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I was wondering how the value of speculative hands changes depending on player texture.

For example let's say we have a hand like 89s or maybe 44. If you're mid position, the typical thing to do is to limp in and hope to hit trips or a decent draw right?

I guess this play is less intelligent if you think you're often going to be raised off your hand by late positions. If you're playing with fish and get raised and then a lot of players call, is it now valuable to call again based on the pot odds? If there was a raise early position should you just fold? When should you raise with these hands?

Basically I'm wondering when is best to play these hands and whens best to let them go. I tend to want to see the flop every time I get these mid-hands and think I've got a leak in my play by doing so too often.

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I think one thing that's important is that you start the hand realizing that lots of your value lies in really hitting your hand, so you're aiming for the implied odds here. With these speculative hands, you're rarely going to be ahead pre-flop, and even if you are, you're never going to feel comfortable putting much more into the pot, so you usually need to get lucky. Because of that, you need to make sure you can get paid off when you do hit your hand.

  1. Your point about limping and fearing a raise behind you is legit. You don't want to limp here if there's a substantial risk of someone raising you and you having to fold. Because of this, you should have a good read on your opponents and also be less inclined to play speculative hands out of position. When you're in position, you greatly lower this risk. Plus there are other good reasons to be in late position post-flop. You also don't have to limp with your suited connectors. If you only ever open raise with premium hands, you make it easier for opponents to narrow your hand range. If you're occasionally raising from late position with T9s, that's not a bad thing.
  2. You want to maximize the odds of getting paid off when you hit your hand, and you can usually do that better in a raised pot where one of your opponents has hinted with his raise that he likes his hand. If you call a preflop raise with 44 from late position, then flop your set on a KQ4 rainbow flop, you're likely going to be able to get a lot from his AK or KQ. If it's a limped pot, however, you're less likely to have someone willing to pay you off. They are more likely to have a hand that appears vulnerable on a given flop, so the opportunity for you to build a pot is diminished. You still may have the same odds of winning the hand, but it's generally less likely to be a big pot, so your implied odds are reduced.
  3. You also want to make sure that the effective stacks are big enough to justify your speculative calls. If you call from late position with a small pair in hopes of set mining, you want to make sure that you can win enough chips to justify that play. You're going to flop a set about 1 in 8 times, and even when you flop your set you're not guaranteed to win the pot or stack the opponent when you do, so you need to make sure that you have enough positive upside in the cases when you do in fact win.
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    Perfect answer. Deciding whether or not to limp in with these hands in early or middle position depends a lot on how the table is playing in general. The tighter and more aggressive the table is, the less you should be entering with speculative hands--if it's common to see raises and re-raises and only a couple people to the flop, you're going to be paying too much initially for lower implied odds. If the table is loose and passive however, you can get in cheaply and keep the potential for getting paid off. – Dr.DrfbagIII Dec 29 '15 at 19:02
  • @Dr.DrfbagIII That was a great summary, I'll definitely bear that in mind more often. – Varrick Dec 30 '15 at 16:26
  • Good answer. My only critique is that point 3 is actually the most important point: you need to be deep enough, so it should've probably been point 1. – wvdz Dec 31 '15 at 11:33
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First look at your chip stack. You can only win what is in your chip stack. These are not the type of hands you play short stacked. These are the hands with low odds of making the hand but if you do make it you are going for the stack.

When should you raise with these hands?

This is the type of hand that wants multiple players. Don't raise. You might put in a small raise to block a re-raise. But you should not raise to push people off the hand (pre flop). For sure you don't re-raise.

If there was a raise early position should you just fold?

Again this is the type of hand that wants multiple players. Against an early raise you are not getting pots odds and not likely to get multiple players. Heads up you are dog to anything but a stone cold bluff from early position.

If you're playing with fish and get raised and then a lot of players call, is it now valuable to call again based on the pot odds?

Yes you play pots odds every time. With a disguised hand your implied odds are going to be bigger than immediate pots odds. With fish you will tend to get multiple players. The pot odds takes care of itself. Take 44 the chance of hitting on the flop is 7.5 to 1. If you are getting 7.5 to 1 pots odds then call. Yes you can hit and still lose but you are also going to extract more money on turn and river. With fish you don't need to get fancy with EV. Fish are going to give you enough opportunities with immediate pot odds. With fish you don't typically need a disguised hand to get action. If you don't hit the flop then get off the hand unless you are getting pot odds to call THAT round (43:2). Don't get fancy with fish.

Even if you loosen implied odds to 5:1 and got a min raise in front of you you would need 4 calls behind you to get proper odds.

Lets say you only get one call behind you on min raise from UTG the board comes up KQ4. You would still lose 14% of the time. By my calculations post flop you would need to get $300 more dollars in the pot for proper odds on your initial min raise call and there are very few hands that would call (or bet) $300 post flop that you would beat. KQ is about the only hand that would pay you off.

Late position really changes things as you don't risk the raise and if you hit you can extract more money.

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You should usually play with these hands (small pairs and suited connectors down to 87) in an early stage of the tournament, because implied odds are very high, and more importantly your M is more than 20 (you are in Green Zone). M is a relative value (M = your stack / pot amount). With antes coming in, your stack is going to shrink, so you cannot just wait for nuts. In online tournaments I find this play works out the best. Especially, if you are an aggressive or a super-aggressive player.

Even if you are a conservative player, you should vary your play. You cannot just play with nuts as people will have a good read on you. Also, you cannot just limp in. You should be able to raise and re-raise with these hands (especially if you have a good read on your opponents).

Your image at the table is also very important. If they think you are tight, raising with this kind of hands can be very deceptive. For instance, in one of my tournaments as a tight player, I raised UTG with 54s (just to vary my game) 4 times. Everyone folded, button called me. Flop came: KQ4 (different suits). I did standard c-bet around a half of the pot representing K or Q. Button called. Turn: 4. Now I have trips. I check-he checks back. River: T. I make small value bet, he shoves all his chips, I call. He shows KT, and I double up. His thinking that his two pairs were good was reasonable here as he would never put me on the trip.

However, once your M is lower than 20 (you are in Yellow Zone, Orange Zone or Red Zone), this play has a negative expectation. Throw them away except very comfortable circumstances (for instance, when you are last to act or you are in a late position with weak blinds).

All in all, read theory about M and importance of M in every stage of a tournament.

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What you want is a situation where you can get as much info as possible for as cheap as possible.

If someone raises early, even if they are not a credible raiser, it is better to fold in mid-position because you don’t know how the players behind you are going to react. You cannot assume pot odds with a speculative hand that is, on its own, weak. If would be different if you had something like AKs which has not only draw value but legitimate high-card strength if it ends up being only you calling the raise. Likewise, you do not know if someone behind you will re-raise, a situation where you will more or less always have to fold. This situation alone could be a leak if not avoided whenever possible.

If there is no raise, and everyone limps to you, you could limp as well…though if you know any of the players behind you to be aggressive, you might be wary. It depends on the players here, how aggressive they are after the flop, things like that.

The thing to remember, which you probably know, is that these situations are not easy. These are hard hands to hit, and when you do hit them, there are few scenarios where it will have been worthwhile to be chasing after them in the first place. You need to hit your hand and have others hit something as well; the lower your draws or pairs, the less likely it becomes that someone else has hit a worse hand that they are willing to stick with.

Choosing to play these hands, as well as knowing HOW to play the hand if you make it, depend entirely on the game you are in – the situation itself. More often than not, these hands in mid-position are not worthwhile, as you have too little information about how this hand will go when the action comes to you.

If this is in fact a leak for you, sealing it is a matter of keeping in mind that these are hands that have no ability to withstand a raise. Stick more with higher pairs/suited connectors, and in late position or in the blinds. Most leaks are the result of playing loose in early positions. Especially in tournament play, these can prove fatal.

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You should say if you are playing tournament or cash.

Tournament 9 max: low blind limp, high blinds raise or fold depending if you are deep or short and how many short stakers act after you.

Cash 6 max online: fold.

Cash 9 max live: raise or call if all fold are both good.

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