Break the Bank

Main Street of downtown Pittsburgh was silent at 3:00 AM until the crash of broken glass came shattering down on the sidewalk. A 6 foot figure swiftly moved passed the crystals and shut off the security alarm after only two rings. With ballet-like precision, the figure rolled over the empty front desk and found a clear path to the primary vault. Then, with a mini-blow torch stored in the left boot, the ninja seared open the first layer. The second layer was a keypad with the numbers 1-50. This was cracked by punching in a series of 100 numbers that the robber had previously obtained. When the final layer presented itself with a finger-print entry, the figure carefully retrieved a layer of skin from his back pocket and pressed it on the lock. Beep, beep; the vault was open.

The experienced bank robber quickly unfolded the two large duffle bags that were buttoned up in the uniform and started packing stacks of one hundred dollar bills into both. When both bags were equally full, the figure replaced the security tapes and headed for the exit.

“Shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, shots!”, boomed the popular Lil’ Jon hit in an apartment a block away. A disheveled, over-weight, drunk man came stumbling out of his apartment looking for a late night slice of pizza. As he turned the corner, he saw a 6 foot ghost carrying two large duffle bags heading in his direction. The ghost was moving so quickly that the drunk gentleman felt the need to slow it down, after all he had never seen a ghost before. Before he could even make a move, the ninja had already placed a stack of hundreds in the man’s hand whispering, “ghosts are real”, then disappeared into the night. The drunk man was left confused, but happy with his newfound fortune. He then proceeded to eat 12 slices of pizza.

Robbing banks is illegal, don’t try it at home, but there are similarities betwen both the robber and the man to the game of Poker. The first that comes to mind is preparation. Without the proper skill set, uniform, tools, and information, the robber would have come up empty. Do not expect to win at Poker without putting in serious hours, and having some system in place to evaluate your play.

As you saw in the example, you can still have small victories with zero preparation at all. Sometimes in Poker, money will fall into your lap. A good question to ask yourself is, is this scalable? Of all of the times I’ve gotten drunk and stumbled down to the pizza shop, how many times has a bank robber handed me a stack of cash? Will this happen once a year? Once a month? Never?        

Additionally, the sad truth about Poker and life is that sometimes people will attempt to take what is not theirs. In today’s example, we see a Flop that should have had a continuation bet from the initial raiser that gets checked. This show of weakness gives an opportunistic player from the Button the confidence to then attempt to steal the Pot. Knowing all of the above gives us, with The Poker Model’s suggested stack sizes and bet amounts, the opportunity to make a final play at the Pot. Put your thinking cap on this week as we describe our action and opponents thought processes throughout the hand.

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I’m in the Small Blind holding Qs-Jd with blinds and antes at $50/$250/$500. I have 68 big blinds in my stack. Q-J is a solid post-Flop hand because of the straight and high pair possibilities. Pre-Flop, however, Q-J is weak (Queen High). For this reason, we typically will not call a Pre-Flop raise with Q-J. There is one short stack at the table (moneyhunting) that has potential to “Open Shove” from Under the Gun. An Open Shove is when a player moves all-in without any other previous raises in front of them. This 13 big blind shove would force a fold from our Q-J as well. We’d need 10-10+ or A-Q+ to call the 13 big blind Open Shove from moneyhunting if all other players fold in front of us after the all-in. All other players have 30 big blinds or more and we expect them to Fold, Raise, Call, or 3-Bet.

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The action folds to giimeyochipz, who makes a Min-Raise to $1,000. My first thought is that giimeyochipz raised the correct amount. If he had raised to something like $4,000, then we’d flag him as an amateur player who is either randomly trying to steal the blinds or actually has a big hand. In both cases, we’d make the easy fold and wait for a better spot. Because giimeyochipz raised the correct amount, we would expect him to make a standard continuation bet on the Flop if the action checks to him. With Q-J, we are usually folding to a raise like this.

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Kyjmbxz is on the Button and makes the call. We are holding Q-J from the Small Blind. With a Raise and a Call in front of us, this is usually a spot where we would just fold. There is a new rule that we’d like to introduce today, If I have over 50 big blinds with a “nothing” hand then I’m allowed to get tricky, as long as I do not go under the 50 Big Blind mark in the process. Trick can mean:

  • Check/Raise Bluffing – Raising an opponent’s continuation bet with nothing post-Flop
  • 3-Bet Bluffing – Raising an opponent’s Open-Raise with nothing pre-Flop
  • Double Barreling – Making a “Second Bet” on the Turn with nothing post-Flop
  • 4-Bet Bluffing – Raising an opponent’s 3-bet with nothing pre-Flop or post-Flop

Having “nothing” is required in these spots because if you have something, like a mediocre hand, then you’ll want to use tactics to potentially improve your hand or flip your cards at the showdown. For example, if I Flop Top Pair with a medium-sized stack, then I’ll want to make it to the River and potentially use a Blocker Bet to win the hand. If I Flop “nothing” (3rd pair or worse), then I may want to use a Check/Raise Bluff or Double Barrel as it is my only way to win the Pot. With “nothing” I can’t Flip my cards over and win at the Showdown. Remember that “nothing” can also turn into something along the way.  

I have 68 big blinds which means I have the choice to get tricky. I absolutely do not have to get tricky. I decide that I’m going to make a play because I have over 50 big blinds and while Q-J is not hand that we typically call a raise with, it’s one that has potential post-Flop rewards compared to other pre-Flop hands. Q-J is not a terrible hand, but If I had 7-2, 9-3, or 10-4, the tricky play would be to 3-Bet Bluff because I’m not interested in the Flop. To execute a 3-Bet Bluff in this spot, I would make a raise to $3500 in an effort to win the Pot right now. When both players fold, I win. When one or both players call, then the Flop will determine my next steps (see article “Any Two Will Do” for more details).

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Q-J can make Straights and High Pairs so I elect to get tricky in a different way. Hands like J-10, Suited Connectors (5s-6s), and others (10c-7c, 9h-7h) would all be reasonable hands to play like this for their Straight and Flush possibilities. These hands all have strong post-Flop potential, but are weak for calling pre-Flop all-ins. For this reason, I choose to call and get a look at the Flop instead of 3-Bet Bluffing. If kuzminegor (the big blind on my left) decides to raise in any way, then I’ll have to fold because I’ll have no control of the hand and the price is too high. It’s more likely, however, that kuzminegor will call or Fold and I’ll see the Flop.

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kuzminegor folds and the Flop comes 3d-7s-Ad. Not the Flop we were looking for because we’ve missed our pair and Straight possibilities, but we are still prepared to use our tools to crack the vault. We are first to act so we’re going to make a check to see what our opponents do. Remember that giimeyochipz was the original raiser and Min-Raised, which means that he is more likely to understand and execute on a continuation bet. If the C-bet (continuation bet) happens and kyjmbxz folds from the Button, then we’ll have our spot to try a Check/Raise Bluff. If giimeyochipz checks and kyjmbxz bets, then we can use the same Check/Raise Bluff to win the Pot on him. If both players check and our hand improves (like a Queen on the Turn), then we’ll check and look for more information like bet sizes from our opponents to determine the next steps on the Turn. If both players check and the Turn is empty, then we’ll shut down and Check/Fold.

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I check, giimeyochipz checks, and the action is on kyjmbxz on the Button. Recall that we expected giimeyochipz to make a C-bet, but he decided to check instead. At this point, I’m thinking of three potential reasons for a check from giimeyochipz:

  • Doesn’t understand continuation bets even though the Open Raise was correct, flopped nothing, and is checking to fold, this is likely
  • Doesn’t understand continuation bets even though the Open Raise was correct, flopped a monster, and is checking to slow-play, less likely
  • Understands continuation bets, flopped a mediocre hand, and is checking as The Poker Model would, least likely

Let’s rotate the chair as we did in the article, “Knowing the Right Angles” and analyze what kyjmbxz on the Button must be thinking after the check from the initial raiser. He’s called a Min-Raise from giimeyochipz pre-Flop and observed bmoney012 (me) call behind from the Small Blind. Both bmoney012 and giimeyochipz check, giving him full control on the Flop. This is a prime spot for kyjmbxz to make a steal bet because he is last to act. Recall from our article, “The Blinds Leading the Blinds”, that the Button is so valuable for this very reason. Even though the initial raiser didn’t make a continuation bet, we’ve found another opportunity to use a Check/Raise Bluff on the player who is on the Button, kyjmbx, if he decides to bet. This is a spot that we were looking for. We’ll use the knowledge that the Button is last to act after facing two checks to make a Check/Raise Bluff, keeping us over 50 big blinds in the process.

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kyjmbxz makes a bet of $1,500 from the Button. This is a medium-sized bet because it is between ⅓ and ⅔ of the Pot size, which is $3900. After taking time to consider kyjmbxz’s point of view, my thoughts move inward. Do I have enough chips to get tricky? Yes, I wouldn’t have called pre-Flop if I didn’t. Is it likely that the Button is looking to take advantage of missed C-bet? Yes. As a review, my plan is to use a Check/Raise Bluff to win the Pot right now. This is a good spot because we have over 50 Big Blinds, a “nothing” hand, and our opponent may be trying to steal the Pot after both of his opponents checked to him on the Button.

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I raise to $4250 in an effort to make both players fold. Notice that if I lose the $4250 on this hand, then I’ll be left with 58 big blinds which is still enough to get tricky later in the tournament. If I get action from either player after my raise, it’s a quick exit from the hand for me. If giimeyochipz calls or raises me, then I’m confident he has a monster hand and I must fold regardless of what kyjmbxz does. If gimimeyochipz folds and kyjmbx calls or raises, then I must make the same exit for the same reasons. The beauty of getting “tricky” is that we are not committed in any way and can easily fold the hand. This is why making the play with “nothing” is part of the rule.

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Both players fold; we’ve robbed the bank! This fold confirms that giimeyochipz didn’t have a strong enough hand to stay in after my raise. It’s quite possible that he flopped a mediocre hand and would have called kyjmbxz’s steal attempt, but my raise represented a much bigger hand and forced him to fold. We also can feel confident that kyjmbxz on the Button was attempting to steal the Pot and didn’t have a big enough hand to play back at us.

Brett

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