Thursday, May 31, 2007

The value of the pre-flop raise

Anyone in any doubt about why you should avoid limping needs only to watch this year's WPT World Poker Final tournament at Foxwoods to watch amateur player E.G. Harvin get destroyed by Nenad Medic. As Mike Sexton said, E.G. took out everyone at the final table - He took out the 6th through 3rd place finisher, and then took out himself.

When I was at the WPT boot camp, they let us play hands with the same cards and in the same positions that were played at a WPT final table. The hand I played was a perfect lesson. I was the big blind and had T7o. UTG raised, but it was a small, suspicious looking raise. It was folded around, and I made a 3x re-raise, which was called. The flop came ten-high. I checked, UTG bet, I re-raised all-in and was called by pocket eights. My tens eventually improved to a set. When they showed us the videotape, the UTG player had limped, setting off a limp-fest which allowed Daniel Negreanu to catch-up with 5s full to take down the pot. The hand was from the Season 3 Borgata poker open. The UTG player was Josh Arieh, I was in David Williams' seat.

Anyway, back to E.G., at least twice he had ace-high heads-up and limped in, only to allow Nenad to catch up and take the pot. When you have an ace heads-up or if you have a big ace multi-handed, how can you possibly consider allowing a hand like T2s to see a flop for free? Even if there's no other reason, you raise before the flop so that you can gain information about what the BB is holding. Would Nenad have called a standard raise with T2? Wouldn't E.G. have been better off either picking off those blinds or perhaps folding his Axo to a big re-raise instead of letting him flop a boat?

I'll give E.G. credit where it's due: he pwn3d everybody else at the table. He put Mimi Tran into such convulsions that she threw her last dollar in with 2nd pair. But through it all, Nenad was relatively patient.

Yes, this is Monday Morning Quarterbacking. I'm sure that if I am ever lucky enough to make a WPT final table, I'll probably be the butt of a thousand blog posts pointing out my mistakes. And at least E.G. has the consolation of knowing he's won $900,000 more than I (or virtually all other commentators) have at a WPT tournament. But there's another $800,000 he could have had had he not given it away on a silver plater.

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