Saturday, January 07, 2006

A Letter to Hooke

I guess we're all here bright and breezy in a new exciting year. And as promised, I am going to do a little PLOing for you old timers out there. Last year, BluffThis! a regular both here and on 2+2, did a very provocative post about tight play in PLO. As per usual, it didn't garner a whole heap of intelligent responses, however, I thought it might be useful to examine his thoughts and give my views here instead. You can find his post at :

(Quick disclaimer. Bluff has an almost psychopathic hatred of using tools like PokerTracker. I just don't understand it, but I do forgive him :) Is PT as useful for PLO players? Absolutely not. Does it have its uses? Absolutely does. It lets you build rough and ready profiles of players. Now if a guy is playing half his hands and raising with most of them, unlike in holdem, this doesn't *necessarily* mean he's a bad player. But it certainly means he's not a rock. So a raise on the flop is not always the nuts. Also, just for ease of use of reviewing significant hands. PT is a godsend. Diversionary rant over.)

This post of Bluff's is unusual and interesting. Most PLO players just play the preflop quite loosely and with little thought, and then focus from the flop onwards. It’s not unusual to have players with stats of VIP 40%+ and still be winning players. Having said this, there is a profile of winning players, playing circa low 30 preflop and raising with half of their hands they play, so clearly some players are being quite discerning about their standards, if not to Bluff's rigor.

I did feel, though, that there were several elements missing from Bluff's analysis.

1. It's Not the Full Story

If you are going to play as tight as this article advocates then you MUST be raising with the vast majority of the hands you are playing. One of the key raising strategies in PLO is to elevate the stakes when you have an advantage. Clearly, if you are playing this tight, the sheer quality of your hands will be an advantage over the field. So you have to be raising a lot, from all positions.

2. You Need to Link Preflop to Postflop

To my mind, a key element in expert PLO play is how do you link your preflop play to the play running through the streets. One of the reasons I never adopted the raising more strategy was just that I found myself banging it in on too weak values on the flop or the turn. I had a disconnect between my preflop play and the rest of my game. If you are going to be a TAG preflop you are going to need to have an excellent understanding of how you extend this approach against various opponents and situations. The overwhelming advantage and paradoxical disadvantage is that there is no published information on this style of play.

3. It Doesn't Always Win the Most Money

The TAG approach works best in the bigger games. Here, many pots are three way or headsup on the flop, and the game gets NLHE-esque characteristics at times. But certainly from 2-4 and thereabouts, the nature of the game is very different. Many pots are more multiway, regardless of raising, so the UberTAG approach doesn't necessarily have the same impact. Moreover, the pot doesn't need to already be inflated for some schmuck to charge his whole stack in into a poor situation. Bad flush draw, top pair can be a stacking off hand in an unraised pot at the 2-4 level; it may require an inflated, juicier prize in the middle to get people to play quite as loosely at the higher stakes. And of course because of this, it becomes less of a mistake.

These caveats to one side, interesting food for thought for PLO devotees.


Peter B said...

To what extent do you think that your points 1, 2 & 3 also apply to limit hold'em?

I've been accumulating cash in the tight games found during the day on most sites (and on UB at any time) by adopting this kind of strategy - not playing many pots, but pushing to get them 2-way or 3-way at the most before the flop and then, hopefully, taking down most of them before the river.

It's working better than my old style of play (although, as you have sid, you don't like some of my decisions) at the moment. The question is, to what extent can it last, and how long before a sufficient number of players "remember"?

I guess at that point I either change sites, change names, change styles or change levels.


Big Dave D said...


When I used to play limit, this was the style I used. Unless I had a value hand,in position, I raised. Or passed. Then it was pure Abdul. Its a workable, if uninteresting style.



Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

Firstly, I don't hate PT and have downloaded it in the past and looked at it, but I take good notes while I am playing, which is made easier by the fact that I only 3 table, whether plo or nl or combo. As I mentioned in my thread on LAGs and in other threads, many of them are very good at playing according to the table dynamics, and if you just use something like PT and make notes from it that they play a certain hand in a certain way, that is taken out of the context of the table dynamic in which it is played. On a rammin table many of those guys will play and raise with hands they otherwise are obviously folding on tighter tables, especially with several short stacks waiting to employ the 'ol limp reraise. And it is critical as well, to note how other players play certain hands in different situations, i.e. in different positions, versus different players, and whether the original preflop raiser or not. I note these things myself. I do save all my hand histories and occasionally will review them to check a certain player's or my own play, but my notes during the games themselves don't make that as necessary.

You are right about the tigher approach I advocate not being the whole story, and that you have to connect pre and postflop play. I am one of those players who doesn't play as many hands as others, but does raise with a greater percentage of the ones I do play when first to enter a pot or in late position than other players who play more hands do. Rolf's articles in the past have said he does the same once having built up a short stack a little, and Bob Ciaffone in one of essays says the same as well. So playing this way has two effects. It means you play bigger pots with better hands and have more leverage for when you do hit, and it gives somewhat of an illusion of action that isn't really that indiscriminate as less observant players might think.

Also what is important, is that just because I raised preflop, doesn't mean I feel it necessary to bet the flop into a crowd, even when checked to in last position. Of course the fewer seing the flop the more likely as the preflop raiser I am to represent the best hand, but I am also adept at taking free cards after habitual checkraisers have checked to me when I have a decent but not great draw. And since I do play fewer hands, then my various account names that I play under are seen as tigher and more likely to have hands that I represent. Which means I get away with some big bluffs versus opponents capable of folding that others might not.

And something that I am extremely conscious of, especially since I know so many of my opponents do use PT and stuff like it, is not to play the same hand in the same position the same way all the time. In the 2+2 archives there is a Ray Zee post where he says that if your opponents can regularly put you on a hand, then you are DOOMED in PLO. Truer words were never spoken. There are some regular oppenents I play will who are extremely rockish and very easy to read. They are winners overall, but not big winners, because they don't raise enough preflop to disguise hitting a flop, and because even looser players know to fold hands against them that they would otherwise give action with. Of course in position with stack sizes allowing it, these guys are perfect targets to rob blind on the river :).


Big Dave D said...

Hi Bluff

Poet licence and drama was my intent with the PT thing. I just wanted to make clear that it is useful and your points to one side, it should serve as a useful adjunct to detailed notes taking. ALso, it let's you focus down on people's play more. For example a play commmon by Raef and Darwin is the reraise with shitty double suited hands. Now if u see a showdown here u might think WTF and proscribe them as very loose, when in actual fact they are anything but.

Also I think u are giving too much credit to Rolf and Bob. I can't recall off the op of my head anything as drastic from Rolf as your short post. And Bob really only talks about the very basics.



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