31/01/2008

Knowing Your Limit

Carl Sampson 'The Dean'

Over the past couple of weeks or so we have been taking a look at the differences between hand values in short handed limit games to full ring games. So far we have looked at small pocket pairs and ace rag hands including medium aces.

This week we will be taking a look at some other hand types and how they differ from full ring. Of course some hands should be played irrespective of how many players are on your table. I am of course referring to the premium hands and most Broadway hands….but even then…caution is the word in many situations depending on your opponent but that is for another day.

In this article I will be taking a look at the bigger pairs of 6-6 and higher all the way up to the very tricky and often overplayed J-J as well as a few Broadway hands. With the lower pairs like 6-6, 7-7 and 8-8 then you must take the initiative and re-raise an opening raiser of raise yourself if you are first in.

In fact calling is something that you should not be doing an awful lot of pre-flop in middle limit six handed games anyway. You are in raise/re-raise or fold territory the majority of the time. Many players like to raise from any position with ace rag type hands so a hand like 6-6, 7-7, 8-8 etc dominates ace rag hands. They also dominate other hands as well. Lets say that an opponent open raises with a suited Q-6 from the cut-off, a re-raise with 8-8 is going to put you in very good shape to take this pot down.

But you must be aggressive with these hands simply because you really need the rest of the players out of the hand and especially the blinds. The blinds folding creates valuable dead money in the pot plus, the more players that you get to fold, the less overcards to your pocket pair can fall to hurt you.

The playing of bigger pairs like 9-9, 10-10 and J-J is more of less the same. Raise all opening raises and limpers. There are exceptions of course and I have seen many players throw money away with J-J over the years. One such instance, I was on the waiting list for a game last year and saw the following hand crop up.

UTG raises, UTG+1 re-raises and the cut-off re-raises, and it ends up getting capped. I had been watching this game for quite some time and it was really quite passive for a $10-$20 game. Flop comes something like 8-6-2 rainbow. UTG bets, next player raises and the cut-off re-raises.

Anyway to cut this story short, the cut-off went for quite a few bets in this pot and then told the entire table how he could not have got away from his J-J. Well I could not believe what I was hearing. What in heaven’s name did he think that two opponents were doing from the flop onwards betting and raising all the way to the river?

Couple this to the pre-flop action and surely a little voice in his head must have been saying…”bigger pair…..bigger pair”. More likely is that someone held a hand between QQ to AA and the other hand played a hand like 88. Sure enough, when the wining hand was revealed the winner had top set on the flop.

JJ may look pretty, those two alluring face cards paired. But the chances of you having an overpair on the flop are about even money. But you cannot take this to an extreme, if the betting suggests that you are beat then you must fold the hand and especially on the flop despite the fact that you have an overpair.

Obviously I don’t believe that you can fold JJ pre-flop in a six max limit hold’em game but it is still a hand that is overplayed quite often from the flop onwards.

Speaking of Broadway hands, the weaker Broadway hands show a significant improvement in strength in 6 max games. I mean, we may call them six max games but in reality….someone is either dropping out or sitting out so you are playing 4/5 handed a good portion of the time anyway and these hands become strong hands in those situations.

Limit hold’em whether you are playing full ring or six max is a game where big cards rule. Big cards are less dominated and big cards make big pairs and big pairs win pots. If you raise with a K-10 and get three bet by some maverick with an A-4 and the flop comes 10-4-2 then his “one card” hand is going to be in a lot of trouble and in a heads up situation, he will either be forced to pay off or take aggressive action in order to try and make you lay your hand down.

This is why I warned about the dangers of overplaying small aces last week, you end up pairing and being dominated too often. I don’t like it when I am in a situation where there has been a raise to my right and I have a hand that basically only has one card going for it.

But a side line of not playing certain hands in limit hold’em is that your aggressive ratio falls more into line with what it should be pre-flop and you can get away with more post flop because of this. Overly aggressive players who simply think that they will be able to waltz onto a table and bully everybody are going to be in for a rude awakening against the better players.

But despite the fact that Broadway hands increase in value short handed, I am still very wary of getting involved against a raise unless I know the player to be very loose and would raise on a very wide range which is not the case in most situations from early position.

If the raiser is a solid player who has raised from say UTG or UTG+1 then my philosophy is to either raise or fold, calling is not part of the equation. But raising with a potentially dominated hand like K-10 is asking for trouble. In fact I would rather raise with a hand like 10s-9s because at least then my cards would be live. This adds on to what I said about re-raising with weaker aces, you are increasing the action and thus the variance with a potentially dominated hand... not good. Anyone who would like to discuss this article with me is free to do so through the forum.

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