Last summer I got interested in the concept of auto-fold ranges, and wrote about it here. The basic idea – another brilliant Tommy Angelo invention – is to simplify some of your pre-flop decision making by designating certain combinations as ‘auto-folds.’ Several charts are needed, to delineate for different positions at the table and prior actions.
The most straightforward is when you are under-the-gun at a full table, with no prior action to account for. With an auto-fold combination, it doesn’t matter who else is at the table, stack sizes, time of day, or anything else. It goes in the muck. Not every remaining combination is ‘auto-play;’ most will be ‘it depends.’ It depends on who else is at the table, stack sizes, our own emotional state and current table image, and all the other variables that make poker such a complex game.
My first draft of UTG auto-fold ranges for live play included pocket deuces. I was undecided about pocket threes and fours, and eventually came around to adding treys to the auto-fold range but keeping fours in the it-depends category.
But why? Aren’t the low pocket pairs essentially the same? You’re set mining. If you flop a set, especially in the early positions, it will be well disguised and you’ll usually go for maximum value. If you miss, most of the time you aren’t putting another nickel into the pot.
For some reason, I don’t know why, whilst playing online this evening I was thinking about this. Why would I auto-fold twos and threes, but not fours or fives? Is it because of that time at Maryland Live! Casino when I limped in with pocket fours, flopped a set, turned quads and on the river the other guy moved all-in? That was pretty sweet, I’ll admit, but that hand actually reinforces the need to draw a line somewhere amongst the low pairs.
That was my day to be lucky. The villain flopped a set of sevens. My lone out came through to put a bad beat on him, but I was in terrible shape. (He left the table and about 20 minutes later, on my way to the restroom, I encountered him sitting at a slot machine. He had a promotional credit for $10 in free slot play, and had run it up over $600, getting him rather quickly untilted.)
Here’s the deal: pocket deuces never, ever, ever, ever flops a winning set-over-set. When pocket threes flops set-vs-set, 11 out of 12 other sets are bigger than ours. Even more if the villain is smart like me and avoids the ducks. That doesn’t mean I won’t come into the pot with pocket deuces in other positions. UTG, however, if the first card I look at is a deuce, I might as well not even bother looking at the second card. Just flick and conserve energy.
So I was playing online and thinking these thoughts, when two players limped before me. In middle position with QQ, I raised to 5.5x the big blind. The small blind called, the big blind called, and both limpers called. We got a pot brewing!
The flop was Q42 rainbow. With top set and no obvious draws, I planned to downsize my bet to about 1/3 pot. The first three players checked, but the villain on my immediate right bet 1/2 pot. Thank you, sir!
I called, in hopes of keeping at least one of the others in the hand. After the small blind folded, the big blind min-raised!
Well, well, well…
The original raiser called, then I back-raised just a little bit more than an additional min-raise. The big blind quickly went all-in, but the original raiser folded.
Obviously you know the reveal by now, which is the big blind had pocket deuces for bottom set.
When I saw the last deuce fall on the river, my jaw dropped onto my belly. Really!?!? This must be my punishment for auto-folding deuces when I’m under-the-gun.
Uh… erase that last paragraph. Made you look, though, didn’t I? The turn and river were bricks and I won a pot worth approximately 257 BBs. Fist pump.
That is why I can sleep well at night auto-folding pocket deuces from UTG.
— KK David