strategy

The Big O, Man

The home game has shrunk in numbers. Interest in poker ebbs and flows, so while I have taken this development as a harbinger of something, it was not for the end of the game necessarily.  In fact, the game itself is as good as ever and certainly plays more excitingly than in a long time.

Part of that is having a found a nice balance of poker variations. We’ve added Big O (five card Omaha high low split) to an already decent mix of hold’em, PLO and occasional others like pineapple variations and fixed limit game nights. The 2016 300 big blind minimum buy in (effectively 600 for the Omaha games) makes play on all streets possible, often a problem for us in the backwoods, far from the poker capitols. (D’Artagnan warned me about the casino near my summer retreat averaging twenty bb stacks for cash: FFS!) Better yet, Little Cheapie had put a vicious one out beat on the usually impossibly lucky, bunny paw bracelet, four leaf clover chewing, golden horseshoe inserting Slumlord at the last game: the stage was set for conflict.

Conflict we got. In fact, I took part in a 4200 bb PLO pot, taking a little less than half to save my evening. My opportunities in all games up until that point had been severely limited by the deck, position, and the nature of a deep stacked, high action game. I had been coolered (possibly a spew) in hold’em earlier for full stacks (400 bbs effective) and needed the break.

I wasn’t the only one. For once, charismatic, dynamic, but ever-run bad Wakiza was the big winner for the night. Usually the Slumlord takes him over his knee and paddles him, often right before the game breaks, in the most painful way possible; must be nice to fade that moment where you shake your antagonist’s hand, and say goodnight while he is still giddy and burbling from how lucky he got, again.

Anyway, a hand I found interesting was a chop in Big O, on account of the equities’ complexity. Although I got much of it right in game, I essentially misplayed this hand by not having a firm grasp of how the third player in the hand affected my expectation.

It started with Wakiza, 1400 bbs deep, opening from EP. With the single suited wheel ace (hands below) I could be raising but decided to flat as I put a big emphasis on positional play. From the blinds d’Artagnan, at around 800 bbs, raises less than pot. He likes this play a lot (see the series on his hands) in order to take control of the hand and have the freedom to be uncapped. Wakiza calls, and now my call, about the same depth as Wakiza, is good in a bloated pot with a scooping hand in position.

We see Kh Jd 4c. If you look at my hand from a hold’em perspective, I have not flopped well; however, that is not the way to evaluate an Omaha hand with playable stacks. I have the nut high gutshot, backdoor flush draw, and backdoor nut low draw. The only way I will not peel here is if it goes bet/raise.

D’Artagnan leads into the field. It is pretty easy to put him on two pair plus here. Because he plays so many hands, he will not be concentrated to pure PLO8 type hands that feature ideal AA/wheel card combinations. Therefore, he can have too many broadway cards in his range and can have smashed this board. Raising him here would be foolish.

Wakiza calls. At first this surprised me, as the board is high and unlikely to favor his range. I had rated his hand to be exactly the kind of Ax/wheels that an EP opener should have.  Would he flat AA preflop when it’s d’Artagnan?  Does he now really only have backdoors? I was wrong, I decided – he must have some broadways and be high heavy.

After I overcall, floating to improve in position, the dealer drops the ten of diamonds. D’Artagnan instantly is disappointed and checks in a despairing motion. He’s overselling it but he does mean it – this is no Hollywood. However, I’m not sure why he is so unhappy at first. The ten only completes one draw, and anyone calling for it would have be making a very speculative play. Wakiza should not have this hand all that often, but with the odds offered to my position, I rate to have it – as I do.

Wakiza now leans forward and bets about 90% of pot. He is mentally engaged and focused on a neat bet, correcting a dropped chip casually and without any worry, indifferent to the other players. These three classic strength tells have me worried, even though it’s I who holds the nuts.

First off, I know Wakiza has AQxxx and that if the hand ended now, we would simply be chopping. He does not have q9xxx from EP; he has played significant amounts of Omaha and knows he should not be opening middle connectors in a split pot game. Nor would he lead out so confidently with two players in the pot. He is not leading with sets on this card, even though he probably should after d’Artagnan’s check, as a kind of merge on a high only board.

I have to review all my options.

The real problem is Wakiza appears so strong that I am often getting freerolled. We know he has the nut straight, but if he also has diamonds, and I raise and get the money in, my on the fly math told me the overlay from d’Artagnan as it stands will not cover the equity I am giving up in order to show down. We are so deep that I cannot simply ignore the equities in this worst case scenario where d’Artagnan goes with it:

 Scenario 1: board khjd4ctd

HandEquityScoopsWins HiTies HiWins LoTies Lo 
kcksjc4s7c21.21%77000d’Artagnan
adqc5sts3d48.48%662000Wakiza
asqh3s2h6d30.30%002000Persuadeo

 

I need d’Artagnan to go with the hand, not fill up, and no diamond to come. I don’t like the raise in this scenario because it depends on all this to happen. If this is the case, I got it right in game: It looks like a -278 bb ship. That may sound strangely large to you, but it’s the amazing depth of the stacks that would truly punish my mistake. Obviously it’s better if d’Artagnan has only two pair, so this is a worst case scenario, but it will still be a losing one.

However, even if d’Artagnan folds his equity, my ship will still not be profitable…

Scenario 2: board khjd4ctd

HandEquityScoopsWins HiTies HiWins LoTies Lo 
adqc5sts3d60.53%883000Wakiza
asqh3s2h6d39.47%003000Persuadeo

 

…because I’ll be risking full stacks (remember we started with 1400 bbs) to chop up the 70 d’Artagnan left behind, assuming my read is correct. What is the break even point for going with it? In game, it looks like my equity balanced by the overlay. I’m a 6:4 dog to realizing half the pot and the 70 we would share doesn’t look close to covering my negative freeroll.  I now calculate that I can’t put any more than 240 bbs in, including the 120 call on the turn, which I would have to do to shut out d’Artagnan, making this maneuver massively –EV.

I could fold conservatively because of this possible scenario, but I felt in game that with one card to come this can’t be right. (If had flopped the nuts on an unimprovable board with no backdoor equity and facing bigger draws, this would be a possible folding hand in an Omaha scenario.) I wasn’t wrong, exactly.

It took me some time in the tank, but I decided the right play was to call. Part of my reasoning was that I am not always uppersuadeo.nl against the nuts and diamonds, and am in fact ahead, despite my read, a very small percentage of the time. Now I know I can bring d’Artagnan along for the cost of Wakiza’s bet while protecting my stack.  Now we get 120 bbs from D’Artagnan on the turn, rather than risking all 1400 to get it. Yes, I lose the 120 bigs when d’Artagnan fills up with his 4-10 out draw, but I’ve laid myself three to one after he calls and that is +EV, right?

Not really. It’s about the same expectation as folding, and does expose me to d’Artagnan reopening the action if he’s feeling suicidal. There’s my error in game.

I’m risking the money to chop up d’Artagnan, but if I’m always chopping, nearly everything I put in is halved and I never scoop. Calling to chop on the turn, assuming the river plays perfectly, I’ll win 73.6 bbs, and lose 72. An effectively break even spot.

A likely scenario was this…

Scenario 3: board khjd4ctd

HandEquityScoopsWins HiTies HiWins LoTies Lo 
kcksjc4s7c21.21%77000d’Artagnan
adqc5sts3c39.39%002600Wakiza
asqh3s2h6d39.39%002600Persuadeo

 

…and that may have been the exact situation- I can’t recall the precise holdings. In any case, after I and d’Artagnan called, the river was a blank, and now I am freerolling. D’Artagnan may call or may not after Wakiza bets and I flat, as repping my hand is pointless and will only erase the small chance d’Artagnan pays us off. We chop up the money.

D’Artagnan correctly snap folded top set on the river, playing his hand perfectly, putting aside the light three bet. It’s likely Wakiza would have called a small bet from a loose player on the river; I could be wrong. Folding on the turn holding blockers to his own full house would also have been reasonable but nitty for d’Artagnan. He is getting about 3:1 and will not fill up often enough to make this immediately profitable. He blocks other sets. However, given the multiway action it’s possible that tens could pay him; seems optimistic.

Looking back at the hand, I see another error. I missed an opportunity preflop. When d’Artagnan builds the pot and Wakiza flats, I could have reiso’d d’Artaganan. My hand is strong enough, but more importantly, d’Artagnan’s range is wide, and Wakiza should, in theory, have reraised AA/wheel cards which have me crushed. We can observe I had the best hand, yet did not push my equity. This deep I should be more aggressive with terrific scooping hands. The fourth bet in position should be intimidating and could knock out Wakiza.

It’s interesting how you can spend so much time analyzing one action, but the real question may have been elsewhere. That’s often the case, and a point I make in the forums over and over. Now I get to critique Persuadeo, that fish.

It was a great game overall, and we have Big O to thank for that. It’s hard to only think about hands and games and big blinds, these days, though. The writing on the wall is that I need to move on with my life in very concrete ways- that’s how I interpret the smaller numbers at my home game. I’ve lived here a long time. Traumatized by moving so much in my twenties, I’ve clung to regularity. Too long, really: I’ve trapped myself. Played my hand badly, isolating myself as I nearly did in this potentially costly hand. The long term investment in rent and solitude, always assuming I was going to find better things, looks foolish, having found none of what I imagined. The casino games here are not good enough to fulfill my true needs or potential.

In fact, as we get older, we should play deeper in all things, looking for the bigger and the brighter, but our errors, unfortunately, are also more costly. The stakes matter more, as we can’t bounce back as easily. I escaped with a chop in this hand, but that’s all it was – a lucky landing.

Poker, even in a ridiculous home game, never ceases to relate to life.

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The OOP Lexicon is a user-developed poker glossary.

Absolute Position
Being last to act (e.g. closest to the button) postflop.

Advancing Leverage
Aggressive actions intended to shift the leverage point closer to the current street.

Analog
A bluff or value hand which is a natural candidate for balancing another hand because of their shared qualities, such as AA and AK; usually helps planning range splitting and line construction.

Auto profit threshold (APT)
A bluff made with positive expectation resulting from the opponent under defending vis-a-vis bet sizing. The inverse of MDF.

Balance
Choosing to support either value bets or bluffs with their converse.

Bet
A bet is a proposition.  It’s the first offer on the pot with regard to the outcome of the game. Each player, in turn, has the opportunity to lay or change the price on the pot to the rest of the players. “The language of poker.” The bet, as opposed to the raise, is most often and most easily allied to the merged pricing construction.

Block
To remove combinations of hands from a range based on cards in your hand or on the board.

Blockers
Cards which influence our combinatorial assumptions. Ex: We face resistance on T76ss while we hold As7d. Both our cards act as blockers. Our ace of spades blocks (limits) a number of flush draws our opponent could hold, while our seven blocks a number of two pair and sets our opponent could hold. *See also Block and Unblock

Blocker Bet
A small bet made by an out-of-position player.

Board Texture
The available community cards and the set of conditions which inform its relationship to a logical range.

Bottom
The worst hands in a betting range.  Depending on context this could be the worst hand in a value bet range or the bluffing section of polarized range.

Bounded
A range descriptor indicating a range shape with a specific high or low boundary.  A range bounded high won't contain some number of the best linear hands ranked from the top down.  This is equivalent to a "capped" range.  A range bounded low won't contain some number of the worst linear hands ranked from the bottom up.  This is often useful to describe a range that doesn't include any air or very weak hands.

Capitalization
A strategic mode in which a player is attempting to deny their opponent(s) equity share of the pot through aggression. Often referred to as “denying equity” or “buying up equity”.

Capped
A range is capped when it represents little to no nutted combinations as confirmed by prior action.

Cbet
A continuation bet. A bet made by the player with initiative as a continuation of their initiative on a prior street.

Clarity
The ability to accurately range an opponent based on all available information at a decision point.  An understanding of your hands exact equity.

Closing Action
Acting last where no subsequent action is possible behind you.  For example calling a UTG raise in the BB or calling in position postflop with no players behind.

Cold Call/Cold Bet
An action is considered “cold” when it comes from a player entering into the pot has not previously put chips voluntarily in the pot. Ex: the UTG opens, the BTN 3bets. If the SB were to call or raise, it would be a cold-call or a cold-4bet.

Combinatorics
The branch of mathematics the deals with finite number sets. Used in poker in determining the amount of combinations of certain hands in a range.

Complete
When a blind that is not the biggest blind calls the amount of the biggest blind. Ex: At $2/$5, action folds around to the SB and the SB completes. Meaning they just call. The BB can complete when there is a straddle.

Condensed
A capped range that contains only middling value hands. A range without the polarized portion.

Construction
Logical advancement of combinations across streets.

Dark Side of the Deck
The large swath of hands, often off-suit, that fall outside of conventional playable recommendations. Counter-equity hands.

Dead Money
Money in the pot that is not being fought for.  A passive player creates dead money when they call a bet preflop and looking to play fit-or-fold postflop. Dead Money is often confused with the money in the pot.

Delayed Cbet
A cbet made on the turn by the preflop raiser when the flop checked through.

Delaying Leverage
Passive actions intended to maintain a likely late street leverage point, or possibly to avoid a leverage point entirely.

Deviation
A strategic break from one’s standard construction as an exploit of a particular player’s profile or construction.

Diminishing Medium Value Category
A Seidman concept in which when one’s middling value hand range is too small and transparent to our opponent and thus either that range should be shifted into the top of a polarized range or the nutted portion should be shifted into the medium value range. Ex: AQo or TT being 3bet preflop.

Downbet
A cbet that is less than the preflop raise. Ex: BTN opens to $25, we 3bet to $90 from the SB, BTN calls. On the flop we cbet $70.

Dry Board
A board texture that yields relatively few logical hands value. Often containing one medium or high card and disconnected low cards. Ex: Q53r, T622r.

Dual Mentalities
A Seidman concept in which when we decide to go postflop with a weak hand against a nutted range, we should either be looking to out flop it or steal the pot away. We base our decision against the player type we are up against and never go post with both mentalities at once.

Dynamic Board
A flop texture in which the runout is very likely to change the order of top ranking hands. Ex: 954tt, 742r.

Effective Stack
The smallest stack to VPIP in a given hand. Their stack decides the amount of money that can be played for or threatened before an all-in.

Effective nuts
A value hand that can be played for stacks as if it were the actual nuts.  This is a relative hand ranking based on range assumptions and opponent type.

Efficiency
A measure of how well the equity of a hand is deployed. Efficiency can also be used as a measure of what is risked vs what is gained for a given bet size.

Either/Or Philosophy
A Seidman concept in which a particular street can be a very good spot for value, meaning our opponent is never folding, or a very good spot to bluff, meaning our opponent is never calling, but that those spots cannot be concurrent.

Elasticity
Borrowed from economics, a measure of the sensitivity of a range or hand relative to the price offered.  Ranges (or hands) described as elastic will narrow, sometimes quickly, in response to increases in price.  Those described as inelastic will not.

Equity
The percent pot share of a holding or range on any given street if the hand were to go to showdown with no further betting action.

Equity Pusher
A analytic approach to the game in which a player views the correct actions only through the lens of their hands equity vs. their opponent’s range. Often this player type has a lack of understanding of overall strategy and plays their range face up with few bluffs.

Expected Value
The mathematical formula for how much a player’s action is expected to make with their hand vs. their opponent’s range. EV = ($towin * %ofwin) - ($tolose * %ofloss)

Face Up
A player is playing their range “face up” when their actions directly correspond with their desired outcome. Ex: A player bets half-pot three streets with a range that has no bluffs. A player 3bets to 7x with JJ.

False Polarization
Otherwise known as Faux-Po; a polarizing action taken with a merged range.

Felted
The result of losing your entire table stakes. All the way down to the felt.

Float
A call of a cbet with a weak holding with the likely intention of taking the pot away when the opponent shuts down. Often done by an in position preflop caller.

Formation
The convergence of positions, stack depths, and preceding actions at a given decision point.

G-Bucks
A mathematical formula developed by Phil Galfond for calculating the expected value of one’s range construction vs. an opponent’s holding.

GIGO
A computer programming term that means "garbage in, garbage out" which also applies to poker forums when a poster seeks an in-depth conversation about a hand, but fail to provide pertinent information such as stack sizes, bets sizes, table dynamics and player tendencies.

Game Theory
The applied science of combining mathematical models with logic to craft winning poker strategies.

Game Theory Optimal
A set of strategies is GTO if no player can unilaterally deviate and increase his average profit. ~ Will Tipton.  GTO does not mean best possible response, highest EV, or maximally exploitative play.

Implied Odds
Additional value likely to be accrued if you make your hand on a later street.

Initiative
Sometimes referred to as the betting lead, a common situation in which the passive player yields to the aggressive player postflop, or the last aggressor continues betting on subsequent streets.

Isolate
A bet or raise intended to force out the rest of the field in order to play heads up against a weaker opponent who has entered the pot through limping, raising, or posting the blinds.

LAG
Loose aggressive player type. Generally overused and inaccurate.

Lead
A bet made from out of position after a passive action. Often referred to as a donk bet on the flop.

Leveling
He knows that I know that he knows I know.

Leverage
A bet or raise that signals the hand will be played for stacks.  Within reason, it is accomplished by betting with a sizing that will create RSP equal to 1 on the following street.

LFI
Limp First In

Linear
A consecutive range of hands decreasing in strength from top to bottom; generally meaning value hands. Equivalent to "merged."

Lockdown Board
A board on which the nuts have often already been made.  More prevalent in PLO but sometimes useful in no-limit, for example on monotone flops and boards with available common straights e.g. JT9, T98, 987, etc.

Merge
1) A range of hands that includes both strong and medium value; 2) in reference to medium value; 3) the merged construction describes the natural representation of a wide range through a bet.

Mini Stop-N-Go
A Seidman concept, a line taken by a OOP PFR where flop is check/called and turn is lead.

Minimum Defense Frequency (MDF)
The necessary defending (calling/raising) frequency to prevent an opponent from auto-profiting.  The inverse of APT.

Natural Action
A check, bet, or raise which is exactly suited to a player's range and situation (e.g. a pfr's continuation bet on AK2r).

Nit
A player who will not put chips into the pot without a very strong and sometimes only nutted hand.

Nuts
The best possible hand.

Nuts-To-Air Ratio (NAR)
In a polarized betting line, the ratio of value to bluff.  As used by Seidman, not limited to polarization but sometimes used to label general opponent tendency of value to bluff.

OMC
Old Man Coffee. Typically an older, retired player that likes to play bingo with ATC, but will only continue with the nuts.

Open
The first voluntary action. The first action or bet to voluntarily enter the pot.

Overbet
A bet that is more than the size of the pot.

Perceived Range
Refers to the range of hands that your opponent thinks you could have in a certain playing situation. This can be interpreted and thus misinterpreted from your playing style and position at the table.

Polarized
A range consisting of very strong and very weak hands.

Post Oak Bluff
A small bluff on a late street that has little chance of winning the pot.  Generally interpreted as “gutless” in the past but now fulfilling certain functions as betting efficiencies are understood.

Positional Protection
When the strength of a range is perceived to be capped or uncapped based on which position an action is taken from.

Protected
When an action or player is perceived to have strong hands in its range.

Protection Bet
A wager which denies equity to hands which will only give action if they significantly improve; "a value bet which does not want a call."

Raise
The rejection of the offered price and the laying of a new higher price.  Raises represent a more narrow range of hands and trend towards polarization.

Range Advantage
Implementation or study tool that refers to 1) most basically, equity measurement of one range against another; 2) or also including a combination of further factors including availability of nutted hands, the nuances of the runout, and positional protection.

Range Manipulation
Deliberate line work/bet sizing made to narrow a range or keep a range wide.

Range Switch
A deliberate change in range composition made to thwart a player who is reading our range too accurately in any spot.  Reduces transparency, fights assumptions, and wins the leveling war if implemented correctly.

Ratio of Stack To Pot
RSP. The stack to pot ratio at any point in a hand, generally used post-flop as opposed to Stack to Pot Ratio.

Realization
Taking a hand to showdown and realizing its full equity.  Generally used with regard to passive actions.

Reciprocity
The mutual exchange of chips resulting from similar play and ideas.  Reciprocity is a common bi-product of group-think.  A true edge by definition cannot be reciprocal.

Relative Position
A player’s position measured against the aggressor's position.  Generally this is used going to the flop.  For example, if UTG raises and several players call behind, calling in the big blind would give you the best relative position.  You will act after seeing how the field responds to a likely continuation from the preflop aggressor.  In the same scenario calling immediately after the preflop aggressor results in the worst relative position.  You will have to act immediately after a continuation without seeing how the remaining players will respond.  Strong relative position confers an information edge.

Retention
The ability of hand to maintain equity across streets against a betting range or as part of a betting range.

Reverse Implied Odds (RIO)
Hands that often win small pots or lose large pots suffer from reverse implied odds.

Robustness
Popularized by Mathew Janda, a descriptor for how well a hand retains equity over streets of play.  Hands described as robust have equity that does not suffer as an opponent's range becomes stronger.  Often these hands are currently both strong and invulnerable, or have the ability to become very strong by the river, relative to the opponent's range.

Runout
Fourth and Fifth Street cards following a given flop texture.

Scale of Protection
Poker theorem which states that the more protected or strong an opponent's range is, the higher the degree of denial or retention a counter will require.

Sklansky Bucks
Dollars won (or lost) in expected value regardless of actual hand result.

Smurf
Any one of many possible poker archetypes found at low stakes games.

Squeeze
A reraise made after a player has raised and one or more players has called in-between.

Static Board
A flop texture in which the runout is unlikely to change the order of top ranking hands. Ex: AK7r, KK4r.

Stop-N-Go
A passive action followed by an aggressive action, out of position.  For example, a call followed by a lead on the next street.

Streets of Value
A crude shorthand measurement for how much betting a hand can tolerate and still be best at showdown more often than not.

TAG
Tight aggressive opponent type. Generally overused and misapplied.

TAG's Dilemma
The paradox created by having a top-heavy range played so aggressively that it misuses equity vis-à-vis position and holding.

The Great Range Fantasy
The common idea that we know our opponent’s range and frequencies precisely; most commonly seen in post-hoc analysis to justify microedge decisions.

Thin Value
A bet that is only slightly more likely to be called by worse than by better. Associated with the merged pricing construction and bet-fold lines.

Three Fundamentals
The most fundamental variables for decision making: position, stack size, and community cards.

Top
The best hands in a given range.

Two-Way Bet
A bet that expects calls from worse hands and incorrect folds at the same time, a simultaneous value bet and bluff line.

Upstuck
The psychological effect of feeling like you’re losing because your stack size isn’t as large as it once was during a session, even though it’s more than what you’re in the game for.

(e.g. You bought in for $100, ran it up $450, but now only have $175 in front of you.)

Unblock
A hand that has no negative card removal effects on the target range.  Bottom set, for example, unblocks top pair top kicker.

Uncapped
A range that is perceived to contain the nuts in any given line.  Capped ranges may become uncapped during transitions for example from preflop to flop, or flop to turn.

Unicorn
A turned nut straight after raising flop with a gutter.

Value Owning
Making value bets with a hand that has less than 50% equity when called.

Voluntarily Put Money In Pot (VPIP)
The frequency at which a player limps, calls, or raises preflop.

Volatile Board
A flop texture where equities will often shift on the turn and river.  See “dynamic”.

Warmer
An illusory cooler where one player makes a massive mistake equity mistake and loses his stack with a strong but second best hand; also known as a Jam Basket.

Wet Board
A board texture that allows for a lot of logical hands to continue. Often made up of medium rank connected cards. Ex: KT9tt, Tc8c6s-7c-Ac.

WIFSUWO
“Walk In, Fuck Shit Up, Walk Out” a hashtag used by instagram poker players.

Winning Player
A forum poster who offers reciprocal advice under the guise of questionable positive low stakes results. A weak player or fish, in general.

YMC
Young Man Coffee. Is very much an OMC, but younger.  They usually only continue with the nuts, often under the illusion of playing a GTO style.