Let’s look at a recent Texas Holdem hand in parallel universes. In our regular universe, we see it as played, the opponent’s hole cards hidden. For purposes of this blog, I’ll call him “Josh.” In the alternate universe, we reveal Josh’s hole cards to show what might happen to our thoughts and analysis if we had complete information. Poker players don’t live in that alternate universe of complete information, that’s where you find chess players. Nevertheless, please bear with me on this thought experiment.
As played: Josh made a modest pre-flop raise from middle position. In the cutoff seat, I have A5s and call. While this looks good at 60% equity against a random hand, Josh raised and thus his range is stronger than a simple random hand. I’m not trying to narrow his range too much here, as I simply want to see a flop in position. This hand will flop 2-pair or better only about 7% of the time, but has nut flush potential.
Alternative universe / with complete information: Maybe I should just fold. If an ace flops (somewhere around 15% of the time), I’m not going to win a very big pot, and that’s assuming no one else calls with an ace and better kicker. The rest of the time, I’m either toast, or chasing a draw. While calling isn’t terrible, that’s only because the price is fairly cheap.
As played: After everyone else folded pre-flop, Josh made a modest continuation bet. He doesn’t seem committed to this flop; perhaps since we are heads up, he’s just fishing to see if I got any piece of this flop or might simply go away. Maybe he has a pocket pair in the range of 77-QQ? I’m not in love with bottom pair, but call to see how he reacts to the turn card. If he has total air, I’ll be happy to win a small pot. Or, more information might create a way to take this pot away with a well-placed bluff.
Alternate universe / with complete information: Boom! Josh smashed the shit out of this flop, with a set of sixes. Bye-bye! See ya’ later! Adios!
As played: The ace gives me two pair, and Josh checks. Surely I have the best hand. Maybe Josh has a flush draw. He could even have the nut flush draw with the A♠ although I would expect him to bet again if that were the case. OK, let’s rule that out. Still, with possible straight and flush draws, or the chance of Josh getting sticky with a hand like KQ, I should bet here for value. I do just that, and he calls.
Alternate universe / with complete information: Well, I should have folded on the flop with my 0.40% equity… about as close to zero as you can get and not actually be drawing dead. But somehow here I am, and my equity has grown “more than ten-fold” to 4.55%. Which is to say now I have 2 outs. Why in the world would Josh check again? Not that it matters, because there’s no way in the world I would put any more chips in. Financial suicide ain’t my thang!
As played: Wow, this is the best possible card in the deck. If Josh was, in fact, chasing a spade flush, he got there at the same time as I banged a full house. Josh leads out with another smallish bet, about 30% of the pot. He must have a flush, and wants to get a curiosity call from whatever weak hand I likely have.
Except now I have aces full. The question is whether to go for a small raise or a large one. I decide to be greedy, and push out a raise that is 6x his bet amount. In hindsight, that’s too much, as Josh is a good enough player to lay down a flush – especially a non-nut flush, if that’s what he has – in this spot.
But no, he doesn’t lay it down, nor does he call. Josh re-raises all-in and I quickly call! When the cards are revealed, I’m shocked, especially thinking back to his (very deceptive) check-call line on the turn.
Alternate universe / with complete information: OMFG! Woot woot! Cha-ching! Ba-da-bing! Yeeeee-hah! Yahtzee! My ship’s come in. I’m going to double up my stack on a hand where my equity was less than one-half-of-one-percent on the flop. Bet-sizing doesn’t matter now, it’s all going in regardless. Poor Josh is likely to shit himself when he realizes what has happened.
Note to self: No more complaining! I’m So Lucky Lucky…
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