Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Article 2

Originally Published in twoplustwo.com on-line magazine. All rights revert to the author 3 months after publishing.

Going Deep in an Online PLO8 Tournament, Part 2 – Middle Stage Play

Abbreviations used in this article.

MP = Middle Pair (6-8);
HP = High Pair (9-K)
WW = Two distinct wheel cards, e.g. 2, 3, 4, 5
X, Y = any card distinct from the cards stipulated

Early Middle Stage Play

After the first break, the tournament begins to show more diversity in stack sizes. You need to be aware of situations where pot-odds dictate a call with marginal hands and marginal draws, and you will need to be careful that you are not stealing with weak hands in situations where small stacks will be pushing any reasonable hand. Beginning at the 100/200 level, the blinds are now becoming big enough to merit raising with marginal hands against the right opponents.

Raising/Stealing Ranges – Pre-Bubble

While blind steals are very much dependent upon stack size and opponent tendencies, I will classify some hand ranges and my opinion of them. I do not have hard data to support my assertions, and I expect that other successful PLO8 tournament players will disagree with at least some of what I say here.

Always Raise Hands:
[AAWX] You should always pot any two aces with a wheel card, and almost always repot with this hand shape if someone else has already opened the pot.

[AALX] To open, from any position, and to repot against any player you perceive to be a frequent raiser. About 1% of the time you may want to lay this hand down based on your perception of anyone who reraises you. If you fold this hand more than 1% of the time, that is too often, and those few folds should occur in multi-way pots when your side card is an 8 and you lack suitedness.

[AAA2 – AAA3] These are the only trip hands with any safety at all. You are largely raising on the diminished probability that anyone has an ace to defend with, and if you are faced with a maniac who comes over the top with garbage, you are largely still looking at chops and scoops when all the chips go in the middle.

Often Raise Hands

[A23H – A2LK – A2HP] To open, these hands are fine for stealing from any position, and these are often correct hands for raising any very active players especially with any suitedness. These are mostly fine hands for flat calling for heads up against a raiser.

[AWHX – AWMP] Table dependent, but often fine to open from middle to late position. These are generally not re-raising hands, although these can be flat call hands depending on suitedness and overall hand coordination.

[AWW6 – AWW8] Often fine to open from middle to late position, and occasionally early position. Often a fine flat call hand as well.

Late Raise to Steal Hands

[AAHH] Read dependent. If it goes in the middle you are often a slight underdog, unless villain turns over any AALX hand, when you become a bigger underdog. Personally, I will often fold this hand shape when there is already a significant pot-sized bet and one caller.

[AAAX] Late position to open. If blind defender will call with more than 60% of his hands, it is okay to fold this.

[WWWH] Late position to open

[WWHP] Late position to open

You can very creative with your button open-steal hands if you have a good read on the SB and BB, assuming you know enough about pot odds and overall equity well enough that you can make the mathematically correct play when reraised.

I plan to discuss the mathematics of pushing with junk hands in a later article.

Never Steal Hands

Personally, I never steal with quads or trips, and a villain must be very tight before I will raise with junk that cannot make better than an 8 low.

Hand Play

Level 5 – Blinds 75/150 – 52 players remain, payouts start at 12th

Hand 57 A[diamond]2[heart]5[diamond]9[diamond] Cutoff (75/150) Chips 3,220 (raise to 675 after 1 limper)

The table is eight-handed, and there are four folds, and one loose limper who is two from the button. While I do not have a powerhouse, I do have a reasonable degree of certainty that this raise will take this down, unless the button or blinds come up with an A2xx hand or better. It works, and I increase the stack by 425, or better than 10% without seeing a flop. If I had been called, the plan was to be aggressive with any low draw with a pair, or with a diamond draw, two pair or better, and otherwise not pump more money into the hand.

A flat call with this hand in this position is not an awful play. However, that allows two random hands to see the flop which means that I need to fit the flop very well to continue.

Hand 59 A[diamond]A[club]5[spade]K[heart] Middle Position (75/150) Chips 3,595 (raise to 525 to open)

Completely standard raise, even against a tight opponent I could not fold this to a re-raise. Note this is two pre-flop raises in short order since the break.

Hand 62 A[spade]3[spade]9[heart]K[spade] Big Blind (75/150) Chips 3,670 after posting (check after 4 limpers)

This hand is enough for blind stealing in an unopened pot. However, with four limpers, plus my two recent uncalled raises, a pre-flop raise will prematurely build a pot while I am specifically hoping to flop a deuce or spades, and giving up on a lot of flops multi-way.

Flop 6[diamond] 3[diamond]J[spade] (pot=750; check-fold to a 150 bet and two callers)

I have third pair, no low draw, and backdoor flush draw in a multi-way pot. Fold.

Hand 63 A[club]3[club]T[diamond]7[diamond] Small Blind (75/150) Chips 3,595 after posting (call)

A medium strength hand and an easy call after 1 under-the-gun caller for a 3 way pot. A UTG call often indicates an A2xx hand, so raising here with this stack and these blinds would be ill-advised

Flop A[diamond] T[heart] 9[heart] (pot = 450; Bet 450)

I have top two pair on a one-low board, with a weak backdoor low draw. Ideally, this bet will knock out any strong low draws that do not have hearts, or even take down the pot right now. Under-the-gun calls.

Turn 3[heart] (pot = 1,050; check)

I check and villain checks behind. If villain has the nut flush but not the nut low, he should bet this scary turn card, since his call on the flop represented a draw. My top two may still hold up.

River 7[club] (pot= 1,050; check)

I have four pair, any low on villain’s part is good, and there are many high hands that beat me. Villain checks behind with A[spade] 2[club] K[diamond] J[heart], demonstrating that he called a pot-sized bet on the flush-draw flop with an gutshot draw and no backdoor low. Incidentally, villains hand is strong enough for a steal from early position. . Do not play like this villain.

Hand 64 J[club]Q[heart]3[heart]J[diamond] Button (75/150) Chips 4,270 (fold after 1 limper)

Even on the button, I will not consider ‘set-mining’ without either significant high-card strength or a couple of wheel cards. The implied odds are no good unless I have some chance at the low, or strong high-side redraws. If the set should hit and get action, it is either a split pot or else there are redraws to hands bigger than a set.

Hand 65 2[heart]3[heart]4[club]8[diamond] cut-off (75/150) Chips 4,120 (call)

After four folders, this could be a steal hand, but since I have made two pre-flop raises in the last 10 hands, I choose not to put myself in a situation where I am behind if there is a re-raise. If someone raises my limp here, I will likely call. Button calls, SB completes, BB checks.

I had a peer review this article, and his comment for this hand was “Blech. Raise or fold.” That is a reasonable (and concise) critique of this play.

Flop 6[club]3[diamond]7[club] (pot = 600; check)

I have a gutshot and a plausible low draw. No reason to build a pot. Checked all around.

Turn K[spade] (pot=600; call 150 after a bet and a call)

The small bet seems to indicate a likely nut low attempting to build a multi-way pot. The biggest problem with marginal hands is that they often lead to marginal calls.

River 5[club] (pot = 1,050; call 300 after a bet and a call to close the action)

My gutshot hits, but I am behind clubs or a higher straight, and I hold 3rd nut low. This is a choice between calling and folding, and so I pay 300 for a reasonable chance to collect 1000. Small blind turns over a ten-high flush (along with a pair and a worse gutshot), and Big Blind turns over 2nd nut low. Marginal hands are tricky to play post-flop, as this one demonstrates.

Hand 65 K[heart]Q[heart]K[spade]3[club] middle position (75/150) Chips 3,670 (fold)

Same concept as hand 64. I see a lot of players treat this as a raising hand from any position with any chipstack. There will occasionally be times when this hand dictates a raise, but almost always in short-handed, high-blind situations.

Hand 74 A[club]2[club]6[club]6[heart] middle position (75/150) Chips 3,595 (raise 525)

I have been quiet for a rotation, and this is a hand where I would prefer to be heads-up, or to take it down preflop. Raise and no callers.

Level 6 – Blinds are 100/200 and stack is 12M. Not desperate, but I must be willing to steal and take a few coin flips with this lower-than-average stack. There are 41 players remaining.

Hand 75 A[club]2[club]8[club]Q[spade] early position (100/200) Chips 3,820 (raise 700)

Big Blind calls, with 1148 behind, meaning that there are very few flops where I can fold.

Flop T[spade]5[diamond]3[heart] (pot = 1,500; call 1,148)

Nut low draw plus a gutshot. Easy call. Villain turns over A[spade]8[spade]J[heart]T[club]

Turn/River 6[heart] 9[diamond]

A chop, for a net gain of 50. If I am unwilling to flip, the chip stack can only get worse.

Hand 77 2[club]9[diamond]T[diamond]3[spade] Big Blind (100/200) Chips 3,670 after posting (call 500)

This is an awful hand, where the only redeeming feature is the 23 low draw. However, the raiser is the same short-stacked (5M) villain from hand 75, so I do not expect a true powerhouse. I call with intention of calling on the flop with any low draw, any pair (any pair means that I have a two-pair draw), any gutshot draw, and folding anything worse than that. This is risky, but I want to build a table image that will discourage stealing from my BB in later rounds.

Flop 2[heart]3[club]K[heart] (pot = 1,500; bet 1,000 to put villain all-in)

Bottom two pair is certainly good enough. I want villain to fold any weak low draw, so I bet out. Villain calls with A[spade]3[spade]A[diamond]6[heart], which is stronger than I expected. Villain is a 60% favorite in the hand, with a 3 in 8 chance of scooping, and a 5 in 8 chance of taking the low.

Turn/River Q[club]T[heart]

This is winning ugly at its best! I have increased the stack to a playable 18M, and I have shown the table my willingness to defend with unpredictable trash, assuming that my tablemates are paying attention.

Hand 84 A[club]2[spade]6[club]7[diamond] Big Blind (100/200) 5,368 after posting (check after 1 early limper and SB folds)

This is now a six handed table. This hand is worth a steal to open, but it is unlikely to be ahead of the early limper who has a bigger stack than mine. Flat call is the best choice.

Flop 9[spade]2[diamond]5[heart] (pot = 500; bet 400)

If the limper came in with A2xx, this flop provides no succor. I bet with the intention of often giving up if called (A3xx should usually call here.) Villain folds. My play here shows the trouble with open-limping with A2xx when the blinds are worth stealing.

Hand 85 2[club]3[club]4[spade]5[heart] Small Blind (100/200) Chips 5,768 after posting (call after 1 limper)

Although it has very limited high potential, I consider this an okay open-steal hand, and it certainly merits completing from the small blind, and often merits limping after other limpers. It can be argued that this hand is not strong in enough in either direction to get involved after one limper, since that typically means that one ace is already accounted for, and we are very much looking for an ace on the flop. .This is very similar to hand 65 as a starting hand.

Flop A[heart]3[spade]5[heart] (pot=600; check-raise to 800 after a bet of 200 by Big Blind)

Any board that can make a wheel but not a flush could be described as binary. If you do not have the wheel, you should not get involved. Ideally, you should have the wheel with a redraw to hearts before leading out here. The big stack on my left made a correct play by betting small with nothing into two opponents to take down what is often an orphan pot. My reraise represented the wheel, and villain did not have the wheel.

Theoretically, I could reraise with nothing after the 3rd player folded and achieved the same result, but that is a very high risk play. Representing the wheel too often is much like representing the nuts in hold’em too often.

Hand 88 A[club]A[spade]6[spade]Q[spade] middle position (100/200) Chips 6,468 reraise to 2,100

Villain flat calls, indicating a very likely A2xx hand, as most AAWx hands would put it all in here. (Villain started with 5200 chips.)

Flop 7[heart]4[diamond]T[club] (pot = 4,500; call 3,140)

This hand plays itself. It’s clear villain has A2xy, and I hope the xy does not involve two pair or an open-ended straight draw. Villain turns over A[heart]2[heart]3[diamond]4[spade].

AAxx vs A2xx is the most common all-in preflop situation. Here are a few relevant statistics.

Preflop, this is a 60/40 situation. The A2 hand will scoop roughly 30% of the time, The AAxx hand will scoop roughly 45% of the time, and the other 25% of the time is a chop. Observe that the A2xx hand will come out fine 55% of the time, and the AAxx hand will come out fine 70% of the time. Who would you rather be?

Postflop, the low hand is now a 53% favorite, with a 5/8 chance of making the low, and a 5/16 chance to make the high. A234 has a two-pair draw and some backdoors, and a low draw that is almost exempt from counterfeiting

Turn/River A[diamond]J[spade] for a chop.

Hand 89 – A[diamond]2[diamond]5[club]9[diamond] 2nd position (100/200) Chips 6,418 (raise to 700 with 5 players yet to act)

The Big Blind so far has been tight-aggressive, and appears unwilling to defend with marginal hands. With a this hand shape, stealing is preferable to post-flop play. No resistance.

Hand 92 – A[club]2[club]5[spade]7[spade] under the gun (100/200) Chips 6,918 (call with 8 players yet to act.

This is a late position steal hand, and it also a good balancing hand for an early position call that can stand up to a raise. I do not like raising this early, as I might end up getting my chips in the middle pre-flop against an A2xy hand that has better side cards in both directions.

I routinely see novice players get very excited about double-suited A2xy hands, but my chip stack is deep enough that I prefer to play this hand post-flop, where I can use the leverage of a made low with counterfeit protection to push a marginal high hand out of the pot by the river.

There are two late position callers, small blind folds, big blind checks.

Flop 5[club]T[heart]2[heart] (pot 900; check-fold to a pot-sized bet.)

Despite flopping two pair, this is a dreadful situation. A3xx or A4xx with any heart draw should certainly bet the pot here, as should A3Tx, and a very brave 34xx hand could also bet. As I have no meaningful redraw, this is an easy fold.

Level 7 Blinds go to 125/250 my stack is still close to 15M. There are 36 players remaining, or exactly half of the starting field.

Hand 99 – A[spade]2[club]8[club]T[club] 3rd position (125/250) Chips 6,393 (fold as 3rd to act with six players left to act.

From a later position, this hand would be a steal hand. With a better emergency low or a suited ace, I could happily see a flop or even consider a steal from this position. However, I would hate to be reraised with this hand but I would be unable to fold, despite mostly being behind any raising hand here.

Level 8 starts at hand 112 Blinds go up to 150/300. I have been quiet since hand 92. My stack is close to 15M. There are 33 players remaining.

Hand 113 A[club]7[club]Q[spade]8[spade] Button (150/300) Chips 5,993 (Raise to 1,050 to open)

Compare this hand with hand 99. This has high card strength, an emergency low, and it merits a button steal. The small blind has a healthy stack and has shown a willingness to defend with many hands, although defending from the small blind often narrows the hand range to AWxy hands.

Flop K[diamond]T[heart]6[heart] (pot = 2,400; fold to a 2,400 bet)

Wrong colored flop. The small blind could have made this bet with a naked flush draw and a pair of threes, and I am still behind. This is an easy fold, and I have just lost 20% of my stack from a steal gone awry.

Hand 115 – A[club]5[heart]6[diamond]J[club] 5th position (150/300) Chips 4,943 (fold after one limper)

At 11M, I am not yet desperate. This is an open-steal hand from late position, but after one limper I prefer not to see a flop with this marginal hand , even with position.

Hand 125 – A[diamond]4[heart]8[spade]J[spade] 3rd position (150/300) Chips 4,493 (fold)

This is a button-steal hand, since it has AW, a face card and some suitedness. With a healthier stack, However, we are approaching the bubble and I am not on the button, so I let this go and wait for a better opportunity.

Hand 128 – A[club]2[spade]3[heart]K[diamond] Big Blind (150/300) Chips 4,193 after posting (raise to 2,250 after one limper and a min-raise to 600)

There are very few hands that are ahead of A2Kx, and with A23K, this is an automatic raising hand in the same way as AAWx. Villain flat calls my reraise with 3690 behind, which makes me assume villain will show down A2xx.

Flop 6[heart]8[diamond]Q[diamond] (pot = 4,950; bet 2243 all-in, villain calls)

There was virtually no flop I could have folded with this stack size and this hand, especially since I have to assume villain shares two cards with me. Villain calls with A[diamond]3[diamond]5[club]6[club], and I am sweating on the turn but squeak out a chop.

Turn/River 9[diamond] 7[diamond]

Second Break at the conclusion of hand 129.

Blinds will be going up to 200/400, and I will return to the table with about 8M. This is not a desperate stack, but it is far from commanding.

During levels 5-8, I got a much better distribution of random hands than in the first four levels. There was such a richness of hands, that I actually threw away a junk A2xy hand, and I was much less tempted to fool around with marginal hands, except to make steals. While I did manage to double my stack over four levels, my stack growth was not enough to bring me to a commanding stack. As mentioned in the text, I could have increased my aggressiveness with a few of these hands.