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Middle pair preflop (book problem)


Reading "Harrington on Cash Games." So this is one of the problems, but they are taken from real hands, so the bet levels are not theoretical default amounts or anything:

Nine handed online $5/10, generally tight table. Player F has been raising more than his share when the table folds to him. Your stack and F's stack are ~$1200.

F is in CO and raises to $40. You are SB with a pair of nines. A through E folded, and button folded following the raise.

Strategy described is to make a substantial raise to put the pressure on, and then even if opponent calls, he may have to fold to a continuation bet on the flop.

Action is raise to $240. BB folds, and Player F folds "after some thought."


Does this seem a little rich? I mean, 23.5 BB preflop, planning to fire another 20-30 for a c-bet if F wouldn't have folded (assuming no nines on the flop)?

How about the reraising strategy here generally?


  • pgearan

    I agree I find that 6x reraise a bit much pre-flop especially if Player F is raising a fairly wide range so his holding is likely pretty modest and susceptible to any reraise (looks like we don't have info as to how he has reacted to a 3-bet, maybe if he has been defending a lot of 3xish 3-bets that is fueling the over bet. And as you say, this fuels another large continuation bet OOP on most flops, and the flops that contain and A or a K are not going to feel great to bet into.

    That said, I do like the re-raise from the BB strategy in general with 99 against an aggressive CO opening especially if he is going to c-bet most of the time. Flatting for set value with only one other opponent OOP is obviously not an ideal scenario especially with the high odds of an over card on the flop. But I think something more in the $140-$150 range makes a lot more sense. Harrington's retort may likely be that Player F now has to only call (if raise is $150) $110 to win $200 ($40+$150+$10) as opposed to $200 to win $290 ($40+$240+$10) so the necessary success rate to be profitable goes down for Player F with the smaller 3-bet.

    I wonder if Harrington's other rationale is this decreases the odds of a 4-bet from Player F as he may view this as a stronger commitment to your hand. However, I think many players in the game today would correctly diagnose this for what it is: an effort to protect a medium pair and a good spot to slow down a repeatedly aggressive player. I wonder if this actually increases the 4-bet odds and then what do you do with your 99 when Player F bumps it to $600? You've suddenly turned 99 OOP into a potential play for half or all of your stack? Not a good moment in my opinion.

  • think
    edited July 2017

    The book problems are taken from real games -- not necessarily his. I've gone through Harrington on Hold 'em 1 and 2 (tournament books), and there are a lot of problems that say things like, "...the best move would be to check here. Action: Raise to $300," or whatever (as in, he is pointing out that the real actions contradicted what his advice would have been). But there were no qualifiers in this one.

    Just a few problems later, the player calls with pocket 10s -- no raise. I forget the context, but I didn't think it was entirely dissimilar.

    I sometimes play around with over-aggressive plays like that on the 9-Max KGB level. And there are definitely a few AI's which will call raises and 3-bets pretty light -- especially the "Svetlana" one. That level still seems to be beating me, so they are either doing something right, or they are ganging up on the human player (not likely). "Peek at End" definitely helps gauge what is happening. But real life has no "Peek at End" feature. I've seen the "Paul Mitchell" (yes) AI bluff all the way to the end, with 3-bets, c-bets, barreling, and a river bet. He seems to win a bit, but whenever I do that, I seem to lose half my stack at least.

    I'm with you insofar as I think the $240 was a bit high. Literally half that ($120) would still be a 3x 3-bet. It's different if somebody's on a draw, but how much do you really have to put in vs. pot to deny somebody odds to take a flop (this is obviously situation dependent)?

  • apt_gs

    I think that as the game has evolved and players have generally gotten better, if Harrington were to update the book today, he would probably recommend something in the 4x ($160) range. The general concept is still solid and applicable even in today's game. The "tweak" is what size bet does it take to win $ on this particular player in this particular pot.

  • think
    edited July 2017

    Whenever I play live 1/2, I have to put a lot of mental focus into figuring out the bet sizing of opponents (and what they are reacting to). There are definitely some people who really basically size their bets with less concern about the size of the pot -- and they seem to react more to a certain absolute dollar bet amount being a "threshold of pain" moreso than a pot percentage.

    And note that Harrington's not recommending a bet size. He's just using an example from an online game (probably someone else's) and recommending a move. But he didn't say, "this bet is too big," either.

    Reducing figures to 1/2 game (dividing by 5):
    So the bet from the book would be $50, a 4x bet would be $30, or you can call the raise with $5 on top and set-mine on the cheap (the BB would be less likely to fold, too). Stacks are deep enough, but even if you hit, there is no guarantee that you'll get paid off (or even win). But I think that would be my first instinct. We can talk +/-EV for flat calling here against a likely blind steal, but what's the +/- EV of nines on the flop, and is that (plus the fold equity preflop) enough to up the stakes with a reraise? That is a serious question. Which one is a "default" move, and which one represents "mixing it up" or "adapting to a specific situation?"

    Maybe any move here is essentially a defensive move. Besides, if the flop comes out low, you might still have the best hand (along with possible straight draws).

    So the next question I'd ask is, really, you're sitting across from four regs, a maniac who's probably a solid player when he's not drunk and steaming, an accountant pushing retirement who has been playing poker on weekends longer than you've been alive, and the nitty rock of all time. By the way, you may be misjudging the style and level of any of them (maybe the nitty rock really DID get crappy cards 20 times in a row). Hopefully you haven't leaked any "tells" to them that you don't know about. One of them (which one?) bets six bucks and will have position on you and your nines postflop. Are you really reraising, or do you just want to toss in a red chip and see what happens?

    As an inherently conservative player who has had to learn aggressive poker, that psychological instinct (to tighten up play) is something I have to fight in borderline decisions. I'd be interested if the coaches among us encounter this a lot, or if they encounter students with "gambler"-type instincts who really have to incorporate discipline and tighten their play. The old saw is that people play their most competitive poker when they switch gears to the opposite of their natural style. And I like playing aggressively. I just don't want to be spewing chips in pursuit of a Table Captain image.

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