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February 2016

Applying Your Range Reads

Many novice players place their opponent on a specific hand. For example, “I put him on AK.” But in reality, there are almost always other hands that the opponent would play in the same manner. For that reason the correct approach is to place your opponent on a range of hands, estimate the probability of each of those hands, and base your strategic decision on how your hand plays against the totality of that range.

Many online equity calculators such as Flopzilla will calculate your “run out” equity against a given range. And while how your hand does against an opponents’ range is important when facing possible all-in situations, it’s not an all-inclusive method to determining the most optimum play. NL hold’em has other play options than moving all-in and running out the cards. To optimize your play, you’ll need to think about how specific lines of play work against a certain portion of his range, and then calculate how it works against the other portions of his range. The line of play with the highest blended EV against the totality of that range is the optimum play.

The point being, when there are other alternatives to being effectively all-in, thinking about how the hand will likely play with differing strategy lines will often create better options that just determining your equity based on a run out. For example, maybe you’ll size your bets lower to keep more of your opponent’s range in his calling range. Perhaps you’ll bluff the river small since a lot of his range is whiffed draws.
The critical concept is that the correct play doesn’t depend on how much equity your hand holds based on a run out, but rather how can you play your hand to obtain the highest EV possible? Often you’ll find a better line of play when considering all your options and not just basing it on current run out equity.

Compartmentalize your opponents’ range into segments, a drawing segment, a segment that the nominal ranking beats your hand, and a segment that you nominally beat. Do a range analysis and determine what the odds are that he holds each portion of those segments? What is the best line of play against each segment? How does the best play in one segment effect the value of the other segments? Make a best guess estimate of how your hand plays EV-wise against all those segments utilizing differing lines of plays. Select the best play!

Yeah, it’s complicated. You’ll have to do a lot of work away from the table to get a feel of it. Additionally, you have to have a good read of your opponent’s ranges. But over time, with focused experience, you’ll train your mind to accomplish these tasks.

And when you do, you’ll be a much better player.

Roy’s Strategic Live Play Learning Tools


The advent of high speed computers processors and the building of poker knowledge from previous data have advanced poker knowledge dramatically in the last 15 years. The game has passed by many top players from the pre-2000 era who haven’t kept on top of the knowledge growth. There is a wealth of poker information out there these days, some good, some bad. It’s much easier to study wise men’s knowledge than figure it out for yourself. Let me recommend the best path to growing your NL game.

First, it’s important to understand the game conceptually. I am not a fan of learning strategies by rote as too many NL situations fall outside standard situations. If you don’t learn how to optimize your play in those situations, you’ll leave a lot of equity on the table. To make those adjustments, you need to understand the game’s concepts.

The basic concepts are in David Sklansky’s “The Theory of Poker. ” As you read this book, think deeply about how these concepts apply to your game. Ed Miller’s “The Course” explains the levels of knowledge you’ll need to grow your game from the 1-2 level up to 5-10. I also think “No Limit Hold’em” by Sklansky and Ed Miller has a good basic knowledge foundation that puts you on the right path. I would read them in that order.

Once you’ve digested those, you’ll want to study poker’s nuances. I’ve signed up and am very much impressed with the video/forum site, It’s run by poker superstar Phil Galfond, and he’s brought in many high-level players who develop videos along with Phil. What many lack in presentation skills is made up for in the quality of information given. You can sign up for two levels, “Essential” and the “Elite.” If you’re not beating the game, start with the Essential. Elite is for those with a deep understanding of the game.

You also need to have the mental strength and demeanor to play well. Alan Schoomaker and Jared Tendler have book series that deal with the mental aspect of the game. You should study these also. Both put out good psychological material. Don’t underestimate the mental game’s importance; it’s huge!
If you’re a live player, you should learn tells. Mike Caro’s book of tells was the first book to deal with the subject and has much good information. I also like Zachary Elwood’s books on tells.

These recommendations are for those developing their game. I’ve excluded some books that I like that I felt were too complex. “Applications of No-Limit Hold’em” by Mathew Janda is the foremost. It’s full of good information, but digesting it takes a high level of poker understanding. I receive nothing from any of these recommendations, all are based on merit.

All that said, this is hundreds of hours of effort. But to become a high quality player, you need to know this information. Make the effort to PREPARE to win, and winning will come. The best poker players, like the best chess players spend endless hours studying their own and their opponents’ games.

You’ll be amazed at the difference this will make in your results!

A Relative Thing!

Everyone knows that position is important, but many don’t understand the importance of relative position. It refers to your position relative to a raiser and the next streets likely bettor. If other players have to react to the bettor before you do, you have good relative position. If you have to act before they do, you have bad relative position.

With poor relative position, you assume the risk of being rerasied by opponents yet to act, don’t have information about what they will do and lose opportunities to trap them.

Say you hold two fives pre-flop in NL hold’em and an aggressive continuation bettor immediately to your right raises. Your hand has less value than if Mr. Aggressive-Continuation-Bettor was five players in front of you and two of your opponents had called in-between. Reason being, when Mr. Aggressive-Continuation-Bettor bets, you have the opportunity to trap the in-between calling players for high-value bets should you flop a set and raise.
Another scenario where relative position takes on major importance is in limit hold’em volume pots. Unlike NL, you want to “protect” your hand, or more precisely lower your opponents’ odds to call. In cases where you’re looking to protect a one-pair hand, you might want to flat an aggressive continuation bettor pre-flop in order to raise on the flop and protect your hand. By doing so, your opponents are forced to call a double bet with the threat of additional raises. If they do, their price is reduced. If they fold, their pot-equity is removed.

A positive to being in poor relative position is the fact that you can sometimes bluff-raise the raiser when he continuation bets weak. This shows a high level of strength and forces other opponents to call the raise cold.

There are many elements to relative position, too many for this short tip. But, always consider how your hand plays relative to your opponents’ position and whether you should you adjust your strategy. Tighten up your hand selection, particularly with hands that prefer post-flop volume, when you’re immediately behind an aggressive continuation bettor. Make more post-flop raise-bluffs. Loosen up when your odds are increased by having players between yourself and the continuation bettor, even more so if they are prone to call frequently.

Do it effectively, and you’ll trap more customers when you flop a hand and get trapped much less!

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