I was just going over the chapter on loose games in HFAP, and Sklansky does talk a lot about raising LESS PF with some hands, so that middle/bottom pairs do not have the odds to draw to your top pair. He talks about, not playing perfectly, but playing to maximise the mistakes of your opponents (though he makes the distinction, I think this is more my definition of perfect play).
Does anyone feel this applies to loose/passive short-handed games? I am talking games where the flop is only sometimes raised, almost never 3-bet, and typically you have 4 players limping in, and lots of checking/calling from that point on. How many players need to call a raise PF to make calling a bet with middle pair justified? What are the game conditions that need to exist to make you consider NOT raising some hands PF (such as AQo), as discussed in HFAP?
I am talking here about games where most players will limp, and a raise PF often makes little difference to the numbers seeing the flop, and where the blinds almost NEVER fold to a raise PF. Obviously I am discounting opportunities such as 3-betting the flop (which will drive out most players). I think a raise in EP even in these games can be effective to a degree, but raising on the button won't make the blinds fold and the other players already-limped will surely stay.
I know a lot of the poster here play at higher limits, but I would still like to hear your views on the points raised in HFAP regarding loose games, for short-handed (6-max).
I personally think its best to almost always raise when playing in these games, because so many players think that just becasue it is shorthanded they get to play complete trash. I would only limp when I was in LP with a true drawing hand that needs implied odds to be a money maker.
The thing is, since there are only 6 players (and probably only 4-5 will generally see the flop) your not really in a "keep the pot small" situation since even if the pot is raised, its still pretty small. Contrast this to a loose ring game where a preflop raise will just end up with a 7-way pot for 2 bets.
I can understand your logic but I have tried various ways and all-out attack does not seem to increase the BB/hour but certainly increases the variance.
In the past I have tended to limp a lot and CR whenever I have TP, or just bet out if last to act and no-one has bet yet. This has resulted in a general *limp* attitude on my part. The limpfest-style has been quite successful to date, and its success seems to rest on what appears to be a *suspended belief/denial* attitude from the other players. Kind of - well he didn't raise pre-flop so his hand cannot be that good. They keep calling and keep paying.
But I also know that I need to be more aggressive and control the games better.
It can be very difficult to know where you stand as a raise PF means a weak 2-pair just calls your TP to the River (and may raise there), and you just pay them off over and over. They see you raising, and let you do the betting for them. How can this be countered?
I tighten way up in EP (UTG and UTG+1), and just play the best hands, opening with a raise. But next to or on the button I limp in with more drawing hands (JTo, QJo, suited connectors, suited Royals) and raise less, folding hands like QJo to any raise. If someone limped in from EP and I hold anything decent I raise to try and isolate them.
This works very well - the hands I win when raising in EP get my raises respect, and I then use the raises to punish EP limpers and get HU or against 2 by knocking out the blinds/button. If it was folded to me in the CO or OTB I raised LESS than I would with limpers. WHY? because I actually would rather have the blinds call with trash, and call one or two bets on the flop than just steal the blinds. One or two callers is not a problem, I still win the majority of hands, and take more bets. If you just keep raising against the party players they just become immune and think you are some kind of maniac. Some of the smarter players also are able to trap you.
This is my thinking. I think the Party $1/$2 tables play differently to higher limits (for sure), and some kind of adapatation from the *all-out attack* will be more effective, along the lines of Sklanskys chapter on loose games.
If a full table is considered loose when 4-6 players regularly see the flop, then a 6-handed game where 5-6 players see the flop must also be loose, and the math cannot be that different? (today in many hands, on some tables, I was the only one not playing the flop... ).
I accept what you say - but my experience on these tables tells me that a more adaptive strategy is needed.
Seriously - if you are playing in Party regularly then send me a Private Message with your Party/Empire username, and if I see you on any of the tables I will come along for a chat.
Also - these are just notes on my thinking/experiments. Some tables/days this is not going to work. Raising, in my experience, is very player dependent at Party $1/$2. Some tables the blinds just will not fold to a single raise (often even a re-raise) with most hands. I've seen hands like 92s and 65o calling a raise and most will play any A, regardless of kicker. You must think through why you are doing things, so that you can adapt to table conditions. With no-fold'em blinds, you are not knocking anyone out with a raise, so you must think if this play will be correct, or if you would rather see the flop cheaply (I would say this would definitely be the case with pairs like 77 or 88).
My thinking is far from complete, but I am (thanks to the help of this forum in a very large part) starting to get a handle on why I raise, when I call down, and what happens when 1 or 2 players sit out etc. I used to give up on a table when it got short-handed (by this I mean 4 or less players) and would keep playing the same way regardless of my position wrt other players. I think that being able to adjust, to play according to your opponents, as well as understanding position well, is key to making those extra bets. Playing solid poker will be winning poker, for sure, at the lower limits - but hitting a player for a raise who you know is playing a flush draw, or is very likely to be playing a weak kicker or over-playing 2nd pair, makes a real difference even over just a couple of hours play.
You must find a (profitable) way to play that suits you. And I think this is actually a lot harder than people think, and goes beyond reading books. Good luck anyway and do PM me - it can be fun to have a poker buddy!
i dont like limpimg even in the games you describe
i have recently been playing the 5/10 6 max games at party and they sound a lot like the 1/2 games - loose and limping pre-flop - this has caused me to limp a couple of times in the cutoff or button with drawing hands or smallish pairs when its a limpfest before me - but i raise if i play before the blinds otherwise
if your playing tight - seeing say 30% of the flops or thereabouts then chances are every time you play you will have a better hand than the rest of the field so raising seems a good plan to me - if you only ever play for a raise before the blinds then there isnt a lot of room for your opponents to place you on a particular hand because they wont be able to distinguish it from any of the hands you would play in that posistion
in any event i dont think much weight can be given to what your opponents notice about your pre-flop strategy because they dont notice much at all in the 5/10 game and i suspect they are worse in the 1/2 game - i also think its a post flop game and what you do pre-flop should always be linked to what is going to happen post flop - you have to adjust dramatically from a "textbook" view of how to play some hands post flop because of the peculiarities of the schools you refer to
i like your post because i firmly believe if you have a plan that is evolved from an understanding of the theory and plenty of experience in a particular game then its probably a plan that will work - the game can be played different ways
the issue for me is what is the best way to play poker against good poker players ? - problem with this game is that there is no "real" measure of how good you are - just whether you win $$ or lose $$ - this thought supports the process you have adopted in the games you play in but also cautions against absolute assertions about the best way to play
in the better short handed games i've played in there is not a lot of limping...
Perhaps the reality of what is happening (for me) is that by playing a few more limping hands, I am cutting down on the variance a little. I have found that the variance on the $1/$2 limit tables is actually not that great, it is certainly less than full tables $2/$4 (which I dropped back from as I needed some of my bank roll). While the hands can get pretty wild, it just is not as long waiting for a winning hand (hmmmmph...had to wait until the 46th hand today before I got a win, which is pretty much a record by some distance).
When players are folding to raises, I am much more inclined to raise. The extra value of the dead money from the blinds obviously makes this play profitable. But in games where, for whatever reason, the blinds just don't want to fold the value of raising goes down IMO. Sklansky makes a lot of reference to *if there is a reasonable chance the blinds will fold - you should raise* so stubborn blinds means raising with more marginal hands, such as KJo, more debatable. Limping certainly reduces variance, but obviously impacts profit as well, especially with hands that may be ahead of the rest. But as you correctly point out (as does Sklansky) the profit in poker is made after the flop, and it is not difficult to outplay most of the $1/$2 players post-flop.
I like your comment that, playing 30% PF, by raising every time the others will find it difficult to put you on a hand. True - but I don't think many of them put you on a hand anyway (how many times do they have to get raised with TP/weak kicker with a paired board, to realise they are behind, and drawing to only 2 cards??).
ALSO the extra money in the (PF raised) pot makes calling with 2nd/3rd pair more correct for the other players, and so they are not making such big mistakes when drawing after the flop. My thinking is less about getting money into the pot when I am ahead (because that can change very quickly), and more about putting the others into a position where they are making big mistakes.
These guys won't fold any 2-suited, 2nd pair, A overcards, pocket pairs, or inside straight draws, so by calling without the right odds, they are making some huge mistakes post-flop. I like a raise to knock people out, not just put more money in the pot PF. Obviously some hands can be easily raised, some HAVE to be raised to be realistically playable (e.g. 77 UTG), but others need help from the flop. If you hit TP with a good kicker then you are in a very strong position, as it is unlikely anyone else can match your strength. I would rather penalise the draws of players playing trashy hands, or weak kickers, on the flop or Turn than raise PF and still see the same players against me (regardless of whether I had limped or raised).
Overcards rarely win in these games (except when you have a good read on someone) and many players cannot be bullied into folding 2nd pair on a J high board etc. so, raising PF and attacking the flop, is just not as effective against 4 players, than 1 or 2. If they are getting the right odds to call their draws, I am not taking money off them. I also think that the presence of a very aggressive player at these tables will make the other players tighten up quite a bit, and I would rather they think I *might* betting 2nd or bottom pair or my weak A overcard, and then call me to the River without the right odds, than bullet fold every flop where they do not have TP.
Anyway - it is useful to have your comments, as it gives me a style of play that I have to justify/contrast my adopted style with. Clearly the aggressive open-raising seen on higher-limit tables must work, as all the good players writing here seem to speak of little else. Perhaps my ideas are just in the process of evolving to this point, step-by-step, as my understanding grows.
Good posts all around -- very deep and well thought out. I just have one point to make though regarding your thoughts about opponents mistakes...
You think by you raising preflop, and everybody calling anyway, that you are giving them the opportunity to draw out on you with bottom pair since they'll have better odds to do so. It is true they're making a smaller mistake, however, you are still making more money in the long run with the raise. Take for instance, a hand where you raise and it results in 2 extra BB's preflop. Now, because the pot is bigger, we'll say two people chase, where as before they'd have folded to your flop bet. So, another 1 BB on the flop. Same deal on the turn, another 2BB's. Now let's say they'll fold on the river if unimproved (which might be a generous assumption. Many will call "just to make sure" you hit a pair, since the pot is larger)... By raising, and causing them to call the whole way, you earned another 5BB's. As long as they suck out on you less than one in five times (this doesn't include the times your KQ flops top pair, and makes two pair, while they happen to catch a smaller two pair and you get paid off doubly nice...), you are earning more money in the long run with the raise, even though they are making a smaller error (though STILL an error) calling your bets.
In general, as long as your opponents are making -EV calls, you want as much money as possible of theirs going into the pot. It will result in more variance for you, but it will also result in the best longterm picture. So, if your primary goal is to reduce variance, continue on limping... Otherwise, do consider gradually making more and more PF raises against weak, calling station opponents .
My .02 cents, I hope I don't reread this later today and realize my logic was faulty (it's early morning, i'm sick... time for a return to bed )
Your post reads fine to me - thanks for the input.
I am beginning to believe that, in fact, I am in a process of raising more and more often. Your logic is fine, as is that put forward by others. My only criticism is that you post does not take into account that, by encouraging people to continue chasing because the pot is bigger (which many will do), this will result in more money for me. Yes I will win bigger pots, but if they are getting the correct odds to call, I am not in a +EV situation - they are. I have not yet been convinced that the call pre-flop (to a raise) is worse than the call on the flop without the right odds.
What I do know is that the call on the flop will be wrong in some circumstances (wrong = mistake) and right in others. I am not advocating a general limp approach, not at all. I am thinking that some hands are easy raises pre-flop, some are necessary raises (as mentioned previously) but, there are a range of hands from the marginal to the quite strong (without a raise from another player) that NEED HELP from the flop, they need a good flop to be worth playing. These hands perhaps should not be automatically raised with. By not raising with them, you save if you miss, and when you do hit, your opponents (who will call with their A overcard) are making a big mistake by chasing on the flop.
For example, if it is folded to me in he CO and I hold QJo, should I automatically raise? Some say yes, but I think it is ok to limp here (I would limp with 1 limper in). The hand plays well against a few opponents (and this will be no more than 3 in this case) but I think I would rather see a flop first before committing extra bets - knowing that TP on the flop will mean the other players are making a mistake by calling with anything less.
I have a choice - but it is certain that if I hit the flop, barring flopped sets etc., that the other players will be making mistakes against my bet. Many players will not fold easily to a Q high flop, at least not as easily as an A or K high flop. Playing a strong A pre-flop is an easy raise as I know that I will get callers playing A5o etc. and can take them for money on every street. But QJo and an A on the flop and you are in trouble. If I raise PF and an A falls, another bet with QJo MAY win the hand, or I may just get called to the River with a weak A. In one situation I lose, I the other I make plenty.
By limping with QJo I guarantee that my opponents are making a mistake to call my TP when I hit the flop - and this puts me +EV on the play. And I also save a bet when I do not hit the flop, or an overcard falls.
In the interest of completeness, it would be really useful if someone can demonstrate what the value of raising is (mathematically) PF with hands like these. If I raise with QJo what position am I and my opponents in with various hands (like A5o or Axs) as far as EV is concerned? I would really like to know but do not know how I can calculate this.
Also regarding automatically raising. It is evident from playing, that once you have established an image at the table (by winning some hands - especially by outkicking people) for playing good hands, other players will fold more readily to raises. How long this takes depends on the cards of course, but once I have won a few good pots I will raise more often. This may be to do with my own confidence, but it is also a reaction I see from the other players. They start to fear your raising - and all sorts of plays become possible - bluffs, PF raises to narrow the field, CR the flop with TP etc.
Once the table is running a bit scared, and tightens a little, then I can really start to bully people with aggressive raises, which gives me more winning hands (for the smaller pots due to to the others tightening up to a degree). The morons will still play their same game, but it frequently becomes me - vs - the table fish HU (or 3-way) and THAT really does pay well. Give me one or two players who call to the River with trash, over 3-4 players (2 of which may have legitimate hands) any time.
I am drifting from the original topic a bit. And this post is now very long. Stop.
Quote: My only criticism is that you post does not take into account that, by encouraging people to continue chasing because the pot is bigger (which many will do), this will result in more money for me. Yes I will win bigger pots, but if they are getting the correct odds to call, I am not in a +EV situation - they are. I have not yet been convinced that the call pre-flop (to a raise) is worse than the call on the flop without the right odds.
I think that in short handed play, even with a raise by you PF, the pot is still going to be small enough so that they will be making a mistake chasing, a majority of the time. I could be wrong though, and you could be right.
And not to contradict myself, but I'm pretty sure you brought this up in another post (if not, here we go, more support for the limp), but the times when it's checked to you a flop bet is more likely to buy the pot (and if not that, then on the turn), being that the pot is smaller. Which I guess, considering you miss the flop more than you hit it, you'd probably rather everyone just mucks more easily.
Quote: Also regarding automatically raising. It is evident from playing, that once you have established an image at the table (by winning some hands - especially by outkicking people) for playing good hands, other players will fold more readily to raises. How long this takes depends on the cards of course, but once I have won a few good pots I will raise more often. This may be to do with my own confidence, but it is also a reaction I see from the other players. They start to fear your raising - and all sorts of plays become possible - bluffs, PF raises to narrow the field, CR the flop with TP etc.
I agree, I've noticed this as well.
One final thing for your consideration is that by limping more, some of your observant opponents may pick up on what this is saying about your hands. Say you limp in the cutoff with QJ, and the button has QJ as well. The button has noticed that you've been limping with everything under KQ, and decides your limp is indicative that he probably has the best hand... so, he raises. Now, you've almost certainly lost the pot unless you hit the flop and turn it into a chopped pot. Turn it around, and say you open raise here with QJ. Heck, we can even give button KJ just to emphasize the point, though the logic works just as well with QJ. Button now has a tough decision. He's seen you open raise with hands like this, but he's also seen you open raise with much better hands than this. Does he want to pay two cold to take the chance that he's not facing a dominating hand? If the button is observant enough to notice this, then he's probably observant enough to fold even if there's a 20% chance he's folding a better hand than you. And now, not only do you earn yourself the button, but you're turning that chopped pot into a full win, and you're the one in control to steal the pot by betting out and using your optimum position.
With this said, lots of great points to your posts, it's helping me rethink my game and gives me some things to try.
Again - I agree with what you are saying but your assumption is that the players at $1/$2 *notice* or make thinking observations on your actions. My point is - they don't. Some will, but it is rare to get more than 1 other player who appears to do so on any given table, and if I am on a table with 2-3 good players I can just leave and finder much softer opponents. I do play in some tougher games, as I think I have to to test my play and try to improve. Everyone will agree with the need to do this.
The typical players in Party $1/$2 just do not seem to think at all. They will remember if you took down some pots with strong hands, but that seems as far as it goes: *he is raising again - he must have a good hand*. Most players are passive chasers; there are some people who bluff a lot but, although they can beat the weaker players, their bluffs are usually not that good and far too frequent (I've seen some appalling bluffers and only 1 or 2 good ones - of course I cannot be 100% certain of that, for obvious reasons); there are a number of players who like to slow play everything and only raise on the River, this is only a problem when they are on a run on good cards and I keep getting 2nd-best hands, but they are losing bets over what they could make (Sklansky deals with this at length, so need need for me to repeat here).
Mostly, you are not put on any kind of hand until your either CR or 3-bet on the Turn. A raise PF is generally considered (from the way the players respond) to be AK - I even had one player tell me that *most raises PF are AK*! Heheheh
Your point about raising with QJo is spot on - but I would say it is more relevant against a player who THINKS (lol). Of course I also limp with AA sometimes (maybe 10% of the time) and drawing hands like KQs or A9s. It depends...
I do need to get a more coherent *when to limp* strategy together, it's OK and I am not really getting punished by the weak Party players. And that is the point of this post. If I start to get someone attacking my limps, then I just change gear - with another player putting in raises PF the chance of knocking out the other players goes up as I get the chance to 3-bet my stronger hands or if I think I can get HU. Your points are well-received and I am aware of what you say - it just does not happen very much (understatement) in the games I play.
The PokerTracker software has a *pot odds* option on the replay function, and I have been running some hands through to see what the odds were on various hands - like 4 callers PF unraised -vs- a raise with 3 players seeing the flop etc. and it does strongly support what I previously said. I need to run some more hands, but the general notion that the pot is still small enough, even with a raise, to make calling with 2nd pair wrong looks to be untrue. I will check some different scenarios, but with a raise PF with 3 or 4 players seeing the flop, a flop call is justified with the raise, and not without it. The Turn is another matter, as the bigger bet often makes the River call wrong even in the raised-PF pot.
Some players will call the flop and fold the Turn, while at least as many again will call the flop and turn with their 2nd/3rd pair or A overcard. So in some circumstances, some of the players are playing correctly, though I still think the majority will call to the River with 2nd pair unless the board is really scary or there is a re-raise prior to them.
I will post up some figures in a day or so when I have run some more hands. Also, I have the % win expectation for hands against 5 opponents, plus the averages for short-handed games played at PokerRoom (not entirely accurate of course, but will give an idea of the variance from the mathematical mean) and perhaps I can use this to see which hands are more marginal for a raise etc.
Hell - I am going to have to do some real thinking now....
Just to answer you point about buying the pot when checked to on the flop. This is a rare occurrence indeed, and generally needs a very scary board (like 3-suited) for it to work. It can be done, but it just does not happen often enough to be a standard play. I have tried this many times (usually raising PF) and you often find yourself getting called down by someone holding A2o and catching bottom pair on the Turn - ugh! One instance that comes to mind was a PF raise I made with 77, two others saw the flop which was K high. I bet out and was slightly surpised when took the pot, but in this case I am pretty sure I was up against players with cards like 72s (no suits) and maybe 86o. They totally missed, and with no draws, they folded (to my *AK* ). I was certainly ahead. In another, more aggressive game, I bet into a K high flop against a PF raisor (hoping he had bet something like 88), he called but folded the Turn (a rag) as did the others. But, these instances are rare and, I suspect, not profitable in the games I play (although with some refinement they could perhaps be +EV, I still do not see it as a standard play, as very few pots can be stolen like this).
An immediate observation of hands viewed with PokerTracker on the basis of pot odds, is that the flop odds appear to be *absolute* (based on the flop bet alone) rather than *effective* (described by Sklansky - including a likely Turn bet). Obviously, a lot depends on how the game unfolds, but it does make a significant difference to strategy IMO.
Also, in the interests purely of determining if limping is THEORETICALLY sound, I am ignoring more aggressive games where limping frequently gets punished (as has been highlighted in this thread, and others). Strategic play is obviously a critical feature, but for the sake of argument, I will be ignoring its implications here. This is relevant, as in many of the games I see, limping is normal (for most players).
The questions is: *is limping always incorrect in shorthanded games*.
Before I look at some figures - a quick observation. The Turn bet is a real killer in smaller pots, esp. with few players and frequently destroys the pot odds for all but the very strongest drawing hands. This means, also that the *effective* odds of players who call to the River with weaker draws, must also be hurt in many cases.
TWO PLAYERS TO THE FLOP
Just 2 players seeing the flop is quite a rare event at $1/$2.
If the pot is unraised to the flop (2 players), a flop bet needs a minimum of 8 outs to justify a call (assuming a free play on the Turn). The Turn bet will be likely double this (or very close) if the flop is just called.
In a raised flop (2 players) the outs required falls to just 4. *Effective Odds* will increase this, but only in a similar way to the unraised pot.
THOUGHTS: Does the raise PF mean that 2nd/3rd pair is now justified in calling the flop bet? Of course, strategically, it might be an auto-raise for an aggressive player, but this raise would in fact mean overcards (or any overcard) are now justifed in calling, as a call only needs 3 outs. More on this later.
THREE TO THE FLOP
A more likely situation for the Party $1/$2 games, though still less frequent than 4-way pots. These multiway pots have more complicated outs, as the outs required are dependent on the total number of callers in the hand, and therefore are more position-dependent.
3 players to an unraised flop.
Here a flop bet needs 6/7 outs (depending if both the blinds are playing) to justify a call for the first caller, and 5 outs for subsequent callers.
A raised flop requires 8 outs to call 2 cold, and 3 outs calling one bet after a raise.
A bet on the Turn needs 14 outs to justify a call (1 bet on the flop). If the flop was checked round this is 19 outs (caller 1) and 14 outs (caller 2).
3 players to a raised flop.
Now the flop bet needs just 4 outs to justify a call, and the Turn 9 outs.
If the hand was 3-bet PF just 3 outs required for a call on the flop.
THOUGHTS: Players are now justified in making their calls with 2nd/3rd pair on the flop when there was a raise PF. The Turn is perhaps the time to punish these callers, if a raise is possible. Limping into a 3-handed flop, and hitting TP, the other players are making a mistake to call even the flop bet.
FOUR TO THE FLOP
This is probably the most typical number seeing the flop in Party $1/$2.
4 players to an unraised flop.
The first caller needs 5 outs to make the call, subsequent callers only 4. Calling 2 cold on the flop needs 7 outs, but only 3 to call one bet after a raise. The Turn bet needs 12 outs (8 if the flop was raised).
4 players to a raised flop.
The first caller needs just 3 outs to justify the call, the second player only 2 outs. The turn needs 7 or 8 outs, depending on the number of flop callers. In a 3-bet PF hand, only 2 outs are needed on the flop.
THOUGHTS: If your PF raises are not knocking players out, and there are still 4 to the flop, these players can now call with just their A overcard, and certainly with a lower pair. These calls are marginal in an unraised hand, and can be easily punished on the Turn or with a flop raise (early).
The outs for a 5-player flop are very similar to the 4-player hand, except even an early flop raise will mean calling (2 cold) is not much of a mistake (if at all with one caller already).
Apologies if this a bit dry, but I wanted to show the figures for the various hands. I think the case for raising is now not so clear, particularly when those raises are not knocking people out. If a raise reduces the field to 2 or 3, calling with overcards or 2nd/3rd pair etc. becomes marginal at best, and thinking in terms of *effective odds* when calling to the River, is a mistake. But hands where 4 or more will see the flop regardless of a raise, once that *mistake* is made the calls on the flop are justified.
In the interests of keeping this thread manageable I will stop here, and perhaps develop the ideas further in another post. Obviously, any comments on the above figures, and particularly their relevance to the question of calling a raise PF, would be appreciated.
Wow! What your post has done for me is show that maybe I'm giving up on my hand too easily when there has been a raise PF and the flop misses me (in the cases when I feel comfortable that my outs are clean, that is).
Thanks for producing some numbers that show just how much of a staggering difference the raise can make versus limpers that play correctly.
What do you think of this conceptual idea though? I'll give one example, applied to the numbers you've given:
In the situation where you raise PF, and get two other players... Let's say you flop top pair, another player flopped mid pair, and another flopped low pair. And, we'll just say right now the cards are flipped up and you can see that both of them have clean outs to two pair -- so, they both have five outs. Or, ten outs between the hand. So, you bet, and they each correctly call to see a turn card. From the flop, your bet is getting you 2:1 action (two SBs for the one you put in) in a situation where the opposition, combined, is roughly 3.3:1 against making their hand (10 outs out of 43 unseen cards). So, you are still getting the best of it, in the long run even withstanding the fact their flop calls are correct for them, individually (given the total pot size). And, since they'll fold on the turn if unimproved since they're no longer getting the odds to 5 outs each, this still produces a winning situation to be in. The only way I can see this being less desirable situation to be in is if the times that one of the two draw you out (once out of every 4.3 times), you lose to them a dollar amount X, and X is an amount larger than what your net gain is off the 3.3 of the 4.3 times that they call the flop, miss, and fold on the turn.
I'll try now, to run a few number estimations to make some comparisons (in all situations, we'll say that players involved are the SB, BB, and you). In all scenarios, assume you flopped top pair, and the other two hands have 10 outs between them to catch up:
Unraised PF: You are +2SB, or 1BB, 100% of the time, since they always fold on the flop.
Raised PF: You are +3BB in 76.74% of the hands (2BB preflop, 1BB on flop calls...then turn folds). This is close enough to 75%, that we'll simplify it to that, just to make the other calculations easier. So then, 25% of the time, they draw out on you and you lose the hand...
In 4 hands:
Unraised PF, net outcome: +4BB
Raised PF, net outcome, when winning the hand: +12BB
From this scenario, you would have to drop 8BB's over the course of your losing hand, for the raise PF to be less profitable than limping. Admittedly, this scenario does not factor in the times that they call the flop bet, and the turn card produces enough additional outs for them to continue on with the hand (ie, BB holds 59, the flop is QJ5, and the turn is an 8), so the statement of "you'd have to lose 8BB in your losing hand" does need to be scaled down some. How much? I don't know. But I do think these numbers are just as staggering as the numbers you present about a PF raise making their flop calls correct.
Finally, just for my own curiousity, let's say that between the turn and river, you lose 3BB every time they catch up, for a total loss of 4.5BBs on that losing hand... That would put you at +7.5BB/4hands, compared to +4BB/4hands when you did not raise. If the numbers are correct, the net result is an extra .875BB/hand from raising -- to me signifying a large enough net gain to be willing to experience a little more variance.
When you do not get TP you have either missed completely, caught 2nd/3rd pair or are on a draw. This is obviously very hand dependent, but to try and keep it simple lets just consider the catching TP or missing/2nd pair issue. You will play on with a lower pair if the odds are right (which may not be that often), but will fold when you miss the flop entirely. With 3 cards on the flop you have 3 outs on each pocket card - so (3 + 3) x 3 = 18 outs PF, and 32 ways to miss (assuming no draws and no odds to chase with a lower pair). A bit simple, but OK for illustration purposes.
You catch at least a pair 18/50 = 36% of the time. Some of these will have overcards, so not be TP. Lets assume of these 36% only half are top pair = 18%. Lets call that 20% to keep the math simple.
You catch TP 20% of the time. That means you fold 4/5 flops, for an extra bet each time you raise PF. You need to factor this into your calculation as well - you are paying more to miss the flop (0.5 BB each time you raise).
Also - these players will not automatically fold the unraised flop, if they have a part of the flop they are almost certain to at least see the Turn. They will PERHAPS stay longer with a bigger pot, but my experience is that pot size is not really relevant to their decision (it will be for the small number of players who think about it correctly), they stay because they think they might win. The exception is for very big pots, which really is the exception.
Clearly there are times you have to bet even when they have correct odds to call, as to give them a free card gives them infinite odds to outdraw you. It is preferable they have to pay a price to draw, than none at all so you are forced to bet (Sklansky deals with just this subject in TOP). However, even if their flop bet is correct their Turn bet rarely is.
Overall the *effective* odds for a call to the River make the flop call incorrect in many situations, as the odds many people work on (including the PokerTracker software) assumes 1 SB and 2 cards to come. This is incorrect - as if they want to draw 2 cards they are certain (against your TP) to have to pay a Turn bet also.
Just today I was up against a player who said his flop bet was *based on mathemtics*. He had 5 outs (holding K3o and with a 3 on the flop with an A, which I had paired). He had 5 outs and was justified in making his call WITH 2 CARDS TO COME. But there was no way I was checking the Turn, so his reasoning was wrong and he was making a mistake.
He caught a K on the Turn and won the hand, by the way. He was mouthing off to everyone about what a great player was (he wasn't - he was just hitting his outs every time) and had been playing *25 years*. That was when I asked how he could have made the flop call, with so many years experience....blah blah. In the end I just turned his chat off and concentrated on the game. Many people make this decision based on 2-cards-to-come with 1-bet-to-make. They are wrong - certainly when facing TP.
Anyway, getting back to the point. What about the bets you lose PF when folding a missed flop? Regardless of what happens after the flop, you are not getting TP 80% of the time, and the raise costs you an extra 0.5BB every time this happens. Any calculation of benefit must take this into account, as well as the times you get drawn out.
I would be surprised if the raising did not show a benefit, but maybe just not as much as people think. And even so, the questions still begs - which hands to raise PF with? If your criteria for entering a hand is with a raise, you will throw away some hands that MAY still show a very worthwhile profit if limped in, in a game with little PF raising.
There are 3 raises we have to deal with: open-raising, raising a limper/s, and re-raising.
My question mainly deals with the first 2: should we always open-raise? and, should we always try to raise a limper? My feeling is, on a more passive table, that if raising is not knocking other players out, then it loses a significant amount of value, so much so that it then becomes marginal whether to raise or limp, or even preferable to limp.
Do we have a way to quantify the value of knocking other players out in terms of BB won/lost? Or do we just consider the raise a way (if it is not pushing people out) of effectively making the game more than $1/$2. We are stuck with the $1/$2 structure from the flop, and bigger pots make calling with lower pairs more correct, so does the raising strategy really punish the players enough to make the overall play wrong, when they have the odds to call on the flop? or should we be thinking more about raising the flop and/or turn as a way to really hurt them?
Most of the money is made AFTER the flop, so I tend to lean that way. If we catch TP and they have a part of the flop, they will stay - and they will take a lot of punishment by calling an unraised flop, with worse to come on the turn.
Hands that will be likely best on the flop (such as strong Aces) are easy raises PF as when they hit, they will be TP the majority of times (and when the A kicker hits - you doubly hurt the naked A callers when an A falls later and they think they are winning). But which hands will catch TP but still be vulnerable to overcards (the example given being QJo)?
It is particularly these examples I am thinking of, as it is most important that we make their calls with A or K overcards incorrect. This is one of the most common mistakes I am seeing (calling with an A or K overcard) along with inside straight draws (which almost always never have the right odds for a call). Even flush draws can be wrong to call in an unraised pot, particularly on the turn, and will be wrong much more often in smaller pots. This is a way to hurt even reasonable draws, and help limping plays (i.e. weak/marginal) more profitable to play.
Do you see what I mean by this? If we can make a play MORE profitable by limping (by making even flush/straight draws incorrect to call on the flop/turn) then our opponents are making mistakes on more hands. And this has to be the bottom line - their mistakes are our profit.
It might also be argued, that a PF raise will also improve your chances of having the right odds to call with 2nd pair or overcards, when missing TP. In this way the PF raise may actually give more outs to winning a hand.
I was thinking on this today, while playing some really appalling (read as, very soft) games this afternoon (UK time). When I realised that some players were playing flops with terrible hands (and winning a few) like 92s (to a PF raise) and 45o, I did actually begin to feel that I should be raising them at every opportunity. I saw one player raising 24s PF UTG, and betting into a flop with only one of the suits (he won uncontested and showed his cards).
I will post up some figures based on theoretical win rates for each starting hand, against different numbers of opponents, as this too has some results which support raising particular hands to INCREASE their win % but some appear to have an increased profitability against more players, suggesting that a limp in EP/MP may be the better play. More later.
The thread could have done with a bit more comment from others, to dissect the ideas put forward. There is more data, regarding theoretical win rates for certain hands that I could post but I think its getting a bit too much *theory of numbers*. Strategy is an important part of the play as well, and I think the posts of others, and yourself, do highlight the need for an aggressive approach to avoid getting pushed around.
However, it was useful to do this, as it has been rumbling on in my head as I play. I am watching the game more closely in this respect - you may be interested in my thinking on this....
As I saw the looser players coming in with really appalling hands, I began to think more and more (even when they were catching their cards) that I really should be raising these guys as much as possible, as IN THE LONG RUN those weaker hands will lose money just on their starting value - regardless of flops etc. Just on this basis, I am tempted to raise more. Raises, well placed, will get respect after a while as players begin to realise you are entering the pots with strong hands. They start to fold a few PF, then they start to fold some flops instead of calling one more. Many still call to the River with any part of the flop or A overcards, but they are losing doing this as well, at least on the Turn (which means a call to the River is a losing play on the basis of *effective* odds).
I still think there is a justification to limp more in these games, if you can. Hands such as Axs, in particular, can be limped successfully and my PokerTRacker figures prove it. They are not worth a raise in many cases, but are strong enough to call a raise PF after limping, at least in the games I am seeing, multiway.
Other marginal hands I am looking at are J9s, QJo, 66. But in any more aggressive game, these are bullet folds. I am folding these hands much more now, as I am beginning to see a tighter, more patient game is preferable. I had played this way in any game that had 1 or 2 reasonable players involved, but am also now seeing that it works very well against the weak players as well.
Another advantage of playing tighter is that I get to watch the other players more, rather than being involved in the hands, and can judge their play better as a consequence.
I still believe that there is a case for limping more in these looser games, but that, in fact, the tight, open-raising game put forward by most experienced players, is a superior play IN THE MAJORITY OF CASES. Probably the large majority. I think that limping can be used with certain hands, if the conditions are right, that need help from the flop, as well as some hands that play well multi-way, which are raised some/most of the time (such as KQs or ATs), plus the occassional AA limp. This means a variety of limping hands, which is difficult to pick up on by others, including some marginal plays. As the game gets more aggressive, I now see that limping becomes a considerably worse option. In looser weak games, it is less problematic; the smaller pots help you to punish other players post-flop when you hit, as they do not have the correct odds to draw out on you.
In *principle* you can play twice as many pots for the same money by limping PF. Clearly card value rapidly declines, making this a non-starter as a strategy (though that does seem to be the strategy of a lot of players ... ). But I see no reason why some plays cannot be made this way, when the game conditions allow you to, as there is plenty of scope to outplay the opposition after seeing the flop.
On the basis of making money by causing others to make mistakes, IMO limping can be a correct play (post-flop at least). Also rather than just winning bigger pots, I want to consider profitability - I would rather have a better risk/return ratio and smaller pots, than large pots with a significantly greater risk on what I am putting in. Larger pots can be found at higher limits, which is a straightforward choice. If raising is knocking people out, your action is justifiable on the basis of risk/return, if people are just calling regardless, raising is not such an effective option IMO. I would like to have gone into the numbers for this a bit more, but without some detailed input from others, I don't think I can get it right - I am not a statistician/mathematician.
Anyway, I enjoyed putting this thread together, I hope others found it useful/interesting too.
Great thread. I made the switch over to the 5/10 6max tables recently as well, and I've settled on a strategy similar to this.
I've heard the arguments for raising first in everytime, but I don't quite buy them. - It's nearly impossible to knock out the blinds - You're putting too much money into the pot preflop, making it correct for them to chase on the tail end - The opponents are accustomed to people going all out, so they don't really respect the raises - If the style is suited so that "good players cannot read your hand", then you're giving up some profit (or at least some variance) against the bad players (which there are more of)
Of course I do hybridize the strategy, such that when there are the "raise only preflop" players behind me I tend to limp less and raise more, and when the game is tighter I take the raise approach as well.
I'd like to hear more responses from the raise-preflop group such as Ulysses, Ikke, and so on... Hopefully this thread will catch their attention.
To its credit, the always-raise-preflop approach does have its merits.
One of the most understated that I can think of is that when you're constantly raising pots preflop, you get a quick handle on how your opponents play against you, since you'll always be playing against them in the same situation. (I remember Dynasty reminding everyone in a thread a long time ago where Clark raised 88 UTG that Clark raised a lot preflop because it made his postflop play much easier, and he was very used to playing against his opponents when he'd raised).
Does this factor into the decisions of the "raise preflop" crew?
I think the arguments for raising PF are sound, and quite compelling. However, if players are not folding, much of the value is lost. Sure, they are paying to play trash, but you learn very little from their calls. In a tighter game, PF raising is a must, but the looser games pay much more from the flop onwards. I know from experience, that just ONE player in these games who will call to the River with any part of the flop, will make the game very profitable. This can get to be a problem if you have 3 or more players like this, as you are getting drawn out on a lot.
Typical scenario: poor player limps in with A6o and the flop comes K67. This player will likely call all the way to the River. Ditto for a flop A82. Some will bet their paired A first in on the flop in the second example, but will not bet their 3rd pair in the other. A raise will not put this player out, as he plays AAAP. Other players will call the first example to the River with T9 or T8 and the second with 45. They won't fold to a raise PF either. Consequently you need the right cards to play on.
You are usually up against any-part-of-the-flop players, and any-draw-any-pot players (even run-run flush if they hold a Royal of the suit). These players call to the River, some call the River. The profit post-flop is huge. A PF raise makes no difference to their play, but will very often justify their calls on the Flop.
Knowing you will make much more money post-flop, and that a smaller pot on the flop will make your opponents calls big mistakes, would you always want to raise PF?
In tighter games, the dead money from the blinds is very important. In a loose game where the blinds rarely fold, there is no dead money as such - just another 2 players with any 2 cards. These players want to play, and they want to play every hand if they can. I want them to stay at the table, and by pressuring them all the time they will either tighten up a lot, or maybe even leave. So I raise less, keep them sweet, and chat to them when they make a good hand.
Saving aggression and bluffs for when you are hitting cards (and just after) still gives you by far the best of it, and allows the other players to enjoy their game. Limping in with hands like KQs means that with a Q high flop will likely be bet by a weak Q, and called by all the players holding an A, and your raise makes their play TERRIBLE.
If I have been in the game long enough to know players standards, I have no trouble raising an EP limper with anything decent (I've seen plenty limp with any 2-suited, even UTG, and any A or K), and re-raising a player I know raises with KTo from MP. My own stats show the importance of position, and I almost always open-raise from UTG-MP.
In a tight game, you cannot afford to let players in with trash, who might take a pot that falls rags. In a loose game they will play anyway, and you can charge them much more to stay to the River, than just an extra bet PF.
Perhaps it is the cards with big-draw potential that can be limped with most successfully, as you want more players involved in the pot. I also think that some marginal hands like QJo or JTo can be limped in LP against 1 or 2 limpers, as you will get paid off when you hit the flop, from callers will an A overcard or inside straight draw.
Any strategy is totally player dependent, of course.
There are hands that are not really worth a raise PF, but can be profitable if you can get in cheap and hit the flop hard. The reason hands like QJo and JTo can be played profitably is that many of these guys will not fold weak A overcards, on flops that suit your hand.
Just today I raised first in with KQo from CO (called by the blinds only) and bet the flop and Turn with undercards on the board, and checked the River to see my (2) opponents turn over A3o and A8o. They called all the way with just the A, and would have called a River bet too. This is not a rare event. Raising knocked out the Button, but even with lesser hands than Ax the typical players on the low limit tables will not fold the blinds.
The higher limit games appear to need more aggression (from what I have been told), and marginal hands need to be pushed. Not so lower limits, you can play some additional hands without fear of being punished for your limps, and this allows you to outplay your opponents from the flop onwards when you hit.
Often, where a raise will not knock out any players (such as playing from the button or blinds with 3 limpers in already), I will limp with some hands I would raise with first in or EP, such as 77, 88, KQ. I still need a good flop and a large pot (raised with 5 callers) justifies the calls from those holding 2nd/3rd pair. I will also limp with QJo, JTo, KTo. Playing on the table for a while and getting reads on the other players, allows you to play these hands for profit after the flop. Against aggressive players, or players who are always trying to trap others by slowplaying a lot, I make these plays only rarely.