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Old 01-06-2010, 01:14 AM   #1
jackwilcox
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Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: phuket, thailand
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understanding relative hand strength (fairly long)

relative hand strength is one of the most important fundamental concepts to grasp when learning poker. depending on the board texture and your opponents actions, a hand that has strong absolute value (e.g. a set) can be little more than a bluff catcher. the reason being, that when your opponent is betting into you, he either is bluffing (inc. semi-bluffing) or value betting. even if hes a fish. put simply, he cant be doing anything else. and if he cant be value betting a worse hand than yours at that point in time, then you have a bluff catcher. simple, right?

well, there are a lot situations that people get themselves into where they dont quite understand the relative strength of their hand and they end up getting 'coolered' when it wasnt really a cooler at all. although this can happen to players at all levels, it generally happens most to beginners and novice players who have a tough time getting away from hands with strong absolute value, but in all actuality, that hand actually has very little value and is merely a bluff catcher.

to give an example, here is a hand that was played a few days ago by a friend of mine who posts on 2p2 and plays 25nl. i wont out him - im not trying to embarrass him or anything, its just a really good example of not applying relative hand strength.



so the game is 25nl, we are dealt 89 on the button. everyone has at least $25 at the table. the cutoff, an unknown but maybe a reg opens to 75c and we call, the small blind calls, as does the big blind. the big blind is described as a straight forward, loose passive fish.

pot = $3. flop: Q62

small blind checks, big blind leads for $2, the cutoff folds, we call, the small blind folds.

pot = $7. turn: 2

big blind checks, we bet $5, big blind check-raises to $10, we shove.


i wont go into preflop and flop play because i think both streets are pretty standard. turn bet is also standard. however the check-raise is where things get interesting...

lets assign a range for when a "straight forward, loose passive fish" min check-raises you on this turn.... since we dont really know anything about his flop tendancies - a weakish lead can mean a variety of things without reads - we can pretty much start to analyse the hand on the turn.

based on what i said earlier, a bet or raise is always either a bluff or for value.

so in regard to bluffing, can he be bluffing here? short answer, no. a straight forward loose passive fish is not bluffing here ever. therefore, for us to be able to get stacks in here, he has to be value betting a worse hand.




what can he be value betting?

he can have a flush or a boat for sure. apart from a few worse flushes, they all beat us though. so lets think about whether he can be value betting worse...

can he have a hand like KQ?

while they arent good hand readers by any means, straight forward loose passive fish are going to be fairly scared of the heart coming on the turn, and the 2 coming. whilst they suck at assigning ranges (ldo they dont know what a range is), they do know that 3 hearts makes a flush, and a 3rd 2 makes trips. so he isnt going to check-raise here, he is going to be scared.

how about a random 2?

well, again, he will be pretty scared of that heart coming. fish love to chase flushes, so when he doesnt have a flush and the 3rd card comes in, his logic will be to put someone else on chasing. if he has a 2, he will most likely check-call. or lead small-ish to 'see where hes at'.

so we are facing a range primarily of boats, flushes, and the one combo of 22 for quads.




how many of those hands beat us, and how many do we beat?

all boats beat us obv, but if we think of the boats he can have theres not too many. 62o and Q2o are probably folding preflop even tho hes a fish. which leaves 2 combo's of Q2s (as 2 of the 2's are accounted for), the same with 62s. 1 combo of 22 left, 3 combo's of 66. even fish probably 3bets QQ here so will discount that. therefore, theres 8 boats in his range.

flushes? hes a fish and fish love suited cards, so im going to assume he will play any two suited cards in this spot preflop. how many flush combo's is that? well if u go on pokerstove, u can view all this yourself, but basically theres 27 ways to have a flush left in the deck (he cant have any flush that contains a Q, 6, 2, 8 or 9). we beat 6 of those flushes and 21 of them beat us.

if we break down his range, theres 35 hands that check-raise this turn. we .
beat 6 of them and lose to 29. pokerstove gives us 17% equity vs his range.

if we fold after his turn check-raise we have $17.25 left in our stack.
if we ship it in, the final pot will be $51.50. to make shoving better than folding, we will need enough equity to have an expectation of shoving greater than $17.25. this occurs when our equity is greater than 17.25/51.50 = ~33%.

pokerstove shows our equity vs his check-raising range on the turn as 17% so getting it in here is very spewy. getting stacked here is not a cooler at all. its a super clear turn fold (even if u include all combo's of A2 and K2, its still a fold because our equity only increases to 30% - remember if we are beat, we are always drawing dead).

how do i know he can have all flushes etc? i dont. but if u include some flushes, and some boats... then u cant decipher which ones should be included/ discluded, so u kind of have to include all of them if you are thinking from the most logical standpoint. if anything, i have left out hands like Q2o etc which may well be within his range so in that case, our equity is even worse



calculations like this u need to do away from the table and implement them when you're there. the basic result coming from this hand is that theres a lot of flushes available when one of the hole cards is high, as opposed to two low cards, and as a result, holding medium flushes like this actually put you quite a long way behind his range.

next time u get 'coolered', try and think through the hand like this and assess whether it really was a cooler. eliminating spew like this from your game will go a long way to increasing your winrate and minimising your downswings.
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