Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Wait... wait...wait...look.

There is a long-standing debate among poker players about when you should look at your cards when they are first dealt to you. Should you peek at them immediately upon receiving them, or should you wait until it's your turn to act? A few years ago, it became fashionable to wait. Recently, I have read a number of experts advocating that you look immediately, as it gives you additional time to start planning what to do in the hand.


My usual MO when playing live is to look the instant I receive my cards, but this is more due to impatience than any real strategic reason. I simply want to know what I have. So I look... and then I'm focused on my own cards. Can you say, "Level 1" poker?

This is clearly not ideal poker. I always knew this was a leak in my live game, but I actually made the "a-ha" connection recently after running a few tens of thousands of hands on poker simulation software. Let me explain.

I'm using the DD Poker software package to run WSOP sims in my downtime. No, it's not perfect, and no it's not the same thing as live poker, but DD is not half-bad either, and it really gives one a feel for how many hands are dealt at each blind level, how quickly your M changes, how table dynamics can change as different player types come and go, etc. It also allows a lot of experimentation with starting hand selection and the like.

Anyway, one of the options in the software is receiving your hero cards dealt face up or face down. If you opt for the latter, you have to physically run your computer mouse cursor over your cards to temporarily turn them face up and see what you have. When you move your cursor off the cards, they are returned to a face-down position. The purpose of this is to help train you to memorize your cards, especially if you're mostly an internet player.

Anyway, I had been using the software default of face-up hero cards for the past couple of months, mostly due to laziness. No problem, or so I thought. Then, last week, I decided on a whim to try it the other way, with the hero cards dealt face down. And you know what? I'm now playing better poker. Said another way, getting the cards face down instantly forced me to think more deeply about the game situation before I moused over the cards. Because the upstream actions happen so fast in DD Poker, having the cards dealt face down is akin to waiting in a live game for the upstream action to complete to look. And this means I've started making more informed decisions-- almost independent of my own cards. Yes, I could have been doing the same with the cards dealt face up, but the truth is that I tend to go into an "auto-pilot" mode after twenty hands or so if they're dealt face up. Oh, I've got 86o in MLP. Auto-fold, right? And so on...

But look what happens when I don't peak at my cards: There's a limp and a raise in front of me. Okay, who limped and who raised? Ah, the opener is super loose passive, and he got raised by a LAG. What am I going to do if I turn over AA here? Raising a standard amount might drive them out. I want to RR, but I'd probably want to keep the amount lower than normal.

But what about if I see a small or medium pocket pair? Do I just call? Won't that make my hand obvious? And who is downstream of me left to act? How likely is it I get 4bet? Are we deep enough that I can call for set-mining value? A cold call is probably better than a reraise.

But what if I have a suited connector or even a non-suited gapper? I might be able to 3bet here in that case as a semi-bluff. Or call and float a street or two. Hmmmm..... Okay, let's look. Ah, 86o, a non-suited gapper. Let's call and float. And so on...

Anyway, I'm having fun running sims with the cards face down and doing all kinds of what-ifs in my head before looking. I've even tried playing totally blind a few times, and surprisingly went deep one of those times. Annette O., eat your heart out.

Anyway, just some grist for the mill...


All-in for now...
-Bug

No comments: