On Saturday, at Noon US central time, we have a study group which meets for a discussion of some aspect of poker. Our main focus is MTT play, and particularly play of PSO events, but the future topics will address general MTT thinking, and we may even branch out into cash game play too. All PSO members are welcome to join in this study group, and our numbers seem to be growing every week! (At the end of this, I will put up info on how to get into ventrilo).
With that said...
I thought a good format for a blog would be to post a weekly update of our meetings, and describe what we talked about in the previous week! Since we have been meeting for like 8 weeks now, I have some catching up to do! But that's good, every blog needs a subject, right?
So here goes...
Our first meeting was on START HAND STANDARDS.
This topic was chosen mainly because it is often start hand standards improvement which a new player needs most to begin improving his/her poker play overall. While you cannot truly consider yourself a "good" player if you have weakness in ANY facets of play, and while ALL facets of good MTT play need to used together, trying to inundate a new player with ALL the stuff he "needs" to know would simply boggle the mind, and lead to confusion. Since improving start hand standards is most likely to give the most immediate improvement to a new player's game, this was where the Suited Aces elected to start!
I am a firm believer in not just learning HOW to do something, but learning WHY you are doing something. Because of this, I do not truly hold with rote memorization of "start hand charts", or "relative value" charts, but prefer to approach this particular question from the WHY direction.
The first thing I would like you all to know is this: ANY TWO CARDS CAN WIN!
72o CAN flop quads, and crush AA. 25s CAN flop a straight flush, and crush AKs (same suit) like a bug. 22 can out flop KK...
Before you think this means I am going to advocate "shove monkey" play, let me add this:
ANY TWO CARDS CAN WIN (but usually won't!)
There ARE situations where virtually ANY 2 cards will become playable, but until you "master" a LOT more poker skills than just start hand standards, trying to widen your playing range much wider than advocated in the PSO lessons is likely to lead you into trouble.
You MAY "get lucky" a few times with cheese hands, but if you do not understand WHY those hands might be playable in certain situations, and until you know how to identify those "correct" situations, you are just playing on LUCK. Poker, as a game, is a lot about luck in the short term, but in the long term, SKILL will play a larger and larger role. The "skill" in poker comes form identifying "positive expected value" situations, and being able to get yourself into as many of those spots as possible. Because you can fold, you can CHOOSE to try identifying those +ev situations with your start hand decisions, and you can "manage" your decisions- it is simply impossible to "manage" LUCK.
So the second thing I'd like you to note is:
The greater your overall "skill" level in poker becomes, the MORE hands there will be which are "playable".
This "skill increase" does NOT change the "value" of cheese cards, but your increased skill in identifying certains patterns in your opponents' play will derive you the necessary information to potentially turn "bad" cards into +ev playable cards, based on the situation...see?
But until you acheive facility with a LOT more poker "skills" than simple start hand standards knowledge, keep in mind: "Tight is right"!
Before you enter any pot, with any hand, you need to be aware of something important: What do I EXPECT to make out of this hand?
The answer to this SHOULD be (more often than not): "I expect to flop TOP PAIR, with a decent kicker!"
There are 3 facets of Hold 'em start hand "value": High Card/Pair value, Suitedness (chances to make a flush), and connectedness (chances of making a straight).
Of these, by FAR the most important is High card/Pair Value. Why? Simple...
While any suited cards CAN flop a flush, and while any 2 cards seperated by no more than 3 "gaps" CAN flop a straight, they usually won't.
In fact, with 2 suited cards there is only about a 10.9% chance of flopping a flush DRAW (9 "outs").
With connected cards (no gaps), you only have about a 10.5% chance of flopping a "good" Straight draw (8 outs). With 1 gappers your chances of flopping a "good" draw drop to about 8.1%. 2 gappers drop this to about 5.2%, and 3 gappers give only about a 2.6% chance of flopping an 8 out draw (note: all the above %'s are for connectors between 45 and JT, chances are even LOWER for connectors above, and below, this).
Obviously, just flopping a DRAW is no guarentee you "get here", and if your table is especailly "aggressive" in the sizing of their post flop bets, a lot of these draws may not be playable at a "good" price. You should also know: A draw which does not complete will rarely win the pot on showdown.
To effectively play drawing hands, you really need to have a basic understanding of other facets of poker skill. In future segments of this blog, we will address those necessary skills, but for now, let's restirct ourselves to looking at what we are most likely to flop.
When you are holding un-paired cards, you have roughly a 33% chance to flop 1 pair (or better). Depending upon the "quality" of your un-paired cards (their high card "value"), and on the board "texture" (more on this in a later blog!), your single pair may be enough to win the pot. The combination of:
1) Greater Frequency of occurence
2) Greater likelihood of being "good" if no further "improvement" shows on the board
Is the WHY of the statement I made about the most important aspect of start hand "value" in Hold 'em Start hands being derived from High Card/Pair Value...see?
The "quality" of High Card/Pair value is derived first from how HIGH a made pair will be if/when it is caught. Obviously, holding a paired Ace on the flop will ALWAYS give you top pair. Ideally when you are playing for pairs, you WANT to flop top pair; otherwise you are "at risk" that someone else in the hand holds a higher pair.
Here are some odds information about the likelihood of OTHER cards (besides Aces) being the highest card on a flop:
Ace: 16% chance an Ace will appear; it will always be the highest pair on the flop.
King: 13.9% chance a K will appear, and be the highest card on the flop.
Queen: 11.3% chance a Q will appear, and be the highest card on the flop.
Jack: 9.1% chance a J will appear, and be the highest card on the flop.
Ten: 7.1% chance a T will appear and be the highest card on the flop.
Nine: 5.4% chance a 9 will appear, and be the highest card on the flop.
Eight: 3.9% chance an 8 will appear, and be the highest card on the flop.
Seven: 2.6% chance a 7 will appear, and be the highest card on the flop.
Six: 1.6% chance for a 6 to appear, and be the highest card on the flop.
Five: 0.8% chance for a 5 to appear, and be the highest card on the flop.
Four: 0.3% chance for a 4 to appear, and be the highest card on the flop.
<special note below>
Three: 0.1% chance for a 3 to appear, and be the highest card on the flop.
Two: 0% chance for a 2 to appear AND be the highest card on the flop.
(Note: any card Threes and below can ONLY be the highest card on the board if the board has at least paired)
The second important aspect of pair value (when starting with un-paired cards) is to learn about "kicker strength". Before we get into talking about kickers, how about we define "kicker":
Whenever you start with un-paired cards, and you pair just 1 of the cards in your hand, the un-paired card you are holding becomes your "kicker".
The importance of "kicker strength" lies in the fact that whenever you flop a pair, especially top pair, the LOWER your kicker is, the greater the chance is that someone with the SAME pair will "dominate" you. Let's define "domination"...
Domination happens when: You pair one of your cards (after starting with un-paired cards), and your opponent with the SAME pair holds a higher kicker.
In this situation, unless you "hit" your kicker as well, you will LOSE (or unless you make a straight using your kicker, or make a flush using a suit your opponent does not hold, or the board pairs on a card you or your opponent does NOT hold, AND a card higher than your opponent's kicker also appears). Example:
A9 vs A6
board = A 4 2, 7, J
A9 will win.
The negative effects of being dominated in this manner increases as the value of the dominating kicker increases. A dominating K will have you at about a 71% chance to lose, while a dominating 3 (such as A2 vs A3) will chop about 50% of the time, and the A3 will only have around 2% more chance to win than the A2 (because neither kicker will play very often).
Domination also occurs when: you hold un-paired cards, and your opponent holds a pocket pair that is HIGHER than your lowest card (or both your cards). Example:
A5 vs QQ or Q9 vs TT (the QQ and TT are "dominating" their respective opponents)
When you are "dominated" in this situation, you are always right around a 70/30 underdog. If your opponent holds an over pair to BOTH your un-paired cards (AA vs K9), you are roughly an 85/15 underdog.
I strongly suggest you go to: www.cardplayer.com
and use the hand calculator there to play around with some head to head start hand comparisons to get a "feel" for relative start hand strength. You can also search the forum for a post I put up about Relative Start Hand strength situations, to look at some typical (and non-typical) pre-flop situations.
So to sum this up so far:
1) the higher your start cards, the more likelihood you have to flop top pair.
2) the higher your kicker is, the more likelihood there is that your top pair will be "good".
Got it? Good!
What about pocket pairs?
These are cards which already start out "paired". Since you are not very likely to "improve" a pocket pair (since they will require 4 cards to make a flush or straight, and will only make a set about 1 time in 8.5 flops), those hands are often a matter of "what you see is what you get". Since our stated "goal" is to play for "top pair" type hands, this means pocket pair value is often determined by the overall chance of over cards (cards higher than the pocket pair) appearing on the board. A table of the chances for overcards appearing on the flop for various pocket pairs are:
AA = 0% chance
KK = 77.5% 0 overs, 21.2% 1 over, 1.4% 2 overs, 0.02% 3 overs
QQ = 58.6% 0 overs, 35.1% 1 over, 6.0% 2 overs, 0.29% 3 overs
JJ = 43.0% 0 overs, 43.0% 1 over, 12.8% 2 overs, 1.1% 3 overs
TT = 30.5% 0 overs, 45.8% 1 over, 20.8% 2 overs, 2.9% 3 overs
99 = 20.7% 0 overs, 44.4% 1 over, 29.1% 2 overs, 5.8% 3 overs
88 = 13.27% 0 overs, 39.8% 1 over, 36.6% 2 overs, 10.3% 3 overs
77 = 7.9% 0 overs, 33.0% 1 over, 42.4% 2 overs, 16.7% 3 overs
66 = 4.2% 0 overs, 25.0% 1 over, 45.6% 2 overs, 25.3% 3 overs
55 = 1.86% 0 overs, 16.7% 1 over, 45% 2 overs, 36.4% 3 overs
<note, below this point, the board MUST pair to make 44 and under have 0 overs>
44 = 0.6% chance 0 overs, 9.2% 1 over, 39.8% 2 overs, 50.4% 3 overs
33 = 0.1% chance 0 overs, 3.4% chance 1 over, 29.0% 2 overs, 67.6% 3 overs
22 = 0.0% chance 0 overs, 0.25% 1 over, 11.5% 2 overs, 88.25% 3 overs.
Essentially speaking, the HIGHER your pocket pair is, the more likely it is to make an over pair. The more likely it is to make an over-pair, the more likely it is to be a hand good enough to win at showdown...see?
I would also like to note, there IS "value" in smaller pocket pairs, with very little chance to make an over pair to the highest card on the board. But this "value" is derived from "drawing" to a set. Much like playing cards with suited value, and connected value, you will require other skills to place yourself into +ev situations when playing these drawing type of "speculative" hands. Some of the skills required to leverage these non-pair values aspects are:
1) Reading your opponents
2) Reading the board "texture"
3) Using Poker "math"
4) Bet sizing and Stack management
5) Using "position"
Oddly enough, this is the very order the Suited Aces study group followed for our first few discussion! I bet from there you can guess what my NEXT blog post will be on!!!
Until then, rather than wishing you "good luck", I'd like to wish you:
to access the suited Aces ventrilo....
go to www.ventrilo.com
and download the ventrilo chat client.
when downloaded, there will be an icon on your desktop.
click this icon to open the lobby entry screen.
to the right of "user name" you will find a right pointing arrow. click this.
when open, click "new".
enter your PSO nick name on this line, and clock "ok".
then click the right facing arrow to the right of "server".
click "new" near the top, and put "Suited Aces" (without quotes) in the box.
go to the "hostname/ip" line, and type in: v84.darkstarllc.com
go to the "port number" line, and type in" 3860
do not enter anything in the pass word or default channel line.
make sure all 5 boxes at the bottom have a green check mark in them, then click "ok"
back in the lobby screen, simply click "connect" and you are in!
As soon as you get in, click "chat" so you can type to communicate.
If you ahve a microphone, someone should be in the room to assist you in setting that up so you can talk, and if not, you can simply type to chat. It is far easier to set up your microphone once you are in the room, rather than try to type out the instructions here.
hope to see you there!!!