Tuesday, March 11, 2008

When TPTK is NOT a bad thing...

I got some comments regarding top pair top kicker which I thought might be interesting to discuss. Pokerpeaker and Waffles both seemed to be surprised by how almost overly aggressively I played my top pair top kicker (esp after I said I see myself as a weak passive pussy donkey in my previous post). So, I thought I might post one of the hands from yesterday's post and go over in even more detail my thoughts.

Full Tilt Poker Game #5546204828: Table Tuscarora (6 max) - $2/$4 - No Limit Hold'em - 0:41:00 ET - 2008/03/08

Seat 1: Lvl18Wizard ($1,001.80) <--- BB
Seat 2: Koether ($72)
Seat 3: kobelicious ($86.35)
Seat 4: KyleGass ($426)
Seat 5: pickpocketted ($278.80)
Seat 6: RecessRampage ($408.50) <--- SB

Ok, before the hand even starts, little table dynamics here as well as my thought on the other players. To be honest, I don't really remember the actual dynamics of the table so let's pretend I just sat at this table not too long ago and that I haven't seen anyone show down real hands or anything to base how the players play. Based on the stack sizes above and my past experience, these are my thoughts:

- I know Lvl18Wizard because I've seen him play before. My image of him is that he's aggressive and he open raises fairly light... which is kinda standard for a regular 2-4NL 6 max player
- Koether and kobelicious must be donkeys. Why do I say that? They got $80. At a table where you can buy in for $400. So, they're either the short stack ratholers or they just never rebought in. To me, it's actually one and the same. They can't and don't want to play post flop poker. They just want to hit it quick and get out.
- KyleGlass is also a decent player I think but mainly because I recognize the name.
- pickpocketted must just be a fairly normal player. Understands the basic concepts, won't get too out of line but may not be a great player. In other words, until I see something otherwise, I'm just gonna think that he plays a straightforward poker game. Why do I make that conclusion? Only because I don't see him topping off. I am inclined to give players who top off more credit than those that don't. That's just me. So he's got a medium stack that doesn't top off but not necessarily buying in short.

Again, I could be wrong in my assumptions but you have to start somewhere. So, until I see something that proves me wrong, the above thoughts become my baseline for how I play against these players.

Ok, now that we got that out of the way, let's get to the cards.

*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to RecessRampage [Jh As]
Koether raises to $14
kobelicious folds
KyleGass folds
pickpocketted calls $14
RecessRampage calls $12
Lvl18Wizard folds

So there was an UTG raiser who is short stacked. If there were no callers, I guess I would call but I could also make a case for folding. Since the chances of me hitting a flop is minimal, I just don't like to get HU against a shorty OOP because his stack is going into the middle 9 times out of 10. If I miss, I pretty much have to fold. So, in my mind, he just doesn't have enough money for me to outplay him post flop. However, with the button calling, now the pot is big enough I call.

*** FLOP *** [9h 5c Jc] <--- TPTK baby!!!
RecessRampage checks

Ok, so this is what I wrote yesterday: I check here KNOWING exactly what's gonna happen. The shorty who initially raised is gonna shove. My assumption for his preflop raising range is two broadway cards or any PP. Either way, a J high flop should seem innocent enough to this guy so he's shoving. My guess is that 3 way, he didn't want to see an A. But even if he did, he might shove. The only way he doesn't shove is if he flops a monster. Other than that, he's shoving. That's what shorties do.

Koether has 15 seconds left to act
Koether bets $58, and is all in <--- as expected
pickpocketted calls $58 <--- interesting call. Draw?
RecessRampage has 15 seconds left to act
RecessRampage has requested TIME

Ok, so this is where it gets interesting. I'm assuming no one would question calling the all in here even with pickpocketted calling. But let's just say, if you were HU against the shorty, this is an instacall right? Obviously. I mean if you are folding your top pair here if you were HU against the shorty, then you should have never played AJ out of position to begin with. But of course, I'm sure the thought is, well pickpocketted smooth calling seems shady.

The question is, does it? Let's go back for a second and think about what he might have that he smooth calls here. The board has two clubs and a potential straight draw if he's playing a hand like QT or T8. So, if he has a club draw or a straight draw, it's possible that he's getting 2 free cards because the other player is all in. If he has 9 outs to a flush with a potential over card or two, he's getting the right price to call with 2 cards to come ($58 into a pot that's like $100). Also keep in mind that since I just called preflop and I checked, he might assume that I am just gonna fold, allowing him to see 2 free cards, giving him close to the pot odds he needs to make the call. Or maybe he doesn't even think. Or maybe he also hit the J which he figures is good enough to call a shorty all in but doesn't think to isolate the short stack (because keep in mind, if he does raise, I would have a hard time calling/shoving here).

Now, what would we be worried about here? Of course, if this guy is a tricky player, maybe he's smooth calling with trips. I mean based on the preflop action, he could have flopped trips with 99 or 55 right? Why do I say just 99 or 55 though? Because no way he doesn't repop from the button with JJ against a shorty to a) isolate and to b) just get it all in preflop. Most people hate JJ so if they can get it all in against a shorty and not have to worry about playing post flop, that's what they like to do. And remember my initial assessment of this player? Until I see something that indicates otherwise, I am just putting him as a straightforward player. No need to out think myself until I see some evidence. And this is part of the reason why I want to come up with a baseline for each player, no matter how crude or how little evidence I have. Otherwise, the possibility is endless and I'll just not be able to think through a hand without confusing myself.

Going back to the hand, we see a fairly draw heavy J high hand. We KNOW that pickpocketted at this point doesn't have QQ, KK, or AA. If he does, he's being extremely tricky and in my opinion, playing it very dangerously on a board like this. Normally, QQ+ here would raise to isolate the shorty all in. But again, tricky is not how I view this player at this point so I am tossing out JJ+ as his hand. Set is possible but you really can't just give credit to a set every time there are lower cards than what you have. Especially in 6 max, the way I see it, if you have an overpair to a ragged board and the guy has a set and he knows what he's doing, it's gonna be extremely hard not to get stacked unless you are both very deep. Let me know if you guys want me to discuss that in the next post.

Ok, so now that we thought all that, what do I do?

RecessRampage raises to $278
pickpocketted has 15 seconds left to act
pickpocketted calls $206.80, and is all in

Ok, back to this point. Now why I did I repop and basically put him all in here? Basically, when he called the $58, to me, it's a fold or shove situation unless you want to play this really weak. Why? The pot after pickpocketted smooth called is $158. If I call, the pot will be $216. What do you do on the turn? Check with the hopes of him checking also? That potentially gives him the two free cards that he wants if he's drawing. What if he bets out on the turn? Then what? You call again? What would he bet where you are just calling and not raising? The pot will be $216, the guy has $206 left so if he bets say $120. He's essentially telling you he's committed to the hand. Are you folding then? Again, to me, that's just weak. But that could be a choice. Or maybe you thought, fine, on the turn, when he bets that much, we're both committed so I shove. That's probably the worst line that I can think of. Why? You don't like your hand enough to raise and yet you are still willing to get all your money in the middle? That makes no sense. And obv if you check raise the turn after he fires out $120, he's not folding another $80 at that point. So, your shove on the turn has zero fold equity. In that case, basically, you are saying that you love your hand enough to get it all in. Hopefully, this is making sense.

Seriously, the above paragraph literally spells out why I shoved. It's important to understand the stack size and his potential actions on the later streets. If it almost seems inevitable that you are gonna get your stack in, unless you are trapping him, you want to be the one to make the initiative. Make your opponent decide if he wants to CALL off his stack. Don't give him the opportunity to put you to that decision. If your answer was, if he bets again, I fold, then seriously, you should be folding on the flop unless you are hoping for a 4 outer on the turn (two jacks, two nonclub aces). Which if you are hoping for a 4 outer, that's just a bad call.

So this is what went through my head. I either fold on the flop because I think that the smooth caller has a monster hand or I shove. Before you act out the flop, you have to think about what you are going to do on the turn. The other alternative of course is to shove a blank turn. But there are way too many scare cards out there to let you do that. You basically hate any broadway card that's not a J or an A. You hate any club. You also hate the 9. In other words, you pretty much hate like half the remaining deck. That's not to say that they all hit your opponent. You just don't know and since you are first to act, you are just going to be put in an awkward situation. I can't call the flop and check fold the turn. Again, even if a blank card comes, you check, he bets $120, you most likely call right? Well, the way I see it, if you're gonna call a bet that he's committing his stack to, then I'd rather put him to the decision of calling off his stack rather than him being the one to shove his stack. By me reraising, I'm taking away whatever fold equity he may have had on the turn. If he wants to chase his draws for his entire stack, that's fine but he was gonna have to pay to see the next two cards. Even better for me would be if he's calling with a hand like J-10, QJ, KJ, T9. Those are all possible holdings where he might think is good enough to call the shorty all in and then just become too stubborn to let it go when he sees a checkraise.

RecessRampage shows [Jh As]
Koether shows [4s 4c]
pickpocketted shows [Jd Qh]
Uncalled bet of $13.20 returned to RecessRampage

Again, that was an instance where the guy had QJ and he caught what he needed to win. However, that's really irrelevant. When the money went in, I was a significant favorite.

Does this make sense? I know that we refer to people that go broke with TPTK as donkeys and call them TPTK donks. However, they are all situational. Sometimes, you can't help going the distance with TPTK. Other times, you really want to keep the pot small. But controlling pot size vs applying pressure to opponents is a delicate balance and you really have to get a feel for it. More importantly though, you have to be thinking about the next street and what your action will be there. You have to have a tentative plan/thought on what your opponent might do and what you would do as a result. In this instance, I can't stress enough that on the blank turn, if you are going to call his bet, it's better off shoving. At least you got some fold equity if that's what you are looking for. If you are going to check fold the turn, then there's really no point in you calling another $58 in hopes of hitting a 5 outer on the turn (actually 4 since you would hate the Ac even though you would probably call if you have two pair).

Also keep in mind that the opponents' stack sizes played a huge part in how to play this hand. If the pickpocketted had a deep stack and I had a deep stack, things might be different. So there are many factors that determine when TPTK might be good and when they may not. If you are unsure, then my suggestion is that you toss hands like AJ, KJ, KQ, and obv anything below preflop from early position and just open up your range from later positions. Also keep in mind your position. The above example was 6 max but let's say you are playing full ring. If you raise UTG+1 with AJ and you get a caller, you should probably be wary and play carefully when you hit top pair but start getting a lot of pressure from your opponent's betting. Why? Because a hand that can call a raise is generally better than a hand like AJ or KQ. So if an A comes and you have AJ and you bet from EP and the guy raises you or smooth calls the flop bet but raises you on the turn, I would be very careful about how you play it. Same goes for playing AK on a board like KQx. That's just a shitty board for AK because if someone called your raise and starts playing post flop like he really loves the board, there aren't too many hands that you are ahead of.

Basically, what it comes down to is that when you have TPTK these are things that you should think about:
1) the range of your opponent's hand based on the preflop action
2) the texture of the flop and what range of hands you are ahead of and what range of hands you are behind after the flop
3) what have you represented to the opponent and is he buying it? Is he buying what you are representing and still doesn't care?
4) Based on what you do on the flop, what do you think is going to happen on the turn? The river?

Thinking about those things should help in determining whether to continue playing TPTK beyond the flop or not.

If I missed anything or you disagree or find a flaw in my thinking, let me know that too.

I don't have the HH with me but I also want to show how I couldn't get away from AA in the MATH last night against lucko when I really, honestly, knew with every fiber in my body that I was beat. But I want to go over the HH later to show you why I knew that I was beat and why I shoulda folded. I think it really illustrates the points above and how I didn't follow what I preached. But that's for another post.


pokerpeaker said...

I like your reasoning and agree with it. Just one point. Normally, if you read a guy as a straightforward player - which is pretty much the kind of players I play all the time, given that I still play .10/.25 and up to .50/$1 - then normally isn't that the kind bet that a straightforward player will only call when he's got you beat?

Also, I really try not to stack off with a high overpair, even AA, unless I am dead certain I am ahead. I always seem to run into sets in that instance.

Then again, you're playing 6-max, and there's definitely a difference there as well.

pokerpeaker said...
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pokerpeaker said...
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cmitch said...

Very good post. I like reading your thought process.

I'm not sure why anyone is questioning your play here in a 6 max cash game, especially a 2/4 or above game. I'm getting my money in all day long in this spot for 68 BB (pretty much 100BB or less). As you said there are a lot of draws and the flat call screams draw. If he flopped a set then there is nothing you can do, you are getting the money in anyway. If he has KK or AA, I make a note that he flat calls pf otb with monsters and hope to use it to my advantage later.

pokerpeaker said...

Oh, and C-Mitch I'm questioning the play because I tend to be pretty careful with TPTK and I was hoping for exactly the kind of extended post that Alan gave me here. It's in the interest of improving myself from people who know better than me.

Alan aka RecessRampage said...

Wow... as I was trying to leave a comment, I realized how long this post was.

Anyways, Peaker, you mentioned that a straightforward player will only call here with a hand that he beats you. I disagree. Straightforward means he'll bet with something, he'll call with something mediocre. However, straightforward doesn't mean he has the ability to fold.

Again, if he's so straightforward, what hand does he have that he's not raising that he has you beat here? Really, nothing.

Also, if you are playing an overpair on a safe-ish looking board like you're worried about a set, I'm worried that you are losing A LOT of value in your big hands. Even at a lower level, is that even a profitable play?

I'll show some big losing hands (and I got plenty of those too) where I totally misread someone in my future posts but I let's say, the board is ten high ragged and you have AA, if a guy has a set, more often than not, I'm losing my stack. Because JJ-KK can also be in there too. But again, it also depends on the preflop action, the player, etc so I guess I shouldn't make that blanket statement. All I'm saying is you should never play a hand scared. Please note also that QQ on a ten high board is TOTALLY DIFFERENT from playing AA on a ten high board. But these are all something for another post I guess.

cmitch said...

pokerpeaker - My comment wasn't a knock against you. I'm sorry if it came off that way. Alan did an awesome job of explaining his thought process for this hand in a 6 max cash game.

lucko said...

Blah, blah, blah! Squeeze that shit pre please.

Stop being a nit.

J/K. Good post. Feel free not to keep making good strategy post tho.

Klopzi said...

A lot of the post-flop play with TPTK comes down to the size of the pot in regards to the effective stack size.

Playing TPTK like the nuts against Koether is pretty standard given his small stack size.

The only thing that makes this hand trickier is pickpocketted's call. With a drawy board and given Koether, I'd think that my TPTK was ahead here most of the time.

Trips is a definite possibility given pickpocketted's assumed straight-forward play. But I never worry about my opponents having sets.

I don't seem to hit them all that often when it counts and I assume the same for my opponents.

I'd be slightly worried depending on how quickly pickpocketted calls the flop re-raise all-in. However, he could be putting you on a draw as well.

Alan aka RecessRampage said...

It wasn't a flop reraise. I won't reraise with that hand. Again, if pickpocketted raises a good amount, there's a good chance I fold. He could instacall for all I care and I was fairly certain I was ahead. It would be a shocker if he had a set.

pokerpeaker said...

C-Mitch, I didn't take it that way at all, I was just explaining my reasoning for asking Alan about this play. No worries!

Alan, the funny thing is, since your last post about getting value from hands, I HAVE been pushing a lot more and getting paid a lot more on hands such as an overpair. But I'm still careful, probably more than I should be, which is why I wanted you to post this in the first place! Thanks for the great thoughts on poker.

And I DO know the difference between pushing with QQ there and AA. Because QQ sucks. :)

HighOnPoker said...

This was a great post, with a very well reasoned and well written explanation of your thought process. Thanks, A.