Monday, August 08, 2005

A tale of three flops

A lot has been said and written about pre-flop play in poker: what starting hands are good, what hands like multiway action, and which hands do better playing heads up. It's much easier to play hands by an algorithm pre-flop based on card quality and position. However, that will only get you so far, as most of the time you'll get callers to a pre-flop raise, and see a flop and need to continue playing from there.

Flop texture and properly evaluating it important to being a winning player, as sometimes the flop can be so poor for your hand that you have to even lay down aces. So let's look at three hands, and see what I'm talking about.

Example One:
You're in a two table tournament, the blinds are 25/50. You have AA, and a large stack limps in under the gun. You raise 4x the BB, and someone on a short stack two seats to your left cold calls the raise, and the large stack limper comes in for the ride, making the pot $650

The flop comes down: K Q Q rainbow. The limper bets $600. What do you do?

My initial thought process: This is a very bad flop texture for AA! No one here is going to bet their queen, and it's unlikely the limper has a Q. He's probably on a draw. What DOES worry me is the guy who cold calls my raise behind me - I can put him on a very limited range of hands here, as he was a short stack going in; it's going to be Ace-big, or KQ; anything else would get a pre-flop push. The AA are no good. Fold. (which is what Joe Speaker did)

However, thinking about it later, if you are 90% sure that the initial bettor is on a draw (we are), there's a possibility of creating a sidepot and still making money on the AA against the draw, even if we lose some of it to the short stack, who has $700 total now. Instead of folding, I think we should raise 200 (initial bet) + 700 (money we may lose to the short stack), bumping it up to 1500. When the short stack calls (which he has to no matter what he really has, given the pot size at this point), the draw is going to call the extra 900 to win the 3450 pot.

This creates a sidepot of about $1600 between the drawing hand and us - enough to give us a profit on the hand even if the drawing hand folds to our bet on the turn.

Example Two:
Low limit buy-in NL ring game ($200 max), blinds $1/$2, you're in the cutoff position.

Three people ahead of you limp in, you look down and see QJo, and decide to limp in as well. The button then jacks it up to $12, and the three original limpers call, as do you.

Flop: K Q J rainbow

While you have two pair here, this is absolutely the worst textured flop you could see. Your opponents all have reasonable hands that they could call an extra $10 with, so we need to assume that the AT, KQ, KJ, T9 are all out there being held by someone, and the button could very likely have KK which would have us dominated and drawing dead. With THREE limpers in the hand, it's almost impossible for one of the hands that beats us to NOT be out there. You should be prepared to release this hand pretty quickly - the only decent hands we can beat right now are AK, AQ, AJ, AA, or TT.

Here's the action: First two limpers check, third limper bets 1/3 of the $60 pot. What do you do?

If it were me, I just call in the hopes I can see a Q or J on the turn card, but I'm prepared to release it to any raise. In the real life example, QJ pushes in, the button calls, the first limper pushes in, too, and the initial 1/3 pot bettor calls. Think we're beat? Yep, AT (all-in reraiser) and T9 (initial bettor) were both out there and your hand is dead to a Q or a J, which doesn't come.

Example Three:

This is one of my actual hands from this Friday in the $400 min/$1000 max $5/$10 blinds NL game. I had red TT's in the SB, and there were 6 limpers. I could have raised, but I'm positive I'm not getting everyone out, as there's a couple people who call any raise in the hand, so I just complete.

The flop: Ts 9s 8s.

My thoughts: This is the worst flop possible. I know I shouldn't be afraid of the flush, if there weren't a straight down there, but ugh! There's a flush, a straight, and a straight flush out there. I'm checking this, because while I may have the best hand now, I'm not sure I'm the favorite.

It checks around, and the turn is a Kc. I check again, still not liking my hand, the limper to my left checks, and the worst player there bets $50. I call, hoping for the board to pair, and the guy to my left calls.

The river is a As. I know my hand isn't good now. I check, the guy to my left checks, the $50 bettor bets $100 or so, I fold. Solid guy to my left calls.

The initial bettor had: Ks 6h (i told you he was bad)
Guy to my left: Js 9h (straight flush draw)

Knowing these cards, maybe I should have bet that flop, as I was 55% to win (now that I've put it into cardplayer), but I know the guy with the Ks 6h is going to call ANY bet with the straight and the K-high flush draw. Most likely, the Js guy is calling as well with his SF draw.

So, I lost the least amount of money possible. If the river comes down a non-straight non-flush card, I bet that hand, but I think I made the best play possible there.

... ok time to go to Phoenix. Any thoughts/comments appreciated.