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Thread: Starting hands chart confusion!

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    beddelol is offline Junior Member
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    Default Starting hands chart confusion!

    Hi everyone! im new to this forum and i have some questions about starting hands that i think are not clarified anywhere on pokerology (correct me if im wrong). hopefully one of you can help me out. Im mainly asking from an online poker perspective, even though i know the principals are the same in live vs online poker.

    1. does anyone have a good starting hands chart for full ring, no limit holdem? the one on pokerology.com is confusing to me and it doesnt explain what to do if there is a big raise AFTER you?

    2. and what if i have QQ for example, and there is a raise before i get to act, the chart tells me to raise from all positions. but what exactly does that mean? should i re-raise the initial raiser or should i just call?

    3. what does it mean if "the stacks are deep"?

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    J_Verschueren's Avatar
    J_Verschueren is offline They call me "J"
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    Hi beddelol, welcome to the forum.

    Allow me to answer your 3rd question first, because it has a definate answer: stacks, in a cashgame, are considered deep if they represent 200BB (big blinds) or more. Deepstacked play does throw up some, often counter-intuitive peculiarities, but explaining them would lead us too far in this discussion. The general gist is fewer hands will be won pre-flop and thus some of the reasons for 3-betting and 4-betting lose some of their validity. The whole "I may get my opponent to fold or, if not, I may still have/end up with the best hand"-thing starts loosing out against "the hammer of future betting" (<--- look that up, I'm sure that's explained on here somewhere).

    Anyhow, hand selection in no-limit: it's a complex matter. Slightly less so in early position in full ring games, because you will usually just fold anything which isn't a premium hand. And there's that word already: "usually", because, off course, your opponents will know anyone opening from early position will usually have one of a limited number of hands. So they will speculate against you from late position, hoping to take you for a nice chunk of your money when they outflop big pairs or big aces when an ace hits the flop. Already you have situation which you have to counter by not only raising with premium hands from early position. Ok, then, which hands? -well, any non total junk hand will do, as long as you do it sparingly. A lot of players overdo "mixing up their game". I've been playing poker for 7 years now and, in my dealings with a player I regularly play live, I have only shown him a bluff once and he still second guesses my plays to this day (*).

    As the starting hand chart says at the bottom: it's only a guide, designed to keep you out of the worst of trouble and it should be used in conjuction with the starting hands lesson.

    What do you do if there is a raise behind you? -well... who raised? -from which position? -what are his tendencies, what sort of hands does he play? -how deep are you with him? -what sort of hands does he think you play? -what is your hand?
    There are a miriad of factors which influence a no-limit Hold 'em pre-flop decision and the main problem is there is a knock-on effect of making a bad one. Which is why I feel new players to the game should play limit Hold 'em for a while, just to see what kinds of spots certain hands will put one in, be it in or out of position. Just to experiment before one can really get financially owned for a mistake. Caveat emptor: playing limit Hold 'em with a no-limit mindset will see you folding too much, but that's not the point of the exercise.

    In the QQ example I can sort of agree and disagree with the chart. If the open comes from early position I will assume I'm not doing great against that opening range and, therefore, might just call if it was folded to me. If there were one or more callers in between, I might just re-raise on a 100BB stack, just to clarify matters and possibly get folds.
    Starting from early to late position, for the beginning player, the chart actually encompasses all of one's options. Going from an "information raise" to a "value raise", as position improves. Somewhere in the middle, an experienced player would just call instead of raise, but, from a beginner point of view, a raise will either define one's hand (when behind) or generate more value when it's best.
    That's the thing about starting hand charts. Optimal play given a certain situation is sacrificed for what "works most of the time" and different starting hands charts have different ideas about that.

    (*): I was carddead for several orbits, so I opened Td4d UTG+2 for 3x; button (the player in question) called, BB called.
    Flop was A82 rainbow, no diamond. BB checked, I cbet 2/3rds pot. Button hems and haws and finally folds 44 face up, BB folds. I say "I flopped an Ace" and show the the T4s. I'll leave the rest up to imagination of the reader.
    Last edited by J_Verschueren; Aug 15th, 2014 at 03:44 AM.

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    J_Verschueren's Avatar
    J_Verschueren is offline They call me "J"
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    There is another point I wanted to make, but I sort of got carried away. If you search for and aquire a copy of "No Limit Hold'em, Theory and Practice" (the definitive work on playing No Limit Hold'em with 25BB or more), you will notice the discussion of starting hands only starts on page 122 out of 317 and, even then, the chapter is called "A Preflop Strategy"...
    Meaning it is a strategy designed to keep an unwary player out of trouble. It's in no way adapted to the table situation or optimal by any means.
    Because, once one starts to go there, i.e. adapting one's strategy to exploit certain table conditions or certain players, one becomes exploitable by other players who realise that's what you're doing, because, let's face it, that's what they're trying to do as well.
    It is a really fine and complex line to thread and no one "definitive" starting hand strategy can help you get there. It can merely mitigate damages while you find your feet in this game.
    Last edited by J_Verschueren; Aug 16th, 2014 at 02:57 AM.

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    beddelol is offline Junior Member
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    thank you very much for answering! so let me see if i got this right. when the chart says i should call 55 only if the stacks are deep, i suspect the reason for that is so that my opponents dont run out of money and can supply me with good pot odds for my possible set?

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    J_Verschueren's Avatar
    J_Verschueren is offline They call me "J"
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    Quote Originally Posted by beddelol View Post
    thank you very much for answering! so let me see if i got this right. when the chart says i should call 55 only if the stacks are deep, i suspect the reason for that is so that my opponents dont run out of money and can supply me with good pot odds for my possible set?
    In that case it's called implied odds. Your opponent's stack indeed needs to be large enough to cover the odds against making your hand (assuming you figure you need to hit your set most of the time to beat his current holding) and then some. Because, even if you make your hand, there is no guarantee the rest of villain's money is going in.

    I'm really bad at rote remembering stuff, but I think the odds against flopping a set are 8:1, or somesuch, so, assuming you have villain easily covered in either scenario(*), you would fold the 55 if it was $2,- to you and villain only had $16,- behind, but you would call (if you were reasonably sure there wouldn't be a re-raise behind) if he had $40,- or more left.

    The "or more" bit is really important. The deeper you are with villain, the less he will feel like his "game life" is on the line when he calls your bets. He'll be, like, "yeah, you may have a set, but you could also be bluffing, going for "thin value" (<-- another thing you might want to look up) or have a hand I dominate... I'll just call and see what you do next.".
    So, when stacks are deep, you may get to, *almost*, break even with regard to your initial call, even with an opponent who has no intention of paying you off for all the money (**). I hope you realise that, if you can get to this point, the times you do get stacks in are just gravy.

    (*)Rem.: because, no matter how much information is out there about probability calculations and the statistics involved in playing poker, one still sees people only rebuying in cash games when their initial stake runs out. Which is silly. They will even accept one can lose a big pot through sheer bad luck, but then refuse to rebuy, even if it clearly stunts their ability to win back their money.

    (**)Rem.: assuming you'll never put anymore money in on a loser, Which you will from time to time, obviously, but then, assuming you'll listen to the people posting here, you'll do it less than your average opponent and thus profit.
    Last edited by J_Verschueren; Aug 16th, 2014 at 03:20 AM.

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    Breezy's Avatar
    Breezy is offline Feel the Breeze
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    I think you can make one using a program like pokerstove or equilab. Using hand percentages for a certain seat number. Then you can just kind of make one using Excel or OpenOffice.
    ​Breezy

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