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Newbie - with a few questions


Hi all, I've been playing on here in the 'hard' 9 and 6 ring cash games. Some plays I need answers, and not 'Brain' card showing fold, call and raise cards only.
1) I notice only on the last card, do the advisors recommend a bluff to steal if you don't have a made hand and everyone checks to you. Why can't I do a bluff before it gets to the river? In live cash games, where the flop shows a high card and two lower cards, I often bet after the flop and win, even when I don't have top pair or any pair. My reasoning is that with a low percentage possibility that anyone has hit the flop, I have a good chance of stealing. If they do counter with a call, I go with it, if they raise I fold. What do you think of this tactic?
2) Why is it that on the flop, if I have two over cards, all the advisors say to fold if I don't hit, unless of course I have AK or pocket pairs. Perhaps I'll hit on the turn or river? Or get my flush or straight?
3) Speaking of bluffing or semi-bluffs, I see no training on this except what I mentioned in the first question. Did I miss it somewhere.
4) My biggest problem is that I'll do really well in live cash games and then it seems like after hours of building my stash, it all collapses in a few hands. Happened again last night. I had trip 3's and the board had all lower cards up to J, and I was thinking Villan had pocket Q,K or Aces and after going all in, did I find he had pocket jacks for trip Jacks. I had other crushing hands that were out crushed and in moments it was all gone. It happens to me almost every session. What is the advice? I do so well, only to end the session broke again.


  • think

    The probability of the flop not hitting a given hand is 70/30. So, yes, it's less than likely that it hit your opponent.

    But who was the preflop raiser, and are you donk betting (it's the term for this -- I didn't make it up!) into multiway pots, or only on heads-up flops? I kind of subscribe to the adage that it's not really advisable to try to bluff two people out (there are always exceptions).

    When you donk into the preflop raiser, you're giving up the chance to get information. That's #1. #2 is, remember what they said in Rounders: "You can't lose what you don't put in the middle." You are giving him a choice between throwing away his hand and his preflop raise (3 BB or whatever) or calling you down, which represents pot odds of around 2:1 (could be 5 BB to win 11, or 6 to win 14, or something). By the way, reraising is a move for him as well, and since the only thing you know about his move is his preflop raise (I am assuming that a given hand took the line of he preflop raises, you call, otherwise folds all around), you have to figure that many times he's figuring that his holdings put him ahead. Even if he has two overcards and a backdoor draw (this is a fairly likely scenario for a "missed flop"), your donk bet may still be giving him odds to call if he has you figured for top pair on the board, for instance.

    And if the flop didn't hit you, it's not a guarantee that he's going to c-bet, anyway. There's something to be said for checking and (maybe) getting a free card. Sure, it might help him, but you are working on the assumption that you're the one who's behind at the moment (otherwise, it wouldn't be a bluff; it would be a value bet).

    Let's say that we're in the above described situation. Two overcards plus backdoor straight or flush equals approximately 7-8 outs (depending on how you count the backdoor draw). You wouldn't be looking at this board thinking "danger" or "wet board," either (necessarily), so you're ready to fire that bluff bet. He calls 5 BB for a shot at 11. What do you do on the turn? Did it hit him? Are you betting 8-10 BB into a 16-20 BB pot just for another takedown opportunity? You still have zero information, by the way, except that he is playing along. So maybe you check, saving your bullets for a river bluff (but then you gave him two cards for a pretty low price!).

    If he sees two cards, his odds (here) are about 2:1 against pairing an overcard or a backdoor. The expressed odds are almost in line with that (at least for the flop bet), and the implied odds are pretty good, since he may have you figured as the type to try to barrel people off hands.

    If you look at Doyle's section in the original Super System, he talks about how his opponents seem to think that he (Doyle) draws out on them and catches lucky cards (or something), when what he's really doing is using position plays and an aggressive table image to freeroll his way into exactly these kinds of pots, as long as he's got an out. And then if he catches his out on the turn or river, he stacks his opponent. Otherwise, he can fold or check down. So he sets himself up to either lose small pots or win big ones.

    You may not be able to avoid set over set confrontations, like your Jacks over 3's hand. But you're saying that this kind of experience happens to you frequently. I would really look at connecting the dots between #1 and #4. I think that you're setting yourself up to be on the wrong side of the equation for a strategy like Doyle's.

  • think
    edited August 2017

    By the way, I am in the same boat on a lot of this -- really trying to figure out what an optimal bluffing strategy would look like. I've been going through Sklansky's Theory of Poker, and there are two chapters -- Bluffing, and Bluffing/Game Theory (or something) -- which really helped me crystallize a lot of intuitive notions I was working towards. Exploring the idea of "optimal bluffing frequency" and the mathematical rigor involved in finding it is eye-opening. Systematically bluffing a random proportion of instances of a certain hand can turn a marginally -EV holding into a +EV situation over the long haul. The analysis gives good perspective on the offense and defense of the decision process when incomplete information is involved.

    Ed Miller's "The Course" goes into it, too. I was wondering why A5s was on his chart as a 3-bet pre flop holding. He uses the holding as a bluff randomizer. I don't want to give away everything Sklansky talks about, but let's say you have a 14 outer with one card to go and 2:1 pot odds. The strategy could be "bet if I hit, check/fold if I miss," (-EV) or "bet if I hit OR if Ks or Qs hits, check/fold otherwise."' I am just trying to give you an idea of the big picture, so my description may not be 100% on point, but the next step is analyzing it for the long haul: what if the opponent calls every time or folds every time? Sure, short-term you lose the bluffs that are called, but does the repeated scenario go to +EV?

    The next step is to get away from pure game theory and try to read whether you're dealing with a calling station (harder to bluff, easier to value bet) or someone who plays scared (harder to value bet, easier to bluff). Then you bias your decisions accordingly.

    I hope that helps. I am trying to work through this, too. It's harder in the real world than in the abstract.

  • nytider

    Just to add a couple of things to what think said. First, for purposes of "bluffing" on earlier streets, you might want to check out material on this site, particularly in the beat the pro section, on continuation betting. Betting with overcards on a flop that likely didn't hit anybody is kinda the strategy behind a C-bet, or a C-bluff as I have heard it called. There is information about when you should and shouldn't do this, based on the board texture.

    However, this type of a semi-bluff is much less effective as a donk bet than it is as a C-bet. The difference being whether or not you were the last aggressor pre-flop. So if you want to be able to drive the betting in the hand post flop, you should be looking to do more raising and less calling pre-flop. And along with that, you have to be more aware of hand selection and position.

    I can't tell you off the top of my head which advisors this applies to. But I have seen many cases where the advisor will tell me that my pre-flop aggression compels a bet on the flop, even when I missed completely.

  • hnallen68

    I found Jonathan Little's book on Bluffs helpful in adding some more aggression to my game as well.

  • synthesists
    edited August 2017

    @crescendo34 said:

    4) My biggest problem is that I'll do really well in live cash games and then it seems like after hours of building my stash, it all collapses in a few hands. Happened again last night. I had trip 3's and the board had all lower cards up to J, and I was thinking Villan had pocket Q,K or Aces and after going all in, did I find he had pocket jacks for trip Jacks. I had other crushing hands that were out crushed and in moments it was all gone. It happens to me almost every session. What is the advice? I do so well, only to end the session broke again.

    I won't even try to compete with Think and NYTider's erudite comments editorially., but just in case you think that you're having sets clobbered by other sets is unique to you, I'd suggest you google some set over set poker videos.

    I found 2 of note:

    The final 3 of the 2016 WSOP had Bax with 222 against Vayo with 333 on a K23 flop after Qui with Kx (that'd be top pair btw) got out of the way. Talk about crushing!!!! One card can save him.................. Arrgh

    Then there's a hand in the televised (NBC I think) H2H Championship with Phil Ivey vs, Scotty Nguyen where Ivey has 77 and Nguyen has KK. Both catch and Ivey almost chokes on live TV. Fun stuff, I was kinda hoping for a wisecrack from Scotty ala "You call this it's all over."

    Just sayin............................


  • hnallen68

    Saturday in a tournament I hit the Q of my AQ on the flop and bet it (I was pre-flop raiser), guy behind me went all in, second guy went all in for more and I thought for about 20 seconds before ceding the field. Guy 1 and Guy 2 had both flopped sets (not the Q, the other two cards on the board).

    Happens all the time.

    And trips are more dangerous than sets because your trips may be giving the other guy trips with a better kicker, or even worse a boat!

  • nytider

    If Crescendo is a newbie, it may help to clarify the difference between a set and trips. I noticed that the terms were used interchangeably in the original post.

    A set is three of a kind made up of a pocket pair and one additional card on the board. While trips is three of a kind where the pair is on the board and you hold the extra card unpaired in your hand.

    Although they both have the same showdown value, in terms of the ranking of the hand, it is much preferable to have a set, for the reasons hnallen68 mentioned. If there is a pair on the board, it isn't uncommon for another player to have the fourth card of that rank, giving them trips also. Then you have to worry about the kickers. And the paired board makes all kinds of full house combinations possible as well. Plus, the paired board can make it harder to get action from the other players, whereas a set is more disguised.

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