 draw are not hands I'm thrilled to get it all in there with. 15 outs would make you the statistical favorite against almost any hand on the flop, but OESD + flush draw on the flop are pretty rare. And of course it's difficult to get it in on the flop especially in situations where you are fairly deep compared to the pot size, but since you have infinite outs you can still push hard and build the pot that is surely going to be yours. Same mindset as LHE I guess.

GoBucksIndy said...

Great Post. I'm in the same school of thought as doubleas. Limping with pps under 1010 seems to work best for me. I don't see the value in stealing blinds in a NL cash game. Generally most of the table has 50-100 bbs sitting in front of them. I would think the amount of times you succesfully steal the blinds is negated by the amount of times you are either repopped preflop or postflop.

Donkeypuncher said...

Great post. Great comments.

Bravo everyone!