Friday, May 15, 2009
A Further Examination of Relative Value: Moving Beyond Theory and Into Practice
This hand is a direct continuation of the concept presented in the last post with a very different outcome.
Raising TT under the gun is obviously a standard play and I am naturally hoping for only a single caller, but those hopes are dashed when LostOn4thSt enters the pot in the BB. However, being squeezed in position here is actually better than facing two opponents acting behind me, due to the fact that if the BB and I both check the flop and the last player takes an action, I effectively act last.
So we take a flop and it comes J high with a wet texture. Unlike in the previous example, wet board textures provide many more semi-bluffing opportunities and dilute the quality of the information you receive in response to your bets. Had this hand been heads up, I would normally lead out and give a crying call to a raise because there are many more opportunities for a lone opponent to take a deceptive action on a board texture such as this.
Naturally LostOn4thSt checks, but this isn't just a normal check. He insta-checks. It has been my experience that the insta-check is most often meant as a ruse to lure me into betting and then snap me off with a check raise. But that's not all: LostOn4thSt and I have a lot of history. He has probably won as much money off me as anyone I have played against as a short stacker, in various ways. He always either shows up with the goods or draws out horribly, as he did earlier this session when we got all in pre-flop holding KK and 55 respectively. I spiked my set and he caught runner-runner straight with his fives. The bad beat is not the point, however. He enjoys butting heads with me and would almost certainly enjoy cracking me for a third time in a single session. Therefore his range could be quite wide in this spot, though my experience with him tells me that he still would not pass up the opportunity to re-raise me with JJ+ and AK. It would not surprise me though to have him show up with many top pair type hands, J9 for 2 pair, or a set of nines or sixes. 96 is always out of his range, as he is a good player and though I am sure he would like nothing better than to crack me, he is not stupid either. Of course, he is playing a lot of tables and just as easily could have mentally checked out of this hand so as not to waste any more time than is necessary. However, his quick action definitely gives me pause.
I check my hand and evaluate the action behind me.
Now let's examine the cold caller's range. I have a note on this chap that he has cold called me with AA before, and that's clearly bad news. Truth be told, this is actually a great defense against short stackers that only the clever or the dimwitted tend to use. Typical players are so ritualistic that they just can't bring themselves to make a flat call with a big pair to be deceptive or draw other players in the pot. Opponents who break this long standing tradition give me fits. After all, I am folding TT if I get re-raised by anyone outside of the blind positions, but flopping good is a recipe to going broke against said players. So here is the problem: QQ, KK, and AA are all still in his range. JJ is mostly discounted because most decent players understand well the dangers of building a large pot with a vulnerable hand such as this.
Here's the kicker: just like the previous hand with QQ, I am relying on the third player in the hand to give me the information that I desire from my nemesis in the BB. But get this- in a three way pot like this, the wet texture of the board is now working FOR me rather than AGAINST me!! Here is how:
1) If he cold called me with QQ, KK, or AA, this flop has surely made him panic. If he was screwing around with any of the above hands, now is the time to quit fucking around and take down this pot. He might try a smallish bet against just myself, but with another full stacked player with an undefined range, he is virtually always betting 2/3-full pot with these hands.
2) If he did flop one of the many available draws here and decides to bluff at it, he will either play it strong or choose to take a free card. I know that he has picked up on my range and that he understands that I am just as likely as he is to play this flop fast against two players, so my check has clearly labeled my hand as bricks, specifically AK in his mind. Therefore if he is betting around 1/2 pot or less, he is clearly full of shit, the way I see it.
3) If he flopped a set with 99 or 66, I still expect him to mostly play it strong to build a good pot with the full stacker while his hand still has maximum value. He could have possibly chosen to re-raise me with 99, as players often do to me, but generally speaking a set is a rare hand, so I still am forced to play the odds here. Top two pair is virtually always going pot here, and I don't even concern myself with the possibility of J6 because even fish don't really play that hand.
But in any case....
After my check he bets $10, roughly half the pot. He's trying to buy it because he thinks I completely whiffed!
As soon as the BB folds, it's time to escort this gentleman to Value Town and shove it all in. Since players are never truly predictable in a vacuum, I can estimate that I am ahead about 85% of the time when he makes such a weak play, but there are even greater benefits here. When the betting gets back to him he is now getting slightly better than 2.5:1 to call, and just as importantly, he knows he has no further decisions to make. When I execute this play, I often see some truly horrific calls, like 22, A7, and sometimes even two undercards drawing virtually dead. So not only have I gleaned the value of my marginal holding using a bit of short stacker sleight-of-hand, I have also maximized value by doing so.