Tuesday, April 5, 2011

When it rains, it pours...

It's been fairly quiet around here; I haven't had many interesting hands to post, nor have I had any great insight that I have cared to share.  I'm in the middle of a significant downswing, on the variance side, whereby I've been getting clobbered by all-in EV, but also by coolers (i.e. set over set, runner-runner hands, etc.).

It seems like when I run hot, I run *HOT*.  I know when I'm in the middle of a rush, which can typically last 5-7,000 hands, and I hit everything.  More importantly, though, my opponent is hitting too - and will call my value bets with lesser holdings.  Poker is easy when running hot.

However, there is always the other shoe to the run hot - the downswing, whereby I don't tread water very well.  The cold deck will hit me for a similarly sized period, hence the title of the post.  During times of downswing, I think I need to be better at controlling the chip spew.  I get exactly what I want: donkeys calling their KQ vs. my AK or even my AJ vs. their J4, only to see them call 3 streets with a pair of 4's and clean up against me.  I'm left shaking my head and wondering where I went wrong.

Therefore, I've been doing a bit of poker soul searching; trying to discover new flaws to my game.  I can't help but coming to the #1 problem - I think I'm too aggressive too often.  Moreover, I'm not really sure how to correct the aggressiveness; scaling back seems like a huge hole.  It becomes particularly apparent when I'm out of position.

I'd like to dissect an example, because this seems typical of a situation I'll be involved in:

I'll raise in EP or wherever with AQo as first to open.  I'll get called by a player to my right - regardless of what kind of statistical player he is (i.e. 10/8 or 40/2 or 50/30).  The flop will come King high: 2 8 K two-tone and I'll cbet.  Now, villain [lately] will not fold this flop; he usually will call which leads me to my next decision: what to do on the turn.  In the past, I'd been getting away with 2 barrelling and forcing a fold from my opponent, but lately, it seems as though he's calling 2 streets and pushing me off my hand on the river, regardless whether the river completes the 3 flush or not.  When I hero call, I'm getting shown hands like 7 8, or K 4, or whatever mess, but I'm giving my opponent great value for his mediocre holdings.  Obviously, when I fold, I'm feeling like I'm folding the best hand but can't possibly call a ~30BB river bet.

Clearly, I'm going wrong somewhere.  Against a 10/8, I'm not taking this type of line; a 10/8 is more likely to call with strong hands / medium hands and check through the river, thus proving that he had the best hand all along.  However, I feel as though giving up against the LAGs is terribly exploitable, though I'm not quite sure what strategy I can use to alter the game flow.

Perhaps I'm giving too much thought to a donkey's perspective, but I want to dissect the action, street-by-street, for the calling station / aggro donk.

Pre-flop:  No problems.  I have absolutely no qualms about being HU with a donk; I'd obviously prefer to be in position, but being out of position is okay as well.  My hand range is stable and wide enough that it is likely to put me on a hand from a given position, though clearly, my range opens up the later the position.  My opponent's call spells out that I'm either 50/50 or better (with the exception of the 10/8 players).

Flop: To cbet or not to cbet.  I think I may have a higher success rate against a weak 10/8 (who is going to fold most of his range for fear of my AK, KQ hands) when I cbet ~4BBs into the 7.5BB pot.  Should I be cbetting OOP into a LAG, though?
  • The case for cbetting:
    I immediately drag a ~7.5BB pot with what probably works out to the best hand.  I also deny my opponent a free chance of "catching up."  However, his call puts me into a precarious situation; is he calling because he's drawing to the flush, or his he calling because he has a hand with showdown value?  I tend to go with the former, given his wide range of pre-flop hands played.

    I feel as though he's more likely to be drawing to a flush than holding a King, which is the particular hand that I am concerned about.  If he has a King, I'm going to have a very tough time pushing him off, and an even tougher time drawing out on him.  If he has a lower pair, I have to believe that I can push him off of his hand, either with this cbet or a later street's bet.

  • The case for not cbetting:
    When I don't cbet the flop, I'm polarized to made hand / missed hand on all other hands that I play against the player.  It makes his future play very easy against me: if I cbet, he can safely fold, and if I check, he can bet me off of my hand.  Terrible option.

    However, if I check and he checks, the pot stays small and I'm not so concerned about facing a 30BB+ river bet which takes me off of my hand.
Really, though?  A K 8 2 board should not be scary for me whatsoever.  There are a few Kings he can be playing, but he has mostly garbage here; weak 8's and 2's - and the flush draw.  My conclusion leads me to favor cbetting this type of board.  FWIW, I'm check / folding a board like 6 7 8, 7 8 9, etc. - coordinated boards.  There are simply too many hands that smashed me there.

I will continue to discuss this hand later in the week.  I'll talk various permutations on the turn, and finally the river / showdown.  Please feel free to leave comments, as I know that all of you have opinions and have faced these situations.


  1. You make it sound like these villains you're worried about are actually paying attention. I would question that a 40/3 takes note that you check/folded on a whiffed flop and will therefore exploit you in the future, but if you think that this is indeed the case, then perhaps you need a checking range when out of position that contains hands that aren't whiffs on this board.

    What would you checkraise here? Sets obv, perhaps AA, anything else? AK? Some bluffs?

    If they are paying attention, then make them fear the checkraise when you check.

  2. I had a bigger post but Blogger ate it.

    +1 to this. Checking flops OOP regardless how you hit can give you a lot of options...

    to C/R a flop bet,

    C/C to let an aggressive player hang themselves,

    donk the turn when the flop checks through, or C/R that street.

    ...which are all more difficult for a good villain to deal with than a standard flop c-bet.


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