Why, why, why? - my (belated) 1k posts post(s)
I wanted to make a post to say thank you to CardsChat for putting up with me for 1000 posts (didn't realise I was anywhere near that figure til I saw I was at 950 a week ago!), but I wasn't really sure what to write about. There are plenty of great guides out there for all players, both on this forum and on other sites. For example, there's an amazing guide covering the basics and more of uNL here: http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/69...2010-a-676130/
, which is well worth reading through.
So, instead of focusing on a type of play or HEM stat (and probably getting something wrong), I'm just going to talk about what I think about while I play poker. Hopefully someone will find something helpful in here
This post is mainly aimed at low stakes players (2NL-25NL) and especially 6max players, because of the amount of postflop play.
A Little Bit About Me
Quick intro, get to know me, etc. I've been playing poker for pretty much exactly a year now. I decided to focus on 6max in about April of this year, and since then I've played 6max pretty much exclusively online. I started with a deposit of about ~$100 and played 2NL/5NL on Full Tilt, and then moved to the Euro tables on Stars for 10NL before moving up to $25NL. I had to withdraw the majority of my money for living costs (I'm a student), and after a summer off I've now moved to Betfred and starting playing £10NL. I also play live cash and tournaments whenever the opportunity arises.
In my opinion, "why?" is the most important word of poker. Whenever someone asks "why did you do that?", you should always be able to give them a reason which makes sense to you
Let's take the example of c-betting. Why do you c-bet? In it's simplest form, for value, or as a bluff. Going deeper, to merge your range (value vs bluffs). Why do you c-bet that size? Because someone folds a lot so you can keep bluffs small, because someone doesn't fold much so you can value bet large, etc.
When playing, you should always be asking "why?". And not just about your own plays - poker is much more about other players than it is about your cards. Take Annette Obrestad winning a tournament without looking at her cards as an example of that. Look at other players, take into account all the information you have on them (which even after only 2 or 3 hands is a lot), and then try and decide why they are doing what they are doing.
Reasons for betting
In my head, to keep things simple, if I want to bet or raise I divide the reasons into 3 categories. Some bets will fall into 2 or even all 3 categories, but they all fall into at least one. These reasons are:
I'll go through them each in a little more detail, but before that I need to say a little about hand ranges, as otherwise nothing I say next will make any sense
A common mistake is to put people on specific hands. Too often in the Hands Analysis section I see someone saying "I think he has a set of 8s" or the similar. You can't put someone on a specific hand, ever - there's always a range.
Let's walk through a hand I played heads up against my flatmate yesterday as an example. I'm on the button, and I raise to 3x with
. He flat calls and we see a flop.
Immediately I can assign a range. He'd been reasonably tight out of position, and he'd also been three betting a lot. Therefore, we can remove most aces (apart from things like A6o), most broadway combinations, all big pairs and lots of weak hands. I think his range would be something like this::
The flop came
, giving me top pair. He checked to me, I bet small, he thought for a little bit and then called. As we were fairly deep, we can rule out some hands, but we can keep in a lot of his hands which have a lot of backdoor draws, etc, as well as most of his pairs and draws, as well as any hands which have got two overs and he might be floating with. His range would now look something like this:
The turn is a
, giving me two pair. I bet, and he check raises very small. We can now narrow his range down a lot further - I think he would check raise in this way with all his very strong hands, as well as most of his pair+draw hands. New range:
He then leads out large on a blank river. I think he tries to get a cheap showdown with most of his pair+draw hands, as he doesn't tend to bluff. He also probably check calls most of his weaker Tx hands, due to the board.
That leaves us with a final range of something like:
Against this range my hand is an easy call, but the fact we can put him on a range helps us make decisions
If you want more food for thought, Verneer has some free videos which talk about hand ranges (as well as bet sizing):
YouTube - uNL Hand Analysis w/WishieWish, Part 1 of 4 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HJijK6uueY)
So with that in mind, onto the three categories:
reason for betting. You've got a strong hand and you want people with a weaker hand to call you off. This is the kind of betting you want to be doing most of the time at micros, as the main leak at micros is people tend to call too much, so you don't want to bluff very often, or you'll find yourself shouting at "HOW DID HE CALL WITH THAT CRAP??" a hell of a lot of time - don't say I didn't warn you!
Don't forget you can also check for value, if you are far ahead of your opponents range and you think they will bet if you show weakness then you can often get a lot more money out of them by just check calling or check raising very small than you can by betting into them.
Everyone knows what bluffing is thanks to the escapades of people like Mr Tom Dwan. One of my favourite examples of this is in this years PartyPoker
league where Yevgeniy Timoshenko 4bets Luke Schwartz with KJo and Schwartz then ships it in with 64o. I'm sure everyone has their favourite video, and everyone wants to pull off the sickest bluffs and be able to show the table - don't be tempted! Let the fancy guys try and bluff, and save your money by calling them off when you have hands; it's much more profitable
However, there are situations where bluffing is good at the micros. For example, most of the fish I encounter love peeling flops with air and then folding the turn. If you can identify this, you can just keep betting flop, betting turn, and getting value out of them. When they call, just shut down. Similarly, c-betting both flop and turn with two overs to a very low board (e.g. 7643) into a tight player can often have excellent results when you have something like nothing because the part of their range which is made up of Ax or two overs in that spot is much bigger than sets, overpairs, and strong pairs.
Finally, protection. A perfect example of this is 88/99 on a board of 643 against a tight player. Often, he will have two overs, say KQ, and while it is unlikely he will call your bet, checking to him (and having him check back) gives him a free card and the chance to go ahead of you. A lot of the time you will be betting for value & trying to protect your hand at the same time to charge people for draws.
Here's a fun example:
Grabbed by Holdem Manager (http://www.holdemmanager.net)
NL Holdem $0.10(BB) Replayer
Dealt to Hero 6♦
UTG calls $0.10, Hero raises to $0.40,
fold, fold, SB raises to $1.40, fold, fold, Hero calls $1
FLOP ($3) 5♥
SB bets $1.90, Hero calls $1.90
TURN ($6.80) 5♥
SB checks, Hero bets $1.60,
Hero shows 6♦
Hero wins $6.35
Forgetting the rest of the hand, the reason for the turn bet is because when this particular villain checks to me on the turn he normally has AK/AQ. For that reason, we bet small enough for him to possible call and for us to get value, but the real reason for betting is to protect our hand - if the turn is any card higher than a T and he comes out betting we're going to have problems calling, while this bet makes him fold his air most of the time and gets value from him the rest of the time. A little note: this bet only works if we think he bluff raises us close to 0% of the time - against a more aggressive player who would pounce upon the bet sizing as a sign of weakness (which it obviously is) this play doesn't really work!
The three categories as a whole
Obviously, there is overlap. You may, for example, raise an Ahigh flush draw as a bluff, but also for value as he calls with weaker flush draws and your Ahigh is good some % of time.
The main thing to remember is that magic word - "why?". Each time I make an action, here are a few things I try to think about
- what range do I put the villain on?
- does the board connect with this range a lot of the time or a little of the time?
- how much of his range do I think he's good enough to fold (a gutshot? bottom pair? or top pair on a paired & straightening board?)
- what do I think they think I
- what does betting/raising/folding/checking here achieve?
- what are my other options (e.g. check raising instead of betting)?
- how am I going to react if he raises or calls this bet? &
- what am I going to do on later streets?
It's hard to consciously think about all these things within the space of making a decision, but they should at least be in the back of your head all the time. You don't want to bet for the sake of betting, get raised, and then realise you've managed to put yourself in an awkward spot because you didn't think the original decision through - it sucks
This category deserves it's whole book, let alone a tiny section, but seeing as it falls under "why?" ("why is villain doing what he is doing?") and I like the subject I decided to write about it.
For me, being able to adjust is essential to poker. It's not easy - I'm working on this part of my game all the time - but the more you work the more return you will see.
The idea of adjusting revolves around playing the player, not your cards. If you can work out their tendencies, you can abuse these for your profit.
For example, anyone with a high fold to 3bet (75%+) is automatically exploitable preflop - you can 3bet them light and they will fold. So, you can keep 3betting them as a bluff with bad hands, and they will keep folding, because most players at micros are bad players When they do essential adapt, simply stop 3betting as a bluff and instead widen your value range - for example, 4bet with 99+ and AQ+.
Another example - a passive fish who plays very fit or fold postflop, who is sitting directly to your left and calls most raises. A fish will very rarely adapt, and if they do they do so in an exploitable way, so you can just keep raising to isolate him and get him heads up, then betting 100% of flops, knowing that if he calls he has something and you can either stop betting or bet big for value.