Sunday, September 16, 2007

Playing the Draw, Pt. 2 (Poker Phil)


One of the most overused phrases on a poker table is "Well, I've got outs." Of course this is usually said after an all-in showing where you realize that you're behind, bu not quite drawing dead. However, now I want to discuss the potential of playing that draw, and getting paid off on it.

Remember my last scenario. The first choice is to check the flop and give everyone a free turn card. The thought process here is that the odds of you having the best hand at the time are slim, and that a free card when you are short-stacked is a good idea in most cases. Or is it? By giving the table a free card, you are doing two things. You're giving everyone else a chance at improving what may already be a made hand. Secondly, you're taking away your percentages by nearly 50% if your card doesn't hit the turn. Now, if you are thinking of making a move, there's even less of a chance a bet will work on the river, and a greater chance that it will bring about the end of your tournament if someone should call you. Then again, if you can't make your hand on the turn, you can get out for cheap and still be alive, although your position is only going to get worse.

Making a smallish bet here is also probably the worst thing you can do. You're inviting callers into a pot that will exceed your stack size after the calling is done. This means that marginal hands with minimal drawing potential may call you from any position if you choose to push on the river. Let's say you bet 400 into the pot, that's a little more than half the pot. If you get even just one caller, that will bring the pot size up to 1550 and your stack size will only be 950. Your next bet, an all-in, will only be about 60% of the pot. That's not a good number to be throwing in a pot, especially if you're on a draw. The arguement is that you'll still have chips if you miss. With the blinds at $75-$150, a betting strategy that leaves you with 6xBB as a worst case scenario, is only going to get multiple callers to your all-in to attempt to take you down, aside from the fact that the hand you pick to move with will effectively choose you, instead of the other way around.

There's another option here: the all-in. This is a move I like a lot here. I understand that you haven't made your hand yet, and possibly not at all, but here is a situation where the table has shown great weakness. One of the limpers, as I said in the last post, had been beat out of a decent sized pot but still has a good-sized chip stack. He could either be gun shy at the moment, or he could be playing anything hoping to catch. Here's the beauty of the move - you've got more information than you need on the entire table after this flop. Let's look at the hands.

The first hand, and most dangerous hand, is obviously A-J. This makes the nut straight and leaves you drawing dead to a club. but is A-J out there? It's possible that one of the blinds is slowplaying the hand, but it stands that from the blind, a raise might want to come out to thin the herd a little, especially the other blind. In fact, the same can be said of any of those positions. The limpers were early, and one having just taken a beat on a pot. We're I playing at this table, I would have believed that someone in those positions would have raised with A-J.

Here's the beauty of it -- at worst, you're a 60%-40% dog in hand and that's ONLY if someone on the table limped in with 10-10, Q-Q, K-K and flopped a set. With the board limping and checking around, and then checking around again I think it's safe to assume that neither of those three hands are out there. Any pair at all, and you're actually a FAVORITE to win at this point in the hand, albeit only a slight favorite. Let me clarify one thing. When I say "win" I mean you're getting a piece of the pot. There are a number of hands, such as K-J, where you're a dog to win, but a favorite to not lose. If someone calls your all in with K-J then you are roughly a 36% dog to win with a 20% chance to tie...that's a 56% chance to get some of the pot. If someone calls with A-K/Q then you are 50% to win and all other combinations actually improve your chances to win the hand outright as long as the caller doesn't hold a J. The only exception to this, is if for some reason, the caller has Kc-Xc or Ac-Xc. A suited king of clubs or ace of clubs makes you a 5:1 underdog in the hand, however you have to again think if that hand is out there? It's possible, but again it's highly unlikely and the all-in here is a percentage bet, anyway.

Any called hand can reasonably be deduced as existing, leaves you as a favorite to win the hand from the flop. However there's something else to add to the picture; what if everyone folds? If everyone folds then you get the 750 in the pot and increase your chip stack to 2100. You've just increased your stack size by 40% in the hand. Of course, if someone calls than you're looking at more than a double up.

However what if two or more people call? The beauty of making a move on a nut straight draw with flush outs from the flop, is that it doesn't matter how many hands are out there....your odds NEVER decrease as long as the hand I mentioned above are not there. In fact, your chances of winning actually go UP with the fewer number of outs that are seen. If two people call, one playing K-7o and one playing A-Q with neither having a club then you actually gain a percentage point on your outs. You are 50% against the A-Q heads up, but 52% if a second hand playing K-7o exists. Now these percentage movements are minor at best, but they still increase your odds. And while your odds are getting slightly better, the pot may be three or four times larger as well.

So with multiple callers you get more of a return on your investment and a better chance to have it pay off. What's not to love about that, especially when you're the short stack on the table and time is running out. Make the all-in move, and roll the dice now since the dice are going to lean ever so slightly in your favor. Youv'e got a table showing weakness, and the best draw you can possible have without having directly gotten a piece of the flop. Next time, the results of this hand, the thoughts on the outcome, and etiquette on a poker table.

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