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Folding to survive

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  • Folding to survive

    I have just read a post that I consider exceptional over at another internet forum. It basically concerned a discussion of Phil hellmuth folding a straight flush draw on the flop in an early part of the tournament.

    It contains information and advice that I believe survival minded players should give serious thought to. I am not posting this to enter a debate. This is my only post on this thread. I am just sharing what I consider to be exceptional information and advice. Make of it what you want.

    A lot of this is what I usually bang on about in this forum with regards the survival concept in big-bet tournaments and how most learning players mis-understand how it affects your play, mostly due to the media catchphrases such as 'you have to survive to win' etc.

    What Fossilman says here is exactly how I think, except he puts it much better than me as he is a much more advanced player. This is how the best players really think, regardless of what you read.

    Even Phil hellmuth thinks this way, in terms of tourney EV and the edge he needs, except his EV calculations are flawed due to his ego over-estimating his ability over the field, leading to bad folds such as this. Though, if I was in Phil's shoes in this hand I would have check-raised all-in on the flop rather than check-called, so wouldn't have faced this call for all my chips. Also note that this tournament was a 4 or 5 day one. I don't think even Helmuth would fold in a 1 day event, regardless of the flawed estimates of his ability.

    This really is a vital bit of information to fully learn and understand if you want to progress your tournament game.

    Edited highlights of the thread as follows:

    Question -
    I was reading through some old CardPlayer magazines and came across Phil Hellmuth's 'Hand of the Week' article in the March 1st, 2002 edition.

    It was about the $10,000 NLHE tournament at the 2002 World Poker Open in Tunica. It was day 1 of a 4 day event. In case you don't have that edition at hand here is what happened. Hellmuth called a small button raise in the Big Blind with KsQs. An early position limper called "Judge" also called the raise. They were 3 handed. The flop came Js 10s 4h - an open ended straight/royal flush draw with 2 overcards...

    "Judge" checked, the button bet $500 ($1,500 in the pot now), Hellmuth decided just to call, but then "Judge" called the $500 bet and raised all-in. The button folded. The all-in raise covered Hellmuth's last $6,000. To cut a long story short Hellmuth decided to fold, saying he valued his chips too much and would wait for a better spot, figuring he was at worst an 11/10 underdog and at best a 3/2 favorite. His fold generated a lot of criticism from other pros, including Huck Seed who told him that even if "Judge" had flopped a set he was even money.

    Some questions:

    (i) Do you agree with the fold in this spot and so early in the tournament?

    (ii) What if it was down to the bubble on the last day and you were an average or below average stack and needed chips to compete at the final table to have any hope of winning the tournament. (This of course assumes that winning or coming as high in the rankings is more important to you than making any money finish)

    (iii) What if it was a bubble situation again but this time you had a healthy stack and had the allin raiser covered, but if you lost you would be a below average stack and vulnerable to busting out on the bubble.

    (iv) Hypothetical scenario. You are heads up at the final table with equal stacks. If you call with this hand and win you come first, if you lose you're second. Would you call. (Isn't this an almost identical situation to Carlos Mortensen's call at the final heads-up table of the WSOP a couple of years ago where he rivered a 9 for a straight?)
    Fossilman - A very important point is that PH is calling $5500 to win $8500. That is better than 3:2 on his money.

    It is quite likely that PH is drawing to the flush or straight only. Given the play of the hand, he might have outs to the K or Q, but that isn't terribly likely. Even with that being the case, he is still close to even money at worst.

    (i) Nobody is so good that they should pass up this spot. It should be an automatic call early in the event.

    (ii) If it was bubble time, then you might fold here and get a slight increase in EV over playing. However, if that is true, then it is very likely that your first call of the raise preflop was a mistake, and not a small one at that.

    (iii) If it was bubble time and I had the player covered, I would be more inclined to play, even though this increases the chance that I'm not a favorite to win the hand. Since I can't go broke I needn't worry about finishing out of the money (yet), and therefore shouldn't be passing up a coin toss that is paying me 3:2.

    (iv) Heads-up situation is very situational. ;-) Since there aren't three players in the pot, the whole dynamic changes, and it's harder to say that I don't have 21 outs twice instead of maybe only 15 outs (and he will have significant full house redraws). If I have 21 outs twice, folding would be a horrible mistake as I'm a very significant favorite, better than 2:1.

    However, if we are to assume that it's a coin toss where I'm getting 3:2, then it depends upon how likely I believe I am to beat this opponent if I win, and how likely if I fold. I have played a few opponents at the end of a tournament where there is no doubt in my mind that I can win almost 100% of the time. They are very passive and tight, and let me steal the blinds repeatedly. Or, they are so predictable that I can always fold and know they've got something, and I can always bet and take it when they don't flop anything. Against these guys there's no reason to play a big pot ever, as you can grind them down every time. Against a good opponent over whom I'm not a significant favorite, I would call with the straight flush draw every time.

    Follow up question -
    It looks to me like there is 2.5k in the pot, plus effectively what Phil has left (6k) for 8.5:6 = 1.42:1 odds not quite 3:2 (I misremembered "Judge" being in the SB). This covers the 1.37:1 of a set, so this is a definite edge. Probably not enough of an edge if you know he has a set.

    Suppose you know you have a 54%:46% = 1.17:1 advantage over your opponents possible hands in an even money situation. Would you call all-in early in a tournament? What is the largest edge that you would pass up in your Tuesday NL tourneys, in which it is obvious you have a significant advantage over the field?

    Trying to pin down the argument a little closer,
    Craig

    PS Should there be a difference between calling with 2:1 pot odds as a 1.9:1 dog and calling 1:1 as a 1.071:1 favorite? The EV is the same (1.034) but the upside is bigger in the former, while the risk of ruin is greater.
    Fossilman - You probably can't pass up any edge bigger than 20% at any time other than the bubble or such (i.e., a situation where survival alone has significant EV). If you do, it's too much and you will likely reduce your overall edge over the field. You probably shouldn't pass up any edge bigger than 10%, though you might be able to do so advantageously if you are a great player relative to the field.

    The real problem is, none of us know exactly where we're at before putting any money in the pot, with a few exceptions (and I mean situations, not exceptional people). So, by the time you know you're behind or only a little ahead, you are usually getting much more than even money on the risk. People who fold too often in big pots don't seem to win a lot of tournaments, in my experience.

    After you put the opponent on a weighted range of hands, you can do the math and figure out if you have a +EV call, and how big of an edge you have. However, it is not the folks who make the mathematically correct call who do the best. Those who do the best are those who do the best job of figuring out the weighted average range of hands the opponent is holding. That's the really hard part.

    Back to the point, I advise the following. Until you consider yourself one of the very best tournament players in the world, take any and all risks, as long as you are confident that they involve a situation where your expectation is positive.

  • #2
    Folding Flush/Strait Draw

    Early in tourney, I would consider folding under the same situation if it meant losing my seat. An all-in raise means either a bluff, or protecting a high pair or a set against the draw. I would pressume the latter was the case.

    While there are multiple outs to this hand, if the last card doesn't hit, Hellmuth would have been left with K high. Early in the tourney, is the risk of just having K high worth risking the seat? To me, the answer is no.

    In my opinion, the more important point is that it's nearly impossible to win a tourney on the first day, but it's very, very easy to get booted on the first day.

    Comment


    • #3
      A Contrary Opinion

      Undertand you didn't want to start a discussion - neither do I. And with appropriate deference to all the keen analyses you've posted in the past, I still disagree that Fossilman's argument should be taken as some sort of universal "Poker principle."

      I remember reading this article when it was originally published - and I recall agreeing with it then - as I still do.

      Fossilman's point in rebuttal of PH is: "[you should] take any & all risks [when] your expectation is positive."

      Hellmuth's points, I believe, are: "not all risks are equal" and "you've got to consider more than simple odds or expectations when deciding to commit."

      To me it's much like the old poker conundrum where you're one of five at the final table of the World Series with aproximately equal stacks, 1st player opens all-in, and the next 3 call. You, in the BB, look down and find A-A!!!
      - do you call?
      - you're way better than 4:1 on the expectation - yet - do you call??
      - When asked of 25 or so world class players, the answers were almost split 50-50!!

      PH was clearly aware of the odds, but still decided to fold! And his reasons were much more complex than simple EV!!!
      - it was day 1 of a 5 day tourney. Plenty of time to win chips IF you don't get knocked off early!!

      - only $500 invested in a pot AND you're still only on a DRAWING hand.

      - why commit another $5500?? Quit and save 90% of your stack for when the flop hits your hand instead of the opponent's!!

      - you've still got to hit the hand - it's likely the opponent doesn't! TJ makes this point about committing on a drawing hand a number of times in his books, as do others. Essentially - "don't"!

      - regardless of what you think of PH's attitudes, he clearly plays better better "post flop" than 95% of his opponents at this point [maybe 99%].

      - you want to be the bet leader, not a "caller."

      - Judge did check-raised the flop. Do you have to give that betting pattern some level of respect??

      - why let Sam??? knock you off because the Ks Qs 4h flop hit his pocket 4s [or even Kd 4d] hard - and your ego won't let you fold the "str8 flush draw." I'd a lot rather have K K, or even Q Q then the Js Ts in my hand at this point.

      Finally, I'd bet you any number of PSO dollars you want that PH finished higher than "Judge". And although I hear people saying all the time that you can't play "results-based" poker; poker IS, after al, a results-based game! It doesn't matter what you think ,or how you play: if at the end of the day your "results" aren't positive [in some way - however you define positive] you've wasted your time!!

      IMO, folding at this point was not chicken, or weak play, or being bullied. It was a simple recognition of the fact that "with these cards, at this point in the tournament, given the betting and drawing situation, the fold was superior to the call."

      Comment


      • #4
        To me it's much like the old poker conundrum where you're one of five at the final table of the World Series with aproximately equal stacks, 1st player opens all-in, and the next 3 call. You, in the BB, look down and find A-A!!!
        - do you call?
        - you're way better than 4:1 on the expectation - yet - do you call??
        - When asked of 25 or so world class players, the answers were almost split 50-50!!
        This does not contradict what I or fossilman say. It is still a question of tourney EV. Near the end of tournaments, normal pot odds ev calculations are distorted by the pay out scale and may change the outcome of the calculation turning a call or raise into a fold. I have never said any different. Fossilman even mentions it in the above post.

        PH was clearly aware of the odds, but still decided to fold! And his reasons were much more complex than simple EV!!!
        No they weren't. Phil made this decision based on his tournament EV calculations. His calculations were wrong because his ego over-estimates his ability compared to the field. If he really was as good as he estimated then his fold would have been correct from a ev viewpoint. However, as fossilman points out, no-one is that good compared to the field. Phils calculations are wrong leading to incorrect folds for him.

        - only $500 invested in a pot AND you're still only on a DRAWING hand.
        Well, as I said, he should have check raised all-in himself.

        So you would fold here because it's a drawing hand. Would you happily put all your money in if you had top pair, a made hand, and your opponent had 2 overcards and a flush draw? It is chances of winning the pot that matters. Tournament equity. That's the whole point.

        - why commit another $5500?? Quit and save 90% of your stack for when the flop hits your hand instead of the opponent's!!
        Well, he played it bad, but folding is giving up tournament ev over the field. That's the whole point. No-one is good enough to fold against that field and be gaining tournament ev. No matter how good you are. Yet this folding to survive attitude is being taught to palyers far worse than average. Ask yourself who is doing the teaching and who is benefitting from it.

        - you've still got to hit the hand - it's likely the opponent doesn't! TJ makes this point about committing on a drawing hand a number of times in his books, as do others. Essentially - "don't"!
        But TJ does. He has even given examples in his book, and still states that he played the hand correctly on the flop. he said his mistake was preflop. In other words, avoid drawing hands preflop. A lot of People that read his book mis-understand this point.

        - regardless of what you think of PH's attitudes, he clearly plays better better "post flop" than 95% of his opponents at this point [maybe 99%].
        In what way is it clear? In his mind he played correctly. If the estimates of his ability over the field were correct, he would have played correctly by folding. That's the whole point. His estimates are wrong due to his ego. Yet much lesser skilled players think they are correct to play the same way.

        - you want to be the bet leader, not a "caller."
        As I pointed out he should have check-raised all-in himself. However, folding was still wrong due to ev calculations. He folded, because he thought it was right for a player of his ability, due to ev calculations. Nobody at the school would be right to fold due to ev calculations.

        - why let Sam??? knock you off because the Ks Qs 4h flop hit his pocket 4s [or even Kd 4d] hard - and your ego won't let you fold the "str8 flush draw." I'd a lot rather have K K, or even Q Q then the Js Ts in my hand at this point.
        It was ego that made him fold. In fact it was ego why he only just called the bet on the flop also. A player with no ego, and a realistic opinion of their ability would have check-raised all-in typically.

        Finally, I'd bet you any number of PSO dollars you want that PH finished higher than "Judge".
        Maybe, but how much more money did he win? Maybe he would have finished higher or won more money had he not given up tourney ev in that spot? In the long run, I bet you any amount he would have. I don't know how much pso bankroll you have but I will bet it all if you like. I will bet all your real bankroll also. Seriously, it isn't a question of opinion. It is a matter of fact.


        And although I hear people saying all the time that you can't play "results-based" poker; poker IS, after al, a results-based game!
        Yes, long term results, not short term. You play for all your chips in that spot and lose, so what. That's short term and irrelevant. In the long run the results will materialize. Tournament ev calculations tell us that the result is positive in the long run.

        It is mathematical fact that hellmuth long term results would be better by playing that hand differently. Again, he made his decision based on mathematical principal. i.e. tournament ev calculation. he calculated that passing in that spot was plus ev for him because of his ability relative to the field. His calculations were wrong because of his ego over-estimating his edge over the field. If his esimation of his ability had been realistic and hence the inputs to the calculation would have been correct, he would have played that hand for all his money.

        He did make the most profitable decision based on his calculations but his ego distorted them to the point of being wrong.

        It doesn't matter what you think ,or how you play: if at the end of the day your "results" aren't positive [in some way - however you define positive] you've wasted your time!!
        In the long run, yes. Not the short run. And how do you get positive results in the long run? By making the best action possible based on tournament ev.

        IMO, folding at this point was not chicken, or weak play, or being bullied. It was a simple recognition of the fact that "with these cards, at this point in the tournament, given the betting and drawing situation
        The way he played that hand was completely down to ego over-estimating his edge over the field.

        the fold was superior to the call.
        Mathematics prove this to be absolutely incorrect. Especially for teh typical player. Though, check-raising all-in was best. But his ego didn't allow him.

        Like I said, what fossilman wrote is very important to understand. I suggest people read and read again, and read some more, until they completely understand. I know I have quite some way to go.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Folding Flush/Strait Draw

          Originally posted by No Tilt
          Early in tourney, I would consider folding under the same situation if it meant losing my seat.
          That's what the pros preaching this attitude want you to do. You thinking this way reduces your tournament ev and increases theirs.

          While there are multiple outs to this hand, if the last card doesn't hit, Hellmuth would have been left with K high. Early in the tourney, is the risk of just having K high worth risking the seat? To me, the answer is no.
          Well, for the average player, the answer should be yes. For a player of Phil Hellmuths ability over that field, the answer should be yes. For a player with the actual ability over the field that Phil Hellmuth thinks he has, the answer should be no.


          In my opinion, the more important point is that it's nearly impossible to win a tourney on the first day, but it's very, very easy to get booted on the first day.
          It is also very easy to get booted as the small stack on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th day and make just the same amount of money. Th eopportunity cost is the money you could have made doing something else in the meantime.

          Making the best possible decisions based on tournament ev on every hand you play is what matters. This will take care of maximizing your long term results in terms of winning money and tournaments. Short term luck will decide your finishing position and money in each individual tourney.

          Comment


          • #6
            You make the 500,000 level of "Who want to be a millionaire"
            You have no clue as to the final answer, but you still have your 50-50 option. Technically, it's +ev to use that option and then make a pure guess. You stand to win more than you can lose, so it's a 'profitable' strategy. In real-life terms it's a stupid strategy, as the first 500k is more important than the second 500k. Also, it's not a repeatable trial. This situation will never happen again. There is no 'long-run' available here.

            If Joe Soap (of PSO fame) won a sponsorship for the WSOP Championship event, travelled 8,000 miles and spent quite a lot of money to be there, was faced with going bust after 30 minutes with a 11-10 edge, then it might make sense to fold. Half the point of Joe's exercise is the experience, and it might be a shame to miss much of it on a coin flip. Joe has an agenda which goes beyond maximising his tournament chances. I suspect many people might, and would tend to decline these bets for that reason.

            If Phil Helmuth, who will play a jillion major tournaments in his lifetime, fails to accept a significant edge when it's on offer early in the game - well, that I don't understand. Phil can enter another tournament tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. Those edges represent long-term profit, as long as you can play enough such games. Most of us can't.

            Put it another way - would I risk my house on a one-off evens chance that offered 11-10? Certainly not. Would I sit all day betting $10 on that same 11-10 shot? Of course.

            Regards

            Glenn

            Comment


            • #7
              If you are Phil Ivey or TJ, do you fold that hand.

              You are better than the rest of the field.


              Randy

              Comment


              • #8
                the jam has been spread. call all in.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by rggator
                  If you are Phil Ivey or TJ, do you fold that hand.

                  You are better than the rest of the field.


                  Randy
                  No, their edge aint good enough over the field. Nobody is. However, they can give up closer gambles, as Phil probably could, that the rest of us couldn't without making a mistake.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by rosita
                    You make the 500,000 level of "Who want to be a millionaire"
                    You have no clue as to the final answer, but you still have your 50-50 option. Technically, it's +ev to use that option and then make a pure guess. You stand to win more than you can lose, so it's a 'profitable' strategy. In real-life terms it's a stupid strategy, as the first 500k is more important than the second 500k. Also, it's not a repeatable trial. This situation will never happen again. There is no 'long-run' available here.
                    Well, I assume that getting knocked out of any 1 particular tournament is not going to have such a drastic effect on your life as losing the above bet would. I think I've missed the point your post is trying to make glenn, as you seem to agree with me about Phil.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Noodles
                      Originally posted by rosita
                      You make the 500,000 level of "Who want to be a millionaire"
                      You have no clue as to the final answer, but you still have your 50-50 option. Technically, it's +ev to use that option and then make a pure guess. You stand to win more than you can lose, so it's a 'profitable' strategy. In real-life terms it's a stupid strategy, as the first 500k is more important than the second 500k. Also, it's not a repeatable trial. This situation will never happen again. There is no 'long-run' available here.
                      Well, I assume that getting knocked out of any 1 particular tournament is not going to have such a drastic effect on your life as losing the above bet would. I think I've missed the point your post is trying to make glenn, as you seem to agree with me about Phil.
                      Yeah, late night rambles when just back from the pub don't always come across well. :lol:

                      I was agreeing with the tournament call with favourable odds, on the grounds that it's an emminently repeatable trial. A 'long-run' thing.
                      Other types of bet raise different issues.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        The same applies to reading the posts at 5.30 am

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          A thread I think some people may find interesting. I did.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Yup - TY.

                            FRC

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              NOODLES

                              WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN? I was away for quit awhile, and have been back now for a few months, and I have'nt seen you or heard from you in the forum. Sorry this has nothing to do with your posting but HI! :wink: I miss your discussions in the forum. Thats all I wanted to say. Glad to see you.

                              babe60 :wink:

                              Comment

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