Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Automatic Decisions In NL Holdem Cash Games

The main reason that it is possible to 4 to 8+ table NL Holdem cash games is that for good players the vast majority of “no read” decisions are automatic and instant. If you had to think through a good portion of your decisions, you would not have the time to play so many tables at once for a profit. I wanted to look in depth a bit at automatic decisions in deep stack cash games. For those out there that do not play cash games, this can apply to early deep stacks MTT play as well.

For cash games specifically, adjustments based on blind level and your own stack size fall away because your stack should always be “deep”, and the blind levels do not change over time. As you progress through an MTT, automatic cash game type decisions become less automatic because important factors are always changing. So when a good player plays NL cash games a large portion of the decisions are purely automatic. A new or improving player is constantly experimenting with their game by trying different things in similar situations to see what works best. Experimenting with your game requires you to think through decisions that may at one point in the future become automatic. The better more experienced player has already done a lot of this experimentation, and has found the best line, and now automatically takes it. An experienced cash game player makes a higher percentage of automatic decisions than a new player. As a new player’s game progresses they will start to increase the percentage of automatic decisions.

Let’s look at an example. Preflop you need to make the decision to limp, call an open, open raise, or reraise your starting cards. Think about the expectation value of each option for each possible starting hand. For hands like the hammer, it will be –EV to do anything but fold it from outside of a blind. The good player knows this, and auto folds the hammer preflop. A new player may try to steal the blinds with it from late, or make some kind of limp move with it. A good player knows that auto folding 72o is the best Expectation Value you can get, and any other play lowers your Expectation Value. So lets move on to a hand like 54s. A good player auto folds this hand preflop, unless late or in a blind and getting a pretty great price to call. A good player will never open raise or call an open raise preflop with a small suited connector, because it lowers your expectation value for the hand. A new player loves to experiment with these types of hands, and will often limp, open, and call raises with it to see what happens. The good player that auto folds preflop is now done with making decisions for this the hand. The new player, who continues on with a hand they should have dumped preflop, will now be forced to make tough decisions on the flop/turn/river that a better player would not even be facing.

So in summary, a new player will experiment a bunch preflop with hands that a better player auto folds, and that will lead to more tough decisions post flop that the good player never needs to make. The good player folds a bunch preflop, and when they play on preflop, they are in more standard type situations post flop that can lead to more automatic type decisions post flop. When you have a decent starting hand to start, you have a good idea where you are on latter streets. When you are playing junk it is hard to know where you are post flop. Is my top pair crap kicker any good? Is my middle pair on an all low flop good when I called a preflop open? It’s a much easier position to be thinking along the lines of “my top pair top kicker is likely good here”, or “my over pair is good for sure here, unless the other guy just flopped a set”. So the question is, for a new player, and for a good NL Holdem cash game player, what percentage of the decisions are automatic? My cash game is a bit rusty so I figure my auto decision percentage has dropped a bit over what it was 2 years ago. I plan on multitabling NL cash and logging auto decisions (made in a few seconds) versus thought out decisions (decisions that you had to think through before making) to see what my percentage is. I think you could get a rough estimate in about an hour of 3-4 tabling. Any guesses on what would be typical. I am thinking that I auto-decide at least 95% of the time in cash games and possible a bunch higher.

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At 5:06 PM, Blogger Guin said...

Interesting discussion but one which I find leads to +EV decisions for me. When I find someone is playing lots of tables then the data I have on them will likely be a good way to exploit them.

I look at how often you fold blinds so that I have a +EV move to attempt to steal blinds from people who fold to raises too often (90%+) with ATC. Also I like it when those players also have high fold to continuation bet % so I can fire a cbet out on the flop and take down a good % of the hands where they actually call me.

I think that taking advantage of players auto play mode is the best way to make cash at low levels.


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