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Taking the Worst of It

First, thank you all for your comments. While I was tweaking HoP, some folks were kind enough to give me their honest opinions on the site design. It wasn't sitting 100% well with me either, and this is the result. Back to the same old colors, but with a cleaner design and some larger text. Of course, not as large as the debacled He-Man referenced post from yesterday (which has consequently been removed after it messed EVERYTHING up), but nonetheless, a smoother site. I have to give a huge thanks to TripJax for setting me up with everything I need to make HoP the beautiful eye-sore that it is.

Since the He-Man inspired post is down, let me give a quick recap for those who may've missed me tempting the poker gods. In the last five days, I've won about $500, mostly from small MTTs and SNGs. I placed 4th out of 30-something players in a $50+5 MTT on Mansion. I won two $20 SNGs and took third in another. I took over $100 off of a NL DreamPoker table in no time. And this was after weeks of losses, due in large part to the perils of variance. I'm not just blaming variance. That won't help anyone. But I did have more than a few good hands turn bad, so a comeback was much needed.

I played in Mookie's charity tournament last night and lost most of my stack to a donkeylicious semi-bluff reraise and subsequent call with second or third pair. My opponent flopped a baby set (2s) and she wasn't letting go. However, I'm proud to announce that Iakaris dealt the death blow (TT v. Q2 when I had all of 90 chips), and he wins my bounty, a freeroll in DADI 9. Now all we have to do is actually schedule the damn event.

After that, I played some Dream Poker, only to lose $1. So be it.

But now onto some random pontification of this silly game we call Poker.

After re-reading You Decide #42, I think both of my plays were contingent on one concept: at what point is it acceptable to take the worst of it when you have a chiplead. For the most part, we'll be focusing on preflop decisions, since that is where you will ultimately decide whether to play your hand or not. I think we all can agree that there comes a point at which you outchip your opponent so much that you don't mind making a call with the worst of it. I'm not going to focus on the You Decide #42 hands, but I do want to discuss where that line is where taking the worst of it is the right move.

This really works in any tournament situation (and potentially in some odd cash game situations), but for the sake of ease, let's just look at heads-up. Assuming that both players start with 1k in chips, when one player eventually has 1900 and the other has 100, the player with the lead will call any all-in by the player with 100 chips. The same could be said for an 1800/200 split.

But when does it lose its economy. Clearly, when you are even in chips and you have a bad starting hand, calling an all-in is NOT the correct move. I'd say that universally we can agree that for the most part, until you have a 3 to 1 chip lead (i.e., 1500/500) calling with the worst of it is definitely a bad play. At least when you lose with the worst of it when you have 1500 or more chips, your opponent cannot take the lead from you.

We also have to ask ourselves, how bad is the "worst of it?" I am confident that it is rarely a good time to take the worst of it with a low pocket pair facing a high pocket pair preflop. However, you rarely know what your opponent has exactly (especially preflop), so we are really dealing with a range of hands. In some cases, your decision to take the worst of it might be tempered by the possibility that your opponent actually has a worse hand. For instance, calling an all-in with AT may not necessarily be calling with the worst of it when you think your opponent is likely to push with KQ or even A2. In those situations, your range includes some hands that you are ahead of, so calling is easier, although you may be facing a lower pocket pair (at which point you are barely behind) or a dominating ace. But what about when you have Q9 and your opponent pushes. He probably has Q9 beat, but the question is, by how much?

This very situation happened to me recently. It was the last hand of a full table SNG, and I had been trading barbs with my opponent since about the 5th hand in the tournament. So, I had him somewhat acting over aggressive, because he had something to prove. I had taken and kept the chip lead and had him outchipped about 8.5k to 5k after he sucked out all-in with his 56c vs. my K6o. A few hands later, with Q9 and some momentum, I raised from 600 to 1800. He raised on top of me, and I decided to call with the worst of it. My thought process was that he likely did not have a pocket pair, and that was all that mattered. At the very worst, he had a Q or 9, but more likely, he had two random cards, at least one of which was above a Q. In fact, he had AKo, and was a 65/35 favorite to win...until the Q9x flop.

In hindsight, I don't like taking the worst of it there. If I lost, I would be down to 3.5k vs. his 10k. But I also had confidence in my ability to come back to a chiplead.

I'm not sure that I will come to any grand conclusion, but I do have some general theoretical ideas I want to throw out there. If you are a 35/65 dog consistently, you will statistically win at least once within your first three attempts. If you outchip your opponent on each of these three situations, you will eventually bust him (assuming you are all-in on each occassion). This is the very reason why you don't mind calling all-in when you have 1500 to 500 (or a bigger margin). You are using one of your three attempts to knock out your opponent. If you miss, get back to accumulating chips so you can try again. And if you completely dominate (think 1900 to 100), then you couldn't give two flying fucks what your opponent has, since you can call his all-in at least three times without breaking a sweat.

In the Q9 case, I had recently lost the K6 v 65, and I felt that I was due to win. It isn't a smart move, but if the situation was slightly different (say, if I had a 9.5k to 4k lead), then I wouldn't have batted an eye at the play.

I'm sure that my opponent saw my Q9 and thought I was fucking nuts. I'm sure he was also pissed at his "bad beat". But the reality is that in tournaments, we have a zero-sum game. You are trying to win everything and leave your opponent with nothing. Sometimes, it is CORRECT to take the worst of it, because even though your odds of winning the hand is worse than your opponents' odds, the benefit to you is greater, namely winning everything. Your opponent gets no retries. He just gets to think that he suffered bad beat.

To recap, I think the most important points are these: (a) the any two unpaired cards against any two other unpaired cards is at worst a 30/70 dog and that assumes that your opponent has suited connectors and you have unconnected cards with at least one from their suit; (b) if you dominate in chips and can comfortably call an all-in three times, you will most likely bust your opponent within those three calls; (c) if you are confident that you can fight your way back to a dominant position, calling an all-in with the worst of it may be a very smart move; and (d) there is added value that must be considered when you are calling an all in which may knocking out your opponent (in a tournament, generally heads-up or when near or in the money).

Is any of this helpful? I dunno. All I know is that I got poker on the brain. Until then, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 1:10 AM,


At 12:13 PM, Blogger NewinNov said...

Makes sense to me. Jesus F. and others have written about this subject and conducted some computer analysis so they know exactly when to call given pot odds, opponents range of hands, etc. Of course players that have no knowledge will just attribute your play as a donkey move as you collect their chips.

At 2:12 PM, Blogger Iakaris aka I.A.K. said...

If it's any consolation, I took a hellacious kick in the manstuffs when rocco rivered me fierce.

Please tell me DADI will be NLHE, the only card game I actually have some minimal understanding of.

At 2:40 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

No, sir. DADI 9 will most certainly be HORSE. At least you are freerolling!

At 5:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for making it out to the tourney last night.

Looking forward to the next DADI, I love HORSE even though I suck at it real bad.

At 9:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How much did he re-raise you when you held Q9?

How much were you leaving yourself behind with just Q high?

To just call seems weak.

At 1:11 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Your logic is bang on the money, mate. This explains why I called allins in one tournie with A6 (ran into A7 and split), A2 and finally, J5. I won the last two and busted the other guy out, and he obviously thought he'd suffered a rotten beat against a terrible fishie like me. :) But the reality was, implied odds (of busting him out, 'cause I had him hugely covered) justified calling a J5.

At 9:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you didn't give enough information to demonstrate if your calls were good or bad, r.w.

At 9:29 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

Check You Decide #42 for the hands I lightly reference in this post. I gave chip counts, position, and play on every flop. The individual hands don't really matter though, at least in reference to this post. I was just addressing the general idea that sometimes it is CORRECT to call with the worst of it. I wasn't worried about validating a play as good or bad (see You Decide 42 if you want to critique a particular hand). RW, seems like you got enough info, because you hit it right on the head. Some people think that you did something stupid when you call an all-in with J5, but they fail to account for the power of a big stack and the extra equity of busting a player in a tournament.

At 10:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you're the big stack, you need to look at how many chips you have in relation to the average stack in the tournmament, and in relation to the stack sizes at your table.

Just because you might be getting the right price to call doesn't always make it a correct call.

Too many big stacks play like fools and give courtesy double-ups with the mindset that they can bust someone by making the call.

There are some hands you just don't need to play. J5 is probably one of them in most cases unless it's only costing you like one more big blind to make the call when no one else is left to act.

Good luck.


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