Thursday, March 18, 2010
Winning by Losing in Poker
To be honest, I wasn't really playing at first. I was running a tournament that started small and an extra player was needed at the table. So I sat down and played. Without any real desire to win, I just bleed chips to the other players until almost all of mine were gone.
Then I realized, why not? I should go on and win this thing. So, I started playing in earnest.
A pivotal moment came where I was the big blind for 4,000 chips. A guy in middle position raised to 8,000. There were three players who called. It was on me. My cards really weren't that good. I didn't even need to be in the hand.
The pot was now 36,000; I had to call 4,000. That gave me 9:1 pot odds. With those pot odds, I really wanted to call, so I pushed in my extra 4,000 in chips. The flop came.
I almost laughed. The pot was 40,000. I had just flopped an open ended straight My odds of catching one of my four outs was 31.5%, or about 1:2. Trying to keep a straight face and failing, I blurted out to the original raiser "There is nothing you can bet that will not give me good pot odds."
After the flop, you want to make a big bet that destroys a person's pot odds and keeps him out of the hand when he has a draw. On a 40,000 pot I'd call 100 (an impossible bet here) even if I had nothing at all and no chance for a draw. 40:1 pot odds would be too much enticement. But even if he had 40K in chips, I'd have to call - that would give me 2:1 pot odds, a break even point. If someone else called, my pot odds woudl be even higher.
So the original raiser opened for 10K. That gave me 4:1 pot odds, and since two more players went in, it gave me a 70K pot I needed 10K to call. With 7:1 pot odds, and 1:2 odds of making my hand the "pot odds" were dictating that I call.
Work it out. Over time I will lose two out of every three hands like this I play. So I am far more likely to lose than to win. But by playing a hand that loses, my chip stack will grow. If I play the hand 100 times, at a cost of 10,000 to call on the flop, it will cost me 10K * 100 = 1,000K chips. If I win 1/3 of the time, I win one third of 80K * 100, or about 8,000K / 3 = 2,666K chips (the actual amount is 8,000K * 31.5% = 2,520K chips)
For 100 such hands, my win of 2,520 chips, less my cost of 1,000K chips equals a profit of 1,520K chips, or 15K chips per hand. To put in terms of mathematical expectation, I "expect" to win 15K in chips every hand, whether I win the pot or not. How can I not call?
This is what pot odds are and how they are played.
Just to note, since this would have bankrupted me if I had lost, which I was favored to do in a one hand situation, stack management is important to consider as well as pot odds. Always call when in a cash game, but for tournaments it is a gamble. But I gambled, and won.
Just remember, it is important to know the math.