Saturday, September 21, 2013

VPIP Thought Experiment

Imagine that I spread 10,000 random preflop hand situations in front of you on a giant table to examine. Included in this 10K, is everything from super strong hands, like you holding Aces on the button and facing a raise and reraise in front of you by fishy players, to super weak preflop situations, like you holding 72o under the gun at a tough, full-ring table. Ten thousand different hand scenarios, all arrayed in front of you.

Now imagine that I ask you to sort these hands situations into two separate piles of cards: playable and non-playable. For the most part, this would be an easy exercise. The vast majority of hands would fall into the non-playable (i.e., fold) category. Of the remaining hands, many would make for easy calls or raises (i.e., playable), such as the aforementioned AA in late position facing action upstream. Some of the others would be legitimate close decisions (which in general you should lean toward folding, btw). And then there would be all those hands that you want to play, but you know you shouldn't. For example, we all know by now that we shouldn't call OOP with cheese like KTo against a TAg EP open raiser, right? Or open-raise  in early position against fishy players with weak suited connectors like 54s. Or call a raise with a lowly pair of deuces if we're not getting the correct implied odds to set mine. And so on....

You get the drift. People often know they shouldn't play many of the hands they do, yet they do it anyway. They know intellectually that a bad play is a a negative-EV play, but they go ahead with making it for whatever reason. Sometimes it's boredom that drives us to do this. Other times we're just "feeling lucky" and want to gamble it up. Frequently it's because we're tired, distracted, not paying attention, or just plain tilting. Maybe the hand in question is your "favorite hand" and you always play it. Or you "feel" a win coming. What ever the reason is, it's a bad one if the play is -EV. You do understand this, right? Right?!?

Okay, back to our thought experiment. Let's say that I change the rules a bit. Instead of just sorting into playable or non-playable hands, I add a requirement that says you cannot have more than 1500 hands in the playable stack. Not one single hand more. This sounds like a big number, but it's not; it's just 15% of the hands that are dealt to you, so you have to be judicious. You have to selective. You do not have room in the 1500 for cheese hands, trap hands, bad hands, bright-and-shiny hands. In other words, you don't have room for any of the -EV hands.

Said another way: knowing that you're only going to be allowed 1500 in the playable stack, are you really going to slip that KTo-facing-an-EP-raise hand into the playable pile? I didn't think so. What about the 54s-in-EP? Nope, not a chance. Or the ducks-against-a-shallow-effective-stack? No way, Jose.

Preflop, you have to think in terms of playable vs. non-playable. Playing poker preflop is really the same as picking which 15% of the the 10K hands you're going to bet your hard-earned money on. The only difference is that you have to wait and see the 10,000 hands one at a time, and not all spread out at once.

A playable hand situation is a playable hand situation. And a non-playable hand situation is a non-playable hand situation. Learn to tell the difference... and you're on your way to printing money.

All-in for now...

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