Monday, June 18, 2007

Playing a Small Hand for a Big Pot in NL Holdem Cash

As you play more and more NL cash games, most players begin to realize that when the pots get big, somebody involved usually has a big hand. Often multiple players will have big hands. When I see massive pots played with small hands at my table, I will usually make a note next to the donkeys involved. The rule I am talking about here is the "Big Pot = Big Hand" rule. It is vastly important to success at NL Holdem cash that this rule is understood and followed. MTT specialists usually can't cut it at cash games because this rule is not nearly as important in MTTs where the stacks are typically not as deep (except very early). Small hands are typically one pair or less (including overpairs). A big hand is usually top 2-pair or higher. Having said all this, you need to keep in mind that I am talking about a NL Holdem rule. There are no generic, absolute rules in NL holdem.


I will say it again. There are no generic, absolute rules in NL holdem. Everything is situation based in NL holdem, and generic rules always leave the situation out. You can always find specific situations that violate the rule. I will throw out a generic rule that most would say is never correct to break.

Never fold AA preflop to a raise in NL Cash Games.

There is a generic rule that is always correct to follow right? Not so fast. Lets say you decided to take a shot a 25/50 NL live. You have 2k with you, which is about the size of you online bankroll. You are in Vegas, so why not take a shot, and you have been running well at the lower limits. You get on a roll and build your buy-in to 6k, and then get into a massive 4-way pot when you flop a set. You win, and 20k now sits in front of you. This is more money than you can imagine and is somewhat life changing, as you have been in paycheck to paycheck mode for a while. You are dealt AA on the very next hand. There is an open raise, a push and an over push before you act. Initial push and overpush both have your 20k covered. Pot odds say that you push as well, but are you really ready to lose $20,000 on this one hand (a distinct possibility in a 4-way pot). Bankroll considerations, could make fold the AA and cash out the correct play here. All other NL holdem rules are much less solid then this one, and much easier to find situations to break them in. Anyone got a golden generic rule that in all situations should never be broken?

I break the "Big Hand = Big Pot" in NL Cash games a lot. It is based on situational things that are not defined by the rule. I think that if you do not break the rules based on specific situations you are leaving money on the table. Let me give you some ideas of where I take exception, and an example hand for clarity (although I played the hand very strangly).

First exception:
If you make the pot "Big" preflop when you have the 1st or 2nd nutz I see no problem breaking the rule. If I get it all-in preflop with AA or KK, I technically did not have a "big hand", but I got it in when I was likely ahead, so this is +EV and a correct play.

Second exception:
If you have a very strong read on your opponents holding, and are confident your one pair is ahead, you might as well go ahead and make the pot big. This is normally due to the preflop action. There are lots of times you will be able to put your opponent on a narrow range of pocket pairs based on what happened preflop. Sometimes the range is AA-KK, or it might be JJ-KK, or it might be "middle to small PP". If you feel strongly that is what your opponent has, and you are ahead of that entire range, go ahead and make the pot big.

Third exception:
You can't really put the guy on a tight range, but you raised real big preflop (say with AA or KK), and he just called. If the guy calls 1/5th or more of his stack preflop, go ahead and jam all flops when you hold AA, and all non A flops when you hold KK. He did not have odds to hit a set, and all other hands like 2-pair/straight/flush are all much more rare than a set. If your opponent did not have odds to draw to the set, you can jam the flop every time you have an overpair (assuming you have eliminated higher overpairs from your opponents holdings). The guys preflop call was -EV even if he hits and stacks you, so don't worry about getting stacked the betting sequence was very +EV for you. The Jam on the flop will also get called by lower overpairs and draws so you can really get -EV boy to hang himself if you play it this way.

Forth exception:
You are up against a certifiable maniac, and have a great read on him. You almost must play big pots with this guy with moderate hands, or you will be locked out of the action too much. If the guy is a donkiac, your small hand could likely be good. If you are not going to try to take the donkiacs money by playing back slim, you are better off finding another table.

Fifth exception:
You flop a monster draw, and are mathmatically ahead, but currently behind. If those conditions are met, you can go ahead and make it a big pot while you draw.

Other exceptions:
Probably too many to list, and I do not pretend to know them all. Lets just say that in general I follow a very important rule in the "Big Pot = Big Hand", but also take exception when the sitiuations make it right to do so. Below is a hand where I have AA and I am taking the second exception. My read on the other guys hand was so strong, that I had no problem going big post flop. I don't think I played the hand very well, though. It would not have mattered, but you really should question yourself if you are slowplaying AA ever in a cash game.

Full Tilt Poker Game #2688508680: Table Majesty Palm - $1/$2 - No Limit Hold'em - 2:04:31 ET - 2007/06/17
Seat 1: Blinders ($220)
Seat 2: Supamannn ($152.30)
Seat 3: giveusakiss ($200)
Seat 4: ClayDizzo ($140.35)
Seat 5: unbeeweevable ($44.40)
Seat 6: hiheat54 ($206.30)
Seat 7: Coox ($190)
Seat 8: mike7071111 ($214.55)
Seat 9: Mplizzy2882 ($184.80)
Supamannn has 5 seconds left to act
Supamannn posts the small blind of $1
giveusakiss posts the big blind of $2
The button is in seat #1
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Blinders [As Ad]
ClayDizzo folds
unbeeweevable folds
hiheat54 folds
Coox folds
mike7071111 folds
Mplizzy2882 raises to $6
Blinders has 15 seconds left to act

I pretty much always reraise AA preflop in this situation. If the guy is short, I will reraise enough to take away set drawing odds. This guy is deep, so that is not going to be easy. I make more of as standard reraise

Blinders raises to $14
Supamannn folds
giveusakiss has 15 seconds left to act
giveusakiss raises to $49
Mplizzy2882 folds
Blinders has 15 seconds left to act

Could you ask for anything better than that. You have three options here. Push, reraise back, or call. For some reason I mixed it up and just called. My thinking was that I know this guy has a hand like QQ-KK (possibly AK), so he is drawing to 2 outs. I will know if he hits the flop, so might as well make him hang himself. I might push him off AK and that would be horrible. The guy is going to be pretty pot committed, so I should be able to get him in post flop. That is some pretty bad logic. If he has KK he calls a push, QQ 98% call my push. Fawk, AK prolly feels priced in and calls as well. You are much better getting them in preflop if they have a big pair, as the flop might scare them. I am a retard!

Blinders calls $35

*** FLOP *** [2h 4s 9d]
giveusakiss has 15 seconds left to act
giveusakiss bets $40

Very safe flop. This guy has a 4% chance of catching up. I will plan for a reraise push on the turn.
Blinders has 15 seconds left to act
Blinders calls $40

*** TURN *** [2h 4s 9d] [Ts]

giveusakiss checks

Don't really like that card. TT is possible I guess. Now the guy acts weak. AK? My turn to bet, and it will look a little "stealy".

Blinders bets $54
giveusakiss has 15 seconds left to act
giveusakiss raises to $111, and is all in

If he does not have exactly TT he is dead. I don't think that is what he has. Remember I have a strong read of QQ-KK. Everything makes sence but the check/raise on the turn.

Blinders calls $57

Before I show you what he had, take a guess, and lets look at another hand where I prevented someone from doing to me, what I try to do to others when I break this rule.

Full Tilt Poker Game #2688571472: Table Cathedral Rock - $1/$2 - No Limit Hold'em - 2:13:26 ET - 2007/06/17
Seat 1: Kid-B-Tight ($81.10)
Seat 2: ilduce222 ($121.50)
Seat 3: Blinders ($181)
Seat 4: MichaelApproved ($107.75)
Seat 5: PChiphop ($78.25)
Seat 6: djtanlaw ($328.55)
Seat 7: giveusakiss ($205.55)
Seat 8: Cuernavaca ($0), is sitting out
Seat 9: Hammerhorn ($268.60)
Hammerhorn posts the small blind of $1
Kid-B-Tight posts the big blind of $2
5 seconds left to act
Cuernavaca adds $50
Cuernavaca has returned
giveusakiss posts a dead small blind of $1
giveusakiss posts $2
The button is in seat #8
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to Blinders [Qd Qh]
ilduce222 folds

No way I am doing anything but raise my bitches from this position.

Blinders raises to $10
MichaelApproved folds
PChiphop calls $10
djtanlaw folds
giveusakiss folds
Hammerhorn raises to $42
Kid-B-Tight folds
Blinders has 15 seconds left to act

Fawk! I don't think hip/hop has me, but a bigstack making that play smells a bunch like AA or KK. I need to ask myself right now if I trust this read. If I push and am right, I am dead. If I am right and call, I have no odds to hit the Q, and will face very tough decisions postflop. This guy is raising enough that I can only call with a big pair that I think is ahead. He will have my range very much narrowed. I trust my read.

Blinders folds
PChiphop has 15 seconds left to act
PChiphop calls $32
*** FLOP *** [6c 2c 5h]
Hammerhorn bets $226.60, and is all in
PChiphop has 15 seconds left to act
PChiphop calls $36.25, and is all in
Hammerhorn shows [Ac Ad]
PChiphop shows [Qs Kc]
Uncalled bet of $190.35 returned to Hammerhorn
*** TURN *** [6c 2c 5h] [6s]
*** RIVER *** [6c 2c 5h 6s] [2s]
Hammerhorn shows two pair, Aces and Sixes
PChiphop shows two pair, Sixes and Twos
Hammerhorn wins the pot ($168.50) with two pair, Aces and Sixes

If Hammerhorn does not pick up AA, I stack the clearly retarded hiphop, but at least horn did not stack me! Now for the results of the first hand. Ready!

giveusakiss shows [Ah Ac]
Blinders shows [As Ad]
*** RIVER *** [2h 4s 9d Ts] [Kc]
giveusakiss shows a pair of Aces
Blinders shows a pair of Aces
giveusakiss ties for the pot ($202) with a pair of Aces
Blinders ties for the pot ($202) with a pair of Aces

Labels: , ,


At 1:09 AM, Blogger smokkee said...

IMO you played that AA hand terribly. you minreraise preflop. then just call the reraise and flop bets and take it to the felt.

you're getting stacked easily against a set or 2p playing it that way.

it's obv you're overvaluing overpairs. Fuel or Chad get on the table with you and you're going broke playing like that.

At 4:38 AM, Blogger AnguilA said...

I would play the aces. No way I'm folding them preflop. If I have actually decided that I'm playing in such a high stakes game for my bankroll I would still try to play my A-game and that dictates taking them to the felt. Not doing so for bankroll considerations I think would be a mistake.
IMO the ONLY situation where you should fold aces is in the bubble of a satellite where by folding you have a better chance of getting the seat.

At 6:18 AM, Blogger Alan aka RecessRampage said...

I disagree with smokkee. You played the AA just fine. You were worried about TT or 99? I mean what else would the guy reraise with? I also don't mind the preflop call. No sense in advertising the AA so obviously. Like you said, if he has KK or QQ, he is drawing to two outs so let him hang himself. On the flop, I wouldn't mind leading out with a feeler bet. Like make a weakish bet where it looks like you are trying to steal. The AK, KK, and QQ will most definitely raise to represent their hand and at this point, you can go in for the kill.

One general rule I would like everyone to follow is to wash their hands after they go to the bathroom in between hands... I remember a dude who sat next to me who would run to the bathroom every 30 minutes... one time, I had to go too and I saw him run in, pee, and run out back to the tables. That's f*ckin disgusting...

At 8:48 AM, Blogger Mike Maloney said...

Not sure how you can fold aces pre-flop in a cash game. If you're that worried about your bankroll then you just need to get up and leave, since it's clearly inhibiting your ability to play. If you don't want to risk that much of your stack with aces, go play LHE. anguila's right, the only time you should fold aces is on the bubble of a tournament where the winners all get the same prize.

At 9:16 AM, Blogger Blinders said...


I admit that I played the hand poorly, but I am not getting stacked by 2-pair or a set, because the guy could not have had that. If some monkey is raising that big preflop with small unconnected cards or a mini PP, he can stack me all day when he hits, and I still make huge $$$.

Anguila & Mike
For the fold the Aces, this was a hypothetical example. I jam for sure. I was just trying to show how even the most solid sounding rule can have exceptions in NL holdem. After, you win the 20k pot it takes a while for this to sink in. You may get dealt in AA before you realize that you need to cash out. 200k in front, and I fold em I think. Everyone has a number so its a valid exception. There are just way too many factors not concidered by golden rules.

At 7:17 PM, Blogger Dillo said...

Great post Blinders. Look, each to their own. That's what makes it such a great game. But here's my take.

I agree with smoke on one point. It's easy to overvalue overpairs. However, you've got to bet them and reasonably strong. Minraise a) doesn't build the pot enough for mine when you've got the starting nuts, and b) it doesn't give enough of a reason for pp 9's 10's and J's to fold. If they're a chance of getting their set, I want their chips in the middle so if I flop mine, it's worth my while.

From that point on, I'm with Alan. If someone else wants to shove their Ladies and Cowboys, let 'em.

At 4:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Post a Comment

<< Home