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Old 05-21-2010, 01:08 PM   #1
greenrebellion
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Post Strategy Post - Small Pocket Pairs & Planning Ahead (Warning: Very LONG Post)

Wasn’t really planning on doing a commemorative 1,000th post or anything, and in fact I really didn’t since this is my 1,004th post. But I wanted to give back to the community with a little strategy post I put together since you guys have all been so instrumental in the improvements my game has made recently. None of the concepts are revolutionary and most are discussed on the forum frequently, but I thought it might help some of the newer players that are still learning some of the more fundamental concepts. Feel free to critique, disagree or flame me and it is a rather long post, so if you are one of those tl;dr people, you have been forewarned!

Overplaying small pocket pairs.
I see a lot of people overplaying small pocket pairs, and while this will generally be only a modest leak in terms of chips lost in the long run, its still a leak. First, as most know, you generally need around 15x implied odds to set mine profitability despite the fact that we’ll hit a set 1 in 7 times or so. The reasons for this are a) we don’t always stack our opponents when we hit a set and b) we don’t always win the hand when we hit a set. But there are other considerations to keep in mind besides the strict 15x limit.

1. First, when your stack gets down to the 20-25 BB area, avoid playing the smaller pocket pairs like 22-77 in EP. Limping them isn’t great because we get iso’ed a lot and lose a valuable BB, and when we do see a limped pot we are generally oop, check/folding when we miss, and when we hit we need a miracle flop in order to stack opponents since limped ranges will be much wider and weaker. By limping, we also limit our ability to take down pots with a c-bet since we won’t really have initiative and it may be a multi-way pot. Conversely, raising 2.5x with 33 in EP when we have 25BB’s is also spew imo. We are investing 10% of our stack pre, with a marginal hand, that’s difficult to play oop, with limited room to c-bet and really no room for a 2-barrel bluff, so just tossing pre is fine. Table considerations are important here as you can get away with more at really weak/passive tables.

2. As far as flatting is concerned, make sure you have the required 15x implied odds, but also consider your position and the odds of getting squeezed. If MP1 raises and you are in CO with just the right implied odds to call with 22, maybe consider folding if the players left to act are squeeze happy or have perfect shove stacks. If the odds of getting squeezed are fairly high, then the implied odds you need to flat are much greater as well. One should also think about the strength of villain’s range. Say an active opponent raises to 300 in the CO at 50/100 and you have 33 in the SB with 3,000 chips. You are getting about 14 to 1 odds here direct + implied, but CO’s range is really wide and the odds of stacking him if we hit are lower as a result, plus we are oop making it much more difficult to maximize value. In this spot, I may elect to just fold preflop (note that if BB is flat happy, it may then make sense to play a 3-way pot and flat with that hand since the BB coming in increases the direct & implied odds). In many cases, 3-betting or re-stealing with small to mid pocket pairs once antes are in play makes a lot more sense than flatting and set mining from the blinds so keep this in mind as well. Low to mid pocket pairs have surprisingly good equity against re-steal calling ranges so they are good hands to make this play with.

3. Couple of other random thoughts. Hands like 55-99 are much easier to flat and play in position not only because they are higher and thus have more value, but there are also many more flops that will give us gutshots or open ended straight draws then if you are playing a hand like 22. So hands like 55-99 can be flatted in position many times not only for their set value but also for just their straight up preflop value. Note who your opponents are as well, against straightforward predictable opponents, its much easier to play pocket pairs in position then against solid players capable of putting us in tough spots.


Plan Ahead.
This concept, imo, is one of the most important things to incorporate into your game. It takes a while to get in the habit of it, but if you push yourself it eventually becomes second nature and will significantly improve your results. I recommend 1 or 2 tabling for a bit and consciously planning out every hand in your head until it becomes second nature, it will be worth the effort. Here are some examples of what I mean.

Preflop – Before you act preflop, look ahead at the stacks and type of players left to act. You don’t want to steal light when there are 4 aggressive 20BB resteal stacks behind you. It will also help you play your big hands better…I rarely slow play aces, but if someone raises in MP and I’m in the CO with AA and the button, SB, and BB are all squeeze happy players, flatting the AA in the CO can be a very profitable play. Same with 3-bets, whether light or for value, think about your position and what the effective stacks will be postflop and how that will affect the ways you can play the hand. It may affect your decision whether or not 3-betting is correct as well as the actual sizing you end up using. Also decide when you raise preflop, who you are calling off and who you are folding to before you raise. I love when I see someone raise in the CO to 3x and then the BB shoves 13BB’s on them and they tank for like 30 seconds before deciding to fold. Know what you are doing against different villains BEFORE you decide to raise. That way you can determine if the steal is even profitable.

Postflop – In my experience many low stake players make decisions on the flop without thinking at all about future streets or how their opponents may react to their flop action. Getting out of this habit WILL improve your game significantly. There are three main categories in my mind of planning ahead.

How are we reacting to our opponent: Before you make a bet, you should always consciously decide whether it’s a bet/fold, bet/call spot, and then stick to it unless you get a timing or bet sizing read that changes your plan. Considerations to keep in mind are effective stacks (will you be priced into a call), opponent aggression levels, and how draw heavy the board is as well as the relative strength of your hand (i.e. we should be more willing to go with marginal hands when we raise from the button or cutoff than when we c-bet after we’ve raised UTG because the hand range we are repping is much stronger). Also think about stack sizes, are they perfect for villain to reshove over me, as a general rule, a 4x or 5x re-shove is decent sizing, so if your natural c-bet size is going to be 4K and villain has 16K-20K behind on a wet board, maybe its best to check behind and go for a delayed c-bet (depending on what our hand is of course).

How do I want my opponent to react: Another important concept is thinking about how we want our opponent to react, and then playing the hand in such a way that maximizes the chances of that happening. Couple of concepts along this line…if we have a big hand and we want to get raised, make sure your bet sizing is big enough that its not too suspicious and leaves villain salivating to bluff you off the pot, but small enough that it doesn’t appear you are clearly committed to the hand. Bear in mind that this type of play is exploitable against thinking opponents that are paying attention, but its not a big consideration in the low buy-in large field MTT’s. A more advanced example of manipulating opponents to do our bidding comes from a hand I played recently in a $5 rebuy six max tournament. I had a somewhat aggressive image and was dealt 33 in the SB and flatted CO’s 2.5x raise. Flop comes Q,8,3 rainbow….a great flop right? Well not really, super dry and its going to be hard to get action unless he has a Q. So I decided to be a bit creative and I snap min-checkraised his c-bet hoping it would look super fishy. He ended up thinking for a bit and then minraised me back. Since I felt his range for doing that was largely air, I flatted and snap checked a blank turn, he snap shoved, I snap called, and he had complete air with no draws. Point is that creative thinking and planning ahead can allow you to play hands in ways to drive a certain response from your opponent. In that 33 hand, I was trying to broaden villains stackoff range to Qx hands as well as air and I figured a snap min-check raise on the flop had the best chance of getting the desired spaz response from villain.

Planning Future Streets: This is another concept that may sound difficult for the newer player, but should become second nature over time. Once the flop comes, you should have a fairly good idea of how every street is going to play out. If you c-bet, know what cards are good two barrel cards on that board. For example, you raise preflop from CO with 89cc with 50BB effective stacks, button calls, and the flop comes T52 rainbow with one club…before I fire my c-bet, I know I’m most likely firing a second barrel on any club (since I’d pick up a flush draw), as well as any K or A since they are cards that hit my range, and are likely to get villain to fold his Tx or low pocket pair hands. In addition, some boards are ripe for triple barrels (use sparingly though or you’ll be posting in the spew thread frequently). Here’s a hand I played recently to illustrate this point:

Stacks 19K effective. Blinds & Antes 150/300/30

Villain raises MP to 700, I flat button with 77, blinds fold.

Pot 2,120…
Flop KQT and villain checks to me.

I figured that villain has a marginal one pair holding or the nuts once he checks to me, since marginal hands are much more likely, I decided that it would be very difficult for him to call three barrels on this flop and if he did flop the nuts or some big hand, I’d probably hear from him at some point with a check/raise since my read on this guy was that he is a pretty ABC player. So I decided to turn my hand into a pure bluff and fired decently strong on flop and turn, got called on both streets and had a bit less than a PSB on river, stuck with my plan and shoved, and villain folded. Note that I’m not saying that triple barreling in this specific spot is fantastic, in fact it may be spew, but based on my reads and the fact that villain is going to have so much trouble calling 3 streets on a board like this with most of his holdings, I stuck to my plan and took the pot. Note that I also planned the hand so that I would have a natural shove (little less than PSB) on the river to maximize my fold equity. People often complain that in MTT’s they always get short and have to rely on winning flips to get deep, but if you can start finding spots like this, to win without showdown and pick up sizeable pots by planning your actions ahead, you can build a stack the best way possible (without showdowns). Turn off autopilot, maybe play fewer tables, and start finding good spots to manipulate your opponents to do your bidding.

Similar plan ahead concepts apply to our value hands. How much do I need to bet on each street to get stacks in by river, what is villain’s range, if its mainly draws maybe its best to check to them on the river and let them bluff if all draws miss (don’t overuse this though since most passive villains will just check behind and you lose value from marginal holdings). Point is that we should think about our actions based on stacks, opponent tendencies etc not only for the current street, but for the streets ahead as well.

I had a couple of other topics to discuss, but this has probably gotten long enough so I’ll save those for my 2,008th post.

Cliffs:
1. People set mine too much.
2. Plan out future actions both preflop and postflop before you act.
3. ???
4. Profit
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Old 05-21-2010, 01:29 PM   #2
bloodsfinest
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Re: Strategy Post - Small Pocket Pairs & Planning Ahead (Warning: Very LONG Post)

"Turn off autopilot, maybe play fewer tables, and start finding good spots to manipulate your opponents to do your bidding."

+1,000,000
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Old 05-21-2010, 01:31 PM   #3
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Re: Strategy Post - Small Pocket Pairs & Planning Ahead (Warning: Very LONG Post)

Excellent post!
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Old 05-21-2010, 01:35 PM   #4
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Re: Strategy Post - Small Pocket Pairs & Planning Ahead (Warning: Very LONG Post)

[x]will read
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Old 05-21-2010, 01:39 PM   #5
Derbos
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Re: Strategy Post - Small Pocket Pairs & Planning Ahead (Warning: Very LONG Post)

shweet.
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Old 05-21-2010, 01:41 PM   #6
2trips
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Re: Strategy Post - Small Pocket Pairs & Planning Ahead (Warning: Very LONG Post)

Very nice very nice, solid advice in this post and well written.

It took me a while to learn how to play small pocket pairs myself, you nailed it imo
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Old 05-21-2010, 01:41 PM   #7
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Re: Strategy Post - Small Pocket Pairs & Planning Ahead (Warning: Very LONG Post)

will read more in depth but it seems to reflect a theme I keep trying to explain...

don't play your hand because "OMG I has a pair and I have to play it"...folding small and middle pairs is often optimal for a lot of reasons

mostly I like to look at stacks/positions and consider if I can play the hand out profitably

thanks GR
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Old 05-21-2010, 01:58 PM   #8
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Re: Strategy Post - Small Pocket Pairs & Planning Ahead (Warning: Very LONG Post)

n1. egg salad poast.

one small (nitty?) thing to add re: bet sizing and planning ahead:

depending on preflop and flop action (limpers ahead, multiple callers behind, min-raises, etc), we can't always get to the river with enough chips for a natural shove, in which case we need to decide whether it's better to plan to get it all-in on the turn, or to just try to check it down and not overcommit ourselves. board texture and read dependent, obv, but it really sucks when you get to the river with 1/4 psb and have to put it in knowing you are probably beat.
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Old 05-21-2010, 02:13 PM   #9
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Re: Strategy Post - Small Pocket Pairs & Planning Ahead (Warning: Very LONG Post)

Quote:
Originally Posted by intclock View Post
n1. egg salad poast.

one small (nitty?) thing to add re: bet sizing and planning ahead:

depending on preflop and flop action (limpers ahead, multiple callers behind, min-raises, etc), we can't always get to the river with enough chips for a natural shove, in which case we need to decide whether it's better to plan to get it all-in on the turn, or to just try to check it down and not overcommit ourselves. board texture and read dependent, obv, but it really sucks when you get to the river with 1/4 psb and have to put it in knowing you are probably beat.
Can't disagree, the more people in the pot the more iterations are possible, making it much more difficult to plan 1 or 2 streets out. In these cases, it becomes less about figuring out stacks by river and more about figuring out how your hand plays against opponents ranges and then determining optimal lines.
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Old 05-21-2010, 02:55 PM   #10
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Re: Strategy Post - Small Pocket Pairs & Planning Ahead (Warning: Very LONG Post)

with deeper stacks, say over 150bbs is it ok to play any pp from any position just for the set value, or is it still somewhat of a leak?

I've recently eliminated 22-66 from my UTG opening range after finally noticing that you just don't flop sets often enough for it to play profitably.
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Old 05-21-2010, 02:57 PM   #11
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Re: Strategy Post - Small Pocket Pairs & Planning Ahead (Warning: Very LONG Post)

Quote:
Originally Posted by masaraksh View Post
with deeper stacks, say over 150bbs is it ok to play any pp from any position just for the set value, or is it still somewhat of a leak?

I've recently eliminated 22-66 from my UTG opening range after finally noticing that you just don't flop sets often enough for it to play profitably.
depends on table...I often open them that deep but folding is fine too
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Old 05-21-2010, 03:17 PM   #12
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Re: Strategy Post - Small Pocket Pairs & Planning Ahead (Warning: Very LONG Post)

I feel that your post is much more oriented towards online play. Online poker is very different from live.

At the casino I play 1/2 live and I play ANY pp from any position since pots are almost always multiway and people call down at least two streets with top pair no kicker type hands. Online though people are much more inclined to fold marginal hands and 4/5 way pots are much more rare. 3-betting is rare or almost unheard of, and playing a solid TAG style you can slowly accumulate cash.
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Old 05-21-2010, 03:19 PM   #13
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Re: Strategy Post - Small Pocket Pairs & Planning Ahead (Warning: Very LONG Post)

Quote:
Originally Posted by masaraksh View Post
I feel that your post is much more oriented towards online MTT play. Online MTT poker is very different from live cash games.

At the casino I play 1/2 live and I play ANY pp from any position since pots are almost always multiway and people call down at least two streets with top pair no kicker type hands. Online though people are much more inclined to fold marginal hands and 4/5 way pots are much more rare. 3-betting is rare or almost unheard of, and playing a solid TAG style you can slowly accumulate cash.
fyp
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Old 05-21-2010, 03:22 PM   #14
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Re: Strategy Post - Small Pocket Pairs & Planning Ahead (Warning: Very LONG Post)

Quote:
Originally Posted by masaraksh View Post
I feel that your post is much more oriented towards online play. Online poker is very different from live.

At the casino I play 1/2 live and I play ANY pp from any position since pots are almost always multiway and people call down at least two streets with top pair no kicker type hands. Online though people are much more inclined to fold marginal hands and 4/5 way pots are much more rare. 3-betting is rare or almost unheard of, and playing a solid TAG style you can slowly accumulate cash.
That's why I posted in the MTT forum instead of Cash

I'm sure most if not all the concepts apply to both live and online MTT's.
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Old 05-21-2010, 05:37 PM   #15
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Re: Strategy Post - Small Pocket Pairs & Planning Ahead (Warning: Very LONG Post)

Mother of God, what a post!

tyvm
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Old 05-21-2010, 06:16 PM   #16
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Re: Strategy Post - Small Pocket Pairs & Planning Ahead (Warning: Very LONG Post)

sorry but ive always wondered how to work our direct+implied odds together to calculate if we have the right odds to setmine? setmining noob itt obv
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Old 05-21-2010, 06:41 PM   #17
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Re: Strategy Post - Small Pocket Pairs & Planning Ahead (Warning: Very LONG Post)

Quote:
Originally Posted by sunnydunerz View Post
sorry but ive always wondered how to work our direct+implied odds together to calculate if we have the right odds to setmine? setmining noob itt obv
Its probably best explained as an example, someone can come in and correct me if I'm wrong or has a better way to look at it, but I believe this is fairly simple and accurate approach.

Say blinds are 50/100 no ante.

Villain and hero have 3000 chips.

Hero is in BB, Villain in CO raises to 300.

Pot is 450 and it costs us 200 to call. Our implied odds are the 2700 chips villain has behind. So [(Direct+Implied)/cost to call] equates to the total price we are getting. In this case (450+2700)/200 means we are getting 15.75x direct + implied odds to call in this spot.
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Old 05-21-2010, 07:01 PM   #18
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Re: Strategy Post - Small Pocket Pairs & Planning Ahead (Warning: Very LONG Post)

so you suggested 15x as implied odds so would we just look at it as 2700/200 or add in the chips already in pot(450) in the calc. cuse if we add in the 450 its over 15x which is above your threshold but obv not over 15x if we dont add in direct odds
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Old 05-21-2010, 07:07 PM   #19
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Re: Strategy Post - Small Pocket Pairs & Planning Ahead (Warning: Very LONG Post)

Quote:
Originally Posted by sunnydunerz View Post
so you suggested 15x as implied odds so would we just look at it as 2700/200 or add in the chips already in pot(450) in the calc. cuse if we add in the 450 its over 15x which is above your threshold but obv not over 15x if we dont add in direct odds
Ya, everyone always talks in terms of implied odds, but I think if you have 15x direct plus implied you are ok.

But as I tried to imply in my original post, its really situational and you can't just use the 15x number all the time, sometimes you need more if you are likely to get squeezed out or if your opponents range is weak, and sometimes you can get away with less if there's a good chance people flat behind, opponents range is strong etc. Position is also a big factor in this as well. Sometimes I'll pass up spots as high as 20x to setmine if I don't believe I can play the hand profitability due to the opponent, position etc.
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Old 05-21-2010, 07:10 PM   #20
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Re: Strategy Post - Small Pocket Pairs & Planning Ahead (Warning: Very LONG Post)

thx mate and thx for the op has helped alot
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Old 05-21-2010, 08:21 PM   #21
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Re: Strategy Post - Small Pocket Pairs & Planning Ahead (Warning: Very LONG Post)

Thx 4 this post green. I always enjoy reading your posts and this just adds to it. I am going to really work on planning ahead!
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Old 05-22-2010, 04:04 PM   #22
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Re: Strategy Post - Small Pocket Pairs & Planning Ahead (Warning: Very LONG Post)

As a newbie player myself, I found this post very insightful both as a reminder to think ahead and a general guide to playing PP's.

Thank you for the post!
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Old 05-22-2010, 05:21 PM   #23
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Re: Strategy Post - Small Pocket Pairs & Planning Ahead (Warning: Very LONG Post)

Thanks GR....excellent post....man I have alot to learn...
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Old 05-22-2010, 05:52 PM   #24
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Re: Strategy Post - Small Pocket Pairs & Planning Ahead (Warning: Very LONG Post)

stuff like this is why I love 2+2, tyvm
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Old 05-28-2010, 09:15 AM   #25
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Re: Strategy Post - Small Pocket Pairs & Planning Ahead (Warning: Very LONG Post)

Thanks for taking the time to write this article, really is The nutz
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