Lost a huge pot, but I think I played correctly

I'm at a 200 buy in NL table. $3/$5 blinds. I'm the BB and holding 2-5 diamonds. I want out of the hand, but everyone limps in so I simply check and see the flop. I'm playing at a pretty loose table, so I was surprised to have been able to see the flop in the first place.

The flop comes 4-9-K of diamonds. I flopped the flush, obviously, but it is almost the weakest possible. A player before me makes a raise of about $20, which is pretty standard for that table. I reraise to $60, figuring that I might get a call from someone trying to draw a flush, but that I'll probably take down the pot right there.

The player behind me folds, but the one behind him raises to $170! Everyone else folds.

Now my decision: I've got a flush made, but its the worst possible. If he's got two diamonds, they are most certainly higher than mine. He may be holding the A of diamonds, hoping to push me out or draw the nuts if I call. Based on his loose playing style, he could possibly be holding a set.

I have to call, right?

I do, and he's holding 8-10 of diamonds. :(

I'm not so keen on your re-raise.

You're only going to get called by somebody with a better hand.

If you call, and a brick hits the turn, the intial raiser (who is most likely drawing) could possibly check hoping to hit the river with a free look.

Now you're seeing the river without investing any more money and if it's another brick, you're fairly certain your hand is going to hold up. If the diamond does hit the river and the guys raises you, you can get away from the hand with a minimal loss.

Just my 2 cents.

First thing's first calculate your pot odds. How much money do you have to risk, and how much will you win if you call and win (not including the money you have to risk). What is the ratio between the two.

So, how much money do we have to risk? Well he raises to 170, but we already put 60 in, so that leaves a raise of 110.

We have to risk 110.

Now how much can we win? The pot is now 170 + your 60 + other guy's 20 + ~40 for everyone limping preflop = 290. I guess rake would be ~5. That makes 285.

You have to risk 110 to profit 285. Thats a ratio of 285:110. Reducing to 1, we divide 285/110. That gives us 2.6 to 1.

Now what percentage of the time do we have to win the pot to break-even when calling?

The reason why the break-even point is very important is because folding is exactly break-even. That is, it costs us nothing to fold. Folding is 0 Expected Value (EV). Remember the 60 we put it is in the past, its in the pot, its not our money anymore. We put in the 60 when we decided at that time its was a profitable play and without the future knowledge that someone else would go all in.

So we compare the EV of calling with 0. If we expect to profit by calling, then we should call... we are flushing money down the toilet if we dont.

2.6 to 1 is the ratio of the number of times we lose to the number of times we win to break-even.

That is, as long as we win 1 times for every 2.6 times we call and lose, we will break-even.

Changing that to percentages is 1/ (2.6+1) = 1/3.6 = 27.8%.

When we call, we need to win 27.8% (call it 28%) of the time to break-even. So if we expect to win greater than 28% of the time, calling is profitable, and better than folding.

So how do we figure if we win greater than 28% of the time?

Thats when a software program called Pokerstove is invaluable. Its free at pokerstove.com and if you havent downloaded it and play poker for money, palm yourself on the forehead and say "Im a fucking idiot! I need to go download this program right now!"

I will wait andre until you say you downloaded it, and then I will take you through the rest of the hand analysis.

JHR - I'm not so keen on your re-raise


Just for the record, andre is mis-using the terms. When someone puts money in the pot on a new street when everyone previous has checked, it's a BET, not a raise. You cant raise 0. So the 20 BET is a bet. And it's then just a RAISE, not a RE-raise to 60.

I agree JHR, if it was a bet, raised, and then reraised, indicating 3 players like the flop, then we most likely would fold unless the table is super crazy (which can happen).

JHR - you can get away from the hand with a minimal loss.


Note: minimising the amount we lose is irrelevant. That's presupposing the outcome. If we make a play that if profitable (due to the pot odds and the % chance we have of winning), the play is profitable, whether or not we end up winning or losing.

For example JHR, let's take a MMA example. Fitch vs. GSP. Say I make you bet on Fitch and I take GSP. Im willing to give you 100 to 1 odds. That is, I will pay you 100 times what you bet if Fitch wins.

Say you bet $10. If Fitch wins, I will pay you $1,0000.

Now, everyone who watches MMA knows Fitch was the underdog. You are going to lose your $10 the majority of the time.

However, just because you know you are likely to lose, does that mean you should MINIMISE your loss? Not at all, when you are getting good pot odds.

In this case Im offering 100 to 1, this means you should bet on Fitch if you think he has a chance of winning greater than 1 in 101 fights, about 1%.

The greater the discrepancy between your estimation of Fitch's chance of winning, and the odds I offer you, the more money you should bet (assuming you can afford it).

So in this case, because it was obvious to every that Fitch had a chance of winning way greater than 1% (note even 10% is a hugely profitable situation for you) you should bet even more money.

PR - 

Thats when a software program called Pokerstove is invaluable. Its free at pokerstove.com and if you havent downloaded it and play poker for money, palm yourself on the forehead and say "Im a fucking idiot! I need to go download this program right now!"

I will wait andre until you say you downloaded it, and then I will take you through the rest of the hand analysis.


Thanks so much, man! I will definitely download it when I get home (cant at work). Thanks again!

PR - 
JHR - I'm not so keen on your re-raise


Just for the record, andre is mis-using the terms. When someone puts money in the pot on a new street when everyone previous has checked, it's a BET, not a raise. You cant raise 0. So the 20 BET is a bet. And it's then just a RAISE, not a RE-raise to 60.

I agree JHR, if it was a bet, raised, and then reraised, indicating 3 players like the flop, then we most likely would fold unless the table is super crazy (which can happen).


Doh...That's true...I did mean "raise" when I said "reraise."

Since it was simply a raise, do you think it was the incorrect play?

Hey Andre,

You know, I always like your posts.

I have a different approach in that position. Some will argue against it, but I'll explain why I do it. (Then I'll go off on a tangent :)

I call in that spot and risk the free card. Here's why:

The odds of a three flush flop giving someone (you) a flush is about 100:1 (or, 118:1 to flop a flush with two suited cards). Odds of two people flopping a flush at the same time? Too small to get off your hand if you're playing with stacks that are only 40x the big blind. So unless the board pairs or drops off another diamond (or unless the other players go completely nuts with raise, reraise, reraise), you are NOT folding.

Here's the problem: Other players know that the odds are against you having hit a flush, especially if they have a diamond in their hand. So anyone sitting on a set has every reason in the world to go in on the flop. Any overpair with a flush card is coming along as well. Yours is a very strong but extremely vulnerable hand and you're out of position.

That being the case, I want them making their decision on the turn, not on the flop. Why? Their odds are MUCH lower on the turn. So they will either fold (not a bad result) or call with worse odds than they would have gotten on the flop (an excellent result).I call there and make a big move at any turn that doesn't put up a fourth flush card. (If a scare card for me comes on the turn, I can reassess)

That being said, if I'm playing with 40x the big blind and flop a flush, I am going to take a LOT of convincing to lay that down. That convincing will come in one of three forms:

another diamond -- almost instamuck

a paired board -- certain situations. I will definitely want to keep the pot small

two or more players going nuts -- tough spot, but for 40 times the big blind stacks? Unless these are excellent, tight players, which at your table they are not, I am going broke with your hand.

One of the mistakes beginning players make, especially those who study the game as you do, is misapplying the concept of getting your money in with the best of it. Yes, that is always the goal. But having a better hand that your opponent when the money goes in on the flop is not the best of it if you could have gotten the money in on the turn with far better percentages.

In short, if you can put your opponent to the question on the turn, when his odds of sucking out are roughly halved, you are better off doing so than on the flop.

A follow-up to this is: While you always want a call when you have the best of it, against inferior players, avoid giving close to decent odds. If they will come along at a 4:1 dog, don't play for all the money with them when they are only a 1.5:1 dog.

PS: I just reread your post:

You refer to his style as loose. In a 3/5 with $200, in your position: if I raise the flop (I wouldn't have) and your friend the loose player reraises me, i go broke on that hand.

No question.

"If they will come along at a 4:1 dog, don't play for all the money with them when they are only a 1.5:1 dog."

Woah. Ok, this requires some caveats. Tournaments can be different, but in a cash game, if you are in a profitable situation, you are in a profitable situation. Passing up a profitable situation, to wait for a more profitable one is flushing money down the toilet.

That's like seeing a $20 bill on the sidewalk and thinking, "Why bother picking it up? I'll just wait for when I find a $100 bill!"

Why not take both?

Now if you are worried about losing a close, but profitable situation because it's your only poker money and if you lose then you have to quit the game, then fine... you can mathematically justify passing up small profitable situations.

This commonly occurs when there is a max buy-in and you and a fish have stacks much larger, say $800 at a $200 max buy-in. And if you lose a big portion of it, you reduce the amount of money you can win from the fish. Say you get stacked against another good player and have to rebuy for $200. Now you can only win $200 from the fish instead of $800.

Now if you want to pass up on a profitable small edges because bigger ones might come later, you have to ask yourself - how much money is not having a proper bankroll costing you everytime you play poker?

Ask yourself honestly - if you could would you bet $200 with QQ vs. an opponent's AK suited all-in pre-flop, over and over and over, thousands of times? If you are hesitant, or even wouldnt, you have a massive fundamental leak in the way you think about poker.

yeah, the 40xbb is key here. not much of a decision imo.

it sucks, but he could've made the same play with a set, Ace high flush draw or maybe even top 2 pair. you can plug in those hands and all the higher flushes that he may be likely to play into poker stove and come up with a percentage of EV.

joe canada - I understand your position regarding waiting for a safe turn card before committing.

However, let me ask you this:

Certainly you wouldnt play this particular way 100% of the time. What factors would you need to instead raise the flop and get all-in with the 5 high flush on the flop?

PR:

I might not have made my point clearly enough.

In a cash game, if you get 51% odds, the mathematically correct play is to get your money in. No question.

But if you feel the same player is willing to put his money in on the turn, thereby laying 2:1, the correct play is to wait for the turn.

It is not a question of taking 51% or not, but rather of taking 51% or 66%.

Now, strategically, I don't flip coins with donkeys. Why take 50/50 for all the money when I know that he will continue to play pots with me over and over and over again as a 60/40 or 70/30 dog?

I am aware that poker is played over infinite hands, and poker theory states that 51 percent is all I need. I choose, for the most part, to not allow inferior players to commit my chips when their skill disadvantage has been neutralized.

An example:

If an inferior players goes all in and shows me his cards, I will not call for even money or even a small edge. I will wait and outplay him later. This is statistically incorrect poker. Nevertheless, I chose to reduce my variance and increase my edge over the long term v these players by not playing these 'coin flip' decisions for all the money when I can get his money over multiple hands anyway.

A better way to describe it:

I will take ten hands for 100 as a 3:2 favourite rather than the one hand for $1000 as a 51% favourite. All day every day.

Remember that a poor player's money is up for grabs for the whole table. Even with the correct bankroll for your stakes, you do not want to ship money at 51% to a donkey that other players will take from him later on in multiple hands at 3:1. Those other players will not give you that money back at the three to one the donk is giving it to them at.

I will, however, call if I think i need to to establish a don't mess with me image, and I will sometimes even do so with the worst of it, if I feel the reward (table image) is worth giving up a bit of equity.

In short, I will ALWAYS try to stack the odds in my favour, and avoid as much as possible marginal spots with inferior players.

Regarding the hand in question.

The factors that would lead me to raise the initial better into an eight handed table with those stacks with everyone seeing the flop? Out of position? Knowing I have to fold if a diamond comes to anyone who called my raise?

I would have to be at a table of flush chasers. People who simply don't care about pot odds and who will commit all their chips without odds. At that point, I might simply shove, EV be damned. Let the idiots chase if they like, but I'll risk my $195 to win the $60 in the pot if anyone who calls me is getting less than 2:1 anyway. If the flush is out there against me, I reach for my wallet.

But nine times out of ten, I call that spot and then either re-raise or call any raise on the flop, depending on the size of the raise behind me. But if I get raised on the flop, I likely have to push anyway.

What I want to avoid here is giving correct odds to call all my money. So I want to either keep the pot small enough on the flop to leave me enough to protect my hand (deny proper odds) on the turn, or get it all in right away. The middle ground is what I want to avoid, as the diamond turn kills me against any hand that has one, and kills my action against any hand that doesn't.

As a follow-up to my earlier post (#276)

Stated in other terms, you want to give your opponent the opportunity to make the biggest mistake possible (plagiarized from Sklansky) as many times as possible for as much money as possible.

Giving him a washout (51%) is a smaller mistake than his inferior play would otherwise obtain in most spots. In otherwords, at a near even money play, your opponent cannot make a significant mistake. Skill becomes irrelevant. You have forced him to play 'correctly'

I prefer to put them into situations (or wait for situations) wherein they have the opportunity to get it in as poorly as possible for as much as possible as often as possible.

As an interesting aside, this is how the last WSOP was won. The guy who won was likely the worst player at the final table, but he make all the decisions preflop and on the flop, when his odds simply couldn't be that bad. No one saw a turn with him but that it was for all the money on the flop.

The winner (sorry, I forgot his name and can;t be bothered googling it) basically neutralized a lot of the skill disparity by forcing everyone else to play for stacks either preflop or on the flop.

Then he got lucky.

joe, I dont disparage your philosophy of play it's certainly valid.

However, I believe my style is better, i.e. more profitable. I take every edge I think I can find. Also I have no problem flipping coins is close situations with donkeys.

Why do I do this?

Well, yes I increase my variance. However, this is not a concern for me, because with proper bankroll management it's irrelevant.

2) I maximise my profit by not passing on profitable edges.

3) The metagame. This style allows me to play more loose and aggressive. Bad players make bigger mistakes because they can not handle it. This is why they are bad.

This gets me more action when I do have a big hand. I get paid off exponentially more than a nit sitting there waiting for AA, KK or a set for hours on end.

Sure, I often get all-in preflop with AK or JJ. Tell me how a bad player is going to fold JJ or TT or AQ if I am all-in preflop with my AA or KK? They never can.

So what happens is that by playing the coin flip situations, which are around neutral EV, not only am I taking little bits of profit you are passing on, I am also laying the foundation to make more profit when I get them in those dominating situations... because while you are waiting for the times you get a bad player in a 80:20 remember I am also getting them in that spot too - except I am getting mroe action than you, because I am willing to gamble with the fish.

Your point regarding losing money to the fish is irelevant... if I got the money in, in a profitable situation I try not to care whether I win or lose. I am not concerned about my bankroll, and I am reloading anyway. So its an irrelevant factor for a properly bankrolled player.

Note: your paraphrase of Sklansky supports my style of play, not yours.

Note also your WSOP example ALSO supports my style, and actually undermines your point. He forced his opponents to play for small edges, and they choose to try and wait for to get him in a bad spot. However, he won.

joe canada -
In a cash game, if you get 51% odds, the mathematically correct play is to get your money in. No question.

But if you feel the same player is willing to put his money in on the turn, thereby laying 2:1, the correct play is to wait for the turn.

It is not a question of taking 51% or not, but rather of taking 51% or 66%.


Everything you say here makes sense... but you are ignoring the big downside to waiting for a safe turn. What if the turn isnt safe? Yes you may be 66% if the turn is safe, but if it isnt you might only be 33%. Are you doing the calculations to consider this? Because thats a really important factor.

Also you are ignoring implied odds. While you might get the guy to go all-in with the naked ace-high flush draw on the flop... if he misses he will likely fold. So youll win a small pot, as opposed to gambling more to win a monster pot. Additionally if he hits on the turn then you lose the whole thing.

Im not neccesarily saying your are wrong in your analysis here for this particular hand, just that you are ignoring some significant downsides that must be considered before choosing the best option.

Any one of certainly should not be doing one of the other play 100% of the time... the key is to understand the important factors and be capable of correctly analysing the situation.

PR:

I don't disagree with most of your two posts.

In fact, I will often LAY 1:1 (or worse). More than often, in fact. If I can LAY 1:1 I will. What I won't do is TAKE 1:1. That's the fundamental difference between your approach and mine, and both my Skalnsky and WSOP examples apply.

By laying 1:1, I also have fold equity. By taking 1:1, I have no additional equity.

I tend to bully a table as much as I can get away with as well. Because of my aggression, most mediocre players (incorrectly) play tighter against me, looking for premium cards. Those very few times they get a hand they can go all-in with, I generally fold (unless I have a monster as well).

So I am constantly stealing small pots and forcing them to play big pots if they want to play back at me. When they do play a big pot, I decide if I want to play it or not.

This way, I get away with stealing many small pots, and when my fish wakes up with a hand, I don't pay him. It's a bit of a cross between Negreanu's small ball style and Doyle's power poker style.

Don;t get me wrong -- if someone plays back at me too often, I will take 1:1, or even worse, to let him know that he;s playing for stacks whenever he plays with me. But most fish will wait for a very good hand before standing up to (ie: reraising) a bully. I fold and then get right back to leaning on him. On those occasions when I do have a big hand (like your KK), I'm going to get paid as well, because they are fed up with folding good hands.

Don't misunderstand -- your strategy as you lay it out is valid -- I understand it, have used it, and fully approve of it.

For myself, I play live with mediocre players who give too much information away. So I end up playing far more hands than most would consider 'correct'. Being in more hands means that I will be in there jamming and banging with a lot of mediocre hands.

My style allows me to bet out and find out where I am on many pots. If I get folds (usually), I pick up a pot. If I get called, I can reasess. If I get raised, I am usually not good and can get off the hand. But if I get raised and have a hand, I'm getting paid.

Were I to pay all these raises, I would quickly go broke.

Nevertheless, my style lends itself to getting paid on big hands as well. Why? Because the few times I have to show down, they see I played and raised with a mediocre hand. What they don't see is that I'm not CALLING raises with those mediocre hands. So, when they eventually stand up to me and push, if I call, I have them beat.

The style you lay out is more appropriate for someone playing a more modest (although certainly not tight) selection of starting hands. When you (or someone else) comes in with a hand, it's a decent hand to start with. You likely play (correctly) somewhat tight and very aggressive.

I play somewhat loose and somewhat aggressive, getting into as many pots as is reasonable with inferior players, in position as much as possible, and give them every opportunity to make a mistake.

More later, have to go.

Back...

But my original point is this, and it has been made in a few books as well.

Poker is about trading small mistakes for big ones. I will make, for example, a small mistake preflop by playing somewhat less than quality hands, in the hopes of getting my opponent to make a big mistake later on by paying me off when I hit it, or folding when neither of us do.

By taking even money bets, I actually force him to play 'correctly', which defeats the purpose of giving up equity with my starting hands.

Also, while it is true in theory that a small edge played over infinite hands is a net plus proposition, in 'real' poker, it is not that simple.

In a live game with a fish, I am going to get into as many hands with him as I can in order to get his money into my stack before other people do. He WILL move his chips, my job is to make sure he moves them to me. Furthermore, the amount of money he is prepared to lose in a session is limited. Therefore, I will put my money in either to get him off a better hand or to get value from my better hand. I will NOT risk a 51/49 with a guy who is going to store that money in the stacks of better players.

Furthermore, very few 'mediocre' players will play back at you with nothing. Most people will wait for a hand to get it in, so I know if someone pushes at me, after I've been beating up on him for the better part of an hour, he likely has a better hand than me. By getting out of this coin flip situation, I accomplish two things:

1) I let him save face. He took a stand, I folded, he 'got me'. Good hand!
2) I train him that the big move is the correct move to make against my aggression. Rarely will he have a big enough hand to make it, and now when he does, he will let me know. That's excellent information for me, because it allows me to attack almost every pot with him, knowing that unless he raises, it's mine for the taking. As a correllary to this, he will get all in with me when I have a monster.

In short, yes you are correct. a 1% edge over a million hands in a cash game is correct play. I still don;t take it. (Although I will LAY it all day long).

As an aside, when at a table with good players (or at least as good as me), I find myself playing much tighter and much more aggressively than the strategy above. I come into a lot fewer pots, but when I come in, people know it's for all the money.

In a session like this, I will take the %1 (or worse) for the image factor. I want the other players to know that the few times I come into a pot, I expect to win it. So I hammer pots and if someone plays back at me and I have a reasonable hand or draw, it's all the money.