If you habituate your mind to think along given lines, you’ll simplify your thought process and free up your brains “disk space” for other considerations. It will also give you greater decision consistency by not allowing yourself to be as easily influenced by emotions or unusual card distributions.

I’ve previously written that I compartmentalize my opponents’ range into 3 segments: a drawing range, and a range of hands that beat mine, and a range that I beat. Then I attach my estimate of my opponents’ odds of holding each portion of the range. My approach in this manner creates clearer thinking. I consider how to play each range and how the EV against one portion of the range affects the EV of the others. Sometimes the best play against one portion of the range is the same as the best play against other portions. If not, you need to weigh the options and calculate what play works best against the overall range.

For example, on the river you might wager a small amount to fold out his whiffed draws, knowing you’ll get called by all better hands, but you’re still getting the right price to fold his drawing range that missed. You’ve made a play that has negative value against his range that beats you, but the “fold equity” of the bluff more than makes up for the EV loss.

Another example of this way of thinking is to divide your opponents’ hand ranges by their actions or potential actions. What is your opponents’ calling range? If they check-raised, what is their check-raising range? Their betting range? Bluffing range? Raising range? By compartmentalizing in this manner you further define their hand and make your thoughts clearer. For example, you’re considering a bet on the river. You think your hand is good, but know that being good is not enough; you need to be good when you’re called. So you ask yourself, what is your opponents’ calling range and what portion of it do you beat? Is a bet still profitable?

By streamlining my thoughts in this manner, I process my thinking in an identical manner every time. It prevents my mind from getting convoluted, creating accuracy and consistency, both important poker attributes. This can get complicated and will sometimes require away from the table analysis to work this out.

Once you get used to doing the calculations, it will come much easier. Initially, expect it to be tough. But over time your mind will attune and the new thinking will become natural and much easier.

And when it does, you’ll know you’ve dramatically improved your poker decision-making process!

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