5k Post Thesis
Wow, seems like only yesterday when I would go over to a friend’s house and play poker forever. The date was a little under three years ago and the game was 3 or 4-handed No Limit Texas Hold ‘em. Apart from play chips with the family, this group was where I learned how to play poker. It started on a school bus junior year of high school. We would play 5c/10c with $5 max every hand. It was a 45 minute to an hour bus ride, so we got some good hands in. We didn’t have chips, so we kept score on a TI-83 calculator. We were all donks and we all played with scared money. But it was fun. Winter break that year was the first time I played live with real chips for real money. We played 50nl and none of us knew how to properly play the game. Seems like just yesterday.
Fast forward a year and I’m making my first deposit online. I deposited $50 and jumped right into 50nl. I’d heard about how online players are so bad and chase anything and all that stuff so figured I should be playing 200nl before I knew it (with like $200-$500 obv). Somehow time after time I’d get coolered or a donk would suck out and whether I went up a bit first or not I’d always lose it. This happened a few times. Anyway after a few of those I quit online poker for a bit. Fast forward a bit more and I’m 18 (yes I played underage, sue me). I see the Full Tilt 100% deposit bonus and decide to do it for $300. This is a decent chunk out of my net worth. I start off ok, I break even and collect the $20 at a time as the bonus unlocks. Then I start losing. So I keep grinding it out right? Wrong. I go crazy, I sign up for a $100 HU match. When I lose that I play a $200 HU match. I lose that and my BR is gone, just like that.
So I continued to play live, but for obvious reasons didn’t touch online poker after that. Until the fateful day, I go to the bathroom and see the school’s rape poster up. It talks about googling yourself so although I’ve done it countless times before, I do it again. And then I decide to google my screen name. I see a cardschat hand analysis. I’m amazed that they are analyzing a poker hand so deeply. Isn’t it just you get a feel for what you think they have and look at how good your hand is and you play accordingly? So I sign up, read around a bit, and inevitably read about bankroll management. I realize why I was losing my $50. So after reading and posting a bit I make another deposit, this time at Pokerstars. I take $100 and put it in, intending to grind 10nl up to as far as I can get it. This was about a year ago. Now I’m transitioning from 200nl to 400nl. I worked really hard and had countless people here help me out on the way up. There are so many people that I want to thank, but here’s just a few:
1.Aliengenius: Countless strategy posts, probably learned the most theory-wise from your posts.
2.ChuckTs: I still remember when I was struggling to beat 10nl and you were crushing 50nl at the time. I posted something and you offered to sweat me. I don’t even remember how the sweat went but I do know that was the precursor to my crushing 10nl. Also one of the best poker minds on the forum and every strategy/HA post you make is worth reading. Great poker player, great all-around guy.
3.Chris_TC: When I was having some trouble with aggression, I posted a question about it on the forums. Chris explained very thoroughly on some concepts I was struggling on and commented on a bunch of individual hands that I posted there with great insight. He wasn’t the only one but he is the one who helped me the most in that department.
4.Bw07507: Still remember the first time we talked on aim, he complained for about a week about running bad. It was a sick bad run and I’d wake up every morning to see about 5 sick hands where he’d get stacked or maybe the occasional 1-2 hands where he actually held up. Yet his long run graph is still so sick and he definitely knows what he’s doing. Great being able to talk about hands, poker strategy, or just vent about how bad each of us is running.
5.C9…: I’ve said it before, if this guy learns a bit of restraint and when not to bluff calling stations he’s definitely going places. Talked several times about strategy, from specific hands to situations (for example the 3-4-bet discussion) and it’s just really helpful to have someone like that to talk to on aim or in the HA section where he contributes a good deal.
I probably missed some people, and the list is numbered in chronological order not in order of importance.
Anyway now I’m going to go over some of the biggest concepts I’ve learned moving up the limits, mostly applying to micro to midstakes FR NLHE.
1.The first concept I learned at CC was the continuation bet. I didn’t understand it completely. I just knew that opponents miss most flops so they should fold to most flops. So I bet 100% of flops I raised pretty much. This is not the entire picture so I’m going to try to expand on that a bit:
First I’m going to start preflop. For a standard TAG in a FR game, they are raising around the top 10% of their hands. Some are a bit more and a few are a bit less, but 10-12% is a standard amount. For most people these 10-12% are the top 10-12%. Not many people will raise 39o preflop and fold or limp AA. Most of these top hands have high cards in them. Now contrast that to what a person will call a raise with preflop. Most players when they get hands like AA, AK, KK, QQ, etc. will re-raise preflop when someone raises. When they call a raise it is very unlikely they have too many high-card hands. Maybe something like KQ or QJs, but most hands will be lower suited connectors and pocket pairs. So when the flop comes A93 rainbow, there are a ton of hands that you would have raised with preflop that hit that board. AA, AK, AQ, AJ, AT, A9, 99, 33, A3 are all hands you would raise with. 99 and 33 are pretty much the only 2 cards there with the possible exception of AT/A9 that an opponent would flat call preflop with. Since there are so many hands you have that have hit this flop and so few that our opponent has hit, we should be betting here regardless of our cards, because a lot of the time we will have hit this flop and our opponent hasn’t. On the same token, boards like QJ8 2-toned are not good boards to continuation bet because unless we flopped a set the best we can have is AQ on this board. There aren’t a ton of hands we could have here that are very good and our opponent could have called with hands like KQ, 9T, QJ, JT, 89, 88, JJ maybe, possibly even hands like J8/Q8. Even hands like KT will probably not fold if we bet the flop here. This is one of the most important concepts in NLHE and that is recognizing board textures and how likely it is to have hit any given player based on the preflop action.
2.Wa/wb and the concept of when to bet:
This is the next most important concept imo. There are two major reasons to bet. One is for value, to get worse hands to call. The other is a bluff, to get a better hand to fold. There are a few other reasons such as a semibluff which combined fold equity and equity to the draw to create a profitable situation. But before a bet is made, you should think about what calls this bet, what folds to this bet, and what raises. What will you do against a raise? What will you do on various turn/river cards against a call? A bet cannot simply be a bet just to bet, there needs to be a reason and a plan for the hand. The best way to avoid sticky spots is to think out the plan for the hand before you act on the flop.
3.Relative Hand Strength and Betting:
Another huge concept is relative hand strength and it’s something beginners have a tough time with. For a 100 big blind stack cash game, it is not easy to get all the money into the pot. Mostly it takes a preflop raise, flop bet, turn bet, and river bet. Alternatively one of the streets can go check-check if there is a raise on another. But the point is that I see way too many people check a set because they fear folds. In a deepstacked cash game, the bets are exponential. That means the river bet is larger than a turn bet is better than a flop bet. If you check the flop and bet turn and river, you take out the biggest bet of all, the bet that is larger than the first 2 bets combined usually. Additionally when you don’t have as strong a hand, you want to do the best you can to get the value out of the hand the best way you can. For example when we flop top pair top kicker. Typically against a competent opponent we can go for 2 streets of value. But if we bet flop and turn he may fold fearing a river bet. Alternatively if we bet flop and check turn, especially in position, we gain both the possibility of him bluffing or value betting with worse on the river, and he’s probably more likely to call a river bet after the turn went check-check. Obviously this is just one variation but in general when we flop a hand, especially after raising preflop, we need to think about our goal for the hand, how much value we can get, what will call, what will fold, what will raise. If our opponent is a calling station we can sometimes get three streets of value out of top pair top kicker. If the flop’s drawy the move of checking the turn isn’t always the best. There are so many variables, I couldn’t hope to even touch the depth of it here, but the one biggest leak I see from low to mid-stakes players is when they enter a hand, make some action, and get themselves into a hole because they didn’t have a plan for the hand. You should always be planning how you are going to play the hand from the start and generally it should stem from how good your hand is. If you have a monster, you should be doing your best to get all the money in. If you have a marginal hand you think is best, you want to get a little money in to perhaps protect but want to avoid building a big pot.
4.Identifying and Beating Fish:
Now I’m not trying to hurt anyones’ feelings or anything, but the majority of people you will play with 10nl and under are complete fish. They all have huge leaks in their game, whether it’s the previous and not thinking about hands or stacking off too light, chasing draws, etc. But it’s tough to beat a bunch of random fish unless you know what their leaks are. For example you have JJ and someone in middle position open shoves for 100 big blinds. Even if you know it’s a fish how do you react there? If they’re super loose you snapcall all day. If they’re a complete nit it’s a snapfold. This is where a HUD comes in. The best part about fish is in general they don’t adapt. They play a certain “style”, and don’t think about what other players are doing. They simply play their own cards, so it’s extremely easy to exploit since they aren’t adapting at all to you. In general you can fit fish into a few categories:
Loose/Passive: This describes so many people at 10nl but there are plenty of these up to 400nl. They love to see flops, they limp-call preflop a lot, and when they miss the flop they fold. These will be the guys with huge VP$IP numbers and low PFRs. The 60/3 types or even as low as 21/3. They will also have a high (75%+) fold to cbet. This makes them very easy to play against. You raise when they limp preflop with any two cards and then cbet the flop. Since they fold so much and are fish, they probably won’t recognize bet sizing, so I’d tend to cbet against these guys ~1/2 pot. If they call you don’t continue without a hand but most of the time they’ll fold.
Calling Station: Everyone knows this guy so I won’t spend a ton of time. Basically he’s like the loose/passive but he doesn’t fold postflop. He chases all sorts of draws and just never folds. Against these guys you just value bet the hands and check-fold the hands you would normally bluff. Again if it’s a fish he probably isn’t paying attention to bet sizing so I’d bet close to pot size when value betting as to get max value.
Nit: This guy probably wins at that level, but basically he just folds way too often. He’ll be in the realm of 6/6 or below. The way you beat him is just steal his blinds every chance you get and get out of his way if he calls or raises. If he’s giving you action make sure you have a premium. Don’t be afraid to fold top pair against him to a little resistance. When sitting at a table it’s best to have this guy to your left, whereas most fish you want on your right.
The bad LAG: Good lags can be extremely tough to play against. Bad lags are easy. The bad lags are the ones who just bet-bet-bet every hand and don’t pay attention to hand reading or what other players may have. Basically the response to them is simply play your top pair and better hands like the nuts and fold others. No point in bluffing them, just let them steal your blinds. Let them win the small pots and just win the huge pots against them when you’re crushing their range.
A lot of low to midstakes players defend their blinds WAY too much. The blinds are the worst position postflop at the table. Generally if the button or cutoff (one to the right of the button) is stealing, even if you think he’s doing it light, just let him have it if you have trash. If you are going to defend with a marginal hand, the worst thing you can do is simply call. You’ll be playing a raised pot out of position with a weak range. The button will run you over postflop and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. Now if the small blind raises your big blind, I’d call much more liberally because you will now be in position postflop. So if you are going to defend your big blind because you think the button is just stealing way too much (anything over 30% and I start to do this), the solution is to 3-bet them light. Basically what this means is that you re-raise preflop with a hand you normally wouldn’t as a bluff. I could go into detail about what hands are good to do it with and other such things, but they’re here on the forums and honestly 3-betting light is not a huge deal in the low-stakes games. In general, people up to 25nl are not going to be stealing all that wide. But I want to discourage people from defending their blinds by flat calling with worse hands. That’s a good way to throw away money.
On that same token, when it is your button, you should be raising a lot. You are in the best position and until people 3-bet you light you can pretty much open 70-80% of all hands imo. Even against players that 3-bet light I’d open the button with 30-40% of hands. As I mentioned before the worst reaction to a player who steals wide is to call a lot more from the blinds. And at the low-stakes games that’s exactly what people seem to do a lot. It’s pretty easy to play a pot in position against a player you know has nothing in a raised pot. Basically as per my point on cbetting above, cbet any semi-dry flop and possibly even bet the turn just because they will never have anything. If they are a calling station that probably isn’t the best line but against other semi-decent players you can exploit this leak quite a bit.
I’ve referenced this in previous points, but this deserves its own. Position is extremely important in deepstacked NLHE. Not only do you get to see what your opponent does before acting but you also usually are able to control the pot size. You want to play as many pots in position as you can and as few out of position as you can. This is a huge leak as well in the low-stakes FR games. In general I wouldn’t go any wider than pocket pairs and AK and MAYBE AQs from under the gun (first to act preflop) in a full ring game. On the button you can play an amazing number of hands because you’ll always be in position. I’m not going to get into hand selection from various positions but if you’re playing a hand like QJs from UTG in a FR game even if you have an extremely lag style, it’s most likely a leak.
7.Open Limping Preflop – What Not to do:
I can honestly say I never open limp. Ever. Limping behind a few callers is ok but even then it’s almost always better to squeeze. I’ll address this part after expanding on open limping. As I mentioned above in the cbetting section, the range of a preflop raiser includes big hands like AA/KK/AK/etc. When you limp you take that out of your range. People now know that most likely if the flop comes Axx that you don’t even have top pair. They also know you almost always have a pocket pair and are not going to pay you off if you flop a set. One exception is if you are playing very low limits where there are enough idiots that will stack off in a limped pot with top pair. If they are going to do that limp pocket pairs and just set mine. But while I’m not sure about lower, even 25nl players have learned not to stack with top pair. If you raise them preflop, first off you can win the blinds preflop, and second off you set yourself up to represent a strong range. If you raise 22 and the flop comes AQ4r you can cbet and will take the pot down most of the time. If you flat called this you would almost never take down this pot.
Now limping behind is a similar concept but you get into the concept of pot odds. If you have 3 limpers in front and just flat call with 77, it doesn’t matter if everyone knows when you have a set. You’re getting great odds and even if you just get a cbet when you hit you’ve made up for it. So I don’t hate calling behind with hands like these. What I do hate calling behind with is hands like Q4o. Even if you’re getting 9 to 1 I would fold this. If you’re getting such great odds that means you’re up against 4 other players. Think about the hands you would want to stack off with. If the flop comes Q44 or 44Q you will almost never get action so you win blinds. If you hit 2 pair for example, you’ll likely be up against a set or better 2 pair. Obviously top pair you don’t want to stack. I would actually consider folding a hand like 34s in that situation because with so many limpers you just won’t get much worse to stack and higher flushes/straights/2 pairs will be the hands that stack against you mostly. But as I touched on, I still like squeezing more most of the time. If you have say 3 limpers in a 5c/10c game, you can then raise to 60c with hands like low to mid pocket pairs. First off you should get a lot of folds because as we mentioned before about us not open limping, their range is weak. They’re not limping monsters. And if they do call they likely are set mining or have suited connectors. We can just cbet almost any flop and shut down to resistance.
Anyway, sorry for the length, but hopefully it was worth the read. I’d be glad to answer any questions or respond to people who think I got something wrong here. Obviously this is all my opinion, but it’s worked for me. I honestly think if you understand the concepts here and apply bankroll management that you should be able to destroy at least 50nl.
Just want to thank cardschat and all the people who contribute again one more time. It’s been an enjoyable time and I’ve learned a ton. Hopefully in the 5k posts I’ve helped some people out as well and look forward to another 5k .