Friday, August 15, 2008

Two Things... (be forewarned--this is long)

First of all, I have literally been racking my brain for nearly three days trying to figure out the math of the following situation:

On a board of 5h4d2h if you have 2-2 and you know categorically that your opponent has flopped the wheel with A-3, what odds do you need to call? A little bird told me you only need 2-1 which seems preposterous to me. If you have 7 outs on the flop (so you're like 5-1) and 10 outs on the turn (so 4-1) how does the power of being able to backdoor a full house make it so that seeing both cards makes it 2-1?

I see how you get there. (7 outs + 10 outs) X 2 = 34, but it still seems mathematically unsound to me. Can someone, anyone, provide a more thorough explanation of how being 14% to win and then 20% to win makes you 34% to win overall. I would think you can't just add those together to make those odds...if you told me you were 17% to win, that would make more sense to me. I mean, I normally pride myself on not being completely math retarted, but I still don't get how this situation is possibly ever 2-1.

Problem #2. I am going to warn my few readers in advance that this is going to sound a lot like bitching that typically gets flamed on P5s and such, but I am 100% sincere when I say I just can't figure out how to beat these games. Over a 2 year sample size of weekly cash games, I consistently am more profitable in games with players who are ostensibly better players than the much cherished LAGtard.

But man, those LAGtards....I can't beat them to save my life. I have listened to numerous people tell me these are the people you are going to make money off of in the long run, but I am not kidding when I say I just don't. And what I am about to say is going to make me sound like such an intellectual snob, but I am going to do my best to not sound totally terrible:

The absolute biggest hole in my game is that I assume a general level of intelligence from people that vastly overestimates their aptitude. I do the same thing in life more generally. I refuse to believe people in the world can truly be as stupid as they are and they never cease to amaze me. Talking with my friend Brian, whose game I really respect, he told me, "you need to stop putting your tendencies on your opponent's decision making." He then explained that his wife does the same thing. Maybe it is a gendered issue, but I generally have to play against people who operate with some sense of logic because I just can't figure out what the hell is going on otherwise.

I hear about people who only operate on Level 1 of thinking, but I have a very difficult time giving people that little credit in the cash games I play. My thought process is if you are putting up a nearly $100 buy in to play in $.50/$1 on a weekly basis you are past Level 1 thinking. At the free poker league I used to play in, I expect Level 1 from some people, but even then I still have a hard time. If you play a game twice a night two and three nights a week for something like 3 years at what point do you not realize you need to consider what your opponent has?

To me this is like playing checkers twice a week for two years and acting surprised when someone jumps you to get kinged. The very nature of the game is that each person has their own hole cards! How in the hell can you play this game on a weekly basis for what is more than just pennies (I know it sounds like a very small NL game, but considering the fiscal situations of most of the parties involved, it isn't that small) and not realize you need to think past what two cards you have?

Here is the best example I have. The absolute worst player in the game is a man named Brad who is the quintessential defenition of LAGtard. Any suited face card and he is all about seeing it through to the river. Last night I saw him bet the river on a J-10-8-7-A board with just A-K (yes, he stuck around until the river on that board with just A hi) and call a huge raise on the river with a single pair.

Brad plays on FTP nearly daily, he plays in home games twice a week, and he subscribes to PXF, but he is still incapable of folding. He claims he is a "hunch" player, which I find absolutely hysterical considering to play by hunch and instinct requires at least a base consideration of the type of player you are up against. He openly admits to having no concept of odds and no desire to learn them. He raises irregardless of position with hands like A-4 os or K-6 suited.

The vast majority of my playing style is contingent upon table image and pricing people out of things. In games overrun with Level 1 thinking and an absence of fold equity, this style simply isn't profitable. However, I am baffled as to how to combat a game in which you are trying to deflect 3-4 LAGtards pretty much any time you are in a hand.

My first instinct is to play tight and in position, which I generally do. But the next question is one of pot control. In this game the standard raise is 4-5 BBs and typically flops are going to be seen at least 4-5 ways. With that in mind, each pot has $25 going to the flop. Let's say you have flop something like a straight on a 5-6-8 with you holding 7-9 board with two hearts. How do you play this? My first instinct is to protect my hand, but I also know that there will be no consideration of odds and there are inevitably players who are going to not only call any bet with hands like 6-7os or Kh3h, but are going to lead out at it.

I have gone about this a number of ways. I have raised huge on the flop only to get called by multiple players. I have also waited for a brick on the turn before raising big, but even with only one card to come, I still can't protect my hand from the flush draws and the possible chop. Moreover, because people are leading out with hands like 6-7 os there, the pots are quickly getting pretty big and I am forced to stick my whole stack in there in an effort to protect my hand. Sometimes I will have something like 10-10 or J-J on that board and I literally just give it up on the flop because it is going to be too damn expensive to try to see where I am at or get my hand to hold.

I know, I know, "you want someone with a flush draw to call you there." In all sincerity, can I just say that I don't? I really, truly don't. This is yet another hole in my game, but I am generally petrified of being drawn out on and, though I don't keep detailed records, it generally happens more often than I would like in these games. Additionally, when you are trying to dodge both the straight draw of one player and the flush draw of another, it quickly becomes a lot more outs you have to fade in order for your hand to hold up.

Brett and I were discussing it and he said he would love to be in a game where you could raise big with pocket aces and get called by 4 people. I don't see how this is going to be a profitable game though. A-A is a great hand, don't get me wrong, but it is not something I want to take to a flop against 4 other players because, even though you may have the best starting hand, the strength of A-A is greatly diminshed in multi-way pots.

I guess my ultimate, overriding question is how do you beat a game in which every hand is going to make it to showdown and typically it is oging to be against more than one person? How do you play in a game with a complete and utter absence of fold equity? Most importantly, when you are going through a stretch where you just aren't getting great starting hands, is there any other option but to just pick up and cut your losses? Because the problem with home games versus casinos and online play is there isn't that element of game selection--you are just kind of stuck with what you're given.

I am getting sick of losing money to people who make me worry about the future of civilization and I find myself going back week after week under the presumption that, at some point, the math has got to catch up with them and I am going to come out ahead. However, after 2 years of nothing but consistently losing results in these types of games, I think I am really left with no other option but to just not sit down in the first place.

Thankfully I have my $.25/$50 game on Tuesdays in which I have logged two losing sessions in the same two years. I also have picked up a Sunday $1/$2 game which is going exceptionally well so far and seems to be the type of table I am generally going to be at or above break-even. There are one or two players who overvalue hands like A-10, Q-J, but they are far outnumbered by people who are thinking at or above Level 2 and it just makes the game so much simpler.

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