Monday, March 15, 2010

High Stakes Poker on TV

Baseball is like a poker game. Nobody wants to quit when he's losing; nobody wants you to quit when you're ahead. – Jackie Robinson

I am primarily a cash game player. Almost all of the time I spend playing poker, reading about poker, thinking about poker, etc. is about playing cash game poker. This week’s episode of High Stakes Poker was very entertaining but also rather perplexing (to me).

When I go to a casino to play, I take a minimum of 3-5 buy ins. No one is going to “get lucky” once against me and send me home for the session. That’s not how I roll. In fact, losing one buy in is not likely to affect me much at all. Obviously, it is undesirable to be felted but, if it happens, I am going to rebuy and keep playing. However, three players that are supposed to be good players (and presumably well funded) do just that. They lose one buy in and, instead of wanting to continue playing, they get up and leave the game. Even more strange, 2 of them get it all in with next to nothing and out of position. Huh?

Dario elects to play Kh-3h and bluffs off his entire stack to Durrr.
To recap, he plays a junk hand, flops bottom pair, then he tries to bluff one of the players least likely to fold. Am I the only one that thinks this is poor play for a cash game?

Jason Mercier elects to squeeze from the small blind with Ah-4h. Here we go again, he is oop, he has a marginal hand, and then he tries to bluff another of the players least likely to fold. Phil Ivey had already called the open bet and Jason’s raise pre-flop. Then Ivey raised Mercier’s C-bet on the flop. So, what does Jason do? He bluffs off his entire stack. Ivey had already declined a few opportunities to fold and given every indication he intended to play his hand. Although Gabe defends the play, I think it stinks. Particularly, since Mercier does not re-buy but gets up and leaves after the failed bluff.

If I am going to use my entire stack to bluff, I am definitely going to rebuy if the attempt fails. Otherwise, I would not put my entire stack in the middle. In fact, if I only had one buy in to play with, I would make sure to get all my chips in with (what I thought was) the best of it or not at all. So, maybe the players that lost and left believed they were outclassed by the others at the table?

Another strange play was that not just one but two players opted to limp/call with Q-Q. I do not think this is a good play. Limp/call with A-A? Maybe to be tricky since the A-A doesn’t fear an overcard. Limp/call with K-K maybe (but probably not). But to limp in with Q-Q (or J-J, 10-10, or 9-9) is just puzzling to me given how often an overcard is going to flop. Well, Gus does just that against Daniel (the other player to limp his Q-Q in a previous hand that he lost). By just calling with his Queens, Gus enables Daniel to play 7-5s and flop two pair. Daniel probably would have folded to 7-5s preflop to any raise but got a cheap flop and, instead, felts Gus and his Queens. One pair hands play better when you isolate a single opponent.

While I found the episode good entertainment, I was underwhelmed by the play of these so-called top tier players playing for such high stakes. Finally, although Gabe is still good, he was better with A.J. to use as a foil (Kara does not add anything to the show).


HighOnPoker said...

On the single buy-in, it could be that you are seeing suboptimal buy-in strategy because of the uniqueness of HSP. These players may want to buy some airtime, hence the initial buy-in, but may not be rolled for multiple buy-ins. The other possibility is that once they've gotten some time at the table (i.e., likely screentime), they'd rather play with softer competition than you usually see on HSP.

As for the QQ limp, it only makes sense in context. I am a firm believer that there are very few 100% plays, like "Raise with QQ 100% of the time." Depending on the table conditions, limping with QQ may be smart if (a) people are raising light and there are lots of players to act after you [in which case, you are setting up the re-raise] or (b) payers are tight postflop, so you want them to think that their top pair of 8s on the 832 board is good for some profit. The second scenario makes some sense; no one would expect a limp with QQ, so the player has a lot of deception to work with and manipulate his opponent. You, however, pointed out the major risk; players may catch lucky on you.

Wolynski said...

I'm a strictly cash player myself, but tournaments make for gripping TV.

I think in the High Stakes TV show, players do stupid things in the hope of putting one over on TV - bragging rights. But they end up looking like fools.

baglife said...

They're obviously just so good that we could NEVER understand their plays (yeah right)....

You could defend the QQ move under the right circumstances, though it's generally not an optimal play. That being said how do you "trick" one of the best players in the world? The more I think about the QQ limp, the more I can see what was going through his mind when he made that play.

As for the A4 and K4 hands OOP; this sounds like garbage to me.

I think it would be funny if the show was complete b.s. Imagine if High Stakes Poker just gave them some cash to throw around for only the duration of the show.