Making mistakes is good for your game

Yesterday I final tabled both the Bigger $55 (4th) and the Bigger $27 (8th). This gave me an unbelievable number of hands to run over the next few days.


I wanted to focus on the postflop play in the following hand (my bustout hand) from the Bigger $55, but first I needed to run the spot in HRC to get the right preflop ranges to put into PIOSolver.

My bustout hand in the Bigger $55 on PokerStars


Did you notice the first mistake in this hand?


Was it check/jamming the flop? Was it my choice to check rather than c-bet?


Or was it something else entirely?


Some HRC sims can take a while to finish so I left them running overnight. When I sat down this morning to review this spot, I was shocked to see that KTo isn't even an open!

What my opening range should look like in this spot


The opening range is just 14.4%!


Whaaaaaaaaaat?????!!!!!


Imagine not opening 88 at full frequency, or A9o at all!


Now I try to study final table strategy as much as I can, so I believed that I had a good handle on preflop ranges. I knew we wouldn't be able to open as wide as a 19bb cEV range here because of a) only 0.5bb in the middle and b) the chip leader in the SB who can put a huge amount of pressure on me given there's a player who has fewer chips right now.


But I didn't think it would have this much of an impact though...

Everyone's bubble factor in this spot


My risk premium against the small blind, though, is massive. To work it out, we need to use a simple formula: 1 / (1 + 1 / Bubble Factor ) - 50%. So in this example it's 17%. That means we need an extra 17% equity to call if the SB 3-bets or 3-bets jams over our open.


We also have a risk premium of 10% against the Button and 5% against the BB so we shouldn't just focus on the small blind, even though he's the one that can apply the most pressure.


When we open, the Small Blind can jam 15.6% of hands, which includes a lot of suited Aces and Kings. This makes a lot of sense, since our calling range will definitely include AA, KK and AK, so he wants to block them. This will make it less likely that we have a hand that can call when he jams.

The SB's strategy when we open


When he does jam, we can only call 99+,AJs+,AKo, just 4.5% of hands. If we start with too wide a range, we would end up folding way too much. Imagine opening 40% of hands here and then having to fold almost 90% of the time when jammed on. In the actual hand, we can only call 31.25% of our opening range (4.5% / 14.4%).

The $EV of the hands we can call when the SB jams


So what started off as a marked hand to check on how to play the hand optimally postflop ended with me realising that KTo isn't even an open!


As played, I was fairly confident that I hadn't punted it off postflop. I just wasn't sure how best to approach the spot - do we bet? is check/call better than check/raise? is check/jamming even a thing?


It's clear, though, that I'm playing way too many hands in this spot and that's the biggest learning point here.


In case it isn't obvious, I would've marked this hand whether I'd won or lost the hand. I think we've all been guilty of just marking out bustout hands or hands that we lost to share, analyse and/or review. But if we really want to get better, we need to make sure we're reviewing hands that we win too.


And review tournaments that you win as well.


Don't be fooled into believing that you play every hand well. Maybe you missed a value bet on the river. Or used the wrong sizing, which impacted your EV and winrate.


There will always be things to improve. Embrace the idea that making mistakes is good for your game and enjoy the process.


Good luck out there.


Gareth

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