Stop obsessing about preflop play!

F Paulsson

F Paulsson

euro love
Hi. I've had a couple of beers.

I consider the largest step a poker player can make in his learning curve to be the time when he or she realizes that "hey, there's more to this game than preflop play." Those of you who have passed this treshold will probably know instantly what I'm talking about, and those of you who are still stuck just before that ugly barrier will likely scratch your heads. Let me elaborate.

A hand that is statistically a favorite preflop and loses doesn't automatically give you the right to presume that everything that happens after the flop is a bad beat. Poker doesn't work that way.

When the big blind berates me for open-raising a hand like J8o from the button in a shorthanded limit game (and I got lucky and turned a straight), I realize that I'm dealing with someone on the Other Side. The kind who are still stuck with preflop charts and "good hand"/"bad hand" think. J8o is, admittedly, not a great hand. But on the button, I can raise a whole lot of hands simply because the times I pick up the blinds from hands like Q4o will make up the times when my I run into resistance. It's situational.

This post isn't about blind steals though (although that is an interesting topic), this post is about stepping outside the boundaries of the starting hands charts. Those charts are great for memorizing the basic idea of what's usually winning hands, but that's where their usability ends. Sometimes A9 is a re-raising hand, sometimes AQo is a hand that should be immediately folded when someone else raised. It depends.

Today, especially in online games, a lot of people are very aggressive. Have you adjusted your preflop play to this fact? How?

When someone who is very loose preflop, but moderately tight postflop, is in the big blind, do you adjust your preflop play? How?

When someone will go to showdown almost always is in the big blind, do you adjust your preflop play? How?

When you're in the big blind and get raised by a tight but aggressive player on the button, do you adjust your preflop play compared to if a loose player open-limps from the same position? How?

Unfortunately, I don't know of any short-cuts to crossing the treshold. It takes - or did for me - a whole lot of thinking about the game (away from the table) combined with a crapload of practise. What works, who does it work on, and when does it work. But it's a barrier that you need to break through.

MrSticker mentioned in another thread that there are more varieties of fish than just loose, and he's right. Most players seem so obsessed with how people play preflop that they seem to completely disregard the mistakes that players make postflop, where the mistakes start to actually matter. Sure, someone who will routinely call for two bets before the flop with A-7 offsuit is not playing smart poker. I agree. But that mistake is nothing in comparison to calling two bets cold on the turn with the sucker end of an inside straight draw in a small pot. When you're taking notes - and I hope you do - it's the latter one you should jot down first.

"I can't believe you play J3" is the comment of someone who focuses on the wrong things. Sure, he limped with J3 suited. Of course, if you have pokertracker and a HUD running, you already know that. Or at least you know that this guy calls preflop with 65% of hands; what did you think that meant?! What's more interesting is perhaps the fact that he peeled an ace-high flop with that hand with nothing but a backdoor flushdraw.

Please don't make a note on him saying that he "limps J3s". Please make a note about him peeling flop with absolute anything.

And then adjust.

TV-time. Night all.

/FP
 
Stick66

Stick66

Legend
"I can't believe you play J3" is the comment of someone who focuses on the wrong things.
Gosh, I am so guilty of this! I have this flaw of holding people to the same standards that I hold for myself. If I would fold AT-off MP to a raise from UTG, then I want to think that so should everyone else. I know this is wrong.

I used to race BMX (dirt bicycles) when I was young. The typical race was like a sprint that lasted around 30 seconds. So it turned out that the most important part of the race was getting a good start out of the gate. If you got a bad start, you almost never had enough time to catch up unless everyone slipped a pedal or fell down. I seem to have the same faulty impression with poker, also.

If you don't have good starting cards, how can you expect to win with only 5 cards to come? I guess it might have to do with skill level, experience, and confidence. I see guys like Gus Hansen bluff the hell out of everyone with 62 offsuit. But when I try it, I get creamed.

I guess Gus never says "How could you call with XX?" because he knows he can also do that and win. I hope I can be like that someday. Practice, practice!
 
KerouacsDog

KerouacsDog

Legend
FP excellent topic, +repped you for it.
My opinion is that most new people to poker(myself included when I started) try to read a book or two on it, and gather other info about playing the game.
I learnt the premium hands, so in my first few hours/days of play I would limp with anything in BB, and standard raise the premium. I had some results, but not enough. But I also watched what other people raised with PF, was shocked when i saw suited-connectors, low pairs etc, but also shocked when they hit the flop big. There must be something in it. I got hold of a few books, subscribed to a poker magazine, and learnt all about these other preflop plays.
Lately Ive noticed a couple of signature tags here, I think ChuckT's is 'its not what you have, but whay they think you have?', (if thats wrong, or wrong person, then sorry, correct me), and my other, which I remember loosely, is ,'Any two cards can win'.
On this new site, costadelfishy, Im on, you can actually work out (within a range, anyway) what some of these fishes have, just by their PF bet. One guy I know, always goes all-in PF with AA, fair enough, but at a 2c/4c table with 6 seated, it's a bit worrying(for him!) when he bets 3 euros plus on one hand without seeing the flop.
Anyway, before I hi-jack another thread, I just wanna say, that i've loosened up PF a long way, when it's small stakes or Ive built up my bankroll playing TAG, to the point of raising with 84os, or reraising with 62os. Most of the time they miss, but when that low flop comes, say 567 when I have 84os, or 522 when Im holding 62os, I know that Im in line for a payday, more often than not.
Sorry for waffling,
again, excellent post FP
KD
 
Egon Towst

Egon Towst

Cardschat Elite
you can actually work out (within a range, anyway) what some of these fishes have, just by their PF bet.

Yes, that`s amazingly common with weak players. You see guys who will (for example) repeatedly min-raise with a small pair, 2 BBs with Ax, and 3 BBs with AA, KK etc. They don`t seem to realise how transparent it is.

Nice post, FP.
 
F Paulsson

F Paulsson

euro love
So playing today, I find the epitome of the kind of person I was referring to in the first post: The table coach.

He couldn't let go of the fact that I opened from middle position with A7o. "What are you even hoping for with a hand like that?" Of course, the sweet delicious irony is in the fact that he called my raise - that's two bets cold - with Q9o, yet I'm the one who's a sucker for raising with A7. Then he called me down on an ace-high flop with his Q9 (he paired his nine). What was I hoping for when I raised with A7? I was hoping to pick up the pot either now or on the flop, but failing that the dream scenario is being called by a hand like Q9o who will call me to the river when I pair my ace.

And he couldn't let this go. After awhile, the table disintegrated, and it was down to just him and me. I usually don't play heads-up because the kind of aggression it requires is just not something I'm comfortable with. However, this guy folded a lot on the flop and onwards. And a lot from the big blind. So I raised. And raised. And raised. And he kept folding.

When he sometimes actually made it to the river (usually in a small pot since I knew to back down when he actually continued after the flop) he would see my K5 and go "lol shitty hand". He still didn't get it. I was slowly building my stack simply by stealing his blinds and betting at the flop.

I guess what it comes down to is looking at a starting hand as an absolute value. Kinda like the person who can't let a flopped set go when there's four of a suit on the board on the river in a multiway hand ("I have trips!"). It's not about absolute values, it's about relative values and exploiting others' mistakes. Your hand matters, but the situation dictates how you play it.

(By the way, I hope everyone realizes that I'm not being hypocritical for openraising with A7o while earlier saying that calling two cold with A7o is a bad play - there's a huge difference.)
 
KerouacsDog

KerouacsDog

Legend
Hi. I've had a couple of beers.
I'm gonna nick that opening line if you dont mind, its a classic, cause you know the person writing that could be posting something real intelligent(FP) about poker, or describing a girl who served him his drinks last night, and what she wore(me), you never know!

Yes, that`s amazingly common with weak players. You see guys who will (for example) repeatedly min-raise with a small pair, 2 BBs with Ax, and 3 BBs with AA, KK etc. They don`t seem to realise how transparent it is.

Nice post, FP.
yep, costadelfishy is rife with them. I think they've all read the ONE book(if that) and so have standard bets for each hand. The other one is when a card matches their hand, they suddenly pause, think about it, then bet huge. What a read that is! Ok mate, I know you've just completed your hand. LOL
 
NineLions

NineLions

Advanced beginner
Thanks for the post, FP.

Board mods, is there a way of collecting links to good advice threads like this in a library area, or sticky thread?
 
KerouacsDog

KerouacsDog

Legend
Nine, i think most sub-sections have stickies at the top of them.............
 
NineLions

NineLions

Advanced beginner
Yep, I've seen the stickies.

So I'm asking if links to these good advice threads could be collected in a sticky thread. I'm assuming only board mods can create sticky threads.

Alternatively, I've seen Library areas created on boards to collect good info or reference threads.
 
Egon Towst

Egon Towst

Cardschat Elite
Take a look at the top of the "Poker General" section of the forum, NineMoggies.

There are two sticky threads there about "100 Best Tips" and "Great Threads of the Past". They are what you`re looking for.
 
NineLions

NineLions

Advanced beginner
Hey, you're right. I never go to the general area since I'm looking for strategy/analysis stuff.

Alright, then I'll just start a petition to get this thread included there. :)
 
Egon Towst

Egon Towst

Cardschat Elite
No need to be that formal, m8. Just PM JessieBear. She does the updates on the "Great Threads" sticky.
 
Dorkus Malorkus

Dorkus Malorkus

HELLO INTERNET
I play donk n gos - how can I possibly not obsess over preflop play? :p
 
blankoblanco

blankoblanco

plays poker on hard mode
Phil Hellmuth should read this topic. He does this all the time.
 
L

lansador

Guest
Hi. I've had a couple of beers.

/FP

Dear Mr. Paulson, if this is the type of material we can expect when you down a couple of beers, please feel free to list your home address so that I can send you a few cases of your favorite!:)

Beautiful post!
 
F Paulsson

F Paulsson

euro love
I have to return to this thread again, because I just had a short session with the archetype of preflop-obsessor I'm talking about. To give you a few examples:

The other guy in this hand is an extremely loose, but fairly passive, guy.

pokerstars 5/10 Hold'em (6 handed)

Preflop: FPaulsson is Button with A♠, 3♠.
UTG calls, MP raises, 2 folds, Mr. Obsessive(SB) 3-bets, 1 fold, UTG calls, MP calls.

Flop: (10 SB) Q♣, 8♥, 7♥ (3 players)
Mr. Obsessive bets, UTG raises, MP folds, Mr. Obsessive 3-bets, UTG caps, Mr. Obsessive calls.

Turn: (9 BB) 5♦ (2 players)
Mr. Obsessive bets, UTG raises, Mr. Obsessive 3-bets, UTG caps, Mr. Obsessive calls.

River: (17 BB) 8♦ (2 players)
Mr. Obsessive bets, UTG raises, Mr. Obsessive calls.

Final Pot: 21 BB

Results in white below:
Mr. Obsessive has Qd Ac (two pair, queens and eights).
UTG has 8s 7d (full house, eights full of sevens).
Outcome: UTG wins 21 BB.


He then goes on and on how about the loose/passive player was such a donk. "cmon, man... 87o?! You call two bets with that?" Yeah, hi Sherlock, you let the flop and the turn get capped with nothing but one pair. His mistake is nothing compared to yours.

He kept talking about how everyone else was donks, and he kept this up right until he himself went bust and left the table. He even said "lol, that's one down" when one of the better players decided to get up and leave the table. He was annoying, and he was baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad.

Just a few hands later:

PokerStars 5/10 Hold'em (6 handed)
Preflop: FPaulsson is BB with [9s], [9c].
Mr. Obsessive calls, 1 fold, CO calls, 2 folds, FPaulsson raises, Mr. Obsessive calls, CO folds.

Flop: (5.40 SB) [6h], [Kc], [9h] (2 players)
FPaulsson bets, Mr. Obsessive raises, FPaulsson calls.

Turn: (4.70 BB) [Qs] (2 players)
FPaulsson checks, Mr. Obsessive bets, FPaulsson raises, Mr. Obsessive 3-bets, FPaulsson caps, Mr. Obsessive calls.

River: (12.70 BB) [2s] (2 players)
FPaulsson bets, Mr. Obsessive calls.

Final Pot: 14.70 BB

Results in white below:
FPaulsson has 9s 9c (three of a kind, nines).
Mr. Obsessive has Kd 8d (one pair, kings).
Outcome: FPaulsson wins 14.70 BB.


...


... Dude.
 
Debi

Debi

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Hmm...It didn't take me much time at all to come to the same conclusion as you did in your first post here. The struggle doesn't come in the realization - at least not for me. The struggle is in adjusting your game based on that realization.
 
BKrywko1

BKrywko1

Rock Star
I can't believe you play J3
- CBL (Camel ball-licker) is the nuts! Errrrrr, no pun intended.

Nice post - "poker coaches" always feel the need to telling the player who won the previous hand exactly how the winner misplayed it.
 
F Paulsson

F Paulsson

euro love
I want to make an addendum to the original post, because I realize I have more to say on the topic.

To show what I'm talking about, I'll give an example:

The players:
Tight/aggressive in early position. He's an okay player. His biggest leaks is that he's slightly too passive with hands that aren't the nuts, and he drops decent hands too easily against bluffs. Doesn't like to call down. Stats around 20/14, meaning that his VPIP is 20% and he raises preflop 14% of the time.

Loose/passive player on the button. He sees most flops, even for two bets. He peels almost any flop he sees. He will call gutshots on the turn, and will go to showdown with most pairs, if there's not too much action. He won't pay off two bets on the river with ace-high, though. Stats around 50/7.

The TAG raises from early position, and the LP unsurprisingly calls on the button. You're in the big blind. How do you rank these three hands?

1. A9o
2. J8s
3. 44

First of all, I will call with all three of them, without hesitating. Having said that, I'm really not fond of the A-9 hand, because I'm in a really uncomfortable position of offering implied odds, but not getting them. If the TAG has JJ, and the flop is A-high, I won't get paid off. But of the flop is A-high, and he has AK, I'm almost certaingly going to be paying the piper. So that one is on the bottom of my list.

Then there are two speculative hands. Of these two, I like J8s the best, because of my relative position. 4-4 is a hand that has little chance of winning unimproved (mostly because I won't go beyond the flop even if I'm ahead at the time) and my implied odds when I hit a set will be decent, but not great.

J8s, on the other hand, is a hand that will flop something decent more often than 4-4. I can flop a pair, a straight draw or a flushdraw. I have the aggressive player on my left, and the passive player on my right. It's a hand that I will often go to the turn with, and when I score on the turn, I will often be able to checkraise "the field" with, i.e. trapping them both for two bets.

So why do I bring up these examples? Because my list of preferred hands is in exact opposite to what a table coach will berate me for playing. He will probably think that A9o is a "good hand" that he won't blame me for playing, and he probably thinks 4-4 is an okay hand to see a flop with. But if he loses with AA to J8s? He will scold me.

None of my posts in this thread are about how it's okay to play any two cards (if anyone got that impression). I don't play any two. I've never intentionally put any money in with 7-2o preflop - although there's a funny story about that hand and me - so don't start doing that. However, the mechanics of preflop vs. postflop play are so much more intricate than just "good hand" vs. "bad hand," and that's something that the starting hands charts can't relay.

Also, I'm trying to impress the notion that when taking notes, the poker tracker read of "30/15" is OK for narrowing down your opponent's range of hands (and thus minimizing your own mistakes) but it's important to take the next step too, and note down which mistakes your opponent makes postflop so that you can exploit them to the maximum!

Preflop reads are for hand ranges. Postflop reads are $$$$.
 
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Debi

Debi

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Hmm - I am sure you just said some really great things but it might be weeks before I can try to follow it. I am sure most of the people in here will follow right along with you. (I have focus and concentration issues, a personal thing). But I do enjoy it when I get it. I could get your first post - so do more like that for me when you can. And don't assume we all know every acronym - sometimes it is like reading a foreign language. I know what UTG means and that's about it. (Doesn't mean I know who it is tho) TAG - tight aggressive something.

And who in the hell is Villian? From the sounds of it I would never play with him. He seems to be on every table.

Help!!
 
F Paulsson

F Paulsson

euro love
Ah, thanks for pointing that out. Well...

"TAG" just means Tight-Aggressive. "LAP" actually means "Loose/Aggressive-Passive" but that was a typo; I meant just LP (or "loose/passive"). When someone is LAP, it means that they are aggressive preflop, but passive post-flop. This is very common.

The "20/14" stuff is the most common PokerTracker numbers. It's how often a person "Volountarily Puts Money In Pot" (VP$IP) before the flop, and how often they raise before the flop. Both numbers are percentages.

I'm not sure if there were other acronyms I used that you're not sure about.

People often use "Villain" to refer to their opponent, much for the same reason they refer to themselves as "Hero." (Most hand history converters (like the one I used above) will by default give your name as "Hero.")

If anything else is unclear, let me know. Not much point in writing a post that people don't get. :)
 
Debi

Debi

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Thanks - that should help. I will go back and read it again after I feed the 15 people about to hit my house.
 
NineLions

NineLions

Advanced beginner
Thanks again FP.

I've only started playing real money, with freeroll winnings, so I'll have to try pokertracker. I'm a fan of the detail to which you think through things, and then share them with us.


btw, you do realize there are different levels of "rules" for poker. The first level is, flush beats a straight, etc.

The next level is, these are your pockets and the positions that you will play them from. This is a well-known "rule", and anyone who doesn't know this hasn't even progressed this far, and if they beat you, it's just a "bad beat". :)
 
NineLions

NineLions

Advanced beginner
I guess the J8s would be the easiest to get away from if you miss the flop too, although that would depend on the flop itself and how the other players respond to the flop. Or are you going to dump all of them if the TAG before you bets? Kind of a broad question I know.
 
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