Great chess players are legendary for their ability to think
many moves ahead. But in poker, forward thinking is undervalued by most
players. How a hand will play out is the most important component of your
decisions. Current odds are chiefly immaterial, implied odds are how you should
calculate your probabilities. And to be able to closely estimate your implied
odds, you must read your opponents’ hands, their tendencies, and predict how
they will play differing scenarios.
Plans fall into three main ranges. There are game plans, play of hands plans, and exploitive strategy plans. Game plans are master plans for the specific game you’re in. Early in every session you should create a masterplan on how you will exploit the game. Is this a game you’re going to make money by making your opponents fold when they should call? Or should your strategy be to wait for situations or make hands in which you think the likelihood of being paid off is high? Design your strategy to the way the game is, not the way you’d like to make it. People are creatures of habit and reluctant to change.
Most games will possess a mix of opponents’ tendencies, and you’ll have to isolate situations based on their components. That said, having a general idea of what principal strategy you want to pursue, and establishing your image to accommodate that strategy will both add value and make your decisions easier.
The correct play is correlated to how the hand will play on other streets. How a hand plays on the flop relates to how it will play on the turn, which relates to how it will play on the river. Designing a strategy that gets the highest overall edge on your holding, not just on the current street is the optimum play. You should pass on a small edged bet, if passing will allow you to obtain a higher edged bet(s) on a later street(s). There are innumerable other application to this concept, you just have to design and apply them.
When you pay attention to how your opponents play, you’ll find exploitable weaknesses. When you do, you need to think about how different hands will play in those circumstances. If your opponent folds too much, you’ll want to bluff more with the weak portions of your range, and trap more with its strong portions. You’re adjusting the play of your hand and adjusting which hands to play based on exploiting how the hand will play out. If your opponent has an exploitable weakness, playing correctly, increases the value of your holding, allowing you to play a weaker range and/or adjust your calling, trapping and raising ranges to increase the value of the exploitive play.
Thinking moves ahead will produce higher value decisions. You’ll have a clearer picture of which hands to play and how to play them. Focus on how the game plays; think about the game between hands. What plays can I utilize to maximize my earn?
Think ahead, and you’ll find your chips ahead!
Roy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years prior to becoming a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman. Should you wish any information about Real Estate matters-including purchase, sale or mortgage his office number is 702-376-1515 or Roy's e-mail is RealtyAce@aol.com. His website is www.RoyCooke.com . Roy’s blogs and poker tips are at www.RoyCookePokerlv.com . You can also find him on Facebook or Twitter @RealRoyCooke
ABC loose-passive’s are the easiest opponent’s to
play, and you generally have the largest edge against them. Most lowstakes
players are ABC loose-passive. Aspiring to see many flops, they habitually
limp. Their propensity to call pre-flop raises varies, but they call pre-flop
raises much more than your average opponent.
On the flop they tend to be fit or fold. Meaning, if they hit the flop,
they continue, if not, they’ll fold. The
good news is they’re easily exploitable.
One method of exploitation is merely playing better starting hands. That way, you’ll trap them when their inferior hands provide you with big edges. You’ll “outkick” them, set-over them, make higher flushes and commonly make better hands than they will against you. You can also play a wide range with position, but need to be aware of players behind you and play well after the flop. If you’re not a good post-flop player, don’t play your marginal hands pre-flop.
Another exploitative method is to isolate and continuation bet them. Since they’re folding when they miss, and they’ll miss the flop around 60% of the time, a continuation bluff or semi-bluff is high EV. Unpaired starting hands make a pair or better about 1/3rd of the time, but additional draws make the 60% missed flop number a good approximation. When your opponent holds a small wired pair, he will to miss almost 90% of the time. If you continuation bet ½ pot, you need a fold 33% of the time to acquire immediate fold equity. That’s good EV, and those situations present themselves repeatedly.
When contemplating an isolation play, you need to reasonably assess its effectiveness. If players behind are likely to call or 3-bet you, your isolation play has lost considerable value. If that is the case, tighten up and exploit their weaker hands that way. Additionally, having position strengthens isolation plays considerably.
Making isolation/continuation bet plays also adds value because it makes you harder to read, and you will acquire more action when you hit your hand. When you’re continuously betting at them, your opponents will tend to call you more liberally.
When continuation betting with a weak hand after isolating, you’ll need to take the board texture into consideration. Some boards will hit your opponent’s range more than others. Be more inclined to check the boards that are more likely to hit your opponent’s range. I.E. A Jd-Ts-8d flop hits more of your opponent’s range than a Kd-7c-2h board.
Those plays work well against ABC loose-passive opponents. Just select the right situations and execute.
And if you’ve done that correctly, you’ll improve your edge tremendously.
Much is written about poker psychology; mostly it’s about analyzing how your opponents react. But seldom discussed and of much greater importance is your own psychology. Being real and in tune with yourself has huge value, and those that aren’t never correct their leaks as they’re unaware they even exist.
People in denial can endlessly delude themselves. They constantly look for ways to blame something for their bad results. Stop kidding yourself. One can always find an angle from which the fault of losing lies elsewhere. It’s important to realize that if you’re consistently losing, the fault is not luck, the dealer, the deck, the seat or whatever else you may blame. The problem is YOU. You’ve got leaks!
Poker is an exceptionally competitive game. The better, more consistent your decisions are than your opponents, the greater your edge, and the more money you will win. Are you the best you can be? Do you tilt? Do you study? Do you allow your ego to make irrational decisions? Are you fit, rested and thinking clearly whenever you play? Do you give every session your best effort?
If you’re committing some of those errors, you need to build a better you to become a better poker player. Learn and grow from your time at the table. Dig down deep inside yourself and find what it takes to recognize and resolve those issues. Fix your tilt issues. Our emotions override our judgements in all of us at times, some more than others. Take breaks, control yourself, use self-talk to overcome the stress of losing. Meditation is another method of reducing tilt. Work on your game; find a study partner or group, read books. The video market has many great poker sites. Never in poker history has the availability of poker information been so high.
Ego can be a positive force in motivating yourself to be the best you can be. But ego can be a negative force when it causes you to play too long, take on tougher opponents than you should, play higher than you should, not step down when you should. Any time ego is part of a decision, you’re probably making an error. So, take pride in yourself, but keep your ego under control.
Being your best mentally means being physically rested and sound. Working on your physical ability helps both your thought clarity and your endurance and concentration. Both are keys to becoming a great player. Along the same lines, always giving your time at the table your best effort goes a long way. Forget watching the football game, quit flirting with the cocktail waitress; you’re at the table to win money. Focus! Always be thinking about what’s happening at the table and how your opponents are thinking.
Constantly analyze your game. Where are your leaks? Assess yourself with brutal honesty. Since we all tend to delude ourselves, ask a poker friend to be constructively critical of your game. Listen to him! Create a more knowledgeable, harder working, emotionally stabler, clearer thinking ass-kicking poker machine.
And then, enjoy watching the money come to you!