Analyzing a Button Raising Range

Let’s say you have 17BB and are on the button. It is folded to you. You have A- 2o. You want to know whether or not you should raise/fold with it or just move all-in. For the sake of the first example, let’s assume both players have you covered, and they are moving you all-in or they fold.

What we first need to do is calculate what your equity is for just a jam. First, I need to find a hand in my database that falls within these parameters. We can do this in Hold’em Manager 2 by clicking on “More Filters” while we’re looking at hand histories, and choosing “Stack Size” by big blind options within the “Tournament Filters” tab. Filtering for that I found a hand that perfectly suited our purposes (Figure 14).

I now take the raw hand history out of this hand and copy/paste it into CardRunners EV. I do this by selecting “Import” from the beginning page (circled in Figure 15) and then entering the text there.

When I enter the text and make sure I have the right website, I have the option to include any players in my simulations who actually folded during the hand. I want the test to involve the big blind player, so I select him (Figure 16).

Figure 17 shows the result.

Notice that we selected an option not to treat this as a tournament, because we want to see the chip EV. We can explore ICM later, but right now we’re assuming we’re not in a special tournament situation, and our chips are worth around the same amount as other players’ chips. This is the case most of the time you play MTTs.

At this juncture we need to delete the small blind’s node, which we do by clicking on “Raise 76250” and hitting the delete button. CardRunners EV then deletes all the action that occurred after that. We then double click on “Raise 32000” for the first player and then receive a screen that allows us to adjust the bet amount. We just write the digit “9” as many times as we can and hit enter. This will then make the bet an all-in.

After that we have to decide what each player behind is going to move over our all-in with. Recall we have a visual representation of the hand at the beginning of this section. If you are having a hard time imagining what the hand looks like refer to it. We now need to select above the small blind’s node the raise button (Figure 18).

Notice there’s an option “All in” among the raise possibilities. Let’s select that. He has only 54BB. It’s unlikely he’s just going to smooth call for 30% of his stack. Figure 19 shows the result.

The arrow is pointing to some lightly colored text that says “edit condition.” Select this. It will give you a pop-up that looks exactly like the hand range calculator we know as Flopzilla. In this pop-up we are going to decide what hands are re-jamming versus our all-in. Figure 20 shows what my range looked like.

Figure 21 shows the image we are left with once we click on the “Done” button. We can now edit the next node, which deals with what we think the big blind will call both all-ins with.

Pretty much everything preflop in CardRunners EV involves composing hand ranges and deciding the correct bet amounts. You can carry out a wide range of analysis just with this knowledge, and you will be ahead of 99% of poker pros who believe their opinions count as empirical fact.

Now, I design the rest of the CardRunners EV simulation entering the ranges I think will realistically play against me (Figure 22). You can see under each node what ranges I assigned the opponents.

After that, the real magic happens. In the bottom left corner of Figure 22 you’ll see an option that says “EV Calculate.” We’ll now select this, and see what we get (Figure 23).

That first number covers the profitability of your beginning action and every action that follows. Oftentimes, it is the only number we need to pay attention to in order to make a practical analysis. It doesn’t really matter if we make a profitable play on the flop if we lose chips on the hand overall.

We can see that through this analysis our all-in jam is profitable for 9,258 chips. If we run CardRunners EV again we’re likely to see some different numbers, although it will most often be in this range. If we want a more truly representative sample we can go into the options table and make our simulation run for millions of play-throughs as opposed to just 100,000. For now we will just take this number. Now let’s construct a model that has us raise/folding, and see what the profitability is on it (Figure 24).

You will notice it is virtually identical to the profitability of a jam. Better yet, we did not risk that many chips in order to achieve the same result. Going from 17BB to 15BB is much less devastating than going from 17BB to 0BB. Your potential for growth is diminished to nothing in the later example, and the slight chance of doubling up with such an easily dominated hand does not set the balance in our favor. This is why Phil Hellmuth has been doing well at poker tournaments for decades while many of the ram-and-jam internet mechanics peter out after a couple years. Hellmuth understands that he can achieve the same result with far fewer resources, and he allocates his chips accordingly.

You’ll notice in this model (Figure 24) that we are never flatted. This is realistic as I made the hero’s raise to be 2.5x the big blind. Many people feel awkward about flatting that raise from such a short stack. However, some will no doubt ask, “What if our opponents have a flatting range?” This is a much more difficult question to answer with CardRunners EV. These same people often ask about just 2x raising because it risks less. Let’s try this first, and then we will do everything with a 2.5x raise.

I don’t believe the small blind has much of a flatting range, but let’s give him a small one. You have to make many decisions like this when you’re making equity models. Perhaps some people love to flat there. Others never flat. Since I think there are more people who don’t flat ever I just bulk up the 3-betting range and make a small flatting range to accommodate the small group of players who do flat out of position with horrible odds here. This will give us an equity model that is the average of most situations. Notice I said average, not perfect. If you want more exacting you will need to make a base equity model like the one I’m creating then play with it. After that, what we need to change is inputting what happens on the flop.

Let’s assume the blinds always check to us, because that is what happens in reality at least 95% of the time. People don’t donk lead into short stacks nearly as much as perhaps they should. This allows us to simplify things. We will also assume our opponents do not flat us either. We will have them putting us all-in or folding versus our c-bet.

This is a simplified model, but whenever you are reducing the number of factors ask yourself whether that assists the hero or hurts him. In this case, I think it hurts him. It gives him much less chance to back into an ace on turn and river. He was unlikely to double barrel bluff, so big blind and small blind were not benefiting from a call. If you abridged the hand for the model and actually hurt the hero and the result was still glaringly positive, you’ll know you have a play that is a keeper.

Now, let’s look at how the flop play is represented on this CardRunners EV calc (Figure 25). You’ll notice at the top a heading which indicates at what point of the hand we’re on.

We now have the hero continuation betting roughly half the pot. However, we’re going to assume that the “hero” is not going to be silly enough to fire in a threeway pot with nothing, so we need to edit the conditions. We then get a pop- up (Figure 26).

You’ll see a variety of sections. This looks confusing at first, but it can easily be broken down. Go first to the made hand section and select “at least” on the left, and then on the right select the worst hand you think the opponent is playing. Go to the bottom and select “add new condition to list.” After that go to the draws, select “at least” again when necessary, and select the worst draws you think that are playing back at you.

With flush draws you can add two types. Perhaps the player plays the second nut flush draw or better when they have one drawing card in their hand, but plays any flush draw when they have two of the flush cards in their hand. You can add both of these conditions to the list, and accommodate for the situation.

Be sure not to select all of your conditions at once. If you put your made hands and drawing hands together you are in effect saying, “He needs to have at least bottom pair with a flush draw and a straight draw.” As you can imagine, this is a fairly limited number of hands, and your bet is going to work close to a 100% of the time because no one will be playing back at you.

If you can master what I just said in those preceding paragraphs you will be ahead of 99.99% of poker players. People act as if I’m from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) when I show them this program. I’ve never played a PC game in my life. I still am not entirely sure how to operate a spreadsheet. All CardRunners EV is doing is inputting ranges and bet amounts, and imagining models that could benefit you, such as this one.

In a multiway pot we are going to have hero bet/calling with top pair versus one player who decides to get feisty, but versus two he will play two pair or better. In a heads-up pot the hero is going to continuation bet 100% of the time, and get it in with top pair, a nut flush draw, or better. In a heads-up pot the villain is going to get it in with any third pair or better, any second nut flush draw with one card in their hand, any flush draw where they hold two flush drawing cards, and any open-ended straight draw. In a multiway pot the villain’s ranges will tighten up to second pair or better if they have a player to act behind, with them folding third pair. Again, I think most of these adjustments hurt the hero.

Figure 27 shows the flop play we have in the end. If this looks complicated that’s because it is. If it looks time consuming that’s because it is. However, just because it is complex doesn’t mean it is impossible for you to do. If you understood my prior instructions you could construct this model without difficulty.

You’ll notice I had the hero open folding the flop if they missed and were checked to. This is extremely hurtful to his equity, but is necessary if we don’t want to compute for a turn as well. While this model does have turn play we have the opponents checking down among themselves, because their equity after we fold does not affect our EV on the play. Figure 28 shows what the overall profitability is to this bad boy.

It looks like the min-raisers were right! We’re now making 12,000 chips on average! But wait, what if we make the initial raise 2.5x, and keep everything else exactly the same (Figure 29)?

Now why could this be when we clearly demonstrated a 2.5x raise is generally a better idea a few sections ago? The key here is how often each player is re-jamming. When there is no chance a player could be in later position than us for the flop, and your opponents are mostly jamming the top of their range and then some, you want to save as many chips as possible with your first raise. However, if your opponents begin calling you and check/folding on the boards they miss (most of the boards they see), you want them to call as big a bet preflop as you can muster.

When your opponents are generally jamming on you, the 2x raise is more profitable from the button. However, in further analysis it seems that if people fold a few more hands because of the size of the raise then the 2.5x can be good for 10,000–11,000 chips. The overarching message here is that it is better to raise and fold with ace blockers with more than 17BB stacks than it is to just jam them. If anyone tells you differently you have the work to prove them otherwise.

What if you want to know if the same is true for a player with a 15BB stack? What if they have 9-7s instead of an ace blocker? This is where you find out what kind of poker player you are. You can download this program yourself and learn how to use it better than me, set up some more intelligently framed equity models, and kick my ass in a year or two. Or you can put it off to another day that never comes around.

Once you set up one of these models you can make a number of changes that take four seconds that open up a world of possibilities. When I was younger if you wanted to do this kind of math you would have to get pen and pad and do some algebra. You’d have to count the combinations yourself. If you made one mistake there was no machine to let you know. If you wanted to test a new hand or stack size you’d have to go all the way back to the start. The good news is we’re not in that time anymore, and most poker players are too lazy to use something such as CardRunners EV. They are relying on their natural “talent.”

Whether you agree with my ranging or methodology doesn’t matter either, by the way. Go get the program yourself. Don’t trust me or anyone else. Come to your own conclusions. Ask anyone who spouts off a poker fact to prove it. If they can, pay close attention and keep your mouth shut and ego subdued. If they can’t prove anything, privately try to prove them wrong or right. Keep your findings to yourself, unless someone pays you big bucks to publish a book about them. In that case, be sure to sell out as fast as humanly possible.

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