Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Razz Poker--cash game $30-$60 and a big tip on 6th street play

I played some Razz poker tonight. It's been a while. When the table was full, there were a few things worth noting...

Part 1: Two players decided to be the sheriff at the table. The sheriff is the guy with the second lowest card and nearest to the right of bring-in bettor (meaning acting later). If the lowest card raised, these guys would re-raise to get heads-up. Heads-up if they hit good and their opponent hit bad that would collect the pot.
Of course, this play is obvious when you do every single time.
The bad news I had both of these guys to my left, so I had to be more selective.

What happened for me was that I bought in for $600, and got it to $1,000 and was going to play one last hand. It was a good hand, but one of these guys beat me on 6th and I had to fold. So, now I was staying.

Part 2: The table became 4 handed, and only one sheriff remained at the table. The guy just kept beating me. I was down to $130.

Part 3: A new player sat down and this time I shot the sheriff....as I knocked him out. The funny thing about these guys is that they think because they play aggressive and bluff a lot, they think everyone else is doing the same thing. Well, guess what? Sometimes your opponents have hands!

I built my stack to $1,400. I lost two more hands, and decided to leave with $1,200--ahead $600.

One last comment: On one of my favorite blogs (brickin' the nuts), I tried to help by posting advice on how to play 6th street on the example provided. Unfortunately, the other Razz players don't get it since it is such an uncommon move in Razz--checking when you are ahead on 6th street.

However, the fact is that checking is the right play when you and your opponent have mediocre lows and you know your opponent is going to call your bet on 6th, and fold on 7th if he misses but call or bet when he hits better than you. Essentially, here are the outcomes:

Common Play:
Bet on 6th, and get called.
On 7th you hit and he misses....still win 1 bet.
On 7th you miss and he hits...you lose 2 bets, since you will call since he may be bluffing.
On 7th you both hit good...but you are not sure, so you check. He would only bet if he can beat you. Therefore, either up 1, down 1, or you lose 2 bets.
On 7th, you both hit good...he is going to call...you win 2 bets.
Net--this is not a good bet on 6th, even if you are a big favorite. A 10 low versus an opponent's J low is not all that good, when you know he is going to call the 6th street bet.

Uncommon Play:
Check on 6th.
Now you will either win one bet, lose one bet, or break even--given all possible outcomes.

This situation happens all the time in Razz and everyone continues to play it wrong.
If you have a mediocre or worse low on 6th and are ahead of your opponent's almost equally mediocre or worse low, and you KNOW for sure he will call your bet...don't bet! Check!

How often in Razz do you see that guy in the lead bet on 6th get called, and then check when he misses. If his opponent bets, he always calls. Loses two bets. If his checks, he only loses or wins 1 bet.
When he bets, his opponent is only going to call if he thinks he has a better hand. The bet on 6th, will result in most cases you winning one bet or losing two bets.
The check on 6th, will result in a 0, +1, or -1 outcome.

I decided against taken up the Brickin' the Nuts blog with a large post to explain. I understand why players always think when they are ahead on 6th, they should bet. But it's not always the best play. Really, even if you are a 60% favorite.

Oh yeah, this one change in your game will really save you money and result in better results. I mention this in my book as an advanced play for 6th street. Another way to look at it is if you were the other guy, given your draw, the mediocre low of your opponent and both the pot and implied odds, you are going to call.

Let me know if this is clear or not.

6 comments:

The Poker Enthusiast said...

I can see that it can be played both ways...with a bet or with a check. My thinking has always been to make them pay when I am ahead but with the varience in razz, you can go long periods where they catch you so checking 6th may be the right play depending on the read. I will put some thought on it for sure.

Mitchell said...

I believe in one of Sklansky's books he talks about Razz poker, and how a check is the right play in this situation.

I think it may be in Theory of Poker. My memory could be wrong since it's been a while since I read that book.

TheRazzDoctor said...

The book you're thinking of is Sklansky on Razz, which is included unabridged in Sklansky on Poker. The situation where he described an advanced play of checking on 6th when ahead is a completely different one than this hand with the only similarities being that the hand is on 6th st and you know you have the best hand at the moment. Even in that example, he is assuming old time opponents who would never make a loose call down, and never bluff at you if you checked to them on 7th so you can safely fold and risk the entire pot to save a bet. Do you know any opponents like this nowadays?

Mitchell said...

Thanks for your feedback, and where I first read the idea on checking on 6th.

I know what you are saying on how to play the hand. I guess I look at it differently, despite the odds on 6th street.

In the example, if you were the guy who was behind in the hand, you are calling the bet on 6th. If you don't improve on 7th, you fold. It costs you one bet.

I always find it "funny" in Razz when two players with mediocre lows are heads-up on 6th street. The player in the lead bets, and gets called. On 7th the player in the lead doesn't improve so he checks.

Now the "funny" part: he is probably praying his opponent doesn't bet. Because if he bets, he knows he lost. Yet, he has to call.

The way I view it, he has just lost 2 bets when he could have just lost one bet with his "mediocre" hand.

Here is the scenarios I see when betting on 6th street:

A improves B improves +2
A improves B improves better -2
A and B don't improve +1
A doesn't improve and B improves -2

Doesn't look favorable to me to bet on 6th...because both players have mediocre lows, and you know you will be called because your opponent can beat you on the river. It happens all the time.

Mitchell said...

Here's my math on this--even though I'm not a mathematician:

On 6th street, assume you are a 64% favorite to win the hand. What is the probability of each of the winning events--I think its 20-80 or:

A improves B improves +2=20%
A and B don't improve +1=80%
Which results in:
.4x.64=.256
.8x.64=.410
TOTAL=+.666

You lose 36% of the time on 7th. But, I believe its 80/20 on these losing events:

A improves B improves better -2=80%
A doesn't improve and B improves -2=20%

Which results in:
-.544+-.144=-.688

Net: -.022...if my 80/20 assumption is correct, it is wrong to bet on 6th.

TheRazzDoctor said...

Even if your math were right (which it isn't) and your assumptions were right (which they're not), your analysis of this spot would be incomplete. It's not enough to determine whether one specific line of play is + or -EV. What if all possible lines are -EV? You have to compare all your possible plays and see which has the most EV, even if that means choosing the one with the smallest -EV.

You don't need to be a mathematician to do this kind of analysis, but I guess I expected more from an author on the subject.

What's Your Poker IQ?