Aug 21 2008

#3: Betting patterns

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The overwhelming majority of ULBPC players have no concept of raising and absolutely no concept of pot odds. That’s a given. They’re fish. They don’t know when/how to protect a solid but vulnerable hand, they don’t know when/how to raise for value, they don’t when/how to buy the button, they don’t know when/how to build up a pot, they don’t know when/why they’re getting the wrong price to call a raise, they certainly don’t know when/how to buy information, and they certainly don’t notice when a savvy player is building up the pot to get all his money in by the river. Fold equity approaches zero on the first two hands and remains miniscule for the rest of the first round.

It is mathe­ma­ti­cally incor­rect to semi-bluff at a table where fold equity ap­proaches zero.

Most pre-flop raises (after the first two hands) come from someone who presses the "raise" button. It’s the minimum raise (2xBB) and it’ll come from any position, with any number of limpers, with any number of players yet to act. The player on the button seems to think his position merits a minimum raise, while a non-button player seems to think his hand merits a minimum raise.

Rarely will anyone re-raise on the pre-flop (after the first two hands) after someone hits the raise button. When this happens, it’s typically done by someone who hits the raise button — usually a slap at the first person who hit the button Those who do re-raise deserve special attention. If it comes quickly and/or it’s either 2x or way over the top, you should suspect he doesn’t know how to raise. If the re-raise comes slowly and is in the 3x-4x range, you should suspect he’s a solid player betting for value.

Monster stacks at a short table seldom pose a threat

Monster stacks will all too often limp when they should raise, or they’ll just hit the raise button (see above) when they should raise strongly. Much like Baby Huey, they simply don’t know their own strength. During initial heads-up play, the monster stack might even fold a few buttons without completing the blind!

On the other hand, you may find yourself facing an ultra-loose ultra-aggressive player who adores the bluff. In one typical example, it’s only the second round of blinds and you’re already heads-up against a guy who sees cheap flops first and then make gigantic bluffs. His stack is six times your size, so he should charge you to see every flop — but this guy wants to bluff, not win. The strategy, then, is to give him what he wants until you hit solid values. Then you either flat-call him or bet for value all the way to the river. He won’t give you any tough decisions, but you should hesitate repeatedly as if you’re making a hard choice. Let him take any number of small pots while you take down the big pots.

It’s now the fourth round of blinds and you’re the new chip leader. Your opponent simply cannot stop bluffing when you flat-call with solid values. He fires a bluff, you call; he fires a second bluff, you call; he fires a third bluff, you raise, and he calls because he knows you’re counter-bluffing with a worse hand than his. In this case, the guy kept losing ground even though he took down a majority of pots. He ended up with second place, but I suspect he enjoyed the many times his bluffs worked. No doubt he soothed himself with the rationalization that I got lucky a couple of times.

Short stacks at a short table seldom pose a threat

The short stack usually can’t stop playing even when he’s on the bubble. He’ll continue to see 40-67% of the flops. In one all-too-typical example, the monster stack on the button hits the raise button (because he doesn’t know how to bet), and the short stack calls from the SB with any two cards. In one rare example, a ghost with 2.5xBB in his stack reflexively limps on the button with three other limpers.

It’s uncommon to see a 3xBB pre-flop raise in the first round of a ULBPC event — and it’s down­right rare to see a 3x re-raise. Study any player who chooses 3x in the first round.

The button at a short table seldom poses a threat

Nearly everyone enters a ULBPC event for entertainment. Given no other knowledge about the button’s style of play, you can safely assume the button will limp behind you even at a short table — which in turn gives you statistically better pre-flop pot odds if you choose to limp. Very few people know how to exploit their position at all — and only the rarest will know how to exploit their position in a ULBPC event.

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