Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Santa Fe poker chapter 2

So, why is it "incorrect" to repeatedly stay in for one half of a split pot? And how do players consistently manage to win money despite doing this?

Obviously, the whole pot odds thing has to be adjusted if you are only going one way. If there's $4.00 in the pot and it costs you 50 cents to call your pot odds aren't 8:1 but 4:1, since you are only angling for half.

Let's say there's 4 betting rounds 25/25/50/1.00, a fairly common scenario, and 5 players in for the first two rounds, 4 for the third and three for the fourth. Total pot is $8 by the showdown, so if you're going one way you stand to win $4. You've put in $2! so by expected pot odds you need to stand a better than 2:1 chance to do better than breaking even. Obviously the number of times you actually have a better than 2:1 chance of winning half the pot are less frequent than the number of times you are in there til the end, so how do you win under these conditions?

Here's a few ways: you go solo because your two opponents at the end are going the same way you are and you beat their hands. You win the one way games a few times-- there are a few games that are not split hi/lo pot games, and these often have larger pots. So these one way take downs replenish the chips from all the other chasing and split pot hands. You force the number three player out and agree to split the pot with your heads up opponent. (This happens fairly often). You fold early in many hands when the odds are thin and you see any of the cards you need are not so live. Or, the opposite: you expect huge variance by staying in til the end on almost every hand, angling to play the players rather than your cards.

I personally don't like the headache of that and tend to play fairly tight. As a result I don't win a lot but I also don't tend to lose a lot. Tight play in split pot games with no qualified low and lots of wild cards, etc., would seem to make perfect sense, but even a cursory look at the math shows that playing tight means you are bound to lose money over the long run, even if only a little.

But then, a lot of what we do for entertainment loses us money. Right?

Next time an overview of some of the games and maybe a start on a poker glossary (mostly the slang creations of one of the finest home game poker players I've ever encountered).

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