Probably the one thing people have asked me to do more of are videos of live hands from start to finish, and a strategy analysis breakdown of said hand. I am a man of the people, so I am happy to oblige. The following video comes from MGM Grand – it is a $5/pt Heads Up Criss-Cross hand. I am the player on the right, my friend Menikos is the one on the left. We play Criss-Cross a little different, in that whoever is button goes FIRST and LAST, with the other player going SECOND and THIRD. The more common way to play is for Button to go 2nd/Last, with OOP going 1st/3rd. I happen to enjoy this version more, but that’s not why we do it that way. We do it that way because if another player shows up and wants to play, we don’t have to tell him to wait until both of us have had the button an equal # of times – the button advantage is not particularly strong (if at all), so it’s not a big deal if one player has the button an extra hand.
I e-mailed him this post, and I hope he will write up some of his thoughts on the hand – if he does, I will post them here.
I will refer to the two hands as “Player Left” and “Player Right” – in other words, the hand that goes first is Menikos Left, then David Right, David Left, Menikos Right.
Finally, I know that these breakdowns can be quite long – so what I’m going to do is break them down into two seperate posts – Part I will be the introduction and the first 5 (BTW, what specifically do people think that should be called – the set-up? Initial 5? Anyone?), and then Part II will be the run-out and closing thoughts..
So without further ado, here is the video of the hand in question:
Now, onto the analysis. This post will deal with the set-up:
Menikos Left: Q♦ 7♠ 2♠ T♦ T♥
Unless you’ve got a serious gambling streak and want to shoot for the Royal Flush with QT of diamonds, there’s pretty much zero incentive here to break up the Tens. You’re under the gun so as far as you know they’re still live, and they’re a fairly big pair on their own even if they turn out not to be live, so you better have a good reason to break them up. And, putting them in the middle and your spades in the back would be equally foolish here because 7-2 are both unders to the Tens, meaning that if your spades don’t come you need to run out two pair, so you’re adding a lot of risk of fouling. It’d be much different if your hand was 22, and the T7 of spades, because then even without spades, just one Ten or Seven and you’re now covered in the back.
Finally, if you were 3 to a flush or 3 to an open-ender, it’d be a different argument (either to break up the tens, or to play them in the middle and put the draw in the back). But here it’s only 2 to a flush. So TT in the back. Q up top is standard (we are playing fantasyland so you want to keep open that chance), and 7 in the middle is standard.
That leaves us with his play of the deuce in the middle. I guess he could have been thinking of trying to leave open the small chance of full house or better in the back, spade flush in the middle b/c of how valuable it would be if it actually came to fruition, but I personally just don’t thinks such a runout occurs enough times to justify not putting a live card in the back alongside the Tens.
There is something to be said for waiting to see 15 more cards before then looking for a live card to put in the back – you get so much more information about which card is fully live and thus likely to pair up during your runout – and if the card in question was higher, say an eight or a six, and thus has some more relative value as a pair in the middle as compared to value as the second pair in the back, then I’d agree, but with twos, if I get a second deuce, it’s such a weak pair in the middle that I’d much prefer having it in the back as the second pair alongside my tens. So I disagree with his set-up. I’d go Q♦/ 7♠ / T♦T♥2♠
David Right: A♠ 4♦ K♠ K♣ J♦
This is one of those hands where I look down, and then, to borrow a concept from the Life With Face Cards blog (http://lifewithfacecards.tumblr.com/), I have a reaction that is best summarized by the following
When I get KK or AA as part of my first five, the very first thought that will enter my mind is “Oh It’s On! We’re going to be shooting for Fantasy Land!”. But before I continue, let me point out – the reason I’m talking about KK/AA only is that I’m not talking about starting with them up top. I’m not nearly the believer that some people are in putting QQ+ up top as part of your initial 5, unless circumstances are quite favorable. However, with KK/AA, I’m a huge fan of playing them in the middle, unless circumstances are quite unfavorable. Put it another way – I need a damn good reason to put QQ/KK/AA up top, whereas I need a damn good reason NOT to put KK/AA in the middle. The reason why is that QQ up top requires me to then cover two streets just to not foul (unless I start with two pairs of Queens or better) – two “Degrees of Freedom” to borrow something Barry Greenstein said. With KK+ in the middle, I can focus on just one street of “cover”, and at the same time, if I pick up QQ to go up top, all the better, but I still won’t foul as long as I cover just one street.
Here, I’ve got KK, so unless I have a good reason NOT to put it in the middle, it’s going there, end of story. And it turns out that not only do I lack a compelling reason not to play as such, I actually have cards that actively ENCOURAGE such a play with the A4 combo. The Ace is entirely live, so at the very beginning, I have three outs not to foul. Further, the four is very live to hit trips or two pair with another live card in case aces die. Finally, the wheel draw is also very live. I feel quite safe playing A4 in the back with KK in the middle. Running the odds on one of the odds apps that is out there tells me that I’m XXX to hit HANDS.
The only real question is the J. On the one hand, it’s not a Q and thus no fantasyland. The main reason I’m willing to take the risk of fouling by playing KK in the middle is that it opens up a shot at fantasyland if I pick up two queens. Further, I do need to “close off” the middle without hitting a second pair because if I only pick up an Ace in the back, I need the middle to just be Kings. Each card I put in the middle gets me that much close to safely closing out the middle without screwing up the top or bottom. But on the other hand, with one Queen gone, I can’t ignore that Jacks is a 6 point royalty which I would be more than happy to “settle” for in case I don’t get two queens. In this regard, it’s like playing a flush card when you have four to a straight flush in the back and both straight outs are live – settling for the flush is certainly nice, but it’s still settling – I’m playing the Jack up top here but if I get a Queen, and then I get another Jack while there are still the two final queens out there, I probably will not play the second Jack up top. But if I get another Jack before I get any Queens? Throwing it up top and taking my 6 pt royalty happily. So my hand is now set – The Jack up Top, the Kings in the Middle, and A♠4♦ in the back
David Left: 9♥ 8♦ 5♣ 2♣ 3♣.
Let’s see – three to a straight flush, three to a gutshot straight, or two to a straight that’s open ended (but are higher cards in case the flush and straight chances die out early). Considering that the straight flush is still live and even just looking at the flush chances, there’s only one club out so far, I don’t feel I have to say anything more. The 532 in the back is a SNAP play.
There is an argument to be made for playing the live 9 in the middle and the live 8 up top – it opens up a nice 3 point royalty draw if you bink a 9. However, my counter to that is that first, what happens if you get the 8 before the 9, and second, with both being fully live, I’m looking to hit two pair with both of them and aiming for a bigger (hopefully one of the three fantasyland) pairs up top; with 3 queens and 3 aces left, the dream is still fully live. So this hand doesn’t require that much thought in my mind – the 98 go in the middle, and my straight flush draw goes in the back.
Menikos Right: 9♦ 7♣ 5♠ 4♠ 3♦.
Yuck. 4 to a gutshot isn’t ideal; even though it’s fully live, you’re either going to have to just assume you’ll complete it and build your middle and top under the assumption you will get the straight (and if you do not, then accept that you will foul), or you have to build the middle and top with extreme caution so that you can settle for a pair of 7s in the back in case all the 6s die out. Either you’ll be facing a “straight or bust” scenario, or you’ll not be able to develop the middle and top to be strong hands. However, my villain here doesn’t have many other choices for the hand. You ALWAYS want to play the hand so that there’s some sort of royalty draw – but he’s either got to play 93♦♦, which would be an epically poor choice on his part because there are already 5 diamonds out there, leaving only 6 diamonds in total left for the runout (meaning he needs this one hand to get 3 out of the remaining 6 diamonds), and there’s also already a 9 & a 3, limiting his ability to develop two pair, trips or a full house as well. 54♠♠ suffers from the same problem – there are already 5 spades out there, and also a 5 & a 4 out there. Neither of these 2-flush combos are appealing. 543 isn’t a horrible set-up, but there are already two deuces out there – the most likely way you’ll improve on 543 is to hit a 6; in which case you’ll feel pretty damn bad if you then miss out on the remaining 7s and 2s when you have one already played. It’s certainly a defensible play since it does leave open more options – to complete the straight you can go 76, 62, or A2 on the runout, as opposed to JUST hitting one of the four 6s, but on the other hand, it’s a two-step process whereas the 4 to a gutter is a one-step process. It’s certainly not a great start, but it’s also not a horrible one, and sometimes you just got to pick the least bad option amongst many crappy choices – there is no folding or surrendering in open face Chinese, meaning sometimes you’re in triage mode, trying to make the best out of a bad situation. Villain does that with the 4 to a gutshot set-up. The 9 is still live (just one out there, in my opinion, means you’re fairly live), so it goes in the middle and you hope to pair it, presuming you’re going to take the “straight or foul” method of building the middle and top (which is something I believe in doing). Other players may take the more conservative approach to the middle/top when they set up 4 to a gut-shot; it’s personal preference but as it should already be clear from my blog, I’m definitely of the group of players who are not afraid to foul if it is the result of trying to build a strong hand that’s going to win a lot of money and simply missing out on a very live draw to complete such a monster.
So here is where we stand:
A big thank you to Ben at OpenFaceOdds.com for letting me use the “Sandbox” he has on his website. His website has some amazing features and posts relating to Open Face Chinese, and the two of us have been discussing some collaborative efforts so stay tuned for that.
At this point, everything’s WIDE open. My right hand does face a high-risk, high-reward run-out, but it’s definitely one where the reward is far higher than the risk; it’s probably best to describe it as a medium risk, extremely high reward hand. My left side is is quite live for it’s flush draw, as there are 8 clubs left. A quick check of my odds calculator puts the odds of hitting the flush (presuming I stick with it all the way through) at 67% (8 outs left with 8 pulls left & 20 cards known). Meanwhile, Menikos’ has just a straight draw in the back, but it’s still 70% or so to hit (odds of hitting a fully live, just need one card, gutshot draw, in a 4 player game, when everyone has played their initial 5 and you’ve set up said gutshot are around 70%), and his other hand has a fully live pair in the back, so he can easily hit trips and is in good shape for a royalty back there as well.
The next post can be found here: http://wp.me/p3C3IO-7V, and will cover the run-out