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Size Matters

I think I'm retiring the Hammer from my repetoire. I have long sang the praises of the hammer for a variety of reasons, but more and more, I find myself folding when I see that glorious 72o. Part of it is the feeling that the joke has gotten old. Part of it is the feeling that the major benefits that 72o offers, namely randomized bluffing and tilt-factor, are just not worth some of the drawbacks I see lately, namely the desire to time my bluffs better and the destruction of my table image. Of course, if you are striving for a donkey table image, it just might work for you, but more and more, I want players to FOLD online, and the hammer is giving them way too much incentive to call me and draw out. This isn't definite, though, just something for me to think about.

Meanwhile, I placed 4th out of 45 players for $68 profit last night in a multi-table SNG on Full Tilt. I was poised for a nice run at first until my TT fell to 99, all-in preflop. It doesn't phase me though. Fortunately, I made it to 4th without sucking out on anyone for the entire tournament. The bottom line is, I played well, I felt good about it, and I had results to match. In fact, I was in 1st place from about 40 players left until about 21 or so, thereafter staying in the top 6 spots until the blinds got really high and there was more stack fluctuation.

Now, back to the subject of getting players to fold. I copied and pasted a hand history (now, lovingly converted to a narrative, below) that illustrates the importance of bet-sizing.

I have 4525, with 200/400 blinds. There are 12 or 13 players left in the tournament, and only 6 at my table. I'm dealt A8o on the button.

For most of this tournament, I was playing tight, with random bursts of aggression. Usually, the aggression came with a rush of cards. For instance, I was dealt AJ, AQ, AA, and 99 four hands in a row at one point. So, during that mini-rush, I went from fold-fold-fold to raise-raise-raise. I mention this only to illustrate that I was NOT playing hands like A8o in this tournament. In fact, I rarely would play such a hand in any situation that did not wreak of desperation. But when it folded to me, I had to assess the situation.

The SB had 2700 and teh BB had 2435. Ultimately, I decided that I wanted the 600 in the pot. It would give me another free orbit, and I was in position to take it without much resistance. The only thing I had to worry about was one of the blinds getting a major hand, like 88-AA, or AT-AK. Even though A9 dominates me, there are ways to get A9 to fold, so that wasn't much of a concern.

The key was to figure out how much to bet. By pushing all-in, I would put the players to the test. They would be hard-pressed to call, but if they did, at least they knew that they would get to see all 5 cards for one price. I could limp, but that's just ridiculous. I want those blinds easy. So, what to do?

In this instance, I raised to 1,200. It's a weird bet, basically because if the players are going to call, they will likely just push, since my bet would leave them with about 1k behind. To make things odder, I have essentially pot-committed myself to calling if either of the players push.

All that said, they both folded. They may have just had two horrible hands. But upon reflection, I realized that the size of my bet was extremely effective.

When you get down to the desperation portion of tournaments, players like the SB and BB with barely 5x the BB may just call you with anything. Hell, KTo might take a swing, if the player is in "they were the best cards I've seen in hours" mode. While I may be ahead of KTo, I'm not ahead enough. So, I want to find a price that removes the awfukit calls. Calling an all-in here is actually EASIER for the small stacks than calling or raising my 1200 bet. The bet essentially forces them to think beyond "I'm willing to gamble." It puts the onus on them. Instead of the awfukit all-in call, the players have to affirmatively RAISE(!) or, if they choose to foolishly call and see a flop, decide whether to hold onto their pittance if they miss. In either situation, the SB or BB have to take more personal responsibility for thier bust, which creates a psychological consequence to thier action beyond what they would face for an awfukit call. If the players are smart enough to realize that I've price myself in to a call no matter what they do, they are even more likely to fold. After all, my raise looks MORE fishy to them, like I am trying to induce a raise or a call with a monster hand.

Or, I'm just reading too much into it. So, this is my question: If you are in the SB or BB's position, are you more inclined to call an all-in from the button than a bet that is more than 1/2 your stack?

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 2:11 PM,


At 2:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Considering the stack sizes in this situation the BB could very easily run a STOP-N-GO on you here. he would only have to call another 800, leaving himself a little over 1600. if the flop is ragged or whatever, he can push and likely have enough to get you to fold if you don't connect the flop. i like a push better given these stack sizes and your hand.

- fidobuster.

At 2:42 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Not a bad point, fido, but I should have made it clearer. The stack sizes I gave you were before they posted their blinds. So the BB had 2k, approximately, after posting his blind. He would have to call 800, leaving him with 1200 and a pot of over 2400. If he wants to check and push, I might just call him with anything anyway. Whatever the case, though, I would never recommend a player in his spot to hold onto 1200.

So, knowing that stack sizes were pre-posting of blinds, does that change your analysis?

At 2:44 PM, Blogger bayne_s said...

I've seen Columbo make pot bets that represnt 80% of his stack UTG so he probably shares your belief.

Theory being a pot bet is asking for action and a push is asking for a fold.

If it's GCox or Blinders doing the raising I am more likely to fold to either bet.

At 2:55 PM, Blogger Joe (aka Unimpressed) said...

"A Little Less Coversation"- that got in there because I watched the first two seasons of Las Vegas (or maybe just the first one), has a nice "action" beat to it.

At 3:10 PM, Blogger Pokerwolf said...

If you are in the SB or BB's position, are you more inclined to call an all-in from the button than a bet that is more than 1/2 your stack?

That depends entirely on how you've been playing. If you were in your fold-fold-fold-fold mode, I'd be more wary about the bet than I would if you were in your raise-raise-raise-raise mode. I would also factor how often you've raised from the button, what my cards are, and how willing I am at the time to race and attempt to double up.

I will say that if the standard play at the time was to push for a steal (or if pushes were showing up fairly frequently), then a bet like this one is a lot more scary because it seems to scream, "I want your action" instead of "I want this hand over with".

At 5:47 PM, Blogger Matt said...

Generally, I am more apt to call an all-in than I am a 1\2 stack bet, reason being the same as Bayne's. However, I would take into consideration how often the raiser is pushing. If he's constantly pushing, I'm more apt to call thinking that he's pushing with ATC.

In this specific situation, I'm folding anything but a monster. Especially as the SB, I'd take my chances with a push of my own on the next two hands in position.

At 7:42 PM, Blogger CarmenSinCity said...

I never got into the hammer craze! I mean, they did name it the worst starting hand in poker for a reason. GEEZ!! I get the joke, but it's definitely played out.

At 11:51 PM, Blogger Karol said...

I will only do the Hammer around other bloggers. Otherwise I feel sort of bad about it.

At 10:35 AM, Blogger WindBreak247 said...

I think you're on to something here. There have actually been times where I'm on a short stack with a decent hand, and I think to myself, "if there's a push, I'm gonna call", but then when there's only a 3-5x raise, it more inclines me to fold for the reasons you describe. Whether that makes me a donkey is neither here nor there...but it has happened.

It may seem like over-analysis, but I think there's definitely something to what you're saying.

At 10:37 AM, Blogger Heavy Critters said...

After this:

I don't play the hammer online much anymore. I tend to save it for live home games with people I know I can tilt by getting them to fold with it...then showing.

At 11:36 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

Windbreak, I don't think that folding to the not-quite-all-in is a donkey's move. There are many reasons why it might be a correct play, not the least of which is that it signals GREATER strength from the original raiser. In this case, I was using it to my advantage, but I'm sure in other instances, a player with KK who sees everyone folding away may haphazardly raise 3x the BB hoping to get a call. I think this is not likely in MY scenario, since I was playing against the two shortstack blinds. In those cases, I'd be more inclined in the future to see the 3x raise as a raise with the intention of getting the smallstacks to fold (i.e., weaker, but not necessarily weak).

Also, I don't believe there is such a thing of overanalyzing. There may be analyzing that loses track, but that's a whole other story.

Bloody P, I've always said that you SHOULD NEVER bluff all-in with the hammer. That was a lesson I had to learn early.


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