Folding small edges
Go for every bit of EV or give up EV for fewer headaches and less tilt?
I had a chat with a friend over skype the other day where he asked me a question about a hand involving AQo facing a 3bet. Because it's a situation where ranges are going to be particularly narrow on later streets, he ended up getting himself into a bit of a sticky situation on the river without much in the way of solid +eV options.
It's a concept I'm sure a lot of people are already using or understand intuitively, but if it's one of those things that hasn't crossed your mind, or one of those things that you may have just not realized, it can save you a lot of headaches. The following is an edited version of our conversation which may help you to get a better understanding of what I'm trying to talk about.
[6:49:04 PM] Friend: I had this hand come up a while ago... I open EP and BB 3bets... I call AQo... flop is AK9... I call a Cbet - turn comes a Q and villain checks.
[6:49:06 PM] Friend: I thought it was kind of interesting because it's hard for me to rep bluffs if I bet.
[6:49:10 PM] Friend: I mean... I would expect a weaker Ax to not cbet the flop that much anyways so I am having a hard time coming up with hands that are calling down that I beat.
[6:54:15 PM] Peter Jennings: You could just fold preflop.
[6:54:36 PM] Peter Jennings: You don't make much calling the 3bet there w/ AQo, it might be one of those things where you are making 1/10th of a big blind w/ the call or potentially even losing.
[6:54:56 PM] Friend: yeah
[6:55:08 PM] Friend: and if you're me, you might not make any money flatting it :)
[6:55:29 PM] Peter Jennings: Sure you might be making mistakes on a future street and that could also be costing you.
[6:55:40 PM] Friend: that's what I'm thinking.
[6:55:53 PM] Friend: and then it's "should I just fold PF and make a smaller mistake?"
[6:56:07 PM] Peter Jennings: it's not a 'mistake' to give up tiny amounts of eV imo
[6:56:12 PM] Peter Jennings: well, I guess we're talking semantics now.
[6:56:39 PM] Peter Jennings: I'm comfortable giving up small amounts of eV in order to save myself headaches and not deal with annoying situations that aren't making me enough money to worry about it. You have to play very precisely in these later street scenarios and it's not guaranteed you don't make a mistake trying to earn those 8 pennies. Though this doesn't mean I would always give up these spots if I knew my opponent to be a particularly bad player. In that case I may lean towards playing a few more of these spots assuming he'll make a mistake, but still I wouldn't take all of them.
[6:56:50 PM] Friend: right
[6:56:55 PM] Peter Jennings: it's why I don't even play a6-a7o OTB when folded to me
[6:57:09 PM] Peter Jennings: the gain is too small for the amount of thinking I have to do
[6:57:18 PM] Friend: heh that's a good way of putting it
[6:57:22 PM] Peter Jennings: I can only think so hard over the course of a day or a number of sessions
[6:57:31 PM] Peter Jennings: so I look for the spots w/ the highest eV, and try to devote the majority of my focus to those
[6:58:27 PM] Friend: right, it's the 80/20 rule
[6:58:35 PM] Peter Jennings: that's a way of thinking about it that I hadn't considered ... Using 80% of my focus to the toughest/most profitable 20% of spots. Or folding the bottom 20% of marginal (less than .1bb+ eV) spots to play better in the 80% of spots that do matter.
[6:58:40 PM] Friend: so if AQo facing a 3b in those positions... it may be correct to call from a GTO perspective, but maybe it's fine for me to fold.
[6:59:41 PM] Friend: this is reasonable, right?
[7:00:33 PM] Friend: like if it's the worst hand that you "should" call and is near neutral eV, I don't have to play it.
[7:00:45 PM] Peter Jennings: if you are playing $.5/$1 and you are making .08bb (this is a random number I'm making up because I don't know the exact answer) by calling, it's like you're making 8 cents over the long run on that call, if you play correctly postflop.
[7:01:02 PM] Friend: right
[7:01:18 PM] Peter Jennings: I've been doing this type of thing for years
[7:01:25 PM] Peter Jennings: these close spots if I get to the river and I feel my hand is very strong yet there is very little value to be had, it's a pretty solid indicator to me that the preflop call was either very marginally +eV or potentially was -eV.
[7:01:33 PM] Peter Jennings: It saves me time, allows me to focus on the more important spots while other guys are fighting for tiny profits spending a lot of time and effort thinking about them.
[7:01:37 PM] Friend: right
[7:01:47 PM] Friend: I have done this and then I end up feeling bad
[7:02:18 PM] Peter Jennings: this is the type of thing that can drive you crazy if you try to win every penny of eV--particularly in a zoom format where you can fast fold to the next hand immediately. The benefits of trying to win these small amounts of eV are very tiny, however the downfalls can be incredibly costly if you are prone to tilting.
[7:02:43 PM] Friend: right
[7:02:46 PM] Friend: it's very pragmatic
[7:02:57 PM] Friend: and it's a small part of your range so it's not so easy to exploit if it even matters.
You only have so much effort or focus that you will be able to utilize at a reasonably high level for the majority of the day. Similar to will power, high level focus is like a well that you can only dip into so many times until you just have none left. The biggest reason I choose to play in this manner has to do with keeping myself out of these very marginal spots that I am confident will have a minimal return on the focus I have to invest, essentially, making it an inefficient use of that 'thinking power'. In addition to this, it will also lead me to playing fewer break-even eV spots and thus cause fewer losing streaks. Fewer losing streaks necessarily means I will tilt less. If I tilt less frequently overall, I can put in additional sessions that I might otherwise not have been able to play due to feeling tilted.
Potential pitfalls of this strategy --
1. You likely will never become the best player on the planet.
The higher the stakes that you play and the tougher opponents you face, the fewer edges there will be to take. Highest stakes players will fight for every +eV situation they can find, and will also look to take advantage of their opponents by playing spots that a computer would determine are -eV just because they feel they will outplay you. If you are a weaker player, you can be exploited this way. Giving up on marginal spots will alter your ability to defend your entire range on a selection of boards in turn and/or river situations. The likelihood that this is a problem for you below $25/50 is low. However, I do believe there are some $25/50 regulars who will agree with giving up eV in certain situations particularly if their opponents are equally strong players. If it weren't true, every regular would play every regular all the time, but we don't see that.
2. You may pass on some situations that you deem to be not highly +eV which in fact actually are. This can lead to you becoming a nitty player and can be a slippery slope of faulty thinking that can lead you down the path of frequently giving up spots you think are 'close' and causing you to fold away a lot of eV and thus leaving a lot of money on the table. You might be asking "well how much eV do you think is too much eV to be giving up?" I'd say, in a preflop situation where the action has been folded to me, I wouldn't want to give up more than .15bb/100. The lower the stakes you play, you can be comfortable in using a higher number. No matter what stakes you play I would never give up an edge of greater than .25bb/100 in a preflop situation.
And as we can see here PokerSnowie believes that this isn't even close, actually, he does think it's a very clear fold with losing nearly .8bb/100 with a call which is quite significant.
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