Playing AQ and Similar Hands Preflop

Dec 26th, 1999

There's been some hot debating in Internet poker community about the proper way to play big cards preflop in loose games. In Hold'em Poker for Advanced Players, 21st Century Edition, Sklansky and Malmuth advocate their tactics of keeping pot small with hands like AQo to give opponents a chance to make big mistakes postflop when chasing. On the other hand, Abdul Jalib was first to point out that big cards (if best) should raise preflop to destroy implied odds of the fish. Serious students of the game are urged to take a look at his study on raising after loose limpers here. It appears to be a close call between raising and calling when holding best non-pair offsuit hand preflop against a ton of opponents, however, my own position on this matter is simply - RAISE!

The following is a reprint of private email exchange between Mason Malmuth, David Sklansky and myself, spawned out of a few rec.gambling.poker posts on the subject of comparisons between Lee Jones's and Sklansky/Malmuth books. As I did not get explicit permission to publish Mason Malmuth's private writings, they are left to the reader's imagination. David Sklansky's email comments are published with permission.

You might want to look first at the original rgp post by Mason Malmuth on merits of the new edition of HPfAP, my somewhat teasing reply and more detailed new HPfAP loose section critique. For the sake of completeness, here are also my first and second short errata posts.

The above rgp posts spawned the following email exchange.

Izmet Fekali

P.S. David Sklansky relented a bit on his position on playing AQo preflop in his recent 2+2 post. But only a bit.



From: Dsklansky@aol.com
Date: Wed, 1 Sep 1999 14:06:43 EDT
Subject: Loose games
To: izmet@siol.net
X-Mailer: AOL 4.0 for Windows 95 sub 21

I will be addressing this debate shortly. For now notice you err when you say that we hope to win with an unimproved AQ. The fact that we do not, is why 87 offsuit is not that important to get out. In the first case we would worry that it has five cards to make one pair or better. In case 2 we only have to worry that it makes TWO pair or better with four cards. As to your other points, you are correct that we are not talking about ridiculously loose games with complete morons. Certainly A10 should be played in those games. However the "horse race paradox" comes into play more than you think. I will have more to say about this on 2+2 when I get around to it. Feel free to reprint.

DS


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From: izmet@siol.net
Date: Wed, 1 Sep 1999 20:35:16 +0200
To: Dsklansky@aol.com
Subject: Re: Loose games


You wrote:

> I will be addressing this debate shortly. For now notice you err when you
> say that we hope to win with an unimproved AQ. The fact that we do not, is

I was a little too quick with that statement, you are right.

> why 87 offsuit is not that important to get out. In the first case we would
> worry that it has five cards to make one pair or better. In case 2 we only
> have to worry that it makes TWO pair or better with four cards. As to your

Your point was clear to me. My point is you make the most money from dominated hands. These are the ones you want in.

> other points, you are correct that we are not talking about ridiculously
> loose games with complete morons. Certainly A10 should be played in those
> games. However the "horse race paradox" comes into play more than you
> think. I will have more to say about this on 2+2 when I get around to it.

Maybe I'll post there :)))

> Feel free to reprint. DS

I appreciate it.

Izmet Fekali


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From: izmet@siol.net
Date: Wed, 1 Sep 1999 20:55:39 +0200
To: Dsklansky@aol.com
Subject: Re: Loose games

You wrote:

> I will be addressing this debate shortly. For now notice you err when you
> say that we hope to win with an unimproved AQ. The fact that we do not, is
> why 87 offsuit is not that important to get out. In the first case we would
> worry that it has five cards to make one pair or better. In case 2 we only


BTW, in the first case, when AQ and 87 both don't improve on the flop, 87 has six available outs (not five) to make one pair or better.

> have to worry that it makes TWO pair or better with four cards. As to your

When AQ hits on the flop, 87 needs two cards out of six (not four) available outs to make two pair or better.

Or am I *really* missing something here...

Izmet Fekali


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From: Dsklansky@aol.com
Date: Wed, 1 Sep 1999 19:16:56 EDT
Subject: Re: Loose games
To: izmet@siol.net

four other cards on board that aren't the ace or queen that paired you.

DS


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From: izmet@siol.net
Date: Thu, 2 Sep 1999 11:37:05 +0200
To: Dsklansky@aol.com
Subject: Re: Loose games

You wrote:

> four other cards on board that aren't the ace or queen that paired you.

Ah, that's what you meant! Gee, this one was NOT easy to figure out :)))))

I mean, it was obvious to me what your point was, - as you *need* to catch an ace to queen in these games, 87 needs to catch twice to beat that pair (when you also catch). I did not get your point about 87 having a fewer number of tries available to do so (boy is this difficult to word properly, especially for a non-English speaking person).

But here's a question I forgot to ask you the last time:

Is it your position then you'd rather see hands like 87 calling your raise cold than dominated hands like AJ or KQ? My experience is that having dominated hands still in play is a big moneymaking situation, as they have tough time folding even on the river, let alone the fact that they are apt to raise you on the flop, when you both hit your common card. Remember, we're talking idiots here. As a side benefit, this kind of a raise can be a nice help in knocking some passengers out.

For holdings like 87, I dunno, they seldom get past the flop, see? If they do, they have a gutshot (which I don't like that much), or they flopped a pair also. So we are talking 4 or 5 outs here for them. On the other hand, with a flop of, say, 25Q, I'll get action even from hands like AT, Ax or KJ as the fish tries to hit that overcard. And these are the type of hands most likely to call the preflop raise cold.

To look from the other perspective - I have stated elsewhere in my post that I'd rather call two cold with a hand like 98s than QJ. Do you feel I have to reconsider?

Maybe I'll do some sims to get a better feel for this (but they are soooooo boring to set up...)

David, I appreciate your comments anytime, as I am quick to reconsider my positions if faced with solid arguments. I learned long ago it's not wise to blindly follow any beliefs as strong as they may be.

Thanks for your time.

Izmet Fekali


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From: Dsklansky@aol.com
Date: Thu, 2 Sep 1999 14:56:34 EDT
Subject: Re: Loose games
To: izmet@siol.net

Yes you would rather call with 98s. My only point was in multiway pots where a hand like AQ needs to pair to win it should feel no particular need to knock out 87.

DS


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From: izmet@siol.net
Date: Fri, 3 Sep 1999 11:47:29 +0200
To: Dsklansky@aol.com
Subject: Re: Loose games

You wrote:

> Yes you would rather call with 98s. My only point was in multiway pots
> where a hand like AQ needs to pair to win it should feel no particular need
> to knock out 87.

OK. I concur your point is valid.

But then again, if I'm happy to have 87 in, then which hands would I rather have out (other than AA, KK, QQ, AK, of course)? Probably the hands with a king only.

Is it then safe to conclude that AQ doesn't mind lots of opponents if best preflop?

I feel that AQ is quite robust here (if best preflop) and should definitely raise. But not to knock out. To cut idiots' implied odds. But because of the other factors you mention, like tying people to a big pot (which I agree is bad), it might be a not so clear cut decision. I'll have to munch on it some more.

A case could be made for limping in early position to conceal your strength with AQ, wait for a good flop and then go for a check raise. This usually knocks out a few gamboolers. If our premise is an ace or queen on the flop is mandatory, the idea of seeing cheaply has merits.

But then again, I'd regard a JTx flop as quite OK, see, and in this case I'd be sorry for not raising preflop. A bloated pot is what I'd want.

My God, it's always like this, back and forth, pro et contra, give and take. This hold'em business is complicated as hell... you did a good job years back, this is probably not said often enough.

And I do appreciate your responses.

Izmet Fekali


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From: Dsklansky@aol.com
Date: Fri, 3 Sep 1999 11:22:49 EDT
Subject: Re: Loose games
To: izmet@siol.net

Once AQ gives up on winning without a pair it really doesn't want to get others out, at least up to a point. And if it was all in, it definitely should raise. On the other hand, with even semi rational opponents, that raise for value doesn't gain too much and may be overshadowed by the fact that keeping the pot smaller not only avoids drawouts by players less willing to accept lesser pot odds, but makes it more likely that you can get a raise in later to shorten the field. Again these concepts do not apply against total live ones so you and Gary Carson are right there. On the other hand, even in games like that, using these ideas will certainly make you a winning player.

DS


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Posted at Feb 29/2004 08:03 PM:
Izmet: A nice example that David should think over, I believe:


-----------------------------------------------------
Game #450839418 - $20/$40 Texas Hold'em - 2004/02/29-12:47:36 (CST)
Table "Bikar" (real money) -- Seat 5 is the button
Seat 1: Miss Swan ($780.00 in chips)
Seat 2: xMaSrUsH ($1,734.00 in chips)
Seat 3: mikerocky ($1,303.00 in chips)
Seat 4: ryan 2003 ($530.00 in chips)
Seat 5: Angelina ($4,424.50 in chips)
Seat 7: aaa100 ($1,049.00 in chips)
Seat 9: sniktaw ($845.00 in chips)
Seat 10: kiki61 ($270.00 in chips)
aaa100 : Post Small Blind ($10)
sniktaw : Post Big Blind ($20)
Dealing...
Dealt to Angelina [ 4d ]
Dealt to Angelina [ 4c ]
kiki61 : Call ($20)
Miss Swan: Fold
xMaSrUsH: Fold
mikerocky: Fold
ryan 2003: Fold
Angelina: Raise ($40)
aaa100 : Fold
sniktaw : Fold
kiki61 : Call ($20)
*** FLOP *** : [ 2c Jc Ks ]
kiki61 : Check
Angelina: Bet ($20)
kiki61 : Call ($20)
*** TURN *** : [ 2c Jc Ks ] [ 7c ]
kiki61 : Check
Angelina: Bet ($40)
kiki61 : Call ($40)
*** RIVER *** : [ 2c Jc Ks 7c ] [ 7s ]
kiki61 : Check
Angelina: Check
*** SUMMARY ***
Pot: $227 | Rake: $3
Board: [ 2c Jc Ks 7c 7s ]
Miss Swan didn't bet (folded)
xMaSrUsH didn't bet (folded)
mikerocky didn't bet (folded)
ryan 2003 didn't bet (folded)
Angelina bet $100, collected $227, net +$127 (showed hand) [ 4d 4c ] (two pair, sevens and fours)
Any2Suited didn't bet
aaa100 lost $10 (folded)
sniktaw lost $20 (folded)
kiki61 lost $100 (showed hand) [ As Qh ] (a pair of sevens)
-----------------------------------------------------


This should not have happened. AQ must open for a raise.

-Izmet