Friday, January 07, 2005

I've been thinking a lot lately about the concept of betting in such a way to put your opponents to a decision. The thought was partially spawned by my post earlier, inspired by Pauly's comment that you should bet your draws hard. I'm thinking particularly about tournament play.

My alarm clock should be going off right about now, but unfortunately the phone was ringing off the wall with work this morning, and I couldn't get more than 5 hours of sleep. So, I decided to get outta bed and sit in on a cheap-o SnG. I don't have time today to properly commit to a ring game, but had an hour or so to kill. So I sat down at the usual cheap-o $5+1 NL hold'em table on Empire.

It started off pretty grim - but here is where I have learned to keep the chin up and chant to myself, "chip and a chair, chip and a chair." By the end of Level 2, I was down to 255 in chips. I decided to all-in wing-and-a-prayer it - after all, 4th through 10th place all pay the same, right? I held AQo. No callers, and the blinds get me up to 300. Alrighty! I have 10x BB. A barely playable stack.

Next up: early Level 3, blinds at 25/50. My barely playable stack is now only 350 - 7x BB, and I'm the small blind, holding K5c. Bunch of folders, and a loose short-stack goes all in for 435. No guts, no glory, right? It's harder to call an all-in than to raise an all-in, but my K5 suited has nearly 56% pot equity heads-up (chance to tie or win - see this handy dandy chart), so I put my tournament life at stake again. I call my remaining 300 (he had me covered), and I see that I'm up against AQo. My hand held up as I spiked a 5 on the river, and now I've got 625 in front of me.

A few hands later, I've got 600 in front of me, and I see AJ spades in the pocket. (Eeek the dreaded AJ again! The voices in my head... the devil on my shoulder... aaaahhhh!!) This was probably a questionable play on my part; I probably should have put my opponents to a decision. But, I lacked the guts to do it. I limped in for 50, and 4 of us saw a flop, including the big blind. Board comes 6-10-Q, one spade. I've got the inside nut straight draw for 4 outs, plus my overcard Ace (I figured I'd count it with the decent kicker) for 3 more outs. That's 7 outs - about 6:1 against hitting my draws. (I know, I'm stretching it here, because the Ace could very well give someone else the straight, meaning I should discount it. I know, I know! I guess I just felt like gambling). 2nd to act bets out 200, one caller. It's 625:200 (just over 3:1), the pot to my call. I'm not getting pot odds, but I like my hand. Time to gamble. (Do not try this at home!) I call, SB folds. 3 to the turn: King of spades. Suh-weet! I made my nut straight, and also have the nut flush draw. It's time to move. As predicted, the bettor lays out another 200. Next to act goes all in, 870 (covering me). I go all in for the 350 I have left. Bettor thinks for a LONG time and folds. I now see that my opponent was slow-playing his set of 6's from the flop. The Ad falls on the river - inconsequential. I win the hand and 1,725 chips. I'm feeling alright, having averted early tourney disaster.

With the topic of this post - putting people to decisions - I wonder if I should have fired into that pot with my AJ, as short stacked as I was. It worked out lucky for me in this case, but that's not always the case. The thing with putting your opponents to a decision when you don't have a made hand is that you're risking a chunk of chips, and if your chip stack can't handle it, you're in for a swingy game at best, or an early bust out at worst. As chip leader, it's a lot easier to force people to make decisions by betting big at them. For now, I'm going to conclude that considering my chip stack, and considering AJ is not nearly as strong a hand as it appears (indeed - my hand was beat by a pocket pair pre-flop, so I certainly did not have the best hand going in), I made the right move in that particular situation.

Another chance I had to put a player to a decision: I was in the big blind (level 50/100) with 1,625 in front of me. Playable stack. 2nd to act calls - a player who has played many hands, but shown down very few, playing aggressively. The 2 hands that had been shown down were just - 2 suited non-connectors with no ace or face, and 2 offsuited connectors. Neither of those hands were in the blinds, so those were voluntarily played. I'm holding 10-2 offsuit. (Yeah, it's junk, but I was BB and saw a free flop). Flop comes 10-J-7 rainbow. Well - I'm only holding middle pair with a horrific kicker, but what are the chances that that flop hit my opponent? He only had 290 left, so I put him all in. He called with 9-7 hearts, bottom pair. My 10's held up. By putting my opponent to a decision for the rest of his chips, I figure I had a chance of winning the pot by way of him folding, and if he did call, I couldn't possibly lose any more than that 290. It worked well in that hand.

Aside from forcing opponents to make decisions as to whether or not to play draws, or play middle or bottom pair, etc, there's something psychologically disturbing about being bet at for the precise amount of chips that you have. When I'm short stacked (or even not), and someone puts a bet to me for exactly all of my chips, it feels like a calculated move is being made. Someone is flat out daring me to call - me specifically! On one hand, the weak/tighties may fold in fear. On the other hand, the arrogant ones may call just because they can't stand to turn down a dare. Either way, I think the move increases your chances of winning the pot, just in pure psychology.

The game continued on, and the field did a great job of knocking itself out, putting me in the money along with BigMike65 (who I had seen briefly at another table once before), and DaneBoat. We were all about even in chips. Both guys seemed to be solid players - no weak/tighties here. Lots of raising, but with good hands at showdown. We shuffled chips around for a while, until my 2 pair AQ got nailed by J5 with a runner-runner straight. I went out in 3rd place.

But - that's $4 more in my pocket than I had this morning! :)

Now that I've killed another hour writing this post (man, I really love the hand playback feature of Poker Tracker), it's time for me to jump in the shower and get on with my day. First up - a trip to a friend's house to fix her ailing computer. Then, off to play cards! Wooohooo!

Until next time (I might actually have to go a whole 24 hours without posting here... we'll see) - good cards, everybody!


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