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Showing posts with label Starting Hands. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Starting Hands. Show all posts

Monday, August 17, 2009

Limit Holdem: Making Fewer Mistakes Part 1 (Starting Hands)

In poker it's not so much about being great. It's more about sucking less

AK_190xIn many sports your goal is to be stronger, faster, tougher, whatever than your opponents.  A runner wants to run fastest, a jumper wants to jump highest, a poker player, however, just wants to suck less.  In this case “sucking less” means they want to make fewer mistakes than their opponents and they want to find opponents who make more (and worse!) mistakes than they do.  It also means that when they do make mistakes they want to minimize the consequences of those mistakes and when their opponents make mistakes they want to take full advantage of them.

Typical Low Stakes Poker Starting Hand Mistakes

Here are a few of the most common starting hand mistakes you can make in a low limit game:

  • Playing implied odds starting cards (also called multiway hands like JTs) either out of position or when you aren’t in a multiway hand
  • Playing easily dominated and/or small cards out of position like KJ, QJ, etc. when you are in a non-multiway hand (against one or two opponents)
  • Playing unsuited garbage hands like K5o, A3o, J4o

When your opponent makes these mistakes they automatically pay a price for them.  For example when they play a hand like 56s against one or two opponents they won’t hit their hand often enough to make money in the long run.  In addition when they do have a draw the pot odds and implied odds will be much tighter with fewer people in the pot. 

Besides the automatic price your opponent is paying you should take advantage of their mistakes and increase the severity of their error:

  • The first way to maximize your opponent’s mistakes when they have a poor starting hand selection is to always raise your premium hands preflop when they come into a pot before you.  If they are likely to raise with their dominated hands then you should usually be willing to re-raise them pre-flop with AK-AJ, KQ and any pocket pairs you suitable for your position at the table.  If they often limp into a pot with suited connectors again you should raise to reduce the number of opponents and penalize them.
  • If your opponent plays easily dominated or garbage hands, then be more willing to bet your top pair top kicker hands like AK, AQ, AJ (flopping a K, Q, or J respectively) aggressively on the flop, turn and river.  Always value bet the river unless your opponent has shown extra strength on the turn.  Sometimes you will have to fold to a river or turn raise with these hands (100% vs. an opponent who isn’t generally capable of a river-raise bluff).
  • In addition, when playing a hand like AK your opponents will often call gutshot draws on a board like AQx when they hold KJ or KT even when there aren’t many people in the pot.  Take advantage of this through value bets on all streets, but also be aware of their betting tendencies when a third Broadway card hits and they raise as you’ll often have to fold a one pair hand here against many opponents who, when raising the turn, are representing at least two pair.

Avoiding Starting Hand Mistakes

  • As a general rule, raise your premium hands before the flop.  Don’t be afraid to three-bet with hands like AK, TT+ AQs and three-bet with even worse holdings against someone who often raises with poor cards.  It’s tempting to wait and see a flop with AK, but at most online tables today it is a mistake—raise!  One exception to this rule is if there is a maniac player to your left in which case you can sometimes limp and re-raise with your best hands.
  • Don’t come into the pot with a multiway hand like QJs, 65s, 55 unless you are relatively sure there will be five or more opponents seeing the flop.  These hands are best against a lot of opponents when you are in late position.
  • I recommend avoiding small and medium pairs when facing 1-3 opponents.  While it’s true that 66 has a slight edge over AK heads up it will often be difficult to get more than a single bet per betting round when you win and you’ll often be facing tough decisions where you may end up folding the best hand or paying extra bets with the worst hand.  Obviously this is a situation you want to avoid.  Usually you have to flop a set or some sort of a combo draw (like a board of 3 4 5 when you hold 66) when you have a small/medium pair.  The exception to this rule is when you are up against an opponent who plays and raises will all pairs in which case you should be willing to play pairs as small as 77 heads up against them.

Review your play

After you’re done with a session, pull your hand history into a hand replayer like Popopop’s excellent (and FREE) hand replayer and look at the hands you were involved in.  Notice the starting hand mistakes you and your opponents made and also see situations where your opponents loose hand requirements caused you to lose more money than you should have when they made two weird pair or a gutshot straight draw.  See what you can do to mitigate those situations and also get more money in the pot when you have the best of it.

Until next time, keep flopping quads…

Part 2: Bad Draws coming soon.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

What's Legal and What's Right

First let me assure you that at some point we're actually going to talk about something that relates to playing Low Limit Holdem, it's just not going to be this entry.

This entry I'm going to talk about the site (www.lowlimitholdem.com) and one of the longest running unchanged entries in it--the starting hand selections.

Back in the day (the day being towards the end of the year in 2000) we listed the Sklansky and Malmuth starting hands (from their book Hold 'em Poker For Advanced Players) to show a contrast between what they suggest for a typical middle limit game and what works for a loose passive game (the no foldem holdem games you find at especially the 2-4 and 3-6 limits in brick and mortar cardrooms). This section of the web site stood as is for a few years and then in December 2003 I received an email from Mason Malmuth, or at least someone impersonating him, demanding that we remove their starting hand selections from the site.

My initial reaction was that this may be a prank of some sort and even if it wasn't I felt that we probably had a right to publish this short excerpt to compare to what we were offering for low limit games. The first thing I did was to ask Mr. Malmuth to give me a call to talk about it. This would scare off most casual pranksters but Mason did in fact phone me and we talked about the situation for about ten minutes.

At the end of the phone call I decided to remove the section in our starting hand selections that listed the S&M starting hands. I didn't do this because I thought I was in legal danger but simply because I respect both of these poker authors and because we got right down to it on the phone and the bottom line is that I told him that although I didn't like the tone of the original email that all he needed to do was ask me to remove them and I would--not for legal reasons but for reasons of respect and acknowledgement of his contribution to the poker world before it was the chic thing to do.

Since I removed them I've received several emails from various people pointing out that the copyright law has the following restriction:

Several categories of material are generally not eligible for federal copyright protection. These include among others:

Ideas, procedures, methods, systems, processes, concepts, principles, discoveries, or devices, as distinguished from a description, explanation, or illustration

In short that legally I shouldn't feel compelled to keep the S&M starting hand selections off the web site. Legally I don't. But I did make an agreement with one of the great poker writers to keep it off the site so I will.

Really it's irrelevant because if you're serious about playing poker you're at least going to own a copy of the book they wrote that contains these starting hand selections anyhow, right? You can order a copy directly from the publisher at www.twoplustwo.com. Tell them I sent you.