This week’s episode features the first podcast pair-up between Red Chip Poker founders, coaches and authors James “SplitSuit” Sweeney and Doug Hull. If that wasn’t exciting enough, the topic is sure to line the pockets of many listeners: Common situations in which players leave money on the table.
Straddling, checking dark, re-buying and cashing out, handling showdowns, and a special topic at the end of the podcast that tournament players are definitely going to want to pay attention to.
Hull watched so many players during the WSOP make ‘sucker’ moves, he needed to get a few of them off his chest.
Top on the list is the straddle, a sucker bet by any means. While SplitSuit points out that a button straddle can make sense if everyone’s doing it, it’s the under-the-gun straddle that’s most common. As Hull concurs, always bad from a mathematical standpoint.
Hull calls the UTG straddle the “even bigger blind”, a voluntary payment for a bigger blind. As he points out, looking at anyone’s online stats will show a long-term losing big blind record no matter how good you are.
People like to gamble, which is the only explanation. Sweeney says there might be some trace of value in getting people to loosen up against you, but it’s always going to be a mathematical boondoggle.
Don’t Remove Options
Referencing Bill Chen’s Mathematics of Poker, Hull notes it’s been proven mathematically that removing any of one’s options (check, bet, raise or fold) is -EV.
Checking in the dark is the main way we see players give up one of their action options. Sweeney notes that even if you’re only going to want to donk bet a few percentage points of the time, checking in the dark is still not advisable. The small and unquantifiable psychological and table image impact is not worth the trade-off of removing the option to bet.
“Most of the time, it’s not going to matter, but those times that it matters, it matters a great deal,” Hull says.
Hull and Sweeney agree the root cause of checking in the dark is likely insecurity about one’s postflop skills.
Betting dark is along the same lines as checking dark, for all of the same reasons.
Sweeney shares a unique move he likes to pull on weaker players where he realizes value in betting dark. Against weaker players, a ridiculously small dark bet following a preflop call — say, 1/4 of the pot — forces the weak player to define their range. They will often fold trash hands, call those that are marginal or draws, and raise if they have a serious piece of the flop.
Don’t Punt the Short Stack
Hull sees a lot of weaker players dwindle their stack down to $20 or $30 bucks and then make a decision to tilt-punt with a decent hand preflop. He notes that people seem to forget you can stand up and cash out those chips and buy a meal or a tank of gas. Or, as Sweeney points out, you can always get the tilt under control and pull chips out of your pocket to get back to a stack worth playing.
Hull recounts a tale of a student whose graph showed a huge spike at -$400, and he correctly guessed this student had set a 2 buy-in stop/loss and was punting his stacks when they ran low. He was not willing to leave with a $330 loss. The rest of it was going in.
Don’t Auto-Muck at Showdown
Hull had an entire podcast on showdown mechanics explaining why one should always table their cards at showdown. You never know when that 8-high is going to take it down, so auto-mucking is never a +EV play. You might also run into someone who angle shoots you and over-represents their hand with what they say they have, when they really hold something far worse. While it’s hard to quantify how many times players commit this poker sin (because the cards go into the muck), Hull is willing to bet it’s more often than one might expect.
Cards speak, but they only speak from the felt.
Likewise, don’t fold before an opponent bets. Even if there’s a 99% chance they are going to bet, you’re not a fortune teller.
Don’t Misspeak or Mishandle Chips
Sweeney and Hull recount at-the-table experiences where saying the wrong thing got a player committed to a certain action, or accidentally drops a chip across the betting line before making a call.
In these types of situations, poker players have only themselves to blame. Accidents will happen, but players should be very careful about what they say, especially if it contains some of the action words that will commit you to an action in the eyes of the floor. Ditto for chips — accidentally dropping chips into a pot will not be treated as an accident by the folks running the game.
Be aware of what you are doing with your voice, your chips and your cards.
Don’t Worry About Paying the Rake Twice in a Tournament
The last situation this dynamic duo discusses is whether or not one should play a satellite into a tournament.
Hull points out that if you win a satellite into an MTT, you are essentially paying the rake on the tournament twice. And if you happen to lose that satellite and still want to play the tournament anyway, once again, you paid the rake twice.
However, if you are +EV in a satellite, you are +EV. You should play it. The concept is similar to if you’re playing a $1/$2 cash game waiting for the $2/$5 game to open. Assumedly, you’re +EV in the $1/$2 game, so you should definitely play it even if you’re not going to make what you’d make at the higher limit.
Sweeney mentioned the question, “Is it worth my time?” in regards to the satellite question. For example, if you would be making more money per hour playing a $5/$10 game than you would in the satellite, you’ve hit a bump in the road toward equity.
Ultimately, Hull says the idea that you’re paying the rake twice is fallacious because the satellite and the tournament are two separate events. If you are a favorite to win the satellite, and if your time isn’t more valuable elsewhere, then get in there.