Thursday, February 12, 2009

Overplaying QQ: Another Case Study

Let me start off by saying that I am a huge fan of QQ. Not only is it hot girl-on-girl action, it is a hugely powerful hand that can win you a big pot in NLHE. At the same time, it is beatable, and I have lost a lot of money with the hand. By sheer coincidence, Hulk busted early in a SNG tournament just yesterday by overplaying the hand. If played properly and in the right situations, QQ can do a lot for you. However, this situation last night is a clear case of overplaying the hand. It cost "Orange" his entire stack and may have caused him to tilt away more cash later.

Preflop: As you can see in the graphic above, Orange raised to $3 UTG. Not a typical play by some standards, but in our 25/50 cent game, raised go from $2 preflop to $5 or even $6 depending on the number of players in the pot. By raising, Orange is trying to limit the chances of marginal hands calling (and beating him). He would prefer to play this hand heads up. The loose-aggressive Pinata calls, and the tight-aggressive (but also tricky) EMG raises to $10.25. With action folded back around, you have 2 options because you're almost certainly not folding. You have significant set equity at the very least. You could also reraise if you put your opponent on a move. The fact that EMG reraised here should set off warning signals for Orange. While EMG will call preflop with a wide range of hands, why would he reraise preflop with 2 players already in the pot and field behind him and 5 players left to act? The hand range is small. AA, KK, QQ, maybe JJ, and maybe AK suited. QQ is unlikely, so you have to put him on AA or KK here. In this case, Orange smooth calls, a play that I agree with. There's no need to pot commit yourself with QQ against 1 tighter-aggressive opponent with a loose-aggressive player behind. Pinata also calls, but he's not getting reraised and can see a flop with a pot of $31.50 for $7.25 more, plus plenty of implied odds with some bigger stacks out there.

The Flop: Obviously, the flop missed you, but you have a big pair. The likelihood is that the flop missed EMG, but Pinata has to be watched. He could have flopped a straight draw, a set, or even 2 pair. In my opinion, you have to bet to see where you're at. Going for 1/3 to 1/2 of the pot or so is the best way to go. If you have the best hand and your opponent has AK or JJ/10's, you build the pot with a huge edge. You also get to read physical tells when your opponents think it through, and if you get reraised big, you can fold. Even if you get flat called by 1 or both opponents, you have 2 outs for a set, so there are implied odds. In this case, Orange tries to buy the pot with a $25 bet. I don't see this as a good EV play. You're likely only getting called by hands that are beating you, and if someone has a draw or a smallish pair, they're probably not calling. You're also pot committed with only $19.75 behind. Given the action, a huge overbet into 2 opponents, including a reraiser.

The Result: Here, Pinata folds (he was probably check-folding anyway), and EMG goes all in over the top. In this case, you have to know you're beat. In a tournament, you have to call here with the size of the pot. In a cash game, you can just fold and reload. No need to throw good money after bad. Orange calls with his QQ and EMG has KK. EMG rakes in a giant pot, Orange has to reload anyway.

Analysis: Most of what needs to be said here has already been said. Orange played way too first level and overbet his hand without a clear value proposition. When I am playing my best (and I definitely wasn't last night), I try to put my opponent on a hand range based on history, the betting action, and physical tells, then I try to plan out the hand in my head. There is also no shame in giving up a big pair or a made hand if you really think you're beat. As Mike Caro says, "Poker players get paid to make the right decisions. Money you don't lose needlessly is money won." No hand is unbeatable, especially on that kind of flop. Poker is about people more than anything else, and you have to get to that second level (what does my opponent have?) in order to make money consistently. Orange is normally better than that, but we all have blowups. I've been there, and I know that he will remember how he felt when he saw those Cowboys, and he'll learn and improve.

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