Friday, October 2, 2009

Pre-flop play: Small pocket pairs & the 3 bet

I've been reading excerpts of Small Stakes No Limit Hold Em (Ed Miller, Sunny Mehta, Matt Flynn) and I've picked up an interesting bit of information, which spawned a short conversation with my poker guru, omgitsjoshua (he's the guy who got me playing correctly back in June). Mind you, I've been toying with this idea for awhile; I read Ryan Fee's 6 Max NL Strategy Guide and his guide proposes the same thing... but the text of our conversation went as follows:

we [Josh and I] talked a long time ago about limping / raising ranges, etc.
and i've been doing a lot of thinking lately
your standard pattern is to limp / call small pairs
i'm a fan of that out of position
10:42 AM but what about when you face a raise while in position against a limper or two?
i've been finding that a lot of times, against a 3x raise, I'll 2.5x again with 44-99
and usually take down the pot against a guy with a pfr of 10
assuming 100bb stacks
10:43 AM what i've been thinking about is the fact that small pps will only hit 1 in 8
which is their showdown value
but their steal value is a lot higher if you can set the tone for a steal &
take initiative away
10:44 AM i was reading that yesterday in the Small Stakes No Limit Hold Em
10:45 AM joshua: yeah its pretty standard to three bet with pp's in position
me: ok
10:46 AM joshua: i prefer deeper structures tho
me: thats fine too
and i get that
joshua: the truth is limp-calling with pp's is tough just to break even
me: yea
that's exactly my thought
and the book agrees
i had been doing it prior to reading the book
now i'm a lot more prone to do it
10:47 AM joshua: the only thing i would say is this...
if you choose to play a cash game strategy [optimal as it may be] you may incur a certain amount of volatility or getting smacked by the deck at any point in time
10:48 AM me: of course
and i get that too
joshua: my point is as you transition to this strategy, you may be getting 4-bet or trapped more often in the beginnning, leading you to believe that you're getting killed 3-betting so light
10:49 AM so, once again its a situation where you need to be able to handle the swings
me: yup
joshua: basically you're learning to play larger pots with smaller edges, which is good and useful as you move up
a small percentage [edge] of a lot > than a big percentage of a little

The short of it is this: You are not going to realize a big profit by limping small pocket pairs. In fact, you will be hard pressed to realize any profit by limping these types of hands. If you're only hitting a set 1 in 8 times, your showdown value is minimal. Additionally, most times a flop will have at least one overcard to your pocket pair. However, taking the initiative and "smartly" (don't 3 bet a tight tight player i.e. VPIP 6/6, etc.) 3 betting pre-flop may accomplish one of two things: you may take down the pot right then & there (netting you the raise and/or limpers' money + SB/BB), or it gives you the initiative to garner fold equity from post flop play. A 3 bet can represent a broad range of hands in post flop play. It's too easy for pocket pairs to represent any number of hands post flop, when you've 3 bet pre-flop. You can rep an overpair, set, etc. - the possibilities are endless. In addition, it sets you up for your true monsters such that people will play wider to you and you'll get paid there more often. Just remember to play smart with a flat call to your 3 bet (be careful on the flop)... and DEFINITELY have the discipline to fold to a 4 bet!

1 comment:

  1. Great post Meister. I still think its ok to limp or overlimp with 44-99 especially in position or to cold call a 3x while in position. However, in a structure where effective stack sizes are less than 50BB's, you're going to get killed by cold-calling 3-4BB with every PP you come across hoping to flop a set and stack someone. There is a great CardPlayer article by an old-timer [I forgot who wrote it, but I think it was Steve Zolotow or Barry Tanenbaum] who basically said while you have a near 8:1 chance of flopping a set, you need to consider the likelihood of getting paid off and winning at showdown during your set mining expeditions. Thus, his estimate was that he needs about 12:1 implied odds before he can determine whether a overlimp or cold-call can be profitable.


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