26/01/2009

Finding the Proper You

Carl Sampson 'The Dean'

I think that it was in last weeks article or it may have been the week before in which I mentioned about an interview of Phil Galfond’s that I had recently read. In that interview Phil stated how certain players are suited more to full-ring than six max and vice versa.

This wasn’t apparent to me a few years ago but it is really strange how I prefer six max limit hold’em to full-ring but yet at no-limit it is exactly the other way around. I guess that it is a combination of my past experiences and skills being successful in some fields but becoming a serious handicap in others.

I would gladly play a $25-$50 full-ring game at no-limit and fancy my chances but yet stick me in a $2-$4 six max game and I would feel like a fish out of the proverbial water. Maybe old habits die hard but I am not a full-ring rock, far from it. There is nothing that I like best than playing six max limit hold’em because full-ring play in that form of poker seems to bore me to a stage where I am overplaying.

But I was looking back through my hard drive this week and I found a hand that someone sent me who I used to coach (I don’t coach anymore due to time restrictions so please don’t ask) which gave me the idea for this weeks article. This tied in with what Phil said because here was a player who had dropped into a NL400 full-ring game after only ever playing six-max.

It involved him playing Q-Q and getting too deeply committed in the hand heads up. It was folded to him in the hijack and he makes the standard raise to $14. Both the players to his left fold their hands but both blinds call making a $42 pot. He had a $440 stack and both blinds had stacks of between $400 and $500.

What you have to remember in full-ring is that you are going up against players with different mentalities, different methodologies, different outlooks, different VPIP’s, different aggression factors……different everything in fact. Already in this hand he had made a pot sized raise so this already reduces the amount of flexibility that you have left in the hand if you want to avoid getting pot committed.

Both blinds calling is a problem on two fronts, its another player to get through to win the pot and also it has now escalated the pot even more with the addition of extra money. The flop came 9d-6h-2c and both blinds checked to him and he bet the pot which was $42. I know that queens are vulnerable but he didn’t have to bet so much here and a two thirds pot sized bet would have sufficed. The small blind mucked but the big blind called making a $126 pot.

Turn card was the 2h and the big blind checked again and our hero makes another substantial bet on the turn of $100 which also gets called, pot is now $326 and our hero has invested $156. River card is the 10s and the big blind comes out betting $163 and getting 3/1 our hero calls the $163 and gets shown pocket sixes for a flopped set.
End result…… a loss of $319 and 80BB with pocket queens. I am not even sure if this play would have been correct in a six max game and it would need six max specialists to answer this one but it cannot be right in a full-ring game to invest substantial amounts of money on every single street with pocket queens without improvement (unless you absolutely know your player one hundred percent).

The big blind decided to slow-play their hand which I think was a mistake but in this instance our hero did his work for him. I would have bet something less on the flop which would have given me more flexibility to bet a lesser amount on the turn or even missed out the turn betting round completely by checking it back effectively making it a three street hand.

When pots start to escalate in full-ring NLHE games then overpairs, top pairs and two pairs are not strong enough most of the time. You need to exercise pot control otherwise you will encounter too many instances where you are second best in escalated pots. But I think that experiencing greater VPIP’s, and aggression in six max games led to our hero overplaying his hand in this situation as he had not fully adjusted for the typical full-ring player.

You can see the thinking here and our hero was trying to protect the apparent vulnerability of his hand. But there is a balance that needs to be found between protecting your hand and getting pot committed. This is your biggest enemy in full-ring deep stacked play and you need to guard against it at all times.

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