Defending the Merits of K2 suited

As I mentioned previously, Normandie now has as $15-30 game, and I’m very happy to see that. In order to improve my game, I started reading Bob Ciaffone and Jim Brier’s book, Middle Limit Poker. I like some sections of the book and I feel it is helping me to improve my game, but some of Bob Ciaffone’s ideas regarding hand selection just don’t seem to stand up to close scrutiny.

He doesn’t believe in playing KJ suited if the pot is raised at all, even if there are multiple callers, which is different advice than Jennifer Harmon gives in Super System 2. Of course it comes down to play style, but I think I have to go with Jennifer Harmon on that one. KJ suited seems like an excellent volume hand and why not put it into a volume pot. Of course, one of the early limpers may reraise and you’re suddenly forced to play in a capped pot, but that doesn’t happen to often. In most games, if players are limping early, they have a calling hand. If you are playing against a table of tricky or deceptive opponents, then laying down suited cards in the face of one raise seems like sound policy, but to say that you should play all games that way just seems way too nitty to me.

In regards to hand selection on the button when there have been four or so limpers in front of you, Bob Ciaffone seems to fall into the line of thinking made popular by David Skalansky that undervalues suited hands in comparison to small pairs. Specifically he recommends calling with any pair on the button in that situation, and suited hands such as 10-9 or K9, but nothing lower than that. According to him, “We do not recommend limping in with King little suited or worse. The problem with limping in with any just any suited King, Queen, or Jack is that, against a lot of opponents, drawing to the nut flush becomes increasingly important. Contrary to what many players believe, when many players take a flop, it is common for one flush to lose to another flush.”

Well, sure, but its also common for one set to lose to another set when many players take a flop, but he doesn’t seem to acknowledge that. Let’s take a look at the basic mathematics of Holdem starting hands. Since you get two cards out of 52, the number of possible combinations of starting hands are 52 multiplied by 51 divided by 2 or 1326 possible two card combinations. Now, if you already have a two-card hand, and are interested in the likelihood of other hands people might be holding, then the number of possible combinations are 50×49/2 or 1225. So, if we hold pocket deuces, let’s examine the likelihood of other people holding over pairs: there are six different combinations of each possible pair, and there are twelve ranks that are higher than yours, so that’s 12 x 6, or 72 different combinations of pairs that are higher than deuces. Divide that by 1225 or 5.8% likelihood than another players two card hard contains a pair higher than yours. Given that there are eight other players at the table (or nine in a Las Vegas setting) there that’s eight times 5.8%, or 46.4% likelihood that at least one of the other players present has a pair higher than yours when you have deuces.

Mike Caro has been advocating for a while that people steer away from the lower pairs of deuces through fives and I feel that’s sound advice- flopping a set when someone flops a higher set is very expensive. Now Bob Ciaffone does have a point that making a flush when someone has a higher flush is also very expensive, but he shouldn’t turn around and then advocate playing all your pairs in a multiway un-raised pot on the button. If one holds a hand such as King little suited, what is the likelihood that someone else holds a suited Ace of the same suit- the only hand that you really fear when you make a flush.

If you have a King and a deuce of a given suit, the is only one Ace of that suit and ten other cards of that suit (because you have two yourself). So that would be 11 combinations of a suited Ace higher than yours, and there are, again, 1225 possible combinations. 11/1225 is .00897, or .9% or so per player. Since there are eight other players present, the total likelihood of another player holding a higher suited Ace is 7%. Furthermore, unlike a pair of deuces, this hand has other ways to win rather than just hitting the flop hard. You could flop top pair, which is a dubious holding because of your weak kicker, but keep in mind that you are also in last position. If everyone checks to you, and then do not check raise you when you bet, then you are almost assured of having an uncontested top pair for that particular hand.

A Funny Thing Happened When I Decided Not to Chop My Blinds

Normandie Casino, where I work, has been under new management in the past few months, and our new manager has really done an excellent job of turning the place around. Part of that has been bringing a yellow chip game (that’s a game with $5 chips for those of you who don’t play in LA much) to the Normandie. This week was the first week I got paid to play $15-30 at the Normandie as part of my regular schedule, and the difference between it and the lower games were striking. The players were, in general, far more aggressive regarding their involvement in a hand and would by a bit more reactive to your actions in this hand given the context of how you’ve acted previously. A reactive opponent is certainly something that takes a little getting used to when you’ve been paid to play blue chip games.

For instance, a player raised my big blind and I had Ah 7h. I am the most liberal defender of the blinds that I know of, a habit I picked up from Mike Caro. It’s served me well, and I feel other players are relatively easy prey when they give up their blind money so easily, but I’ll get more into that in a bit. At any rate, this player and I took the flop heads up. The flop was all rags, with two hearts. I check raised the flop, bet on the turn when the board paired, and then on the river when in paired again. My opponent called me all the way down with AK. My flush draw didn’t make it, but the two pair allowed me to get half the pot back. In a later pot, this player raised my blind again with pocket 10s. I called out of the big blind with Kc 10c. The flop brought a K and two suited rags that were not clubs. I check raised the flop and my opponent, figuring I was raising on the flush draw three bet the 10s, then proceeded to bet into me on the turn and river. I called all the way to win the maximum amount with my pair of Kings, because I feel he might have folded his 10s to me anywhere along the line had I ever put in any more action.

One of the ways that my new manager has managed to bring players in to play $15-30 at the Normandie is to offer the lowest house rake in town- $3. Things brings up something that I usually don’t give much thought to, and that’s chopping the blinds. In most forms of limit Hold’em, there are at least two blinds. If the actions folds down to just the blinds, it’s traditional that the blinds will simply “chop” or take their money back. The logic goes that it just doesn’t make sense for two players to play more or less random hands against each other when the house is going to take out a fair portion of the pot. For instance, in an $8-16 game, where the drop is $5 plus a $1 jackpot drop, if both of the blinds chose to play, then they will both start by putting $8 or so into the pot, and the house will take out $6. So you would have to outplay your opponent by quite a large margin to show a profit from this maneuver. Therefore, chopping the blinds makes sense.

However, in $15-30, where both blinds are putting in $15 and the house is only taking out $3 plus a $1 jackpot, you would only have to outplay your opponent by 10% or so to show a profit from this maneuver, and the amount you have to outplay your opponent decreases when you add more money to the pot in later betting rounds. I decided to take a very unusual path (particularly for a house player who are mainly concerned only with limiting their risk as much as possible) and not chop my blinds in the $15-30 game. Strangely, the first few days of my trying it, I’ve profited quite handsomely from it. I didn’t keep exact records, but I want to say that I seem to be winning a staggering number of blind pots- something akin to 90%.

I do this by positioning myself to the immediate left of players who are not comfortable playing short handed and who are too tight in defending their blinds. Their tendency is to just fold the small blind to me and allow me to win their $9 ($10 minus the houses take of $1 preflop) without a contest. I then have only to break even against the player to my left when I just call out of the small blind. I also try to make sure that the player to my left is not very aggressive in raising my blind when I just call out of the small blind. As strange as it may seem, these circumstances are not hard to arrange in the game I’m playing in. It seems as though most players are so conditioned to chop their blinds that they simply aren’t used to playing the hands out and fold when I put any action on them at all. This fundamental error on their part appears to be a huge potential windfall profit for me.

Texas Adopts New Social Studies Curriculum

I love being from Texas. The state has no income tax and it seems Texas politicians are always doing something to keep me entertained. Take their latest handy work, for instance. The Texas Education Board approved a new social studies curriculum that makes the following changes:

  • No longer requires students to learn about Thomas Jefferson. Instead, they now need to learn about John Calvin and Thomas Aquinas.
  • No longer requires students to learn that the US Government prohibits favoring one religion over another. Instead, the students are to learn the religious inspiration behind many of the American founders (except, I suppose, Jefferson).
  • Learn about Israeli leader Golda Meir.
  • And how the erosion of the US Dollar has occurred ever since we abandoned the gold standard.

Fortunately, Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is not part of Social Studies. I can only thank my lucky stars for that one. Texas politics is driven by religion, at least, it always was in my lifetime. Republicans (who dominate the state’s politics) always seems to try to prove how close to Godliness they are by using the power of the state to attempt to create God’s Kingdom on Earth. Strangely, of the religious friends I have, none of them really seem to favor these politician moves. Texas may be religious, but it also has a strong tradition of saying, “To each, his own.” Continue reading Texas Adopts New Social Studies Curriculum