Poker Strategy For The Rest Of Us -- Thin River Calls In Heads-Up Sit-N-Gos
Jonathan Faarup Walks Us Through A Hand
It’s great to see pros like Daniel Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth battling it out on poker’s biggest stages for millions of dollars, but the truth is that most of us will never get the same opportunity, nor will we really learn anything from their play that directly applies to our own games. The truth is that while we all aspire to be the next Phil Ivey, many of us will do so from the comfort of our friendly neighborhood home game or the low-stakes tables at a nearby cardroom.
In an effort to provide valuable tools and tips that are relevant to even the smallest games, Card Player is pleased to unveil the brand new series Poker Strategy For The Rest Of Us, which will focus on everyday situations that occur against the poker world’s most casual players.
Pro – Jonathan Faarup
Concept – Making thin river calls in heads-up sit-n-gos by dissecting your opponent’s range based on his skill level.
Jonathan Faarup, better known as “Faarcyde” to his sit-n-go opposition on Full Tilt Poker and Poker Stars, has been one of the best players in the sit-n-go world over the past several years. He was one of the biggest earners in the mid and high-stakes six-max and full-ring sit-n-gos on Full Tilt, where he made multiple top 10 finishes on the Shark Scope leaderboard for total profit.
Just before Black Friday, as earning potential for full ring sit-n-gos were beginning to drop, Faarup began implementing heads-up games into his sit-n-go grind and has made the transition to a full-time heads-up grinder. Faarup currently commutes to Canada from his Michigan home to play in the $100 and $200 heads-up games on Poker Stars.
The former CardRunners.com and current PokerStrategy.com and YourDoomPoker.com instructor sat down with Card Player to break down a hand played by one of our readers in a $20 heads-up match.
With blinds at 20-40, the player on the button (who started the hand with 920 in chips) and our hero in the big blind (2,080 in chips) makes it 120 with A K. The button calls and the flop is 5 3 2. Our hero bets 120 and is called by the button. The turn is the 9 and our hero checks and calls a 180 chip bet from the button. The river is the 2 and our hero checks and calls a 520 chip all-in jam from the button. The button showed 8 7 and our hero won the sit-n-go .
(Note: The results of the hand were kept from Faarup while doing the interview.)
Steve Schult: So before we get into the actual hand, can you talk a little bit about why you switched from full ring and six-max sit-n-gos to the heads-up games.
Jonathan Faarup: I switched from full ring and six-max to heads-up because of the current poker climate. There is just not a lot of money left in high-stakes six-max and full-ring sit-n-gos, mostly because of the rake structure. On a lot of sites, you are still paying 7, 8, 9, or 10 percent rake and there is just not enough recreational money floating around to make it very profitable unless you are playing an extremely high volume. But for example, on Poker Stars, if you are playing a standard six-max sit-n-go at the $100 level, there are going to be at least five regulars in your game every single time and with that ratio of good players to bad players, you just can’t beat the rake. You can still make money with rakeback and bonuses and especially if you make Supernova Elite and stuff, but that just wasn’t something I was interested in doing.
But if you look at the leaderboards, there is still a lot of money being made in heads-up. On another level, it’s a lot more fun and a lot more skill based. It’s not as robotic and it’s been a new challenge and I’ve enjoyed it infinitely more than what I was doing before. The good thing about heads-up is that you are playing mostly fish. Obviously if you get to the super high stakes levels that won’t necessarily be true, but if it’s just one on one you shouldn’t have a tough time beating the rake.
SS: Moving on to the hand itself, when the villain limps the button, what does that tell us about him as a player? Obviously, we are going to be raising A-K here, but what kind of hand can we start to put him on when he calls?
JF: There are a couple things I’m looking at. Right off the bat, I’m looking at the buy-in of the tournament. Given that it’s a $20 tournament and a player is limping, I’m automatically assuming that he is just not going to be a strong player. A lot of times these players play in a very linear fashion, meaning that when they have a good hand they will raise when they have a bad hand they will limp. So if you think about what his limp, calling range is, it’s probably going to be a middling type hand and one thing you have to consider, and we will get to this in a second, is that a lot of the really trashy hands like 9-3, Q-2, 10-4, they just aren’t going to have in their range, so I’m thinking about that going into the rest of the hand.
SS: Are we always betting this flop? If so, how much should we be betting on this type of board?
JF: We are always betting this flop. One reason is that our actual equity is quite large at this point and this doesn’t hit his limp, calling range that hard necessarily. It doesn’t totally miss it or anything, but most people in the villain’s position are going to know that a lot of time we are going to have an ace-x type hand here and I feel like you don’t get fought back a lot on this type of texture, so we should continue to represent a very strong hand from our preflop raise.
As for betting 120 into 240, I think it’s pretty standard. You could argue to make it a little bit bigger in order to discourage floats and winning the pot right there. Even if you take a hand like 6-7 and get that to fold, it would be a pretty big win for us.
SS: The board is somewhat draw heavy with some straight draws that he could have, as well as some club flush draws. What type of range are we going to begin to put the villain on when he calls the flop?
JF: When he calls the flop, I think his range is still pretty wide. You need to think that the type of player who is going to be limp, calling preflop isn’t going to be that strong of a players so I would think it would be any pair, any club draw, and any hand that could have just overs and maybe a gutshot straight draw which would be stuff like 6-7, 6-8, 6-9, or even sometimes a hand like 7-8 I wouldn’t even put out of the realm of discussion. I’ve seen some players like this just limp, call a hand like A-6, so I would still put a few A-x hands in his range as well, but the most important thing to take away is that his range is still very wide.
SS: Since we are thinking that his range is very wide, should we continue to bet the turn card? Or is it a better option to check and let him bet worse hands?
JF: I would continue betting on the turn 100 percent of the time. Any time there is an overcard, in the villain’s eyes, it is going to devalue his hand. So even if he has a hand like 8-2 or something, now he has fourth pair instead of third pair, so he might start folding hands like that now. Not to mention that getting him to fold all of his floats is going to be a positive result for us as well, so I don’t agree with checking the turn.
SS: Given the way he played it, should we be folding or calling thinking we have the best hand?
JF: I’m mixing it up here. I hate to say it’s a feel thing here, because that is kind of a cop out, but a lot of the times this type of bet is to get a cheap card and then sometimes to fold out some hands like we have, so I think more often than not I’m calling here.
SS: Is the fact that you are calling here just because of his bet sizing being on the smaller side of things, or are there other reasons?
JF: Just from a strictly mathematical perspective, the smaller he bets, the better price we get on our hand and there is always a chance he might shut down a worse hand on the river. It does look a little fishy to me though, and gets a little fishier on the river.
SS: So the river pairs the bottom card and the villain jams. Can you start to eliminate some of the value hands he would be betting on the turn now that he jams the river? Do you think he would jam some of his smaller pairs now that the bottom card paired?
JF: As far as I’m concerned, 75 percent of the hand is really on the river here. He bets 520, which is the rest of his chips, into 760 and the good thing about heads-up is that everything is just straight chip expected value and there is no ICM involved. So when we calculate the pot odds and do the math we have to be right just over 40 percent of the time to be profitable. What I’m getting at is that he is representing an extremely thin range here.
One reason for that is that all of the draws missed. So now you go back to what happened preflop and when he limp, calls, he can have some 2-X in his range, but your average player is going to be raising A-2, K-2, and pocket twos, so when you take those out, he hardly has any 2-X in his range and it doesn’t make sense for him to have a nine unless he had a total float with something like Q-9, but that is a real small percentage of the time. And he is not going to be betting 3-X hands and 5-x hands like this on the river.
So we just have to decide if he has a real nutted hand like A-4 or 4-6, the 9-X hand we talked about before, or if he has air. Now this is the difference between playing a good player and a bad player. A good player here, when we take the line that we took, he would jam something as weak as pocket fours on the river because he knows what our hand is. That way he can merge his range and we can’t say, “He either has the nuts or nothing.” You never want to have a polarized range when you are playing a good player.
Based on the fact that he is representing nothing, I’m pretty confident that we would be right more than 40 percent of the time and it’s a pretty standard call on the river.
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