Archie Introduction Part 4 – Disguising Your Hand

Poker is a game of incomplete information.  Your main goal is to gather as much information regarding your opponent’s hand as you can while simultaneously doing whatever possible to disguise the contents of your holding.  In most poker games, only your decisions to check, bet, call, or raise can serve to influence your opponent’s thinking regarding your hand.  But Archie has an additional element in that you can also possibly influence your opponent’s perception of your hand and thus his decisions by how many cards you decide to draw.  We discussed a few examples when holding big pairs in Part 2 – High Hands two months ago.  But let’s look at some more Archie hands where game play can be influenced by either disguising your hand or through your opponent’s failure to disguise his.  This could be either by playing their hand in a certain manner and/or drawing a different number of cards.

Example 1 – Button Raise with 99+

The action is folded to you on the button and you open-raise with a pair of nines.  A tight solid player from the big blind calls and draws three.  It’s almost certain that he holds a pair larger than nines.  In this matchup you are a very large underdog (approximately 20% equity) so you decide to draw just two cards to try and represent trips while still giving yourself a chance to outdraw him.  Even if you typically draw one with trips your opponents don’t necessarily know that so he may put you a range of trips or a possible three card low.

After the first draw he checks and calls your bet.  He again draws three.  You do not improve but decide to make a play at the pot by staying pat.  From your opponent’s perspective he may believe that you either have a full house or half the pot locked up with a low. This bluff has a decent chance to work against a tighter player but do not try it against a player who is committed to showdown with a large pair.  If it fails you can always abort the play completely and draw three on the last draw.

If you had aces you would draw three as you have a big equity advantage, position, and implied odds.  Or if you have a hand such as 99AK you could consider drawing one trying to hit trips or one of your kickers.  Use your holding to randomly guide your play and mix up your game.

Example 2 – Open-Raising with A♣ K♣ 8♣ 5♣ and Getting Three Bet

The action is folded to you on the button and you open-raise with the big flush draw.  The big blind re-raises and you call.  The big blind draws two so it’s highly likely that he has trips and if he does have them you are around a 2 to 1 underdog.  It’s possible that he has a hand like 3 4 5 but hands like that are rare and he may not re-raise with a drawing hand like that anyway.

You do not improve on the first draw and are getting 7.5 to 1 pot odds after your opponent bets.  This translates to a break even or target equity of around 11.8%.

When your opponent has trips he has a 10.5% probability of making a full house or better in which case you would be drawing dead.  If he has not improved your equity would be approximately 28.4%.  Thus your weighted average equity in this situation is equal to (10.5%)(0%) + (89.5%)*(28.4%) = 25.4%.  This is significantly greater than the target equity and the overlay you are getting compensates for any possible reverse implied odds so you make the call.

Once again your opponent draws two and you fail to improve.  Facing a bet after the 2nd draw you are getting 5.25 to 1 odds which requires equity of around 16.0% to continue in the hand.  Your opponent had around a 10.6% chance of making a full house or better on the 2nd draw.  If he did not improve your equity is around 17.8%.  Thus your weighted average equity is equal to (10.6%)(0%) + (89.4%)*(17.8%) = 15.9%.  In this situation your estimated equity is almost exactly equal to the target equity generated by the pot odds you are receiving.  So do we have implied or reverse implied odds here?

80% of the time we will miss our flush and make a safe fold.  17.8% of the time we will make our flush while he misses and we should get a call essentially every time because we could have a just a low.  Only 2.2% of the time we will make a flush while he also improves so it appears clear that we have implied odds and thus a call is in order after the 2nd draw.

This is a hand that I played at the Rio in a side cash game at the WSOP and it felt like it was a very close decision after the 2nd draw because my opponent had both the better hand and the better draw.  I called because the pot was re-raised pre draw and I figured if it was a mistake that it could not be a big one. I ended up making the flush on the last draw and was faced with a bet on the river.  I was concerned about “value-owning” myself but I raised him because it seemed likely he would bet unimproved trips. My opponent called and my hand was good.

Perhaps he should have just checked and called the river as I probably had a hand that was drawing to beat him and if I missed I wouldn’t have anything with which to call him. Maybe he didn’t want to lose a value bet against a possible two pair or maybe he just wasn’t thinking about much at all. But given my read I probably wouldn’t have called with two pair anyway.

Anyhow he played his hand in such a manner that I knew exactly where he was in the hand.  If he had stayed pat after the 1st draw I would not have called his bet after the 2nd draw.  And I knew that I could safely fold a pair of aces or kings had I paired one of them instead of flushing on the river.  But if he had drawn one card I probably would have to call with aces or kings because I could not completely discount a big drawing hand from his range.  It didn’t change the results in this particular hand, but we can still learn from it.

Example 3 – Open-Raising with A♣ K♣ 8♣ 5♣ and Getting Called

You open-raise from the cutoff position and are called by the button.  He’s been playing fairly straightforward meaning that he’s been cold-calling when has a drawing type of hand but re-raises with good high hands that he feels he needs to get value from and protect. So since he just called you put him on some type of drawing hand such as a low draw, flush draw, or straight draw as opposed to two pair or trips. You both draw one.

You don’t improve on the 1st draw.  What should be your plan for the rest of the hand? One reasonable plan is to just keep betting the hand through.  With a high flush draw and possible pair outs you have more than enough hand to check and call a bet so you should bet yourself.  You can stand a raise because you can eliminate full houses or quads from your opponent’s range.  You bet and he calls and you both draw one again.  Let’s make it clear that we were not expecting our opponent to fold here often if ever actually.  We are betting to set up some possibilities later on in the hand.

On the 2nd draw you fail to improve again.  If you check and face a bet you would be getting 4.75 to 1 odds and need around 17.4% equity to proceed.  An ace king flush draw is almost certainly drawing live for the hide side and you will complete this draw around 20% of the time.  It’s also possible that pairing your ace or king would be enough to win the high as well. The main problem is that you may only be drawing for half.  But he could also be bluffing a missed draw of his own so if you checked you would probably have to call so you should bet again.

He calls and once again you both draw one.  We are not expecting our opponent to fold that often here but there is some fold equity after the 2nd draw.  After the 1st draw we bet and drew one so from our opponent’s perspective we could hold two pair or trips as opposed to a missed draw.  So we may fold out the weakest part of his range.  But the main reason why we should bet again is to set up a possible bluff after the 3rd draw should we fail to improve.

You fail to improve on the 3rd draw and do not hold a qualifying hand. If you are playing $20/$40 there is $230 in the pot.  He appears to hold a drawing hand but from his perspective you could have trips, two pair, or even a full house.  If you wager the river you are risking $40 in an attempt to steal his half of the $115 in the event that both of you did not qualify.  This bet needs to get through 25.8% of the time in order to be profitable.  [$40/($40+$115)]  It is extremely important to note that we are talking about the version of Archie where the pot is split among all of the players at showdown if there are no qualifying hands.

Let’s assume he will call (or raise) if he qualifies for either the high or low but will fold otherwise.  Even if your opponent had twenty outs to qualify he will fail to do so 55.6% of the time.  It’s always possible he may call anyway hoping for a chop or even raise bluff the river but there is also the possibility that he folds something like a made pair of nines on the river.  All in all it looks like a very profitable bluff after the last draw and it was all put into place because you bet at every opportunity.

In this example it was important that we had an AK flush draw and it was likely that our opponent had a lesser draw on the high side whether it was a lower flush draw, a straight draw, or maybe just pairing an ace.  This allowed us to keep an aggressive posture throughout the hand and put into motion what appears to be a profitable sequence when viewed in its totality.  At each step of the way you bet with a hand that had enough value to check/call or at least very close to it.  But continuing to bet gave us the ability to produce a profitable bluffing situation after all of the draws were completed.

This example illustrates why it is important to sometimes varying your game by re-raising with a drawing hand such as a big flush draw or a low hand.

Disguising your hand in Archie is vital in this game otherwise your opponent can play very well against you.  Denying your opponent information regarding the contents of your hand while gathering as much as you can about his is at its core the very essence of poker.