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It’s Situational

May 22, 2008

Originally I wrote this back when I was in the middle of my “Odds and Outs” series, and delayed posting it so as not to interfere with the series. And then I kinda forgot about it.

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As one progresses thru life one often reflects on things, once in a while an “Aha” happens. Aha, why wasn’t I more aware of how that perspective applies all the time?

This happened for me with the word “situational“. I suddenly became aware of how that single word applies to every hand of every poker game. Yesterday, playing a cheap SnG I was chipped down but hit a set from the BB and doubled up. Next hand I get AA in the SB, two limpers, I opt to only raise 2 BB to 2.5 BB in a mix between building the pot and making a proper raise (which in this case should have been 3BB plus 1 for each limper so a 5.5 BB raise to 6BBs, maybe more as I’m OOP). BB calls, limpers call and I realize I raised too little. Flop comes three medium-small cards, all clubs and I have the Ace of clubs. I shove, BB calls with a flopped set, no additional club comes and I’m out.

There are standard plays for given types of situations. These standard plays are based on relative strengths of each hand and expected logical plays of the other players, and assuming a standard range and mix of hands belonging to the other players. Raise AA preflop to eliminate weak hands that could draw out on you because all good hands lose strength the more players there are in the pot. But raise more if there are limpers otherwise you give them pot odds that are too good. Re-raise if there’s a raise ahead of you. Don’t shove in all your chips unless you’re short stacked or are playing weak players who might call with any two suited cards because you can get more value from someone who might catch top pair. But, you can limp AA from early position at an aggressive table where someone will likely raise behind you and you can 4-bet them. Or limp from late position or the blinds if no one else is showing strength as a means of trapping for value. I’ve also min-raised players with AA/KK for the same reason as a value raise that I think that they can’t fold. And there are more variables, like bubbles, weak or strong opponents, table image, stack sizes of opponents, ect. It’s situational.

That’s what made poker so difficult to learn when I was starting out. There is a decision tree for every hand, even just preflop. At one point I considered trying to draw out a decision tree for every hand preflop but it was really complicated. The way I seem to be keeping up on this blog, I still might get around to it, but not any time soon.

I guess that’s one of the things that I’m trying to accomplish by still playing a variety of levels, sites, and types of NLHE. I’m putting myself in different situations against different types of players, especially weak players, and trying to learn the most optimal way of playing against them. One of the things that I try to keep in mind this way is the wild range of approaches that players come to the table with. One example that sticks in my mind is the wide split between what loose and tight players will raise or call with at $25NL. I’ve made all kinds of blog postings that point in this direction. Other recent posts that come to mind include the table of good players agreeing to sit at $25NLHE to compare hands, as well as all the freeroll and most of the micro-limit entries.

It’s situational. The cards, your position, your experiences at that particular site and buy-in level, your reads, stack sizes, your image, recent plays by you and by those still in the hand, all these and more are factors that go into determining the best decision at that particular moment. Stay in the moment, don’t be replaying some other hand from your past or some other opponent from the past. Draw on your experiences to help you to evaluate the situation, but keep your advice for yourself within the context of the current situation.

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