Thoughts on the Pure Bluff
Prelude: update on poker life, skip next 4 paragraphs if you don’t give a crap how I have been running. Also, fun new donkey hand at the way bottom apropos of nothing.
It's been a while since I posted, in part I must admit because June started out pretty poorly. First, I had a rough night at that off-the-hook club that I will continue to avoid directly naming although others have taken a less reserved approach.
Not much to say about that night except top set all-in on flop going down to overcards with a nut flush draw (can't really blame him for calling me) and flush under flush plus other various flesh wounds did not balance out doubling up once with bullets over Hilton Sisters. One more bad day online, and I started June in a big hole.
I started to feel a bad streak coming on after a three month solid streak, not crushing the game but steadily profitable, had pulled me out of a massive February funk. I was determined however that if I was going to have another downswing, it was going to be variance alone that did it--I was not going to fuel the fire with bad luck inducing bad play as I have upon occasion in the past.
So I have borne down, focusing on steady winners like 100NL, continuing to dabble in Razz and Triple Draw, and, perhaps remembering my shot at blogger glory, dusting off the old stud high game. I am happy to say that last night taking 3rd in the Hoy put the last daub on my June comeback and am back in the black for the month.
This started out as an aside, but has morphed into its own post. Credit in thinking through this not particularly original formulation goes especially to Bob Ciaffone and Aaron Brown.
Pure bluffs, hands that you really only expect to win with by inducing folds, have their place, and the advantage of these hands are that they maximize leverage, that is the amount that your bet implies versus what you are really risking.
For example 6 handed, blinds at 400-800-100 with each player having around 6000.
You are first to act and open with the hammer for 2400.
You are implying a range of hands that are probably pot committed if someone comes over the top. They most likely need a pair, and a good one at that, or a big ace, to play on (say 77-AA, AK-AJ), and if they do they'll almost certainly be pushing (I realize some people will fold hands like 77-99 and AJ, but others may play hands like 55-66, AT and KQs, especially in the blinds so I think this is roughly accurate). In those cases, with the hammer (or a similar garbage hand), you will getting leverage of 6000 while risking 2400. In a random pool of 5 hands, how often will you face one of those hands?
My handy spreadsheet says 36.1% to be exact. Thus you’ll lose 2400 36.1% of the time and win 1800 the rest of the time. That’s plus 280 EV.
Conversely, with a "better" hand, such as 9T off or, even 27s (here is why this is really not the hammer), you start to edge in on pot commitment where you will have to call a re-raise, in which case your move starts to become pretty minus EV with marginal hands. Note: this will not work if you are playing too many middle hands as good opponents will increase the range of hands they’ll play back at you.
If you are already a tight player, consider this general strategy of incorporating bluffs into your play: remove a few of the worst “best” hands you’d legitimately play for an open raise in this situation and replace them with a few total garbage hands that you know you can lay down. For example, say you’ll open raise in the situation above with AA-55, AK-A8s, AK-A9o, KQ-KTs, KQ-KJo, QJs-QTs and JTs. This is tight—about 15% of your starting hands; if you substitute the bottom 2% of those hands with foldable rags, I think you will actually increase your EV. This is because when you do get raised, you are less likely to be pot committed with a dominated hand. Plus, this is in fact the free advertising Ciaffone speaks of that comes from correct play (zero extra money on advertising Bob advises, just play correctly and it will be a happy byproduct) as people will remember the garbage you played and increase the range of hands they will play back at you, which should gain you more on the 13% than it will lose you on the 2% garbage.
Here’s the kicker: even if people know you are playing this strategy, it is not correct for them to widen their play back range (though they may still do so).
(Warning: this does not apply if you overdo it and increase the total number of hands you are playing.)
And no, this is not an excuse for why you may have seen me flip over 23 offsuit late in the Hoy last night (OK, maybe it is).
Here’s one more fun donkey hand for the hell of it.
I'll call this one Christmas in June.
I'll admit I played this hand pretty aggressively (some might say donkishly), but there are a few points that might explain my play. TheKidd2006 had sat down 20 hands before and proceeded to play 65% of his hands, 35% for a pre-flop raise (as if the name wasn’t enough to raise red flags). He was similarly aggressive post flop. Putting him on very little, I slow played TPMK. In case he was on a draw (not too incredible given the two flush draws out there), I put my money where my read was. I have to admit I was making a pretty sad crying call for the last 20 with a pretty sure feeling I was beat, but as you can see, holding on to 20 with a 174 already in the pot is a pretty –EV move on these tables.
Interestingly, after this hand, I got a few more hundred hands on him at this and other tables--he was not nearly that nutso thereafter, dropping down to 22-12-3.5. Perhaps was paying into his advertising budget. He should read Mr. Ciaffone.