July 10, 2011
So since I've returned to poker, I've run up $13k in 5 days, about half of which was at HU PLO in the last few days:
I'm really proud by the way I've been playing. I feel like since the last time I had a go at HU PLO I was spewing a lot and doing some random (bad) things, and I was overall not really sure about the game. I kinda had a couple huge epiphany moments about the game recently though and almost completely overhauled my strategy, which is mostly noticeable in the shape of my new red line.
So the first epiphany moment was that I don't have to try to play everyone, regardless of what their graph looks like. I'm over that. I'll still play good players sometimes but overall I'm just going to go after bad players. The result of this is huge. I realised that the invincible feeling I got when I first crushed HU PLO was purely because I was playing terrible players with 30-70% 3-bet stats and playing all their hands OOP. Then, I lost that feeling because I got overconfident and started going up against guys who were really aggro and 3-betting a reasonable amount, against whom the strategies I had developed didn't really work. Sufficed to say, having played really huge fish again, that invincible feeling is back and I can easily see why I wasn't winning as much anymore.
The second epiphany moment is regards to HU PLO as a whole and how overall strategy should look like. It can be pretty much summed up with this mantra: don't fold top pair on the flop, and don't flat it either. Obviously, mantras are bad and shouldn't be taken seriously in poker, and this sweeping statement is clearly not true, but in general it forms an underlying mindset that top pair is actually very strong, but it's also hugely vulnerable even vs hands which are classed as air. This has created a strategy which involves playing top pair hands with not much else very aggressively on flops and turns in order to protect/get value/semi-bluff all at the same time, and it works really well because people have really poor hand selection in both their calls and bluffs.
I went through a phase where I thought HU PLO wasn't about getting stacks in and gambling a lot, and that it was more about being passive until there are clear equity edges, but I was wrong. HU PLO is about two things: a hell of a lot of aggression and very well-crafted hand selection to support that.
I think there are a lot of players out there who are good at doing the former but terrible at the latter, and use the wrong hands to be aggressive with and it leads to them getting crushed a lot in terms of domination and equity match-ups. Meanwhile, my epiphany moment has lead to a new result about preflop hands:
In a HU pot, the most overriding factor to hand strength is the rank of the cards.
Forget wraps, forget double suited, this game (at 100bbs) is going to mostly be about making a good top pair and getting most of your stack in by the turn, while also having the opportunity to make something extra like a flush draw, straight draw, or two pair. This forms the basis to how I evaluate any preflop hand. e.g. Hands like Q765ds aren't really that good even HU, due to the fact that they make too many bottom pairs and low two pairs, while the upper end of flops includes a lot of low flush draws which are still kinda weak semi-bluffing hands anyway. Playing too many hands like that (which everyone usually does to make up their aggressive ranges) are just going to get you destroyed by a guy who is playing a lot of good high cards and refuses to fold top pair ever.
Having utilized this sort of strategy I find myself really easily countering people who think there is room in this game to make a lot of check raises and c-bets with very weak hands, specifically mid pair type hands or weak draws. There have been a countless amount of times where someone check-raises to counter my aggression but do it with a super polarised range that I just pot top pair some kickers and they are forced to fold. Picking up pots like that I feel is infinitely superior than allowing them to see turns, pick up equity or the best hand and barrel a lot while my hand is hard to play. The thing is my opponents have usually built up their ranges so badly that it allows me to do that and be unexploitable.
It definitely defies the hold'em mindset of doing things, because they'll say something like "you only get called by better and fold out worse" but that kind of logic only applies because of how far ahead hands are of each other in NL on the flop; it doesn't really apply in PLO because of how close equities run: this play actually has a ton of FE because of how often opponents have to fold 30-40% equity. It's more akin to Hold'em preflop play where you shove in spots where it's unlikely you'll get called by worse, but it's ok because worse hands have so much flopping capability and plus you'll be in a tough spot when you whiff the flop with ace high if you flat. The way people are playing right now on flops in PLO is similar to semi-bluffing too many suited connector type hands in NL, but they can't call a shove so they end up folding a ton of equity.
The advantage to playing this way is it actually feels really hard to play against. I've seen a lot of opponents go into almost a loose passive mode, not wanting to mess with someone who is going to just shove a lot, but also not wanting to fold against someone so aggressive, and these guys get owned pretty quickly because I never get put into a tough spot, get charged for seeing the river and have complete control of how big the pot's going to be. I've also seen people adjust the other way by trying to combat it with a lot of spew and I just make sure to have stronger ranges than them and dominate them in showdowns. Either way, I've never seen an opponent making the right adjustments by changing their hand selection, which is almost always the core problem. It's just how they've learnt the game and something unmalleable to them, while I'm consistently thinking about it and adjusting.