Sunday, 15 August 2010

A couple common misconceptions

A couple of illogical misconceptions have been frequently popping up lately that I'd like to address.

Raising for information, finding out where you stand, defining hands.

These are all essentially the same thing and none of them are a reason for throwing money into the pot.

Poker is a battle for information. Correction: Poker is a battle of incomplete information. It is not about who is going to gather the most information to use against their opponents (while paying the price for doing so). It is about who can make the most correct wagers based on the information already available.

That only leaves 2 options. Getting worse hands to call: Value. Getting better hands (or significant equity shares) to fold: Bluff. Information, initatiative, and any other reason that people cite for betting or raising is merely a by-product of one of those 2 options.

A prime example of people betting to see where they are at is that 38/4 that donkbets 100% of flops against you to see if you have AK or not. I always let them know where they're at by raising my AA every time they donk.

Leave this one to your home game buddies and try to control your giggles while they spew their flawed strategy along with their money.

You can't fold on blank rivers if you called the turn.

I don't know for sure where this idea came from and It's been a while since I read bits and pieces of Super System but it seems to be in that sort of thought process framework - putting your opponent on a specific hand, trusting your instinct, etc.

Maybe it's been carried over to No Limit from Limit. I'm certainly no poo-flinging expert, but it would seem more applicable to that game and maybe it still applies there since turn and river mistakes are not the huge disasters that they are in NL and you're generally getting ridiculous pot odds to call a lot of rivers. So it ends up working in a right action, wrong reason kind of way.

Relatively recently in poker history, we have switched from putting people on hands to putting people on ranges. Those ranges narrow each street as villain acts and reacts. Villain has as many subset ranges in a hand as he has decisions to make. He raises range A preflop. He cbets range B on the flop. He checks range C on the flop. He raises range J on the river...

In some cases our hand is going to be +EV against his turn betting range. His range for betting the river is then going to narrow and we might be -EV against that range. In that case, calling the turn and folding the river is the correct play.

For example, we might have AA and be playing against someone that we know will double barrel the turn with top pair on a K763 board but we know that he will only triple barrel sets or better. So we know that we should call the turn and fold the river while thinking about bet/folding the river if checked to us.

This one should be relegated to the table captain of your local card room while he encourages everyone else at the table to become a station for large bets.


  1. I love the "raise for information" crowd...Often in my home games I will ask a rather weak opponent if he is bluffing or betting into me for value. More often than not they will look at me as if I am speaking another

    I am a bit more of a believer in the second theory of not folding rivers though I think your description speaks more to having accurate reads on certain players. Against randoms (especially in a live setting) I have a hard time folding blank rivers absent the read.

  2. Thanks for the comment Brian!

    Yeah I agree that the description for the 2nd one is more about accurate reads. But on the other hand people take the 2nd one too much at face value instead of actually comprehending what it means:

    People hear, "If you call the turn you have to call the river." And since they called the turn, they go by the mantra and call the river.

    In actuality what we should be hearing from this statement is: You're going to be in a river situation where you have to call based on ranges or w/e once you call the turn. So before we call the turn, we should be absolutely certain that calling turn and river is correct.

    ie. if calling river is not correct, calling turn is spew. Just fold the turn.

    Taking this statement at face value just compounds turn spew instead of correctly aborting river when you realize that calling the turn was a mistake.

  3. "A prime example of people betting to see where they are at is that 38/4 that donkbets 100% of flops against you to see if you have AK or not. I always let them know where they're at by raising my AA every time they donk."

    Based on the concept "getting a worse hand to call", wouldn't it be better to smooth call this person with AA, and raise them with 72o?
    i.e. if he is donking for information, then you are giving him the information he wanted by raising AA. Therefore, you've just justified donk betting for information?

    Unless you're saying he always calls a flop raise thinking its AK.

    I'm kinda confused about your example.

  4. Hey Small, my example might be a little more clear if I had said I always let them know where they're at by raising my "AA" every time they donk.

    ie. I just play my air as if I have "AA." I was being sarcastic :)