Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Glimpse Into the Mind of The Short Stack Hero

This is just an example of how I determine a line post-flop as a short stacker BEFORE I commit any money to the hand. This replay is a hand that had developed during a sweat session with one of my students. Although at first glance this appears to be nothing special, this is a common scenario where many short stackers tend to get lost because they do not understand the proper analysis. Though sweat sessions don't tend to be the ideal teaching tool, particularly for short stackers, I was very happy that this hand came up because this is a frequent danger spot.

Key concepts to note:
1) Position
2) Number of opponents
3) Board texture

When I raise from early position, as a short stacker I generally give my opponents credit for picking up on my tight image, therefore, I can usually (though not always) expect them to re-raise with better hands because they expect that I will be getting all in with them. So the first player calls. Given that the overcaller will be forced to play this pot out of position against two other players, I can expect him to re-raise all hands that beat me and even a hand such as AKo virtually 100% of the time, particularly because the original caller's stack is only 40BB. I can also expect him to re-raise with JJ and sometimes even TT.

Now that their pre-flop ranges are somewhat defined, we take a flop. The fact that the flop comes up K high is not necessarily a disaster. The board is very dry, particularly when coupled with the fact that I have removed two queens from the deck, reducing the probability that either of my opponents could be holding precisely QT, the only legitimate drawing hand that fits this flop. The only thing questionable here is my position after the flop.

Since AA, KK, AK, and JJ have mostly been eliminated from my opponent's ranges, this board is not particularly bad. A partial concern here is giving a free card that beats me, namely to gut shots. However with only 4 outs to a gut shot, I am far more concerned with getting my money in bad on the flop than letting either opponent draw for free. The question that remains, however, is how to get my opponents to reveal the accurate strength of their holdings without overcommitting myself in a potential two-out disaster.

Given that the board is so dry, this is surprisingly easy to do, though it really is a function of several years of experience reading common opponent tendencies and bet sizes. The small blind begins by checking. No matter the strength of the small blind's hand, I expect him to check every time. He clearly is never folding anything that beats me, but of those hands that do, I expect him to almost always either check call or check raise. Far more importantly, I am interested in how the last player to act will respond to both of our checks, but I already have my line in place.

After two players check, many online players will tend to bet despite the quality of their hand. I have noticed, however, that the size of their bets is often teeming with information. The presence of the third player in the hand tends to glean higher quality information than when he is absent, and coupled with the dry nature of the board and the effective stack sizes, I can expect that he will:

1) Value bet precisely between 2/3 to full pot with top pair and two pair strength hands with the full intention of commitment.
2) Check behind sets, which have pretty much been eliminated from both players' ranges, with the exception of a set of fours.
3) Check behind on a miss or weak draw.
4) Bet 1/2 pot or less with 2nd pair type hands, open straights, and sometimes even gut shots, and complete air.

Therefore my plan with this hand is to check fold if the last player bets EXACTLY $13 or more or bets $10 or more and gets either raised or called by the small blind. If he bets $12 or less and the small blind folds, I will check raise him all in, or if he bets less than $10 and the small blind just calls, I will check raise both of them all in, because now my stack-to-pot ratio is very good to get it in with 2nd pair and perceived weakness on both players.

I prefer this to leading out because in order to get back the right quality information, I need to bet a substantial portion of the pot, approximately $13 or more. At that point, it becomes a very expensive probe and I am nearing a threshold where I might find it difficult to fold even though I am almost always getting my money in with very little equity. Betting less than that will often get low quality information because it would appear exactly to be what is was: a probe with a weak hand. Furthermore, if I lead out and do not get raised (as I would expect to after giving the illusion of flop commitment and they like their hand), then I will have to push the rest in on the turn, barring some highly unusual information. Due to the dry nature of the board, I can reasonably expect that they might tread somewhat cautiously with the few semi-bluff type hands in their ranges, fearing that I may be slowplaying on a board such as this, yet even still, most players are so senselessly terrified of giving that free card that I can also expect that the last player will still bet a K even when he is highly suspicious of being beat and then proceed to talk himself into cashing away for the rest.

But that is not all- if the last player checks behind, I now get to see how the small blind reacts on the turn. I am somewhat concerned about an A or J hitting on the turn, but the quality of my hand has still not been defined enough to be all that concerned about getting drawn out on. Just to restate, I would rather get drawn out on holding a weakish hand having only invested $6 than be drawing to 2 outs having invested $45.

When the turn is a veritable blank and the small blind leads out for pot, most all bluffs have now been eliminated from his range and he is betting to take this pot down, most likely getting a little leery of the developing flush (once again, for no good reason). His bet sizing is unrestrained and very much looks like he is committed. I can now safely fold with a clean conscience.

On a final note, had the small blind bet another amount, I would have to re-evaluate how to proceed, but given the actual turn card and his decisive action, with the player left to act no longer being any concern and given his flop inactivity and barring any unusual draw out (namely a low set) I am effectively playing this hand heads up.


Anonymous said...

lol you are hillariously shit learn to play fully stacked then we might listen to your post flop bullshit advice

Lorin Yelle said...

Learn to write coherently and we might start listening to your juvenile criticisms.

If this level of intelligence is representative of the average full stack community, it is easy to see why people like me are still in business. :)

Nilay Chatterjee said...

Flash movie followed by you explanation. yum yum.

this is a good way to teach IMO.

hope to see more of this on short stack soldiers and less on the gen blog ;)

karbyn said...

Lorne 1, Anonymous 0

Very good article. I full stack most of the time, and full ring. Even a noob like me gleans stuff from you when its so well written.

TY! And I can't wait for another rare moment :)

karbyn said...

Lorne 1, Anonymous 0

Very good article. I full stack most of the time, and full ring. Even a noob like me gleans stuff from you when its so well written.

TY! And I can't wait for another rare moment :)

Roenan said...

This colum is indictative of why I check your blog waiting for a new column. Funny that you still get hate posts about learning to full stack (Never mind that every advance in strategy warfare/poker/sports/etc... was always thought of as uncouth (you know like the forward pass). I seem to remember the British thinking that guerilla warfare was ungentlemanly a couple hundred years ago... I wonder how that turned out).

On a side note, a question. Is there a level that you feel you have a disadvantage as a shortstacker (6-handed etc.. or is there a limit break where at a specific limit you do not think it would be as effective). As always great post.

Lorin Yelle said...

Ah- the forward pass, that's Travis's favorite analogy! Then can call short stacking "ungentlemanly" all they want, but if they are truly concerned about it ruining the games, they had best wise up and learn to counteract it NOW.

As of this point in time, I don't have much of a view of the ceiling. I just fixed all my holes in my pre-flop game, which were many but ironically, I think I was still successful because of my post-flop skills. I don't yet play 6 max because I have yet to do the requisite datamining to crack it, though it actually turns out to be simpler than full ring.

Travis "The Dirrty" Rose said...

Actually, the forward pass is my second favorite analogy. My first is Adolf Rupp and the "fast break" with The University of Kentucky basketball team. Before this team, the opposing team's offense would either score or not and then the opposing team would walk the ball down the court, wait for the opposing team to set up the defense, then call an offensive play and try to execute it.
Rupp said "that is Fucking retarded, lets just run down and score before they can set up to stop us." There was no rule against it, and it made more sense. The first year it was implemented, UK smashed the competition and won a National championship. Not only did they find a way to win, but they changed the game of Basketball into the multi-billion dollar game that is is today. So while their motive to win may have seemed selfish (EVERY pundit at the time said this type of behavior would ruin the (then little know) game), in actuality it was this little advance that helped the game/industry turn the corner and become the Behemoth that it is today.
If you cling blindly to old tactics and philosophy, it is inevitable that you will fall by the wayside. Period. The true competitor finds a way to adapt the the game and it's rules that nobody else has thought of. If you are not looking at the possibilities, or coming up with them yourself, you are guaranteed to be swept away by them. History is littered with the carcasses of those that said that something was "unruly", "wrong" or "ungentlemanly" .... nobody remembers their names. We do however remember the names of those that brought something new to our consciousness, challenged our thought, and excited us by the prospect of something new. Before you say that short stacking (or any other "unorthodox" style is simplistic, really look at this post from Lorin (which I think is the second or third best he has done) and ask yourself if you have done anything that you might be remembered (or HATED) for.....

If your answer is "NO", then you are already playing catchup. That is a game that nobody wins.....unless you don't play it. Like it, hate it, love it, loathe it, don't give a fuck about it, the system is here to stay. If established "sacred cows" hate it, it isn't because short stackers are dumping money to them, so why do you think they hate it? The answer is simple....when you are ready to look at the game (and life for that matter) with that kind of clear lens, you may just be amazed at what you might see.

Sometimes it is just as simple as imagining a guy running down the court and scoring while everyone is standing there motionless, trying to figure out what to do....

Then again, that is just my opinion...