Tuesday, October 24, 2006

More Cash Game Musings

In the last three months, my NL cash game has made some measurable improvements.  I’m playing live tonight, and I’m sure I’ll regret posting some of the new tactics that have helped me out.  Not because anybody reading this will care or use it against me, but because I’m bound to have bad results.  You know how it goes, get all high and mighty about improving your game and have a bad session to bring you back down.  But screw it; I’m posting anyway.


As we all know, poker is a game of incomplete information.  Gathering information about your opponents holding is the goal of the game.  This data helps you make the proper decisions and yada, yada, yada.  But how much value is there to providing your opponent with mis-information?  Tons.

Thanks to implied odds and being relatively deep stacked, if you’re holding any two playable cards, you might as well come in for a raise if you have position and are first into the pot.  By playable, I mean two cards working together.  This even applies to suited gappers.  The beauty is that if you miss your flop, it’s very easy to lay these hands down.  I’d rather play 23s from the button than A7o.  And by play, I mean raise.

Case in point.  I’m on the button with 74s.  It’s folded to me, so I raise.  Both blinds call.  The flop is 942 rainbow and it gets checked to me.  Often times, it’s correct to make a continuation bet in a cash game.  I chose to take a free card this time, mainly because I can’t call a check-raise and also because while that flop looks innocuous, it could have easily hit either of my two opponents.

The turn is an 8 and the SB bets out.  The BB folds and I call.  I call because the player in the SB is aggressive and I’m guessing he’s putting me on missing the flop, at least at this juncture.  I said in the last paragraph that the flop could have hit my opponents.  But with one folding and the fact that the one leading out has been very aggressive, I can open up the possibility that he’s just floating with two over cards.

The river is a 7 giving me two-pair.  At this point, the SB pushes and I call, cracking his pocket Kings.  He had no idea what I was holding, I’ll grant you that.  I’ll also grant that I got lucky and hit my river card.  But the crux of the matter is him pushing all-in with no real clue as to my holding.


When your opponent is aggressive, many players will lapse into passive play hoping to lure in the maniac by slow-playing strong hands.  But good aggressive players understand that and know how to fold when played back at.  Bad aggressive players, however, have trouble with opponents who play back at them by showing even more aggression.  They’re used to dictating action and when they can’t, their game crumbles.

I was pretty sure I put my opponent on tilt when I cracked his Kings.  He even typed “I bet $20 on the turn, tard” into the chat box.  I cheered for him simply by replying “Yay,” because nobody ever bluffs in hold ‘em.  So when I was dealt pocket Jacks, I let him dig his own grave.  On a ten-high flop, aggro-man bets half his stack and I raise him all in.  His KTo doesn’t hold up and he bolts from the table.

There are live players we play with who are the same way.  Top pair is gold and they’re willing to go to the well with it.  But as soon as you play back with a raise, they get confused and wonder where they went wrong.  Their smashmouth game of poker locks them into one gear and they just don’t know how to slow down.


I think every poker player needs to know how powerful position is.  It may be the most powerful of game conditions – more powerful than starting cards, more powerful than bet size.  The accumulation of information that position provides you is invaluable.

Early position renders strong hands like AK and AQ nearly unplayable.  That’s a bit strong to say, but if you raise in the SB with AKo, get 3 callers and miss the flop (as you will more often than not), where do you go?  Again, it’s a tough hand to play.  But on the button, things change drastically.

Two nights ago, I was dealt pocket Kings on the button.  The cutoff raised 4x the BB and I just called.  Smooth called.  Why?  Because I had position.  I don’t need to give my opponent a feel for the strength of my hand at this point.  My hand strength is huge and my position is unbeatable, why squander the opportunity to feed my opponent mis-information or at least hold some back?

We’re two to the flop and it’s King-high with two clubs.  For whatever reason, I’m putting my opponent on a big pocket pair, which means I don’t have to worry about the flush draw yet.   I call the continuation bet, again yielding no information whatsoever about my hand.  The turn is the Jack of clubs.  I don’t have the King of clubs so I’m cautious now.  However, I again just decide to call my opponents turn bet.  I am seriously thinking of laying the hand down if the board 4-flushes, but at this point, I’m gambling a bit by just calling.

The river is a non-club and my opponent leads out for 2/3rds his stack.  I raise him all in and he calls with pocket Jacks.  I’m not sure I win as big of a pot if I re-raise pre-flop which I normally would if I were out of position.  It might turn out that way though because he turned his set.  But the point I’m trying to make is that my hand was so huge because of position that I didn’t need to augment its strength by re-raising pre-flop.  I felt that I was giving too much away by doing so.


Of course, these hands all had good results and I’m trying not to let that sway my view.  But to be fair, I’ve used these concepts on a consistent basis the last three months and the overall results show that my game has either made measurable improvements or I’m just running uber-lucky (last Tuesday not withstanding).  

Bottom line is that I’ll take either.

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