Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Four Horseman Of The Apushalypse

Call it the couch potato poker training method, but I've been watching a lot of poker training videos lately. In fact, I've probably watched more hours of poker this week than actually played. Some of the videos have been very good, some just so-so, and some truly awful, but all have had the effect of making me think. Whether a video just reinforces something I already know, or whether it introduces an entirely knew concept, I tend to get a fair bit out of any hour spent in front of the computer watching poker vids. Case in point is the session I watched this morning on SnG strategy. The video was part three of an eight part series in which a single table specialist coaches a pretty bad low-limit SnG player from loser into winner. In today's video, the topic was when to open shove near the bubble of a tourney.

In my weekly poker strategy lunch meeting, we've talked a lot in the past about open shoving when the blinds get high and your stack is relatively low. In fact, a while back Mr. Multi and I put together an interactive spreadsheet that tells you when to shove based strictly on your stack to blind ratio. It's based on Independent Chip Model (ICM) math, and does a decent job, but it's also pretty simplistic, and it doesn't take into account any opponent tendencies.

In the video I watched today, the coach discussed factors that affect late position shove-fold decisions, and ended up writing a simplified EV formula to help explain things to the student. The formula he wrote was:

Shove EV = (fold% x equity gain from PF pot) + call%((win% x equity of doubling stack) - (lose% x stack))

The coach then broke the formula down into the four basic factors that it includes; i.e., the four factors that affect your decision to shove or not: 1) Your hand; 2) How likely it is that your opponent(s) will fold to your shove; 3) the risk you take by shoving; and 4) the reward to stand to gain by shoving. Writ another way:

The strength of your hand is an easy one to objectively quantify. The Opp's reaction to your shove is a little tougher to ascertain, but by using HUD stats, observations, and gauging the size of the opp's stack against the rest of the field, you can do a decent job of guessing. You can also "put yourself in his shoes" and see if you, yourself, would call a shove or not given that stack size and facing the same situation.

The last two factors (reward and risk) are also a little tricky to quantify, but with a little thought you can subjectively quantify them. There are also some rules of thumb that were recommended. For instance, if the preflop dead money is at least 20% of your remaining stack, the reward is deemed to be "high." Similarly, if you will bust out of the tournament if your shove gets called and you lose, the risk is "high."

The coach's advice was to take all four things into consideration, but if at least two of them indicate a shove, then you probably should. In other words, it's better to err on the side of aggression than passivity. For example, if your hand strength is weak, you don't know if the opp is likely to call or shove, but the risk to your stack is low and the reward greater than 20%, you should shove. Otherwise, fold.

The coach is also a big ICM proponent, and he factors this into his own decision tree, but he claims that if a student ignores ICM and just works on understanding (and correctly applying) these four factors, it usually helps turn break-even SnG players into winners.

Anyway, I found this an interesting take on the problem of shove vs. fold in the later stages of a sit and go. Not sure how practical it is to implement in the heat of battle, but I will probably try to take it into account the next time I play, and, regardless, just spending time thinking about things like this will make you and me better players. Now, back to the couch....

-All-in for now...

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