Monday, May 09, 2005

Thoughts on Shorthanded Limit Hold'em

If I'm going to get down to business writing a Shorthanded Limit Hold'em book, I've gotta do a few things first. I already have many ideas and theories in my head. Some of them I've written in Weighing the Odds in Hold'em Poker. But in order to teach the game, I'll have to give readers all the tools that are out there that they can use. One of the most important tool seems to be Poker Tracker. I see results and data from Poker Tracker referred to all the time on twoplustwo. These results do mean something, and can help someone better his game....although it won't show everything of course.

So if I am going to write a SH book, this should be my plan of attack on Poker Tracker :

1. Use it and learn how to interpret all the data they provide. I'm still having problems understanding how to import games. There must be a better way to download hand histories than having to request them every so often. On PokerStars, they only give you the last 200 hands anyway, so it would be a shame not to download the hand histories and miss some hands. If anyone knows how to make this easier, please let me know - As long as I'm asking for computer help, can anyone help me with how to set up a counter for this blog?

2. This means sitting down for a while (a month, two months, three months?) and playing shorthanded online full time. (This is the thing that I am now sounds like almost feels like I'm curtailing my own freedom...if I don't follow this plan, it will be due to this). Its important to build up the data on my own play before I know how to interpret it. Then I'll be able to compare it to other players.

3. Once I am proficient at interpreting the data, and have enough data on my own play for it to be meaningful, the next step is to try to convince others to send me their data so I can analyze a bunch of players as one group. Most players won't be happy sending their personal data to anyone, but I think if the reward is that I'll share the results with them first, then that may be enough. We'll have to see when I start asking around...but that's something I'm not going to worry about til later on.

4. Once I have all the data, then I can build a master database...and I think the results of that would be interesting.

Here's an interesting shorthanded hand today.

6 players 30-60

I'm in big blind with AKo
UTG raises and UTG+1 calls. Both are new to me, but after two rounds, they seem to be fairly normal, nothing extreme.
I call because I am in horrible position to a UTG open-raiser and an early position cold caller. I want to see the Flop before I commit to the pot.

Flop: 9h-4c-9s rainbow
I check, UTG bets, UTG+1 folds, I call.
I'm not 100% sure what I'm going to do on the Turn. I'm thinking about check-calling it down, and letting AJ bet all the way, I don't think this is a good place to semi-bluff a check-raise on the Turn, the board is just not scary to a pair at all. Since I have AK, the two biggest scare cards make me the probable favorite. This means a Q or J are my best scare card semi-bluff check-raising cards, but they aren't that scary to someone who has TT. Therefore, I'm leaning towards just checking and calling...if no A or K shows up, I'm hoping he's got AQ or AJ.

Turn: Ah (two hearts on board now)
I check, looking to check-raise. He checks too. Did I miss a bet? Read on.

River: 3c - no possible flush.
Board: 9h-4c-9s-Ah-3c
Now I know how to get back the bet I missed on the Turn. I check. The combination of the check on the Turn and the River tells him that its doubtful I have an Ace. Who checks twice? Few people. It also tells me when he checked on the Turn he is likely to have a pocket pair. He is afraid of the Ace, yet he has a hand - so he doesn't need to use the Ace to bluff me out of the pot. Therefore, he's got a pocket pair.

I checked on the River, he bet, and I raised. He called. I won the pot.

So I won 2 bets on the Turn and the River combined. If I had bet out on the Turn, I would have only received a call on both Turn and River, thus winning the same thing. If he had bet on the Turn, then I would have probably made an extra bet if he had called my raise and called my River bet. The good thing here is I check-raised on the River after it the Turn was checked around, thus getting back the Turn bet that I "lost". If I had bet out on the River (after the Turn was checked), then I would have only made one was pretty clear he was going to bet the River with his pair (even though that's the wrong decision), so the check-raise was correct. I hope that makes sense. In the hand history, it showed he had 88.

Lessons to be learned:
1. Its ok to risk missing a bet if there is a good chance you can get the missed bet back on a later street while at the same time giving yourself an opportunity to win more (may have won 3 bets if he had bet on the Turn).

2. If you are playing against a solid player, don't be so sure about betting at the end like this player did. What could and would I call with that he could beat? Not that many hands. His bet on the River was bad...yes, you want to be aggressive in shorthanded games, but not always. If he knew I was a fish, then he should have bet, but I was unknown to him. As I wrote in Chapter 15: The River of Weighing the Odds in Hold'em Poker, if you only have a 50% chance of having the best hand, and you are last to act, you should check. Go buy the book and read that chapter for further details :)

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