Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Working on the Short Game

I'm going to try something new tonight. I'm going to try some of the smaller tables, the 6 handed, and maybe even some heads up. Over the past several days, I've played a number of SNG's (probably 8 or 9), and only cashed in one. With one 8th place bad beat, all of the others have been 4th or 5th place. This tells me that my short game needs work. I've read Harrington and many of the other blogs, and everybody talks about loosening up a bit at this stage, widening the range of calling hands. I do this, but I'm not sure if I'm opening up too much (I don't think so) or am I not risking enough. I'm not typically calling things like unsuited connectors or one-gappers, but I am looking at things like Q9s, K7s, K9, T9s, etc. What seems to happen to me is I'll call the blinds (typ. 100/200 in a 9 player SNG or 300/600 in an 18 or 27 player) plus ante, and then somebody will raise 2x or 3x the BB, and I'm faced with either committing a large chunk of my stack on a hand that isn't that strong on its own, or losing a not insignificant part of my stack on a fold. I'll give you a "how would you play this" example.

We're five handed in a 9 player SNG. Blinds are at 100/200 with a 25 ante. Your hero is on the button with a stack that's below par (1 way below, 1 just above, and 2 that are double me), and is dealt Q6h. It folds around to me, who calls. SB folds, and BB (has me covered 2 to 1) pushes all-in. Your hero folds, not feeling the love with a Q and a weak kicker. The BB has been aggressive, but played solidly, so I felt the fold was a safe option, though it still cost me a chunk. What would you have done? Should I have folded preflop? Should I have raised on a pseudo-bluff? If so, how much? Would this have been as good a time as any to push all-in preflop? Should I have called? These are the situations I've been running into...I've got a decent hand that has good flop potential, but I'm not sure I want to go to war with it. Am I just playing pussy poker, or am I playing an appropriately tight game and just not catching cards? The other scenario that tends to happen would be I'd call with a hand like J9c, there would be at least two other callers, and the flop would be something like KK5, with only one card of my flush draw (and not the overcard). At that point I've typically called the blind plus maybe a min or 2xBB raise preflop, and committed 1/4 to 1/3 of my stack.

As I look at this, I see another problem. I'm not a big stack at this stage. I'm usually right around par, but there's usually a serious short stack or two that balance out the monster stacks, so par isn't as safe as it sounds. I know you're supposed to play relatively tight early on, but am I playing too tight, again with the pussy poker? As a side note, Klopzi, does this post mean I'm at Stage 5? lol. Seriously, I play a pretty tight game, but I do loosen up early on and play the occasional 45 sooted thru a blind discount. Still, I have a hard time playing cards that I see other players take thru multiple raises to a showdown, finding K5o against Q9s. At one point, Lady Falcon presented her rules for a NLHE 7.50/15 game at the Tropicana in AC, and they served her well. They are a little more loose than Helmuth's top 10 hands on his daily calendar (thanks Troll), but still very solid. More importantly, she included her thoughts on preflop and postflop play. I tend to try and follow those rules, because they met with success for her. I have had limited success, but she was playing a ring game, and tourneys get a little different when you get short handed.

So there's my two big issues. One, what am I doing wrong when short handed? Do I tighten up even more, loosen up my calling range, or get more aggressive when betting preflop? Two, should I be getting a little more loose and/or aggressive earlier, to do more work on the chipstack? Sometimes it's hard, where I'll go thru two full rounds of blinds and not see anything better than a J6o. I'm not even catching my blinds, because somebody inevitably raises when I'm sitting with a 93o. Any thoughts would be appreciated.


drewspop said...

From a perennial loser, I usually tighten up even more in this situation. If I am one of the big stacks I might (might) call with a hand like K9 or J9 but usually not. I basically get in the mode of, if I call the bet, I am willing to call the allin. Probably not smart because I can get blinded out too far by doing this. I will usually use these types of hands to steal a blind against a similar or smaller stack by raising but fold all others without a pp, A8+, or 2 face cards in the hand. Again, my loser strategies are not advocated to all. Later.

iamhoff said...

That's been my concern with playing too tight, is that I'll inevitably get blinded out. I'll say this about the players I encounter in the SNG's (and I try to mark them with these notes): once they see a short stack in the blinds, they'll get aggressive and push. The last time I was there, I had the best hand I'd seen over the past 10...JTc Suited upper connectors, that was as good a shot as any. I was up against K3o, and I caught a J on the flop but he hit a K on the turn. So it goes.

BSN said...

I'm certainly no expert, but I'll offer the following and others can tell me where I'm wrong so I can learn too.

First, the gap concept is in play - you need a bigger hand to call raises than to make raises.

Second, Q6, even suited, sucks to call with in this situation. Fold. But, if you're bound and determined to steal with it, make it convincing. You haven't said what the chipstacks were specifically, but if you were below, say 1500 (assumung this is 'Stars?) your M is about 5 so you'd have to be pushing. If you just do a 3X here and get called, you're in deep ca-ca if you don't hit the flop and your opponent is betting into you. Even if you hit your Q and your opponent bets into you your kicker sucks and it will take a lot of intestinal fortitude and a spot on read to make the call.

I'd fold. If you're not on life support, you'll probably get a better hand than this shortly.

My .02 ;-)

iamhoff said...

BSN, you make the point I was wondering about...am I not playing aggressively enough? I know Q6 sooted or otherwise is a crap hand. Still, it was the first paint I'd seen in a while, and it was sooted, so...

BTW, it was Stars, and my stack was just over 1500. It is very hard to be that patient when you can go thru five hands in a row and not see anything better than a 94. With the blinds and antes rising, I saw that as an opportunity that might pay off if I could limp (the gamble within the gamble). I went back and looked at the hand history. After that, I had T6d (which let me limp to the flop), T5o, and I was blinded all in with 26o. So it goes.

Wes said...

I'm currently in the process of writing a follow up to my SNG post earlier, so you can get a better understanding of what is a correct play late. Needless to say though, on the button when you are shortstacked, push, A LOT.

I'll assume that the following chipstacks look like this when you got Q6s,

BB - 3000
SB - 2000
You - 1500
CO - 1000
UTG - 5500

From SNG analyzer, what should your pushing range be here? Well, that is solely dependent upon what the blinds calling range is. Lets say that their calling range is 22+,A2s+,A2o+,KTs+,KJo+,QJs. If both blinds have that calling range, here is what you should push with on the button.

22+,A3o+,A2s+,KJo+,K9s+,Q9s+,JTo,J9s+,T8s+,98s,87s (26%)

Q6s falls into the range of where it is so close of a decision that pushing or folding are both reasonable plays.

But, if you see the players being extra tight, or even more loose than than above, you have to adjust. If they are tight, push more hands. If they are loose, push less.

huma said...

I'll begin with the standard disclaimer that I really don't know what I'm talking about and this is all intellectual wankery. You said your stack size was about 7-8BB, you limp with Q6h in late position. This is ok, I'd do the same. (If my stack was 6-7BB however I might be tempted to push here and hope to pick up those blinds) But you have to fold to a raise behind you. Q6 (even soooooted) is big trouble.

I think you might need to open up a bit at the 50-100 level, steal some blinds, push people around etc. In the distant past when I used to cash in SNGs, I remember pushing hard at these stages and moving up to first or second in chips. Either that, or busting out in fourth (much more common).

iamhoff said...

Wes, you are almost exactly right on the stacks. Couple hundred here and there, but good estimations. I don't know if they'd necessarily been loose (they'd never show cards), but they were aggressive, hence the Q6 fold. My biggest problem seems to be that I go card dead as we hit 5 handed. I don't know why, but I've looked over hand histories and seen nothing but T5, 93, 84, J2, etc. Q6s seemed like a gift from the poker gods, but I was concerned about my enemies. Thanks for the detail on calling ranges. I downloaded the SNG demo (or whatever it was), I just haven't gotten it set up yet.

Huma, I think you're right. I think I need to get more aggressive earlier in the game (50/100 or a few before the bubble). That is one thing I've noticed. I'm not necessarily a short stack, but the chip leaders easily have me covered. We'll see what happens tonight. I've got a feeling I won't make it home in time for the WWdN Invitational, but I'm going to try. If I don't make it, I'll just find a 45 person SNG and run with it. First Place Baby!

Klopzi said...

Jebus - I wrote up a comment on this post yesterday. I don't know how the sh*t it got lost - oh well.

My biggest comment on the Q6 hand was as follows: if you're gonna play it, then play it hard. Myself, I fold this hand since the BB has you covered. You know that if you limp with this hand, he's gonna try and put you all-in (solid but aggressive, right?).

If you raise to 3xBB, you stand a chance of stealing the blinds. You won't appear as weak to the BB and he may not have the cojones to put you all-in. If he calls, you'll have to re-evaluate on the flop. If he raises, you've got to fold.

You did the right move in folding. As for calling in the first place, a little loose for my tastes but my SNG record is not all that great.