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Re-Set Your "Default Switch" For Poker Decisions.

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Re-Set Your "Default Switch" For Poker Decisions. - Sat Mar 24, 2012, 03:11 PM
(#1)
JDean's Avatar
Since: Aug 2010
Posts: 3,145
BronzeStar
Hi All!

I think we all aspire to play tight, aggressive poker. A hallmark of TAG poker is that you seek to maximize the profit you might make by playing a tighter range than your opponents. To be a TAG, our thought patterns really should run along the lines of this simple quote from Al Spath (former "Dean" of PokerSchool OnLine):

RAISE more than CALL, FOLD more than RAISE.

I do not think any of us have a lot of trouble betting or raising hands we are pretty SURE are best (like sets, or top 2 pair). Our troubles tend to start when we have hands like top pair, medium kicker or a medium pp that happens to be an over pair to the board on the flop. We find ourselves in these tough spots because too often we look on calls as a viable option, when we should really be thinking of raising or folding instead.

A lot of us will use all sorts of justifications for calling along in a pot though:

- I want to "set mine".
- I don't want to over play my hand.
- I want to "See what happens on the flop and go from there".
- I haven't played many hands, so my opponents will 'respect" my entry.

And so on...

The truth is, If you open limp to "set mine" often times you are simply setting yourself up to be re-raised off your hand, or you are creating a situation where you "must" flop a set to avoid losing your limp.

The truth is, if you call on a marginal hand in order to avoid "over playing" it, you probably have ALREADY over played it, since you've have set yourself up to possibly make a "2nd best" hand that could cost you far more than raising might have cost.

The truth is, if your only reason is to "see what happens on the flop", you are entering without a CLUE how you might maneuver to win, and that leaves you card dependant to find a clear way to win.

The truth is, if you haven't entered in a while, your opponents will "respect" your entry MORE if you enter for a raise rather than a call. Sometimes they aren't paying enough attention to KNOW what you are doing (or not doing), so if you are entering passively expecting to always leverage your "image", you are probably making a mistake...

Now I am not saying there are NEVER spots where a call along is fine; obviously there are a lot of spots where a call is better than a raise. but I am saying that because a call can be more "comfortable" in a lot of spots, we can tend to become too reliant on that option, and we over look spots where it may have been better to raise or fold.

In short, calling becomes our "default setting" for our poker decisions, and we start to veer farther and farther from the "goal" of TAG poker. We really do not want that, do we?

In order to help you to re-set your default switch for your actions from Call/Fold/Raise, to what it should be (Fold/Raise/Call), I suggest the following exercise...

Play 10 x SNG/MTT or Cash Game sessions at a micro stake (below what you'd normally play)
In this exercise, NEVER CALL...only raise or fold.
(yes, you can still check your option in the BB, and you can also CHECK post flop, but you cannot limp or call AT ALL! Just raise or fold...).

If you play MTT/SNG, the fact you cannot play "cheap pots" by calling means you should probably only raise/re-raise a pretty strong value range, especially early on.
You will probably be in a "shove/fold" situation relatively earlier due to playing fewer pots that might build your stack.
You may find that betting or raising opponents who are calling stations can be costly, so you may want to make sure you do not try to bluff bet them too often.

All this is FINE...

I'd also suggest that if you play cash games within this exercise, yous tick with a pretty tight value range for your games. I'd also suggest that you NOT enter more than 3 or 4 pots at most before moving to another table, as a bet or raise only play style can be very easy for opponents to adjust to.

Please note: Do NOT "substitute" a min raise for a call, just because you WANT to play! That defeats the purpose of the exercise! Only bet or raise for 2 reasons:

1) To extract Value
2) To induce Folds

You can "raise to isolate", which is a sort of compromise between these 2 things. An Iso raise is one made for "value" versus an opponent who has entered the pot ahead of you, but with a somewhat marginal hand you hope FOLDS OUT some better hands behind you, thus making your marginal hand play better.

Min raises do not work great for any of these things though, except in very specific circumstances!

The goals of this exercise are to make you more aware of:

- POSITION. The more people who may call or raise behind you, the harder it will be to play a hand without being able to call and pot control. Adjust accordingly.

- OPPONENT LOOSENESS. The weaker an opponent may call, the weaker your range might be to have good equity agaisnt that range. If TOO MANY opponents might call, the STRONGER the hand you hold may have to be to win the pot, and the more important it will be to have maximum info from position.

- OPPONENT AGGRESSION. The more likely it is that opponent(s) might RAISE your pot entries, the faster commitment points will tend to come. If you are facing aggro opponents when only betting, raising, or folding, be sure you are positive of the sort of hands you can commit on before staying.

- STACK SIZES. Adopting an approach that allows only bets or raises forces you into situations where you will tend to be in more "big pots", with fast approaching committment decisions. Before you enter any pot, be aware of how the types of hands you might flop with your start hand will tend to paly in those pots.

Now just like with the famous Annette Oberstad exercise of covering her cards and playing an MTT is not going to be +eV, do not expect this exercise to be +eV either. Calls ARE part of the game of poker, so eliminating them TOTALLY from your game is hardly a sure road to "success".

Covering your cards and playing allows you to identify situations where you might pound on WEAK opponents with your bet sizing choices, but you are essentially 'bluffing" every hand you play simply because you cannot know what your equity is versus the opponent's range. The exercise I propose allows you the chance to assess your equity and take steps to MAXIMIZE that equity. Sure, you might find some spots to bluff/semi bluff too, but the big idea behind this exercise is learning how to become more aggro with your more marginal value range, especially against weaker opponents...

...either that, or simply FOLD yourself out of tricky spots, and save what you can (or jam if you are committed already).

This exercise should help to re-set your default switch AWAY from calling too often, and focus it more on trying to get the most out of your situations that stand to have good value for you to do so. Taking steps to reduce the number of times you are calling in tricky spots can only help your profitability when you go back to your normal game.

And THAT is the idea behind TAG poker that we all aspire to...right?

I am curious to hear how you do if you try this, so let me know!

Hope it helps!

-JDean


Double Bracelet Winner

Last edited by JDean; Sat Mar 24, 2012 at 04:38 PM..
 
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Tue Mar 27, 2012, 01:49 AM
(#2)
JDean's Avatar
Since: Aug 2010
Posts: 3,145
BronzeStar
I saw a hand played by a friend today that fits this post well...

SITUATION:

UTG has just been crippled down to 78 chips with the blinds at 15/30 in a 18 man SNG.

HERO has around 2500 in chips, and is UTG +2 (3 to act behind him, plus the 2 blinds).

All players behind are on between 1300 and 2200 in chips.

UTG moves all in for his 78 chips.

Hero looks down to see Q6o.

Hero CALLS...and has used his "default switch".

Why is this bad?

First, calling along in and of itself is a BAD IDEA even if you know everyone behind will fold.

While UTG has shown himself to be a BAD PLAYER, and while that means he will probably shove any 2 cards rather than fold the absolute bottom of his range to get a "better" stand hand in his BB, the Q6o only has about 51.024% equity versus a totally random range.

BUT...

The "Gap concept in poker" states that we can never know for sure WHERE in his range the opponent stands. Therefore, half the time he will be in the top half, and half the time he will be in the bottom half of a random range, right?

Since we cannot RAISE with any fold equity versus this opponent, that means we really must look at our equity holding Q6o in terms of how it plays versus a 50% range, not a 100% range.
Q6o only has 39.819% equity versus a 50% range.

Obviously, this is a terrible spot to call...

NEXT...

Let's say that because of the 'dead money" in the form of the BB/SB, we think we can "risk" such a small amount in hopes the UTG has shoved at the bottom of his range...Does that make a call BETTER?

NO!

There are STILL 5 players left to act who could raise, and force us to FOLD our Q6o. If we do that, we have just spewed off 2.5BB we did not have to spew off had we recognized the weakness of our hand and FOLDED.

NEXT...

This means if we feel like a bit of a 'gambool", and want to play Q6o vs the UTG all in, the ONLY WAY we can do so is by RAISING TO ISOLATE ourselves on the all in.

If we do not do that, we are creating pretty fat pot odds to call a pretty small amount to a LOT of people to come along. We would have no surety that a top pair Q with a 6 kicker is going to be "enough" to win the pot, and if others come along, we make it far more likely that a top pair/weak kicker will NOT be enough to win the pot.

NEXT...

Given the dry pot we are figuring to create, and the fact we seem to be trying to keep our investment "small, the lack of "clarity" about the quality of most flops we might hit can easily lead us to GIVE FREE CARDS to all manner of draws which might then run us down. If we had more surety our top pair would be "good" if we hit it, we could act more aggressively even in a dry pot, and perhaps price out draws, but how can we do that really when we hold a 6 kicker?

So...

This is a pretty clear spot where we should have used a FOLD/RAISE/CALL line of thinking, rather than a "default" CALL/FOLD/RAISE line of thought.

Calling here may NOT be "cheaper" than raising, as a raise would tend to make any 1 pair we might hit with our "cheese" holding play better if we thin the field. We would have also created a SIDE POT we might be able to bet aggressively into (either as a bluff or for somewhat thin value with a Q or 6 hit), and fold out a caller to off-set any of our loss to the UTG player.

The WORST thing we would want to see is that we hit a marginal piece, and then continue to CALL bets without any clue if we are really ahead...doing THAT can be way more expensive that a raise from the beginning, and it is certainly more expensive than your "best" option...

A FOLD!

-JDean


Double Bracelet Winner
 
Old
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Tue Mar 27, 2012, 07:34 PM
(#3)
RedLetterman's Avatar
Since: Jun 2010
Posts: 665
Thanks. I recognize having made this same move dozens of times.
 

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