Bear with me. This is indeed a post about poker, but first I want you to “look at this image (below). Imagine this is you. Imagine that the unthinkable has happened and random asocial violence has found you. What would you do? Really think about it. What’s your first move?”
The image above and the statement about imagining your first move came from a book I recently picked up at the local library. The author is Tim Larkin and his tome is titled When Violence is the Answer: Learning How To Do What It Takes When Your Life Is At Stake. It’s a fascinating look at danger in society. It argues how those of us unaccustomed to violence in our daily lives often react poorly when faced with actual life-or-death situations. We end up as victims because, well, we let ourselves be. We simply have the wrong mindset when confronted with violence. Let me explain how this relates to poker…
Don't slow play your big hands - a.k.a. Bet Your Set!
I remember a hand from a $25NL online game I played a few years ago. I was on the button and was dealt a pair of fives. A villain in the UTG+1 seat opened for a standard raise, and the cut-off cold called. Stacks were quite deep (over 150bb) and both players were bad, so I called with good implied odds as a set-mining play. Both blinds folded and we were three-way to a flop. What happened next can only be described as terrible play on my part…
A common leak among beginning poker players is incorrect bet sizing, especially when their bets are too small. You’re not one of these people, right? Right?!
I always shake my head when I see villains making tiny little bets ranging from 25-50% of the pot, and sometimes even smaller. I sat in a juicy online game a while ago where two of the players at the table treated the game like some kind of ersatz limit game, making min-bets that were never larger than the size of the big blind. What exactly were these guys trying to achieve with these itty-bitty bets? I believe they themselves don’t know. Do you? Let’s look a little more closely at this notion…
Following up on the last few Continuation Betting articles and video I did (click here and here to see them), I took a little time this week to create a spreadsheet that charts Pot Equity (PE) vs. Fold Equity (FE). This chart clearly demonstrates the negative EV check/fold zone in the lower left-hand corner of the grid:
The Expected Value (EV) of betting into an opponent = EV = (FE x Pot) + [(1-FE) x ((PE x (Pot + Bet)– ((1-PE) x Bet))], where FE = Fold Equity, Pot = Pot Size before betting, and PE = Pot Equity. This particular chart is for a pot size of $100 and a Hero bet of $75.
A blog reader recently asked me for some $5NL Zone action, and I was happy to oblige with a 35-minute two-table session on Ignition.
The theme of this video is exploring the difference between Value bets and Bluff bets. At the micro-stakes, you need to bluff (primarily in the guise of blind steals and 1- and 2-barrel continuation bet bluffs of flops and turns), but the majority of your money is going to come from Value. Further, when you make a big hand (i.e., TPTK or better), you should not slow dow, get fancy, try to trap, etc. Instead, just “bet your set,” which means bet for value in an ABC fashion on all three streets. Don’t succumb to FPS, or Fancy Play Syndrome. Your bankroll will thank you…
Would love your comments either her on the blog (below) or over on YouTube where the video has been uploaded.
Mark’s Note: This guest post is by Ben “Le Monsieur,” who was instrumental in creating the preflop hand recommendations here on the blog. This guest post/article is him explaining and expanding on that work with a focus on Game Theory Optimal-type poker. In Ben’s research, he uses Pokersnowie, which is an Artificial Intelligence-based No Limit Hold’em Player/Trainer that many top pro’s use to fine-tune their game and explore non-traditional lines and tactics. I confess I know very little about the inner workings of Pokersnowie (or GTO, for that matter), but Le Monsieur is fast becoming an expert on both subjects. As always, comments and feedback on the post are most welcome!”
Hello, this is Le Monsieur. I’ll tell you my story later, but the gist of it is that I am on a quest to understand, learn and play “Game Theory Optimal,” or GTO poker, and as I come across interesting learnings I’ll share them with you. Today I want to talk about preflop raising, folding, and calling.
The first step in my GTO quest logically starts pre-flop, with an interesting question: how much do you usually raise? It turns out there doesn’t seem to be a right or wrong answer to this; in a nutshell the size of your raise-first-in is the main input to determining how wide a range you should play.
“The question of how aggressive you actually need to be is not easy to define. Making the right bets are a lot of what being a great poker player is all about. You have to be aggressive, but at the same time, you have to be able to lay down a big hand. It is very hard to find people that can do both of those things successfully. Just being aggressive is not going to do it. you really have to know what you are doing. It is picking your spots, being aggressive at the right time that is important.” – Chris “Jesus” Ferguson
Back in Issue #40 of the Exceptional Poker Newsletter, I posted a short article on why “betting to protect” against draws is not smart poker. Wow, I struck a nerve. I’ve subsequently received a half dozen emails and questions on the subject. Most were polite and respectful, but some weren’t. Here’s an example:
“…You obviously don’t understand the reasons to bet in texas hold-em. When you have top pair hand and you’re [sic] opponent has a straight draw that can beat yours you have to bet to protect your hand against the straight. Read any book on poker and it will tell you this is why you need to bet. I don’t think you understand poker as good as you think you do if you tell us not to bet to protect against draws. I am going to unsubscribe from you’re [sic] newsletter because of this bad advice…”
Uh, I’m sorry you’re leaving the list, but I respectfully disagree with your statement about betting to protect. You should never bet in poker to “protect” your hand, just as you should never bet in poker to gather information about your opponents’ hands. These two things (protection and information) are nice side benefits of betting, but they should never be the primary reason you make a bet or raise. The only* two reasons to bet are: a) for value (i.e., you think you can get a worse hand to call) or, b) as a bluff (i.e., you think you can get a better hand to fold). Sometimes we bet as a middle-ground combination of these two things (e.g., semi-bluff), but we never, ever, ever should bet for the reason “protecting” our hand. Doing so is dumb poker, and it’s costing you money. Let me explain why this is so with some escalating hand examples:
In average games, most professional poker players continuation bet the flop approximately 75% of the time. But this begs an obvious question: which 75% of the time? The answer is a function of knowing two key equity values: the Hero’s pot equity on the flop, and the estimated fold equity the Hero has in that situation:
The decision to continuation bet on the flop is primarily a function of two things: the probability that your hand is best (i.e., pot equity) and the probability that your opponents will fold if you bet (i.e., your fold equity).