Monday, July 17, 2006


Here's a fun poker hand from the weekend action.

I've been experimenting with my style - trying to be a bit more deceptive in the early stages of SNG where there are still enough chips in relation to the blinds to allow some scope for manouevre, and there's the chance to stack opponents and get an early lead.

Traditional theory has it that a hand like 53s is worth limping in with in late position when there's a good price being obtained.

However the drawback of that is when you really hit the flop it's often pretty obvious to opponents that you could be playing that sort of hand, so TPTK is a lot easier to get away from - for some players.

There's also the risk that a savvy player in the blinds who looks down at something like AK/AQ, or a medium pair, will stick in a big raise to try to pick off the limpers.

So, opening with a raise holding baby cards in EP has two advantages.

Firstly, it's highly deceptive as to what I'm holding. It's the same raise I'd put in with AA/KK.

Secondly, AK guy might choose to smooth call - fearing a monster - meaning I get to see a relatively cheap flop, and if he sticks in a chunky reraise I can easily get away from the hand.

How I play after the flop determines whether this strategy gives me an edge or not, since more often than not I'm going to get called somewhere. On occasion it is enough to steal the blinds, which makes it an excellent bet.

As this hand illustrates, success can be rewarding, but there are pitfalls too. If I'd flopped a flush draw here, instead of a straight, I could have been in a world of pain.

My pre-flop raise let me take a free card when I needed it, and I'm pretty sure left my opponent thinking I had something like AQ or JJ. Meaning when I hit on the river it was very well disguised.

It doesn't always go so smoothly, but there are other ways to win too. This is an example where I got lucky on the river.

There are a few interesting things about this second hand.

Note the way my opponent underbets the flop and turn. He doesn't reraise me all-in when he has the chance on the turn.

At this point, it's obvious we've both misread the other - but I have a safety net that will rescue me on a lot more occasions than he expects.

The way he had bet, I figured him for a middle pair, and thought he'd put me on AK or similar. So, I thought I might be able to push him off on the turn with a decent reraise to represent a big overpair, whilst knowing I had straight and flush draws to fall back on.

As it happens, a big overpair is exactly the hand he was hoping I had, since he'd flopped a set of fours.

So, when he reraises on the turn, I'm left to call getting approx 4/1 to hit a slightly worse than 3/1 river.

His remaining small stack makes the actual implied odds more like 5/1, since it's virtually impossible for him to fold if I hit on the river.

Whereas with blinds at 15/30 I can still escape if I miss with a playable 880 chips left.

For every example where it works as planned, there are several cases where I need to fold to a chunky reraise, or hit such a horrible flop that checking and folding is the only option.

The advantage is, I can minimise the downside and maximise the upside, which should make this a winning play when I'm on my game.

A less obvious benefit is, this is one heck of a fun way to play poker!

Winning a big pot with aces or kings often gives me a feeling which is more one of relief, or righteousness, rather than exhilaration.

Often I find myself willing my opponents to fold to my turn or river bet, fearing he is going to turn over some bizarre 2-pair hand to crack my monster. There's hardly a river card I can really like.

When he folds, or calls with a lesser pair, I can breathe again, and stack the chips.

You can imagine my expression when the river appeared in the first hand above. Not only had I hit, but I knew I was getting paid!

The emotion was glee and delight, not relief. Much more rewarding, and much more fun.

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