17/04/2008

Heads Up Limit Hold'em Part 4

Carl Sampson 'The Dean'

This week I want to take a look at a hand that I played in my recent encounter with the Polaris program on Poker Academy. While there was no money at stake here, the hand in question does present material that is instructive. This hand highlights the point that it can be correct in heads up play to change plan in the middle of the hand depending on new information or cards that appear.

The game is $10-$20 and Polaris is in the small blind and I have the 8 7. Polaris raises from the button to $20 and I call. Just like to point out here that Polaris is an aggressive limit hold’em bot that can play strong poker heads up.

My call puts $40 into the pot and the flop comes 6 10 10 giving me nothing but an inside straight draw. But all is not what it appears in this hand and especially when you are playing a very aggressive opponent heads up. The fact remains that an aggressive player who is open raising from the button will be doing so with a wide range of hands and pots can sometimes develop into a game of chicken when played beyond a certain level and some of the hands that get shown down can look pretty hairy to many people.

But just looking at that board more closely indicates that all is not lost with this flop. My opponent could easily have missed this flop so I have six outs to improve over my opponents higher cards or a flopped pair of sixes plus the four extra outs to the gutshot. This combined with the fact that they may not have hit gives me enough of a hand to continue and not to be pushed off the pot as early as this.

I don’t want to make a weak lead because its programming seemed to shown disrespect for that line of play based on previous hands played. I checked the flop and it made a continuation bet of $10 which I fully expected. Now what am I to do? I knew that the situation would come to this because the continuation bet was almost automatic.

But the answer is either to call the bet on the flop and look to make a move on the turn. At this moment in time my opponent has position and the initiative but if you think that these are enough reasons to fold then you better not play a tough players heads up at limit hold’em. You must win your fair share of pots from the big blind without the goods otherwise you will simply be run over. Against other opponents then I may go for a check raise on this flop but the program had also shown a lack of respect for that play as well and I did not want to end up in a three bet situation with a highly marginal hand.

So I call the $10 bet and decide to test it with another line of play that would either mean me betting out the turn but more likely check raising it. But the turn card improved my hand with the 7 falling and now I need to decide how to proceed. Do I bet out, check raise or let Polaris continue to bet a probable weaker hand.

Because it has such a wide button raising range then it literally could have anything so I am a favourite to have the best hand. So I chose the latter option and checked knowing full well that it would fire another barrel which it duly did. But the seven falling on the turn totally changed my plan of attack which just highlights that you need to be flexible not just at the start of the hand but also in mid hand as well.

I check called the turn and the A fell on the river. A lot of players tighten up in situations like these and miss bets and learning how to extract full value from the best hand is crucial if you are going to defeat a good player heads up. I was convinced that my hand was best on the turn and the ace arriving on the river is unlikely to have helped my opponent and I don’t want to be leaving $20 on the table if I can help it (even though its not real money).

So the option is clearly between check calling again and betting out. I thought that there was more value in betting out, this is something that is difficult to quantify in the space of a short article and will be something that will discussed in later articles. I bet $20 on the river and got called and took the pot. These are the types of bets that leave a warm glow. This may not have been a real game but the bot was taking it seriously and so was I but the concept is what’s important here and I hope that once again that this has been instructive. But I was happy here that my line of play probably extracted the maximum value in this hand. As usual, I welcome any comments through the forum.

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