Monday, April 21, 2008

“Raise That Rake!” (1 of 2)

Have been playing more and more Stud/8 lately. Did a quick check of my April stats over the weekend and saw that almost 30% of my hands this month have been at the Stud/8 tables. Was sitting at one a couple of days ago ($0.50/$1.00) and had an issue arise that I know all players (of all games) have probably at least considered before, if not openly debated.

(DISCLAIMER: Usually when I present hands here I alter nothing other than player names; i.e., the action is always exactly as it occurred. In this case I have changed a few of the particulars since they would’ve complicated the question unnecessarily.)

In this particular hand I was dealt 3s4s8c with the eight showing. Among the other players only one other upcard was a low card, and it was also an eight. I limped in, then, after a couple of folds, a player to my left -- SideshowBob -- with the Kh showing competed to fifty cents. Two others called, as did I. Going to fourth street the pot was $2.55. On fourth I received the 6c, giving me a so-so low draw. SideshowBob picked up an ace and so acted first with a bet. I called. The other two players also called. Pot $4.55.

Fifth street was good to me. I picked up the As, giving me a 8-6-4-3-A low. SideshowBob got what appeared to be an unwanted nine. And the other two were dealt brick-looking cards. This time SideshowBob checked. With the only completed low at the table, I bet the dollar. The others folded and Bob called. We’re now heads-up. Pot is $6.55.

Sixth street is where that issue I mentioned at the beginning begins to arise. I get a jack, and SideshowBob gets another ace. Here’s the scene:

*** 6th STREET ***
Dealt to Short-Stacked Shamus [3s] [4s] 8c6cAsJc
Dealt to SideshowBob [downcard] [downcard] KhAh9sAc

Bob checks. Dunno what he has underneath, but it doesn’t matter, really. I have the low locked up, he has the high locked up, and if we both remain to the end we’re destined to be splitting this pot. The question is, should I bet?

As you think about that, I’ll tell you I did bet, and he just called. Now the pot is $8.55. Seventh street brings me another jack and SideshowBob checks again. I bet again, Bob called again, and we split a $10.05 pot (with fifty cents going to the rake).

While the cards are being dealt for the next hand, SideshowBob decides to object to my having bet the latter two streets: “you cant beat the hi & youre betting why?” I chime back quickly with a “why not?” His response: “raise that rake!”

Now when I bet sixth and seventh, I know there is little chance Bob is going to fold. The cards I have showing -- 8c6cAsJc -- suggest I could have a flush (or maybe on seventh having completed a very unlikely straight). But I know it is very, very unlikely he’s actually going to fold here. Should I be bothered about raising the rake, though?

Well, let’s look at the rake structure in this particular game. We were on PokerStars, where a nickel is taken for every dollar in the pot, and the site stops taking anything after the rake reaches $0.50. My bets on sixth and seventh meant the final pot ended up over $10, so Stars took the full fifty cents. Had we checked it down on those last two streets, the final pot would have been $6.55, meaning the rake would have been $0.30. Indeed, I did “raise that rake” a full twenty cents, meaning the two of us each lost an extra $0.10 because of our bets. (Or because of my bets, SideshowBob would likely clarify.)

Set aside the fact that nickels and dimes mean more or less to us depending on the stakes we play and think of this question in relative terms. Is Bob right? Should I refrain from pumping up the pot like this in a situation where I know my opponent and I each have half the pot locked up, and I also know the chances are slim my opponent will fold?

Here’s another way to look at the question: How often does my opponent need to fold to make betting the latter streets the right play? What am I risking here? Ten cents. With every dollar I stick into that pot, I’m probably going to lose a nickel. Definitely not smart, if I know that’s how it is going to go down every single time. However, if he does happen to fold on sixth street, I win a $6.25 pot (after the rake). And if he folds on seventh street, I win a $8.15 pot (after the rake). If I’m not mistaken (and hey, I could be, so lemme know), that means . . .
  • If he folds at least 1 in 62 times on sixth street, I profit.
  • If he folds at least 1 in 81 times on seventh street, I profit.
  • Why do I say that? Well, let’s say we played out this same scenario 62 times and I decide to go ahead and risk losing five cents every time with my sixth street bet. If SideshowBob does call me all 62 times, I’m going to lose $6.20 overall. Not good.

    But if he folds just once, I win a $6.25 pot for my efforts and come out $0.05 ahead. And if he folds twice, I win two such pots and come out $6.30 ahead. Takes me an extra dime to get to seventh, so that means he’s got to fold once in 81 hands for me to realize that nickel profit. Again, though, if he folds twice I’m gonna be $8.20 ahead overall.

    All of which seems to mean that if I think it is possible SideshowBob could fold this hand, say, once every 30 or 40 times we play it, I have to keep betting. Am I right? (You tell me.)

    Curious, really, how often people make that “raise that rake!” complaint in the chat box. (Especially in the low limits where I hang out.) Am gonna return tomorrow with one more post concerning this issue of online sites and the rake -- in particular that idea that the so-called “rigged” site pumps up the rake with action-inducing deals.

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    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Super System 2 considers this situation with respect to Omaha Hi/Lo. I don't have the book in front of me now, but the author basically takes your position. He even uses a similar argument when there is a good chance you are apparently going to split the nut-low when there are 3 players left. Basically, the number of times you may actually end up with the entire low added to the number of times you get a weak high to fold and win with an even weaker high may make it correct to bet into a potential quartering situation. If you can make this argument in an apparent losing situation, surely you can make it in a situation where your winnings are only reduced by less than 2% of the pot.

    Bottom line: I think you were right. You'll get a guy to fold at least once in 62 hands, making this play correct.

    4/21/2008 9:46 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Also, you need to bet in these situations in order to induce calls in later hands when you have made the flush/straight/two pair hands that low hands are almost always going to be freerolling to. If you ALWAYS bet when you have the low half locked up, then you will often get a weak high to call you down in hopes that you only have the low.

    Conversely, if you ONLY ever bet when you have a made high, then you make it easy for Bob to throw his pair of aces away in later hands.

    So, that .10 that you cost yourself will very likely earn you an additional $1-$2 on another hand. Especially from guys like Bob, who will spite-call you on the river with a pair of sevens just because you are the "idiot" who bets on "just a low." So you don't even need to induce a fold as often as you calculate, if you think about your potential profitability beyond the current hand.

    Betting in this situation is a no-brainer.

    4/21/2008 12:50 PM  
    Blogger Random Table Draw said...

    Well A. Nony Mouse beat me to my point. F-them if they can't read the board as they said back in my country.

    4/21/2008 8:31 PM  

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