Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Cap NL Examined

I've been playing generally less online poker lately (but a good deal of live, and have been busy with Keystone Poker Tables), but when I play I've been hitting the Cap NL tables on FullTilt.

With a good sample of hands at Cap NL, I've come to a few conclusions... mostly that for unknown reasons, I struggle to beat this game, and I'm more profitable at regular 100BB NL. I've looked hard for leaks and problems here, but the answer is elusive.

One key +EV situation is completely removed at Cap NL: the small/mid pair call of a preflop raise. Under normal circumstances, you're playing these hands really for one reason, and that is to flop a set... if you don't, you're likely very done with the hand very fast. The odds of flopping a set with a pocket pair are roughly 8:1, so when playing .25/.50 blinds, and faced with a standard early position raise to $2 (bringing the pot to $2.75, and laying you terrible pot odds), you're not getting the 8:1 you need to play your pair and try for the set.

Under normal deep-stacked conditions, you can rely on implied odds to overcome this odds deficit and show a profit on the play, but this only makes sense if the raiser has at least roughly 8x the bet amount in his stack. In other words, when you do hit your set, you need to win enough to cover all the times you called and didn't hit it. At Cap NL, there is rarely enough money left to bet to make this play at all profitable, let alone even money.

Another problem with Cap NL, completely related to the small pair problem above, is the suited connector, which is severely devalued here due to the need for implied odds which just aren't there. The real strength of suited connectors in NL cash games is their ability to make hands that you feel comfortable backing with your entire stack, namely, straights and flushes. With less profitable opportunities to play hands like suited connectors or medium suited aces, you're going to be playing a lot more top pair/two pair hands, which can be quite volatile as these are very rarely hands you want to invest a lot on.

Compounding all of this, is that the play at Cap NL seems to be generally tough to beat. I suspect most of the real donks aren't sitting at the Cap NL tables. For starters, stacking someone doesn't mean all that much, where in a normal 100BB game, I'm beginning to suspect that this is a large component of my profit--- playing large pots better than the competition. At Cap NL, the mistakes of your opponents don't pay you all that well, and these micro-stackings are pretty easily negated by the opposing mistakes you may make and the bad beats you will take.

So all this and I've stepped down a level and hit the 100BB tables again... immediately showing multiple buy-in profits in short sessions, and generally seeing errors in others to capitalize on right, left, and center. Warmer waters indeed.

Cap NL is an interesting concept and variation, but in practice I find it limits the tools and plays that I can use to show a profit.