Hi, all. I received a note from a "fan" -- didn't know I had those, per se -- who wondered why I hadn't been posting here lately. Actually, it's just been a case of too busy and too much, and KAP bosses Jason and Brad are still looking, I believe, for someone to step in here on a more regular basis. My work schedule no longer allows me to dedicate as much time to "fun" poker postings as I once had, and media restrictions at the WSOP (where I'll be spending the summer), all but preclude from doing anything for my Kick Ass friends for the duration.
Them's the breaks, unfortunately.
That said, I'd like to return here with a more poker-y tale about the pros and cons of dry side pot betting, a concept that pros understand innately. For the most part, casual and average players know the term, but don't really get the subtleties involved.
It's a great post for here because it's strategy-related, and it speaks to the audience that reads this blog for the most part. Pros don't need to bother; Rizen (Eric Lynch) isn't stopping by here to check on my latest strategic musings, trust me. However, I play lots of $10-$20-$30 tourneys, and the level of wretched DSP play at those levels is staggering. A recent example from an 18-player $15+1 Stars NLHE turbo is a great starting place for this tale....
We start with 1,500 chips in these things, and from the original 18 we were down to exactly nine, having just received the "Congratulations! You have reached the final table!" popup from Stars. What's to celebrate, really? Only four players cash in these things, so the banner may as well also include, "Five of the nine of you are spending lots of time for no payout, too!"
I was destined to be one of those, and it came about in part of because of an interesting DSP situation. I came to the final table with about 3,100 in chips, roughly in the middle of the pack and nowhere near safe in terms of cashing. You need to get to 6,000 or 7,000 before you can even think about letting a couple of the shorties bang heads; you've got to keep grabbing chips here when opportunities arise, particularly in the turbo format and at this stage, where the blinds move up and the antes kick in.
Along about the second hand of the final table, with blinds at 100/200 and just before the antes start, I find 9-9 in EP (UTG+2). I make a standard opening bet to 600, which I'm wont to do these days. (I've been experimenting with Chris Ferguson's concepts regarding pre-flop raises and have noticed, short-term, just a touch of improvement in my results.)
It's folded around to the small blind, who is one of the short stacks with 1,060 chips. He min-reraises me, to 1,000, leaving only 60 behind. And then, after a bit of a pause, the big blind smooth-calls the 1,000.
I am momentarily perplexed. What am I supposed to do here? I am so-o-o-o-o-o priced in for the call that that part of it is a given. The problem is, after that 400 I would have only another 2,000 or so myself, with me in line for the blinds as well. I could well be behind the small blind with my 9-9, but the pot odds are so good it doesn't matter.
Trying to figure out the big blind's range is another matter. He's the chip leader, with over 7,000 at the moment. He could be smoothing here with a monster, or he could be hoping to float a baby pair or a suited connector or something, which is likely how he built his stack in the first place.
I give it the usual three seconds of thought I spend on complex situations like these... and I jam for my remaining 2,100. The SB auto-calls and the BB takes as lengthy a pause as possible and finally folds. The system opens my 9-9 and the small blind turns out to have A-J, not even suited.
Good stuff for me. No further risk and 1,000 in dead chips in the pot. Unfortunately, an ace flops and the short stack triples through, at which point the big blind rips into me for not understanding dry side pot play. He had A-K or A-Q and folded it to my push.
Excuse me? It wasn't my play that was wrong, it was his. Not only did he put himself in a position to get pushed out of a pot (I strongly believe he should have jammed there instead, to put me to the test), he then accused me of not understanding the dry side pot concept.
T'anks, but no... and in fact another player at the table immediately (and unnecessarily) jumped to my defense. The dry side pot concept comes into play only very close to the bubble, and for the most part involves two or more large stacks voluntarily taking it easy on each other in hopes that one can catch and eliminate the shorty, thereby bursting the money or moving it to one or two spots. Here, however, we still had nine players in the game and weren't even close to the four money spots. Also, the big blind's smooth call represented one third of my stack. DSP situations require that each of the larger stacks involved achieves a relative EV gain by checking down the situation, due to the increased likelihood of cashing based on the possible single bustout. With a third of my stack already committed, I was not in a profitable DSP situation. The metagame EV gain I make by pushing in that spot, with so many players still in the hunt, is far greater than the gain I make by allowing the small chance (less than 50%, certainly), that we might go from nine players to eight at that moment.
Of course, you'll see it even more often the opposite way at these stakes, when some idiot with twenty times the chips of an already-committed short stack, and being two spots off the bubble in an event that pays 20 deep, makes a post-flop bet with K-5 sooted and no side pot whatsoever on an A-10-9 flop... just because he can. What a moran. In that case his potential gain is very small relative to the increased likelihood of tripling up a small stack unnecessarily and giving him life... and the chance to come back and do further damage to the bigger stacks at the table.
In this turbo tourney, by the way, I was then down to 2,100, and was soon out after losing a race for my remaining chips. So be it; I played the situation right and the cards didn't come.
The dry side pot concept is one of those things that is easy for grasping basics but is badly misunderstood by the majority of casual players. Think about it the next time you face such a situation, and always ask yourself this: What are you trying to accomplish with your bets?
*this dry side pot betting debate has raged at the KickAssPoker forums for years.