Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Analyzing NLHE:TAP Concept 14

I'm offering analysis of each of the concepts at the end of No Limit Hold 'em: Theory and Practice by David Sklansky and Ed Miller.

Concept No. 14: Raise less often than you would in limit, because raising reopens the betting, and that's riskier to do in no limit.

I think this is good advice, but not entirely for the reason given. The advice actually holds even if you know your opponent will not re-raise you, such as when you are raising all-in. This is because in no limit your raise is almost certainly going to be larger (in proportion to the pot size) than in a limit game, which means your opponent will need a stronger hand in order to call you. If your opponent is only calling with stronger hands, then you can only profitably bet with even stronger hands. Thus, you need to be raising less often. (You may protest that since your opponent is folding more often, you should be bluffing more often. In fact, you do need to be bluffing more often, but only as a proportion of your raises. Since you are value-raising less often, your bluffing proportion automatically increases. In order to achieve a reasonable bluffing rate when making big bets, it's probably not actually necessary to bluff more often.)

The reason Sklansky and Miller give, namely that it's riskier to reopen the betting in no-limit than in limit, is also true. If you hold a hand that has some outs against possible raising hands in your opponent's range, it's sometimes best to just call in no-limit even if it would be better to raise in a limit game. This is partly because it's simply more expensive to be caught raising with a second best hand in a no-limit game, but another reason is that if you are raised, you can often call a small bet (such as in a limit game) with a drawing hand for +EV, but if you're forced to fold to a larger raise (such as in a no-limit game), this is necessarily 0 EV (actually -EV if you count the loss of the amount you just raised). Even if you can profitably call a large raise, it will not be as profitable as it would be if you only had to call a smaller amount.


Craig Berger said...

I question the utility of this advice, simply because fixed limit and no limit are completely different games, and you raise for different reasons in limit and no limit. In limit, whether or not you raise may depend on your position relative to another potential bettor. That is to say, if your hand plays multi-way and you wish to get more money into the pot, you will often not raise if there is a potential raiser to your immediate left, so that he can bet and you can raise after everyone is already committed. The opposite would be true if you need to thin the field, you raise so he can re-raise and make it three bets to everyone else. The reverse would be true with a potential bettor on your right who has yet to act. These considerations are not really a part of no limit where you can size your bet however you like for the desired effect, so it seems sort of like comparing apples and oranges to me.

Anonymous said...

Uh oh. I think this is the first time I've disagreed with your analysis on this blog. Maybe you are on crepe withdrawal? The statement "If your opponent is only calling with stronger hands, then you can only profitably bet with even stronger hands. Thus, you need to be raising less often" is pretty obviously untrue. You yourself almost seem to acknowledge this in the next sentences.
By the way, I like your previous post and wrote Tom Ferguson asking about the whole "making your decisions easy" thing. I will let you know if he responds.

Keith said...

Craig, you're right, I was only considering heads-up situations. Sklansky and Miller's example was a heads-up situation, too. However, the concept's does not specify heads-up situations, so I should have considered multi-way pots as well. As you point out, this complicates things quite a bit more.

Rick, now that I think about it, my thought-process was centered specifically around raising on the river, which doesn't address the concept as generally as was needed. Also, where you quoted me, I should have said "value-raise" instead of "bet". I actually still think my point is correct, namely "The advice actually holds even if you know your opponent will not re-raise you, such as when you are raising all-in." I'll have to rethink my arguments at some point. Maybe I'll find that I'm wrong.

Craig Berger said...

If we are talking about heads up on the river, then I think the concept is probably plain wrong, and here's why:

In limit, when someone bets out on the river, it is probably a value bet about 80-90% of the time. There is no point in a defensive bet on the river in limit and a bluff on the river, unless you have been betting into this one opponent the whole way and he missed completely, will simply not work. This means the only time you are raising on the river is when you believe you have an extremely strong hand, one good enough to beat a hand with good showdown value a majority of the time. You won't be bluffing for the same reason your opponent won't be bluffing. This means there are very few situations where you should raise on the river in limit play. On the other hand, there are tons of reasons to raise on the river in no limit play, including a bluff, a thin value bet by your opponent that leads you to believe that you have a stronger hand, or simply the fact that you have been trapping the whole time. Since there are so many more situations why it would be correct to raise in no limit when heads up on the river, I can't believe you should do it less often than you would in limit.

Keith said...

Craig, you may be right that there are more reasons to raise on the river in no-limit, but all those reasons should be used rather infrequently. In limit, I disagree that "there are very few situations where you should raise on the river in limit play." Value-raising is often profitable for the simple reason that your opponent will have a large calling range. I also think that against good players (and certain bad players), you should be bluff-raising sometimes in limit.

Craig Berger said...

I agree that value raising is profitable in limit, I'm just not sure how many opportunities you have to do it, since someone betting out on the river in limit will usually have a fairly strong hand (at least in low limit games), meaning for you to put in that raise you need a stronger than average hand. Bluff raising on the river may work occasionally but since you only have to catch a bluff about 10 percent of the time for calling it to be worthwhile, this seems like a weapon that should be used infrequently as well. On the other hand, in nl, you don't need a stronger than average hand to raise on the river, you just need to make a bet that stronger hands might fold to and/or weaker hands might call, and, of course, in nl, river bluffs have a much better chance of being successful.