dilanesp

07-21-2015, 07:08 PM

I know Prox sometimes plays 3-6 limit. Some other people here might play low stakes limit too, either live or online. So I'm starting a thread with strategic concepts that I think are relevant to the game.

I'm NOT going to post about stuff that only higher stakes players need to worry about. So I'm not going to talk about blind versus blind play and steals, balancing your ranges, having an optimal bluffing range, or anything of that sort. This is all stuff that's going to be applicable to typical low stakes games where you get 5 or 6 people seeing every flop.

My first set of posts will be on draws.

DRAWS IN LOW STAKES GAMES

I don’t think there’s a single aspect of poker that is as misunderstood by poor players as the playing of draws. You can hear this even in the things they say at the poker table. Fish spout all sorts of weird, incorrect wisdom about draws. They blame dealers when other players hit draws, or when their own draws miss. They yell at players for chasing draws against them. They treat their draws as if they are made hands, cursing their bad luck when they brick out, as if every time you have a 2 way straight draw and a backdoor flush draw, you are supposed to win the hand.

Even beyond what they say, there is the matter of what they do. Some people proudly show you their fold of two overcards and a gutshot straight draw to a single bet on the flop, trying to impress you with their discipline. Other players will call 4 bets on the turn to hit a 6 for a straight or one of the last two tens in the deck to fill up. And still others will 3 barrel bluff with their 53 of clubs on an AKT board with two clubs even though the action was capped pre-flop and nobody is folding the river when the hand bricks out.

Playing draws reasonably well is a huge part of the transition from being a poor player to being a good player. It isn’t as important as discipline, game / table / seat selection, and pre-flop play, but it is a very important topic. And it gets at one of the great bug-a-boos of losing poker players– math.

While math has been an element of everything– pre-flop ranges and post-flop strategies are based on mathematical observations, and even game / table /seat selection and bankroll management have mathematical elements– it is when playing draws that a player must fundamentally confront, and accept, the mathematical truth about poker. In the movies, and in popular culture, poker is a game of reading people, either on a superficial level (“I can tell you don’t have it from the look in your eyes”), or perhaps on a slightly deeper level (“you are tight and only raise big pocket pairs”). In fact, poker is really a big math problem. But many players don’t understand this at all. They think it is about putting their opponents on a hand, reading their soul, and then making the proper fold, call, value-bet, or bluff.

When a poker player confronts the issue of playing draws, the starkly mathematical nature of the game is exposed bare. There is simply no way to understand how to play draws correctly without math. We will discuss some complexities later, but basically, a player on a draw (1) has a certain percentage chance of making the best hand and winning the pot; (2) will win a certain amount of money if he makes his hand; and (3) will need to risk a certain amount of money if he decides to attempt to hit his draw. He is betting on a poker hand in the exact same way that someone bets on a sports event or a horse race– he is being offered odds (in the form of the expected payoff if his hand draws out and wins, divided by the amount that he must risk in his attempt to draw out) on an event that has a certain probability of occurring. If the odds are sufficiently high, he should make the bet; if they are not, he should fold, just as a horseplayer might bet a horse if his odds are 4 to 1 but pass the race if the same horse’s odds are 2 to 1, because she feels that the horse has a 25 percent chance of winning the race and thus she will not be getting a fair price at 2 to 1.

We will start out by discussing the simplest permutation of this, when you should play your “clean” draws (i.e., where all of the cards that you are trying to hit (your “outs”) actually will give you the winning hand) versus when you should fold them. This will allow us to cover the basic mathematics of draws. We will then move on to discuss the complexities of playing draws: (1) raising draws for value; and (2) correctly valuing your outs (sometimes you have additional outs to hands that will sometimes be best, and other times you have compromised outs, either because other players hold those cards or because hitting some cards will give you a second-best hand that will lose the pot).

I'm NOT going to post about stuff that only higher stakes players need to worry about. So I'm not going to talk about blind versus blind play and steals, balancing your ranges, having an optimal bluffing range, or anything of that sort. This is all stuff that's going to be applicable to typical low stakes games where you get 5 or 6 people seeing every flop.

My first set of posts will be on draws.

DRAWS IN LOW STAKES GAMES

I don’t think there’s a single aspect of poker that is as misunderstood by poor players as the playing of draws. You can hear this even in the things they say at the poker table. Fish spout all sorts of weird, incorrect wisdom about draws. They blame dealers when other players hit draws, or when their own draws miss. They yell at players for chasing draws against them. They treat their draws as if they are made hands, cursing their bad luck when they brick out, as if every time you have a 2 way straight draw and a backdoor flush draw, you are supposed to win the hand.

Even beyond what they say, there is the matter of what they do. Some people proudly show you their fold of two overcards and a gutshot straight draw to a single bet on the flop, trying to impress you with their discipline. Other players will call 4 bets on the turn to hit a 6 for a straight or one of the last two tens in the deck to fill up. And still others will 3 barrel bluff with their 53 of clubs on an AKT board with two clubs even though the action was capped pre-flop and nobody is folding the river when the hand bricks out.

Playing draws reasonably well is a huge part of the transition from being a poor player to being a good player. It isn’t as important as discipline, game / table / seat selection, and pre-flop play, but it is a very important topic. And it gets at one of the great bug-a-boos of losing poker players– math.

While math has been an element of everything– pre-flop ranges and post-flop strategies are based on mathematical observations, and even game / table /seat selection and bankroll management have mathematical elements– it is when playing draws that a player must fundamentally confront, and accept, the mathematical truth about poker. In the movies, and in popular culture, poker is a game of reading people, either on a superficial level (“I can tell you don’t have it from the look in your eyes”), or perhaps on a slightly deeper level (“you are tight and only raise big pocket pairs”). In fact, poker is really a big math problem. But many players don’t understand this at all. They think it is about putting their opponents on a hand, reading their soul, and then making the proper fold, call, value-bet, or bluff.

When a poker player confronts the issue of playing draws, the starkly mathematical nature of the game is exposed bare. There is simply no way to understand how to play draws correctly without math. We will discuss some complexities later, but basically, a player on a draw (1) has a certain percentage chance of making the best hand and winning the pot; (2) will win a certain amount of money if he makes his hand; and (3) will need to risk a certain amount of money if he decides to attempt to hit his draw. He is betting on a poker hand in the exact same way that someone bets on a sports event or a horse race– he is being offered odds (in the form of the expected payoff if his hand draws out and wins, divided by the amount that he must risk in his attempt to draw out) on an event that has a certain probability of occurring. If the odds are sufficiently high, he should make the bet; if they are not, he should fold, just as a horseplayer might bet a horse if his odds are 4 to 1 but pass the race if the same horse’s odds are 2 to 1, because she feels that the horse has a 25 percent chance of winning the race and thus she will not be getting a fair price at 2 to 1.

We will start out by discussing the simplest permutation of this, when you should play your “clean” draws (i.e., where all of the cards that you are trying to hit (your “outs”) actually will give you the winning hand) versus when you should fold them. This will allow us to cover the basic mathematics of draws. We will then move on to discuss the complexities of playing draws: (1) raising draws for value; and (2) correctly valuing your outs (sometimes you have additional outs to hands that will sometimes be best, and other times you have compromised outs, either because other players hold those cards or because hitting some cards will give you a second-best hand that will lose the pot).