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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Never stop thinking

The funny thing about poker is after you play for long enough, you sometimes begin to think you have most everything figured out, but the truth is you never stop learning. The worst thing you can do for your game is become complacent and stop thinking about your hands.

Back in Toronto when I had my dual monitor set up I was toiling away on 6 tables, sometimes doing 7 and contemplating 8 on occasion. This pushed me towards automation and I was your typical grinding robot. Raising blind vs blind with any ace, isolating limpers with large raises, etc.... This is all fine and good in general, but once you stop thinking why you do things you begin to develop leaks and lose out on much more value than you get from playing the extra tables.

Early in this month, whenever I saw someone with a high open percentage, I would 3bet about 1/3rd the time. Didn't matter what position I was, he was opening more than he should and he usually can't stand up to a 3bet. I squeezed a lot too, as well as open about 60 percent of my buttons. I also did all these things with a standard size and I did everything quite quickly. I had stopped playing poker and was mimicking videos. This was good enough in the old days when the games were easier, but guess what? Everyone is a mechanical robot these days who watch the same videos (I have the misfortune of playing on a site that lets you spend points very cheaply on Cardrunners tutorial videos). Playing like this will make you a break even player, who profits from rakeback.

I have taken back myself. I have lowered my tables to 4. I have questioned my hands while I'm playing and not just afterwards. I ask myself questions while the hand is progressing. What's his range? What's my fold equity based on recent history and my overall image? Have I won or lost a lot of pots recently? Have I shown down anything?

One of the biggest changes in my preflop game is that I have an opening template and then based on the players at the table I make my adjustments.

The template is as follows:

Open bet sizes,

UTG - 4 bb
UTG +1 - 4bb
CO - 3bb
BTN - 2.5bb
SB - 3bb
BB - 3bb

After this I begin to make my adjustments. My UTG adjustments aren't very often and stay quite static. But let's say I am on the CO and I see that the BTN is very loose, I will probably make it 3.5 because of 2 reasons, 1. he will call with worse, dominated hands at 3 or 3.5 and 2. I want to charge him a bit extra for having the luxury of playing in position on me. If BTN is tight and BB is loose, I would probably stick to 3bbs, but if BTN and BB are both tight, I would lower it to 2.5. In this manner I will still keep in dominated hands if the BB decides to play b/c I have given such a discount, but I am in position.

When you are in position, you are basically trying to bloat the pot as large as humanly possible while at the same time keeping in the hands you dominate. If you have KK why are you not raising to 50bb? It's because this will ensure that you will make everyone fold everything BUT AA. But lets say if you raised to 50bb and people with KT, JJ, TT, AK, etc... still called. Then you should obviously be making this raise size. If this is so, then why do people bet so little when they have position on a fish? If you can bet big, or raise big (in position) and still have the fish call with completely dominated hands, why are you not adjusting your bet sizes bigger? If some fish min raises to 2bb in middle position, why are you auto raising to 6bb when you could to 8 or more and have his exact same range call you?

I think the biggest improvement in my game the past 3 months is bet sizing -- not just preflop but post flop as well. And you can only get better at bet sizing if you are actively thinking about the hand. What are you accomplishing with the bets you make? Does his range still include a lot of hands you beat if you are betting for value? With the majority of his range, what is the biggest size bet that range would call? If you start to think that most of his range you beat would not call, you should consider checking (like the case when you have a hand with good show down value, 2nd pair). Usually when I begin to believe my value bet would have to be less than half pot for him to call with the majority of his range, I consider checking.

When you stop thinking about hands, you stop playing poker.

posted by joe | permalink | 1 comments


At 6:50 AM, Blogger Kevin said...



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