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Over-Betting to Fold them Out!

As children we were taught that it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you played the game. Of course, all we kids knew that was total BS! Winning was great, and losing sucked. But in poker it REALLY isn’t important whether you win or lose. It IS how you play the game. And if you realized the highest EV possible.

Anytime an opponent calls a bet without receiving the correct implied odds, he has committed an error, and you gain EV. Anytime an opponent folds when he would have been receiving the correct implied odds to call, he has committed an error and you gain EV.

In limit your bet-sizing is fixed. And in many cases, your bets will perform better when your opponents’ fold. But in NL you can size your wagers to any amount. This permits you to determine your opponents’ range and bet an amount that your opponent(s) are incorrect to call. The optimum size to wager would be the largest incorrect amount that your opponent will call. Of course, that’s a difficult determination to make accurately. That said, you should understand that concept, and make a good faith estimate of the correct bet-size every time you wager.

For that same reason, over-betting strictly to create a fold is a non-optimum play. Yeah, it might win you a pot that you otherwise might have gotten sucked out on, but you’ve cost yourself the +EV that a called bet would have gained you. And that’s not optimum. That said, if an opponent won’t call a –EV bet, you’ll generally do better betting and having him fold rather than giving him a free or +EV card.

Over-betting is a common error with novice players who quantify success in poker in the conceptual terms of winning or losing. But that isn’t how poker works. You win at poker by grinding out multiple positive EV bets over the course of time. And you should expect to lose frequently when cards don’t run your way.

So, don’t over-bet because you’re afraid of playing the hand out and want to ensure a current victory. Size your bet to maximize your EV, not your win-loss percentage.

And if you size them right, you’ll win more money over the course of time, even if you lose more hands!

Identifying Opponents’ River Calling Ranges

It’s not good enough to be a favorite to have the best hand when determining whether to bet on the river or not, you must be a favorite when you are called. And it’s best to size your bet to an amount that gives you the best EV possible.

In some situations your opponent is inelastic. In other words it doesn’t matter how much you bet; he’s either calling or he’s not. But in most NL situations our bet-sizing generally determines our opponent’s calling range. And varying bet-sizes have varying degrees of EV.

The expectation from your value-bet is the percentage that you are called and win times your bet size, minus the percentage that you are called (and/or check-raised and fold) and lose times your bet size. For example: If you wager $100 with a 25% chance to acquire a fold from hands that you would beat if you checked, a 50% chance of winning if called, and a 25% chance of losing, your EV on the bet is +$25 ($50-$25). If in the same situation you made a larger wager of $200, but got called less frequently, your EV would be different. For example: Say your opponent now folds 40% of the hands that you would beat if you checked, and calls only 35% of the time you have the best hand. Now your EV is only +$20 ($70-$50). Your larger bet has increased your swings and lowered your expectation because you’ve reduced his calling frequency.

Of course, accurately estimating all this in the heat of battle is tough even for highly experienced players. You must estimate your opponent’s calling range and determine how your hand relates to that range. If, last to act on the river, your hand beats 55% of that calling range, you should generally bet. If it’s 45%, you should generally check.

Yes, I purposely simplified the problem. Real world poker equations are typically more complex with more factors such as check-raising, bluffing, image issues, positional considerations, etc. But you need to understand this basic concept from which to grow your thought process. Before value betting, think about how your hand plays against his calling range rather than just contemplating if you have the best hand or not.

Do it correctly, and you’ll get way more value out of your value-bets.

Play Well and Good Luck

Optimizing River Value

It’s important to get maximum value out of your hands, even the marginal ones. Too many players miss value, particularly in river betting situations with mediocre holdings that will often get called my weaker hands. The EV from those thin value bets adds up significantly over time. Novice players continuously miss them; great players tenaciously get their lion’s share.

Value betting marginal hands is extremely situational and opponent-dependent. For river bets you must have a hand that is a favorite when called. Ascertaining that is often difficult. What is your opponent’s calling range? How does that calling range vary by the size of your bet? What bet size does it take to get your opponent to call with a large enough range of hands so that his call is –EV? If you conclude that there is a size, is there a larger size that will be called less frequently that will create higher EV?

All of those questions vary greatly depending upon your opponent. What is your opponent’s mood? Is he ripe to call wide? Or is he a tight caller? How does he react to thin bets? Is he likely to read you as weak? If so, betting small may trigger a raise-bluff? If you check, are you likely to induce your opponent to bluff a worse hand that you intend to call?

You need to weigh all these issues and draw a conclusion. Is there value in betting? And if so, how much is the optimum amount to bet? Is there more value in checking?

Don’t just leave money on the table by auto-checking your marginal hands on the river. Think through the scenario and determine your best course of action. It will pay dividends!

I understand there are a lot of questions to answer. This article is meant as an overview of what the questions are. In future tips, I’ll delve further into how to resolve them.

Play well and best of luck!

Compartmentalizing Ranges?

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!

The World Series of Poker 2016

One hundred and sixty-five years ago pioneers got into their covered wagons and started their trek across America seeking riches at the California Gold Rush. Starting May 31st, and over the next 6 weeks, tens of thousands more will be traversing America to mine the gold from the 2016 WSOP.
A few will experience the thrill of victory; most will experience the agony of defeat. The Colossus will run again this year. It’s a $565 buy-in NL Hold’em with $7,000,000 guaranteed tourney on June 2nd. Additionally, the enormous flow of poker players floods the other Las Vegas poker rooms with tournaments and cash games, big and small. The action is like no other event in the poker world. It’s just the greatest poker opportunity every year. You can watch the world’s best players play the world’s biggest games, or you can entertain yourself playing $1-2 NL. Whatever you chose, it’s going to be a fun and interesting experience.
Serious money will change hands. And if you want to get your mitts on a share, you need a strategy. If you’re coming to transform your life, focus on the tournaments. Even if you’re not a great player, a few lucky breaks can change your life. Think of Chris Moneymaker, who parlayed a $39 satellite into $2,500,000 and some lucrative corporate sponsorships in the 2003 main event. He then went on to live a celebrity lifestyle. It really can happen to you!
And it’s not just the opportunity of the Main Event. Tourneys start every day, cheap satellites are available to those who are “bankroll challenged.” Every year, some unknown wannabe gets hot and goes from being broke to a millionaire in six short weeks. And being a millionaire is MUCH superior to being broke!
That said, if you’re a slow and steady, risk-adverse guy like me, there’s plenty of side action to grind out a significant win. Bellagio has the limit hold’em games, and no-limit is all over Las Vegas.
Players from all over the world bring their bankrolls and are looking to play higher than their normal. There are plenty of opportunities to play in some very good games, even at very high limits. Grinding out the side action may not give birth to the glory and adrenaline rushes that tournament play provides, but for an economic upside, overall better edges can generally be found in the side action.
The action is best during the first week, and then the money slowly starts to dry up. The losers tighten up or fade into the night, thereby making the graveyard games superior to the day shift. Weekends are generally better than weekdays. The action erodes until a new influx of players arrives at the start of the Main Event. It’s mostly a group of recreational players looking to see the celebrity players, observe the huge action and play a little poker. Then, like the first week, the money slowly evaporates.
Before you arrive, you want to make sure you’re bringing your A-game. Study up, read those books. Develop your game to the best it can be and get into a confident mood. Getting your mind right is huge.
If you’re well bankrolled and looking to take a life-changing shot in the side-action, be prepared to play your best when you arrive and take your shot early when the games are the best. If you do well, you might be able to play high throughout. And a good performance can change your life!
If you’re on narrow funds, and/or have limited experience, play within your element at the start, build your bankroll and experience, and step up when the Main Event starts and the new flock of players comes to town. This will give you a better shot to survive the WSOP “test of time” and put you in a position to play in the games when they’re at their best and you are too! Don’t get caught up in the action and put yourself in a bad spot early that you’re unlikely to recover from.
The most important decision is choosing your game. Stay within your element. Select the game type and limits you’re comfortable in playing that contain soft money. And while good players should be avoided, it’s not at all costs. Being in your element, being comfortable with the game and the availability of soft money is more important than avoiding the strong players. The small edges you give up to good players can easily be compensated by the large edges you’ll have over a soft spot or two.
Some Winning Strategies:
1. If you can come for only a short period, plan your trip around tournaments you want to play or when the action is best, keeping in mind that early and at the start of the Main Event are the best times. If you’re a specialist in a given game, come when that tournament is scheduled. Not only do you get to play the tourney, but the side action for that game will be at its best too!
2.Manage your bankroll wisely, and don’t damage it early. The WSOP is a marathon, not a sprint!
3.Game select. There will be tons of games to choose from, utilize the opportunities.
4.Don’t let yourself get burned out. Take breaks. Sleep. Exercise. You’ll play better.
5.Play your best at all times. No tilt, and don’t get sloppy.
Come join the fun and excitement. There’s going to be some great poker action. And, last but not least, it’s poker’s best opportunity for a significant economic upside.
And best of all, the transportation modes, hotel accommodations and beverage service are much better than the covered wagon days!

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!

An Overview: What You’ll Need to Develop a Wining Poker Game.

There are many facets to playing winning poker; two of major importance are your knowledge and thought level. Defining what you need to learn compartmentalizes the issues, allowing you to focus on the most important aspects and simplify the learning process.

Crucially, you’ll need to develop strong strategic knowledge to play well. Strategic learning will be a never-ending process. The good news is that there is an abundance of good books, videos and computer training materials available to acquire this knowledge. Some people think poker is about common-sense, and you can play winning poker just by familiarity and basic wisdom. Those are the folks you’ll want to play with after you’ve studied up! Don’t underestimate the level of knowledge required, it’s considerable.

Additionally, you’ll need to develop concentration and awareness. Poker requires that you gather and process information. The more you’re aware of, the better your decisions.
You’ll also need to develop a linear analytical process, to define and think through situations and be able to logically analyze complicated poker circumstances.

Develop your people-reading skills. Learn to analyze opponents’ thoughts and emotions. It’s the road to reading their holdings. Get good at this, and you’ll be able to read, not just their current hand range, but also their potential future actions.

The mental skills will come with focus and practice. Learn the strategies, and utilize them at the table. Use your time well at the table; grow your game and mental skills by keeping your mind on the game, and go over every hand played and your opponents’ thought process.

Over time, you’ll gradually develop great skills and feel for the game!

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