Monday, March 21, 2011

Today's Word; Combative

The Big Potato and I had a talk about this a while back, and in retrospect Pete has been trying to drill it into my skull for like 2.5 years, but for some reason I had an epiphany this morning during a pretty simple and straight forward hand:

Full Tilt Poker $2/$4 Limit Hold'em - 4 players - View hand 1242759
DeucesCracked Poker Videos Hand History Converter

Pre Flop: (1.5 SB) Hero is BTN with 9 of spades 9 of diamonds
1 fold, Hero raises, 1 fold, BB calls

Flop: (4.5 SB) Q of clubs T of clubs 4 of hearts (2 players)
BB checks, Hero bets, BB calls

Turn: (3.25 BB) 3 of hearts (2 players)
BB checks, Hero bets, BB calls

River: (5.25 BB) 7 of diamonds (2 players)
BB checks, Hero checks

Final Pot: 5.25 BB
BB mucks A of hearts 4 of spades
Hero shows 9 of spades 9 of diamonds (a pair of Nines)
Hero wins 5 BB
(Rake: $1.00)

I'm going to ramble a bit, but the general theme here is dividing opponents into one of two categories: combative, and non-combative. Most of the idiots I play with on a day to day basis in the live 20 games fall into the latter category, and against one of those guys I have played this hand very well. They simply don't fight for the pot; they take lines like c/c, c/c, c/f with their draws or weak pairs. In general they are passive and they are bad. Against them I can check back rivers with AK UI or 4th pair and expect to win a fair bit of the time. They are in short terrible, and that is why I play with them day in and day out.

But what about combative opponents? How are they different? Well, a reasonably competent combative opponent has an extremely narrow range when he checks and calls two streets in a row. He thinks he can turn over his hand and drag the pot with it, but he doesn't think he had enough hand to put in more action at any point. In short, he really has bottom pair (or a small pocket pair) a huge percentage of the time. The result of the above hand shouldn't be surprising at all, given that my opponent's stats made it appear that he was some flavor of combative, competent player. Against him I really should have value bet this river for a couple of reasons. First of all, his range lacks some of the strong hands many of my 20/40 opponents would check call two streets with (things like second pair, or even in some cases lol top pair). Second, he shouldn't have a draw very often, which means he's not check/folding that often. If he had a draw with now showdown value, he'd likely have semi-bluffed it at some point. In short, he's simply not getting to the river to check and fold; that's not what combative opponents do. So if he doesn't have a big hand, and he doesn't have a miss, what does he have? Some small pair, or maybe even ace high, that he wants to turn over. So I actually think I missed a pretty clear value bet here against the given opponent.

I believe that my constant search for soft games filled with non-combative opponents has retarded my development on this level. Against combative players you can't just bet the flop and turn with AJ, then check the river when all you have is ace high. You'll lose a lot of the time, because they called you twice and didn't try to get you to fold. Against the monkies I play with the same cannot be said, and I do shit like that all the time. On the flip side, it's important to value bet substantially thinner against players you deem to be combative. You have to punish them for trying to showdown lightly, and not let them off the hook for just 1.5 bets with ace high or bottom pair.

And that is all I have to say about that.


TomB said...

My Word to describe the hand in this post: “Typical”. I don’t play online. I play mainly $2-$4 Limit at my local casino card room. That’s why I read your blog. Maybe the action is different live, here in the Midwest. You undoubtedly know a lot more than me about limit play.

But, where I play live 2/4, “Ace and a Race” is a typical starting hand. Players want action and fun. It is also typical for players to both play too many starting hands and then take them too far. Nothing, it seems, w ill keep players in hands like catching a small piece of the flop, especially with an Ace kicker. Getting Rivered by these players is also typical. Still, how can you not love to play with a loose-passive player?

Maybe you should have bet the River. We’ll never know if your opponent would have folded to your bet. I don’t think it makes much difference. In a short time, you would probably have all his money either way. You won an extra $6 from a hand your opponent should have thrown away after the flop. Typical.

Love to read your blog.

The blindman said...

TomB, I think you're missing the point. If you are automatically folding 55 on that flop versus an aggressive button raiser, or if you never showdown ace high, you are burning money. To be fair, if you play live 2/4 then you have probably never seen a flop heads up, and the above doesn't really apply.

The point is that if BB is a combative player (who is likely to have raised his draws and bigger pairs at some point), then his passive line suggests a weak hand that he wants to show down. On balance, you need to value bet the river.