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But What About the POKER?!

There's a little blogger drama going on in the bloggerhood, and its something that I do my best to keep out of for the most part (although I've failed miserably in the past). In any situation where you have literally hundreds of people in a group, there will eventually be some form of conflict. It's the nature of the beast, unfortunately. I'm not going to go into anything here because it is really not my fight or my place.

There is one area in the conflict that I am willing to discuss, because, frankly, I think it's getting the short shrift. This all started with the analysis of a poker hand, and a rebuttal as to why a hand was played in a certain way. And while the other stuff is going on, the hand has fell by the wayside, as is often the case. But since this is a poker blog and I haven't had any particularly interesting hands lately, let's look at the hand and the way that it was played.

Here is the hand as I understand it:

LJ was playing an aggresive game in an online blogger tournament. I am going off of her description of the action up until the hand, and the hand history for the subject hand, as posted on her blog. Let's assume that LJ's description of the hand is accurate, since I have not seen any information stating otherwise.

Five hands before the subject hand, LJ got into a betting/raising war with Qwackers who eventually folded. In the subject hand, everyone folded to LJ in the SB with AQ. She raised to 3x the BB to 120 and Qwackers in the BB re-raised 3x LJ's bet (360). LJ read this as Qwackers taking a stand, since Qwackers was likely tired of being pushed around by the LAG LJ. So, LJ re-raised to 880, hoping to take down the pot with aggression against a player who, she felt, was tired of getting pushed around. LJ has admitted that she should have bet more here (1200) if she wanted to knock out Qwackers and I'm inclined to agree with her. A larger raise would show Qwackers that LJ was not going away, so Qwackers would only push all-in after a 1200 raise if she had a premium hand. As it was, the Qwackers had over 3500 and LJ had 4700, so a "small" raise to 880 leaves Qwackers room to play. Following LJ's 880 raise, Qwackers pushed all-in. LJ claims that this led her to believe that Qwackers had even less of a hand. Her logic was that a strong hand would flat call. Personally, I would also add that Qwackers would probably make a min-raise to induce a push if he had a monster against LJ. Frankly, LJ's earlier slip-up, raising to 880 only, probably induced the push from Qwackers. It also effectively widened Qwackers range. Put plainly, if you have a premium hand in this situation AND you think LJ is loose, you are going to string her along with a min raise or something similar. If you want to scare the loose LJ away, you push for over 2500 more. Ultimately, LJ called and Qwackers had A2. Her read was 100% correct, and she busted Qwackers.

So, here's the thing. Regardless of all of the personal things, and aside from the self-critique made by LJ about the 880 raise preflop, what's wrong with how LJ played this hand? There are a million different ways to win at poker. There is no one set way. ABC poker can be successful, but intelligent, condition-based poker (i.e., playing a fluid game where decisions are made based on the conditions at the time) can be an even more successful way to play.

I've been in LJ's spot before. After getting a LAG image, players will start to make poor plays at you. When that starts to happen, you can do one of two things: you can lay down and ease off on the aggression because you fear that your opponents might actually have a hand, or you can amp up your aggression with the knowledge that your opponents will be playing weaker hands a lot of the time. If you lay down without a fight your "rush" is essentially over. You are forced to switch to tight poker and you can use your built up stack to survive lean times. But if you continue to push forward, particularly with mostly top tier hands, you can be extremely profitable....or lose a chunk of chips. Losing a chunk of chips sucks, but if you are doing what you should be doing, you've build up enough chips to take a loss if your opponent does have a monster hand. It's that read that is so crucial in this situation. Some players never tilt or loosen up due to your aggression. But other players, particularly if you've picked on them or they are traditionally loose themselves, will open their range up to the extent that AQ is a premium hand. Keep in mind that AQ is commonly listed in the top ten preflop hands (usually suited, but that's a minor detail). A review of Qwacker's possible hands is listed below, but in general, I am okay with AQ here. The only really scary hand possible is KK, since AQ already has some of the cards needed to make the other scary hands, AK, AA, and AQ. So, for me at least, the potential for big profit negates the fear of a monster hand, especially if your opponent seems to be making a play at you.

Basically, these are the times when you have to exploit your image and take advantage of another players perception. LJ did that here by (i) acknowledging her table image by remembering past hands, (ii) adjusting to that table image by widening the range of her opponent's likely cards, and (iii) executing accordingly. It's one thing to have a read, and its another thing to follow it. LJ had the guts to follow her read and she was right.

Some people think calling there is a donk move because you are risking your tourney life early in the event. That is one style to play, and I don't begrudge those people their opinion. However, the CORRECT move here, if all cards were face-up, would be exactly what LJ did. And besides, there is a real benefit from not being scared to go busto. That's how monster stacks are made early on, and it can be a big coup in any 45-200 person tournament.

Let's look at the range of hands that Qwackers may've had and follow the logic tree.
  • AA, KK, and QQ are possible. I don't doubt that. Still, I find the possibility unlikely. First of all, since LJ has AQ, so AA and QQ are statistically even less likely. Also, if I were Qwackers and held AA or KK, I wouldn't have pushed all-in UNLESS I thought LJ had a premium hand that would pay me off. Since LJ's image was LAG, it's unlikely that Qwackers placed LJ on one of the premium hands. Ergo, it is less likely that Qwackers is pushing to induce a call. It is MORE likely that Qwackers wants to win the hand preflop, and even with QQ, most average players (and all angry, veangeful players) would not be playing to take it down preflop. I add the caveat of average players because, quite frankly, it makes sense to try to win preflop with AA-QQ once LJ has committed 880. It's stress-free money. But MOST players in our group are looking to maximize the amount they can win from their premium hands. This is all to say that AA-QQ are possible, but hardly definite.
  • AK is a dangerous hand, and to me, actually quite likely. Some players like to push with AK to win preflop without having to sweat a flop. This is the hand I'd be most scared of in this situation. Still, with one Ace in your hand, this hand isn't all that statistically likely. Even so, the action makes sense with AK, so this is still my #1 fear.
  • Lesser Aces. This includes AJ and AT and to a lesser extent A9 and lower. These hands might not initially be in Qwackers range, but if LJ had a loose image andQwackers was on her left, it is very likely that Qwackers is frustrated and doesn't believe LJ. I'd put the whole range, AJ-A2 as about on par with or slightly more than the likelihood that Qwackers has AA-QQ. If you can stomach that concept, then you can negate the fear of being dominated. It's essentially a cointoss between dominated and dominating!
  • Lesser pairs. JJ-22, with emphasis on JJ-99, are VERY likely in this spot. A player with these hands, especially at the higher ranks (i.e., JJ, TT) in Qwackers position is probably going to say, "You know what, fuck this. She keeps raising me. My 99 (or 88) is good. She can't have shit. If I have to take a coin-toss, so be it." Frankly, this would be my greatest expectation, but once the pot is over 1k (880 from LJ, 360 from Qwackers), and I have to call about 2k to win 3k (the pot + the all-in raise by Qwackers), I'm willing to take that cointoss too.
  • Awfukit hands. You might not consider it, but some players here are playing KQs and KJs. Some players just get frustrated and are willing to go to war. Hell, it DID happen here, since Qwackers was willing to push with A2. A2! So, add these to Qwackers range, albeit affording them little weight, and the odds get much better.
I'm no mathemagician. I can't tell you the percentage of likelihood that Qwackers had these different types of cards. A lot of these things are dependent on reads, even online. If Qwackers was playing lots of hands, or if it appeared that Qwackers was acting on impulse (amazingly the timing of the bets, whether they are quick or slow, tells a lot about a players mental state), then LJ's call is even better.

Still, if you work through my logic, its practically a cointoss of a call. The fear of dominating hands is balanced by the likelihood of dominated hands (AJ and lower Aces; awfuckit hands like KQ and KJs). The cointoss hands (JJ-22) are, well, cointosses. So, if you add in the action, namely the fact that Qwackers pushed where most dominating hands (aside from AK) would raise small or flat call, LJ's call is in my opinion justified, if not automatic.

It is easy to say you should never risk you tourney life with AQ early in a large tournament. Basically, I wouldn't even argue that in the abstract. But in the real world, there are too many cues to simply rely on a hard-fast rule. You have to be willing to make unpopular plays if the situation presents itself.

Going over the hand, I have to admit, I like the call a lot less now than I did when I started my analysis. But I still like the play. If LJ folded there, I wouldn't have a problem with it either. That AK scares me shitless. By the same token, if LJ called and saw AK, I wouldn't be too down about it either. WillWonka once wrote (and I paraphrase) that the result of a hand often determines whether a given play was "good" or "bad". In actuality he was saying that we internally feel that if a play ends up in a profit, its a good play. I.e., if you bluff and the guy folds, you feel you made the right play. If you bluff and he calls, you feel like you made a mistake. The truth is, there is a wide range of possible hands in MOST situations. You can make the right move and have the wrong results. There are times when its right to bluff, even though you happen to have been bluffing into the nuts. LJ's hand is a bit of an anomaly. It worked, but by working it seemingly looks even MORE crazy. How could LJ call with AQ there?! But by the same token, if she called and the guy showed TT, and an Ace came on the flop, would we all be shocked at the call? I'm not so sure about that.

This is all to say that I don't mind LJ's play. She had a read and she followed it. Even without a concrete read, once we go through the range of hands and the pot odds, I think its the right call. She was probably a cointoss and there were few hands that could dominate her (KK and AK being the only two I would worry about).

Hey, but that's just my 2 cents.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 6:05 PM,


At 5:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think you can analyze a decision in poker by saying, "if the cards were face up." That's only one trial and yes in this particular case it happened to be the right move.

Problem is too many people review a decision based on one trial and that IMO is incorrect and short-sighted especially in a highly obvious -EV long-term outcome.

There are many different styles to play in poker but risking all your chips 7 minutes into a DS event is also a long-term -EV play and is in total disagreement with the "Theory of Tournament Equity."

Again this is all based on Long Term. In this one instance the play worked out, over time it's a fundamental flaw and a losing play.

At 6:12 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Don, I made that statement about the cards face up because it is part of Sklansky's Fundamental Theory of Poker. And I specifically go into my analysis to explain that it doesn't matter what the actual result of the hand is. It's all there in my post. But your point is well taken and I agree.

That said, do you disagree with the range of hands I laid out and my analysis? In your recent post, I think you said that a re-raise by Qwackers can only mean KK and AA. I think that range is too narrow given the play. That is where you and I primarily disagree. That and the fact that I disagree with the belief that you have to fear busting in the early stages of a DS tournament. I'm all for being smart about when to push/call all-in, but we can both agree that it is shortsighted to always follow the rule that "risking all your chips 7 minutes into a DS event is also a long-term -EV play." What if she had Aces. Is it -EV then?

I understand the Long Term argument, but I don't think LJ is calling here in EVERY situation. You have to pick and choose and base your decision on the action and situation at hand. I think that's what LJ did.

In the abstract, if someone said, "should I call a 4th or 5th reraise with AQ if it'll cost me 2/3 of my chips 7 minutes into a tournament" I would say, "FUCK NO! FOLD!" But after LJ explained her thought process, I have to agree with her decision. Poker is not played in a bubble.

At 7:34 PM, Blogger Gnome said...

If I were in LJ's place, I would make my decision based entirely on Qwackers' hand range.
Without knowing his stats or style, the "outlier" type hands like A2 and KQ seem unlikely, despite the result. Of course, if Qwackers is a known donk this call becomes much easier.
Even with the hand ranges given here, AQ is basically taking a coinflip, which is generally not recommended early on in an MTT, unless you want to quickly double up or go home.

At 8:06 AM, Blogger Riverrun said...

Sorry to interrupt but...Ship it!

Easy money!

Actyper > Fuel55

At 8:12 PM, Blogger Riverrun said...

Please donate the $5 to a charity of your choice. If done online just post a quick screen shot of your good deed. If you can't find one to take that small an amount, give it to someone in need as you walk down the streets of NY!



At 2:15 AM, Blogger lightning36 said...

Most intereasting hand analysis I've read in some time.

LJ trusted her read and took a chance. Maybe not a long-term +EV situation, but a good gamble considering the situation.


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