Monday, March 12, 2007

Donkey strategy, the zero value bet.

In an attempt to prevent my esteemed blog readers from degenerating into utter fishiness, I will attempt to educate them on the finer arts of donkey strategy, so as you shall not replicate it at whatever tables you prefer to play.

The focus of today's blog entry is the much feared zero value bet. On the river, after all cards are out, there will most often only be two reasons to bet: To get a worse hand to call, or to get a better hand to fold. If we bet with a hand that will only get calls from a better hand, and only folds from a worse hand, we call this a zero value bet, because it has... zero value. I present you with a hand I played not 15 minutes ago:

Party Poker No-Limit Hold'em, $4 BB (5 handed) Hand History Converter Tool from (Format: HTML)

Hero ($847.20)
BB ($471.90)
UTG ($582.90)
MP ($276.60)
Button ($504.44)

Preflop: Hero is SB with Kh, Ks. Hero posts a blind of $2.
3 folds, Hero (poster) raises to $14, BB calls $12.

Flop: ($32) 5d, Kd, Js (2 players)
Hero bets $25, BB calls $25.

Turn: ($82) 8s (2 players)
Hero bets $70, BB calls $70.

River: ($222) 7d (2 players)
Hero checks, BB bets $104, Hero calls $104.

Hero has Kh Ks (three of a kind, kings).
BB has Jh Th (one pair, jacks).
Outcome: Hero wins $430.

Notice how villains less-than-half-pot river bet will almost never get a fold from a pair of kings here, and will certainly also never get a call from a worse hand. Ladies and gentlemen, do NOT try this at home, this man is a trained donkey, who LOVES to throw hundreds of dollars out the window.

If I may digress, I recently ran into an article by a high stakes player explaining the concept of merging your range. A consequence of any decent player avoiding the zero value bet, is that on the river, you will usually only bet your best hands (to get a call from a worse hand), and your worst hands (to fold out a better one). This leaves a range in the middle that will most often be check/called or check/folded. Now, as high stakes players are aware of their opponents also being aware of this concept, they have invented a counter strategy called merging your range. For example, if two good players have come to a board of TQ6K5 for example, a player may merge his bet range to include pairs of queens no kicker, because he is aware that his opponent is aware that HIS opponent will not make a zero value bet, and thus may now call with a pair of tens or even worse hands, because avoidance of the zero value bet will increase the chance that any bet is a bluff. Hope you stayed with me through that :).

This is a good example of what poker is all about (and it's not just about shoving 75s heads up on the final table of a WPT Event, contrary to popular opinion). That is, staying one thinking level ahead of your opposition. If I started really thinking about concepts like merging my range at the miserably low limits I play at, I would be wasting my time and, which is infinitely worse, my money. But if I (or you) were to sit down at a $10/$20 table, it would serve us well to know which players are capable of advanced plays like the above.

Conclusion: There is a probability larger than zero that BB in my hand example, is actually a seasoned high stakes professional severely overestimating his opponents :).

Btw, session went well for me, up $1200 for 1900 hands.

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