Monday, May 23, 2005

Value betting and Losing the minimum

There are two very important abilities that distinguish an average limit hold'em player from a good one. 1) value betting medium strength hands, 2) losing the minimum with 2nd best hand

Here are a few hands from my $20/$40 live limit hold game tonight that make it painfully obvious to me that I need a lot more practice and experience at developing these 2 skills. In the first case, my mistake made no difference on the $ result (but I just hate making mistakes), and in the 2nd case, I probably lost an extra 2 big bets.

Hand #1 - missing a value bet
10 seated table, there are at least 3 loose players at the table. I am in seat #1 and have been at this table for less than 3 orbits. I have played 1 pot with the player in seat #10 who in that hand bluff bet the river w A high when a scare card hit on a coordinated board, and I called w a set. He seems to be a fairly loose player.
- Folded to CO (avg player) who limps. Button folds, SB (seat #10) completes, I check in the BB w A3o.
- flop comes 236 rainbow, SB checks, I bet, CO folds, SB calls.
- turn comes 2367 with a 2nd suited card. SB check calls my bet
- river comes 2367A, no flush possible. SB bets, I call. SB cries out "You always call me", and shows K2o.
The question I have is, did I miss a value bet here? I think that I would have not won any money given his hand, but the correct play would still be to raise. I don't think he can call my raise w bottom pair, but you never know how loose or curious he is. This is only a small part of the reason why it was correct to raise. The main reason why I said I should raise here is because there is a reasonable range of hands that he will call me with - any A other than A6, A7, especially A2, A4 or A5. I simply would not give him credit for a straight or a set or a better 2 pair since he did not raise the turn, nor did he bet or raise the flop.
This is simply one of those situations that my opponent is representing a hand (i.e. that he made top pair on the river), that hand is a hand I can beat, and it is a hand that will call a raise. I should have raised and hoped that my opponent had what he was representing.

Hand #2 - not losing the minimum
10 seated table where all players have a minimum of 10 big bets in their stack (many have 40+ BB), all players have been at the table for at least 1 hour, and half have been at the table for 3+ hours. Table is fairly tough; several loose players have come and gone in the past few hours after being busted (or in 1 case performing a hit and run after a series of suck outs in big pots) and it just so happens that the table happens to be particularly tough during this period (I should have already left this table - game selection, a topic for another time. Online I definitely would have already moved. There was one other $20/$40 game running, and I had a mental lapse not to at least consider moving.) I had shown down very few hands in the past 3 hours, most of which were strong hands that I had played aggressively. BB is an experienced player.
- It is folded to me in MP+1, and I open raise with KdKc.
- Folded to the BB, who calls.
- Flop comes 5s7s7h, BB checks calls my bet.
- Turn comes 5s7s7h4h. BB checks. I really hate this board. There is "only" 3.25BB in the pot, and I'm trying to decide whether or not to defend my hand. This is kind of a classic situation where if my opponent has a draw, I do not want to give a free card, but if my opponent is ahead at this point I am drawing either dead or to only 2 outs.
- I choose to bet, and BB check raises. The problem here is that my opponent is capable of check raise bluffing, and now I'm stuck in the situation where I will obviously have to call 2 BB to see his hand.
- I call the check raise.
- River is an offsuit J. I call the bet. BB shows A7.

Sklansky says that in marginal situations where there are 2 choices that are very close, you should just randomly pick one and not spend too much time thinking about it. (Otherwise it will make bad players play better against you, and good players play even more "tricky" against you). I think that was what I was thinking when making my initial decision on the turn. So I fairly quickly (after about 2 seconds) decided to bet the turn. Perhaps this was not one of the 50/50 situations though. The pot had exactly 3.25BB in it, so possibly check/calling it down would be the correct play. However, that definitely does against the MO of a tight aggressive player.
There are 4 possibilities:
1. my opponent has a far superior hand to mine - a set, a full house, a straight [I only have 2 outs]
2. my opponent has a very good draw - str and flush draw [he has 12-15 outs]
3. my opponent has a decent draw - str or flush draw, and possibly 2 pair [he has 9-10 outs]
4. my opponent has any other hand [he has 3 outs or less]
I think I have 5 possible choices (there are more than 5 actual choices, but only 5 within reason) on the turn when it is checked to me:
1. bet and fold to check raise (kind of weak)
2. bet and call check raise
-----a. fold if scare card comes on river
-----b. call or check whatever comes on the river
3. check and fold on river if BB bets (unbelievably weak!)
4. check and call on the river if a no scare card comes
5. check and call on the river whatever comes

Forget about what he actually had, in the same situation I think I would now go with #5. There is only 3.25BB in the pot, and I'm risking an additional 2BB to "protect" my hand. The hand is not multiway, so there is less of a need to protect my hand. If the pot size had been larger or the hand was multiway, then I would revert back to my original action #2b.
#5 is a passive play, but another reason to do it would be to mix up my play. I had raised preflop in MP+1, so it is very easy for anyone to put me on a vulnerable overpair. It is usually correct to protect that particular hand, so it was very easy for him to trap me.

Comments are welcome...

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