Thursday, December 28, 2006

Jumping in the (Full) Ring

Jumping in the (Full) RingHave been playing full ring games lately, as opposed to my usual 6-max. Started doing so in last couple of weeks, mainly because I’m now playing $1.00/$2.00 and thus desirous to lessen my variance as I acclimate myself to the larger pots. So far so good. While I can get wild now and then, I do believe my “natural” character as a player is to be conservative, so I don’t have a problem folding and being patient.

Indeed, I used to play full ring exclusively, then got locked into the 6-max world after having some success. Going back to ten-handed games has caused me to observe important differences between full ring and 6-max. As you probably noticed earlier in the week when you saw that cousin whom you haven’t seen since last Christmas, differences become more conspicuous whenever we’ve been away for a while. At the beginning of Jean-Paul Sartre’s novel Nausea (1938), the narrator, Roquentin, talks about why he’s decided to start the journal that forms the novel’s narrative. He figures if he writes down his day-to-day activities, he’ll have a better grasp of the changes that occur in his life. Otherwise, “a crowd of small metamorphoses accumulate in me without my noticing it, and then, one fine day, a veritable revolution takes place.” Not unlike what I’m experiencing going back to the full ring game -- it’s like a “revolution” or “overthrow” has taken place, with all sorts of crazy changes standing out to me in glaring ways. Lemme mention three of them here:

(1) When ten-handed, players play, for the most part, much much tighter than in the 6-max game.

Obvious, I know. I’ve mentioned before here how Small Stakes Hold ’em doesn’t really offer much specific advice for short-handed games. There are a few references here and there to how hand values change in heads-up or short-handed situations, and during the discussion of preflop play there is that one footnote that says “For a short-handed game, assume that your game is ten-handed and that the first few players have folded.” That’s about it, though. I have always taken that footnote to mean that when it comes to Miller/Sklansky/Malmuth’s recommendations regarding preflop hand selection, one can essentially omit “early position” altogether (the first three seats to the left of the blinds), and consider the six seats as follows: SB, BB, MP1 (UTG), MP2 (UTG+1), LP1 (the cutoff), and LP2 (the button). May not be what the authors are intending, but that’s what the footnote seems to imply. Of course when it comes to actual play, you cannot really “assume that your game is ten-handed” when sitting at the 6-max tables. If you restrict yourself to Miller/Sklansky/Malmuth’s preflop hand selection criteria when playing the 6-max games, you probably won’t be playing enough hands to survive the blinds’ relentlessly eating away at your stack.

When I first picked up SSHE some time ago, I went through all of the recommendations for preflop hand selections and took some time to calculate how many hands a person would likely be playing if he or she followed the recommendations to the letter. For each seat at the table, I took into account what the trio was recommending as far as whether or not to play a hand given the preceding action, then I figured out the likelihood of being dealt each hand (e.g., 6/1326 for a pair, 12/1326 for a non-suited non-pair, 4/1326 for a suited non-pair), the likelihood of there being a raise or reraise in front, and so forth. In the end, I found that playing the SSHE hands as instructed would mean playing something like 23% of the hands you were dealt. If you drop out the first, second, third, and fourth position seats and get down to a 6-max table, SSHE is still telling us to play around 27% of the hands.

(That’s after my somewhat-tedious-but-by-no-means-infallible calculations. If anyone knows of more precise numbers along these lines, by all means send ’em on.)

In practice, though, one really has to play more than 27% of the hands in 6-max limit games to get by -- particularly since you’re paying a blind 33% of the time! So I make the obvious declaration here: people tend play more hands in 6-max, and fewer in full ring. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to tighten up in the full ring game (not always, anyhow). But it does mean that I have to understand most of the other players are likely playing a tighter game, and thus are more likely to have the goods should they go deep into a hand with me.

(2) When ten-handed, players tend not to raise preflop with marginal hands from early or middle position.

One of the very first things I noticed when I started playing 6-max games was how some players kept preflop raising with hands like A7-offsuit, then pushing with them regardless of what came on the board. Other players would preraise with any Broadway card. Kind of thing that previously never even occurred to me to do, to be honest. Some used this strategy to good effect, especially if they were agile playing after the flop (getting away cheaply from their obvious losers, craftily disguising their winners, etc.).

In the full ring game, such craziness is less likely to occur. There are steal attempts from late position, to be sure, but if someone preraises UTG in the full ring game, he or she usually has something close to a premium hand, if not an actual monster.

(3) When ten-handed, players tend not to reraise preflop (from any position) without a premium hand.

Something else I’ve noticed a lot in the 6-max game is how often players reraise (from any position, really) in order to isolate the raiser. Very often the player who does this is holding a small or middle pair, or even just J9 or QT or the like. It isn’t such a crazy play in the 6-max game, really, since getting heads-up is easier to accomplish when you only have one or two other players to discourage from calling your three-bet. QT wants to play AJ heads-up -- he’s 40% to win, if he can. 55 wants to play AK heads-up -- he becomes a favorite (55% to win), if he can.

However, since the isolation tactic is less likely to succeed when you’ve got a half dozen players left to act, you are less likely to see preflop reraises from folks who aren’t pretty sure they’ve got the advantage when they put in the three-bet. I had a hand today where I was in fourth (early middle) position and was dealt JdJs. It folded to me and I raised, then the player to my immediate left (also in middle position) reraised. Everyone folded and I called. The flop came Ad5h4c and I led out with a bet, hoping my opponent didn’t like that ace. He immediately raised me. I thought for a bit (eight seconds, to be precise -- I was playing on Bodog where the hand histories record the exact second each action occurs), then folded.

I realized as I let the hand go that I probably would’ve pushed back had we been playing short-handed. There I would’ve figured it more likely than not my opponent also held a pocket pair, with the odds being in my favor that it would be less than my jacks. However here in the full ring game I felt about 80% sure that my opponent either had a big ace, KK, or QQ. I could’ve been wrong, of course (we’ll never know) -- if anyone thinks I could have been, do let me know why. In any event, here was a clear example of me playing a hand differently because it was ten-handed as opposed to 6-max.

I could probably add a few more items to my list here, including the fact that bluffing seems to me to be much more significant (and useful) in the 6-max limit game than in full ring games. But I probably need to gather some more experience before making any more fancy declarations about how to play poker.

In fact, to prove to all that I shouldn’t be pretending to give advice about poker, I offer as evidence the following chat transcript from a game I played about a month ago. I’ve changed the names, but otherwise everything is exactly as it happened. (I’ve highlighted the more interesting moments in bold.) The only action you need to follow occurs in the first hand; for the rest just read the highlighted chat. You’ll notice I only contribute a single line to the proceedings, and even that wasn’t original, but lifted from some advice delivered to me by my friend Yorkshire Pudding (in his comment to an earlier post). Thanks, Yorkie! Enjoy!

POKERSTARS GAME #----------: HOLD'EM LIMIT ($0.50/$1.00)
Table ‘Hammett’ 6-max Seat #5 is the button
Seat 1: Short-Stacked Shamus ($34.05 in chips)
Seat 2: nickandnora ($1.80 in chips)
Seat 3: Leggett-Dain ($20.70 in chips)
Seat 5: CasperGutman ($13.15 in chips)
Seat 6: blackmask ($12.80 in chips)
blackmask: posts small blind $0.25
Short-Stacked Shamus: posts big blind $0.50
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Short-Stacked Shamus [Kd Qh]
nickandnora: calls $0.50
Leggett-Dain: folds
CasperGutman: calls $0.50
blackmask: folds
Short-Stacked Shamus: raises $0.50 to $1
nickandnora: calls $0.50
CasperGutman: calls $0.50
*** FLOP *** [6d Ts 8h]
Short-Stacked Shamus: checks
nickandnora: checks
CasperGutman: bets $0.50
Short-Stacked Shamus: calls $0.50

nickandnora: calls $0.50
*** TURN *** [6d Ts 8h] [Jh]
Short-Stacked Shamus: checks

nickandnora: checks
CasperGutman: bets $1
Short-Stacked Shamus: calls $1
nickandnora: calls $0.30 and is all-in
*** RIVER *** [6d Ts 8h Jh] [9s]
Short-Stacked Shamus: bets $1
CasperGutman: calls $1

*** SHOW DOWN ***
Short-Stacked Shamus: shows [Kd Qh] (a straight, Nine to King)
CasperGutman: mucks hand
CasperGutman said, "lmfaoi"
CasperGutman said, "lmfao"

Short-Stacked Shamus collected $3.25 from side pot
nickandnora: mucks hand
Short-Stacked Shamus collected $5.40 from main pot
CasperGutman said, "what is wrong with u"
CasperGutman said, "????"
CasperGutman said, "moron"

*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $9.05 Main pot $5.40. Side pot $3.25. | Rake $0.40
Board [6d Ts 8h Jh 9s]
Seat 1: Short-Stacked Shamus (big blind) showed [Kd Qh] and won ($8.65) with a straight, Nine to King
Seat 2: nickandnora mucked [9h Ad]
Seat 3: Leggett-Dain folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 5: CasperGutman (button) mucked [Jd 8c]
Seat 6: blackmask (small blind) folded before Flop

POKERSTARS GAME #----------: HOLD'EM LIMIT ($0.50/$1.00)
Table ‘Hammett’ 6-max Seat #6 is the button
Seat 1: Short-Stacked Shamus ($39.20 in chips)
Seat 2: nickandnora ($15 in chips)
Seat 3: Leggett-Dain ($20.70 in chips)
Seat 5: CasperGutman ($9.65 in chips)
Seat 6: blackmask ($12.55 in chips)
Short-Stacked Shamus: posts small blind $0.25
nickandnora: posts big blind $0.50
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Short-Stacked Shamus [8s 9d]
Leggett-Dain: folds
CasperGutman said, "terrible play idiot"
CasperGutman: raises $0.50 to $1
blackmask: folds
CasperGutman said, "terrible"
Short-Stacked Shamus: folds
nickandnora: calls $0.50
*** FLOP *** [3d 5c 9c]
nickandnora: checks
CasperGutman said, "terrilbe"
CasperGutman: bets $0.50
nickandnora: folds
CasperGutman said, "just terrible"
CasperGutman collected $2.15 from pot
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $2.25 | Rake $0.10
Board [3d 5c 9c]
Seat 1: Short-Stacked Shamus (small blind) folded before Flop
Seat 2: nickandnora (big blind) folded on the Flop
Seat 3: Leggett-Dain folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 5: CasperGutman collected ($2.15)
Seat 6: blackmask (button) folded before Flop (didn't bet)

POKERSTARS GAME #----------: HOLD'EM LIMIT ($0.50/$1.00)
Table ‘Hammett’ 6-max Seat #1 is the button
Seat 1: Short-Stacked Shamus ($38.95 in chips)
Seat 2: nickandnora ($14 in chips)
Seat 3: Leggett-Dain ($20.70 in chips)
Seat 5: CasperGutman ($10.80 in chips)
Seat 6: blackmask ($12.55 in chips)
nickandnora: posts small blind $0.25
Leggett-Dain: posts big blind $0.50
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Short-Stacked Shamus [2h Td]
CasperGutman: folds
blackmask: folds
Short-Stacked Shamus said, "hang on i can play worse"
Short-Stacked Shamus: folds
nickandnora: folds
Leggett-Dain collected $0.50 from pot
Leggett-Dain: doesn't show hand
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $0.50 | Rake $0
Seat 1: Short-Stacked Shamus (button) folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 2: nickandnora (small blind) folded before Flop
Seat 3: Leggett-Dain (big blind) collected ($0.50)
Seat 5: CasperGutman folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 6: blackmask folded before Flop (didn't bet)

POKERSTARS GAME #----------: HOLD'EM LIMIT ($0.50/$1.00)
Table ‘Hammett’ 6-max Seat #2 is the button
Seat 1: Short-Stacked Shamus ($38.95 in chips)
Seat 2: nickandnora ($13.75 in chips)
Seat 3: Leggett-Dain ($20.95 in chips)
Seat 6: blackmask ($12.55 in chips)
Leggett-Dain: posts small blind $0.25
CasperGutman: is sitting out
blackmask: posts big blind $0.50
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Short-Stacked Shamus [5s Jc]
CasperGutman leaves the table
Short-Stacked Shamus: folds
nickandnora: folds
Leggett-Dain: folds
blackmask collected $0.50 from pot
blackmask: doesn't show hand
*** SUMMARY ***
Total pot $0.50 | Rake $0
Seat 1: Short-Stacked Shamus folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 2: nickandnora (button) folded before Flop (didn't bet)
Seat 3: Leggett-Dain (small blind) folded before Flop
Seat 6: blackmask (big blind) collected ($0.50)

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2 Comments:

Blogger derbywhite said...

Shamus

It doesn't really matter how bad the beat. I don't tend to berate anyone in the chat column. It's childish and most of the time whoever does it looks a total idiot.
Reference FR as opposed to 6 max, I have had very good success with 6 max but I think like you that FR suits my more conservative style.

Good luck at the $1 & $2 it shouldn't be too long before i'm joining you.

All the best for 2007

12/29/2006 9:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice play. I found the hand is easier to follow like this:

http://www.pokerhandreplays.com/view.php/id/2964

You can embed the visual right in your posts so that it's easier to understand.

3/26/2008 7:56 AM  

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