Thursday, April 19, 2012

Flopping a Monster - Maximizing Profit

In the language of game theory, poker is a so-called "minimax" affair. We all get dealt strong and weak hands like AA and 72o just as many times as the next guy, but what we do with each of those is entirely up to us. We want to minimize our losses with weak hands, and we want to maximize our profits with the strong ones. Take this hand for example:

Game type: $25 buy in tournament
Stage of tourney: Early
Your image: Aggressive
Opponents' image: No strong reads
Your hand: 8♣7♣
 The setup: You’re playing a very deep stack early on in this $25 tourney. The table folds to you on the button and you raise to 3x in an attempt to steal the blinds. The blinds, however, both call and you flop the straight flush: 4♣6♣5♣.  The blinds both check, and you bet T350. The SB calls and the BB check-raises to T700. What’s your play?

Reads: Because you're so deep stacked (and presumably they are, too), the small and big blinds could have a wide range of hands that they called your late position raise with. Further, neither player seems to mind the highly coordinated board; the SB calls your cbet, and the BB min-check raises, which usually means he wants you to play back. In other words, I put both players on made hands, such as two pair, made straights, sets, and of course made flushes and the nut flush draw. There are also bluffs in their ranges, but MW this is less likely.

Estimate: your hand is obviously crushing their ranges (in fact, it's an unbeatable straight flush). You don't seem to have much fold equity with either player, especially the big blind (not that you want fold equity, mind you, but you need to understand how susceptible they are to folding here if you start getting aggro). Also, because you (and presumably they) are deep stacked, no one is really pot committed yet.

Decide: You are clearly on a super-duper Value line, so the question is really just how do you get all the stacks into the middle by the river.

Implement: To build value, you have to build a pot. This means raising. There are also plenty of cards to come on the turn or river that could slow the action down; you want to get money in now, before they start chickening out. Let's say that one of the players has two pair without a club; a fourth club will get him to bail out quicker than DB Cooper from an airliner. Similarly, the nut flush could slow things way down if the board pairs, or a card like the 3♣ shows up. All of this, coupled with the fact that you're deep, means that I don't think you have any choice but to reraise here. Two pair hands and straights will probably fold, but sets and big flushes are likely to come along. Therefore raising is the play. The big question really is just how much to raise; I think a fairly hefty looking "I don't want another club to come" 4bet of T1800-T2000 sounds right. You might lose the SB when you repop, but the BB could just re-repop you with the nut flush and think he's good.

Answer: 4-bet to T2000.

All of this is just a long winded way of saying that next time you flop a hand like this:

Either maximize your profit by raising... or run away and hide; five aces is perhaps a little strong of a hand to have in poker.

All-in for now...

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