I don't know (Part 1)

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I don't know (Part 1)

Very often I hear students making comments like "I do not know what to do in such a situation."

Then, there are 2 possible outcomes:


  • I do not know what to do in such a situation, so I'd better fold
  • I do not know what to do in such a situation, so I'd better shove all my chips into the pot


For example, we have 99 in the big blind against the CO. The flop came T74 with 2 spades. The opponent puts a continuation bet and the heroes of our story suggest 2 ways of responding:


  • I'm folding in case overcards or a flush come. And what am I supposed to do? I guess I'll have the weakest hand, so it's best I don't bet and muck my hand right now
  • I'm raising to pick up the pot right now, because if an over card or flush card shows up on the turn / river, I'll have to play a guessing game


It's funny how our two heroes can see the same set of events in completely different ways.


And the answer is actually very simple. And at the same time is very complicated.


Remember, if you do not know what to do in certain situations (especially if they are common scenarios), then your job is not to play the way you feel psychologically comfortable, it is to learn how to play. That's right - it means getting the maximum benefit .


If I, for example, am going to raise with 99, it is quite possible that this will produce a positive result, or at least a less negative one than if I fold. But that does not mean that it will bring us the most benefit. And since the days when you had to wait for a hand and collect a stupid opponent's stack have already passed (and opponents have become smarter and the game has become more aggressive, ie, while you are sitting and waiting for the next strong hand, the stack you have won will be dissolving like smoke), the winner is now the one who squeezes the most out of every situation.


To help you better understand what it means to make the most of a hand, let me give you a simple example. Imagine that we have AA. The opponent raises us to 3BB. What do we do? That's right — we put in the 3rd bet for 10 - 11BB. What if we do not reraise and immediately shove all in, eh? What, you don't want to? Why not? Well it's profitable! It is certain that this move will bring us a positive result. But of course everyone knows that the standard reraise would be clearly beneficial. Because by going all-in we usually win 3bb. Whereas by putting in the 3rd bet, you can soft-play with the enemy and make 10BB or 20BB, or if he catches a FD or top pair — their whole stack.


So, the absurdity of going all-in with aces in this situation is obvious to everyone. Meanwhile, a raise with 99 in the first example is no less absurd from the point of view of profitability (I'm exaggerating, of course, but in terms of the analogy, I hope everything is clear). Because, first of all, we are making a raise that only knocks out all worse hands and leaves better hands. That is, if your opponent has made a continuation bet of 4.5/6 BB , and we make a raise to 11.5 BB, these 7.5 BB which we added to his continuation bet, can only be lost.


Consider the two most likely options:


A) The opponent's hand is worse than ours


  • We call and we win it in most cases, 4.5 BB (c-bet) 3 BB (PFR)
  • We raise and win it in most cases, 4.5 BB (c-bet) 3 BB (PFR)


B) The opponent has a better hand ours


  • We call. On the turn, he bets again - and we fold losing 4.5 BB (c-bet) 3 BB (PFR)
  • We raise. He calls - we give up on the turn and lose BB 11.5 (c-bet) 3 BB (PFR)


Obviously, the call is vastly more profitable.


You might say that when we call, we do not always win because we can be outplayed. That is right but bare in mind the following:


  1. We can be outplayed in 25 % cases, when our opponents have two overcards. But doesn't your opponents raise from cutoff with suited aces? Suited connectors? Small pairs? How do you rate your opponent's chances? From 8-12%. I do not think this is particularly frightening.
  2. Some players also like to bluff when an overcard comes. In this case, if we call, sometimes we can take away the pot on later streets. Stop his bluff with another bet.
  3. And there is a category of players who act as table sheriffs and, for example, on a board of Ts7s4c2h2c will play with A4 betting and checking after calling, putting us on the missed draw. With 99, we can deliver against these hands on the river.


I acknowledge the fact that every time we make a non-optimal play on the grounds that it is the most beneficial action (even if it is profitable), we nibble away at our win rate. The exact opposite of this is that if the absurdity of going all-in with aces is evident, then it is no better to play the medium-strength drawings hands sub-optimally. That is to say, we raised with 99, took the pot and believe that this was as it should be. And it is not. And the fact that it is not can get expensive. And these small mistakes snowball until they eventually cost us dearly.


How to learn to take control of such a logical sequence and understand how to play properly in situations that leave us stumped, is the subject of my next article.


Good luck at the tables!