Monday, July 8, 2013

Your Thought Process

I posted a hand from the Vegas Trip on 2p2, and it actually generated some good discussion.  I realize a large class of readers can access my blog but not that site, so here is the hand:

Preflop maniac (loose passive post) opens CO hank 3! KTcc in sb nit bb 4 bets both call (5 bet cap)


Check nit bets CO raises and hank.....

The reason I posted the hand is that while Hank and I initially thought this was a hulk smash situation, a player I respect quite a bit said not only that we should call, but also that it was not close and that most excellent players would agree with him.  We talked it out and I half came around to his point of view mainly because I realized he was right about the crushers calling.  We decided to post the hand and get feedback from OnTheRail, John Locke, and DosEquis, postulated that most of small stakes would say raise while the three of them would all say just call.  And you know what?  That is exactly what happened.

This got me thinking a lot about my thought processes, or what I have previously referred to as my decision making machinery, as I wanted to understand why I was sure this was a raise (initially) while four players I consider slightly to substantially "better" (meaning "able to post a positive win rate in tougher games") were very confident it was a call.  The exact details of this spot are not super important, but I'll walk through a couple ways you could make the decision

1.  I have massive equity, so I raise!  A lot of people think this way and frankly doing so very accurately can get you pretty far.

2.  I have a massive draw and need to have some semi-bluffs in my range so I raise!  This is where I was at, and it's fundamentally flawed because of the range that hero has.  This game was played with a 5 bet cap AND capping preflop would have made no sense with any hand, and therefore Hank doesn't really get to have QQ+ in his range, meaning his value raising range for this flop is like exactly 999 (and MAYBE AQ but that's probably not a good idea).

3.  I am not winning this pot without showdown;  why would I jam a draw when doing so could isolate me against the best hand and put me in a tougher spot on later streets?  I call.  And you know what?  This is correct.

The thread went on for a long time, with some players actually advocating call, and eventually a very good question was asked.

Originally Posted by Zeke Ferrari View Post
I think this is interesting. I definitely didn't think about that until I read your post.

Back to the flop decision point: for those of us that really want to dig into this kind of situation, is the next step to try and make an EV tree to examine different lines? We've got guys saying to call the flop for various reasons, and guys saying 3bet the flop because we have a ton of equity. We should be able to find which line has the higher EV (I know the tree has many branches and we'll have to make loads of assumptions). Are we all actually just concerned about which line has the highest EV, or is there more to this discussion?

My question is more about how to think through situations like this. To those of you who are levels above the rest of us, what types of analyses are you doing to help determine your actions? Obviously a stove isn't enough to fully analyze this situation.

This got me thinking about my decision making machinery at another level, one on which I have dabbled previously but never actually set up base camp and put in work.  Specifically, it's really important that you understand how the study and effort you put in away from the table is going to translate to your in game decision making.  I can sit here and analyze this hand to death (and I have) and while I have learned something it's important to make sure what I've learned translates to play at the tables.  In college this was never really a problem;  you learn the material, you likely solve the problems on the test, you probably get a good grade.  At work I found I had holes in my swing, so to speak.  When presented with a new technology I had a harder time learning what made it tick than other people of similar education and experience did.  My lady friend is literally leaps and bounds ahead of me in this regard, and I believe it is that skill (learning about new systems, reading their documentation, making them do what you want) that has moved her from being a very good engineer to a potentially (I am no expert but I am also no layman) world class one.  Anyway...

What is it that you do when you are presented with a problem at the poker table?  I gather most people use pattern recognition to solve 90% of the problems they face, and while this works for a while, if you rely on it exclusively you're going to have a very, very low ceiling.  At the other end I know players who literally keep track of their entire range (and an estimate of their opponent's) as the hand progresses, and do things like "make sure they have enough equity in their check back range vs his range" or "add bluffs that will remain bluffs when obvious scare cards come so as to not run out of bluffs on various boards" and "count up my value bet combos, then pick which hands I need to use as bluffs on that river card."  Obviously there is a vast, vast difference in the processes that are being used to make the very same decisions here, and obviously you kind of have to know yourself and what is going to work best for you.  In practice I try to meld the two basic theories of beating poker games, which are roughly:

1.  GTO soul crushing

2.  Figure out what hand (or hands) he has and what he intends to do with it (or them) and act accordingly.  

In the hand above, both schools of thought should yield roughly the same answer if applied correctly.  I have almost zero value hands because my opponent's range is so strong on the perflop, so I don't need to have any semi bluff raises in my range.  Or, my opponent has a monster, he will never fold it, I have a strong draw, I should attempt to bink him.  

If you meld these theories you should do quite well, but you're going to have a hard time making decisions at game speed.  I mean, think about it...what do you actually think about when you're forced with a tough decision on the turn?  What goes through your head?  How could you make it better, or what kind of study could you do away from the table to make it easier?  These are important questions for which I don't even have answers for myself, let alone everyone else.


Pokershaman said...

I'm not terribly sophisticated. My notion of a tough decision on the turn is "WTF do I do if I get raised?" It comes down to how good I think the villain is and the board texture; i.e. do they have enough semibluffs in their range that I have to call them down?

Great post, by the way. Good enough that there's an argument for deleting it lest someone learn something valuable from it. ;-)

Jesse Smithnosky said...

LOL this was the first post I ever wrote where that actually occurred to me.

martini1 said...

How do you practice and apply this type of thought process? Essentially, which tools and information would be used to begin thinking along these lines? Also, do you feel this type of thinking could lead to leveling oneself at mid stake games around the 20/40 40/80 variety?

avoidthe9to5 said...

game speed application is everything =D

Jesse Smithnosky said...

Martini, you asked some very good questions. I do think you can level yourself if you misapply a decision making process. The most important piece of it, I think, is to put your opponents in buckets and use their classification to govern which sort of thought process you use against them.