PreFlop Strategy When First to Act Ivey vs DAgostino

Let's briefly take a look at how the players bet when they were first to act in the hand.

Ivey Acted First:

Hand

Action

JJ

Raise 2.5 BB

AJo

Raise 2 BB

ATo

Raise 2.5 BB

A8o

Call

A3s

Call

T2o

Call

98s

Raise 2 BB

98o

Call

98o

Call

98o

Call

97o

Call

96o

Call

94 s

Raise 2.5 BB

A few ideas stand out as we look at Ivey's hands, arranged in order.

  1. He never folded because of the pot odds.
  2. With his strong hands he mostly raised, but mixed in a few calls.
  3. With his weaker hands he mostly called, but mixed in a few raises.
  4. His raises were in a very narrow range of 2 to 2.5 times the big blind.

It was a strategy designed to mix up his hands and ke the pot small, and it was very consistently implemented throughout the session.

D'Agostino Acted First:

Hand

Action

ATo

Raise 2 BB

A5s

Raise 2.5 BB

A2s

Raise 1.7 BB

Q9s

Raise 2.5 BB

Q6o

Call

J9o

Raise 2 BB

J6o

Fold

J5s

Call

J4o

Fold

T8o

Raise 2.7 BB

98s

Call

72s

Call

(unrecorded)

Fold

D'Agostino raised more consistently with his better hands, and his bet range was a little larger than Ivey's, but not much. Both of these are good strategic moves when you believe you're the underdog. He did fold three hands during the session, which were mistakes given the combination of pot odds and position.

Notice that for both players, the raises used were smaller than the raises you would see at a full table.

Heads-Up Session No. 2: You the Reader

In this session the Ms are much lower, as is typical ot many online tournaments. We've changed the layout a little bit to put you, the reader, into the hands. You're starting with a 3-to-l chip lead, but your M is only 14, while your opponent's M is only 3.5. You'll be able to see your hands, but not your opponent's.

Stack Position Hand

Action: You raise to $15,000; opponent folds

Result: (Opponent loses $6,300)

Queen-eight suited is a pretty good hand heads-up, ranking in the top 30 percent of hands. Combined with position, it's definitely worth a raise, and your opponent elects to fold.

Stack Position Hand

Action: Opponent goes all-in; You fold

Result: You lose $6,300

Here's a mirror of the previous problem. This time you have just a slightly weaker hand than before, but your opponent elects to put you all-in. Do you call?

My own standards are pretty strict. I'm certainly not in a desperate situation with my 3-to-l chip lead. In that case, I want a hand that's both reasonably strong and getting good pot odds to call. Right now the pot contained $9,600 and your opponent just moved in with his last $32,100, making the pot $41,700. Since $3,000 of that bet was a call of your blind you'll need to put in $29,100 to call. The pot is offering you a bit better than 1.5-to-l to call.

Here are the facts I'd be weighing in my mind:

  1. The Ms are relatively low. dictating aggressive play on both sides.
  2. I don't know much about my opponent yet. However, it's just the second hand of the session, and he's already moved all-in. I'll give him credit for a better-than-average hand, but I can't yet credit him with much more than that.
  3. The pot is giving me about 1.5-to-l odds.
  4. My hand is in the top 50 percent of all hands — just slightly above average.

Under the circumstances, I don't need a premium hand to call this bet. The real question is just how weak a hand I'm willing to play. Here 1 look carefully at the hand strength and the pot odds. With a slightly above average hand like queen-seven, I like to see pot odds in the range of 1.6-to-l or 1,7-to-1. If my hand were in the top-40 percent group, I'd be happy calling with 1.5-to-l. For a top-30 percent, I'd need even less, say 1.4-to-l or perhaps even 1.3-to-l. (Keep in mind that these are not absolute numbers. They're heavily influenced by the first two points, namely that the Ms are already quite low and my opponent is moving all-in on the sccond hand. If the all-in move came with high Ms, or from an opponent who had played conservatively for awhile, I would certainly want a stronger hand or better odds.)

We should nole here that some players adopt a perma-raise strategy in heads-up, basically going all-in on every hand. (For very weak players it's not a bad strategy.) If your opponent is playing this way, you'll have to just take a reasonable hand and call. For me, a top-40 percent hand is plenty for this purpose. Ilere, we don't have enough data yet to know ifthat's the case, but we'll have to remain very alert to the possibility.

Stack Position Hand

You $138,300 SB/B 8464

Action: You call $3,000; Opponent goes all-in; You fold Result: You lose $6,300

Both the call and the fold are correct, for the reasons just discussed. Eight-six suited is only in the top 70 pcrccnt bracket ofhands, and just isn't strong enough to call an all-in raise getting those odds.

Our evidence is growing, however, that our opponent is in permanent raise mode. That queen-seven offsuit that we threw away last hand is looking better now. Had these two hands occurred in reverse order (throwing away eight-six to an all-in, then being raised all-in with a queen-seven), I'd have given very serious consideration to calling.

The astute reader might well ask at this point "Isn't this very skimpy evidence for calling an all-in move?" The answer is "Yes, it's actually very very skimpy." But it's all the evidence you have! You're not in the enviable position of a judge weighing pounds of evidence while deciding to issue a search warrant. You're more in the position of a soldier on the battlefield, trying to decide in a second or two whether that moving shadow is friend or foe. I'll put a little twist on Amir Vahedi's favorite saying: "In order to live, you must be willing to pull the trigger."

Now the blinds increase to $4,000/58,000, with $400 antes. The Ms shrink again. YourM declines to just over 10 while your opponent's drops to just under 4.

Stack Position Hand

You $132,000 BB K*7V

Action: Opponent folds Result: Opponent loses $4,400

As before, he should call. If he called, you should have raised. Even an all-in raise would not be a bad move. When a player who's been raising steadily slows down, it's more likely an indication that his hand is weak rather than strong. (A player who makes several raises, doesn't get called, and then picks up a big hand, is likely to continue raising with it because his previous raises provide cover and indicate that he's likely still bluffing.)

Since our opponent folded a hand with good pot odds, we now have to revise our opinion of his style. He must have some standards, although we don't yet know what they are, and our fold of the queen-seven is looking more reasonable once again.

Action: You raise $12,000; Opponent goes all-in for $35,200; You call $23,200

Opponent shows: 3434

Result: You lose $43,600

Queen-eight offsuit was in the top 40 percent of all hands, so a raise is reasonable. After your opponent's all-in move, the pot contains exactly $60,000, and it costs you $23,200 to call, so your pot odds are just over 2.5-to-l. Those are huge odds for a heads-up call. You're only getting the wrong price for your call if he has precisely one of three pairs: aces, Icings, or queens.

Here's an important note: Even if he has you dominated with acc-qucen or king-queen, the price is still right. (As we saw earlier in the chapter, domination situations tend to be 70 percent or so pre-flop. That's all right when you're getting 2.5-to-l pot odds.) Most poker players who aren't adept in math seem to think that domination is a disaster which makes you a 3-to-l underdog, but the truth isn't nearly that bad.

With the loss, however, your opponent pulls almost even in stack size.

Stack Position Hand

Action: Opponent goes all-in; You fold

A clear decision here, as you're unlucky enough to pick up a hand in the bottom 10 percent of all hands.

Stack Position Hand

Action: You call $4,000; Opponent checks Flop: QV7*34

Action: Opponent checks; You bet $8,000; Opponent folds

Result: Opponent loses $8,400

Your call before the flop was clear, despite your weak hand. After the flop you have nothing, but your opponent checks to you, indicating weakness. Although you didn't show strength before the flop, you make a large probe bet for $8,000, one-halfofthe pot. This is an extremely attractive bet from a risk-reward ratio. If your opponent folds this bet half the time, you'll make a steady profit. Even if he only folds one-third of the time, you'll break even. Your opponent actually does fold, and you pick up the pot.

What should you do if you're in the position of your opponent in this example? That is, you've missed the flop and you check, and now he bets half the pot at you? You actually have a few options.

  1. Against a player who can do this on a regular basis, you'll have to pick some spots and just move in with a big raise. (In a small-M game, that might well mean an all-in move.)
  2. Alternatively, you could just call with any ace or king, and call the hand down. A significant portion of the time, even a single high card is good enough to take the pot in heads-up play.
  3. You could also just call on the flop, then bet if he checks on the turn.

These plays take courage in the absence of a genuinely strong hand, but you can't allow your opponent to nibble away at you for free. Just remember that the continuation-type bet offers such favorable odds that many times players will be making it with no hand at all.

Stack Position Hand

You $92,800 BB J464

Action: Opponent folds; Opponent loses $4,400

Opponent folds pre-flop, which is a mistake as we now know. He's made this mistake twice in eight hands, which is a pretty steady dribble of equity. Your long-term prospects in the session should be good, if an accident doesn't happen along the way.

Note: Folding pre-flop on the button is actually all right if your opponent has shown he will raise you most of the time when you just call. Now your strategy changes: You fold your weakest hands (bottom 30 percent is a good number) and play actively with the rest.

416 Part Twelve: Heads-Up

Stack Position Hand

Action: You raise to $12,000; Opponent calls $8,000

Action: Opponent checks; You bet $12,000; Opponent calls $12,000

Action: Opponent checks; You bet $18,000; Opponent goes all-in for $54,400; You call $36,400

Opponent shows: QV84? Fifth Street: 4*

Result: You lose $82,800

King-jack offsuit is an excellent hand (lop 20 percent) so your pre-flop raise is correct. He calls, indicating some kind ofhand.

The flop is non-descript and he checks, so your post-flop bet is also quite reasonable. It's another continuation bet, this time a little less than half the pot. But your opponent calls again, which is certainly suspicious. You should be thinking at this point that he must have something. A pair is possible' and a flush draw is also possible, given what he may believe to be his implied odds.

Once the king hits, you have top pair, and y«11 re committed to the hand. Top pair is a monster hand heads-uP'

and the pol already contains $56,000. While you can certainly still lose, this is a great situation heads-up. In fact, your opponent had been slow-playing top two pair, a nice move on his part. That's effectively the whole tournament, as the hand consumed most of your chips.

Stack Position Hand

Action: Opponent bets $10,000, putting you all-in; You call your last $6,000

Opponent shows: A4»Q4

Board: 844V443*Q4

Result: You lose $14,400

When your opponent pushed you all-in, you had a terrible hand but fantastic pot odds. You needed to bet $6,000 to see a pot of $22,800, almost 4-to-l odds. As the hand played out, you hit both your hole cards, but the treys were counterfeited, and your opponent drew out on the river. C 'est la vie.

Part Thirteen Final Thoughts

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