Monday, May 3, 2010

New Poker Line

When you talk about hands in limit texas hold 'em you refer to the actions you took through the hand as your "line". You can spell out a complete line in many ways using short-hand that probably is pretty confusing to a beginner, but really it's not that complicated. For example, someone might say:

"check raise the flop, then call down"

This is the same as saying:

"c/r, b/c, c/c"

Which just means to check/raise the flop, lead the turn, and call down if you get raised. It's a little unclear here what to do if the guy 3 bets the flop, but you get the basic idea. If your hand was a little better you could use the following pieces instead:

"c/r/4, b/3, b/c"

Which would mean to check/raise the flop and cap it if you are 3 bet, then bet the turn and 3-bet if you get raised, and finally just call a river raise. As you can see, there are lots of abbreviations and stuff here, but it all becomes second nature pretty quickly. Well I've developed a new line piece, which I employ on the river quite frequently with mixed results. It works like this.

I've raised preflop with something, and half the table has come along for the ride. I bet the flop with an over pair or top pair or some other good sort of hand, and most of my opponents have continued flinging chips into the pot because it's Commerce and hands don't actually start until the turn (the flop is just a practice round really....I'll write more on this at a later time). So on the turn the board is kind of scary but not horrific (because in situations like this it takes a truly horrific board for me to stop betting something that even resembles top pair) and I bet and get raised and find myself in the classic limit hold 'em dilemma. There are many chips in the middle of the table, and only one other player holds cards. In theory he should be bluffing some percentage of the time (however in practice at a live 20 game there are players who simply never, ever bluff), and I have a hand that looks pretty. In truth there is not much difference between my hand and bottom pair against most opponents, other than the fact that if they are bluffing they'd have more outs to defeat a pair of 3s than my pair of kings, but it's just not fun to fold because damn it I haven't flopped a pair in an hour this one is supposed to win! So I count down the pot and get something like 8 or 10 big bets and it crosses my mind that no matter how scary the board is he might have only 2 pair. Egads! If he only has two pair I have all kinds of outs. If he has bottom two my top top has 9 outs! NINE! That's like a flush draw, and we always call with flush draws right? I'm getting a way better price than that, so I can definitely call. But remember now, all this is predicated on the fact that the overwhelming majority of the time my opponent currently has me smoked like a fine cheese. And good players plan out their actions on the next street (or 2) well in advance and I want to be a good player, so I justify my call by using my new line piece. I will c/ttf the river. What is c/ttf you ask?

check/try to fold

It's really that simple. On the river if I don't improve (meaning I get to at least two pair myself) I will simply check to him and after he bets I will try to fold. There are so many ways I can win here. Sometimes he won't even bet and I won't have to try to fold at all. Sometimes there will be 2 people left and someone will raise and folding will be extremely easy. And sometimes if all those options fail he will bet and I will actually manage to fold. Here is a concrete example from today:

I opened JTs somewhere in the middle and ended up in a standard Commerce 4 or 5 way pot. I flop a disguised double gutter on a rainbow board:


And bet the flop. 3 people call, and we see a blank roll off on the turn, some sort of 3 or 4 that put up a flush draw. Now at the time I don't even know it yet, but there's a very real chance the ttf river line is going to be employed. Two players check to me and this is the decision point in the hand. Is there any possible way I can win this thing without turning over my cards? It's commerce, I have jack-high, and three of my opponents still have little rectangles of paper in front of them. Quickly my brain decides "nuh-uh" and I check hoping to take a free card. The one active player behind me plays nice and checks and I suddenly realize I'm going to have to use the ttf line on the river now. If I'd just bet the turn the hand would be pretty easy to play almost regardless of what fell on the river. If I got it HU I'd probably barrel UI, trying to win a by then large pile of chips. If it was still 3 or 4 ways the white flag would be raised. And if I rivered a pair of jacks or tens, well they'd probably both check to me since I'd bet the last street and if they did bet folding would be pretty straight forward. But what now? I've checked, and sure enough the river:


And the big blind bets. The other player quickly folds and I suddenly realize I've put myself in a spot where ttf is definitely the correct play. Dude is almost certainly not bluffing into 3 people on the river. That's just not how 20/40 players at Commerce roll. But I have second pair and I checked the turn! As a rule of thumb after a street checks through the functional nuts moves down one notch on the totem pole. Top pair was the nuts last street, but it checked through. Therefore, I have the nuts. QED. I call.

The guy behind me folds and the big blind turns over TT for the rivered set. I did ttf, and that's what really matters.


J said...

Hands like these make me thankful I took up NLHE.

J said...

Lol. I just realized my last two comments are contradictory.

The blindman said...

So are those two, haha.