Senin, 13 Oktober 2014

The Three Biggest Leaks in … Low Stakes Tournament Players

I’ve noticed some trends lately among my students. Most of them are low-stakes, recreational tournament players who are looking to take their game to the next level, and many of them have some of the same leaks in common. A lot of these leaks are a result of recent progressions in tournament theory that “traditional logic” simply hasn’t caught up with yet, while some are simply misunderstandings or misapplications of well-known concepts. Here are the three most common and damaging leaks I’ve seen recently.
Picking the wrong hands to three-bet bluff with
pocket kingsI’ve seen many players recently making errors with their three-bet bluffing ranges in certain spots. They take hands that play relatively well postflop and have limited blocker value, and effectively turn them into trash hands by three-bet/folding them.
The best examples of this concept are the kinds of hands that are so difficult to fold preflop in general, because they just look too good — King-Queen suited, Queen-Jack suited, Jack-10 suited. There are certainly spots where it’s good to three-bet/fold these hands, but the majority of the time, these hands play so well against most opening ranges that you’re wasting the value of the hand if you put yourself in a position where seeing a flop is unlikely.
If a standard, tight-aggressive villain opens in the cutoff and you three-bet Queen-Jack suited with 40 big blind effective stacks, you’re in a spot where you have to fold to a four-bet most of the time, and when the villain does decide to flat-call your three-bet, his or her hand will dominate yours more often than vice versa. Queen-Jack suited has so much flop potential that it’s strong enough to call with.

Similarly, there are also many spots where players three-bet with the wrong kind of hands based on their stack sizes. On shorter stacks, between 22 to 30 big blinds, three-betting with hands like Ace-seven offsuit or King-10 offsuit can be a very good play, because they play poorly postflop, but have blockers to some of the hands that villains will four-bet shove with. On deeper stacks, upward of 50 big blinds, your three-bets will get flat-called a lot more often, so it’s better to choose hands with flop potential like an Ace-five suited or seven-six suited.
This principle of “flop-friendliness” is very important when deeper stacked, since you’ll see more flops. Your three-bet bluff range should ideally start fairly close to the point where your flat-calling range ends. If you decide you can flat Jack-10 suited profitably in a situation but not Jack-nine suited, then Jack-nine suited is probably a good hand to include in your three-bet bluffing range. It flops well, but not so well that you can flat. The same goes for hands like Ace-10 suited, King-nine suited, five-four suited — if you don’t think they’re strong enough to flat-call in a certain spot, they might be good hands to three-bet. However, when stacks are shorter you’re getting called less often, so while blockers are useful, your hand matters much less.
Giving away information with betsizing
This is a very common one. I’ve noticed people using betsizes, both preflop and postflop, that aren’t as open to interpretation as they should be. This could be using very large betsizing when they have the nuts, or very small betsizing when they’re going for thin value. Against a lot of weak players, balance isn’t necessary and exploitative betsizing is a good idea — indeed, it’s essential in many spots in low-stakes tournaments. However, sometimes it’s necessary to size your bets a certain way even against weaker players, in order to avoid these weaker players unwittingly exploiting you in return.
An example of a situation in which this might occur could be a standard preflop spot. I’ll pretend we know all the players’ hands for simplicity. A player minraises under the gun with Ace-Queen suited at 500/1,000 with a 100 ante. Two players call, and you’re on the button with pocket Aces and an aggressive image. The player in the big blind has a stack of 22 big blinds, and he has pocket eights.
If you make it, say, 8,500 here with your whole range, which a lot of players might, it gets a lot of folds which is good when you’re bluffing, but it has one important effect — it makes it very difficult for you to theoretically fold to the big blind if he shoves, based on the pot odds you would be getting. You’ve only put 8.5 big blinds in the pot, but you’re effectively committed to calling 22 big blinds, so your range looks extremely strong to everyone else in the hand. However, if you make it 5,500 here, you get only marginally fewer folds, but you also don’t give as much information as to whether you’re planning to call 22 big blinds or not. This might be the difference between the big blind shoving his pocket eights and folding them, or the under the gun raiser deciding to shove or fold his Ace-Queen. It also means if anyone does see you turn up with Aces in this spot, you might get away with similar small sizings as a bluff in future.
Folding too much getting good pot odds
This is a relatively simple one. I see a lot of people in tournaments folding the small blind in limped pots, or folding the big blind in spots where there’s a raise and five callers. There are a lot of instances where if you pay attention to the odds you’re getting preflop, you might be getting upwards of 6 to 1 in a three-handed pot, or even as much as 10 to 1 in a five-handed pot. In these spots, people tend to fold a lot of semi-decent hands, worried about reverse implied odds or playing out of position. In fact, as long as you make good decisions postflop, your odds here are so good that folding becomes incorrect — for example, you flop a flush draw just under 1 in 9 times with two suited cards, so if you end up getting 10 to 1 with a hand that could potentially stack someone by the turn or river, calling that extra one big blind is absolutely worth it.
The same applies to other kinds of spots — calling in the big blind versus a button raise, for example. You usually get around 4.4 to 1 to call in the big blind versus a minraise, and with any kind of decent hand you almost certainly win a heads-up pot more than the 19 percent or so that you need to. Again, reverse implied odds aren’t much of a concern if you play well postflop, because the button’s range is usually wide enough to include only a small percentage of hands that dominate whatever hand you have.
This also applies postflop. I see a lot of players raising with flush draws or straight draws in spots where their opponent has made the mistake of making a bet so small that they have direct odds to draw to their flush or straight anyway, just because they’ve read that they need to semi-bluff a lot with good draws. This is true, but the simple fact that a raise has fold equity and is profitable doesn’t mean that a call isn’t more profitable if you’re given direct odds. If you have a nine-out flush draw going to the river, you have around 18 percent equity, so don’t absent-mindedly fold to a quarter-pot bet just because you missed on the turn.
In general, it’s true what they say about it becoming more difficult to win at poker these days. If you want to succeed in the long-term, fixing leaks like these early in your career will set you up to later focus on some of the more specific nuances of the mid-stakes and high-stakes tournament arena.