Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Power of the Draw

Had a fun hand over on PokerStars earlier today -- the kind of hand you rarely run into on the low limit tables where mugs merrily call you down with King-high. This particular $0.50/$1.00 table (6-max) was on the tight side, though. One seat was empty, and of my four opponents, one was a solid player with whom I’d played before & the other three essentially unknowns.

I was on the button with 8d9d. If it had checked around to me, I’d probably have raised against this group, but Gatorhater raised from UTG. Wiseacre (sitting UTG+1) cold-called and I called as well. Both the blinds -- including the solid player -- folded, so three of us went to the flop. There was $3.75 in the pot.

The flop came 5c7dAh . . . not too exciting for yours truly. A gutshot and backdoor flush draw. Gatorhater led out and Wiseacre called. I paused a beat and called as well. Even if I’m only going to see the turn, a quick calculation of poker odds shows I’m not too off-base here chasing the gutshot, especially with position. Four outs means it was about 11-to-1 to hit my straight. Since there was $4.75 in the pot, that made the pot odds 9.5-to-1, although the implied odds in this case were surely better than that. So it didn’t take much for me to make the call. The pot was $5.25.

The turn brought the Jd, probably the only card other than a six that could genuinely heighten my interest in the hand. A check from Gatorhater doubled my curiosity. Wiseacre checked behind him. I now had a double-gutshot plus a flush draw -- 15 outs, most of which appeared clean. I bet and both players called. The pot had reached $8.25.

I watched the river card come down, hoping for that diamond or six or ten. Alas, it was the 3c. Both Gatorhater and Wiseacre checked. What's my play? What would you do?

Here’s one of those hands where I cannot possibly win the hand by checking -- no way is my nine-high good. However, in a lot of those situations where checking is a sure loser, betting isn't always necessarily a good idea, either. In this case, I can bet, but I have two opponents, and if either calls he’s taking the pot. Now Sklansky would use math to justify the bluff here. I’ve got a $1 chip with which to try to take that $8.25 in the middle. If I try this move, say, eight times and only win once, I’m actually making a profit -- I’d lose $7, but win $8.25 the one time it worked. I can’t say I really was thinking of math at the time, but the check-calls on the turn from both players made me think neither probably had an ace or jack, so I bet. To my delight, both Gatorhater and Wiseacre instafolded, and I took it down.

Having the draw (and position) persuaded me to take control with that turn bet here, and it worked out. Like I said, this sort of thing rarely works so well in these low limit games. It was probably 50-50 that Wisacre had a seven (or even a five or three) and would make the call, but a coin flip is well worth taking if you only need $1 to shoot for $8. And that's not even counting the added satisfaction of winning a relatively-large pot in low limit hold ’em with what was likely the third-best hand.

By the way, I’ve noticed PokerStars has recently altered their rake structure. Previously there was no rake on pots below $5.00, a quarter on $5.00-$9.75 pots, fifty cents on $10.00-$14.75 pots, and so forth. Now they appear to be taking a nickel on every dollar, with a maximum rake of $0.50. They are continuing the “no flop no drop” policy -- i.e., there’s no rake if the hand concludes preflop. (Such a rake structure is identical to the one Full Tilt Poker uses.) Looking at Poker Tracker, I see the average pot size in my $0.50/$1.00 games is just under $5.00 -- meaning that under the former structure, the average hand on PokerStars had no rake taken; now they’ll get around $0.20 per hand. In this particular hand, PokerStars took $0.40 (whereas formerly they would’ve taken only $0.25).

We’ll see if this new structure amounts to a big difference or not. Still probably better than the punishing structure Party Poker employs ($0.50 for every $5.00 in the pot). Talk about the power of the draw . . . .

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