Sunday, 9 November 2008

Thoughts on Blind Stealing

+6 buyins at 25NL before 6am this morning. I woke up at 4:30am and couldn't sleep so I fired up 18 tables. There weren't a whole lot of games running so I just took the 18 from the top of the list. This game is so easy when everyone is half asleep and nitty. I am also fairly sure I made a FPS play and got a reg to fold AA/KK on a scary board. Yay!

Poker Stars $0.10/$0.25 No Limit Hold'em - 8 players
The Official Hand History Converter

UTG+1: $25.00
MP1: $7.60
MP2: $4.90
CO: $5.40
BTN: $26.35
SB: $27.10 (14/5/2)
BB: $26.55
Hero (UTG): $29.15

Pre Flop: ($0.35) Hero is UTG with 9 9
Hero raises to $0.75, 5 folds, SB raises to $2, 1 fold, Hero calls $1.25
People are bad at 3bet sizing.

Flop: ($4.25) 7 T 6 (2 players)
SB bets $2.25, Hero calls $2.25
Float a 3bet pot with my gutshot - like I have a set. I have a read that this guy can think.

Turn: ($8.75) J (2 players)
SB bets $3, Hero raises to $6.75, SB calls $3.75
Take the standard donk "I has a set" line. Also the cheapest possible bluff if he shoves and leaves a good amount behind for a river bluff if he calls.

River: ($22.25) J (2 players)
SB checks, Hero bets $18.15 all in, SB folds
I probably get looked up for anything less than a shove, which is what I'd do if I had a full house. I think I look believable.

Final Pot: $22.25
Hero mucks 9 9
Hero wins $21.20
(Rake: $1.05)

I believe I have fully optimized my steal strategy as well in the past few days. Picking spots and bet sizing are as close to mathematically optimal as I can think of. Of course what is "optimal" is always changing with the game, so I'm sure I will continue to make adjustments, but what I am doing right now is going to be my baseline to go back to if I get off track or take the concept to far. So far this month I am running a 50% attempt to steal with a 61% success rate over 12k hands.

The one thing I didn't understand in NLTAP - well I understand it, I just think it's backwards - is that they recommend not stealing blinds all the time with hands that have value because the blinds are only a small fraction of a potentially large pot - they were comparing limit to no-limit here, where they said you should steal more often in limit because it's a bigger fraction of the final pot. They would rather open-limp a lot of hands in steal situations in no-limit. I think this is a bad idea for several reasons:

Why not to open-limp in a steal situation:
1. You can not put the blinds on any sort of range and have to play strictly on betting pattern reads. If you are doing any multitabling at all, these reads are not going to be even close to accurate because people tend to get a little crazy in the blinds for some reason and play way outside their comfort zone a lot. If you have AA on the button and limp in, wtf are you going to do when the turn gets check-shoved on you from the BB? Preflop steal situations are the only time I advocate to raise to "see where you're at" (this is a really bad idea most of the time because people don't know what information they are going to get or how to use it) - but in this case it allows you to remove somewhere between 75 to 90% of all hands from their range, which is pretty valueable for future action.

2. Blind stealing is wildly profitable in and of itself. So far this month I am running at 41 ptBB/100 when attempting to steal blinds. That is the equivalent of the winrate I'm achieving with hands located in the 5 to 10% range. And a lot of the time it's with any 2 cards, which adds value to hands that are actually -EV in terms of absolute equity.

3. Of course you can balance your range and limp AA and J6o on the button. But why limp them both to balance when you can raise them both and achieve the same balance? Balancing your big hands gets them paid off, and balancing your trash allows you steal pots with your trash. You can't win with trash if you limp unless you hit some weird 2 pair and that happens a lot less often than you get J6o on the button. I like the high frequency play.

4. Raising all sorts of trash from steal positions as well as your premium hands makes you look rather LAGgy to HUDbots. You are risking a very small amount, picking up blinds, and easily dumping hands when they decide that they are finally going to 3bet you after waiting 10 orbits for JJ+. But by then you are way ahead of the game.

Bet sizing in steal situations:
I find it is also a good idea to alter your standard open-raise size for blind stealing. You might want to experiement with a 3BB open instead of the standard 4BB. There's less risk, it has to work less often, and your opponent will usually take the same action regardless of your raise size.

People are really bad at 3bet sizing and you can actually get some decent implied odds when they 3bet extra small due to your smaller open sizing.

Another option that I've found extremely useful is to minraise steal against tight shortstackers. They are playing as many tables as possible most likely and do not have time to distinguish that the size of your raise is not standard. All they see is that they have fold/call/raise options instead of fold/check/raise options. Since their standard play is to shove or fold, this lets you off the hook a lot cheaper if they choose shove.

Blind stealing and your image:
Of course the frequency at which you choose to steal is going to be completely dependant on your style and how it fits your game and image. I've seen 11/8 types that steal 40% and resteal a lot too, that's all they do is steal and auto-fold everything else and some of them are even quite successful. Then there's the 40/10 types that have an ATS of 10%. They don't understand position, so they are not even really attempting to steal even though they look extremely loose in those situations when they are not.

Blind stealing can seriously mess with people's perception of your game. For example: if you folded from every position except for the button and cutoff, and were able to make a steal attempt every time from those 2 positions, you would be running at 22/22 and looking super LAGgy at a 9 handed table. Imagine what this does to your premium hands when you open from middle or late position.

This is also why you need to compare someone's ATS stat to their PFR stat when they are opening in late position, don't mistake a value raise for a steal if their ATS and PFR are low and relatively similar - they aren't positionally aware. In contrast, you'll know that someone is positionally aware and probably a decent player if their ATS is much higher than their PFR.

Most people will say there is no meta-game way down here in the micros. But eventually people will get to level 0.5 and realize that you've stolen their blinds a gazillion times in an hour and make a stand. Some won't at all. But the ones that start playing back at you are extremely exploitable. If it's a good reg, go ahead and leave the table or tighten up, but if it's a general drooler then it's only a matter of time until you get their stack. They are way out of their comfort zone and you can pick up some nice pots when they decide to stop believing your bets.