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The Perils of Repetitive Raising

Here's a quickie thought that sparked while I was reading yesterday's O-Poker post:

When is it right to change your usual play on a particular hand when you just raised the last several hands?

Let's get more specific. A similar situation happened last night during Mondays at the Hoy, but it didn't really stand out to me at the time. I'm a big fan of playing rushes, something I believe I picked up years ago when I was reading Brunson's original Super/System. If memory serves correct, the principle was that when you win a hand, its generally good to play your next hand if possible. This is how rushes are created. It's part luck, but also part perception from the rest of the players that you are getting lucky. In truth, however, I might win a hand with QQ and then raise preflop with A6s on the next hand and face no resistance. When I get 88 next, I'll raise preflop again, and often the table will be conditioned to fold (or just as likely will fold because they hold terrible cards).

Let's not talk about specifics, though. Let's keep in the realm of hypotheticals. Let's look at a series of fictional hands, but really focus on what the earlier hands do to the last hand. Since online poker is stupid and I hate it, let's pretend we are playing in a blogger tournament, the perfect hybrid of online poker's convenience (and looseness) and live poker's attention span (player's actually watch what you are doing and formulate general reads!). These hands all happen consecutively.

You are dealt AA and you raise preflop on the button. Everyone folds to you.

The very next hand, you are dealt 99 in the CO and raise preflop. It folds to you again.

You are in late position with QQ. There is a limper or two, but when it gets to you, you raise, and everyone folds.

You are dealt AJs in middle position. You raise to 4x the BB, and the CO re-raises you to 15x the BB. You have a sizeable stack, but you are out of position. Now what?

This is what I'm talking about (sorta -- it's hard to come up with a suitable example/series of hands). For some of you tighter players, this really won't come into play that often. For a player like me who likes to play (and make) rushes, it will happen more often, because once I win that first hand, I'm raising with all sorts of hands thereafter, including 55, KQ, AT, etc.

The problem is, by the time I'm at that third-to-fifth hand in my raising series, I have to assume that my opponents are getting suspicious. This can cut both ways, though. I may have just ran into a bigger hand, like AKo v. my AJs, or even KK or AA. It's bound to happen sooner or later, so we have to be conscious of that possibility. But what if we are facing someone with TT or less. Hell, players might be so sick of me that they'll make a stand with KQ, just to say, "Hell no, Jordan, I'm onto you." In my example, our hand was AJs when we finally got resistance, but what if it is 99? AJs can be folded easier, because you are most likely hoping for a cointoss, but 99 may be a cointoss OR can be more easily dominated by a higher pocket pair.

I have no easy solutions for this issue. I still think that it makes sense to go into a rush of raising when the momentum is right. It can be a lifesaver when blinds get high, and a momentum builder in earlier rounds. One series of 5-6 dominating hands will keep you in the table's collective conscious and give you a "bully" aire, even when you tighten up for a long while thereafter and just play monster hands.

I'd suggest that when you do face resistance, though, you have to fold. You've effectively induced your opponents to widen their starting hand requirements, which would argue against folding. Instead, it would encourage calling because you are probably ahead, or re-raising to find out how strong you are. On the other hand, your dominance in prior hands will also make players more gunshy and when they are willing to play back, they'll have the goods.

As you can see, I don't have any answers, just questions. But I do have a suggestion. Fold. Your rush is over, and losing a couple of blinds preflop is better than going into a hand against someone who has too wide of a hand selection (thanks to your rush) to pin down early, especially if you are out of position. In fact, that should be your signal to change gears, at least for a few hands, and let your dominance recede a bit. Essentially, you've lost your credibility, so you have to change your game to reflect that change in circumstance.

So, bottom line, creating a rush can be a great thing, but you have to be ready to pack it in when you run out of credibility.

Random thought of the day: Playing very loose for the first 5 hands of any cash or tournament game online would be a great way to fool a player relying on PokerTracker who has never played with you before. Of course, this assumes that they are looking at the fact that you play 60-80% of the hands, and ignore that little icon that tells them that they only have 5 hands for reference.

On an unrelated note, I've been toying with the idea of hosting a homegame on Sunday afternoon, since Bradley's mixed game will be on Saturday this weekend, and I can't make it. If anyone is in the NYC area and is interested in a $20-40 tournament (perhaps a $20 single rebuy), hit me up with a comment or email at HighOnPokr AT yahoo, but don't forget to leave off the last E for +EV!

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 11:40 AM,


At 1:26 PM, Blogger cmitch said...

Good point on riding the rush. I have a tendancy to do the opposite if it is late in a tourney. If I just won a hand (without a showdown), I usually won't play the next hand unless I have a monster. In late tourney play, it seems like everyone is conditioned to think you are stealing. It seems to me, that you will get played back at more often, especially if you just won a pot uncontested. There is nothing better than winning an uncontested pot with garbage and waking up to AA or KK on the next hand.

Sounds like riding the rush is working if they are folding more often than calling. I think I stear clear of it because I have a habit of calling those re-raise too often instead of folding.

At 2:16 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Cmitch, for me, it seems like most tournaments will have at least one rush of hands, where I'll take down an easy three to six hands in a row. In some ways, your opponents become conditioned to fold. They folded their last three hands, so why get involved now with an AJ, even though I might be raising with AT. Some players decide that they want to pick their spots under the belief that if they wait for their big hand, I'll still be rushing and raising. That's when its optimal to keep the pressure on and fold when they start to fight back. The difficulty lies in determining when they are playing back because they finally got thier hand, or when they are raising because they think you are raising with 25o. That's why, in general, I loosen up my hand selection, but I don't just start bluffing away. Sooner or later you lose cred, and then you are faced with a re-raise in a hand you should never have been involved with.

At 4:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pretty good.

I agree with those hypothetical hands that should should fold the AJs with deep stacks. Most players might be getting of it, but they're also not generally making a play with any 2. They've told themselves that the first big hand they get, it's going all-in against the table maniac.

I like to establish myself as a really loose player when I first sit in a cash game, even online. Helps me to get action when I give action.

I play mostly 6 handed so at a passive table I'm raising with every suited connector, most pocket pairs, and strong 1 gappers.

Once they play back, I change tables.

Different in tournies - riding a rush is really important in those. It's perfect if you hit a rush on the bubble because you can ride it into the money.

At 5:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I lke to play the rush personally, here's an example hand from last night in a you decide comment, curious for commentary. I had just won two hands under the gun + 1 with ak where i limped and reraised, followed by showing down my utg limp at c against an a6 off in the bb where i won after three bets check called, I'm now in the bb with k5 off and a mp and two lps as well as the sb limp. Flop comes kj8 (two clubs and a spade) and I check, cutoff bets 15 into a $12 pot, multiple stealer. I call it' snow heads up, Turn comes a red 5. I check, he bets 30, I call, river comes a red 2 I check to induce a bet, he asks for a chip count, I'm at 162 and he bets comes the question what do you do?

At 7:13 PM, Blogger SirFWALGMan said...

So you just won 3 blinds and then pissed it away with your 4th raise.. is that really a rush? Raising with crap usually never ends up working out except in rare occassions..

I do like the fact that you have pissed off your entire table and the next time you raise with Aces your likely going to be able to take advantage of it and score a monster hand..

At 8:28 AM, Blogger Pokerwolf said...

I'd think long and hard about calling that raise or re-raising. A lot would depend on my read of the player and if he's tilting. I'd usually fold, but I'd defintely consider every angle before folding.

Here's two questions for you, Jordan. What hands wouldn't your raise with for the QQ hand? Would you call with those hands or not?

At 9:39 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

Woffle has a point. In my example, you win about 3 to 4.5 BB and then piss it away with the last raise. Bad example, although that is one of the potential perils of trying to create a rush.

Ebs, weird hand, but I'd be comfortable that I am ahead with the info provided, since, assumedly, he's seen you play the last few hands and is probably trying to make a move. He may have AK. But, honestly, I'm not quite sure.

Wolf, I don't quite get your question. If you are asking what hands I wouldn't raise with at the end of a rush, they are few and far between. My example sucks though. It works better when you are in MP/LP at the end of the rush, so you already know most players are out. There, I will raise with 57d if it comes up. I would fold with any hand that seems entirely unplayable. The odd thing is, in situations like this, it isn't unheard of to raise with 57d, get called and then see a two diamond flop. A continuation bet will often take it down, but even if it doesn't if you hit your hand, prepare to tilt the table.

At 11:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"... but you have to be ready to pack it in when you run out of credibility."

You should fold if you think your hand is probably worse than your opponents widened range. (Your opponents widened range being defined as his perception of you due to recent hands.)

As far as I can tell, active players (famous ones off the top of my head being: Gavin Smith, Daniel Negreanu) can attribute the majority of big pots they win to decisions that conservative players might consider wreckless. That is, an active player wins the big pots when they chose not to pack it in when others would, and that's my point -- you don't necessarily need a huge hand to win if you accurately adjust to your opponents perception of you when you are incorrectly being perceived as careless.

If you're up against a player whos game you respect, then it's usually correct to give them credit. I say that because a good player isn't likely to drastically modify their play based on data from just a few recent hands, I don't think.

Great post, Jordan.

At 11:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gavin says he'll raise to 2.5 the blind every time he brings it in, but he will fold when he faces heavy opposition. He's still going to get crazy action, though. His philosophy is: win small pot, win small pot, win small pot, get big hand, win big pot.

For tournaments, that is. It's all about fighting for those numerous small pots that other people might be willing to give up on because -- it's just a small pot.

Win enough of them, and you accumulate chips. The law of averages also says you'll eventually start getting stronger starting hands, too.

At 12:20 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

I'm just glad that DP commented. DP, hit me up with an email. It's been a while.

At 9:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

well I guess I'm not needed. Heh.

At 3:34 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Haha. Of course you are Tom. You get the ball rolling on a lot of these comment threads, and you always have something useful to say. This isn't a competition. I love you all the same.

At 3:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post on an extremely valid concept. I just added you to my feeds today, and look forward to reading you. I've loved every post so far!

At 4:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was only joking. I couldn't comment about Razz because I've never played, and the other new post was just a tourney announcement so I decided to spam this one with nonsense.

Hugs and kisses right back at ya.


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