Friday, May 29, 2009
Alternative Line #1: The Limp Re-raise
1) You have 4 or more players between yourself and the blinds.
2) Your stack is no more than 27.5BB.
3) There are no early posters.
Why do this?
The benefits of this line are very simple and were designed to avoid the negative nature of playing AK from early position. Before I get started, let's take a look at what happens when you open raise.
When you open raise AK from early position, you are necessarily folding out many weaker hands that you wish would have called you, such as A3 or K9. Naturally, not everyone is folding these types of hands, but it is a given that when you raise, the average hand that plays against you increases greatly in strength and players holding these hands are more likely to fold than if you had limped.
Now supposing that you had raised, you are now building a rather large pot out of position against many hands like pocket pairs who will likely put you to the test if you bluff but fold against your value betting boards that contain an Ace or King. And of course, there are many boards that come up so bad that you are forced to immediately give up (8h-9h-Th comes to mind) and concede the pot to a weaker hand that cold-called you in position such as AJ or AQ.
Although playing AK when you miss is actually one of the more rewarding aspects of being a short stacker since it is a real test of your hand reading skills, it is important to never lose sight of the fact that the only real reason that we are here is to learn how to make money. Many fledgling short stackers tend to either overplay or underplay their AK from early position, so limp re-raising is a simple way to counter costly mistakes with this hand.
The main benefit comes from players who are unaware of what you are doing and your tight image and mash the pot button in response to your limp. So if you limp and they raise and then abandon their hand, you have now benefited greatly, because not only have you picked up extra money from a pot-sized raise ($9 in a $1/2 game), you have won without a showdown and picked up the blind money, all without paying any rake. This benefit is magnified when there are several limpers between yourself and the raiser, thereby increasing the size of his raise and your potential reward. If there are cold-callers, all the better. In the past, I have more than doubled my stack several times with this play without ever seeing a flop!
The second benefit comes from one of the Great Truths of Poker, which is:
Once a player has committed money to a hand, he will trick himself into committing more money in blatant acts of denial.
Notice what happens to the sorry douchebag who calls my shove in the replay above. I was able to double up only because we got all in before the flop. Even a fish wouldn't 3-bet an early open raiser with this turd of a hand and also wouldn't stack away on this flop without hitting one of his cards, so I maximized my profit by getting all in pre-flop.
This is also why short stacking works. You often read on the forums about players who claim that they just won't pay off a short stacker, but the truth of the matter is that very, very few players actually play correctly against a short stacker. They tend to either call far too often or fold far too often.
The final benefit actually comes from when no one raises. Now you will usually be playing against only the blinds, only now YOU are position. When they check to you, just fire 2BB's and you can get folds most of the time on pretty much any board. If you are playing against other limpers, just check and fold your hand if you miss or lead out strongly if you hit top pair or better, fully mentally committing yourself to the hand.
The only real drawback here is that you are making yourself very readable. But you know what? It doesn't really matter, because this play will still work over and over again, even against players that you have played thousands of hands against. Remember this: you will make the bulk of your profits by playing your hands in a straight up manner. You aren't doing this to be tricky, but rather because AK plays best when you get to see all five cards or never take a flop at all. Even still, since a few of your opponents will pick up on it and adjust, you still need to balance your range just a little bit by sometimes limp re-raising AA or KK. Just a little bit though...limp re-raising your very best hands is still playing sub-optimally and you will make the most money by open raising with them and generating a pot.
A secondary drawback is that this play does not tend to work very well at stakes above $1/2, even at Cake.