Card Dead: best strategy for overcoming a cold deck?

Propane Goat

Propane Goat

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We've all been there: you're in the middle of a tourney or cash game and for a long stretch get nothing but hands like 52, 84, T3, with no pocket pairs and no good Aces or Kings. Your stack keeps getting eaten up by the blinds and you're forced to fold one hand after another.

We have several options to choose from in these situations, some are better than others.

Option number 1: If we are following the commonly given advice of "only play good hands," we just keep folding and hope for something better. The problem with this is that your stack keeps getting eaten up, and your VPIP keeps dropping.

If your opponents are paying attention, they will notice that you have been folding many hands for multiple rounds. When you finally raise with AA after folding 20 hands in a row you are essentially playing with your cards face up and everybody will know you finally have a premium hand.

Option number 2: Many players take a passive approach to the game where they limp in pre-flop with a lot of mediocre hands and hope to hit something big on the flop. I've noticed that once they've put chips in the pot, many players will go on to also call raises preflop with rags and will often even call all-ins.

One could argue that your cards don't matter if you're constantly limping in because you're going to get lucky sooner or later, but the amount you lose in pots where you don't hit will far outstrip what you win when you do.

Option number 3: Another option: represent good hands in the right situations when we actually don't have anything. This takes some thought and a lot of observation of your opponents, and can backfire if not done correctly.

Example: you notice that the two players to your left are folding every time someone raises unless they have a premium hand. You can use this to your advantage by stealing blinds on the button even though you have a trash hand, because you're either going to pick up the blinds when they fold or if they call you know you have to hit the flop hard or give up.

Another example would be a villain that on your right that constantly raises pre-flop but has a very high percentage of folding to 3-bets. You can often 3-bet with nothing and get them to fold a better but non-premium hand.

I was in this situation recently where it was getting late in a tournament and the player two seats to my right would always raise the button when I was in the BB. I had gotten lucky with premium hands for several consecutive rounds and 3-bet shoved each one, and they folded every time. This continued for a while and I was shoving anything I had in the BB every time they raised and they didn't adapt to it, they just kept folding.

Like that old quote says: "poker is not a game of cards played with people, it's a game of people played with cards." Simply put, the cards you actually hold are often less important than what you can make your opponents think you're holding.

Let's hear your strategies and pitfalls for dealing with being "card dead," what do you suggest to overcome this problem?
 
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fundiver199

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Maybe you can find a few spots to throw in a light open from LP or a light 3-bet, if you think, ofter players have noticed your low VPIP and might fold a little more. But generally speaking you just have to continue making the right decision, even if that decision is to fold 28 hands in a row, because you have junk. Patience is the key, and even if you bust from this tournament partly because of being card dead, that is fine. There will be other tournaments, where you pick up a bunch of good hands, and they are the ones, where you are more likely to cash.
 
Phoenix Wright

Phoenix Wright

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We've all been there: you're in the middle of a tourney or cash game and for a long stretch get nothing but hands like 52, 84, T3, with no pocket pairs and no good Aces or Kings. Your stack keeps getting eaten up by the blinds and you're forced to fold one hand after another.

We have several options to choose from in these situations, some are better than others.

Option number 1: If we are following the commonly given advice of "only play good hands," we just keep folding and hope for something better. The problem with this is that your stack keeps getting eaten up, and your VPIP keeps dropping.

If your opponents are paying attention, they will notice that you have been folding many hands for multiple rounds. When you finally raise with AA after folding 20 hands in a row you are essentially playing with your cards face up and everybody will know you finally have a premium hand.

Option number 2: Many players take a passive approach to the game where they limp in pre-flop with a lot of mediocre hands and hope to hit something big on the flop. I've noticed that once they've put chips in the pot, many players will go on to also call raises preflop with rags and will often even call all-ins.

One could argue that your cards don't matter if you're constantly limping in because you're going to get lucky sooner or later, but the amount you lose in pots where you don't hit will far outstrip what you win when you do.

Option number 3: Another option: represent good hands in the right situations when we actually don't have anything. This takes some thought and a lot of observation of your opponents, and can backfire if not done correctly.

Example: you notice that the two players to your left are folding every time someone raises unless they have a premium hand. You can use this to your advantage by stealing blinds on the button even though you have a trash hand, because you're either going to pick up the blinds when they fold or if they call you know you have to hit the flop hard or give up.

Another example would be a villain that on your right that constantly raises pre-flop but has a very high percentage of folding to 3-bets. You can often 3-bet with nothing and get them to fold a better but non-premium hand.

I was in this situation recently where it was getting late in a tournament and the player two seats to my right would always raise the button when I was in the BB. I had gotten lucky with premium hands for several consecutive rounds and 3-bet shoved each one, and they folded every time. This continued for a while and I was shoving anything I had in the BB every time they raised and they didn't adapt to it, they just kept folding.

Like that old quote says: "poker is not a game of cards played with people, it's a game of people played with cards." Simply put, the cards you actually hold are often less important than what you can make your opponents think you're holding.

Let's hear your strategies and pitfalls for dealing with being "card dead," what do you suggest to overcome this problem?

For me, I usually follow option number 1 and perhaps mix in a little of option 3 if I need to survive. When you are card dead, all you can do is fold and hope for the best. If your chip stack dwindles into short-stack territory, then consider switching to "shove-fold poker." As long as you can survive the drought, then being card dead should eventually turn around. Option 2 is by far the worst in my opinion (because as you said), since you will miss far more often than you hit and this just makes you lose chips faster than simply folding.

Assuming you aren't playing a Turbo format or something fast, then the blinds shouldn't overtake you right away: we typically have time to fold, fold, fold and become selective of our hands. Perhaps we don't need to wait for pocket Aces when we are card dead (since observant opponents might just fold more often since you have not been "too active" lately), but what you don't want to do is start playing sub-optimal hands or worse - playing any two cards. Still play fairly solid stuff and just keep folding: happens to everyone and all we can do is wait it out.
 
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fundiver199

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When you finally raise with AA after folding 20 hands in a row you are essentially playing with your cards face up and everybody will know you finally have a premium hand.

This is not really true, because when you finally raise after folding 20 hands in a row, your range is exactly the same, as it always is. The PERCEPTION of your range AKA table image might have changed, if the opponents are paying attention, and are not HUD-users with previous data on you.

And sure this is not great, if your first playable hand is actually AA or KK. Which will happen sometimes of course. It has happened to me. Far more often though your first playable hand will be something like KJo or A4s, and then a tight table image is actually good. So the point remains, that we just have to take, what is dealt to us, and continue to make +EV decisions.
 
Propane Goat

Propane Goat

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Maybe you can find a few spots to throw in a light open from LP or a light 3-bet, if you think, ofter players have noticed your low VPIP and might fold a little more. But generally speaking you just have to continue making the right decision, even if that decision is to fold 28 hands in a row, because you have junk. Patience is the key, and even if you bust from this tournament partly because of being card dead, that is fine. There will be other tournaments, where you pick up a bunch of good hands, and they are the ones, where you are more likely to cash.

Agreed, I've also had situations where I've folded and folded until I'm one of the short stacks and then suddenly things turn around and I wind up on the FT or winning.

For me, I usually follow option number 1 and perhaps mix in a little of option 3 if I need to survive. When you are card dead, all you can do is fold and hope for the best. If your chip stack dwindles into short-stack territory, then consider switching to "shove-fold poker." As long as you can survive the drought, then being card dead should eventually turn around. Option 2 is by far the worst in my opinion (because as you said), since you will miss far more often than you hit and this just makes you lose chips faster than simply folding.

Assuming you aren't playing a Turbo format or something fast, then the blinds shouldn't overtake you right away: we typically have time to fold, fold, fold and become selective of our hands. Perhaps we don't need to wait for pocket Aces when we are card dead (since observant opponents might just fold more often since you have not been "too active" lately), but what you don't want to do is start playing sub-optimal hands or worse - playing any two cards. Still play fairly solid stuff and just keep folding: happens to everyone and all we can do is wait it out.

Great points, we definitely don't want to start trying to "force" something to happen especially when there is tilt involved. That usually winds up resulting in losing even more chips.

This is not really true, because when you finally raise after folding 20 hands in a row, your range is exactly the same, as it always is. The PERCEPTION of your range AKA table image might have changed, if the opponents are paying attention, and are not HUD-users with previous data on you.

And sure this is not great, if your first playable hand is actually AA or KK. Which will happen sometimes of course. It has happened to me. Far more often though your first playable hand will be something like KJo or A4s, and then a tight table image is actually good. So the point remains, that we just have to take, what is dealt to us, and continue to make +EV decisions.


I think it depends on the type of game we're in. Public donkfest freerolls are full of players who haven't advanced their skills to where they're paying any attention at all to what other players are doing. It definitely comes down to managing how you are perceived at the table.
 
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buckaclown

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My style is sweet money

Yo so I'm the ACR legend, phucked and phried... I put on drunk goggles when the deck turns cold and cross my eyes to where I think J3 is actually pocket jacks, then I start shovin' when those blinds get all thick with red meat, and meaty.

I've come back from less than 1 bb several times to win tourneys, so patience seems to be the overall name-o-the-game.:D
 
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