Saturday, April 11, 2009

Unexpected Value: A New Idea in Tournament Poker

Day 55, the Countdown Continues

"The mathematically correct play is not always the best play."
-Chip Reese

What is unexpected value? Unexpected value is making a fold even though you have positive expected value, since you know you will get more value out of a later poker situation.


It was down to 18 players in a MTT. There were 9 players at my table and I was on the button. A tight player raised 3x's the big blind. It was folded to me. I found pocket Jacks. A call made no sense since it committed half my stack. It was a situation where if I moved all-in, the raiser would call me since he had committed about 40% of his chip stack.

Since I knew my opponent was tight, he was pot committed, and 65% of the time the flop alone will have one card higher than my Jack, I made the unusual play. I folded.

I believed the unexpected value of folding was greater than the expected value I may have enjoyed at the moment.

It ended up being the right thing to do since I was able to take my low chip stack and finish 4th.

Let's take this concept one step further:

You need chips to win a tournament, and our goal is to win.

Expected value is a solid cash game concept since it is about how mathematically in the long term you will be ahead.

Expected value does not play out in all tournament decisions because a tournament is one event that is limited in time and where the value of a chip changes over time.

Another example of unexpected value is a player who views the size of the pot and decides to throw in the last of his chips since the pot is so big. Well, one of the top tournament players mentioned that he used to make this mistake and get knocked out. Now, he will save those chips and use them to build his stack back up.

While he didn't give this idea a name, I think it is my unexpected value concept.

Another example is the way Phil Hellmuth plays no limit tournaments. Phil has cashed more often than any other player in these events. One thing I read is that Phil does not always make a call when he is on a draw. I wonder if it is because of the odds in the situation, or because Phil knows he has the edge by waiting for the right situation to accumulate chips.

One final example is where I took the above quote from the late Chip Reese. He told a story about how was much better than his opponent, and he risked a large percentage of his chips against this man since he knew he had a slight edge. He was right but he ended up losing the hand. That's when he said "The mathematically correct play is not always the best play." (Anyone recall the poker book I read that in?)

Perhaps that sums up the concept of unexpected value. Unexpected value is when the mathematically correct play is not the best play.

What do you think?

1 comment:

Azlen said...

A way to look at this is weighing the pros and cons of going all in early in a tournament. If you double up that's great but there is still no guarantee that you will get close to the money. If you lose your chips, then you're out and its guaranteed that you will definitely not win a dime. In that situation that down side is significantly more negative than the upside is positive.
So calling an all in bet where you are a slight favorite, is not always going to be the best play.

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