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Vikram Singh

Poker Concepts vs Poker Fundamentals

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I observed a hand a few weeks back where UTG opened with a 40BB+ stack and SB re-jammed 30-35ish Bigs and got snap called. It was the UTG's JJ vs SB's 33. This is Blind lvl 75/150. SB Binked a four card river flush. Wild strategy.

This play works if the early position raiser folds more than 50% of the time. It is -EV because when he does fold you win 5-6BB, but when he calls 33s is crushed. Loosest calling ranges give it 32% equity (FE included). So it is definitely not +EV.

In fact, if the player had 5 less BB's a 3bet would print far more money than that shove, a 3bet with blockers, even more so. Either way, there is no need to cram 33s at lvl 150 or even do the 3balling. It reeks of someone who has no patience.

It is by no means that terrible of a play but HRC spit out 88+ when it comes to there you have it.

What happened next is a poker 'concept' applied completely erroneously. This is a player who will win a few tournaments, go on a heater but eventually regression to mean is standard. This is a player who will go on 3-4 years of Break Even and losing stretches.

Now comes in results oriented thinking. Poker concepts that are usually ideological and use a top down inductive approach to decision making, when used unwisely, do lead to ill-conceived knock on effects.

I wouldn't be writing this article if the same person hadn't met me on the felt in another tournament and after a 'gl' glglgl' exchange, initiated the flex - 'btw I won that tournament', cool. I remember my 5th beer as well. In fact, he busted me with a loose call I made but stretching on his own logic, I was creating a 'table image' for myself too. Right?

Let's first talk about Results Oriented
The fact that the 33 shove created a 'table image' is results oriented thinking because this is a -EV shove which lead to the opponent getting lucky on the river. Play the same hand 1000 times over and vast majority of the time, the player's table image will be - Seat Open or he gets a fold and none is created.

Table Image
Again, it ties into the fact that a really badly played spot that should oust you from the tournament created a 'table image'. Plain and simp.

MTT Dynamics
I did some math, and we all know the shelf life of a tournament is 400-700 hands (Regular speed).
My own average table change happens every 84 hands (PT4 filter, I have it if you want to see your own table change frequency). Discounting Final 27 players.

The shove also wins you 0.0004% of chips in play at this stage. So, yes, risk your tourney life for a concept that is an overly long logic for a double up, cool. Seen a lot of fish do it.

Stack dynamics, position and the fact that PPs unblock broadways are the underlying fundamentals in this 'table image' concept that were overlooked.

In fact, I went deeper into the math of it with my coach. Since MTTs have capped hands, very few hands you play with the same person and stacks change quickly as blinds rise, the chance to use this table image in the long run occurs 4 times every 1000 tournaments, yes it is a bit higher per 1000 tournaments that have less than 200 players, and higher yet when you are on the Final two tables but there are clusters of patterns in random outcomes that make you feel as though your concept is working, it's nothing but confirmation bias and really a more fundamental abstraction that is the underlying principle.

So for 4 hands (3.75 was the actual result) per 1000 tournaments you apply the concept of Fold Equity (not table image) in a spot that you can pass or even flatting is not that bad (with the stacks, probably the bottom of the range for sticking in 1.5BB to set mine). Hand = 33, tournament stage, stack size, position of the opener are pretty much the worst reasons for taking this spot.

The poker fundamentals that were missed or attributed incorrectly to this other concept were:
  1. Stacks
  2. Position
  3. Stage of Tournament
  4. Perception of Fold Equity

Stacks and Position determine everything in MTTs. You can be far more manipulative/exploit this fundamental in crucial late stages.

An example from 109 Kick Off:

On the surface it looks like a spew but when you consider the stacks and positions, our perceived range is very strong and that creates Fold Equity. What is the big stack going to do with 22-88? We sized it to a flat unfriendly sizing. The opponent has hard decision with low PPs. Lower broadways? even harder...We used the huge disparity between his opening range and his flatting or 4bet jamming range to our advantage using our stack and his position relative to ours..

With flats out of the way, his re-jam range just got a lot tighter and our plan is to 3b/f in any case but we have massive perceived FE here.

Finally, and most importantly, that stack is opening JTs aka his range is wide - nobody covers him, so when we attack his open with the bottom of our blind defense range with our stack and our position, we put a lot of pressure on him.
I also knew that he is a good player. Against someone oblivious to stack and position dynamics, we're pretty screwed if we do this regularly. Winning players do not gamble when they have pretty stacks. They wouldn't be winners if they did.

Swap my stack with his stack, I am snap folding AJo to the open. Also, if any other player on the table opened, our actual hand would be a straight up fold.

This is just scratching the surface of some of the crucial fundamentals of poker. Concepts like 'table image' 'taking a '-EV spot for later +EV spot' are in-fact following the same logic of stack and position, but attributed to the wrong concepts. Even on the FT, table image is created using stack and position and is not based on flawed concept of 'a bad shove will earn me more chips later on'

In doing so, the player is inadvertently using broad fundamentals of poker that give these niche concepts the edge they have but misattributing them to flawed concepts as the main reason for success will lead to poor play. That is simply unsound.

This is a kind of player who will go on huge break-even stretches and will ultimately win a few tournaments esp. at high BIs where variance is low but never win serially.

This play on the other hand, this play....

....uses the broadest concept of all in poker - look strong when you are weak, and weak when you are strong.

That is how you get crushers like damourinio to stack off on the turn with 0% equity. Play AA the only way you would never play it and exactly how you play your weaker range of flush Draws, small PPs, pure bluffs, AQ, a wheel Ace, straight draws.

His mistake pre - 3betting a hand that cannot be perceived as bluffing at this blind lvl. He should just flat for value there. We have history though, and he knows I can make the mistake of flatting suited garbage in this spot, so it's not that bad of a mistake but at this blind lvl, he gets more value from me if he just flats pre and I have 9Ts, and does not bloat the pot from the worst position on the table.

This is a spot where stack sizes are more important than position. There are spots where position is more important than stacks, unfortunately he chose to focus more on the latter.

The post flop mistakes on both streets were induced by using simple concepts like stack, position, sizing, and my own hand was at the bottom of that list.

Our position opens a lot of suited Ax and suited connectors as well as KJo and some Pocket Pairs (but again, PPs in a 3bet pot don't take this line - 9Ts sure does)

Another example of turning a 'defend' hand (i wouldn't defend this in any case) and turning into an aggressive play that stinks of strength like a gym bro leaving nothing in the tank during a workout and sweating from top to bottom. We dont need cards here, we need two napkins. Stack and position matter that much!

To counter these spots, here is one where a 3bet looks super strong and we do not want to chase away value. Only mistake, x/jam OTF > Donk, not because it will change the result in this instance, but it will get wider ranges to stack off in the long run. The opponent is never folding Qx to our stack size in this spot. If we 3bet pre we are giving our opponent the opportunity to fold when we have the 2nd best starting hand in NLHE.

I want to appear as wide as possible and my stack and preflop play from the blind, combine to accomplish exactly that.

Compare this hand to the 33 vs JJ. Which one would you rather take?

Updated 08-19-2017 at 07:24 PM by Vikram Singh