Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Getting paid off with tougher players

One problem that I am spending a lot of time worrying about lately is how to get paid off the maximum when playing in pots with particularly tough players. (The issue doesn't contradict with game selection issues as I've been doing a good job of this, but the good games still often feature a number of tough players.)

I have a pretty big tell on the later streets. Whenever I 3 bet the turn or raise the river, I have a very big hand. I honestly can't recall the last time I have done so without a hand at least as good as top two pair. Against all but the loosest players, I will have probably 5th nuts or better.

This behavior is hard to miss by my opponents. Even the weaker opponents will notice this, but the reason they pay off is just to see what I have. Tougher players simply don't do this.

It should be very easy to counter this: Simply balance more bluffs, semibluffs and slowplays.

This is an example of a hand that I wish I had taken a little differently on the turn:

hand #1
live $40/$80 LHE, 8 handed
Villain is a very tough player who thinks at several levels.
preflop: mucked to Hero in MP, Hero raises w 6d6h, mucked to Villain in CO who calls, everyone else mucks (2 players, pot size 5.5 small bets)
flop: 6c4dQh, Hero bets, CO raises, Hero pauses for 1 second, Hero 3 bets (2 players, pot size 11.5 small bets)
turn: 6c4dQhQs, Hero bets, CO raises, Hero pauses for 1 second, Hero 3 bets, CO mucks

Preflop range for Villain is difficult to narrow down.

Flop action is pretty standard. Hero's 3 bet clearly indicates that Hero has at least a high pair (say 99+).

The turn is definitely the most interesting street. Villain's turn raise can be for one of 3 reasons: i) raising for value with a big, but worse hand, such as trips or 44 ii) raising for free showdown with some medium strength hand e.g. AA, KK, 88, iii) a complete bluff (the board is completely dry with no draws).
Note: Given the preflop action, Hero's hand will always be good here vs. Villain's range on this board.

For the first category (i), Villain will shut down, but will call down UI. For the 2nd (ii) and 3rd (iii) categories, Villain will immediately muck. The number of combinations for (ii) and (iii) compared to (i) is larger, but not substantially so. Perhaps 2:1 would be a good estimate.

A line that I think would work far better on the turn would be to only call the turn raise, and then lead the river. (In my mind, Hero's hand looks something like JJ, KK or AA.)

Very little value is lost with this line vs category (i), as Villain is still likely to raise/call the river (which gets more bets in the pot vs. 3 betting the turn, although this is somewhat balanced with the times that Villain only calls on the river and also the times he raise/folds making a great laydown with a hand like QJs and also the times Villain improves to a better hand).

With category (ii), Villain is often going to make a crying call, which increases the value although ~10% of the time Hero gets outdrawn (Villain improves to better full house) and absolutely must pay off given the way the hand is played.

Most importantly, with category (iii), Villain will occasionally raise to "outplay" the Hero. No value is lost by only calling the turn raise, as Villain is drawing dead. I strongly suspect that the biggest gain in value in taking the turn call/river lead line comes from this scenario.

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