I’ve been thinking about a hand I played in this sit-and-go the other day. The best way to learn poker is to talk about hands, so if anyone wants to come along for the ride, here we go. I’ll avoid as much secret poker language as possible.
The anonymized and simplified history follows. I tried to convert it into a nice format for you, but it’s from my MacBook’s archives which, apparently, aren’t supported by the major converters.
Here’s the setup:
Level VI (100/200) (which is to say: 100 small blind, 200 big blind, no ante)
Seat 1: Shorty (370 in chips)
Seat 5: The Villain (3485 in chips)
Seat 8: Our Hero (5265 in chips)
Seat 9: Limpy (4380 in chips)
The seat number are just chairs. They could just as easily be 1, 2, 3, and 4 at this point. I’ve anonymized us to protect the innocent.
Limpy: posts small blind 100
Shorty: posts big blind 200
So far, so good, those are the forced bets to get the action going.
Dealt to Our Hero [Jd 8d]
This hand happened last night and already I’d inflated my holding to KsQs in the retelling. The history doesn’t lie though, even if accidentally.
A quick word about card designations: The “number”, or “rank”, of the card comes first (23456789TJQKA) followed by a letter representing suits (clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades, off-suit — ie, unmatched). If the two cards are of the same suit (including the “off” suit) then the suit designation follows both ranks (JTh is the Jack and Ten of hearts, AQo is an Ace and Queen of the “off” suit — ie they’re of different suits, which you don’t need to worry about). Finally, pairs don’t usually include suit information unless it becomes relevant later (like AA might with a four-card flush on the board). Okay? Good.
Oh, right, so I have J8d — jack and eight, both of diamonds.
In poker it’s important not to make a decision before it’s your turn to act. In a live game you shouldn’t even look at any cards until it’s your turn. So here’s the action:
The Villain: folds
Whew! Scary-name folded. He’s the guy I ended up knocking out in second so he’s more of an overall villain than the villain in this specific hand.
With four people in the hand J8d is a decent starting hand. Let’s look at the remaining two players and figure out what to do. I’ll probably start to use some chess notation now because this is where the hand gets goofy.
Recall that Shorty, with a forced bet of 200 in front of him, started the hand with 370 in chips, so he’s only got 170 “behind”. Limpy was forced to bet 100 of his 4380, leaving him with 4280, and I am in first place, as usual, with 5256.
The minimum possible raise I am allowed to make will put Shorty all-in if he calls. For reasons I’ll get into later this seemed like the necessary and sufficient bet, so I wagered 400 that my J8d was the best hand. Commence the chess notation!
Our Hero: raises 200 to 400 (!?)
Limpy: calls 300 (!?)
Shorty: calls 170 and is all-in (□)
In situations where the third player is all-in it is traditional for the others to not bet any more, to check it down, so that they both have a chance to eliminate the other, thereby moving up the prize ladder. Because of Shorty’s shortness there’s a small side pot, 60 chips, Limpy and I could fight over but I figured it wasn’t really worth it.
For those interested the side pot arose because Shorty only had 170 remaining so couldn’t fully call my raise of 200 as Limpy did. The 30 chips from my raise and Limpy’s call that Shorty couldn’t match make up the 60 in the side pot, in which only Limpy and I have an interest.
Limpy and I checked it down and without further ado here’s the board (the common cards) and the showdown (what everyone had hidden).
Board: 9s 9d Kh 6c 5d
Limpy shows 7s 2s
Our Hero shows Jd 8d
Shorty shows 4s Ad
So good news and bad news. My jack-high is good enough to win 60 chips, but Shorty’s ace-high beats us both for 1110 chips.
Shorty played the hand perfectly, not that he had much choice. With over 54% of his chips in the pot already he is forced to commit the rest of them there or take his chances as the table joke with only 170 left (70 after the small blind of 100 next hand).
I’d like to talk about my minimum raise, but it might be easier to do that when talking about Limpy’s call. I’m not sure either of us played the hand very well, so I’ve been mulling and discussing. I’m writing this mostly to force myself to actually do some math.
First, for those that don’t know, 72o is considered (rightly) the worst starting hand in poker. It’s hard to make every kind of hand with it. You can’t realistically have high card, it’s tough to make a reasonable pair, if you do end up making some kind of non-five-card hand you’re going to have a terrible kicker (other card used for tiebreaks), 7 and 2 are too far away to help each other make a five-card straight, since they’re not suited you’re going to have problems making a flush and if you do it’s not likely to be the best one. You’re usually trying to do something ridiculous like hit 772 for a full house (and even then anyone with any other naked seven or most other pairs is drawing to beat you).
Limpy’s hand, however, was s00ted so we’re off to the races.
From Limpy’s point of view he’s currently getting some interesting odds: 300 to call my raise, with my 400 and 300 from the blinds already in the pot: 7-to-3 odds, so he needs a hand that’ll win 30% of the time to break even (3/(3+7)). However, the implied odd are a bit different, a bit weirder. First, he can count on Shorty shoving his remaining 170 with almost any two cards, so it’s more like calling 300 to win 870, or 8.7-to-3, so he’ll only need to win about 25.6% to break even.
Because we’re checking it down with a short stack it’s unlikely I’ll put one more chip in the pot without having Limpy beaten, but there are some ugly reverse implied odds scenarios where both of us hit the board hard enough for me to lose some chips (a flop of J72 “rainbow” — all different suits — for example). To account for that and to make the math easier let’s just say he’s getting 9-to-3, 3-to-1, so he’s looking for a hand that wins 25% of the time to make this call.
First, Shorty will shove with, roughly, any two cards. The median hand in holdem is Q7o, so let’s give him that. Second, to make the math as favorable as possible to Limpy let’s assume the exact same holding for me: As the big stack on the button with Shorty in the big blind I’ll minraise with any two cards as well. By assuming the same holding it’ll also make both our odds worse. Third, since Limpy has one of the sevens, let’s adjust those holdings down a bit: Q6o each. That’ll give Limpy the advantage of being able to hit a seven and then not have to worry about us hitting our kickers.
With these specific hands Limpy will win about 41% of the time, making this a clear call! However, if you play around a bit in that range you can see his 41% isn’t very stable — if either of us has two over-cards, which is relatively likely, his winning chance drops to around 23%. For reference, though it’s dangerous to think this way because we’re using information he didn’t have, his actual odds were around 22%.
Aside: I’m surprised at how much value suitedness adds! Run the numbers again with 72o and we’re talking about a win chance of about 12%.
Okay, so Limpy’s call is slightly optional from an expected value point of view (he needed 25% but was only getting about 23%). You can’t really blame him because I made such a small raise. If I had made it 600 on the button then he’d have to call 500 to win 1070 needing about a 32% breakeven hand. If I made it 800 he’d have to call 700 to win 1270, so about 36%. These are much clearer folds.
So why didn’t I make a “real” raise? Hard to say. I just figured a minraise to put Shorty in fit the rhythm of the table, whatever that means. I expected Limpy to fold a very high percentage of the time there, maybe unreasonably.
I like the idea of losing the minimum in this situation as well. If Limpy knows I’ll raise any two cards and Shorty will shove any two cards and he looks down and sees a real hand, he might conceivably re-raise, leaving me guessing and probably folding. A min-raise there saves me chips those few times Limpy wakes up with a pair or big face cards — probably a totally irrational fear short handed, facing an all-in, at low levels where players tend to be more timid.
As is so often the case in poker though, I think strategic factors dominate tactical ones here. Calling my raise and losing is basically feeding chips to the short stack. In this case if Limpy had instead folded Shorty’s ace would have only been good for 840 chips instead of 1110.
Limpy told me later that he was trying to help knock out Shorty. In that case our winning percentages kind of add (as long as we don’t have common cards) because theoretically we’re both playing against Shorty, trying to bubble him. Here’s the EV breakdown of that plan. I wonder how it’ll work out.
Just me in the pot: Shorty has a 53.46% shot at 840 chips for an expected value of 450 chips.
Both of us: Shorty has a 36.69% shot at 1110 chips for an EV of 408 chips.
Hmm, story checks out. Go figure! Limpy sacrificed some marginal EV (needed 25%, took 23%) in order to get about a 9% negative EV swing for the short stack. Neat-o.
Anyway, just talking about this one hand improved my game and thought process. I love being wrong about poker because it means I just got even better!
Thanks for coming along for the ride!