Sunday, August 30, 2009

Analyzing NLHE:TAP Concept 7

It's my weekend again, so it's time to get back to analyzing Sklansky and Miller's No Limit Hold 'em: Theory and Practice concepts. I'll try to do one or two during the week, as well.

Concept No. 7: Don't telegraph that you have one pair unless you can profitably call big bets.

Sklansky and Miller say, "One pair can be a very tricky hand to play in deep stack no limit." I agree with this statement, but I do not agree with Concept 7 as stated. It suggests that except under certain circumstances, you need to play your pairs abnormally in order to throw off your opponents. This is terrible advice. You want your "normal" game to maximize EV. Thus, any advice to deviate from this is, by definition, going to lose some expected value. Losing EV=bad.

Certainly, we do not generally want our opponents to know what we are holding. So, the advice that we not telegraph that we have one pair seems sound. The problem with this advice is the implication that by playing a hand in our normal way, we "telegraph" our hand to our opponent. If this were the case, our entire poker strategy would need a complete overhaul. If we are playing a well-rounded game, we will never be telegraphing our hands (or if we do, it's not in a way that our opponents can exploit). Even if our strategy is not so well-rounded, it takes an extremely perceptive opponent to discern our hand precisely.

Let's consider for a moment S+M's suggestion that it's okay to let your opponents know what you have under certain circumstances. Specifically, they say, "If you welcome a big bet with one pair because you expect that bet to be a bluff, then it's ok to telegraph your hand by playing in a way that makes it obvious what you hold."

I don't really know what to make of this. If it's okay to "telegraph" my hand, should I just reveal my hand to my opponent in such a case? Surely not, although by the logic included in this concept it would seem that S+M would expect that this would accomplish the desired goal of inducing a bluff. This is plausible, but it still doesn't seem like the best way to play the hand.

Obviously, S+M are not advising that we telegraph our hands by simply revealing them to our opponent. What they mean by "telegraphing" is playing the hand in a normal, straightforward manner. However, as I said before, your normal strategy should not be telegraphing your hand, anyway.

I think Sklansky and Miller's advice is designed to protect the reader from developing a strategy that is too predictable. It's true that a NL player needs to disguise his paired hands, but it should not be done by playing them abnormally. Instead, just make sure that you play some drawing hands in the same way, as well as some stronger hands. I think conventional Sklansky-wisdom is overly concerned with playing hands in a way that avoids difficult decisions. It's good to avoid difficult decisions, but not if it means playing abnormally and thus losing EV.

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