Wednesday, October 25, 2006

4th Place, Baby, 4th Place

Poker is fun when you're winning. Profundity, thou art my bitch.

Thanks for the comments and emails about my SnG babblings from yesterday. I need to poker around on 2+2 and elsewhere to get a better sense of what "average" is for winning players, as far as the distribution and percentages of place finishes. To a large degree, it's kind of a moot point, as there's no practical application from determining "Hey, I need to stop finishing 3rd as much and finish 1st more, even if it increases my percentage of 4th place bubbles, so that my overall ROI is higher despite my ITM% dropping." I mean, umm, sure. Exactly.

Plus the ultimate answer is likely as simple as: play better poker. There's a reason that top players convert more 1sts than us normal folks when we all get down to the final four players. It's because they're really good players and we're not. The reasonably mindless push bot SnG strategy works fine, and probably comes close to guaranteeing at least a tiny profit if you're disciplined and bankrolled well enough, but it's not enough in and of itself to get you to the top.

A trap I've been falling into too much of late playing SnGs is getting lulled into the false sense of security that SnGs largely play themselves, especially the turbos. I play pretty conservatively early and, more often than not, am still around when there's 4-6 players, not having been blessed with great cards, with a stack of 1,000-2,000, and blinds of 100/200 and up rolling around. At that point, correct strategy indicates pretty automatic play, as far as when you should push your stack in, based on your position, your cards, and the relative position and stack size of other players.

But that doesn't mean that reads aren't important, which is the part that I often ignore, paying only cursory attention to the action up to that point, often 6 or 8 tabling SnGs. I've tried to pay more attention the last few days, cutting back to just 2-3 SnGs at a time, and forcing myself to take notes, look up players at Sharkscope, etc. Last night was a pretty good example, with the following hand occuring:

$120 SnG at Full Tilt, 4 players left, blinds of 100/200

Me: 3,000
Lawn Gnome: 800
Happy Elephant: 10,000
Angry Frog: 1,200

Lawn gnome is UTG and shoves his 800 chips in. Angry Frog folds and Happy Elephant, from the SB, shoves his 9,000 chips in. I'm in the BB with JJ. What's the correct play?

If you have no knowledge of the action up to this point and come to the table cold, I think it's a pretty easy call. On the surface it looks like the SB is just trying to get it heads up with a hand < QQ, KK, or AA (as he'd likely want my action with a truly premium hand and wouldn't massively overbet like that) and the odds are that you're ahead and are in a great spot to pick up chips. The only way you call and get bounced in fourth is if Lawn Gnome wins the main pot and Happy Elephant wins the side pot, as you're guaranteed third if Happy Elephant scoops both pots since you start with more chips than Lawn Gnome.

I folded. Partly because I'd actually been paying attention for once and had watched Happy Elephant build that stack from two huge multi-way pots where he had KK and AA, respectively. Other than those hands, he'd hardly played at all. So I actually might be behind, or racing with AK.

More importantly, though, is that I've got a workable stack and there's another relative shorty (Angry Frog) at the table aside from Lawn Gnome. Granted, Happy Elephant could be shoving with a hand like 22-1010 (in which case folding my jacks is a minor disaster), but even so it's just a minor disaster to fold to him, as odds are he's a favorite to knock out Lawn Gnome, who is short enough that he could be pushing many marginal hands there. If I fold I still have a workable stack, am likely to be guaranteed third, and can aggressively go after the two remaining players. I can recover from a minor disaster but not from a major disaster.

Happy Elephant ended up winning the hand with 1010 (boo, me), but I knocked the other shorty out later and ended up taking it down when it got heads up. I won't claim that the moral of the story is to fold JJ in that spot, as you can make a very good argument that folding is bad due to the chance of a double-up that would increase your likelihood of finishing 1st. It does touch upon the issue, though, that following a push bot strategy that solely looks at whether a shove is +EV or -EV may not always be correct.

Which is a very long-winded and patently obvious way of stating what was said more simply before: top SnG players finish 1st more because they're very good poker players and balance all of the above considerations, often on the fly, on many simultaneous tables.

All of which loops back to the fact that I'm trying of late to simply force myself to slow down a bit, and not necessarily fall into "This is an obvious shove, whee, there go all of my chips into the center of the table." In most cases, yeah, it is an obvious move, and whee, there go the chips, but taking the time to slow down (and backing off from firing up 182,192 tables at one time) spills over into concentrating more in general, which can never be a bad thing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would very much advocate the point of this post. I know that bubble play is supposed to be pretty straightforward, but you absolutely cannot just throw out the rules and make plays because you're "supposed to". Even though you have a hand that maybe you're supposed to push with, you still have to pick the right spots to do it, or you could find yourself on the outside looking in, when you easily are a more deserving player to be in the money.

As of late, I often make plays on the button that would make a lot of well versed players cringe, but I'm also finding myself in the money a whole lot more often, because on the bubble or not, bad players are still bad players, and will still hang themselves if you give them enough rope.

Great post.