Thursday, February 23, 2006

Wrong Move At The Right Time?

Filed Under: Poker

Going all in on a draw. When is it the right thing to do?

Last night in a $10 SNG on PokerStars I had a situation come up that I believed was played correctly, but my opponent did not. I want to delve into the hand and take a look at the math. Lets find out if it was the right move, or the wrong move.

To preface let me tell you that I am not a numbers/math guy. I know about pot odds and how to figure them but I don't necessarily play by the numbers. They are good for helping with tough decisions but I'm more about what my opponent is likely to do, cause and effect. This is probably why I am a horrible multi-tabler. I generally play 2-3 tables at a time but more than that and I get overwhelmed. I am also not a poker book reader. I own 3 but have only read one of them cover to cover. This little exercise is just as much for my own edification as yours.

The Beginning

We are down to 5 players and I sit with the second largest chip stack at T3,313. The blinds are 75/150. I sit on the button and am dealt AcQc. It is folded to me and I make the standard raise of 450. The small blind folds and the Big Blind calls. The flop comes down Jh6cJc and my opponent pushes all in for his last 1,762.

The Middle

Now what's a grind to do? This player has been pretty solid up to this point. He hasn't gotten out of line and I would say he is a winning player. He's no poker savant but better than the average player at this level. We have only really been involved in two big pots together since getting down to 5 handed. I made him lay down his hand on both occasions. Once I thought I had the best hand, once I think I did not.

Based on my assessment I really put him on middle pair at this point. If he had a Jack he knows I'm aggressive enough to probably bet the hand for him. That means he has no reason to bet yet. Hes telling me he doesn't want a call. The all-in was probably his best move if I'm right about what he's holding. If I just have overcards he's thinking I can't make this call.

Of course I do only have over cards but they are suited and match up with the board. Based on my read I believe that any Ace, Queen, or club will give me the win.

If I lose the hand I become the short stack having only T1,101 left. The closest chip stack to me then would be a player who has T1,162. I believe that I can recover if I do indeed lose the hand.

Now if I win I jump up to T5,600 and take the chip lead. I will have about a T1,000 chip cushion to work with. I also get the added benefit of now being down to 4 handed which is the prime chip stealing time. Having the chip lead at this stage makes going on to win that much easier than having to struggle through with a short stack.

What does the math tell us? Again I will base all this on what I believed my opponent to have, which is middle pair. With that flop I am actually a coin flip with two cards to come. The numbers work out for my opponent to have a 49.49% chance at winning while I have a 50.2% chance. My outs as I see them at this point are 9 for the clubs, 3 for any Ace, and 3 for any Queen, giving me a total of 15 outs. With two cards to come I need pot odds of .9:1 or greater to make this call. The pot is laying me 1.5:1 so we have the correct money in the pot to allow the call.

Lets go a little further and look at chip equity. Using ICM and Poker Calculator we can come up with some equity figures that will help us out. Based on the remaining players chip stacks and assigning random hands to the three we don't get to see, I have fold equity of 21.94% and a call equity of 22.3%. Not a whole lot of difference here, but in this specific situation, again the numbers point to a call.

The End

Based on my read and the stack sizes as I saw them, I made the call. As the cards were turned up I found my read was correct and my opponent held 9s9c. One of my outs was now gone but the numbers are the same. The turn made my hand as the 2 of clubs fell and the 10 on the river wasn't a miracle card for my opponent. As is usually the case when the player with the "best" hand at the time loses, I was berated in the chat window.

So was this a case of wrong move at the right time? No. The numbers tell us it was the right move at the right time. Just remember this next time your opponent calls with a draw and your thinking he's an idiot. He may just know something you don't.