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Old Oct 05, 2011, 4:22am   #1
feudallord
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Default General questions about NL Hold em

Hello. I've recently developed a liking to no limit hold em.

Some general questions:
1. I seem to lose a lot of playing what I call "straight components." I feel better about them when they're suited, but I have a desire to play them when their unsuited for one reason. Even though I've lost betting on straights more than I've won, it's the pots with 4+ people that gets me when I flop the remaining 3 components of the straights, and I end up winning a huge pot. Examples of cards are: A5, 10 8, 3 6, 3 4, etc. I was wondering if there is some rule about playing these cards, maybe its better to play them only when in position?

2. The same goes with suited cards. Is there a number of times you should play them? Like every 4th or 5th time is better to play suited cards then every time you see suited cards. Obviously I Get excited when I see them because of the prospect of a flush.

Thanks
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Old Oct 05, 2011, 4:42am   #2
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Hey Fuedallord, welcome to PokerTips.

Like a lot of poker strategy discussion, your questions are hard to answer in black-and-white terms. But just speaking in generalities, it sounds like you're probably overvaluing "semi-connectors" that could potentially lead to making a straight. Hands like T8 and especially 63 are generally pretty bad hands that most usually should be folded preflop. The same basically applies for crappy suited hands. Something like T4 suited isn't really that much better than T4 offsuit; you should generally just fold a hand like this most of the time. Your thinking is correct that position matters. Junky hands like T8 offsuit or K5 suited are a little more respectable in later position. In general though, it sounds like you'd probably benefit from being a little more choosy regarding your preflop starting hands.
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Old Oct 05, 2011, 4:53am   #3
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Hey Omar thanks for your response, I appreciate your input.

Yes it seems I've been winning more by picking higher cards, if that's what you're implying. Cards like KJ, KQ, AK and AQ of course.

I've just always been under the impression, correct me if I'm wrong, that all cards can be good depending on the flop. What I mean is, what good is AK if the flop comes 2 2 4 and you hold 2 4?

I'm not really a big fan of bluffing either. If that's the key to success in poker, then I better find a new hobby. What about higher straight components, like Q9, or K9? Same rule?
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Old Oct 05, 2011, 5:13am   #4
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While you're right that AK can be badly outflopped by 42 on any given hand, the guy playing AK will win a lot more money long-term than the guy playing 42. Yes, any two cards can win any one hand, but you're better off long-term by focusing on playing solid hands and folding the bad ones.

As for bluffing, it's a part of the game. If you never bluff, you'll be a very easy opponent to exploit since everyone will know that when you bet, you have a good hand. You bluff to set up situations where you'll get paid off more when you have a strong hand.
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Old Oct 05, 2011, 5:23am   #5
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Interesting, I'll think about this
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Old Oct 05, 2011, 7:25am   #6
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If I were you I would invest in a book like Harrington on Hold'em or Phil Gordon's little green book. They're an excellent starting point for which hands you're supposed to play and fold and they cover some basic strategy too.

Once you understand that, try to implement their ideas and once you've shown some improvement, it's time to watch some training videos or get coaching if you want to get better. Good luck!
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Old Oct 05, 2011, 1:36pm   #7
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Originally Posted by Ozone View Post
You bluff to set up situations where you'll get paid off more when you have a strong hand.
This!

However, don't bluff against opponents who never fold. I see a lot of people who think they are 'competent' but always mess this up. They are like "How could he call me with a pair of 5's? What an idiot!" When in reality the guy bluffing was the idiot since the guy who called with a pair of 5's has been calling with any pair all session.

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Old Oct 05, 2011, 4:21pm   #8
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Originally Posted by feudallord View Post
1. I seem to lose a lot of playing what I call "straight components."
close, we call them connectors.

Quote:
I feel better about them when they're suited, but I have a desire to play them when their unsuited for one reason. Even though I've lost betting on straights more than I've won, it's the pots with 4+ people that gets me when I flop the remaining 3 components of the straights, and I end up winning a huge pot. Examples of cards are: A5, 10 8, 3 6, 3 4, etc. I was wondering if there is some rule about playing these cards, maybe its better to play them only when in position?
well, all hands are better in position. it's much easier to get paid for your made hands when you're acting last because people expect you to bet with much weaker hands there. if you're acting first and start firing off chips, people are going to figure you for strength. there's also the more obvious advantage of, if you act last, you get to see what everyone else wants to do before you act.

while a hand like T8 can be okay in position, a hand like 63 is simply junk. consider this.

a true connector like 87 can make four straights; JT987, T9876, 98765 and 87654.

a one gap connector like 86 can only make 3 straights; T9876, 98765 and 87654

a two gap connector like 85 a mere 2 straights; 98765 and 87654

and a three gap connector like 84 makes just 1 lousy straight; 87654

you also have the question of when is your straight the nut straight? a three gap never makes the nuts, in 84's only straight 98 is the nuts. a two gap makes the nuts in 1 out of 2 straights (assuming the rest of the board is bricks), a one gap makes the nuts in 2 out of 3 straights, and a connector makes the nuts in 3 out of 4 straights.

note that an exception applies when you're making straights at the top of the deck. all four of JT's possible straights are the nuts, because when it is at the bottom end in AKQJT, there is no possible higher straight. we can also note that for the same reason, AK can only make one straight, KQ can only make two, and QJ can only make three. and again down at the bottom of the deck, A2 can only make one straight which is never the nuts, 32 can only make 2 straights etc.

but straights aren't everything. with a middle connector you're only going to flop the straight about 1.3% of the time. you're going to flop an eight out straight draw about 10.5% of the time, and you'll complete that straight an additional ~31% of the time. so roughly 12% of the time you're getting past the flop with a straight on your mind, and about 4.5% of the time you're turning over a straight at the end...and that's for true connectors, the bigger the gap, the smaller this value obviously becomes.

however. you are going to flop some kind of pair/two pair/trips/quads/boat around 32.5% of the time. you're going to be thinking "okay i have a pair" about three times as often as you're going to be thinking "okay i have about a 30% chance of outdrawing my opponent and making a hand at some point here"...we really don't need to do any math to see that big cards (that flop big pairs) are obviously superior to smaller cards, even if those smaller cards have straight possibilities. even a hand as wonky as K8 crushes a hand like 54. it's about a 62%/38% favourite.


the value of pure straight and flush draw situations is all in the implied odds. lets say we're both $100 deep, the pot has $30 in it and we're on the turn with a board of Ah 7s 6c 2d. my AK is a 36:8 favourite over your 54 in this spot. if i were to bet the whole bag and move in here, calling would be a terrible mistake for you. 8/44 of the time you would win my $100 plus the $30 in the pot, but 36/44 of the time you would lose your $100, which means on average you're throwing about $60 away by calling.

but lets say instead that I only bet $10. now it's only costing you $10 to draw on your straight. if you miss it's cost you $10, if you hit then you win $40, except i have another $90 in my stack for you to try and win if you make your hand. if you miss, your $90 isn't at risk because you're going to fold, but if you hit, there's another $90 for you to try to win.

we pause and note that in terms of simple pot odds, you're being laid $40:$10 to draw on the turn, whereas you're about a 5:1 dog to make your hand. your thought process on the turn should be, "okay i have 8 outs to make my hand, and there are 46 cards that are unknown to me, which means 8 winners and 38 losers, and a ratio of 38:8 = 4.75:1 losers to winners. for every $1 that i risk to draw to my hand i have to get $4.75 from the pot and my opponent to break even. it's $10 to call, which means i have to get $47.50 from him and the pot when i hit. the pot has $30 plus his $10 in it now, which means i have to get him to call on average at least $7.50 on the river when i hit for this to break even." and in this case you would continue with, "on the river the pot will have $50 in it, he probably has an ace so he will call about a half pot bet. i'm going to get another $20-25 from him there, so my implied odds are about 6 to 6.5:1. yeah i can draw, call!"

note phrases like "probably has an ace". much of the skill in poker is being able to work out what hands your opponent can have, and how much he will be prepared to pay you off with.

this is a verbose explanation. very quickly the math becomes second nature. it's also possible you know this, i've kinda wandered off on a tangent.

Quote:
2. The same goes with suited cards. Is there a number of times you should play them? Like every 4th or 5th time is better to play suited cards then every time you see suited cards. Obviously I Get excited when I see them because of the prospect of a flush.
it's more that you should just junk the lesser suited hands and play the stronger ones (that is, the ones that can make big pairs, and to a lesser extent ones that can make straights as well as flushes). you will flop a flush roughly 0.84% of the time you see a flop with suited cards. you will flop a flush draw (not including backdoor draws) a smidgen under 11% of the time, and will complete that draw a biscuit under 35% of the time. so again, we're going to be getting past the flop thinking flush less than 12% of the time, and we're going to have a flush by the river about 4.7% of the time.

so, firstly, we have the same shit to say as we did with straights. you aren't going to be making your flushes that often. secondly, you aren't going to be making the nuts that often. a flush with KXs is only the nuts if the ace is on the board, JTs is only the nut flush when it's a straight flush. thirdly, on the occasions you do make your flush, you still have to get paid. if the board is J94 and a 7 comes on the turn, your opponent will think "well okay T8 got there, so one of the (however many) hands he could have now beats me, but my AJ still beats KJ, QJ, JT, QT etc" but if the board is Jh9h4c and the 3h comes off he's going to think "well, okay now /all/ of the flush draws he could have beat me". folk are usually much more concerned about flushes getting there than they are straights. these are all things you need to consider.

there is one other thing to take into account with these drawing hands, which is that when you flop a draw, you can put a lot of pressure on your opponents because you always have good equity. if you flop the nut flush draw, you are going to make your flush about 35% of the time. this allows you to attack on the flop and perhaps get your opponents to fold and give you the pot right there. this play is usually called "semi-bluffing"; while it is not a pure bluff, the bluff element is adding a significant amount to your profit in the hand. the final thing to consider with this, is that if you make your semibluff and your opponent doesn't fold, the pot is going to be bigger on the next street. if you make your hand, you can make a much bigger value bet than if you had just called or checked previously.

here's a simplified example to illustrate this, we'll start on the turn because the math is more straight forward that way. lets say we have a pot of $30 and we both have $200 left in our stacks. the board reads Ah 9d 8h 2c, you have K7h, my hand is unknown.

LINE 1: i bet $15. if you call, the river will complete your flush 9 times in 46. if it does, you will bet $40 into the pot of $60 and i will call about half the time.

80.4% of the time you miss and lose $15, 19.6% of the time you will hit, half the time you hit you get the $30 pot plus the $15 i put in on the turn, and half the time you get that $45 plus an additional $40 that i call off on the river. so now the math:

line 1 = (0.098*$45) + (0.098*$85) - (0.804*$15)

= $4.41 + $8.33 - $12.06

= $0.68

LINE 2: i bet $15, you raise to $55. i fold half the time. we'll keep it really simple and assume you just give up if you miss and lose that money, but if you do hit, your 2/3 pot bet is now $95 and i will still call this half the time.

this math is slightly more complex, so i will do it in stages.

a: you raise i fold
b1: you raise i call, you miss
b2i: you raise i call, you hit i fold
b2ii: you raise i call, you hit i call

a: P = 0.5, profit +$45
b1: P = 0.5 * 0.804. profit -$55
b2i: P = 0.5 * 0.196 * 0.5. profit $85
b2ii: P = 0.5 * 0.196 * 0.5. profit $180

a: P = 0.5, profit +$45
b1: P = 0.402. profit -$55
b2i: P = 0.049. profit $85
b2ii: P = 0.049. profit $180

line 2 = (0.5*$45) + (0.049*$85) + (0.049*$180) - (0.402*$55)

= $22.5 + $4.165 + $8.82 - $22.11

= $13.375

so in this case semibluffing is more profitable...obviously, you aren't going to be doing math like this during the hand, rather this is something to think about away from the table so that you can apply it in your game. as a general rule of thumb, the more likely your opponent is to fold when you play back at him (and the deeper the stacks), the better semibluffing is vs calling and drawing.

if i've said anything you don't understand, used a word you don't know or if you have any follow up questions, be my guest.

Kc
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Old Oct 05, 2011, 4:40pm   #9
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I've just always been under the impression, correct me if I'm wrong, that all cards can be good depending on the flop. What I mean is, what good is AK if the flop comes 2 2 4 and you hold 2 4?
well...AK will outdraw 24 on a 224 flop 0.606% of the time. 24 will outdraw AK on an AKK flop 0.000% of the time...

look at it this way. how often are you going to get a flop that you like when you have 42? and how often are you going to get a flop that you like when you have AK?

lets create a really simple form of poker in which we both get two cards, then a two card flop is dealt, and that's the end of the hand.

your 42 is going to flop at least a pair 21.65% of the time and you're going to win.

my AK is going to flop at least a pair 21.65% of the time and I'm going to win.

we're both going to flop a pair 3.13% of the time, but my pair will be bigger, and I'm going to win.

nobody is going to flop anything 53.57% of the time, but my nothing will be bigger, and I'm going to win.

AK wins 78.35% of the time.

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I'm not really a big fan of bluffing either. If that's the key to success in poker, then I better find a new hobby.
well, we might talk about why you don't like bluffing? is it fear of losing? or just that it feels dishonest?

bluffing is perhaps not essential, in fact it's something to do sparingly at low limits because most of your opponents are going to be turnips who will call off your value bets with ridiculously weak hands (and will do the same to your bluffs), but as you move up you're going to meet people who can fold, and bluffing is the way to exploit that. similarly, if you never bluff, you make it much easier for your opponents to read you, since they know that you only bet the strength of your hand, which makes it easier for them to fold their weaker hands and only play against you when they are strong too.

Kc
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Old Oct 05, 2011, 4:52pm   #10
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can you write up the cliff notes for these last two posts please?
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obviously, it's always my fault whenever anyone does anything stupid around here.

fucking morons every one of you. there isn't a man in this village that i wouldn't feed into an incinerator for no reason other than to get rid of them.

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