Tuesday, January 12, 2016

"Thin value" and a What Would You Do?

It's been a few months since I've had multiple posts in the same month...  I guess that's a sign of the times for me: I'm past the honeymoon phase with poker, settling into a marriage that while rocky at times, has given me a competitive outlet where money is the major scoreboard.  On the point of competition though, there hasn't been a ton of challenge because over the years, I've refined my pre- and post- session process to the point where I'll evaluate significant hands and categorize them into a few categories: coolers, poor [and good] play from which I learn, standard play and out-of-the-box thinking hands.  Moreover, I'm getting in around one session per week - approximately 7 hours of play which, because it's live, means that I'm only getting around 210 hands in...  not a very big sample size for anomalous hand histories.

The coolers and learning hands (good or bad) are good experience and discussion, but they're generally filed away mentally and don't make it to this blog.  The standard play hands generally never even makes it to a discussion topic.  However, the out-of-the-box thinking hands come few and far between these days, and are more extensive discussion topics.  Upon discussion, they usually result in differing opinions and more extensive conversation.  I had 2 hands last Sunday afternoon that were out-of-the-box, anomalous hands, both of which I'll share with you:

Hand 1, "Thin Value", 1/3 at the 'Shoe with $150 effective stacks:

I put quotes around the "thin value," because I'm not entirely sure it's thin.  I do recognize, though, that many people would just call in the following spot, which is wrong for many reasons, which I'll discuss below.

I limp A7o in late position against a host of limpers.  I am at a fairly passive table, with one really good player.  It's a mid-day, weekend game, so the table is mixed with older men and younger men - most of whom are watching the Seahawks / Vikings playoff game.  I don't ordinarily limp bad Aces, and if I do, I raise it PF, especially with position.  However, in this case, I felt the table to be really passive, always letting me know when I'm behind with strong "protection" bets, both pre- and post- flop.  Therefore, I'm not all that worried about going to showdown and being outkicked, etc.

We wind up with 5 players seeing an A 5 9 rainbow flop.  There are 2 obvious gutter draws: 5-9 and A-5, but no one looks interested in this flop.  It is checked to me and at this point, I have the optiont o close out the action in my late position (BTN folded PF).  My read is this flop did not connect with anyone.  Something I've been doing lately is checking my Aces in order to let my opponent(s) catch up.  I'm all too often betting in this spot and taking down just the limps - which is nice, but do I really want the minimum win here?  I feel comfortable with my checks on many dry board Aces, which yields a lot heftier pot by the river - the other players simply don't believe you have an Ace.  You frequently see this with a call down of the turn card (or river card) to an overcard board...  players (maybe even I'm one of them) are frequently willing to put money into the pot after only investing 1BB just to avoid the feeling of "folding a winner," or curiosity calling...  Please note, though, that I recognize I am checking to 4 other players rather than thinning the field - not a hugely great idea, but I have $3 at risk here against turning a bigger profit.

As a corollary, I started re-thinking the goals here: yes, checking a pair of Aces is somewhat dangerous; players can turn 2 pair, sets, etc.  You have to be comfortable with folding top pair in order to check the flop...  but is the goal to take down limps when you have the winning hand?  Or is the goal to get others to pay for what they believe to hold the winning hand when in reality the winning hand is yours?  I think it's the latter rather than the former.

Therefore, I check the flop and the turn reveals an off suit 4, completing a rainbow board.  Once again, it checks to me, and I lead for $10.  The SB folds and the BB, an ABC, straightforward player, decides to check / raise to $21.  It folds back around to me and I start thinking...  Odd play...  Basically a min raise.  An ABC player with flopped 2 pair or set is probably leading the turn after it had checked through the flop.  Is a turned straight (2 3) check /raising here and killing the action?  I run through the hands in my head and decide that semi bluffs are unlikely for this ABC player (i.e. 3 4), but vulnerable turned 2 pairs are very possible: 4 5, A 5, A 4, funky 9 5 or 9 4...  though I discount the Ace combos.  There's always the possibility of a set: 44, 55, even 99 (since he was in the BB) which is very bad for me, but I just can't fold a min raise.  For $11 and position, I opt to call the check/raise.  It should be noted that if he bombs the river, I have to fold - I have to fold all bets greater than ~$20 assuming my hand doesn't improve.

River is a big, beautiful 7.  Our villain leads for $35, clearly confident in his hand.  I'm 95% certain he has 2 pair by the river (and in all likelihood, by the turn).  With my rivered 2 pair, there are a TON of hands that I beat, against one hand that I don't.  But here's the point of the commentary: I think far too many people are just snap calling here, relieved that they spiked 2 pair on the river with a potential showdown worthy hand.  Instead of snap calling, stop & think about what you're doing!  Is a raise in order?  If you're ahead of almost all of his range in this spot, can you get value from a raise?  How much can you raise and get away with?  He has 2 pair, so he's likely calling reasonable raises, since he's an ABC player.  I decide to raise $55 on top, which seemed to be the perfect amount - a min raise and he'll snap call without a thought.  I need to make him more than snap call, though - I want him to think but call regardless.  He tanked for what seemed like forever, before finally making the call and mucking 45o.

Adding to the point of the commentary, I call the turn knowing that in all likelihood I'm behind.  If I catch up by the river, I need to show a profit for that turn call in order to make it a profitable one.  I had 8 outs (2 Aces, 3 7's and 3 9's), roughly 16%.  I need to make at least $60 in implied odds to show a profit on my 8 outter...

Note: My math is a bit dicey here, so perhaps someone mathier than I can help me out / verify, but: $11 * 5.375 = $59  (100%-16% = 86; 86 / 16 = 5.375 to 1)  From wikipedia: To convert any percentage or fraction to the equivalent odds, we subtract the numerator from the denominator and then divide this difference by the numerator. For example, to convert 25%, or 1/4, we subtract 1 from 4 to get 3 (or 25 from 100 to get 75) and then divide 3 by 1 (or 75 by 25), giving us 3, or 3:1.

I think I followed the instructions, though during the live hand, I figured I needed to show at least a 7x profit (between 9x and 4x the bet since a 5 outter = 10%, or 9:1 and 10 outter = 20%, or 4:1).

Hand 2, Zeebo Theorem, 1/3 at the 'Shoe, $430 deep effective:

Again, the theme of the day is think. Don't make impulsive decisions... just think about what you're doing and piece together the hand.  I'm dealt 64o in the BB and just call with around 5 players.  Flop comes 7 4 9d rainbow with 5-6 players.

I check and it checks through the flop.  Turn is a 6d, putting a 2 flush out there and giving me bottom 2 pair.  Having no idea of the range of anyone's hands, and one card to go, there's straight and flush draw possibilities so I lead for $10.  It folds around to the best player at the table, a thinking, late-20's Asian guy who drops out $25 for a $15 raise.  I could see him doing this with a flush draw, combo straight draw (98, 45, as well as 2 pair 97, 96, 76, and straights T8, 85) but again, this is such a light raise I opt to call and see a river (I see him raising larger with sets... or even leading the flop with a set since there were ~5 to the flop, so I discount sets).

River is a 4d, putting the 3 flush out.  I check my low boat, intending to check / raise the river.  He puts out $60 and I think about the hand.  If he has a flush, I can get paid here nicely.  He could also have a straight turned flush which will pay out.  I check/raise to $200 straight and he insta-shoves $400 which sends me into the tank.  This was not per plan.  He should not be raising all in.  He is not the type of player who raises non-nut hands, and he is good enough to know that a straight (and even a flush) are far from the nuts now...

Here's what's dancing through my head - and I start to talk through it aloud.  I can't fold for $200 more - I'm confident he has a boat, and I have the nut low boat.  I tell him that top set is good - does he have top set?  I see genuine cringing on his face as if this was a terrible question to ask - he did not expect me to ask about boats and better boats.  I finally talk myself into calling after receiving that reaction and he flips 64s for the chop...  Wow - close call!  He later told me he was freaked out by my question: he thought he read me wrong that I had a mid-set or a boat as well (which was true) and he made a huge mistake...  he otherwise had me on a flush or straight which had me beat.

I'm still on the fence as to whether this is a good call or not - I was so close to folding my rivered boat...

Monday, January 4, 2016

Trip report: bestbet / Jacksonville, FL

Merry Christmas / Happy Hanukkah / Happy Kwanzaa / Happy New Year!

I hope I did not alienate any of my readers [if there are any remaining].  For the remainder of 2015 and on through the weekend of 2016, the Meister family, as has been tradition, vacationed on a cruise with another family.  This year, we left out of Port Canaveral, Florida, in the northern part of the state.  The weather was wonderfully warm - 80 degrees consistently.  There was no rain to speak of, the ocean was calm, and the food was great.  I was able to catch up on my sleep and spend quality time with my family.  I also had the opportunity to visit a local poker room, as we stayed overnight in Jacksonville prior to our cruise departure.

It turns out that bestbet Jacksonville was less than 15 minutes from our hotel, and after getting the kids situated in bed, my wife agreed to me "checking out" the local poker scene.  Off I went - around 9 pm on Christmas Friday after verifying that it was open, which it was indeed.  It was evident the place was a poker room first; there were no slots nor other obvious table gaming and non-poker play, though I was told they do indeed offer a variety of table games: Two-card poker, Three-card poker, Ultimate Texas Hold Em, Casino War, and Pai Gow.  However, the non-poker gaming was not direct and in-your-face, it was more subtle and off to the side.  I was able to walk right in from the huge parking lot and get my bearings immediately; poker room in the big area immediately to my left.

I checked in at the front desk and found open seating for the $2/2 game (yes, the big blind is equal to the small blind) - $200 max buy in.  After taking my seat, the floor took my money and brought me chips, and I settled down to what would be a shortish 3 hour session.  The table and the room was more of an older crowd, around 55 years of age was the norm - and they seemed to all know each other.  The dealers were mostly experienced, quick and friendly.  No posting is necessary, UTG straddles are the only straddles allowed.  Rake was kinda steep if I recall correctly - 10% up to $5, but rake taken on no flops, $1 at $5 pot, $2 at $10 pots and so forth [I'm not 100% sure of the rake structure, but it did strike me as expensive].  Chopping was allowed and in this case, made particular sense since the players involved would avoid the almost immediate rake.  The seats were decent, the tables were 10 person tables, and though they did not have cup holders built in, the tables were large enough that one could spread out fairly comfortably.

Finally, the play was fairly poor.  I saw a lot of limping premium hands, and in some cases (twice in my 3 hours, if that's any indication), overcalling with premium hands.  For example, I raised QQ and got flatted by KK, and raised 88 and got flatted by KK (on the BTN).  This was play I was not used to, but I saw numerous players not getting good value (and in some instances, any value) for their hands.  Flopped trips with a rainbow board had a pot of maybe $40 total by showdown (due to lack of competent betting).  These players were willing to call of stacks but never bet stacks.

Overall, I had a really good session, and would love to come back to play more.  The Jacksonville poker scene was consistent with my observations of the other places I've played in Florida (i.e. Tampa, St. Petersburg, etc.); weak, loose play with players backing into the best hand (by runner runner or otherwise) and being surprised at showdown to be the winner.  I give bestbet Jacksonville two thumbs up!

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