Thanksgiving Poker

Thanksgiving break was a welcome diversion from most things scholastic. A typical day involved a noon wake up, some form of physical exercise, a few games of poker with my brothers and sister-in-law, copious amounts of food, followed by about 4 solid hours of poker. The wee night hours were reserved for inebriated pot limit omaha high (is that redundant?).

I don’t have much to report from those games or the earlier evening no limit hold’em freeze-outs. My heads-up game is still not up to par. Instead, let me focus this post on the 8 SNGs my bro and I played online. To sum: first once, third twice, down 3 bucks.

First game, we basically saw no cards forever, and just bided our time. We managed a double through in level 4 with just an ace, as someone called us with JTs. The value of an AX hot-and-cold is really understimated by players. Once we got down to three players, we were short stacked, but we got super agrgressive, caught some cards, and just plowed through.

The next several games involved a variety of bad-beats. The main ones that spring to mind:
* An A89 rainbow board, we have pocket JJs, put the short stack all in, he turns over K5 and goes runner runner for the straight.
* Our all in QQ v. AJo getting beat.
* We limp in with AKo thinking we’d get a raise all in from an aggressive player, he does, we call, he turns over A6s, flop is 66K and he hits the flush by the river to boot.

Which is not to say that we didn’t get a bit of luck in our favor. But those were crippling blows in three games where I thought we had a great chance to money.

I hope to pull out a few key hands once I have a look at the hand histories, but, for now, a couple general take-aways from these sessions:

I now agree more than ever with readers who have pointed out that it’s best to conserve chips early on and let the fucks-offs duke it out – better to wait and get involved in the later rounds, rather than be pressed into really tricky decisions early on.

It’s important to know the table to understand how much you can limp. The thing is, you still have to be very aware of what you want to see with your limping hand. I kinda think of this as a variant on the dominatned hand concept Lee Jones discusses in his low limit book. The basic question you always have to ask yourself is, “What sorta flop do I want to see?” A helpful way to narrow this down a bit is, “If I get X flop, where am I going with it? What sort of hands could I be called or raised with? What will I do if raised?” Say you have 5 people in a pot with you at level 1, you hit your K with K9o, fire a pot sized bet in there, someone comes over the top for all your chips, what then? To paraphrase TJ, top pair ain’t the holy city. In the early rounds, these trouble situations are really not worth getting into most of the time – waiting for other people’s mistakes can be a lot more profitable. Moreover, as you leak chips iwth limping, you diminish how many chips you have when you can capitalize on others’ mistakes and thus put yourself in worse shape as the blinds increase. Obviously, none of this can be taken to extremes, but it’s something I’ve taken away from my last few seessions.

Another important TJ paraphrase – unless the flop hits you, AK is AK is AK is AK. When you miss, you have to play it very carefully, particularly if you’re not heads-up. You have to be able to get rid of this hand.

It seems critical with those overcards to take into account the player(s) you’re up against. But you can’t really make a decision based on a function of, say, player’s intellegence. If they’re smart, they’re going to take your pre-flop raise as overcards or a pair, but probably over-cards. If they’re not as solid, they could be playing anything against your raise, and thus could have a pair on a board like 986 with two hearts. Maybe they’re playing any ace, and they have your reverse dominated with their pair. And they will call with any pair, perhaps even if you make a huge raise.

Speaking of pre-flop raising, I was reminded again this weekend that trying to make a bigger than normal raise to push out most of the 4-6 limpers can backfire. One, you might not push them out and you just end up building a huge pot which will allow people to draw at you (reminding me of Sklansky’s maxim regarding keeping pots small). Also, your big raise may give away a little bit too much about what hand you might have. Better to make a standard raise than to push too hard and have to throw away a hand like 10s when a couple of paint hit.

4 Responses to “Thanksgiving Poker”

  1. Joshua Slater
    December 2nd, 2004 | 7:22 am

    An addendum to the last comment: the weekend also served as a reminder NOT to let people limp when you’ve picked up a monster. The guy who let us in with 46o and found his KKs cracked could tell you that. The analysis of how much to push is spot on, but doesn’t in any way take away from the importance of making others pay when you have the advantage, mathematical or otherwise.

  2. Best
    September 2nd, 2005 | 11:56 am

    Veri nice site!

  3. Gaby
    September 16th, 2005 | 9:35 pm

    Thank you for the info!

  4. Sean Carter
    September 8th, 2006 | 2:36 am

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