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Don't lead your read!!

Don't lead your read!!

I have written before how many players have the unfortunate habit of using expected value (EV) and subjectively influenced loose opinions as to "long term profitable plays" in order to make decisions when an actual analysis of the information at the time to determine the best decision at the point the decision is made would be both preferable and more profitable.

After all if you were always able to accurately read your opponents strength in every hand you would rarely consider EV or what a long term wining move might be as you would always know the most profitable action at the time you were required to act.

The suggestion that you could always make the correct decision may seem absurd and apart from in Phil Hellmuths’ mind, it is absurd. In fact, it is as equally absurd as the effective assumption by many players that they cannot ever accurately determine their opponents hand which is why they almost entirely rely on a subjectively roughly calculated long-term (which will never in reality happen) analysis often simply to justify the action they wanted to take anyway.

The ability to make good reads is not always as profitable as one might assume either as subjective corruption of what might otherwise be a "good read" often happens.

I was recently playing in a £5/£10 NL live cash game at the Broadway Casino in Birmingham and I was sitting next to the legendary and now balding (more than me) blonde bloke called Dave Colclough. Dave has raised pre-flop on the button with A8 off suit and been called in two spots. The flop is AcJh4c it is checked to Dave who bets £150 the first player calls and the second player re-raises a further £525. Dave thinks about it for a while and eventually decides to fold and as he does I see his hand and he whispers to me that he is sure his hand is winning as both opponents have flush draws.

The other two players end up all-in one with JcKc and the other with a Queen high flush draw. Two none eventful cards come on the turn and river and the JcKc wins with a pair of jacks. Dave’s read had been spot on and his A8 was winning and indeed would have won the pot, so why did he fold.

Well it would have been a very good call in the circumstances though his hand was still vulnerable against two opponents with flush draws, particularly if also a pair and maybe an inside straight draw between them but, he was getting a very good price if he was right.

One of the players in the game, "Claudio", analysed Dave’s thought process and play and quite reasonably observed that perhaps Dave’s fold was the result of a "lack of testicular fortitude" which seemed an impressively insightful analysis.

Claudio was himself involved in an interesting hand where having entered a pot with 56 double suited he bet £100 on a flop of 2c3c5h, one player re-raised to £250 a very loose aggressive player called and Claudio called all-in for the remainder of his stack.

The turn card was an off-suit Q, the pre-flop re-raiser checks, the loose aggressive player bets £300 and the initial re-raiser now min-raises to £600 which, after significant thought, is called, creating a £1200 side pot.

The river card is 8c completing the flush and the initial flop re-raiser checks unhappily and the loose aggressive player now starts thinking I whisper to Claudio you may win the main pot now and he questions how I think that could happen given the betting action. I suggest that the flop re-raiser has either a flopped set or a straight and the loose aggressive player could easily have 45 and he might represent the flush as his only way of winning the £1200 side pot. If he had a flush draw he would have called the turn min-raise more quickly and is not the type to check behind and give up if he thinks his hand is not winning and he has any chance of representing a hand that may make his opponent fold. The loose aggressive player then bets £1200 the other player folds A4 (a straight) face up and is shown 45 by the aggressor and Claudio wins the main pot with his pair of fives, six kicker.

With this hand in mind followed by a hand where the same LAG called a pre-flop raise from the small blind in a multi-way pot then, on a flop of JQK, bets £300 into 4 players, wins the pot and shows 73 off suit, the following hand takes place.

A fairly tight easy to read player raises to £35 the LAG calls on the button I re-raise to £160 from the small blind (holding AA, as I usually have when I re-raise) which is called by the initial raiser. The LAG now starts thinking and while he is doing so I am inwardly showing ridiculous tightness in actually hoping he folds. I am thinking I can easily win the maximum or lose the minimum against the initial raiser whereas being out of position against a LAG when I am never really going to be sure where I am in the hand is not such a pleasant proposition.

My aim in the game is to end the night with more money than I start with and that is a much less easier task when you have no idea where you are in a hand with cards that you are reluctant to release against a player with a hand range that, excluding the two aces in my hand, extends to 2450 possibilities.

While the LAG is apparently pondering whether to call or fold I make the assumption that he cannot have any pair as he would not take any time to think about making a call in position with a pair in his hand, eventually he calls.

The flop is 2c4h5h I check hoping the initial raiser has a medium over pair that he will now bet (probably assuming I may well have AK) or that the LAG would take a stab at the pot in position if it is checked to him and he had any part of the flop or indeed no part of it, but both players check behind me and so at this point I am pretty certain the tighter player has absolutely no hand and the LAG also probably has no part of the flop. It may seem unusual that he would check in position with no hand given his propensity to bet as often as he had been but the fact that he would be well capable of betting with no hand that does not necessarily mean he would always bet and it is entirely possible that given the pre-flop action he was waiting for additional signs of weakness before taking a stab with no hand. (he is a loose aggressive player but a long way from mindlessly stupid-most of the time)

The turn card is a nice looking off suit J which I am hoping has hit one of my opponents but leaving them with 5 outs and I lead out a deliberately weak looking £125 hopefully ensuring that either player holding a jack will at least call and hopefully providing any further evidence of weakness that was required to induce a LAG bluff. The tighter easy to read player folds and, after a little thought, the LAG re-raises to £500. Now I have deliberately played the hand to achieve this re-action and so everything appears to be going to plan. The river is a 2s which is a very good card for my hand in that it effectively counterfeits any other two pairs. I check hoping that if he has no hand (which I think is most likely) he will feel obliged to bluff and if he has a jack he may even make a value bet.

It is obviously possible that the LAG has some kind of hand but it is difficult to see him having a hand better than my aces up.

After I checked I expected him to either check behind to give up, on the basis that I may well have a hand that I was not intending to fold, or thinking his hand would win on showdown on the basis that it was unlikely that whatever hand he had would be called by a worse hand if he bet. Though I figured that the most likely scenario was that I was winning and that he probably had no hand and the best chance of extracting more cash from him was to give him the opportunity to bluff.

The only hands I could envisage I was losing to was a flopped straight, but I would expect a bet from him fearing the heart flush draw, unless he had A4 hearts. I dismissed any set as I had formed the opinion that the length of time he took to call pre-flop was longer than would have been the case had he held a pair.

He set me all-in for a bet of around £900 which surprised me as I either had a draw that missed or a made hand. If it was a draw then a much smaller bet would suffice and it was not easy to make a made hand fold with no apparent scare card to enable him to represent some draw that could have hit.

I thought deeply about it and given his previous play and propensity to bluff and given that I had deliberately played the hand in order to induce him to bluff I made the call.

He turned over a pair of fives for a flopped set and rivered full house.

I had allowed by initial opinion, that he did not have a pair in his hand, to heavily influence all subsequent reasoning in my analysis of his likely holdings and also the fact that I was hoping to lay a trap made it easier to go along with a belief that my opponent had no hand.

Whilst it is fair to say that in all likelihood when I have a hand like mine with that board I am always going to lose a significant chunk to most players let alone a loose aggressive player, it is important that in analysing the play you do not allow your thought process to be too influenced a pre-conceived plan you may have cooked up or something as flimsy as how long it took someone to make a pre-flop call. All thought processes should be ongoing fluid and constantly re-assessed in the light of all ongoing information.

It is all to easy to allow your thoughts to be corrupted by subjective desire and it is not a long term financially rewarding activity to create the thought process or reasoning to fit the action you want to take, more commonly known as putting the cart in front of the donkey, or something similar.

Thu, 3rd February 2011

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