Friday, April 22, 2016

Small Stakes Poker Tournament

Today I will share with you a hand from the $1,111 buy-in Little One Drop event that took place during the 2015 World Series of Poker. This event attracted a huge field of 4,555 people. I managed to take 67th place for $7,215, which is always nice. When playing in a tournament consisting of mostly amateur players, it is important to steal lots of pots by making your opponent feel as if his entire stack is at risk while only risking a small portion of yours. It is also important to quantify your opponent’s range and choose bet sizes that will allow you to achieve whatever result you want. The following hand beautifully illustrates these concepts. I thoroughly discuss these concepts, and many more, in my best-selling book, Strategies for Beating Small Stakes Poker Tournaments. Be sure to check it out!
The blinds were 50/100. A tight amateur raised to 250 from second position out of his 8,000 stack. Another tight amateur with 13,000 called from middle position. I, with 15,500 chips, woke up with Ad-Kc on the button. In this spot, both calling and reraising are fine options. If I thought the initial raiser was only raising with premium hands, I would call because if I reraised and the initial raiser applied pressure, I would be in a tough spot. Even if he called my reraise, I would not be thrilled. If instead, I thought he was capable of raising lots of hands that are inferior to A-K, such as A-10 and K-J, I would certainly reraise. This time, I decided to reraise to 700. I picked this size in order to keep my opponents in with numerous hands I dominate. Notice if I reraise large, perhaps to 1,300, which is the play most amateurs would make, my opponents would fold the dominated hands I really want to keep in. Both the initial raiser and the caller called 450 more.
2013 World Series of Poker $10K Main Event Final TableThe flop came 6h-4h-4d. My opponents checked to me. I could easily have the best hand on this flop but that does not necessarily mean I should continuation bet. If I think my opponents will only call with hands that beat me, such as 9-9 and 6c-5c, I should check behind. If I made a large continuation bet, perhaps 1,600 into the 2,250 pot, that would often be the result. However, I thought if I instead made a bet of 800, numerous hands I crush, such as A-10 and K-Q, would call to see what develops on the turn. It is important to always think about how your opponents will react to each bet size then pick the size that leads to the result you want. Since I do not want to give a free card to hands like Q-J and 10-9, I need to bet, but if I bet large, my opponents will only call when I am beat. This makes a small bet ideal. So, I bet 800. The initial raiser folded and the tight player from middle position called.
The turn was the (6h-4h-4d)-9c. My opponent checked. At this point, I thought that if I continued firing my opponent would likely fold all marginal made hands, perhaps middle pair and worse, while still calling with all draws. Since my opponent only had 11,400 remaining in his stack, I wanted to choose a size that would imply that I could go all-in on the river, reinforcing that he should fold his marginal made hands. Since the pot was 4,050, I thought a bet of 2,600 would make him realize that he could face an all-in river bet. Notice if my opponent calls 2,600, he will have 8,800 remaining in his stack and the pot will be 9,250, allowing me to go all-in on the river for a touch less than the size of the pot. You should always size your bets such that you can find yourself at the river with the ideal stack for your situation. Do not simply blindly bet any street for ½ or 2/3 of the size of the pot every time. You must think ahead if you want to succeed at poker. I bet 2,600 and unfortunately, my opponent called.
The river was the (6h-4h-4d-9c)-2h. My opponent checked. At this point, I thought my opponent either had a flush, an overpair, a stubborn middle pair or a busted draw. I assumed he would certainly check with his overpairs, middle pairs and busted draws. I was unsure if he would bet into me or check with a flush. It is quite common for amateur players to lead out when they complete their draw because they don’t want to look foolish when the river checks through. This led me to assume he had mostly one pair hands and busted draws in his range. It is important to recognize that I could easily have a flush because I would almost certainly play all flush draws the same way up until this point. I was also unsure if my opponent would be willing to risk his entire stack on the river by making a hero call. All of this led me to put my opponent all-in for his remaining 8,800 stack. My opponent looked miserable and thought for around three minutes before folding.
While this play is clearly risky, I think the bluff is mandatory on the river, especially against a conservative player. If I can make him fold all of his one pair hands, which should be a large portion of his range, an all-in river bluff will show significantly more profit than checking. Always be sure to quantify your opponent’s range and choose your action based on that range.
SMPDo you have an interesting hand you want to share with me? If so, upload them to ShareMyPair and send the link to me on twitter @JonathanLittle. Be sure to check back next week for another educational blog post. Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Folding Kings?

I don’t usually write about spots that come up infrequently but recently I witnessed this hand I thought was uniquely instructive. Everyone started with about 150 big blinds. Player A in 1st position raised to 3 big blinds, Player B, a good tight aggressive kid in 2ndposition, reraised to 8 big blinds and Player C, a mediocre loose aggressive kid in 3rdposition, 4-bet to 22 big blinds. Player A folded then Player B 5-bet to 42 big blinds. Player C elected to 6-bet to 68 big blinds only to watch as Player B decided to go all-in. Fun stuff! Player C, who was currently getting 3.7:1 pot odds, meaning he needs to win 27% of the time, proudly flipped his K-K face up and folded.
While I am all for making big folds when they make sense, in this situation, even though Player B will have A-A a huge amount of the time, folding K-K is a fairly large error unless you know for a fact that Player B will only go all-in with A-A. The problem with this hand is that Player B is certainly aware that Player C is a loose aggressive player. Because of this, Player B could easily have a wider range than only A-A.
Suppose Player B’s range is A-A and K-K. Notice there is only one combination of K-K remaining, meaning he will have A-A 86% of the time and K-K 14% of the time. Player C will win the hand 22% of the time, making a call an error as he needs to win 27% of the time to break even. If Player B would go all-in with A-A, K-K and Q-Q, Player C would win 50% of the time. If Player B would push with A-A, K-K, Q-Q and A-K, Player C would win 57% of the time. If Player B is ever bluffing, Player C’s equity skyrockets.
The way I look at these situations, especially when I do not know my opponent’s exact range, is to average the ranges I think make sense. I imagine the equation for calculating Player C’s equity in this spot looks something like this:
EV = .3(.18) + .4(.22) + .2(.5) + .1(.57) = 30%
Clearly I do not do this math at the table. I have studied the game away from the table enough to know how this situation typically looks and how to react if I am ever in this spot. What this equation represents is 30% of the time Player B will have A-A, 40% of the time he will have A-A or K-K, 20% of the time he will have A-A, K-K or Q-Q, and 10% of the time he will have A-A, K-K, Q-Q or A-K.  Given the numbers, it would be a small error to fold as Player C will win 30% of the time, on average, and he needs to win 27% of the time to break even. Since 30% is larger than 27%, he should call.
As always, one simple equation is not the end of the story. Notice I did not add any total bluffs to Player B’s range. If Player B is bluffing around 10% of the time and he has A-A 10% less often, Player C’s equity jumps to 35%, making a fold a clear error. However, there is always value in surviving in a tournament, especially if you think you are much better than your opponents. Assuming Player C is good, which he obviously isn’t because he folded K-K face up, he should lean toward folding, especially if he thinks the situation is nearly break even. If Player C is a bad player, significantly worse than his opponents, he should actually be much more prone to call as he can get all of his money in with around neutral equity, which is probably much better than he will do later in the tournament.
In my opinion, Player C made a large error by 5-betting to 22 big blinds. If he called, he could take a flop and likely see a somewhat cheap showdown. While he would still lose a large pot if his opponent had A-A, he would force his opponent to take a flop with all of his worse hands as well. Assuming you are a good player, you rarely want to get all-in preflop when extremely deep stacked. You are much better off winning lots of small pots, slowly grinding up your stack. By putting in the 5-bet, Player C set himself up for failure if Player B decided to go all-in.
As Player B mucked, he flashed his As-3s. I liked it.
poker-jonathan-little-complete-strategyIf you want to learn more about my tournament strategy that has allowed me to win in the highest buy-in games over the last 10 years, check out this exclusive webinar where I reveal my complete tournament strategy. If you follow the advice I present in this 2 hour 45 minute training course, I am confident you will be one of the best players in any tournament you enter.
Be sure to check back next week for another educational blog post! Thanks for reading and good luck in your games!