Thursday, February 28, 2008

Is the optimal play always the optimal play?

I was reading Ryan's DNR blog and came across the following post where Ryan picks up AA and decides he wants to take down the pot on the turn by intentionally overbetting. His comment (below) was that it was suboptimal since it made it too difficult for villain to pay an incorrect price. But the question is: is the "optimal" play always the optimal play? Is locking up a pot ever better than risking the loss of a bigger pot? What conditions would need to exist to justify NOT not making an optimally sized bet (as in slightly the wrong price to villain).

T1, Hand 30. After the gift of a turn uberblank on a draw-heavy board, I overbet the turn to seriously charge for the villain's apparent draw. He folds, and it was a suboptimal play because I didn't bet so he could make a mistake on the turn, but with my run of late, I really just wanted to take down the pot.

Here is the hand history


royalbacon said...

I think the key to this conversation is the line “but with my run of late”. Looking through the past few posts on DNR, Ryan has definitely been getting the short end of the stick on quite a few hands. We’ve all been there.

Was this the optimal play? I would say that Ryan is one of the best at TNP in betting the right amount to make you feel like you can call without actually having the odds in your favor. And in this case, since the target folded, perhaps it was too much.

But there are also other factors to consider: what was AngelKat betting like up this point? Would they typically call with less-than-optimal odds? Maybe he didn't have as good a draw as you were hoping? Maybe he only had 2 outs (Ah10x)?

The plays that I'm seeing (and from what I hear it's the same sort of bad play at .05/.10), if somebody has managed to get to that point in the hand and had 2 hearts, KJ, or something like that, then they would have actually bet the flop instead of checking it. And they would certainly had called that turn bet of $5, don't you think?

Ryan might say it was sub-optimal, but I disagree. It was the optimal bet. It just wasn't the optimal caller.

Marshall said...

I have to disagree with Royal here and agree with Ryan that it was suboptimal. I don't think it was way out of line or anything, but he wants a call on the turn here most likely as the villain is probably drawing relatively thin since we are on the turn. Even an open ender or flush draw needs better than 4:1 to be correct calling here. Ryan bet more than the pot, pricing out basically all draws yet keeping all hands that beat him in the pot. Had this been the type of player to call gross overbets on draws, Ryan would have noted it in his post.

I also have to disagree with Royal on the comment that Ryan is one of the best on TNP when it comes to betting amounts. I think that Ryan's game is very aggressive, and there is very little finesse in there. It works for him obviously so don't take this as a criticism, it's just not Ryan's style to charge *just* the right amount for people on draws. Instead his normal line is to hammer so hard that you A) Have no clue if he has the nuts or is on a whiffed AK type hand. B) You don't have the odds almost no matter what, and if you want to take a shot at busting him, you just have to make a bad play to do it.

As far as taking a slightly sub-optimal line in the face of a bad run, I am fine with it. I mean at least you are erring on the right side here, he might even call you and then he makes a big mistake (assuming he has a draw), or he folds and you take it down. I like either option. Of course the downside is that if he has a set or 2 pair, you just overbet yourself into oblivion...

royalbacon said...

It’s fascinating to me how different a perception Marshall and I have on Ryan’s play.

I don’t have anything to add to that, it’s just interesting.

Marshall said...

I totally agree.

sstadnicki said...

I'm with Royal, or at least his first paragraph's worth. The key here is the whole notion of nonlinear utility. From a strictly mathematical expectation value perspective, the optimal play is always the correct play -- by definition (note: this is outside of a tournament situation, where different rules apply). But from an emotional or even economic perspective, chips have different values depending on how they're flowing -- a $5 bet for the rest of your stack is more expensive than a $5 all-in from someone into your $200. Economically speaking, what Ryan is doing here is putting a monetary value, not on the chips that he could take down here, but on the act of winning the pot itself; he's implicitly stating that a win has intrinsic value and that he's willing to pay for the act of winning. And from a poker-EV perspective, that can be correct; if finally winning here will keep you from going on tilt (or staying on tilt) and make your next couple of rounds of play more mathematically accurate, then it's a reasonable investment.

Marshall said...

I disagree Steven. I do see the upside to him winning the pot and avoiding tilt/breaking a bad streak, but he does this at the expense of winning less money from this pot, which can't be "correct". Optimal play would be extracting the maximum value for his hand relative to the board and ultimately relative to his opponents hand/hand range.

Ryan knows that if his opponent is playing perfectly, that a 5.00 bet here will lead him to fold hands that he is far ahead of and get a call or raise out of hands that he is behind. This is not the right play. Ryan did put value on just simply taking the pot down right now, which does have a tangible benefit, but the benefit isn't reaped from this pot in particular, and he knows he is making a trade-off here.

I don't know what non-linear utility is (if its explainable that would be cool), but I do know one thing: You are saying that he is putting intrinsic value on winning the pot itself as opposed to how much he wins in the pot. This does have benefits, but it's a very basic tenant of poker that "It's not how many pots you win, it's how much money". With that in mind, it's pretty much always sub-optimal to overbet someone out of a pot just for the sake of taking it down.