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Calling small pocket pairs (poker)

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Postby so0perspam » Mon Jun 26, 2006 1:19 am

Madison wrote:Almost all of my play has been cash game $2/$5 no limit lately, and if you're looking at straight pot odds preflop, you'll never call with any pocket pair of less than 10 preflop because you will not have the 8.5 to 1 ratio you need in order to make the call.

That's turning away easy money though, as it's not the exact pot odds on the table you should be looking at in that situation. Don't misunderstand, I'm well aware that pot odds are one of the most important things in Hold 'Em, and pot odds dictate most every play. This is just one of the situations where you have to look at it a bit differently.

Say for example I'm UTG with 4/4 in a $2/$5 NL game with a stack around $500. I call the $5 without any difficulty whatsoever. Then someone in mid or late position raises to $20 total. My first question is how big is his stack? If it's tiny, I don't mind a $50 coinflip in that spot. If it's $250+, then there are my pot odds as I need to take $170 off of him to get my pot odds. Anything between $75 to $200 in front of him, and I probably wouldn't waste my time because there's no guarantee I could keep him in the hand if I flopped my set and it's not worth the risk.

Took down a very nice pot awhile back with 5/5. Called the $23 preflop off the small blind ($2 small blind) with two others already in. Big blind called as well. Flop came out A/?/5 rainbow. I don't remember the "?", but it was a 7 or an 8, so it didn't scare me at all. Long story short, the initial raiser had A/K suited and I more than doubled up my stack that was just short of $900 ($886 if my math at the time was correct) which is significantly more than 8.5 to 1 on the $23 I called preflop.

I wouldn't call any crazy raises preflop with small pairs, just depends on the stakes we're talking about, chipstacks involved, and players.



Well two things. Most of what I was talking about referred to SNG and tournament play, where you most of the time can't rebuy another 1000 or 1500 chips if you go broke unlike a cash game. Huge difference. There are times in a SNG where I'd consider raising with a low PP on the button to put pressure on the blinds if I have a good chip lead, and there are other situations where the bet is just small enough for me to call an all-in. Realistically though ... PP's 6's and lower are VERY prone to losing to 2 overcards or even a 9-10 suited connector I mentioned before. Most of the time it just isn't worth the gamble and risk to move down in the money.

But for cash games, I'll split it 6-handed and 9-handed. You have a lot more leeway for calling a 4x BB bet in a 6-handed table because players are often very agressive with marginal hands. In a 9-man table you have to play tighter though, somewhat similar to a SNG. The chances your opponent has you beat is around 10% higher. In the 9-man tables your opponents know this fact, and will raise with a much smaller range of hands, hands that put your low PP at risk.

Addressing your story though. I see a big flaw with you straight playing your opponent's stack, saying you'd call pre-flop more often if your opponent had a smaller stack. I say the smaller stack comes in with generally higher quality hands, and you'd rather play with the bigger stack because you can maximize your profit that way (hitting a set and drawing him in), or having the flexibility to outright fold if you don't hit. And Madison, your story is statistically only 1 of the 8 that end up in happy endings. The other 7 end with you losing $25. ;-)

You have to look at your EV (expected value here). Let's say on average you win $200 a hand with trips on a $2/$5 table. Average stack sitting should be around $500.

(1)($200) - (7)($25) = +$25

Okay so you have an expected value of +$25, but like Sklansky mentions in his books, you would much rather pass in this situation where you have a 1/8 chance of hitting for a slightly smaller EV with a higher chance of hitting.
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Postby Zito is God » Mon Jun 26, 2006 2:01 am

so0perspam wrote:Anything 6's and below I'll fold in early position, and call the BB mid and late position. If I get raised, I'll easily lay them down. 7's and 8's I'll call early position normally and probably fold when raised. I'll play my 9's-J's situationally (position, tendency of the better, bet size, my stack size, players left in the SNG or tournament). One thing you have to know is that you don't want to put your chips at risk on a coinflip, and a PP under 9's and 10's are usually at a coinflip with 2 overcards like AK, AQ, or KQ.


You always have to go in on a coin flip. People go all in on AK all the time (and it is the right move). AK vs. pocket pair is pretty much a coin flip, but pros go all in on these hands all the time. You will lose quite soon if you sit on hands that you feel you have at least a 66%/33% of winning.
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Postby so0perspam » Mon Jun 26, 2006 2:13 am

Zito is God wrote:You always have to go in on a coin flip. People go all in on AK all the time (and it is the right move). AK vs. pocket pair is pretty much a coin flip, but pros go all in on these hands all the time. You will lose quite soon if you sit on hands that you feel you have at least a 66%/33% of winning.


Going all in with AK is extremely different than calling an all-in. It is a lot better to be the bettor when you put all your money in rather than calling someone else's all-in. This is especially true when in a tournament where players are apt to throw away some pretty good hands in the face of your all-in or raise, including hands that they would have moved in with had they acted before you. AK is a very unique hand.

Say you move in with JJ and are only called by AA, KK, and QQ. Your chances are only about 17%.

Then you have AK which while be about 45% against QQ, 30% against KK, and about 9% against AA. However, since aces and kings are half as likely as queens given your hole cards, your total chances of winning are around 30% which is a lot better than JJ.

.3 = (6 * .45 + 3 * .30 + 3 * .09) / 12
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Postby Madison » Mon Jun 26, 2006 2:19 am

so0perspam wrote:Well two things. Most of what I was talking about referred to SNG and tournament play, where you most of the time can't rebuy another 1000 or 1500 chips if you go broke unlike a cash game. Huge difference. There are times in a SNG where I'd consider raising with a low PP on the button to put pressure on the blinds if I have a good chip lead, and there are other situations where the bet is just small enough for me to call an all-in. Realistically though ... PP's 6's and lower are VERY prone to losing to 2 overcards or even a 9-10 suited connector I mentioned before. Most of the time it just isn't worth the gamble and risk to move down in the money.

But for cash games, I'll split it 6-handed and 9-handed. You have a lot more leeway for calling a 4x BB bet in a 6-handed table because players are often very agressive with marginal hands. In a 9-man table you have to play tighter though, somewhat similar to a SNG. The chances your opponent has you beat is around 10% higher. In the 9-man tables your opponents know this fact, and will raise with a much smaller range of hands, hands that put your low PP at risk.

Addressing your story though. I see a big flaw with you straight playing your opponent's stack, saying you'd call pre-flop more often if your opponent had a smaller stack. I say the smaller stack comes in with generally higher quality hands, and you'd rather play with the bigger stack because you can maximize your profit that way (hitting a set and drawing him in), or having the flexibility to outright fold if you don't hit. And Madison, your story is statistically only 1 of the 8 that end up in happy endings. The other 7 end with you losing $25. ;-)

You have to look at your EV (expected value here). Let's say on average you win $200 a hand with trips on a $2/$5 table. Average stack sitting should be around $500.

(1)($200) - (7)($25) = +$25

Okay so you have an expected value of +$25, but like Sklansky mentions in his books, you would much rather pass in this situation where you have a 1/8 chance of hitting for a slightly smaller EV with a higher chance of hitting.


True, tournament play and cash game play is different. No disagreement here at all.

As to the "flaw" you pointed out, it's simply a matter of how I feel at the time. I don't mind a coinflip against any two overcards for little money. Take your pick as to which two overcards you want. Remember one very simple thing. A/K suited looks really good before the flop, but it's still only an ace high, and has to catch a card to win. I know, I know, it's a coinflip, and I don't mind calling coinflips occasionally. Like in my example, I'm sitting with $500, so why not coinflip for $50 at that point? No different than betting red or black in roulette. People do it all the time for small stakes.

Something else that hasn't been mentioned is that quite often I take down nice (even though they are smaller) pots when the flop comes out something like 7/7/2. Most people realize their A/K, A/Q, A/J, or whatever looks good, but they are big dogs at that point to any pocket pair, and they rightly fold. Chasing a 6 outer with 2 cards to go isn't smart, so a solid player folds away and the pot is mine, so no, 7 out of 8 do not end with me losing $25. ;-)

Oh, and you have to take any author's advice with a grain of salt. Slansky is great, and writes good solid books, so don't misunderstand, but no author or pro has the holy grail of how to play Hold 'Em. Not one.

Another thing is that even in the numbers you showed, that's a 5BB profit. If you can make 4BB per hour, you're doing exceptionally well. You won't get enough pocket pairs each hour to pull that off, but that additional 5BB average advantage does add up to your overall BB per hour rate in the long run, and that's what you're playing for. Anyone can do anything for one session. It's what do people do over years and years of play that really matters.

Not to mention that if you play your sets correctly, you'll make much more than $200 on a hand that was preflop raised to $25. ;-)
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Postby so0perspam » Mon Jun 26, 2006 2:23 am

And ZIG .... you see pros go all-in with AK when they are short-stacked or are in position. You're missing a ton of situational variables here. No pro in his/her right mind would go all-in on early in a tournament if the situation didn't call for it. In tournaments you don't last deep into a tournament if you take a lot of risks/chances/coinflips. That's why the chip leader after the first day of the WSOP has never final-tabled. Even Matusow himself said he only was involved in 3 races/coinflips the entire 2005 WSOP and he took home $1 million for it.
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Postby so0perspam » Mon Jun 26, 2006 2:33 am

Madison wrote:Another thing is that even in the numbers you showed, that's a 5BB profit. If you can make 4BB per hour, you're doing exceptionally well. You won't get enough pocket pairs each hour to pull that off, but that additional 5BB average advantage does add up to your overall BB per hour rate in the long run, and that's what you're playing for. Anyone can do anything for one session. It's what do people do over years and years of play that really matters.

Not to mention that if you play your sets correctly, you'll make much more than $200 on a hand that was preflop raised to $25. ;-)


You take into account the positive but not the negative. What if it comes 8-10-4 and you're holding 88 while your opponent has AJo. He makes a small stab, you either smooth call or raise. He'll probably fold to a raise on the flop, check the turn and fold the river, so you most likely don't even get $100 in this situation. The perfect flop that hits him would have to come for you to win $200+.
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Postby Madison » Mon Jun 26, 2006 2:49 am

so0perspam wrote:
Madison wrote:Another thing is that even in the numbers you showed, that's a 5BB profit. If you can make 4BB per hour, you're doing exceptionally well. You won't get enough pocket pairs each hour to pull that off, but that additional 5BB average advantage does add up to your overall BB per hour rate in the long run, and that's what you're playing for. Anyone can do anything for one session. It's what do people do over years and years of play that really matters.

Not to mention that if you play your sets correctly, you'll make much more than $200 on a hand that was preflop raised to $25. ;-)


You take into account the positive but not the negative. What if it comes 8-10-4 and you're holding 88 while your opponent has AJo. He makes a small stab, you either smooth call or raise. He'll probably fold to a raise on the flop, check the turn and fold the river, so you most likely don't even get $100 in this situation. The perfect flop that hits him would have to come for you to win $200+.


True. Sometimes it goes that way, but when you know your fish on the line missed his overs, you do whatever it takes to keep him in the game. If I'm first to act in the situation you described above, I check and call (Smooth call? TV talk right there to try and spice it up. Poker's simple. Check, bet, raise, reraise, all in, fold. Simple.) We go check check on the turn, and I check to him on the river. Way more often than not, he'll take another stab at it, rather than go to showdown with nothing. :-)
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Postby The Great Gambini » Tue Jun 27, 2006 1:43 pm

Hey guys, I'm a regular on the football side but took a year off from FBB so haven't been around here much...I might be interested in playing in the Cafe Poker game (if you'll have me!)...details please?
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Postby pokerplaya » Tue Jun 27, 2006 3:38 pm

The Great Gambini wrote:Hey guys, I'm a regular on the football side but took a year off from FBB so haven't been around here much...I might be interested in playing in the Cafe Poker game (if you'll have me!)...details please?


Read the two stickys at the top of this forum. One is a Tuesday night game (tonight), and there is also a Forum tournament going that some of us are particpating in. All pertinent information should be there. ;-D
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Postby Zito is God » Tue Jun 27, 2006 6:15 pm

So0p, it's quite obvious I did not mean that the situation has to be played that way at all times (although I don't think I have ever seen anyone fold AK before the flop). The point I was merely trying to make is that you claimed that you never wanted to risk your stack on a coin flip hand, when in actuality there are a couple of scenarios you do want to go all in in on coin flips: If you are short stacked you put all your money on 2 face cards vs. low pairs (coin flip), and If you are facing an all in bet from a short stack and you have 2 face cards or pocket pairs (coin flip). I agree that if you have 2 pair and the board is showing 4 suited cards you can't go all in on it, I agree that if you have a set of 10s and the table shows:
3 9 3 7 7 you absolutely cannot go all in on that, but the mere fact that you stated there is no situation you want to put all your money in on a coin flip is wrong. It has certain circumstances where it is done, even by pros.
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