Adverse effect of ace blocker - why don't we talk more about this?

LeChiffreLeChiffre NetherlandsRed Chipper Posts: 540 ✭✭✭
edited June 28 in General Concepts
In most material you find (for example in CORE), having an ace blocker in your hand when 3-bet bluffing is described as a categorically good thing. What most sources fail to mention is that blockers really are only effective if we block relatively more of villain's continuance range than his opening range.

Let me give an example, inspired by a hand history which we went over in our group chat.

Nit villain opens to 17 at 1/2. We are considering 3-bet bluffing to 50. Suppose villain opens TT+, AQ+, KQs and continues with only QQ+. So he continues with 18 of 66 combos, which means he's folding almost 73% of the time. Our break-even percentage is around 71.5%, so in a vacuum this is an auto-profit spot.

But if we have an A blocker (let's say we have AJ), he now has 52 combos in his opening range, and 15 in his continuance range. As a result, he's only folding 71% of the time, which is slightly -EV in a vacuum.

This is a consequence of villain's opening range shrinking by an amount, relatively speaking, which is greater than the amount his continuance range shrinks by as a result of our blocker:

Opening range goes from 66 to 52 (21.2% decrease)
Contiuance range goes from 18 to 15 (16.7% decrease)

The fact that having an Ace blocker with this particular kicker is hence disadvantageous to us. This seems like very crucial information, but it only took some off-table calculations to figure out. It's easy to start 3-betting AJ because you block AA and AK, but it really requires careful calculations, something that's never mentioned in any educational material that I know of. Why?

Comments

  • RedRed Red Chipper Posts: 2,153 ✭✭✭✭
    edited June 28
    Hoooo you've excited me with your nerdy question! *_*
    No time to answer now, but I've already spotted a flaw in your argument
    Let's see if someone else gets it before I've the chance to answer :D
  • Doug HullDoug Hull RCP Coach Posts: 1,790 -
    This strikes me as a bit of a degenerate set of ranges.

    Let try this blocking the Ace, Jack, both, neither.

    unblocked:
    • 28/66 Non-Ace open (42%)
    • 38/66 Ace open (58%)
    • 12/28 Non-Ace continue (43%)
    • 6/38 Ace continue (16%)
    • 18/66 continue (27%)

    blocked by Ace and Jack:
    • 25/52 Non-Ace open (48%)
    • 27/52 Ace open (52%)
    • 12/25 Non-Aces continue (48%)
    • 3/27 Aces continue (11%)
    • 15/52 continue (29%)

    blocked by Ace or a Five instead
    • 28/55 Non-Ace open (48%)
    • 27/55 Ace open (52%)
    • 12/28 Non-Aces continue (48%)
    • 3/27 Aces continue (11%)
    • 15/55 continue (27%)

    blocked by Jack or a Nine instead
    • 25/63 Non-Ace open (40%)
    • 38/63 Ace open (60%)
    • 12/25 Non-Aces continue (48%)
    • 6/38 Aces continue (16%)
    • 18/63 continue (29%)

    These four scenarios let us look at the block effect of the Ace, Jack, neither and both.
    • unblocked: 27% continue
    • AJ block: 29% continue (2% increase from Ace and Jack)
    • A5 block: 27% continue (0% increase from solo Ace)
    • J9 block: 29% continue (2% increase from solo Jack)

    I believe you are attributing the effect to the Ace blocker, ignoring the Jack's effect.
    Co-founder Red Chip Poker,
    Author Poker Plays You Can Use
    Author Poker Workbook for Math Geeks
  • YoshYosh Red Chipper Posts: 580 ✭✭✭
  • RedRed Red Chipper Posts: 2,153 ✭✭✭✭
    (Who needs a life...? Let's play with spreadsheets!)

    IMHO, the point here is not really if the continuation range increase or decrease in %. These number really depends on how many combos are in the opening and continuation ranges and how blocker interacts with these - as pointed out by @Doug Hull .

    What is important to us as poker players playing for profit (I don't play for charity, but to take your chips haha) isn't to inflate or deflate the continuation range of Villain and which combos to chose for that, but to max out our chips aka our EV.
    So the question is not: which combos makes V fold the most ? ; but more which combos allows us to win more money aka to have more EV ?

    As a reminder and for new ones, the EV formula is:
    EV = (F% * Pot$) + (C% * H_equ% * Win$) - (C% * V_equ% * Los$).
    @SplitSuit made a video about it on youtube.

    Fact is: even if V folds slightly less often / fewer combos when we hold Uno cards than when we have AJ (1.5 blockers), we win a massive EV plus-value when we have AJ instead of Uno cards.
    I made a spreadsheet I've uploaded to show you 4 EV scenarii resp. when H holds: Uno cards, 72o, AJs and A5s.

    Tip: don't play poker with Uno cards :-)
  • LeChiffreLeChiffre NetherlandsRed Chipper Posts: 540 ✭✭✭
    edited June 29
    Doug Hull wrote: »

    I believe you are attributing the effect to the Ace blocker, ignoring the Jack's effect.

    Yes that's exactly what I'm doing and that's exactly my point.

    I feel like it's misleading to tell students that having an Ace blocker is beneficial, without mentioning that your kicker matters. We can see why in our calculations.

    Up till now I just always thought having an Ace blocker always increased my fold equity. Maybe it does in general, but for some opening and continuance ranges the kicker can mess things up.

    This is basically a suggestion to include this is in all your lessons on blockers, specifically where it says "blocking an Ace is good". Seems pretty crucial information, as you are making students decrease their fold equity.
  • RedRed Red Chipper Posts: 2,153 ✭✭✭✭
    edited June 29
    Is A blocker more important to increase V fold % or to block a certain (the best) part of V range?
    And how is A blocker impact your equity?
  • LeChiffreLeChiffre NetherlandsRed Chipper Posts: 540 ✭✭✭
    Sure, those are valid questions.

    However, in his explanation of using blockers in one of the Poker Bank YouTube videos, @SplitSuit does a similar calculation as I did in the original post, and shows that we have added fold equity using an ace blocker.

    I'm just arguing that I think this sends the wrong message - at least it did for me.
  • persuadeopersuadeo Red Chipper, Table Captain Posts: 4,162 ✭✭✭✭✭
    You definitely have the right idea here but the answer is a bit subtle.

    If you are looking to three bet out of the blinds or squeeze you might find yourself looking for a polarized range, some of which will comprise Ax. You are looking for folds or raises, as you obviously have weak hands and strong hands and each will respond accordingly. The kinds of hands you expect to fold out are never 1010-KK, however, but the lower tier of hands. When you have Ax, you block Ax and unblock all of these hands, such as Kx, pairs, suited connectors. You also have some equity even with a naked ace, much different from XX and Uno cards. In this situation, we can see a basic poker idea in action - the middle of the range has some trouble continuing against the pole. Of course if you misprice your raises in this situation, the value of your Ace blocker starts to plummet, as now you face the middle of the deck exactly where it wants to be - bluff catching IP against favorable prices.

    If you are in position or three bet linearly, you are expecting more calls or raises with better or similar hands, laying a better price and even responding to a new price. So your weakest aces start disappearing and now the equity of your Ax hands matter more, as you may even 3bet/call with hands like AJs/AQ which yes, have related blocking effects but also have greater equity and playability. However, again, you are doing it with a range, even into the teeth of a strong one such as you implied. So yes, your blocking effect matters as you fold out hands that might be ahead like pairs that won't call in position but can't fade action OOP, in other words, some hands, some times. The Ax simply form part of the bottom and help you not be reraised in this situation so that you can barrel IP or with fewer garbage aces OOP rather than be forced out by AK, AQ, as these are less likely, thanks to your blockers - even though their range is now composed of other hands just as strong in their own way.

    Either way, you can see that it matters what range you are attacking and when and why, and that the blockers, if used correctly, help accomplish your goal despite the very effect you are pointing out. That matters - note that your point is a universal one, not just with Ax: whenever you block something in the deck, you unblock something else, not just in this preflop scenario.

    Finally, note that blocking is not primary, range and price are. Red is right about this and it's important to see that even though understanding the blockers is important, it's not a substitute for a solid strategy. For instance, if having the Ax blocker were primary to poker decisions rather than range shape, we'd find profitability in continuing aggressively with more and more Axo, which would add a massive amount of combos to various situations - but this isn't case, as everybody knows through experience or study.
  • SplitSuitSplitSuit RCP Coach Posts: 4,034 -
    LeChiffre wrote: »
    I'm just arguing that I think this sends the wrong message - at least it did for me.

    I can see how a single blocker + EV exploration can send the wrong message and make it appear that every Ax hand should be aggressed simply because there could be some additional preflop folds happening. And for that, I'm very sorry if it created any obstacles for getting closer to a complete strategy.

    Do you have any suggestions for ways that I could have better explained the blocker effect, the EV value of any additional outright preflop folds, and how they fit into a strategy - without making it seem like any 3 or 4bet preflop is automatically good just because we have an Ace?
  • RedRed Red Chipper Posts: 2,153 ✭✭✭✭
    edited June 30
    The problem is, that's there is a multi level teaching here: 1) learning ranges 2) learning blocker 3) learning the interaction blocker - Villain range. (Plus still equity.)
    I think it would be very educationally counterproductive to try to assess everything at the same time.
    The only improvement could be if a set of videos are bundled together (playlist) as it will very explicitly make the bridge between all these concepts.

    ***
    When you learn another language, studies always start with basic vocabulary and easy sentences. Like "Wie gehe ich zum Bahnhof?", vocabulary would be "Bahnhof", "wie", "ich" and "gehen" and grammar would be the verb "gehen"; but nothing on dative ("zu"+dative) or other question words (-> "wie") - YET.

    Same in poker: When you teach the basics of 3betting and the impact of blockers, you need some basic examples; the most used one being A5s to start building a 3bet bluff range (polarized range). Then you add more knowledge like blockers and why it's better to 3bet pole with A5s instead of T8s. Then you understand why and when you could add T8s despite the first no-no. And so on.

    @LeChiffre says that teaching raising with blocker can lead to misunderstanding. I disagree. It just that the issue addresses here it's the next step of studies.

    LeChiffre gave an example where AJs tends to slightly increase the continuation range of a nitty Villain. Ok.
    But now here is an counter example: H holds A5s (instead of AJs), Villain is nitty and opens TT+, AQ, KQs and will continues with QQ+/AK (instead of QQ+). Without blockers, V is folding 32/66 combos or 48.48% of the time; with A5s blockers, V is folding 28/55 combos or 50.90% of the time. In this example, having A5s INCREASES Hero's fold equity.

    LeChiffre and my examples seem contradictory but in fact the results - as stated earlier - depend on the impact of a certain blocker on Villain's range: how the blocker interacts with both continuation and folding parts of it.
    In LeChiffre example, AJs blocks mostly V folding range (AK, AQ, JJ) and only a little of V continuation range (AA) when in my example, A5 blocks a little V folding range (AQ) but blocks mostly V continuation
    range (AA, AK).

    This shall point out that not blocker, but ranges and their shape are critical.

    **
    Key sentence here was said by Persuadeo:
    persuadeo wrote: »
    Finally, note that blocking is not primary, range and price are.

  • LeChiffreLeChiffre NetherlandsRed Chipper Posts: 540 ✭✭✭
    Red wrote: »
    The problem is, that's there is a multi level teaching here: 1) learning ranges 2) learning blocker 3) learning the interaction blocker - Villain range. (Plus still equity.)
    I think it would be very educationally counterproductive to try to assess everything at the same time.
    The only improvement could be if a set of videos are bundled together (playlist) as it will very explicitly make the bridge between all these concepts.

    ***
    When you learn another language, studies always start with basic vocabulary and easy sentences. Like "Wie gehe ich zum Bahnhof?", vocabulary would be "Bahnhof", "wie", "ich" and "gehen" and grammar would be the verb "gehen"; but nothing on dative ("zu"+dative) or other question words (-> "wie") - YET.

    Same in poker: When you teach the basics of 3betting and the impact of blockers, you need some basic examples; the most used one being A5s to start building a 3bet bluff range (polarized range). Then you add more knowledge like blockers and why it's better to 3bet pole with A5s instead of T8s. Then you understand why and when you could add T8s despite the first no-no. And so on.

    @LeChiffre says that teaching raising with blocker can lead to misunderstanding. I disagree. It just that the issue addresses here it's the next step of studies.

    LeChiffre gave an example where AJs tends to slightly increase the continuation range of a nitty Villain. Ok.
    But now here is an counter example: H holds A5s (instead of AJs), Villain is nitty and opens TT+, AQ, KQs and will continues with QQ+/AK (instead of QQ+). Without blockers, V is folding 32/66 combos or 48.48% of the time; with A5s blockers, V is folding 28/55 combos or 50.90% of the time. In this example, having A5s INCREASES Hero's fold equity.

    LeChiffre and my examples seem contradictory but in fact the results - as stated earlier - depend on the impact of a certain blocker on Villain's range: how the blocker interacts with both continuation and folding parts of it.
    In LeChiffre example, AJs blocks mostly V folding range (AK, AQ, JJ) and only a little of V continuation range (AA) when in my example, A5 blocks a little V folding range (AQ) but blocks mostly V continuation
    range (AA, AK).

    This shall point out that not blocker, but ranges and their shape are critical.

    **
    Key sentence here was said by Persuadeo:
    persuadeo wrote: »
    Finally, note that blocking is not primary, range and price are.

    You're absolutely right, and I understand all the reasoning, and why having a different Ax has a positive effect on our fold equity. But that of course also means that some Ax have an adverse effect (which is of course the point of this whole thread). That piece of information was missing to me.

    Is it possible I just lazily concluded that any Ax improves our fold equity? Pretty confidently: yes. Which brings me to Splitsuit's question.
    SplitSuit wrote: »
    Do you have any suggestions for ways that I could have better explained the blocker effect, the EV value of any additional outright preflop folds, and how they fit into a strategy - without making it seem like any 3 or 4bet preflop is automatically good just because we have an Ace?

    I've thought about it a bit more and I'm pretty convinced it's just my fault. For example, in this video:



    you specifically say "use this framework and plug in your own ranges". It's my mistake to over-generalize. What I got out of that video (and I think the CORE lesson used this video too) was: "ace blockers always improve fold equity", but what I should have learned was: "ace blockers can help improve fold equity, should figure it out myself if it's true in this spot".
    SplitSuit wrote: »
    And for that, I'm very sorry if it created any obstacles for getting closer to a complete strategy.

    Please, don't worry about it. Very much appreciate all the (free) content you've put out there. It's just one area where through no fault of yours I've picked up the wrong thinking habit.
  • SplitSuitSplitSuit RCP Coach Posts: 4,034 -

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