Mailbag: Podcast Follow-Up

Thinking Poker MailbagI’ve got something a little different for this week’s mailbag. It’s a follow-up email from Yagasmurf, whose hand was featured on Thinking Poker Podcast Episode 77. You’ll have to listen to the show to hear everything I had to say about the hand the first time around, but here’s the original email from Yagasmurf that includes the details of the hand:

We are 6 handed and I’m in the big blind. The dealer accidentally exposes the Jc when he deals to me. After the deal I have AhJs (the Jack replaced the other Jack).

4 limpers to me, I make it $7 (standard raise for this table), villain three to my left and the small blind call $25 in the pot (I’m excluding rake because I don’t remember it—9 ½ hours, etc…)

I don’t interpret either call as necessarily strong, they both limped, and they have both been trying to see flops. Especially since villain has shown that he calls preflop light with his showdowns mentioned above, I don’t think there are many monsters in his hand at all. There’s plenty of air/draws and some medium strength hands like pocket pairs 2’s to 9’s, and maybe some middle suited connectors. The small blind has called a lot preflop bets and folded a lot to C-bets, which I expect him to do since good hands are hard to find.

FLOP: AKKh rainbow

I bet $14 villain calls, small blind folds. Pot is $53

Monsters are completely gone. Any suited A he re-raises me here (and I have almost all of then dominated and I have a blocker). His hand reeks of Air/drawing hands and medium pairs.

TURN: 5h I bet $25 and villain calls Pot =$103. No change in my read. Trying to target the flush draws and weaker A’s (less likely given the KK) who will call, but not raise a bet. Doubt he has 5’s at this point given the action, but believed he would have raised if he did. May be still some small pairs if he’s stubborn, but I doubt it.

River: 6c I check, villain bets $80

I tank for a minute. And go over the hand and think through what I typed above. I figure if he has a K he bets sooner, if he has a FH he check raises the river, hoping I have an A and cant fold. I don’ think he made it this far with 55 or 66 since I have shown nothing but strength. I settle on a missed flush draw and count out calling chips and look at him. His eyes dart away from mine like he’s nervous. I call and he mucks.

Now here’s the follow-up correspondence, with Yagasmurf’s questions in block quotes:

First, thanks for the podcast review of the hand. In the light of day ( not 9 ½ hours tired) a lot of what you say, makes sense. If it’s ok I’d like to do one follow up email since I value your opinion so highly, and am trying to improve. This is definitely not a 2+2 “whiny, I know everything” reply ( that is why I don’t post there anymore). Also if I misspoke it was because I typed each hand right after a session when I was tired.

No worries.

To clarify, there were 4 limpers, I raised and two of the limpers called. I raised only $7 ( instead of $10-12) not just as a standard table raise, but also because I was out of position and thought it would be enough to thin the field. Does this make sense or should it usually be bigger?

You should generally raise larger when OOP, as lowering the stack-to-pot ratio reduces the value of position. Basically it will be easier for you to commit your stack profitably when you flop a good pair.

You also shouldn’t be thinking in terms of thinning the field. You have a strong hand, almost certainly the best hand, and you want to get people to put as much money into the pot as they will be willing with hands worse than yours. You also want to raise more than some minimum amount that will make their calls incorrect. The problem with raising to $7 is that your opponents will probably call, and they will be correct or very nearly correct to call because the raise offers them good odds. On the other hand, if you can get two people to fold (probably incorrectly) for $7 it’s not such a bad outcome.

The bet on the flop was to get the third player out so I could play heads up with the villain with the really wide range that I had a history with. (Since he likes to float a lot and had a tendency to bluff the river, and since the third caller folded to C-bets a lot ). Is this a good enough reason to bet here?

To the extent that this hand revolves around a strategy that is very specific to how you think this one player is going to play, I can’t really help you with it. I will say though that in general you shouldn’t be trying to get PEOPLE out. You will sometimes try to get specific HANDS out, but this situation illustrates the difference. If you had JT, you might try to bet QT or QJ out of the pot. Of course you’d also like to get an Ace or a King out of the pot, but that’s not realistic. When you have Ax on an AKKr flop, there’s really no reason why you should be trying to get any hand to fold, because no hand could have more than 4 outs against you. Obviously if this player had a King, he wouldn’t be folding. This is why you can’t think in terms of making a certain player fold, but rather in terms of making certain hands in his range fold. Once you frame it that way, you see that there is really no hand you’d want to fold out. When you have a strong hand, your objective should be to get called by worse hands or induce bluffs, not fold them out.

As I said, this situation is a bit different in that you seemed to have an idea that your other opponent would go off the way that he did if you got it heads up with him. So in this very specific instance trying to make the third player fold may actually have made sense. But I am thinking also about what you said pre-flop about “thinning the field”. If you can raise to $20 pre-flop and get called by four players, that would be better for you than raising to $25 and getting called by one player, because you know that no one is going to fold a hand better than yours pre-flop.

Since I hadn’t finished your value targeting series, I didn’t have a three street plan yet, but I did have a two street plan. Bet the turn, if he re-raises, I fold; if he calls, check the river, look for his shove and evaluate ( or if he folds I win the hand). Does this make more sense, or do you still think that check, bet, bet or bet, check, bet is better ( for this player in particular). I will try to have a three street plan going forward. I think my way was more perilous, but gets the third bet into the pot. Is the extra risk a +EV move or am I risking too much?

The concern I have is that you don’t seem to have a clear idea of what this player could be calling you down with and then bluffing on the end. There are no obvious draws that missed; the closest things are the gutshots and backdoor flush draw which should be a small part of his range anyway. It wasn’t clear to me why you thought this player would call with nothing on the flop and turn (most players, even aggressive ones, won’t) or why he would definitely raise a King before the river. Given your assumptions, the line you took is good, but I don’t see what the foundations for your assumptions are.

You were right about the check raise being a mistake in the note—I meant if he had a FH he three bets the river hoping I have an A and can’t fold. In a $1/$2 game is this the norm, or do you think many players slow play the turn here with a FH?

I don’t know that there is a norm. I certainly wouldn’t exclude trips or boats from his range just because he hasn’t raised.

I do agree with your logic that he probably didn’t have a busted flush draw. When I feel his range is heavily towards air and hands I have beat turned into a bluff, is it necessary to put him on specific air, or is just air ok?

The problem, and I’d encourage you to rewatch my Hand Reading series on Tournament Poker Edge to get clear on this point, is that if you aren’t thinking about HOW your opponent could have air, then you won’t recognize it when he CAN’T have air. This is a big mistake a lot of people make, calling with a bluff catcher when their opponents don’t really get to the river with hands they would bluff with. What I think is lacking from your analysis here is any explanation of why your opponent would call you on the flop and turn with a hand that would need to bluff the river. Just because you’d seen him bluff rivers in the past doesn’t mean that he’d called the flop and turn with nothing, in those previous instances he may have had busted draws, which as I’ve said is not really a possibility here.

Thanks so much for the podcasts, the premium podcasts, and your videos.

At least you have me thinking about the game in ways I didn’t before, and maybe a million more hands and I’ll get it (LOL).

Thanks again for tolerating my hands,

Thanks for listening, and for sharing them!

4 thoughts on “Mailbag: Podcast Follow-Up

  1. Interesting discussion, thinking about the flop bet. I assume that low to medium pocket pairs are a huge part of both villains ranges. Giving them a free card to hit a set could be disastrous, would it make more sense to try to get value out of these hands on the flop rather then giving them a free card that could potentially crush you?

    On the other hand against small pocket pairs often just by checking back the flop they will be more inclined to call off value bets on future streets. I guess my question is, if you put them on pocket pairs as 80% of their range do you still agree with checking the flop?


    • Good question. There’s a way to address this mathematically. Let’s say that we are heads up holding AJ on an AKK flop, and we know our opponent has 88. If we bet, he will fold. If we check, he will call a half-pot bet on about half of all turns. His odds of turning a set are about 4%. We want to choose between betting now and taking the pot, or waiting until the turn and trying to get value.

      (Odds of not turning a set * Payoff) + (Odds of turning a set * Payoff)
      =.96 * (.5 * .5P) + .04 * -(P + .5P)
      =.24P – .06P

      where P is the size of the pot on the flop.

      This indicates that we stand to gain an amount equal to 18% of the current pot by letting a player like this see the next card. His likelihood of paying off a turn bet would have to be quite low before getting him to fold immediately would be correct. This is because his odds of improving are so low, and when he does improve his implied odds aren’t that great.

      It gets more problematic if Hero doesn’t have the discipline to get away from his hand without putting more money into the pot. If Hero also pays off a half-pot bet on the river (when the pot is larger, and a half-pot bet is now equal to P), his expectation is reduced by more than half, to .08P. Even then, though, he is better off letting his opponent see the next card.

      The other important factor I didn’t calculate is that Hero is in fact not drawing dead when Villain turns a set. Rather, there are two Aces and two Kings in the deck that give Hero a higher full house, so his expectation is somewhat better than what the equation above shows.

      The main point I want to make is that it’s better not to guess at things like this. They aren’t hard to calculate, and it’s easy for your intuition to be wrong. As frustrating as it can be to lose the pot because you gave a free card, the reality is that it happens so rarely in this case that you don’t really need to worry about it. It’s important to focus on getting value from your strong, difficult-to-outdraw hands.

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