Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Trouble with Big Slick

Two Big Slick scenarios. For both, NL ring cash games. Blinds $1/2.

You're in the small blind holding medium pocket pair (88). Player in middle position (MP) raises to $8. Everyone folds to you.

(1) Do you call this raise?

(2) If there's one caller in late position, does it make it more or less likely you'd call?

Then, say a trash flop comes J 7 4 rainbow. If it's a 2 handed game, what's the best play?

I'd typically call this bet in the blinds and late position more often than not. In a multiway pot, I'd check and fold postflop with any threatening board, but make a play on a safer-looking board (especially if the board pairs). Heads up I'd make a probing 1/2-pot-size bet. And I'll fold if that bet is raised. If I get a call, it's time to make a tough read: AK/AQ or overpair.

But I am suspecting that I'm playing incorrectly here. It might be better not to be forced to make a tough read. Is the expected value of a medium PP on a 4x bet negative? And what would you do if you're pretty sure your opponent missed holding Big Slick to your pocket pair?

Second scenario is the reverse: you're holding AK unsuited in middle position. You raise 4x BB to $8. You get one caller from BB.

Same rag flop as above. BB leads with a 1/2 pot-size bet. Do you raise or fold? Calling doesn't seem like an option. I usually let this go, since anybody who's gonna bet into an agg. pre-flop raiser likely has me beat. Is that correct? Should I be re-raising occasionally here, if BB is a fairly aggressive type?

And what if BB checks, you make a 1/2-pot bet and BB calls? Do you fire away on the turn if it's checked to you again, representing pocket overpair? Or do you play for the free card and fold on a river bet? I should probably keep track of these things, but firing away doesn't seem profitable in the long run. I've noticed that AK has been a big losing hand for me, and I'm trying to figure out a better way to play it. It's not that I bet out AK to the river no matter what the board shows, as some fish would. I lay it down pretty regularly if I don't hit a pair. But I also fire two barrels when it's checked on third and fourth streets, and often times I'll be met with a check-raise on 4th St, forcing me to lay it down. Do I need to slow down if someone calls my flop bet, even if there's a decent chance the caller's on a draw? And if I have a pretty tight table image, I'm thinking that I need to raise more against players betting into me. Just to mix it up. Or is it more solid just to lay it down?

Any advice? I've been noticing that I play very well with low PP, okay with medium PP, and poorly with AK.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Return of Wonkery

A respite from rampant movie blogging.

Anyone half paying attention to Bush's campaign Social Security privatization knows the "reform" talk is just a ruse. There is no evidence that private investment accounts will solve the account shortfalls that will arrive in 40 years. Indeed, Bush's scheme is mathematically doomed to fail. Social Security reform, as everyone in Washington knows, will involve a combination of raising the age for people to qualify benefits (to 67 or so), means-testing, and/or raising payroll taxes on top earners. Even back in 1995, when I spent an unpleasant month of my life writing a tedious research paper on Social Security reform for my public policy class, most of the serious policy papers advocated some variation on those ideas. The question isn't how, but whether politicians have the backbone to fiddle with the "third rail of American politics."

Whatever could be said about Bush, he's got backbone. He fashions himself as a "transformative" President, the one to finally unmake the New Deal and usher in a conservative era. So this "reform" really isn't about fixing a problem, but about chipping away at a liberal sacred cow. But in a way, this whole debate is just another instance in which the sides are talking past one another. On the liberals are from Venus, conservatives are from Mars front, TNR has just posted a very interesting article by Jonathan Chait. Chait posits a hypothetical about God coming down to tell one side that all evidence supports the other side's position. Definitely worth checking out.

And on the Social Security front, here's a particularly damning article from the LA Times, which describes the awful performance by states that allow future beneficiaries of state pension plans to invest in private accounts. More fodder for Dems to pound away at. (If the Dems can't defend their own castle -- the one hugely popular liberal program -- they oughta take a wrecking ball to the party.)