Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Following on from my post on committing pre-flop (or not) with KK in deep-stacked ring games, here's a similar situation regarding AK. I thought I'd reproduce it here as I believe taking this approach will help optimise returns from full-handed $1/$2 NL tables.

This is a recent post from Keith A on the Betfair forum:

Is this incredibly wimpy?

Game #4419792843: Hold'em NL ($1/$2) - 2007/08/27 - 21:29:29 (UK)
Table "TampTamp" Seat 5 is the button.
Seat 1: bennekom ($208.35 in chips)
Seat 2: sayenda ($213.05 in chips)
Seat 3: reptek ($197 in chips)
Seat 4: Strudel ($205.05 in chips)
Seat 5: Arnoldio ($178 in chips)
Seat 6: VANPOISON ($330.35 in chips)
Seat 7: threturns ($193.35 in chips)
Seat 8: PhatPhuk ($85.55 in chips)
Seat 9: Pokekunu ($139.05 in chips)
Seat 10: Kaiser004 sits out
VANPOISON: posts small blind $1
threturns: posts big blind $2
----- HOLE CARDS -----
dealt to Arnoldio [As Ks]
PhatPhuk: folds
Pokekunu: raises to $6
bennekom: folds
sayenda: folds
reptek: calls $6
Strudel: raises to $24
Arnoldio: folds
threturns: folds
Pokekunu: calls $18
reptek: calls $18
----- FLOP ----- [Th Jh 4c]
Pokekunu: bets $115.05 and is all-in
reptek: folds
Strudel: folds
Returned uncalled bets $115.05 to Pokekunu
Pokekunu: doesn't show hand
Pokekunu collected $72 from Main pot

My original response:

I would fold here pre-flop 100% of the time.

There are different styles of play that can all be successful to some extent or another at these tables. I tend to play fairly passively without monsters- although I am aggressive when leading out with strong draws.

However, no matter what your style, you should rarely be calling here. Full-ring cash is so different from tournament play. You can afford to be patient, and raises (and especially re-raises) in FR cash should be respected so much more than in tournaments.

You are most likely up against AA/KK, and at best you're against QQ/AK. (Even against another AK, you're a dog. You're splitting at best, and most likely you'll be forced to fold to a continuation bet on a non-A/K flop.)

The blinds aren't going up anytime soon, and I've yet to see anyone blinded out at the cash table. Wait, and find a better spot.

Understandably perhaps, not everyone agreed. Here's my second post:

Just to clarify- just because I multi-table, my play isn't simply a robotic ABC "only play good hands" type of game. I am aware of what goes on on every table, and I wouldn't play much differently if I only had one table open. I have also played around 1,500,000 hands at these tables.

Obviously the more information you have, the better choice you can make. However, with limited information you have to make the best decision you can based on experience.

The depth of your (and opponents') stacks have a massive impact on your decisions. The shorter the stacks, the easier it is to play.

All half-decent starting hands are shoving hands when your (or opponent's) stacks are short enough. However there is an upper limit for shoving with all hands except AA.

Most players are happy to get it all in with KK pre-flop. "I'm only behind to one hand." What if you both had 1,000BB would you call an all-in then? What about 10,000BB? A ridiculous example of course, but it's used to illustrate a point- that there is an upper limit.

AK (and all hands) play better in tournaments for shoving/calling an all-in because the nature of play is very different. The idea is to accumalte chips, so people play looser and are prepared to gamble a little more. Even at the first level of an MTT players routinely shove/call with all types of hands AJ+, KQ, any pair (obviously the lower the buy-in, the greater the range.) So AK is in pretty good shape in most cases- at least, it's rarely a big dog.

However cash is not about being the chip leader. You can't "bully" at the cash table because you have a big stack. The is no advantage to having more or less chips than someone else, so there is no urgency to gamble in order to build a stack- so players are typically more selective with hands that they are prepared to get it all in with pre-flop.

Now, there will also be maniacs and other players who are just clueless. Many cash players are poor because they play 100BB full-ring cash the same way as they see players on the TV playing short-handed Final Table shallow stack poker. If you have this information on a player then you have to factor it in to your decision of course.

On most occassions though, faced with the situation that we have here, you won't be up against a complete maniac or muppet- so you base your decision on your experiences of having been in this situation before and your experiences of witnessing others in this situation.

General I wouldn't want to commit myself to more than 50BB pre-flop with KK. With AK, it's probably around 25-30BB however it's also situation dependent. E.g. If I'm in the BB with AK and facing a 3.5BB raise from a player with 25BB then I'll raise him to, say, 15BB (and get the rest in on the flop if not raised again pre.) However if there's a 4BB raise from the UTG deep-stack and then a raise to 9BB from a 30BB mid-position stack then your decision is much harder. His re-raise here looks strong and also you don't know if the UTG will raise again.

In the original question, I would possibly even be folding KK here. However when holding AK, I assure you that shoving is a massive, massive losing play.


Anonymous said...

JTLYK, I got runittwice to work by using explorer and raw hands from ftp to have it work.

I am back to sngs for a couple months since I cashed out some at ftp to start an absolute account and had a couple big losing hand coolers. One on button raise 3X with QQ, sb and bb call. We all flop sets unfortunately guy hits quads on turn. Playing above my bankroll. Don't like the rake at low limits.

Anonymous said...

Cash poker seems all about folding to me.


Smart Money said...

Close. It's about folding big hands that are in 2nd place.

Highstack said...

Good post Mike.

Anonymous said...

Full ring poker is lame

Smart Money said...

Excellent post. Thanks.

ben said...

I'm surprised you even bothered to publish that profound statement from our anonymous (and no doubt aquatic) friend.

Perhaps now he can get back to refilling his play money.

Raj said...

It has taken me a long while to realise just how correct Narena is when he says that cash poker is about folding big hands in 2nd place. I am finally getting it, and avoiding being stacked more frequently.

raj said...

In the example in your blog, would you be calling with pocket pairs to try and bust him with a set, or are you priced out? What is the maximum you would call with pre-flop with, say, a pair of 4's?

Smart Money said...

Hi Raj.

Firstly, the $1/2 table dynamics have changed a little since I made this post, so I think some of my advice is dated now.

$24 is way too much to call with 44 here, especially as the betting may be opened again by the initial raiser.

I wouldn't put in more than 10% of effective stacks when set-mining, and typically it would be less than that. It depends on the likelihood of villain having a high pair, the likelihood of him paying you off if you hit, amount of players in the hand, position, and several other factors too.