Monday, November 02, 2009

Analyzing NLHE:TAP Concepts 26-27

From No Limit Hold 'em: Theory and Practice by David Sklansky and Ed Miller.

Concept No. 26: When there's an ante, your opening raises should be larger than if there were no ante. But they shouldn't be larger in the same proportion that the size of the initial pot increases; they should be somewhat smaller than that.

I don't know of any NL Holdem cash games that actually use an ante, but in theory I think Sklansky and Miller are right that this would be the correct way to adjust. With more money in the pot, it becomes more profitable to "steal"pots, and it becomes correct for you and your opponents to play looser because you have better pot odds. This involves not only raising more, but also widening your raising and calling ranges.

Concept No. 27: When semi-bluffing before the flop, usually do it those times you have one of the best hands that you'd otherwise fold. However, when you are in the blinds in an unraised pot, you should usually do it when you have one of your worst hands.

This one is complicated. I used to like this strategy, but now I think it's probably wrong. I now think the best hands to "semi-bluff" with are the hands that play the best against your opponent's likely calling hands. These include primarily suited aces, but also pocket pairs and suited connectors. Note that I don't think it is relevant whether you would "otherwise fold" with these hands, as Sklansky and Miller suggest. Many of these "semi-bluffing" hands are hands that you would likely have otherwise called with.

Sklansky and Miller's advice seems to be based on game-theoretically optimal river strategy, when there are no cards left to come. On the river, your bluff bets should indeed be with your worst possible hands, and your bluff raises should be with the best of the hands you would otherwise fold. This mirrors S+M's advice that you should bluff when "you have one of your worst hands" from the blinds, and that if you are not in the blinds you should bluff when "you have one of the best hands that you would otherwise fold."

The problem is that this optimal river bluffing strategy does not apply preflop. Preflop, the logic is much different because there are such things as drawing hands and semibluffs. Preflop, you do not need to bluff with terrible hands in order to induce your opponents to play hands weaker than your range; they will already be calling with some hands that they know are behind your range because they are "drawing hands." Instead, you should be bluffing with moderately strong hands as "semibluffs." The best hands to semibluff with preflop have two qualities. 1. They contain an ace, thereby reducing the chances you are up against AA. 2. They have a decent chance of making a big hand like a flush or a set. If your opponent is very tight, or if there have already been a couple of raises, point 1 is reasonably important. Otherwise, point 2 is much more important, because your opponent is unlikely to have AA anyway. In any case, this is why I suggested that the best hands to semibluff with preflop are suited aces, suited connectors, and pocket pairs.

Besides these types of hands, if you want to add some "bluffs" to your range, I think the best approach is to add some more hands that you would otherwise have called with. For example, try reraising with AJ or 77 on the button if you feel the need to bluff. Although these hands do have a lot of equity in just calling, they will also fare okay when your bluff is called. In the end, it's just my opinion, but I think this is a better approach than taking S+M's advice and raising with hands you would otherwise with fold, such as K7s. Although you are not losing any "calling equity" with K7s (since you would be folding otherwise), against normal opponents, these hands are just too unlikely to win if you are called preflop.

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