Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tournament Poker Answer: Let's Try Something Different To Improve Your Game

Tournament Poker Answer: Let's Try Something Different To Improve Your Game

And now for something completely different..

Let's see what you would do with this hand. There are going to be two different tracks on this hand to help you to learn more about your game.

CrossroadsImage by Dominic's pics via Flickr

It is the $25,000 buy-in event at the WPT Championship in Ls Vegas. Since it is only $25,000,
you overslept and arrived late to the event.

It is still early on, and you have $49,100 in chips...lots of chips. You take a seat.

Hand #1. Now don't get yourself knocked out on your first hand!

The blinds are $100-$200.

You are in the hi-jack position--which is the position to the right of the cut-off. I also have seen it called the power position.

Hijack Flyer (back)Image by Soul Safari via Flickr

Since you are late, you don't know anything about your opponents.

A middle position player raises to $600. He has $50,000

You have J-8 suited with spades and call. It is heads-up, with $1,500 in the pot.

The flop is 10c-9c-3s.

Question 1: Your opponent bets out for $800. What should you do?

a) Fold
b) Call
c) Raise and to what amount?

If you selected a. Bad choice. You have an open ended draw and a chance to win a big pot.
If you selected b. Go to Question 2.
If you selected c. Go to Question 3.

Question 2: You called your opponent's bet. Why was this the right move? If you call the bet, I think that is because you have a draw and you believe you could win a big pot if you hit your hand. That is the typical play. It is not wrong, but it is not aggressive enough.

What if you raised here? What can happen?

1. Your opponent re-raises you and you would have to fold your hand.
2. Your opponent could fold and that would be a good thing.
3. You take control of the hand. Are you a bold enough player to make this move?

While b is not an incorrect answer. The result of the call is that your opponent is still in control of the hand. And the pot is now $3,100.

The turn is the Kh. Your opponent bets $2,400. What should you do?
a) Fold
b) Call
c) Raise, and to what amount?

See what happened here. Now you missed your straight, and you can't control the pot size. That call may have been a typical play by most players, but it may have been the wrong play. That call resulted in putting yourself in a difficult or unpleasant situation.

Question 3: You raised your opponent. Why? Did you make that raise because you thought your opponent was weak? Did you make that raise for another reason?

Raising here to get a free card is the reason the Pro player gave when asked. Or, he said if a scare card hits on the turn, he could win with a bet on the turn.

He raised to $2,200. He was called. The pot is now $5,900.

This is a bold play, and one you should consider adding into your game.

Question 4:

The turn card is the Kh. Your opponent checks and you decide to check. It's a scare card, but the Pro said he didn't think his opponent would fold to a bet here.

The river card is the Ac. That completes a potential flush. Your opponent checks.
What should you do?

a) Check
b) Bet and how much?


With his opponent checking, and you having Jack high, you can't check. The pot is $5,900 and you want your opponent to fold. The Pro overbet the pot to $7,000 and his opponent folded. The Pro stated that the raise on the flop was the key to winning the hand.

I think the learning from this quiz is that the call on the flop resulted in a lot of "wishing and hoping" on the turn. While the raise on the flop allows you to take the lead and control the pot size and the action. In this hand, here are many scare cards that can come on the turn. Frankly, I think the Kh on the turn was one of them. Although the Ace of clubs is a lot easier for your opponent to figure out your flop raise was a flush draw to get a free card.

If the club doesn't come on the river, I wonder if the Pro gets his bet called. Also, I don't know if over betting the pot on the river is the right sized bet. When making a bet that is larger than the pot it signals to me either a big hand or a bluff. A pot size bet or even a slighly less than pot sized bet signals to me "I want a call." Of course, a real small bet on the river will often get called given the odds.

Overall, the next time you have just a straight draw on the flop and your opponent bets into you, see how many scare cards can hit the board which can win you the pot. In this example, there are the flush cards (9), straight cards you really need (8-2 clubs), and cards that look like you hit a straight (8-2 clubs), or maybe 23+ cards to give you a win.

In fact, with this line of thinking you can forget about your cards! Just learn to look at flops and see what you can do to take the pot away from your opponent based on scare cards alone. Always put your opponent on a range of hands, and see if he indicates strength or weakness to your play. In this example, his opponent did not show any strength, so he was ripe for a bluff. Of course, there are times your opponent will slow play you into a bigger loss--but that does not happen often.

Things to think about and try at your next tournament. For me, this hand got me to think about raising on the flop because of a potential scare card on the turn or river AND a reminder of getting a free card in no limit. Usually, I will think about calling the flop and deciding if the turn card is a scare card I can use to get my opponent to fold. The reason is to control the size of the pot. Now, I need to test this play out. If you do the same, please let me know how it turned out.


1 comment:

Jonathan Gelling said...

This is really good advice. Often I see newer players wait until the turn or the river before they make a play at the pot. But if there's been betting on each street, it's more expensive to bluff the turn and river than it is the earlier streets. And if it's a sudden show of aggression on the river (after passively calling earlier rounds), your opponent will probably be confused but likely to call anyway.

By raising earlier in the hand, you can put your opponent on the defensive right from the beginning. Then a bluff on the turn or river is much more effective. And there are always straight or flush cards that can scare them by that point, if they haven't already ejected from the hand.

All in all, I like the raising on a made hand, raising on a draw, and raising on scare cards to come plays against conservative opponents. In fact, I generally like any play that involves raising. It's usually better than the alternative.

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