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An Ace Poker Solutions LLC Publication

Polished Poker
Cash Games Volume I

2013 Ace Poker Solutions LLC. All rights reserved.

Limit of Liability and Disclaimer of Warranty The publisher and the author make no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this work and specifically disclaim all warranties, including without limitation warranties of fitness for a particular purpose. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for every situation. Neither the publisher nor the author shall be liable for any loss of profit damages or any other commercial damage, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. The fact that an organization or website is referred to in this work as a citation and/or a potential source of further information does not mean that the author or the publisher endorses the information the organization or website may provide or recommendations it may make. Further, readers should be aware that Internet websites listed in this work may have changed or disappeared between when this work was written and when it is read. All rights reserved No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior permission of the publisher. Requests for permission should be sent to support@acepokersolutions.com.

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Table of Contents
Introduction ............................................................................................................................................................................ 4 About The Author .................................................................................................................................................................. 5
Chapter 1: Why are you playing? ..................................................................................................................................................................................... 6 First Goals ......................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 7 Blog About It .................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 7 Make Poker Friends .......................................................................................................................................................................................................... 7

Chapter 2: Know Thyself ...................................................................................................................................................... 8


Aggression ........................................................................................................................................................................................................................ 9 Aggression (too passive) ................................................................................................................................................................................................... 9 Aggression (too aggro) .................................................................................................................................................................................................... 10 Rational Deduction / Logic ............................................................................................................................................................................................. 11 Psychological Control / Understanding ........................................................................................................................................................................... 14 Tilt................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 14 Being a good quitter (Tilt) ............................................................................................................................................................................................... 16 Self Awareness ................................................................................................................................................................................................................ 17 Perceptiveness ................................................................................................................................................................................................................. 18

Chapter 3: Get it Together ................................................................................................................................................... 20


Bankroll Management ..................................................................................................................................................................................................... 20 Poker Software ................................................................................................................................................................................................................ 21 Preparation and Diet ........................................................................................................................................................................................................ 22 Diet ................................................................................................................................................................................................................................. 23

Chapter 4: Glorious Poker Math .......................................................................................................................................... 25


Combinations .................................................................................................................................................................................................................. 25 Probability ....................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 26 Equity .............................................................................................................................................................................................................................. 27 Expected Value (EV) ...................................................................................................................................................................................................... 27 Fold Equity...................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 27

Chapter 5: Metta World Peace ............................................................................................................................................ 29


Tension Count ................................................................................................................................................................................................................. 29 Reads and Notes .............................................................................................................................................................................................................. 32 List of Abbreviations (Brief Overview)........................................................................................................................................................................... 33 ATC (Any Two Cards) .................................................................................................................................................................................................... 34 FC (Flush Chaser) ........................................................................................................................................................................................................... 37 SOOT (Likes to play any two suited cards) ..................................................................................................................................................................... 37 AK (Will bet turn unimproved) ....................................................................................................................................................................................... 39 CRW (Calls raises with weak hands) .............................................................................................................................................................................. 40 LAF (Will lead into pre-flop raises and fold to a raise) ................................................................................................................................................... 41 SVB (Slim Value Bettor) ................................................................................................................................................................................................ 42 Ax (Will play an ace from anywhere) ............................................................................................................................................................................. 46 NPR (Will raise a non-premium hand) ............................................................................................................................................................................ 46 CBB (Continuation Bet Bad Boards) .............................................................................................................................................................................. 47 LA (Look-up Artist) ........................................................................................................................................................................................................ 48

Chapter 6: In the Beginning ................................................................................................................................................ 50


Starting Decisions ........................................................................................................................................................................................................... 50 Flat Calling...................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 51 Blind Play........................................................................................................................................................................................................................ 53 Optimal Big Blind Play ................................................................................................................................................................................................... 55 Defending from the Big Blind vs Early Openers ............................................................................................................................................................. 55 Defending from the Big Blind vs Steals .......................................................................................................................................................................... 58 Defending from the Big Blind vs Button Steals .............................................................................................................................................................. 58 Squeezing from the Big Blind vs Open Buttons .............................................................................................................................................................. 61 Defending from the Big Blind vs Cut-off's ...................................................................................................................................................................... 62 Squeezing from the Big Blind vs Open Cut-Offs ............................................................................................................................................................ 64 Defending from the Small Blind vs Steals ....................................................................................................................................................................... 66 Defending from the Small Blind vs Button Steals ........................................................................................................................................................... 66 Defending from the Small Blind vs Cut-off Opens ......................................................................................................................................................... 68 Squeezing from the Small Blind vs Open Cut-Offs ......................................................................................................................................................... 68 Out of The "Norm" Lines to Take Against Steals............................................................................................................................................................ 69

Chapter 7: 3-Betting ............................................................................................................................................................ 73


Value Range .................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 73 Bluffing Range ................................................................................................................................................................................................................ 74 Quasi Range .................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 75

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3-Bet Sizing .................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 76 Standard 3-bet Strategy ................................................................................................................................................................................................... 76 Applied Pressure 3-bet Strategy ...................................................................................................................................................................................... 76 Applied Pressure vs Standard 3-bet Strategy ................................................................................................................................................................... 79 3-Bet Calling Ranges ...................................................................................................................................................................................................... 80 Easy Folds to 3-bets ........................................................................................................................................................................................................ 80 "Easy" Calls to 3-bets ...................................................................................................................................................................................................... 81 Marginal Spots vs 3-bets ................................................................................................................................................................................................. 83 Being 3-bet by a short stack ............................................................................................................................................................................................ 85

Chapter 8: 4-Bet Bluffing .................................................................................................................................................... 87


Why 4-bet Bluff?............................................................................................................................................................................................................. 87 Good 4-bet bluffing hands ............................................................................................................................................................................................... 87 4-bet Bluff Sizing ............................................................................................................................................................................................................ 88 Ideal 4-bet Bluffing Spots ............................................................................................................................................................................................... 90

Chapter 9: Perceived Range ................................................................................................................................................ 91


Balancing Your Range .................................................................................................................................................................................................... 91 Balancing Flop Textures ................................................................................................................................................................................................. 93 Balancing on Dry Boards ................................................................................................................................................................................................ 94 Balancing on Coordinated Boards ................................................................................................................................................................................... 98 Balancing on Paired Boards .......................................................................................................................................................................................... 100 Balanced Deception ...................................................................................................................................................................................................... 104

Putting It All Together ....................................................................................................................................................... 109 More Tools of the Trade ..................................................................................................................................................... 110

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Introduction
I'm not going to bullshit you, poker isn't an easy game. It's fairly easy to learn the rules, and beat some weak players that aren't really sure what they're doing. However, if you want to be really good at this game, then you're going to need to put a lot of work in. Just like anything in life, if you want to be really good at something, you need to prepare, train, take your lumps, learn from your mistakes, know when to walk away and wait for another day, and have good mental discipline. If you aren't prepared to work hard, then be prepared to not be very successful at poker. I say this having coached for over seven years, played for over nine on a professional and semi-professional level, and having my own share of success and failure. Fortunately I've had much more success, and not much failure in my poker career, but this didn't come without hard work and dedication to the art of poker. The truth of the matter is, very few people are successful at poker long term. I've seen studies that say that less than 5% of players are winners long term. Some people may have some short term success, but if you want to make it long term you're going to need to have a level of dedication and discipline that few people do. My hope is that this book serves as a guide for you. Something you can go back to again and again, and learn something new from as you grow in your poker career. My goal is to make this material accessible to anyone, but it's not aimed at absolute beginners. I'm assuming you've found this through a friend or poker link somewhere, and you've already had some success or failure at online poker. There's going to be a lot of common online poker lingo used, and the glossary may not be enough help if you aren't already playing online. Don't let that dissuade you if you aren't already playing online. If you have any questions about the content of references, I'm an open book. :) Let's begin.

2013 Ace Poker Solutions LLC. All rights reserved.

Poker by the Book: Polished Poker Volume I

About The Author


Just like most of you, I gravitated towards poker for a lot of reasons. If you get good at this game, it offers a lot of flexibility, but like some have said, "Its a hard way to make an easy living." Whatever the reason you are deciding to play poker, I wish you much success at the tables and in life. We truly only recognize our own greatness, when we assist and help others to reach theirs. I started playing poker in the latter part of 2004, as poker was just beginning to really boom. I was swept up in part of the "Moneymaker" effect of amateur Chris Moneymaker winning the WSOP main event in 2003. I was working in corporate America at the time making a comfortable six figure salary, but not satisfied with the career path I saw in front of me. I'm honestly not entirely sure how poker found me, but I began playing limit poker, and like anything I do in life, I studied everything I could get my hands on about the game and ate it up. I made one $50 deposit on Pacific poker back in 2004, and I've never busted or looked back since. Since that time I've won several hundred thousand dollars in cash games and some nice tournament scores as well. I didn't and haven't played a ton of tournament poker over my career simply because of time commitments, but I do have WSOP cashes, and have won other local and online tournaments. Most of my study and time have gone into no-limit Texas Holdem 6-max, full ring, and heads-up cash games. I've played and had some decent success at pot-limit Omaha and Razz as well, but don't enjoy those games nearly as much. I eventually turned my poker wins into a successful online poker business, where my company, Ace Poker Solutions, develops software such as Leak Buster, Ace Poker Drills, Ace Poker Coach, and training material from sites like PokerZion. Here are some of my recent database snap shots post black Friday. I don't put the same volume in as I used to simply because a bulk of my time goes into running my business, but I do stay current and active and play a good amount.

I've also played as low as 50NL and 100NL in small samples for a honeymoon challenge. You can read about that and see stats HERE.

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Poker by the Book: Polished Poker Volume I

Chapter 1: Why are you playing?

his should be a simple question really, but I seem to stump a lot of students when I ask them. Are you playing for money? For competition? For vacation money? To put the kids through college? Put yourself through college? As a full-time job (grinder)? To win a WSOP bracelet? For fame? To be a balla and have lots of women/men? Knowing why you are playing is important so that you don't end up wasting energy during your poker career on things that aren't very necessary. For example, if you're playing to win some extra vacation money, you don't want to spend your time constantly looking to play against the best players at the table. Conversely, if you're playing to win a WSOP bracelet someday, you don't want to spend most of your time bum hunting tables. Secondly you want to make sure you have a poker goal in mind. Goals and motivations can easily get blurred, and with many people they can sometimes even conflict. A goal can of course change over time, but knowing what your initial goal(s) are can quickly let you know how in alignment they are with your motivations. If your motivation is to play for vacation money, but your goal is to win a WSOP bracelet, it's going to be rough going to take small winnings and purchase high stakes tournament buy-ins. Not that you can't satellite in for cheaper, but the motivation and goal won't be in complete alignment and you'll mostly working against yourself. Just make sure you're clear in your own mind. Once you understand your motivations and goals, then you can begin to make a plan for how to achieve your goals. If you've noticed your motivation isn't completely in alignment with your goal(s), then be honest with yourself about what you think you need to change. Set realistic achievable goals to begin with, and then expand those goals into bigger goals as you achieve each goal. It's great to have a goal of becoming the best poker player in the world, but don't make that your first primary goal. Set something realistic like win my first 5k online. Then once you reach that, and have some taste of success, expand that to win 20k, and/or win a $20 buy-in tournament. Shoot for the stars, but aim for the moon, they say, and for good reason. You want to have your big lofty goals always as the primary objective, but you don't want your goals so big that they function as a point of discouragement when you don't reach them as fast as you think you should. Have your goals listed out, and make it a habit of checking them off and continually moving your goals posts closer to your ultimate goal.

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Poker by the Book: Polished Poker Volume I

First Goals
Take some time now to write out what your initial goals in poker are. If you aren't sure, then start with something small and expand as you think of more things you want to achieve. Ideally write them down on a sticky note or something small that you can pin to your monitor or the place where youre primarily playing online poker. Carry them in your wallet if you play a lot of live poker, take them out and read them before you sit down at the table. It may sound cheesy, but this will keep them fresh in your mind and help keep you focused and motivated.

Blog About It
If you aren't afraid of writing, find a place where you can make a poker blog. State what your goals are, and spend time each week or two updating your blog with your progress. It's an easy way to help keep yourself accountable to your goals if you have others reading and encouraging you on. If you don't think you are a good writer, try any ways. There are tons of places now-a-days to do this; I'm going to plug my favorite place that has lots of friendly encouragement from others: http://pokerzion.com/Poker_Forum/blog.php

Make Poker Friends


Find other poker players that have similar goals to your own and become friends with them. Even if it's a distant online friend, find other people that can assist and help keep you accountable to your own goals. Make sure your poker friends know what your goals are. If other poker players are checking in with you and asking frequently how poker is going, it's going to motivate you to want to have good reports to give back to them. Make sure to ask how your friends are doing as well, and make it a mutually beneficial relationship.

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Poker by the Book: Polished Poker Volume I

Chapter 2: Know Thyself

ou won't be able to play your best poker if you don't know your strengths and weaknesses. Just because a particular play works well for one player, doesn't mean it's going to consistently be the best option or line for you to take as a poker player. Make sure you understand what some of your strengths are, and do everything you can to utilize them every hand you play. Conversely, minimize areas that will play to your weaknesses. This sounds simple in theory, but a lot of players attempt to fit their game in a mold of someone else, only to be left frustrated and lighter in their bankrolls. Here are some examples of common weaknesses and strengths for players. Go through this list and rank how you think you do in each area based on a score of 1 to 10, with 10 being the absolute best. You can then formulate a plan on how you'll improve in these areas if you deem them important to your overall game plan.
Aspects of Poker Hand Reading (R) Post Flop Bluffing (R/A) Anticipating Opponent Reactions (P) Light Value Betting (R/A) Tilt Control (P) Calling Down Light (R) Bet Sizing (R) Proper Aggression (A) Capitalizing on Opponent Weaknesses (A) Inducing Bluffs (R) Math of Poker (R) Starting and Quitting Sessions (P) Score 110

If you look at these primary aspects of poker you may notice a commonality in many of them. This is because there are really only three main areas of poker that permeate all aspects of the game. These areas are Aggression (either the lack of or too much), Rational deduction/logic (using incomplete information and math), and Psychological control/understanding (ability to control one's psyche and understand psychology). Once you look over your list, is there a theme occurring for you in certain areas? Do you need improvement in the aggression areas because you're not being aggressive enough? Is there a need to control your emotions better so that you can have better psychological control? Let's take the Aggression Total Score: /4= different areas and average Rational Deduction / them out so you can see Logic Total Score: /7= what area is causing you Psychological Control Total Score: /3= the most concern, and focus on improving that area first. Note: Post Flop Bluffing and Light Value Betting are counted in both the Rational Deduction / Logic areas and Aggression.

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Poker by the Book: Polished Poker Volume I

Aggression
If you scored a 5 or less in this area, then you're going to want to spend some significant time on these next sections. Nearly everyone in every major aspect of their lives tends to be on one extremity of a polarity or the other. Finding that "sweet spot," that balance that can yield the best life results, is usually easier said than done. It's that same way with aggression at the poker table for most players. Most players tend to be too passive, or a bit too aggressive. The intriguing thing about poker though is that it's ok to be too aggressive, and sometimes too passive as well, as long as you know and can properly anticipate how your opponents will react to your play. In general though, it's much better to err on the side of too aggressive in poker, rather than too passive. This is why the mantra, "If you don't know what to do, then bet," gains credence. Because in poker, when a player folds their hand they give up 100% of their equity. It's rarely a bad thing to bet, as opposed to checking, which can create a plethora of issues for you now or on later streets.

Aggression (too passive)


If you believe you are being too passive in your poker game, then you're usually correct. It's something a lot of beginning players struggle with. A lot of times it's an aspect of a person's personality which translates onto the poker table. If you're a naturally more passive, person pleasing individual, it may be more difficult to put yourself in situations to be aggressive, and be betting and raising to make your opponents fold. If you believe this is the case, then the best thing for you to focus on isn't about artificially trying to become more aggressive. Really the best way to improve in this area is to improve the math area of the rational deduction/math aspect of your game. Since the goal in poker is to get your opponents to make the biggest mistakes possible, and get your good hands paid off as much as possible, understanding hand ranges and equity is paramount in being successful at poker. Once you understand hand ranges and equity really well, betting, checking, folding, and raising become much clearer with each decision you have to make. Each decision is like a mini-goal. You want to achieve each goal with excellence, and in order to do that you need to bet or raise when the hand ranges and equity dictate to do so.

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Poker by the Book: Polished Poker Volume I

For example, if you have a slight equity advantage with middle pair on the turn against an opponent's hand range that will be mostly draws, and you check instead of bet, then you are not achieving your goal. If you get to the When you are surer what the river and have almost no showdown value versus your correct decision is in a situation, opponents hand range, then you need to look to bet or then you won't lapse into your default psychology decisionraise in situations that make sense for a hand you can making process. reasonably represent. Looking at each situation from a more mathematical perspective and focusing on the goal at hand with each decision will make becoming more aggressive a lot easier to incorporate. You're betting or raising because it's the absolute best decision given the situation. Until this becomes nearly crystal clear, your natural lack of aggression and more passive personality will take reign in the decision-making process instead of the more mathematical / rational side. And if you don't think you excel at math, hyper focusing on hand ranges and working on equity using an equity calculator will improve this area for you over time. It will take work, but if your goal is to make the best decision possible in each situation, this is the area that will most improve the problem of not being aggressive enough. When you are unsure which play is the correct play in a given situation, you'll lapse to your default psychology, which if it's too passive you're going to check too often. And as we said earlier, it's better to default to being too aggressive then too passive in poker. Naturally aggressive people tend to do better initially at poker than naturally passive people, as long as they don't go too over board. However, once you have the proper understanding, and know which decision is the correct decision, you won't lapse into your default psychology.

Aggression (too aggro)


There are worse things in poker than being too aggressive. As said early in this chapter, if you're unsure what to do, it's generally better to bet than to check. That being said, being too aggressive can become a serious problem, especially if you're playing opponents that know how to properly exploit it. If it's part of your game plan to be hyper aggressive in order to make your opponents react, and you feel you can properly anticipate and read their reactions, then you'll likely have an adequate poker strategy to work from. However, if you're commonly in situations where you aren't sure how to react to your opponents, and you're making lots of desperate bluffing attempts that are being picked up, then you're going to want to work on bringing down your aggression.

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Poker by the Book: Polished Poker Volume I

Your goal should be to find that "sweet spot" in your aggression if you're in too many situations where you're unsure what to do once you take an aggressive action. Finding more balance in your game will make it much more un-exploitable if done correctly. One of the primary aspects you're going to want to focus on is the psychological control / understanding area of your game. Asking yourself a few questions so that you can gain more insight into why your game is so aggressive can help you achieve more balance. 1. Do you get a "rush" from making aggressive moves at the poker table? 2. Do you get an elevated since of self from being perceived as "table captain"? 3. Do you enjoy watching others agonize over their decisions? The bottom line with all of the answers to these questions is, is it your primary goal to achieve this high at the poker table by your aggressive play, or are you looking to win money? If your goal is to win the most money possible, then you'll have to look for other areas of your life to achieve this same high, or look to balance your emotional state in several aspects of your own personal life. This is of course much easier said than done, but this is a key starting place for understanding and examining your motivations for playing the game of poker.

Rational Deduction / Logic


Since poker is a game of incomplete information, using our reasoning abilities to come to the most logical conclusions about our opponents hand range and intentions takes a lot of practice to refine. This is typically an aspect of poker that eludes most players, or they make some progress in this area, but never completely get "over the hump" and put it all together. There are generally several reasons for this, and I'll list out a couple of them: 1. People can tend to be lazy, and don't want to put the necessary work in to really have a complete understanding of this aspect of their game. 2. Some success is made in this area, but then people are psychologically blocked from achieving a fuller understanding. 3. There's no definitive goal or learning plan created. Since there's no one to keep you on task or create learning plans, people tend to take a scattered "shot gun" approach to learning, and never fully learn. 4. People can be intimidated by the math aspect of poker, and block themselves psychologically from learning.

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Poker by the Book: Polished Poker Volume I

5. Ego, and the need to be correct, can prevent people from considering different reasoning and approaches to how people think about poker, and thus limit hand range reasoning. A lot of the above reasons are going to relate to each other. Being lazy (Point #1 from above), and not having enough drive to complete a goal (which in this case would be to become good at poker), is usually an indication of a block (Point #2 from above), but not always. Point #4, can also be a psychological block similar to Point #2. The bottom line is that if you know what you need to do to get better at something, but you're not doing it, then you have a psychological block preventing you from moving closer to your goal (more on this later). If you don't feel you are currently blocked, but need to learn more about how to reason through situations so that you can improve your hand range estimates and decision making, then you need to formulate a learning plan first. Here's my suggested learning plan for improving this aspect of your game: 1. Get a poker equity calculator. There are several free ones on the market. You will need one that can weight hand ranges, and is easy to use. I recommend using Ace Poker Drills Calculator, for many reasons, but it also comes with a free odds and outs trainer if you need to improve that area of your game as well. You can download it from here: ACE POKER DRILLS WEBSITE 2. After every session you play, review all of your biggest winning and losing pots. Replay them and especially pay attention to hands that go to showdown so you can see how people at your stakes are playing certain hands/situations. Mark any hands that you have questions about. Most poker tracking databases have an easy way to mark (usually by right clicking) a hand and saving it for later quick review. If you are playing live, make sure to write down or make any mental notes about hands you saw so you can review them and think about them later. 3. While reviewing your latest session, go back to some very old sessions you've played and filter for any hands that have gone to showdown. Re-play as many hands as you can for the day, and hide your opponents hole cards. Grab a piece of paper and pen, or open up a notepad type application. On each street that is played, make a rough guesstimate for what you think your opponents equity is against your hand and write it down. On the river, make a guess at what you think your opponents top 3 hands are. Open up your equity calculator and put in your hand and the board and enter in what you think your opponents hand range is. Note what the calculator shows is the actual equity versus what your written guesstimate was. Do this for each street, and on the river reveal your opponents actual hand and see how close you were to the three hands you listed for your opponent.

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Poker by the Book: Polished Poker Volume I

4. Take any hands you have questions about, and post them for review by other poker players on your favorite poker forum(s). Make sure to add any notes and reads you have on players, and your own thought process. Remember, it's ok to be wrong, this is how you learn. If you don't like posting on forums, call up some of your poker buddies, or talk to them on chat applications and ask their opinions. Get your mind engaged in these poker situations and make sure to pay attention to how your friends and others think about poker. This is critical in gaining insight into how other personalities reason through situations. It's invaluable information. How you think about poker and situations will not be the same as someone else, and learning to reason through someone else's poker lens is a key part of becoming really successful at poker. 5. Answer questions by other poker players about hands they've played on your favorite poker forum(s), and/or ask your friends about tough poker situations they've been in recently. Give as many reasons as you can about why you think one decision or play is better than another. Don't just say, "Hey, you should raise!", and definitely don't say, "What the hell are you thinking, donk?!? That's an easy fold!" That approach is not conducive to learning and it won't win you any poker friends. 6. If there's an area of the math part of poker that you know you struggle with, find material in the form of books, articles, and/or videos that will help you understand this aspect better. If you are unsure where to find such material, go on a poker forum and ask. If there are several areas that you know you struggle in on the math side, pick on topic a week or every two weeks, month, whatever time frame is realistic for your schedule, and commit yourself to learning about it. Do it one area at a time. 7. Repeat steps 25 for your entire poker career. Never stop reviewing and analyzing. Approaching poker in this manner and providing an outline for a lesson plan will help you stay on task and reach small attainable goals consistently. Understanding hand ranges, equity, math, and why opponents take particular lines will take some time to master. However, if you don't have a plan set with goals, they will never be mastered unless you're able to read minds or see through the backs of cards. Parts of point #4 bear repeating because it's an important point. Learning to reason about opponent lines and hand ranges has very little to do with how you would play a particular situation, and everything to do with how that particular person thinks and reasons through a situation. I mention this again because I can't tell you how many times in my poker career I've heard good winning players say something to the effect of, "I can't believe he'd play his hand this way, he lost so much value against my perceived range," or "He can't possibly have this or that hand, I'd never play those in that spot." Yes, we agree you never would, or it may not even be the best way to play a situation, but it's irrelevant. It's all about how our opponents are reasoning, and you become better at that by understanding personalities and the psychology involved in poker.

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Poker by the Book: Polished Poker Volume I

Psychological Control / Understanding


You can be one of the absolute best poker players in the world, and have an unbelievable grasp of the aggression and the rational deduction aspects of the game, and still end up broke if you don't have a good understanding of your own psyche. This is the one area where many people fool themselves into believing they can have chaotic and unbalanced lives, and somehow still be successful at poker. Generally speaking, if you aren't very successful in "life" you're not going to be very successful at poker. There are reasons why you're not being very successful in your personal life, and those very same reasons will carry over at the poker table at one point or another. That doesn't mean that if you're young, for example, and haven't had much success in other areas of life for lack of life experience, that you can't have your first major successes at the poker table. It does mean that if you don't have adequate schooling behind you, and other skills you can also be successful at, being successful at poker will be much more difficult to achieve. Nothing is impossible though if you want it badly enough. There are several sub areas in this aspect of poker that we should explore and expand upon. They include tilt and its many sub variants, selfawareness, and perceptiveness. The ability to understand, and, in most cases, control these aspects of ourselves leads to greater success in life and at the poker table. Let's take a look at each of these subcategories.

Tilt
I'm sure you've heard a lot of people talk about not letting the past affect your future decisions, but realistically, this is going to happen quite a bit. You take a bad beat, get frustrated, and then get involved in the very next pot, when you should have been "instamucking" your hand to begin with.

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Some of us are much better about controlling our emotions and ego at the table, but most of us, no matter how good we are at this, could make dramatic improvements in learning how to re-center ourselves, and be FULLY in the moment. The reality is, the day's events, the current bad beat you took, the horrible fight you had with your partner, the cat you ran over on the way to the casino, are all going to affect every decision you make at the table. And, as you should fully understand, playing your most profitable poker has to do with making the BEST decision possible as consistently as possible over a long period of time. So, consequently, your current state of mind when you sit down at the table is a crucial factor in determining how successful you can really be at poker. This is poker at an even higher level; this is the game you'll be playing against yourself your entire life. It should make a lot of sense then that not only do you have to learn how to play against an array of different personality types on the felt, but you have to learn how to play against your ego, while balancing your emotional state. There are really two important concepts to getting yourself in an ideal state where you can be fully present in the moment: 1. Determining your current state of mind, and how recent past events may be affecting you, and 2. Letting go of all of those past events, and focusing in with laser-like precision at only the current decision at hand. I recommend that you create a personal "ritual" for yourself before you decide to play a game of poker. You don't have to light candles, burn incense, and chant to the holy mother cow. It's just a matter of creating a repetitive set of actions that will prepare your mind to let go of the past, and focus on the current task at hand. It can be as simple as saying one sentence to yourself, such as, "I'm ready to play poker, so I'm going to let everything else go, center myself, and focus my mind to play the best poker I can play." Something that simple can make a HUGE difference in every session you play. If you've noticed one thing about professional sports, you should be able to notice who the truly great players are in any individual sport. They are deemed great, not only because they perform extremely well, but also because they can do this very consistently. A lot of professional athletes talk about "being in the bubble," where there's no crowd, no winning, no losing, but instead just the pure action they are doing. Meaning there is no weight put into whether they score a goal, make that basket, or catch that improbable throw for a touchdown. It's "merely" the action and only the action. This is the second part of being in the moment. If you're involved in a pot in poker, and you begin to think about winning the hand, losing the hand, losing the money that's already in the pot, then you've already begun to lose the hand. Don't worry about what you invested into the pot in the PAST, don't concern yourself with victory, focus in and analyze all of the available information, and make the best decision possible. The more consistently you can do this, the more your poker bankroll is going to grow.

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Being a good quitter (Tilt)


Poker is one of the few things you'll do where you want to proudly boast that you're one of the best quitters. You may not think of it as an important skill, but it's extremely important to have the self awareness to recognize tilt has set in, and the self control to walk away and wait for another day. If you recognize any of the following about yourself, then you should take note, and look to take a break or call it a day: 1. Feeling a bit warm or hot. They don't call it steaming for nothing, and when tilt sets in like this, you will notice a rise in your body temperature and suddenly feel much warmer. 2. You are berating someone else's "bad" play. If you need to tell someone else how badly they played a situation, your head isn't properly in the game. You want others to not play well, so there's no reason to instruct them how to play better. 3. You find yourself looking for excuses to get into a pot. Usually starts with a hand you wouldn't normally play pre-flop, and if you spot this, then take note. 4. You are folding in spots where you normally think you should be calling so that you can preserve your winnings for your current session. It's a sure sign of "winners tilt" and it's an indicator you're not going to be making the most profitable decisions anymore. 5. You are calling too much and losing in spots where it's pretty clear you should have folded. Another sign that you've lost your ability to properly reason through a situation. This usually happens when you perceive youre behind for a session and need to win back some of your "lost" money. The first step in getting a grip on tilt is recognizing it. If you don't have the self awareness to know you're starting to tilt or are in full blown tilt, then you're not going to be able to quit and end it. The second step is setting up some kind of talking down process for yourself. Using something to the effect of reminding yourself that you are here to play your A game, and be the best poker player you can be. Talking to yourself and reminding yourself of this goal can help you take a step back and become a little more objective. Use any strategy that you can employ that will help take you out of your current emotional state. Some strategies you can use to pull yourself out of a tilting emotional state: 1. Remind yourself that your goal is to play your A game. 2. Have a chip or some kind of card holder that has a saying that can remind you to get into your best state of mind possible.

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3. Sit out, take a bathroom break, and cool A. Meditation yourself down. If you have any doubt about B. Journaling C. Counseling your emotional state, don't return to the game. D. Analyzing Life Cycles 4. Remind yourself that poker is a lifelong E. Listen to Friends & Families game, one session or evening isn't going to Opinions about Yourself determine any particular outcome. F. Read Spiritual Texts 5. Write a favorite quote or saying that will bring you to a good state on a sticky note and keep it on your monitor, your hand, or a piece of paper you can pull out and read. 6. Have a picture of your wife/girlfriend and/or children to remind you that you also want to play for them. It will likely take some practice, but try a few different strategies until you find something that works best for you that you can go to when you need to. If you try one thing and it doesn't work, try another. If you can't get yourself to properly quit, then you may want to speak to a psychologist, or someone who specializes in gambling related psychology. Whatever you do though, don't ignore it and pretend like it will eventually get better, because it most likely won't. Be proactive and seek some solutions.

Self Awareness
There's nearly nothing more valuable in life, and at the poker table, as self awareness. A serious lack of self awareness is debilitating to one's goals for several reasons. First, you'll be blind as to how and why you function the way you do which will prevent you from making the best possible choices. Secondly, you'll have much more difficulty understanding someone's motivations, desires, and choices. The more self aware you are, the more insight you'll have into not only these areas for yourself, but also how and why others are functioning the way they are. This is a huge bonus when you're deciding how to play the turn against an aggressive gambling opponent with second pair. Self awareness is a lifelong pursuit. It's obviously not going to be something where you'll have instant ah-ha moments, and suddenly understand yourself and others. Even if you have many enlightenment experiences, which are generally suddenly flashes of insight, you'll need to take those insights and really test them and understand them in order to fully integrate them into your life, and at the poker table. Taking some time each week to reflect upon your actions, and be honest with yourself about areas you need to improve will make you a better poker player, and a better person. Some of

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the best and most recommended ways to improve in this area are, but aren't limited to, as follows: The biggest obstacle to self awareness is ego, as people usually call it. I personally like to call it my "projected construct." It's the part of me that I constructed over many years of life lessons, what people told me I was or was not, and the views and opinions I chose to adopt about the world and how I got here. It's a complete mental construct that we use to interface with the world, and connect with others. And not to get too deep, because this is, after all, a poker book, it's ultimately not who we really are. It serves a purpose, and can be a great asset, but can also be a great hindrance. You ultimately make the choice in how you use it to obtain the dreams and desires you have from this life. The self awareness trick is that you learn how to use it to its fullest, and don't allow the bigger part of yourself to be used by it. There are no instant answers in this area, but putting some time into this aspect of your life will pay big dividends long term. It may take a decent amount of initial time investment, but if you do it early enough in life, you'll reap many years of rewards from it. That being said, it's never too late to reflect, and learn about yourself.

Perceptiveness
Perceptiveness goes somewhat hand in hand with self awareness. Generally the more self aware you are, the more perceptive you'll be because you'll have a greater understanding of human psychology and motivations. That's not always the case though, and I've personally seen some very self unaware people who were pretty perceptive. When you have well developed perceptiveness, you'll be able to more accurately predict how others are going to act, or react to your actions at the poker table. The ability to read, react to, and anticipate your opponents actions is a huge skill to have in poker. You want to be able to know that when you raise the flop with a bluff for the second time, how you expect your opponent to react against your play. Being perceptive enough to read into their thought process will allow you to force other players into poor decisions and make big mistakes. When you have well developed perceptiveness, you'll be able to see things that others around you commonly cannot. If you couple this with self-awareness, you'll have the proper insight to know how to act on what you're seeing. If you commonly have the feeling that other good poker players at the table are making plays that you don't quite understand,

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then you'll probably want to put some work into this area. A few things you can do to help improve your perceptiveness: 1. Pay attention. It's easy in today's society to find a million ways to distract yourself. Everything from iPods to cell phones and TV's will be an easy out to keep you from paying attention to what's happening at the table. 2. Watch what others are doing, and always make an effort to figure out why they are functioning the way they are. Keeping your mind thinking about reasons behind actions will help you recognize when similar situations arise in the future. 3. Work on reading body language. Not a ton of work has been done in this area for poker, but there are a few books on the subject. In general though, if you pay attention and put A + B above together, you'll learn to form your own conclusions about body language and how it relates to tells at the poker table. 4. Work on increasing your memory. Since you'll be paying attention more, and forming more conclusions about your experience, you're going to want a good memory bank to pull from and access that information. 5. Learn to trust your intuition and what how your body reacts to situations it encounters. This is sometimes called "trusting your gut." There's some truth in the expression since your stomach or heart tend to be organs that you can sense and feel more readily when you're reading a situation and using your intuition to influence your decision-making process. Keeping your attention at the tables by making good notes will lead to good reads and increase your perceptiveness against your opponents. Learning to blend and use your rational mind to understand hand ranges and math, and trusting your intuition, will become a deadly combination.

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Chapter 3: Get it Together

irst thing you need to do if you're going to play poker on any serious level is get your bankroll, software (if you're going to play online), and preparation together. You won't have the level of success you desire if you aren't prepared in these areas. There are countless semi-professional and professional poker players that have extremely poor money management skills, and very poor preparation. If you want to improve and move up the poker food chain you'll need to take these areas of the game seriously, and put work into them if you don't already excel at them.

Bankroll Management
There are some generally accepted rules on bankroll management for cash games. Typically 30 buy-ins for the limit you're playing is a good enough cushion to absorb any negative variance. Really though, if you haven't beaten a particular stake level ever before, and you drop around 15 buy-ins, you should be moving down until you can win. Running bad is going to happen to everyone multiple times throughout their poker careers. However, let's have a moment of honesty. If you knew what you were doing, and were skilled enough, you could absorb most negative variance by making the best play in many other situations. This holds especially true the lower the stakes you are playing. The higher the stakes you're playing, the less this will hold true because the average potential skill gap between you and your opponent will be less. At micro and small stakes though, the average potential skill gap can be gigantic. Don't fool yourself into thinking you're just on a bad run. Take an honest look at your game, and move down stakes if you need to. There's no shame in moving down, regaining your confidence, improving your game, and then moving back up. It's worse to continue to lose and blame it on bad luck.
STAKE LEVEL Micro Stakes Small Stakes Mid Stakes High Stakes No. Buy-ins 25 30 3040 40+

The general guideline for bankroll management may not apply to you. If you've beaten a certain stake level over a decent sample size, then you may not need as many as 30 buy-ins. You can possibly get away with 20 or less buy-ins depending on what stake amounts you're going to play. The higher the stakes, the more buy-ins you're going to want.

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So a quick example is if you're going to play 100NL online, then it's suggested for a $1 big blind game that you have at least $3k in your poker bankroll. If you haven't beaten a particular game in a couple of years, don't expect to just jump back in and beat it at the same level. You'll want to have some extra buy-ins, or possibly start a little lower than the previous limits you felt you could beat. In general the games tend to get tougher over time, and strategies and the amount of available knowledge change and increase. When you decide to cash out and spend some of your poker winnings, make sure you leave enough buy-ins left for the stakes you want to play. There's nothing worse than cashing out, not leaving yourself adequate buy-in cushions, and then going on a losing streak. If you're worried about the money, you're not going to make good decisions. So make sure when you cash out you have a plan for your poker bankroll. Don't leave yourself short. Sometimes life issues may occur and you'll need to pull out larger sums of your bankroll than you'd ideally like to. When situations like this occur, have a plan. Either find someone to temporarily stake you, or play at smaller stakes until you can re-build your bankroll. Always have a plan.

Poker Software
There's a lot of poker software out there now-a-days. Poker database tracking software is just one aspect of poker software. Between equity calculators, hotkey tools, training programs, poker AI, content manager, etc., there's a lot of software to check out and see what adds value to your game. If you're going to play online though, you'll without question want a database program at the very minimum. Three of the top poker database applications are Holdem Manager, Poker Tracker, and Poker Office. There are also some newer free ones that are available if you google around. All of them have free trials, so I'd advise giving them each a try and seeing which one makes more sense for you. If you're playing online though, Holdem Manager 2 is the leader in the poker database industry. and not using one that can support a HUD (heads up display w/ poker stats), then you'll be a big disadvantage. Most of the regulars you're playing against are going to have one.

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Poker databases are an online necessity for several reasons. Being able to track your results, review your play, and analyze your stats are a great way to grow as a poker player. Also being able to analyze your opponents play and make notes away from the game are a huge advantage when you play against them again. A short list of some of the poker software you should check out or own: 1. Poker database program. I'd recommend Holdem Manager, but try them all. 2. Equity calculator. Mentioned in Chapter 2. There are many free ones out there. We'd recommend Ace Poker Drills since it's free. 3. Poker database analysis program. It will make analyzing your stats and information much easier. Leak Buster has a free trial to check out. 4. Hotkey program. It will make multi-tabling much easier with pre-defined bet sizing and time banking. 5. Poker training applications. If you want to brush up on drills and things to improve then there are several applications out there like the Equity Trainer in Ace Poker Drills, and Ace Poker Coach. 6. Tilt management application. Applications that will close down your client if you lose X amount of buy-ins. Handy if you want that extra protection and have difficulty quitting games. There are a ton out there, so check out as many as you can. Anytime something can make you just a slight bit better, say .2bb/100 to your winrate, it will pay itself off and more over the years.

Preparation and Diet


Before you even sit down at a poker table or virtual felt, you want to make sure you're mentally and psychically prepared to be your best. Making sure you are in a good mental state, and you've prepared yourself mentally for playing your A game is a must. You might think it would be something obvious to state, but if you've had a recent fight with your girlfriend/boyfriend, or some other major life issue, it's probably not the best idea to sit down and play. Everyone handles things differently, and there might be the occasional person that benefits from "getting away" from the life drama, and can play ok under those conditions. However, they would tend to be the exception and not the rule. Once you have yourself in a good mental state, make sure to have adequate supplies around you including water, snacks, de-stressor tools, money, and a meal/break plan if you're at the casino. You don't want to miss an important hand because you're dying of thirst and could have easily solved it by having an adequate amount of water at your disposal.

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Diet
As a poker player you're going to be in a lot of conditions where food and dietary options are pretty poor. I've been in very few casinos that have good food options, but there are some around. The vast majority of food option will be starchy, saturated fats that are heavily processed. Those are not the kinds of food that are going to keep your brain at its peak and your body in the best condition, but a lot of them do taste good! We all eat these foods from time to time, but finding a way to mix in healthier fruits, vegetables, and complex carbohydrates will keep you functioning at your best. As poker players, we want foods that will translate into a lot of energy, focused and sustained energy, and are good memory boosters. When I know I'm in for a long session, especially at casinos for high stakes tournaments that I'll be playing in all day for several days in a row, I pack a couple of small containers of fruits, nuts, and vegetables. It makes a noticeable difference, especially at the end of the day when others are clearly growing tired, and I'm still focused and alert. Here's a short list of some great foods that taste good and are fairly easy to keep close by:
FRUITS Melons Bananas Apples Oranges Blueberries Strawberries Raspberries Olives VEGGIES / NUTS Edamame Peanuts Pecans Broccoli Carrots PRIMARY BENEFIT Help sustain energy by hydrating your body and fighting fatigue Packed with carbohydrates and are a great and easy energy booster Great source of B and C vitamins and are slow energy releasers Tons of minerals, phosphorus, and a high overall energy source High in vitamin E, fiber, and antioxidants. Great memory booster. Another high antioxidant, good for memory, concentration and vision High antioxidant, lowers blood sugar, and anti-inflammatory High in vitamin E and great brain booster PRIMARY BENEFIT Great mix of complex carbs, fiber, protein and healthy fat to keep you sharp High in folate, healthy fats, and vitamin E. Great brain booster. Loaded with beta sitosterol, good for prostrate health and sustained energy High in complex B vitamins, great for sustained energy and concentration High in B vitamins that metabolize slower for sustained energy

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A balanced diet is your overall best bet to have sustained energy, great focus, a sharp memory and active mind. Realistically we're not all eating a perfecting balanced diet all the time, so some of the above fruits, nuts and vegetables are easy ways to give an extra boost while you're playing. There are tons more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and foods in general which are great for energy and memory. The table above lists some easy examples that travel well and are easy to grab on the go. It may seem a bit trite, but making sure you keep yourself energized and focused while you're playing will give you an extra edge against players who are eating heavier and more processed foods. Find a few snacks from the table above, or do some research on foods you like that can help you with long poker sessions.

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Chapter 4: Glorious Poker Math

here are several important math concepts to understand in poker. I'm going to discuss some of the more applicable and math concepts I've noticed misunderstood by a lot of players. You may already be familiar with most of these terms, but hopefully this simplifies it in an easily digestible format. My goal is that you can walk away from this chapter and fully understand these concepts. Even if you had some idea and understanding of them before, they should be super clear after you read this chapter.

Combinations
Counting card combinations at the table in most situations will be nearly impossible. However, knowing and understanding about how many combinations of hands exists for specific hands that you beat, and have you beat will help in the decision-making process. In real time you will rarely be exact with this count, but you can get close, and in post analysis it's helpful to know in analyzing and Example No. Combos reflecting on your play.
Unpaired Hand AK 16

Total possible hand combinations for Paired Hand AA 6 any two card hand are multipliers of the cards TPTK on Q high Flop AQ 12 left in the deck. So pre-flop, there are 16 total Set on Flop 55 3 combinations of AK. Four suites of aces, and Two Pair on Flop KJo 9 four suites of kings, or 4 x 4 = 16. Anytime you remove a card from the deck, you remove one possible combination of that particular hand being possible. If you saw a flop of Qs9d4h, and you wanted to know how many combinations of AQo someone could have, then we remove the Qs from counting. We'd come up with 4 suites of aces times 3 remaining suites of queens, or 4 x 3 = 12. Most really good combinational analysis will come post analysis after playing the hand. However, there are some situations where knowing common possible combinations that beat you can be helpful in decision making. If you have AdTc on a flop of AsQdTh, you'll know that there are only 5 combinations of sets, 16 combinations of a flopped straight, and 9 combinations of a higher two pair that beat you for a total of 30 combinations. There are only 9 combinations of worse two pairs that you beat, and 4 that you split with. So if you bet and are raised on the flop, you can fold in most situations. Although we'd discount some of the hand ranges such as a flopped straight that might look to just call, there are still a lot of hands that have you beat, even if you add a good amount of air hands to your opponents range.

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Another helpful aspect of understanding combinations is applied to pre-flop hand ranges. If you're facing a tight pre-flop 3-bettor, say someone who 3-bets only slightly over 2% of their hand range, we'd safely say they are 3-betting KK+, AKs, and AKo only. If we took those four hands, it might seem as if they are 3-betting each about 25% of the time. However, if we look at the total combinations of hands, they are actually 3-betting KK+ about 43% of the time (6 combinations twice for a total of 12), and AKo, AKs the remaining 57% of the time (12 offsuit combinations plus 4 suited combinations for a total of 16). Most of the time they're going to have AK instead of AA or KK.

Probability
Probability is the estimate that something will become true or occur. It doesn't however ensure that an event or outcome will happen though. Since each event is not related to the prior event, probability theory states that there is X% occurrence for Y to happen, but it cannot say that Y will ever happen if there's even a slight chance that it won't. This sometimes confuses gamblers when probability is applied to expected value (more on this later). If you're running bad in poker, you are not guaranteed that you will not run bad for very long extended time periods. This is what tends to lead many poker players, and gamblers in general, to ruin or go bust. They begin to believe they are "due" to win because their luck has been so bad, but this is not the case. If the probability of Y event happening is consistently in your favor, then the odds of Y event will increase, but it also could never happen. There are a few popular probability theories, and one that is used quite often in poker is Bayesian probability. The reason it's commonly used and applied is because Bayesian probability theory takes into account prior information to help predict future outcomes. This is highly applicable to poker situations since many situations we'll have information about our opponents, their tendencies, and in some case HUD stats which will help create a better probability that your opponent has Y hand given this prior information. Using Bayesian probability in situations like this allows for a more accurate prediction of the probability of many situations in poker.

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Equity
Equity is the percentage of the pot that belongs to you based on the percentage of the time you'll win the pot over many large samples. This is not the same as expected value, although the two are sometimes interchanged in poker conversations often. Equity is purely the percentage of the time you'll win, lose or split the pot. For example, if you saw a flop of: QcTd6h which had $100 already in the pot, and you held AsKh and your opponent had KK, and then went all-in and you called, you'd have ~28% equity in the pot. ~28% of the time on average you could expect to win this pot. Whether this was a good play to call or not would depend on our equity, in conjunction with our expected value.

Expected Value (EV)


Expected value is the average money won or lost based on your equity and odds of the call or raise you are making. Using the above example, if our opponent bet $60 on the flop, and we called, we'd use the current equity we have in the pot to determine our expected value. In this case 28% of the time we win $160, and 72% of the time we lose $60. (160(.28)) - (60(.72)) = +1.6 So calling the all-in on the flop will net a positive expected value of $1.6 on average. Our equity is low in this situation, so a majority of the time we will lose, but based on the money in the pot, and our opponents bet, the expected value net is positive.

Fold Equity
Fold equity is the equity gained in your hand if you bet or raise and get your opponent to fold. It's an estimation of how often you believe your opponent will fold multiplied by your opponents current equity. So if you opponent has 75% equity in their hand, but you estimate that if you bet, you can get your opponent to fold 50% of the time, then your fold equity would be:

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75% x 50% = 37.5% So your new hand equity if you bet in this situation would be 25% (your hand equity if you both saw all five cards) + 37.5% = 62.5%. You've increased the equity in your hand from 25% to 62.5%, just by betting. This is why aggression pays off so often in poker because every time you bet, you give your opponent the chance to completely forfeit their equity in the hand. Opponents are rarely drawing completely dead, so when you can get them to fold when they have an equity advantage, it's a huge +EV situation for you.

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Chapter 5: Metta World Peace

utting pressure on your opponents is a great way to force them into making mistakes, and hopefully, big mistakes. When you're making an aggressive action at the table, you want to have an understanding of how you think your opponents are going to react to your actions. Some opponents will continue to step out of your way no matter how much pressure you apply, and some opponents will over react after one or two aggressive actions. It's important to understand who these players are, and the plan of attack you have for table you're currently seated at. There are really three main styles of play in no-limit holdem, and variations of those in between. You can play a more passive style, and trap your opponents, reacting to how they play the game. You can play a more aggressive style, and attempt to force your opponents to react to you with the hopes they will react incorrectly and make a big mistake. Finally, you can play a more balanced approach where you strive to be aggressive in the most ideal spots, trap in some situations, and overall are aggressive, but not to the extent where your opponents are forced to react to your play. There are variations of these three styles, but the main points are clear. Are you looking to play a more balanced game, a trapping game, or a very aggressive game? It's generally best to find a game strategy that fits your psychology the best, and become really good at it. That doesn't mean you can't at some point learn all three approaches, but it's good to have a go-to mode that you feel you'll excel at the most. Then as you learn the other approaches, you adapt and play those styles based on how the tables and your opponents are playing. In Chapter 2, if you scored really low in the aggression part of your game, then trying to play the more aggressive game strategy is not going to be a good initial fit for you. You're much better off either figuring out a more passive and trappy game strategy, especially if you excelled at the logic / reason part of the scoring from Chapter 2, or learning to create more of a balanced strategy. If you scored really low in the psychological parts, and struggle with tilt, then a more aggressive game plan might initially come more natural for you, but it won't be an ideal because you'd have a tendency to "spew" chips away with over the top aggressive play and tilt.

Tension Count
If you're struggling to understand the proper amount of aggressive action to take at the table before your opponents are likely to react and attempt to adapt to your play, then

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you can keep a mental note of the Tension Count at the table. The tension count is the ratio of aggressive action to rounds of poker played. The more aggressive you are within a round, the higher the tension count becomes. Conversely, the less aggressive you are, the lower the tension count becomes. The purpose of the tension count is to try and find that ideal balance so you are being aggressive enough and adapting your play to the circumstances appropriately. It's easy to say that if you become more aggressive, then of course your opponents are going to eventually react and adapt. But knowing about how far you can push each of them is a bit of an art. If you feel you already have a good handle on this, then you're probably already aware of how tension is built and released at the table and you can skip over this section. If however it's still a bit of anomaly for you, and you'd like to become better at knowing how to take advantage of tension counts at the table, then forge ahead. Tension counts range from -6 to +6 on average. When playing a full ring cash game, your tension count is going to start at 0. When playing a 6-max game, it's going to start at +1. Other games, such as 4-handed and heads up, depend a lot on flow and other dynamics; if you aren't aware of how tension effects your opponents, then those games aren't generally recommended to play in. The tension count is somewhat like training wheels and will give you an idea of how to adjust your play until it becomes more natural for you.
Action Every Raise (pre-flop and post) Pre-Flop 3-Bet Double Barrel Triple Barrel Probable River Bluff Possible Float TC +1 +1 +1 +2 +1 +1 Action Every Round Completed Raise Pre-flop, but no C-Bet Fold to a C-Bet Open Fold in small blind Open Fold on Button Fold to Double Barrel TC -1 -1 -1 -.5 -.5 -1

Every action you take at the table you add or subtract from the tension count. If you're online and you're playing multiple tables, it's going to be a bit hard to track of course. So one to two tables is recommended when first trying to learn and understand this concept. Once you've done it a bit, and see how it works, then you can take the training wheels off and drop the tension count.
TC +4 +5 +6 Strategies when you have a good hand Bet on your slightly larger post flop bet sizing Increase open raising size, and post flop bet sizing Increase even larger, sometimes look to over bet post flop

As the tension count becomes high, your opponents are more susceptible to "looking you up" and paying you off. So you want to make sure you're getting the most with your big hands.

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So for example, you raised before the flop in a 6-max cash game with AcQc and got one caller on the button (relative stack sizes 100 BBs). Your tension count is now at +5 at the table. You flop the nuts, and you should bet on the largest side of your bet sizing scale. Somewhere between near pot size and a pot sized bet. Either your opponent is going to have a hand in this spot, or they aren't, and the size of the bet won't impact them as much since they will be more susceptible to calling you down lighter than normal. When playing online, a lot of your opponents will be playing multiple tables on average. However, some won't and some will be able to keep track of how aggressive players are becoming, and most of them multi-tabling will at least have HUDs. Since you don't know how well your opponents are paying attention when playing online, assume that they are when you do have a big hand and you've been aggressive. If you've played super tight, don't expect them to let you bluff because they should have noticed you've played really tight. That doesn't mean you shouldn't bluff, but don't make a big move and then be surprised when you're bluff is snapped off. When the tension count does become really negative, then look to make a few more moves, but again, don't overdo it and don't force it. The tension count is just a guide and doesn't mean you have to make a move.
TC -3 -4 -5 Strategies when you don't have a hand You can look to squeeze a little more pre-flop Double barrel in slimmer spots Look to bluff or make bigger moves

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You can make some general assumptions that, if you haven't done much in a long period at a poker table, most players will have taken some kind of note or their HUDs will reflect this. In those situations when the tension count becomes really highly negative, then against other non-station type players, you can look to make a decent size bluff, or even something as simple as a pre-flop squeeze in a spot that might be normally deemed more marginal to make a play on. When the tension count becomes really high on the positive side, and you don't have a hand, this is generally the time to slow down unless you have some kind of specific read on an opponent. These are the more likely times that you will be looked up lighter, so you want to minimize the damage in these spots and make smaller sized bluffs in situations where your opponent may have very little or nothing, or have a decent hand. If they have a decent hand, something you may be able to normally push them off of, you won't be able to get them to fold at the same frequency, so sizing your bluffs smaller to move them off the really low end of their range, or not bluffing at all, is best.

Reads and Notes

One of the biggest advantages of playing online for the good poker player is the amount of data and notes you can take on an opponent seemingly instantly. Most sites offer an area where you can click on an opponent's name and type in some notes about that player. If the site you play on allows HUDs, then it's usually best to add your notes to the HUD note section. Its not quite as easy to do in live play, and when you do this in live play people know that you are aware of that hand and how it was played. In online play, no one knows if youre watching TV or intently watching every hand and making pages of notes. Its best to view taking notes on your opponents as the work aspect of playing profitable poker. While its possible to play profitable poker without taking notes, it will inevitably be more profitable to take as many notes as possible for the following reasons: 1. When a similar situation or hand arises, youll have more information available that can help you make the best decision possible. 2. It will help you in getting an overall read on how your opponent is playing. 3. Even if you never play against that particular opponent again, it will help you in understanding how to play against a similar player in the future. Were going to begin by outlining some of the general things you should look for while playing poker. Each type of play will have an abbreviation that you can use which

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will help if you are multi-tabling and only have a couple of seconds to jot in a note. You can expand these and/or type in the entire meaning of the play when you actually make your own notes during play.

List of Abbreviations (Brief Overview)


ATC (Play any two cards) Whenever a hand goes to showdown its always good to note what hands your opponent was playing and from which position. This always provides a lot of insight into how they think about the game. When you see someone play 95o from middle position, you can label them as ATC. The more you see this from them, the more solid your read will be. FC (Flush Chaser) A lot of opponents love to chase flushes. When you see someone calling large flop and turn bets with an obvious flush draw, but they fold to a small river bet, you can be pretty sure they were chasing their flush. Also if you see an opponent calling large bets and then connecting with his flush, youll want to note this. Its also important to note whether they CHECKED their flush on the end or bet it. SOOT (Likes to play any two suited cards) This is similar to FC except there are some players who also like to play any two suited cards from nearly anywhere. Youll see opponents play K4s from early position, or J6s from middle position, you can be pretty sure theyre a suited player. This is good to know if theres a flush draw on board and you have a marginal hand, but theyre still calling large bets. Its also good to note if they call raises with these hands too. Some people will call large raises with Q8s thinking that they will bust you if they hit their flush. We love to play against these types of opponents. AK (Will bet turn unimproved) Nearly all people will bet the flop with any two cards if they raised before the flop. Not everyone however will bet the turn unimproved. This is very good to know if youre holding a marginal hand and your opponent is still firing. This read will be a bit harder to make because you definitely need to see a few showdowns to confirm this for sure. CRW (Calls raises with weak hands) This opponent will call large raises, for example, with QT out of position, or perhaps even a re-raise with KJ or some other dominated hands. They could also call a large raise with A4o or even a more speculative hand like J8o. LAF (Will lead into pre-flop raiserand fold to a raise) Some opponents will call raises out of position with the intention of betting the flop to steal the pot. Some opponents will do this with small pocket pairs, and some will do it with air. If you get a chance to make the distinction between the two, it will be very helpful with your flop play. However, when you see someone do this, then youll want to make some generous raises on the flop when you dont have a hand.

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SVB (Slim value bettor) You'll see these guys often betting middle or weak top pair on scary boards for value. Really important to note bet sizing in these spots because a lot of these guys will have betting tells in these situations, such as betting marginally weak in these spots (especially at micro and small stakes). It's typically better to raise some of your bluff catchers against these guys instead of call since their bet / calling range generally isn't very good unless they are extremely good hand readers and have a good read on you as well. Ax (Will play an ace from anywhere) A lot of opponents fall in love with the ace. If you see someone playing A3 from early position or A8 to a raise, or a hand like A9 out of position to a raise, then you have an Ax player. This just adds more insight for you as to how your opponent understand the game and you can also get away from your pocket kings if this opponent is sticking around on an ace high flop because theyre not folding their weak ace. NPR (Will raise a non-premium hand) Some opponents will raise a nonpremium hand from anywhere. The extreme to which they take this will let you know how loose and aggressive they are. It's a worthy note to take if they are showing up with hands like J7o from early position, Q9s from UTG, or 37s from middle position. Some opponents will just about never do this, some will occasionally, but NPRs will do it anywhere from semi-regularly to regularly. CBB (Continuation bet bad boards) Some opponents like to continuation bet no matter what. They raise before the flop, and they want to fire the flop no matter how bad the flop texture is for their hand. I like to take a note of these guys because it will help me to know spots I can float and represent a big made hand on draw heavy flop textures that most missed over cards should be check/ folding on. LA (Look-up artist) This is a very profitable opponent to play against. They will typically call nearly any flop bet you make, but will fold to further aggression. They tend to like to see how youll react after they call your first bet, but tend to fold a large percentage of the time to a second bet. Now that we have an idea of some of the things to look for, lets look at how to use this information in a real money game. Were going to take the above abbreviated notes, expand them a bit more, and show how theyll apply in actual hands.

ATC (Any Two Cards)


Players who literally play any two cards are divided into three types of players and you need to be aware of the differences between these players. The frequency at which you see these variations depends on the stakes you are playing. Typically you will only see ATC 1 & 2 at small and mid stakes.

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ATC 1 (No grasp of hand strength) The first group of players who play any two cards really has no solid grasp of hand strength, position, or why to play certain hands in some situations and not others. These players are typical also called fish because theyll put in too much money with weak hands and pay off against dominated hands. These are players you should like playing with, but you need to be aware that if you miss the flop, they may have hit it and they may also call you down with any piece of it. So you dont typically want to bluff players in this category unless you see them folding a lot to a second bet (or third). You do however want to value bet your made hands against them as they will nearly always pay off with weaker hands or dominated hands. ATC 2 (Some grasp of hand strength) Youll see a lot of these players primarily in short-handed games, but they do also show up in full ring games. These players will play any two cards, but they typically wont invest too much into the pot unless they have a good hand after the flop. Theyll commonly call raises with a hand such as K6o on the button (note this is different than CRW see above) with the intention of either bluffing you out of the pot OR nailing a big hand hoping to bust you with your large pocket pair. These players will be very visible because theyll be involved in a lot of pots, and theyll usually be fairly aggressive. If they have some grasp of hand strength, then they are getting involved in a lot of pots for a reason, and that reason is usually because they believe they can bluff you out of the pot, or bust you with their unusual T4o hand. These opponents can be more dangerous, but a lot of times they will still go too far with a top pair hand thinking youre bluffing (even though you have a better kicker then they do). You want to bet into them when you have a strong hand and hope they dont believe you and make a move in the wrong spot. Make your bets big and strong against these opponents, because they tend to not believe people betting into them. You really dont need to slowplay against these opponents. ATC 3 (Good grasp of hand strength) These opponents are almost non-existent at small stakes, you will sometimes see them at 50NL/100NL and above at 6-max. This player can legitimately be called a solid LAG (loose-aggressive) player. They play nearly any two cards because they know how to read situations well and win a lot of hands even when they have the worst hand. They can also read well when they have a good second best hand and minimize their losses. Playing this style requires excellent hand reading and making a lot of difficult decisions. For these reasons youll typically run into a lot of people that are of the latter two types of ATCs described. Some will be ATCs that have some concept of hand strength that think they are good LAG players, but really they arent. So when taking notes make sure you know what type of ATC you are facing. Make the appropriate additional note. When you are playing against an ATC 1, you know this opponent is just basically fishy (bad player). When you are against ATC 2, this player tends to be more on the aggressive side. They are usually in a lot of pots because they are impatient and are action junkies. If you happen to be unlucky enough to see an ATC 3,

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just try and stay out of pots with them unless you have a good hand or until youve developed your post flop skill to a high level.

In the above example both you and your opponent started with effective stacks of 100 BBs in a full ring cash game. Everyone folded to you in middle position and you raised 3.5x the BB with AcQc. The action folded to the button who called the raise and the blinds folded. You look at your notes and you notice that you put down that your opponent was an ATC 2. You dont have any other notes beyond that and youve only played 8 rotations with this opponent. The flop comes: 7c3dTc and you make a size pot bet with your nut flush draw and two over cards. Your opponent then mini-raises you on the flop and you call the raise. The turn comes the 6c giving you the 2nd nuts. Do you slow down? No, you should continue to bet this hand aggressively against this type of opponent. Its very likely that they may try and represent the flush by raising your bet. You dont however want to bet too aggressively in THIS particular situation. A half size pot bet will invite a possible raise which is what you want. Give your aggressive opponent a little room to hang themselves, but dont get fancy and check. Just continue to bet into these opponents.

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FC (Flush Chaser)
A lot of no-limit Texas Holdem players just love to make flushes. Theres something about looking down at J8s that looks so much better than J8o to a lot of opponents at small and mid stakes. We know however that the suited cards only out perform their off suit counterpart by 2% when going to showdown, but our opponents dont seem to mind, or more accurately, dont know that. Now lets not get confused between the FC player and the SOOT player. The FC player likes to chase his flush, but that doesnt mean that hell play any two suited cards. You may have an initial read of FC, and then later find out that the player is really more of a SOOT, but make sure that you make the distinction because it matters. Most FC players will still play reasonable cards, but theyll call large flop bets (pot size or more) with their flush draws, which isnt terrible on the flop. But they will also typically call large turn bets with their draws, which is bad. Its bad for them but good for you. When you see a person checking and calling and then check/folding the river to a bet, you can be pretty sure they were chasing and you can make a note of it (and I suggest putting a question mark next to the read meaning its not confirmed yet, but you suspect this to be the case). If you are lucky enough to get to see a showdown and their cards, then also make a note whether they chased with a flush that had likely over card outs, or they chased with just a flush draw that likely had no over cards. An example of this would be if they held 8d9d and the board on the turn read AcTd4d2h. If they are calling large bets on those kinds of boards when they only have as many as 9 outs, then you can put an exclamation on their FC note because they are a definite flush chaser.

SOOT (Likes to play any two suited cards)


Youll run into these opponents a lot at micro and small stakes, but there are some at every buy-in level. These opponents have so fallen in love with the flush that theyll play any two suited cards, and often from any position. If you happen to see someone showdown a J4s from early position, you can rest assured youve found one of these opponents. If you get involved in a hand with a SOOT, and there are flush draw possibilities, bet the hand hard. Sometimes even over betting the pot (on flop and turn) is appropriate if you have a strong hand. Dont be afraid of chasing them away, theyll continue on if they have any hope if hitting their flush. If you have a marginal hand, bet the flop and turn harder

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than normal, but always make sure not to go too crazy. Just because youre in a hand with a SOOT and theres a flush draw doesnt mean they absolutely have a draw. Make sure to always exercise caution, but look for the tell tale signs of a draw, such as your opponent checking and calling. When you have position on a SOOT with a good hand and theyve limped in front of you, make sure you isolation raise them pre-flop with a wider range of hands than normal. You want to make them pay as much as possible for trying to hit their improbable hand (you flop a flush less than .08% of the time). SOOT players are always fairly loose, so you want to maximize your advantage by getting in a nice raise before the flop. Also if youre involved in a hand with a SOOT and a flush draw comes in, dont pay it off. They wont know that you have this kind of read on them, so they likely wont be bluffing you. Again, if your opponent is checking and calling and a flush draw completes, and they suddenly bet, or check-raise, you should fold. Same thing if youre out of position and theyve been calling your bets and a flush draw completes on the river, it may be best to consider folding unless they bet a very small amount.

In the example both players start with 150 BB effective stacks, a noted SOOT limps into the pot and you pick up AdQh in the CO and raise to 5 BBs. Everyone folds back to the limper who calls the raise. The flop comes as shown: 2c9hQc. The SOOT checks to you and you bet 10 BBs. The SOOT calls and the pot is now 21.5 BBs. The turn comes the 7d. The SOOT again checks and you bet 18 BBs. The SOOT calls and the pot is now 57.5 BBs. The turn now comes the 3c and the SOOT bets 50 BBs. You should fold.

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If this were any other kind of player, you may consider calling. Since you know however that this opponent plays a lot of suited cards and he was checking and calling the entire way until the flush hit on the river, you should let it go. Its very unlikely that he's aware that you know he plays a lot of suited cards. Its also unlikely that he checked and called all the way with some weak hand like QJ or worse and now decided to just represent the flush and lead the river. When you make a read, trust it and go with it. You will save yourself money, and also make much more money in the long run.

AK (Will bet turn unimproved)


Nearly all opponents who raise before the flop will follow it up with a continuation bet on the flop. Not all opponents however will fire the second bullet with an unimproved hand. When you get a rare chance to see a showdown when someone bets the turn with an unimproved hand, you should make a note of this and most important, write down what the bet size was in proportion to the pot size. Noting that your opponent will fire multiple bullets with a non-paired hand is important, but it will be rare that youll be able to see them showdown a hand often enough to know the rate they do this. Of course if they are fire multiple bullets in nearly every pot theyre involved in, then you can be quite sure they make this play often. The more important thing that you can take away as a read within a short session against an opponent like this is how he bets his made hands versus his bluffs. Some opponents will have a very definitive pattern here. So if you get to see an AK opponent go to showdown with an unimproved hand, and then get to see them go to showdown with a made hand, you want to note the differences in how they bet these two hands. A lot of opponents (especially at micro and small stakes) are not very balanced in how they bet their bluffs versus their made hands. Note everything you see about the differences, and try and relate their betting pattern to a ratio of the pot size. For example, if you see someone bet an unimproved hand on the flop for a sized pot bet on the flop, but they bet a made hand for slightly larger or 3/4ths the pot size bet on the flop, this will likely be a pretty reliable betting tell. If you get to see it more than once, you can almost ink it, and assume it is. Most of the better players won't vary their bet sizing much or at all, as you're told in most books and by other players not to, but you will spot some that do. Youll know in this example when your opponent is betting weak, theyre weak, and when they bet strong, theyre strong. You might see the opposite of this, or any other combination of betting patterns, and different ones also on the turn. So dont only note that this opponent is an AK, but how they bet their hands as well (you should do this with

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all opponents of course, but especially true when you see opponents who are firing multiple bullets). The best thing to do is you are up against an AK player is to raise the flop if you miss, since raising the turn can get expensive. Also if you have some kind of modest holding like a small pocket pair that doesn't have much improvement equity (ability to become an even stronger hand) when behind, you're sometimes best to raise as well. This way you don't find yourself in a spot calling multiple bullets with a really marginal hand that will rarely improve. Also this will allow you to take initiative back in the hand if they do just call, and then you can check the turn or later turn your hand into a bluff with more credibility. Just because someone is an AK doesn't mean they won't have a hand sometimes. You dont want to invest too much with mid pair or an under pair to the board, unless you feel very confident in your read. If you hit the flop hard and have position its best to call their flop bet and raise the turn or call when they bet again.

CRW (Calls raises with weak hands)


Against opponents who will call raises with weak hands, you want to do your best to see how much theyll call before the flop and maximize your edge by raising as much as theyll call. Youll see some players that will call 5xBB8xBB and occasionally even more with weak hands in the hopes of catching some fluke flop and busting you. In order to make their play as unprofitable as possible, you want to raise continually when they're in a hand with you, especially if you have position. There are a lot of CRW players who will limp and call large raises with weak hands like J9o, T7o, 56o, etc. When you notice that a player is calling a lot of raises, pay particular attention to the hands they show down and note how much they called with those hands. When you have a big hand and raise, continually try an increase the size of that raise until you can find a size that will fold them out. Then do your best to stay within the range that will keep them in the hand with you. Don't just go on auto-pilot with your normal pre-flop raise sizes. This is leaving money on the table when you have fishy players that will pay off with weaker hands. Don't worry so much about giving away the strength of your hand, because you're doing this against the CRW player, and not against the regulars at your table. When there are only regulars left to act, then do your normal raise sizing. But when isolating weak CRW players, or open raising with good hands, don't be afraid to adjust your open sizing. Just make sure to keep it consistent throughout that round at the table. Don't bump your open raise size up to 7 BBs with KK against a weak player, and then isolation raise a CRW limper to 4 BBs

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with A7s. Keep the sizing consistent, and look to discourage the other regulars from getting into the pot with you. If and when they adjust you can change your sizing again. Most importantly, just make sure you are aware of this type of player and know that they will have a wide range of hands that theyll play in missed flops. That means that if you raise with AK and miss, and the flop comes something like J95, its likely that it may have hit your opponent. If they have position on you, its still ok (if its heads up) to take a stab at the pot, but shut down if youre called. On some even more draw heavy flops such as Th9d6h, you'll often want to give up and not continuation bet when out of position. Another major advantage youll have over this type of opponent is that theyll commonly go too far with top pair and sometimes middle pair hands. They tend to be somewhat on the more aggressive side generally, and also dont believe opponents have the hands theyre representing. If you hit a nice flop, you can pummel them with big bets and win a nice sized pot. Even top pair and weak kicker is good enough to get a good sized pot formed against them.

LAF (Will lead into pre-flop raises and fold to a raise)


These opponents arent very easy to spot. You have to pay special attention to the particular dynamics of the hand thats occurring and note why they might be making the play theyre making. Generally however there are two types of LAFs if you are keen enough to spot them. They are: LAF A These opponents tend to be somewhat aggressive and like to apply the pressure by leading into their opponents and seeing if they can steal the pot from them. They tend to know that since most opponents will miss the flop a majority of the time, theyd rather take the initiative being out of position and see if they can take down the pot with a bet. They are only somewhat aggressive because they will nearly always fold to a raise unless they have a big hand. LAF P These opponents tend to be a bit more passive, but will take stabs at the pot with their mid pocket pairs or middle pair type hands. However, they will fold instantly to a raise fearing the worst of their opponents hands. Both of these opponents present a unique opportunity for you to pick up some extra big bets. When these players bet on the flop, you should raise with a lot of hands you missed the flop with. You dont want to completely overdo this concept, but you do want to apply as much pressure as possible to these opponents. If you have no over cards and no draws or strong back door draws, then giving up in these spots is fine. Since LAFs tend to be able to fold their weak hands, you want to test them as see how much they really like their hand and how far theyll be willing to go with it. If you do decide to stay ultra

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aggressive in these situations, make sure you're aware that your opponent will tend to take a stand at some point. Use the tension concept to try and time it so that you'll have a big hand when your opponent does take a stand against you. Anytime you see someone put a bet in on the flop and fold to a raise, make a quick note of it. Just because someone does it once or twice doesnt make them a LAF. Thats why these types of opponents tendencies are much harder to pick up on. In one session, you may not really know for sure if someone is a LAF. This is much more of a long term read that you may have to make against a regular player. There are times however when you will be able to make this read within a session, and it will be quite obvious when that time occurs.

SVB (Slim Value Bettor)


It will take some time to make this read, but when you do you want to make sure you're exploiting your opponents play properly. Most of the time you'll eventually find this in the regulars you're playing against. Sometimes within a short session you'll pick up on this on players that may not be regulars in your game. You want to keep a sharp eye out for players that are betting slim on the turn and river. This means weak top pair on bad final boards, second and sometimes third pair. Sometimes it can be two pair on really draw heavy boards that have four to a straight and flush possibilities. The bottom line is that it's pretty narrow considering how the hand played and the final board. Typically you'll be in a spot with a marginal hand as well since on average these opponents will be more aggressive and you'll be calling down a bit lighter. Instead of trying to call down narrow against them, turn some of your weak made hands into bluffs on the turn or river. In most situations since you caught them value betting light, they will be in difficult spots to call a raise. Take note though that against some of your really good regulars, if you do raise it needs to be consistent with some likely hand you could have, or you may be looked up light. To take advantage of the SVB, you'll want to focus on spots where your opponent is still going to be betting a wide range and your equity when behind isn't that good. Also situations on the river where your combo draw hand, or one time marginal top pair, has minimal bluff catching ability against your opponents ability to slim value bet top, second and third pair effectively.

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In the above example, a noted SVB open raised from the hijack (MP) in a 6-max cash game with effective stacks around 100 BBs. You called in the CO with 7d7c. The flop came 4dJh5c, your opponent continuation bet, and you called. The turn brought the Kd, and your opponent bet again. At this point since you know our opponent will bet the turn pretty slim he's going to have a fairly wide betting range of 99+, 4455, J8o+, 5dAd, 67o+, KTo+, AQo, AdQd, QTo+, AdTd, ATo+,T9s, A8s+, and probably a couple of more hands. You probably have around ~25% equity against our opponents range, and you know they are aggressive, since most SVB's are, and you will likely face a bet on the river. It's a common example where of course you're going to call the flop with second pair, but now you're in a spot facing a second barrel against someone who is aggressive, but also value bets very slim. Your hand doesn't have much improvement equity when behind (only about 5%). If you take a look at your opponents hand range though, you should notice that they are going to have to fold at least half of that range facing a raise, and if they come back over the top, it's a super simple fold since your equity will be nearly nonexistent.

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If there were say 17 BBs in the pot after you called the flop, and your opponent bet 12 BBs into you on the turn, and you raised to 29 BBs, you'll risk 29 BBs to win 29 BBs. Your opponent will only need to fold half the time, and you do have a miracle card you will hit 5% of the time that won't improve your opponents calling range. If your opponent folds half the time it's a narrowly profitable play, but if they fold more than half the time, which is entirely possible against some SVB opponents, then it's a solid +EV play. In this situation they should only roughly continue with 45% of their range or less on the turn. Another fairly common example on the river is when you call the flop with a draw, turn a pair, and are now facing a bet on the river in a spot that against some opponents might be good to bluff catch. Against SVBs though you should consider raising in a lot more of these situations instead of calling.

In the above example from a 6-max cash game (but this also applies to full ring), both players start with effective stacks of 120 BBs. A noted SVB opponent open raises to 3 BBs in the hijack and you call on the button with 9h8h. Everyone else folds and the flop comes: 6d7hQs. The SVB player continuation bets 5 BBs and you call. The turn is the 8d,

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giving you a pair and a draw. The SVB player bets 12 BBs into a pot of 17.5 BBs, and you call. The river brings the Kc, and the SVB player bets 25 BBs into a pot of 41.5 BBs. At this point your pair of eights could be a reasonable bluff catcher against some opponents. Obviously some flush and straight draws missed, as well as some turned draws. Knowing your opponent can value bet light, he can easily have Qx, 66+, Kx, 78, 67, 68, 9T, 45 SVB river calling range to a raise as well as the previously mentioned flush and straight draw misses and complete air. If you are going to choose between a raise or a call, then you have to do a quick mental run through of the number of combinations of straight and flush draws your opponent can have versus better value betting hands. Meaning, are there enough bluffs in his range, versus better hands he'd value bet that you can fold out? In this case, there are definitely enough Qx, Kx, and TT+ type hands that you can fold out if you raise. Some two pair combos such as 67, 78 and 68 will also fold out a percentage of the time (sometimes they will call). The other part of our decision is of course how much to raise, since we are primarily looking to fold out Qx, Kx, TT+ and some of the weaker two pair combos. The stronger two pairs, sets, and straights obviously aren't going to fold. Something in the realm of 70 BBs (or a raise of 45 more BBs) would accomplish this. You would need your opponent to fold just over 51% of the time to be profitable.

SVB river value betting range

Only including their river value range, we should be able to fold out about 56% of that range. So if we evaluated the EV of call versus raise, the EV of raise would be slightly higher in a scenario such as this. An important note is that if you are playing mostly micro stake games, your opponents calling range is going to be a bit wider on the river. You won't be running into a lot of good SVBs though, and you can look for many spots to move some of the regulars that are in your games off of better hands when you suspect they are value betting slim a good amount.

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Ax (Will play an ace from anywhere)


There are many opponents at small and micro stakes that will play an ace (and any other card) from any position. Theyll limp A4o from early position, or call a raise with A6o out of position. Theyll also tend to be sticky to these top pair hands if an ace flops. These players you want to note for a couple of reasons. 1. It will give you some insight into how they think about the game. Meaning you know this opponent is over valuing hands that really arent that strong. So when you have a modest hand, and they are still involved in the pot with you, theres still a very good chance you have the best hand. 2. If youre in a pot with them and have a high pocket pair, but an ace flops and they give you action, you can be nearly 100% sure youre beat. 3. When you flop an ace with a good kicker, youll know that theyll pay you off with a weaker kicker, so get a lot of value bets in. Be aware of these opponents and make sure to steer clear of them if theres an ace on the flop. At the same time, if theres an ace on the flop and you hit a nice hand like two pair or better, make sure to do your best to formulate a plan to get all the money in the middle. Remember, opponents who play weak aces a lot tend to be in love with these hands. They are playing them for a reason, and that reason is primarily because they believe that if they flop top pair theyll have the best hand.

NPR (Will raise a non-premium hand)


An opponent who will raise with a wider range of hands makes it a bit more difficult to put them on a hand. This is primarily the reason you should look for situations that you can also raise some non-premium hands so that your open raising range isn't too predictable to your opponents. There are typically three different types of NPRs, so lets take a look them. NPR (maniac) This opponent will just raise any two cards from anywhere at any given time quite excessively. These opponents will have little rhyme or reason to what theyre doing, but they believe that this will benefit them when they do have a real hand and can get someone to stand up to them with a weaker hand. These opponents will be quite easy to spot and you need to make sure that whenever you have position and a decent hand against them that you are re-raising them. The thing an aggressive opponent hates most is someone who comes back over the top of them.

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NPR (fish) I say this opponent is a fish because they will raise a non-premium hand such as A8s, or K9s, A3o or a similar hand out of position because they just dont understand hand values or that usually only a better hand will call them. They arent really playing to be overly aggressive and outplay opponents, they are just raising because they believe this is the correct thing to do. Against these opponents you just want to make note what hand they raised, what position they were in, and how much the raise was for. In future hands, youll know that if youre in a raised pot against these opponents, the flop texture is much wider for how hard it will hit them in general. So youll either have to be cautious OR make them pay for their weaker hands. NPR (ISO) These opponents will occasionally switch up their game and incorporate some non premium hands in profitable situations for them. For example theyll raise a hand like Q9s with the button after a couple of limpers. They may also raise some connected cards in early position, or occasionally re-raise almost any hand from the blinds. They'll also expand their squeezing range in profitable spots. Just make note and be aware that you have an opponent thats capable of making such a play. Most of these opponents will be somewhat knowledgeable regulars in your games. If you spot them, then make sure to 3-bet when it's obvious they are isolating light, or call their squeezes with a wider range when you have position. Basically they offer the opportunity to re-steal lighter if you're paying attention. With any kind of NPR, the first thing to do is just make a note that you saw them raise a non-premium hand. The second identification stage will be to see if they are smart (an ISO), not so smart (a fish), or just plain crazy (maniac). The maniac will be noticeable pretty quickly. The other two will be a bit more subtle, so youll really have to analyze the situation and decide if the raise made sense considering the circumstance.

CBB (Continuation Bet Bad Boards)


Creating a likely hand range for your opponent start with really paying attention to what they are doing, and gaining insights into how they are thinking about situations, or in some cases, not thinking. Opponents that will continuation bet out of position on draw heavy boards with over cards are one of those players you want to note. Better opponents will tend to slow down in these situations. If you see even one showdown hand where an opponent continuation bet on a really "wet board" with over cards, or even worse, no over cards, then take note and get ready to float. These are opponents when you're in position that you'll want to float and represent some of the draws that do come in. You should continue in a lot more spots against these opponents, especially when you have position. When they have position, look to call down a little lighter, or check-raise when you have decent improvement equity in your hand.

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In the above example, when facing a noted CBB who has open raised UTG and now continuation bet, calling with an under pair and gutshot is reasonable. Against most opponents though, you'd typically want to dump this hand since they shouldn't be betting this board unless they have a good hand or really good draw. Not only can your hand be best, but being in position you also have some option to turn your hand into a bluff if say the Ah or Kh comes on the turn and your opponent continues to bet. Taking careful note and finding opponent who will bet unimproved on draw heavy or "wet boards" is a helpful note to have to maximize every hands expected value.

LA (Look-up Artist)
One of my favorite opponents to face is the look-up artist. Theyre an opponent who will call a flop bet (usually in position) in the hopes that you will check the turn for them so they can steal the pot. This is sometimes also referred to as floating the flop. These opponents will not be readily easy to spot, so they take some concerted effort to pinpoint. Youll have to pay attention to the opponents who are calling a LOT of flop bets, but theyll fold to a second bullet (or theyll bet when checked to them nearly always).

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Once you believe you have discovered a look-up artist, try and exploit their weakness by doing the following: 1. If you raise with an unpaired hand before the flop and miss the flop, you can make a standard continuation bet, but try and make it on the smaller side. Then be prepared to fire a second bulletbut make sure that you are always thinking about how the texture of the flop fits your opponents hand, and whether you can represent properly the hand youre trying to represent. 2. Secondly, if you flop a big hand, make a continuation bet, this time on the slightly larger side, and then check the turn to them (if they have position). If you have two pair or better you can either call their bet on the turn, or if the flop texture has some probable draws or potentially could get ugly, then come in for a decent sized checkraise. Make sure that if youve made these plays more than once against the same opponent that you occasionally mix up your play because theyll obviously start to become aware of what youre doing. This is particularly true with how you are sizing your flop bet. If you bet on the light side with your missed hand, and larger with your connected hands, then make sure one time you switch these up. Obviously if opponents are looking to call a lot of bets (particularly in position) on the flop, then they are thinking about the game and what youre doing. Thinking opponents are aware and may get a read on your play. More importantly some of these players may even make a multiple street bluff by raising the turn with a wide range. So you need to pay careful attention and make sure to target most of the players that are calling the flop, but folding the turn. A majority of LAs will be making these plays when they have position on you. Sometimes though there are some really bad LAs that will do this out of position with almost any two cards (usually with ace high). If you notice that an opponent will also call flop bets out of position, but fold to a turn bet, then make sure you fire second bullets liberally when you have position.

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Chapter 6: In the Beginning

ost poker players have huge holes in their pre-flop strategy, but aren't aware of it. Some of this is out of a lack of knowledge, and for others it can be because of too much ego. Believing you can play almost any two cards and outplay your opponents ends badly in a lot of situations. In some situations that may be absolutely true of course, but in many cases it's not. Everything begins with pre-flop play, and mistakes made in this part of the game only get compounded on later streets. So having a solid strategy is paramount in long term success in no-limit Texas Holdem.

Starting Decisions
Based on my observations and conversations with students, and fellow poker players, it seems that most players got their understanding of what hands to open raise preflop, cold call, and 3-bet mostly from starting hand charts, poker discussion, and some trial and error. A lot of players I've asked started with some sort of hand chart to begin with, and slowly weaned themselves off into a pre-flop strategy they feel works best for them. There's absolutely nothing wrong with referencing starting hand charts, and talking to your poker friends about starting hands from different positions at the table. What you want to do as a successful poker player though is make sure you're really taking in all of the relevant and available information about any decision you're making at the poker table, and making the best decision possible. Having a process, or poker thought algorithm PTA, as I like to call it, is a great reference for successful decision making. A poker thought algorithm for pre-flop play looks something like this:

What is my hand? Your actual starting hand and its general strength no matter what position you open from will sometimes trump all other questions. Mainly when you hold AA/KK. What is my starting position? How many players will have position on you, and how wide can you open considering the positional advantage or disadvantage you will have post flop. Who opened in front of me? If your opponent is opening really wide this should expand your calling and 3-betting ranges, or viceversa if they are tight. How good is the opponent who is opening? Who is left to act behind me? Are the opponents left to act really aggressive? Do they squeeze or 3-bet a lot? Are they passive and cold call a bunch? Can they outplay me if they have position? What are the effective stacks of players in the pot? Is there potential for a really big, small or average sized pot? How good are the players who have the

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deep, average, and shallow stacks? How often do they fold to a raise, re-raise or 4-bet? If your opponent folds to a re-raise a high percentage of the time, widening your 3-bet bluffing range is ideal. Can you steal a lot from this player just by opening? How aggressive is my opponent post flop? Knowing how aggressive your opponent is on the turn and river will help you know what kinds of hands to come along with or dump. Can I outplay my opponent post flop a decent amount? This is always a tricky question because of course we all want to believe yes. Just be honest, and if you're not too sure, then it's usually no. Is there any relevant recent history? Do you have some recent information about some hands your opponent has overplayed that can help you widen or tighten your range? Have you been 3-betting and 4-betting your opponent recently and expect them to react soon? How do others likely perceive me? How active or tight have you been at the table? Have you showed down some big hands or very marginal hands?

You should be asking yourself these questions every time you're making a pre-flop decision. If you're missing any of them in your thought process, it's important to take note and make sure you starting asking yourself. Most of the time your decision will be easy; You'll look down at Ks4s and muck it. However, in some situations this same hand could be a call or a 3 or 4-bet if the questions are all answered properly. It's always best that if you're unsure about a hand based on how you've run through your own poker thought algorithm, that you err on the side of caution. It may be over stated, but most players mistakes in no-limit Texas Holdem come from playing too many hands, not from playing too few. One of the easiest ways to correct a losing approach to poker is to start tightening up your starting range. If you're losing money or around a break even player, then generally something as simple as playing fewer hands can move you into the winning column. This ensures that when you are in a hand you'll generally have the stronger of the two hands and win more from second best hands calling you down then vice-versa.

Flat Calling
Flat calling, sometimes also called smooth calling, or burning money as I like to call it, is when you decide to call an opponent's raise, or call the blind. It's part of poker, and you want to have a flat calling range, but for almost all players their flat calling ranges will not yield positive results. There are a couple of simple reasons for this.

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1. Some people play too many hands, and hands in the wrong situations that are easily dominated. 2. Players who flat call don't have the initiative. 3. Most players don't understand hand ranges and equity well enough to properly call down in the correct spots. 4. Most players don't bluff in the most profitable spots. Add it all up, and in most cases you have complete spew. In all fairness, if most people who played online poker ran the proper filter for this area, or used software like Leak Buster, they would see anywhere from bankroll sucking spew to minor winrate draining spew. There are some players that can and will have a positive winrate in this area, and this is what you should strive for too. If you suspect that you may have a leak here though, check your results, and then come up with a game plan for correcting it. One of the keys as to why most people don't do well with their flat calling range is because of statement #2. Statements #3 and #4 are usually also a problem, but one of the easiest ways to start to patch this kind of leaks is to focus on the first two to begin with. Tighten up your flat calling range by not flatting as much, especially out of position. Turn some of your flatting range into a 3-betting range so that you can take initiative back in the hand. Ideally you want to strive to be able to have a marginal flatting range and confidently call down your opponent in the correct spots, and find highly +EV bluffing situations. Those concepts take a lot of time and experience to pull off successfully. It's definitely something you should experiment with and work on as part of your long term goals about your game. In the short term minimizing losses here, and slowly taking some of those flatting hands and turning them into +EV post flop bluffs and value call downs is a reasonable plan. You can't continue to improve in poker if you don't have money to play with. Here's an example of a typical range you may flat call within a lot of different situations. To improve your results, stop flatting 2266 from the blinds to a steal attempt if you're doing it now, unless you're nice and deep and against a really weak opponent. Don't flat off suited hands in position against strong opponents. Even with position, if they are decently good it's going to be hard to play them profitably unless you have some very specific read. Don't flat ATA9, KTKJ, QTQJ type hands from early and middle positions. You'll often be dominated and you'll still have a lot of players left to act. Don't flat suited connectors out of the blinds unless there are really weak players in the pot with you that have decent stack sizes.

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Take some of that very same hand range and turn many of them into 3bet bluffs, or in some case 3-bets for value against certain opponents when in position. 3-bet or fold 22 66 from steal attempts when in the blinds. 3-bet or fold ATA9, KTKJ, QTQJ type hands in latter middle position instead of flatting. Experiment with different hand ranges based on the stakes you're playing. In some games you can 3-bet KQo for value and still get calls from worse hands, and some games you can't. Create a situation where you'll be taking initiative more so you'll give yourself more opportunities to win the hand. Sometimes you'll 3-bet and your opponent will fold, and often even fold a better hand. Sometimes they'll call and you'll both whiff, but you'll have initiative and a simple continuation bet will take the pot. And sometimes you'll out flop your opponents 3-bet flatting range. Having initiative will also allow you to control the pot size more often than not, so if you do flop top pair and there's a lot of action you can check the turn or river. As you begin turning your flat calling range into a more profitable hand range, begin to slowly widen your range again. Experiment with different scenarios by starting with a slightly wider range in position, and add a few more hands out of position. Keep it slow and steady and know that most players struggle badly with this area of their game. Make it an area you're a master at and you'll have a huge advantage on most opponents.

Blind Play
Similar to flat calling, players tend to struggle heavily when playing out of the blinds. It's understandable of course, since you're out of position almost always (except when defending against an open small blind raise). Almost everyone posts losses from the blinds, but you can minimize your losses, or even show profit with some smart decision making and solid poker thinking algorithms. If you are bleeding heavy money from the blinds, then there are a couple of specific areas you should look at first to make some adjustments. 1. Your cold calling range from players who open raise from early and middle positions. If you are primarily playing full ring, then your cold calling range from the blinds really needs to tighten up. That means folding hands like AJ, KQ, QJs, etc., against most regulars and tight players. If someone is opening roughly 9% of their range from early position in a full ring game, and you call with a hand like AJo,

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you're already at an equity disadvantage. Plus you'll be playing out of position against a hand range that when you both connect, you'll mostly flop the second best hand more often than the better hand. It's not a profitable situation. In 6-max games, if someone is opening roughly 16% of their range, on average you're going to be in a 50/50 equity situation, but out of position. So unless you think you can really outplay your opponent a lot, folding these hands is ideal. Also, avoid flatting suited and off suited connectors. Again, you're at a big equity disadvantage. Unless there are fishy or weak players that have also called, and effective stacks are somewhere slightly over 100 BBs, then folding is more profitable. True, a lot of your money is going to be made by making strong hands with these kinds of starting hands, but the low frequency you do that, combined with not being in position will be a drain on your bankroll. 2. Making more definitive decisions against steal attempts, and reducing cold calling range. This basically means 3-betting or folding more instead of flatting. Ideally flatting can be much more profitable since you'll be ahead of most of your opponents opening range, especially if you're defending against an open button raiser. Let's take a common example of you holding KcJs in the small blind and your opponent open raises from the button, and let's say opens 48% of their hands from there. Even with KcJs you are marginally ahead of their opening range with almost 54% equity. That doesn't tell the whole story of the value of KJo of course. Most of the value is in the "flopability" of the hand, and the fact that your opponent will flop more second best hands than better hands when you both connect with the flop. However, if you aren't outplaying most of your opponents post flop, then 3-betting or folding will be more profitable for you at this point in your game. Your goal should be to continue to improve in your hand reading, board texture understanding, and profitable bluffing opportunities so that you can profitably flat call with a hand like KJo from the blinds. Look at the pre-flop decision out of the blinds as a problem. How are you going to solve the problem? Are you going to flat call, and look for spots to outplay your opponent? Are you going to 3-bet and try and solve the problem by getting your opponent to fold preflop? One solution might be more correct for one player, and completely incorrect for another. You have to know your own game. If you are struggling with bluffing in the right spots, or aren't confident calling down against your opponents range of hands, then mix in more 3-bets and folds to eliminate scenarios where you're playing more of a check / guess game without positive results. A lot of players watch top pros in an online training videos talk about optimal play in a lot of different scenarios, and try and mimic that play. There is an optimal play for any given scenario given the limited information we have as poker players. That's what you should strive to achieve. Yet at the same time there are steps you can use to build yourself to playing optimally instead of putting yourself in situations where you have to make more decisions about your hand and compound a scenario that leaves you losing consistently. In scenarios like that, make more definitive decisions and put the onus back on your opponent

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to make the most optimal play. The reason you'd consider taking sub-optimal, but profitable, lines as you learn, is the same reasoning why people will generally tell you to play tighter pre-flop (tight TAG or even NIT) when you first start playing poker. It's higher EV to play slightly LAG or very LAG, but it's not the best plan to just throw yourself into the fire. You'd consistently lose, and probably not have a chance to move up the poker food chain.

Optimal Big Blind Play


When you have a reasonable amount of confidence in your post flop game, look to take more flops. This is always within reason, but look for marginal regulars you think you have an advantage on, and look to outplay them post flop. If you have the slightest bit of doubt though, consider using a strategy like the one on the previous couple of pages. Slowly work yourself to optimal play.

Defending from the Big Blind vs Early Openers


When defending your big blind against early open raisers, you need to pay very close attention to a couple of things assuming you can see the flop heads up: 1. How tight are they? Are you talking about nit tight and opening 6% of their hands or less in full ring, or 10% of their hands or less in 6-max? Are they somewhere in between or are they loose, opening over 14% at full ring and over 21% at 6-max? a. If they are tight: How often are they continuation betting? Some tight players have a really small or large continuation bet percentage. Very few are somewhere in between. If they continuation bet a smaller percentage of the time, then looking to take a flop with some strong suited or single gapped connectors can allow you to see four cards often enough to hit a big hand or make a move. If they continuation bet a lot, but are passive on the turn, you can call with a similar range and some broadway suited hands like QJs for example, and look to either lead the flop in spots where you completely miss and take their play away from them, or check/call and lead a lot of turns on flops that have potential. This would be "floating out of position" and isn't very profitable unless you're very confident in your post flop play and reads.

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If your opponent is tight and a high continuation bettor and aggressive on later streets, then folding most of your hands is ideal unless there is another really weak player in the pot. Then you can widen your range slightly, but not much. b. If they are loose: You can widen your calling range to include some more marginal broadway hands like AJo, KQo, ATs, etc., and drop more of the suited connector hand ranges since they will go down in post flop value versus your opponents more marginal hand range. Mix in a good amount of leads and check-raises on the flop against these players with made hands and whiffed hands. Since their range is wider, they will have a made hand less often, and you can re-steal a ton against them if you mix in a good amount of value bets and bluffs that have good equity. Most opponents won't fight back against this strategy, but some will. Make notes on who is being aggressive back, and don't jump to conclusions too quick about your opponents.

In the above example, your opponent open raises from UTG+1 to 3 BBs with effective stacks of 120 BBs. Your opponent is fairly tight from this position, opening ~10% of their hands. They have a high continuation bet percentage of around 80%, but they are pretty passive on later streets. You are in the big blind with 8s9s, and call the raise. You check to your opponent, and they continuation bet as expected. The initial plan when deciding to call the raise to begin with was to call or check-raise certain flops depending on how hard they likely hit our opponent, or how hard we expect them to

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perceive it hit you. In this case with a gutshot and backdoor flush draw, and stacks being deep enough that if your opponent does have a hand, you can win a reasonably sized pot, calling is the best option. You also know your opponent slows down on later streets. So unless they have Kx+, which will be a fairly small combination of hands, albeit a larger than normal portion of combos for most opening ranges because of their tighter play, they will slow down on the turn and allow you to potentially see all 5 cards. Calling is preferable over check-raising because unless you're in a leveling war with your opponent, there are not a lot of hands in our range we'd want to check-raise on this kind of texture. Calling also ensures that you at least see the next card, and won't get blown off your hand with a re-raise in case your opponent does have a big hand. You also allow for more options to check-raise the turn if the turn doesn't supply a helpful card, and it adds a more credible story to you having a strong hand. Depending on the stakes you play of course, how hand strength is perceived to a turn check-raise will vary. For the most part at micro and small stakes games it will be perceived very strongly. Your range won't be weighted very much at all to having check / called the flop with a gutshot. The important points about calling and taking a flop out of the blinds versus a tighter player is that you have to have the proper information. You need to have stats with a reasonable sample size or a very good read that fits the criteria. Otherwise, you're much better off folding pre-flop. 2. How aggressive are they post flop? a. If they are passive: As said above, you can play more suited and gapped connectors, and when deep enough (over 120bbs) some off suited connectors as well. Don't overdo it of course. You can look to lead a good amount of flops as well, but lower your check-raising semi-bluff range since they will slow down on later streets if you call the flop and usually allow you to see more cards for free. b. If they are aggressive: Fold a lot more hands. Don't try and be a hero. There are a ton of better spots to be in than with a marginal hand out of position against an aggressive opponent. You can mix in some 3-bets against the looser opponents however. 3. Does your opponent have a low WTSD (went to showdown), or you suspect they can fold big hands? a. Low WTSD: If your opponent has a low WTSD percentage, or you suspect they can fold big hands, then there's a lot of room to outplay or bluff them post flop. If you're using a HUD, then just make sure you have a fairly large sample size on your opponent. Something in

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the range of 5k+ minimum unless it's a really absurdly low number in a reasonable sample (500 hands or more): Something in the range of less than 23% in 6-max games, and slightly lower than that in full ring games. b. High WTSD: You can really open up your calling range here depending on how high their WTSD and how deep stacks are. When stacks get over 130 BBs against these kinds of opponents, your calling range should really widen. Just kind in mind that you aren't looking to play a big pot with top pair or slightly better. If there are others that are in the pot as well, then it should incentivize you to widen your range even more. Playing off suited gapped connectors, low suited aces like A4s, etc. You want to put yourself in position to win the big pots as much as possible against your weaker opponents. The important aspect of big blind play against early opening raisers is paying extra close attention to the opponents that have opened or are in the pot. Don't look down at 97o and auto muck it because someone opened from early position. Make sure to scrutinize your opponent and have a plan for how to envision the hand to be ideally played.

Defending from the Big Blind vs Steals


Defending from the big blind to steal attempts is one of the funnest (yes, that's an example of language in flux) and most common situations in poker. You both know you're going to be full of crap a lot of the time, so the leveling war and stand-off begins.

Defending from the Big Blind vs Button Steals


Now obviously we know, and we know that our opponent knows we know, that their opening range on the button is going to be wide. How we play each situation is primarily a matter of several things: 1. How often is our opponent opening? Are they on the very loose side (over 52%), on the tight side (less than 35%), or somewhere in between?
Opponent opening 58.4% from the button

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When they are opening wide: In the example to the right, it should expand your flatting and 3-betting ranges. This opponent is opening 58.4% of their range from the button. Assume effective stacks of around 100 BBs, a reasonable flatting range would be something like the following: 77+, A2s+, A9o+, K9s+, KTo+, QTs+, J9s+, QTo+, T9s, JTo. This would be roughly 20% of our total range. Now obviously hands like TT+, AQ+ you'd want to 3-bet a majority of the time. Occasionally, when your opponent is not good post flop, flatting with a lot of these hands can be quite profitable, since they'll flop second best hands so often. Also, hands like 77/88, A9o, K9s, T9s, JTo depend on how confident we feel about playing our opponent post flop. If you think if you have a reasonable advantage, flatting with these hands is fine, mixing in some 3-bets. Otherwise look to 3-bet or fold these hands. Now polarizing some of this range while adding more hands so you can 3-bet some hands that have decent equity when called, and flatting some of Polarized 3-bet range of 28.2% of hands the bigger hands like AQo, AJo, KQs, etc., a percentage of the time as well, will keep your opponents defense more off balanced. Of course, most opponents will know that you will defend lighter and 3-bet lighter. So how much, and with what kinds of hands, is important. Add in some hands to our initial range to create a strong overall defending range: 3-betting hands that won't play very well if you flat, but that can out flop some of your opponents 3-bet calling range. Mix in flatting some of your fairly strong to very strong hands some of the time (exact percentages vary depending upon opponent; baseline percentage would be 20/80 flat to 3-bet). With this range your opponent can't be extremely confident in your strength when you're flatting or 3-betting. Most of the uncertainty is going to come with them not knowing which hands you're polarizing exactly. Some people 3-bet a lot of suited connectors, and offsuited connectors. Some don't at all, and some people do a percentage of the time. For the most part I don't advocate 3-betting suited connectors from the blinds for several reasons. One, there are just better hands to 3-bet, and two, when I am called I'd prefer to have a hand that plays well against my opponents 3-bet flatting range. For example, my opponent who opens wide on the button raises to 2.5 BBs, and I have K4s in the big blind. My opponent plays pretty aggressive on later streets, so flatting isn't a good option. Folding isn't bad, but if I 3-bet, I can get my opponent to fold X% of the time, and Y% of the time they will flat with hands like 55+, A9o+, JTs+, A5s+, etc., hands that I'm only at a slight disadvantage at pre-flop (around

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45/55), and I have initiative. If I flop a king, I have really good showdown value versus their range, and I have semi-bluff potential when I flop or turn flush draws. AK will be 4-bet a majority of the time, so that only leaves KTKQ, and the combos of those hands are reduced because I have a "blocker" card holding one king. If you do 3-bet suited and offsuited connectors it's a bit more difficult to navigate post flop when you do flop a hand. Say you're in the same situation as the previous example except this time you have 6s7s and you decide to 3-bet. The flop comes and you flop a 6, you continuation bet and your opponent calls. The turn brings no help. You have a pair of 6's, but you could be quite a bit behind since your opponents flatting range is going to have a lot of 77+ hands in it. Your opponent could have floated, and you could have a good equity advantage, but are you check / calling at this point? This situation is still manageable of course, but it's going to consistently put you in a lot more difficult situations, when there are better situations to really master first. All of this reasoning is irrelevant if your opponent opens really wide, and folds to a 3-bet a high percentage of the time. Keep in mind, that if you're using a HUD, an opponent's fold to 3-bet will be much less when re-defending their open button in most cases. Typically speaking, the time for a situational stat like fold to 3bet from button defend will take too long to normalize. However, it may provide some clues if it's an extremely high or low number in a reasonable sample. If your opponent is opening to 2.5 BBs, and you 3-bet from the big blind to 8.5 BBs, then if your opponent calls 32% of the time or less, it's neutral EV to +EV. That's not even considering that when they call you will have equity in your hand, and it's irrelevant how often they are 4-betting since we're only looking at folding to 3-bets. To really see if any 3-bet is +EV you'd want to factor in X% of the time your opponent is calling, Y% of the time they are 4-betting. But if X% is already neutral or better, then Y% only becomes relevant when determining exact positive expected value. Again, it will be positive because we already know just based on our opponents fold percentage the play is break even or better. (4 (.68)) - (8.5 (.32)) = 0 EV When your opponent is calling more than 32% of the time you'll want to make sure you feel confident playing out of position when you're 3-betting with a marginal hand. Some opponents rarely fold to 3-bets from the blinds, so you'll want to avoid 3-betting too liberally with the weaker part of your polarized range. Opponents who fold 50% or less tend to be opponents who are either reasonably good post flop, and don't mind taking a flop in a re-raised pot, or opponents who are generally stubborn and bad, and just can't fold. Look for opponents with low fold to 3-bets and high WTSD percents, and you'll generally be able to sort the stubborn opponents from the reasonably decent opponents.

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2. What are stack sizes? As stacks get deeper this will expand your flatting range, and contract your 3-betting range since your opponent will have more incentive to call your 3-bets with a wider range. As stack sizes get narrower, this should have the reverse effect of widening your 3-betting range, and narrowing your flatting range. 3. Is your hand more of a drawing hand or top pair hand? So hands like 78s, JTo, T8s, etc., would be considered more drawing hands versus hands like KJo, ATo, QKs, etc., would be considered more top pair hands. Some hands are both, like KJs, QTs, etc. These hands have good drawing potential, but also good top pair value as well. Top pair only hands usually will make top pair as their best hand most of the time, and these hands are easier to get to showdown versus having a hand like 78s and making top pair. What kind of hand you have will help you decide, based on your stack size, if you should be 3-betting or flatting.

Squeezing from the Big Blind vs Open Buttons


When the small blind decides to come along and flat call your opponents open buttons raises, it should really widen your 3-bet range as a squeeze, unless your opponent on the button is extremely stubborn, or decently tricky post flop. It's best to use caution against these kinds of opponents. In general, most of your opponents are going to know that you'll be squeezing a bit wider, but that shouldn't prevent you from doing so if you 3-bet a smart range of hands, and keep your 3-bet sizing good. In general anywhere from a pot-sized raise to about 4.5x your opponents opening raise is a good size to enable a high percent of fold equity. You want a high percentage of fold equity to make up for times when your opponents really have a hand, or you get called and have to shut down because of a poor flop texture. You should already know what most of your 3-bets for value will be, and some of the inbetween hands like AJo, KQo, ATs, etc, will highly depend on how you think both your opponents play. You will be in a sandwiched position post flop. It will make your opponent on the button play slightly more honest, but you won't know until after flop betting has happened if you'll have position, or you will be out of position. For that reason in some spots against weak opponents, overcalling with suited

Squeezing 21.7% of hands with marginal hand range

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connectors can play well if you think the small blind will have a decent hand more often than a speculative hand, or flatting with AJo can have value against weak opponents with poor post flop skills. Some of the hands you won't be flatting almost ever, but have great squeeze EV (shown in picture to the right), are hands like: A2oA9o, A2sA8s, K3sK9s, K8oKTo, Q6sQTs, Q9oQTo, J8oJ9o, J7sJ9s, T8s+, T9o. Hands like small pairs can become a flat or a squeeze. If one or both opponents are deep, flatting can usually be more ideal, or if both or one of the opponents is really weak post flop, you don't want to push them out of the pot by 3-betting. If facing two decent regulars, or at least one reasonably tough opponent, squeezing or folding is usually a higher EV line. You always want to keep in mind that if you build history with any of your opponents or you are squeezing a lot, that your small blind can and should look to trap occasionally with his stronger hands, knowing you will squeeze wide. This shouldn't prevent you from squeezing, but it should reduce some of your range so that your opponent isn't looking to exploit you.

Defending from the Big Blind vs Cut-off's


There's a significant drop in most opponents open raising range from the cut-off than the button. For that reason, you need to tighten up your 3-betting and flatting range against most opponents. Most opponents will open raise from the cut-off about 24-33% of the time. Both 6-max and full ring tend to have similar averages, with full ring actually having slightly higher cut-off opening ranges to about 34.5%. It's reasonable to assume that because it's usually opened more often before it gets folded to the cut-off at full ring, that people seize the opportunity slightly more often. In either case, opening ranges in both games are very similar. When deciding how you will respond to an opponent who opens from the cut-off with no callers in-between you, the same poker thought algorithms need to be applied as in previous situations. 1. How often is your opponent opening from the cut-off? a. If they open on the lower end of an opening range (24% or less): Keep your 3-betting range a bit tighter, unless they have a really high fold to 3-bet percentage (67% or higher). Keep your flatting range even tighter since they will tend to have decent hands more often than most opponents and you don't want to be stuck flopping second best hands against them. b. If they open on the wider side of an opening range (31% or higher): Have a decent 3-betting range, but still much tighter than defending against an open

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button raise. Something in the range of: A2oATo, A2sA9s, K8sKTs, K9oKTo, Q9sQTs, Q9oQTo, J9o, J9s. Don't always 3-bet every one of these hands. You want to increase or decrease this range also based on how often your opponent is folding to 3-bets. The ideal being someone who is opening too loose, and not re-defending enough with a reasonably high fold to 3-bet percentage (somewhere over 65%). 2. How aggressive are they post flop? a. Against more passive opponents (general aggression under 3AF): If they are passive on later streets, then you can expand your flatting range. Again, the more they open, the more you should expand this, and the tighter they are the tighter your flatting range should become. Something in the range of: J9s+, QTs+, KTs+, A9sAJs, AToAQo, KTo+, QTo+, 77TT. Sometimes consider 3-betting AQo/TT and any other hands that are on the bottom of this range that you don't feel comfortable playing out of position. In general though you will be ahead of most of your opponents range. Against someone who is opening about 34% of their range, you'll have a 52.3% preflop advantage. Take a couple of hands out at the bottom of your range and you can get it closer to 54%, which is reasonably good pre-flop. Take that same flatting range above, and tighten your opponents range to opening about 27% of hands, and your equity drops to about 49.5%. So the bottom of the above range needs to be tightened to account for this to something like: KTs+, A9sAJs, AToAQo, KTo+, QJs, 77TT. b. Against more aggressive opponents (3AF or greater): You need to eliminate some of your baseline flatting range and turn those into 3-bets or folds simply because you will be outplayed too often post flop. So something in the following range: J9s+, QTs+, KTs+, A9sAJs, AToAQo, KTo+, QTo+, 77TT. Hands like J9s, JTs, QTs, A9s, KTo, or 77 should be 3-bet or folded. You can tighten that up even more against really tricky opponents. The more aggressive and the tighter your opponent is, the more you're going to want to tighten, polarize, and eliminate situations where you're out of position with marginal hands. Consistently put yourself in the highest EV situation, and you'll stay a step or two ahead of your opponents. There are a ton of post flop lines you can take against some of your better opponents to keep them off balance. Some of them also work really well against weak opponents who don't know how to properly react (see more on this later in this sectionout of the "norm" lines). If you are unsure about a situation when you're out of position, it's always better to fold then to put yourself in a spot where you aren't confident. At some point though, you will want to push yourself to take more flops, flat, 3-bet, and experiment with your game in order to grow. Just make sure you're doing it in small steps.

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Squeezing from the Big Blind vs Open Cut-Offs


One of the most profitable squeezing situations in poker is when your opponent opens raises too wide from the cut-off, and another opponent flats, and you're in the big blind. You get to close the action, and you know that your opponents won't have decent hands most of the time. Of course most opponents are going to know that you know this as well. There are pros and cons to what is the best situational squeeze when your opponent opens from the cut-off. If you have an opponent flat on the button, then you know their flatting range will be tighter than someone flatting from the small blind (which is good for you), but then they have position on you if they call (bad for you). There's a higher probability of your opponent trapping you in a situation like this (or thinking they are trapping the CO), and there's a higher probability that they could simply look to outplay you (bad for you). On the other hand, squeezing when an opponent flats from the small blind puts you up against a tighter range, which will reduce folding percentages (bad for you), but when you are called by the small blind you'll have position (good for you). There's less of a chance that your opponent will trap or will be looking to call to out play you post flop (good for you).

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In the above example, you are in the big blind with KcTc (110 BBs), and a losing regular opens in the cut-off for 3 BBs (100 BBs). The player on the button is a decent winning regular and calls (135 BBs). The small blind folds and the action is on you. Let's use our poker thought algorithms to think through the situation to make the best possible play. 1. How often is our opponent opening from the cut-off? Our opponent is opening about 28% of his hands from the cut-off. Right about in the middle of the road, but on a slightly more tight side of the opening scale. In a reasonable sample size it's also nice to see how often our caller flat calls. Obviously being on the button his flat calling range will be widest. His VPIP overall is somewhat high at 30%, so we can assume he takes a good amount of flops. Overall our cut-off opponents opening range, along with our button opponent's probable slightly looser flatting range makes the situation for 3-betting slightly positive, and the situation for flatting fairly neutral since we won't have position on a tough opponent. 2. How aggressive is our opponent? Our opponent in the cut-off is reasonably aggressive, but shades slightly more to being passive with an aggression factor of 2.7. Our opponent on the button is slightly more on the aggressive side with an aggression factor of 3.8. Since youre squeezing, you need to take into account that there's a possibility one or both might call. The fact that our most aggressive opponent has position on everyone is a negative in this case for both calling and squeezing. 3. What are stack sizes? Effective stacks are 100 BBs, but could be as high as 110 if the button calls. Pretty reasonable stack sizes for both squeezing and flatting. 4. Is our hand more for drawing or flopping top pair? In this case it's a bit of both. Most of the value in our hand will be from making a straight or flush, but with the king, it has reasonable top pair showdown value as well. Again, somewhat neutral overall for both situations. All things considered it's close between flatting or squeezing. Folding doesn't come up as an option too much when we go through the hand, and between flatting or squeezing, squeezing has slightly more value since if we flat we'll have to play well against two decent players out of position. If we squeeze, the worst case scenario is that our opponent on the button calls, and we play slightly deeper in a re-raised post against them. However, stacks aren't deep enough for them to warrant calling with a lot of their drawing hands unless they really love taking flops in position, which is a possibility. However, we still have a strong hand that has big hand and top pair potential.

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Defending from the Small Blind vs Steals


Defending from the small blind is very similar to defending from the big blind with the obvious exception that the big blind is still left to act. This slightly complicates your flatting range, but doesn't change your 3-betting range too much. In some higher stake games it will affect your 3-betting range, and better opponents 4-betting range will widen on occasion, but even this doesn't happen very often. Overall it's going to be a lot of the same dynamics, so we'll focus on highlighting the differences.

Defending from the Small Blind vs Button Steals


You want to use the same kind of poker though algorithm to break down your flatting and 3-betting ranges versus opponents who are open raising on the button. The only major added factor in this situation is you need to consider your opponent in the big blind. 1. How wide is your opponent on the button opening? a. If your opponent is opening wide (over 52%), then this should expand your flatting and 3-betting range. However, your flatting range should slightly tighten, and could tighten greatly depending on your opponent in the big blind. A range we listed for flatting in the big blind: 77+, A2s+, A9o+, K9s+, KTo+, QTs+, J9s+, QTo+, T9s, JTo, would need to tighten to: 88+, A9s+ ATo+, KTs+, QJs+, QJo+, JTs. Some hands slightly above this range can be removed in some spots, or some just below can be added when your button opponent is weak, and there's no large threat of being squeezed from the big blind. Example, add QTs, JTo, 77, etc. b. If your opponent is fairly tight (opening 35% or less), then you'll need to tighten your flatting range since they'll have reasonable hands, and you'll be in a dominated situation more often than most opponents. Again, use the range on the previous page as a baseline, and eliminate from the bottom of that range to something like: 88+, ATs+, AJo+, KJs+, QJs+, KJo+. This way you'll have about 60/40 equity advantage pre-flop going to the flop. Also, hands like QQ+, AK, etc., you'll normally 3-bet, but occasionally flatting for deception can also be profitable. 2. How good is our opponent in the big blind? a. If your opponent is a pretty good regular, then you'll want to tighten up your flatting range, and slightly tighten your 3-betting range. You don't have to adjust your 3-betting range too much, unless you're playing higher small

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stake games against really good opponents. In general, if your opponent on the button is loose, but your opponent in the big blind is good, then you should use a similar flatting range as if your opponent opening on the button was tight. Consequently, also occasionally flatting some of your big hands can be quite lucrative against opponents that are known squeezers in the big blind. It's a more risky line pre-flop, but can turn into some good size pots post flop if you call their squeeze with a hand like QQ+ for example. b. If your opponent is a bad regular, or a fishy bad player, then expanding your flatting range, and providing a good price for them to call and stay in the pot can be ideal in a lot of situations. Even though you'll be at a positional disadvantage, any reason to allow a bad player to come into the pot can be very +EV. Slightly reducing your 3-betting range because of this, and turning some of your 3-bet value hands into flatting hands can achieve this goal. So hands like AJs, AQo, KQs, etc., can be some hands you look to flat to allow your weak opponent in the big blind to call with worse hands like A2s+, KJ, etc.

Flat with AQo from the small blind against weak BB and marginally decent regular on the button.

3. How aggressive is the opponent on the button post flop? a. If they are more passive (AF of 3 or less), then you can widen your flatting range a little more. You'll have more of a chance to get to showdown, and you don't have to be as concerned about being bluffed or blown off your hand. b. If they are more aggressive (AF over 3), then you should tighten your flatting range, and turn some of those hands you might flat against a more passive opponent into part of your 3-betting range. If your opponent is aggressive and doesn't like to fold pre-flop, then you should tighten both your flatting and 3-betting range.

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Keep your range in the small blind polarized enough so you don't give good players that are in your big blind incentive to re-steal against you. Keep your flatting range a little tighter in general, and look to occasionally trap by flatting some strong hands in tougher games against good opponents.

Defending from the Small Blind vs Cut-off Opens


Similar to playing from the big blind, most opponents open far fewer hands in the cut-off. Their range is still wide, but not quite as wide, so you'll get slightly more respect from your 3-bets, but your flatting ranges need to pretty tight not only because you're against a tighter range, but because of your opponent in the big blind. As said earlier, it's a great squeeze situation for players in the big blinds. Most of your competent opponents are going to know this, so you need to adjust accordingly by 3-betting some of the range you'd normally flat with if you were in the big blind. You'll want to use the same or similar poker thought algorithms as above, and use a baseline flatting range of: 77JJ, AToAQo, KJo+, KTs+, A9sAJs, QJs, QJo. You'll have a 5752% equity advantage against most opponents opening range. Remove some of the bottom range against your tighter opponents. Sometimes 3-bet some of the higher end of this range against some opponents, and the bottom end of this range against tougher opponents (or folding).

Squeezing from the Small Blind vs Open Cut-Offs


Squeezing from the small blind versus an open cut-off is very similar to squeezing from the big blind. The only major difference is that against some better big blind players, you are more susceptible to a 4-bet re-steal. You won't have to worry about this at micro stakes and most small stakes games. You want to walk yourself through the exact same poker though algorithms (pgs. 6264) and add one more question: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. How often is our opponent opening from the cut-off? How aggressive is our opponent? What are the stack sizes? Is our hand more for drawing or flopping top pair? How tricky is our opponent in the big blind? If they are capable of 4-bet bluffing, you'll want to cut off some of your polarized 3-bet bluffing range so

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you won't be squeezing quite as often with weak hands and forced to fold. In this same vein, if they are capable of 4-bet bluffing, then they'll surely be capable of 3-bet squeezing an open cut-off and two callers with a fairly wide range. Occasionally flat with QQ+, AK, looking to trap your tricky opponent in the big blind. Just make sure that when you are squeezing as a bluff you aren't committing yourself against shorter stacks. If there's a short stack in the big blind, it's something to consider, but it's also not likely they will have a hand worth shoving often enough unless they are a really good short stacker. Most short stackers are not. If the cut-off and button are short though, make sure you won't leave yourself in a spot to have to call off more money getting 2:1 on your money or better. With any Ax hands you'll be forced to call if your opponent on the button shoves, and you are getting 2:1 on a call with a hand like A5o. Even a hand like K7o you'll be slightly priced in to call versus a button's likely shoving range. Equity Win Tie Hand Range 33.68% 33.04% 0.63% [K7o(100)] 66.31% 65.679% 0.63% [ATs+(100), AJo+(100), 22QQ(100), KJs+(100), KQo(100)] Against an open cut-off with a short stack, you can get away from more hands since their shoving range will be a little tighter on average since the button is still in the hand. There will always be exceptions, but you should assume that most short stacking opponents that open in the cut-off won't shove as wide as the button will who is closing the action. Equity 27.12% 72.87% Win Tie Hand Range 26.84% 0.28% [K7o(100)] 72.58% 0.28% [AJs+(100), AQo+(100), 88+(100)]

Out of The "Norm" Lines to Take Against Steals


When you are facing really good opponents, you shouldn't look to just concede the pot. However you want to temper this with making sure you are putting yourself in the best possible situations as much as you can. There are some lines you can take against aggressive opponents who are opening fairly wide from the cut-off or button. 1. Stop and Go: Check and call a lot of flops where you have gut shots, back door outs, and then lead the turn. A majority of opponents

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will have difficulty adjusting to this line, and when executed properly will give up on a lot of pots. Mass multi-tabling regulars will look to move on to the next hand, except for the very few really good opponents. 2. Donk Lead: Against a decent amount of opponents this is all you'll have to do to take down the pot. You just want to look to do a donk lead in situations where you have maybe an overcard or two, almost no back door equity. Use hands that have very little equity to improve, and there are a reasonable range of better hands that you can get your opponent to fold out. 3. Lead Small Over Bet: This works well on paired boards, or hands where you have a lot of backdoor outs. You get your opponent to define their hand a little more, and then make them make a difficult turn decision by slightly over betting the turn. Most people don't have to deal with overbets often, so unless they have a big hand, usually opponents will give up.

In the above example, a weak regular open raised in the cut-off to 3 BBs with effective stacks of about 100 BBs. You decided to call in the big blind with As5s because your opponent seems pretty weak and not too aggressive post flop. The flop comes Qh4s7c. With 7.5 BBs in the pot, you bet under half the pot with a 3 BB bet. If your opponent just calls, you can assume they don't have much of a hand, and with back door nut flush draws, a backdoor wheel draw, and likely an over card that is good you can over bet most turns and get folds from most of your opponents range.

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If you get raised on the flop, you can 3-bet the flop and represent a monster looking to induce a raise. There's really little reason for your opponent to raise on such a dry board, and the small bet and flop 3-bet will confuse most opponents. Depending on your stakes, and what kind of weak regular your opponent is, you can get a lot of Qx hands to fold out as well. 4. Check Min-Raise Lead: A slightly more risky line, but one that works well against a fairly wide range of opponents, except absolute fish who can't fold hands. A decent percentage of opponents won't fold to min-raises, but when they do it's a cheap way to re-steal. When they do call, you have setup your hand to look like a monster, so you can fire a reasonably sized turn bet of 2/3rds to 3/4ths of the pot and expect to get folds from a lot of your opponents range on most board textures.

In the above example, your opponent opens on the button to 2.5 BBs, and you flat call out of the big blind with KcQd with effective stacks of 110 BBs. The flop comes Jc7c3d. You check to your opponent, and your opponent fires out a continuation bet of 4 BBs into a 6 BB pot. You check min-raise to 8 BBs and your opponent folds. Your opponent will be getting 4.5:1 on a call, but it will be extremely difficult to call with Ax, 6644, 22. These are hands that have very good equity against you that you can get to fold out. There are some hands you beat that you will get to fold out, but there are a good amount of drawing hands they could pick up on the turn that won't fold if you

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check/call and lead the turn. But most importantly you will fold out Ax hands that will have over 70% equity against you, and some hands that will have trouble continuing like small pairs that have almost the same equity. If your opponent calls, then you can lead the turn for 2/3rds the pot. You have possibly 12 over cards, a back door straight and 2nd nut flush back door as well. There are plenty of bad cards for your opponents range so that you can shove a lot of rivers as well if you miss hitting anything of showdown value.

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Chapter 7: 3-Betting

he games today are becoming increasingly aggressive. 3-betting, and 4-betting, something that only 45 years ago was not very common, is part of the norm now-adays. Players are applying more pressure pre-flop, and becoming increasingly aggressive post flop. It's for that reason you're going to want to be an expert in how to play in re-raised pots pre-flop, since you'll likely be playing in a lot of 3-bet pots. We'll take a look at three primary 3-betting hand ranges and how you'll use them in common situations.

Value Range
Just about everyone knows that when you re-raise pre-flop with QQ+, AK, you're doing it for value against your opponents raising range. What is considered value, of course, depends on your opponent and their opening range and calling range from each position. What is considered value is a mixture of these two elements. Some people get confused and think that 3-betting with AQo isn't for value because your opponent won't call with worse in certain situations. It's true that it's not for value, because you're actually a slight dog pre-flop against a standard cut-off open raising range (say of 30%). And your opponents 3-bet calling range isn't that great against you either, even though their calling range from the cut-off will likely be slightly higher, especially if they have position on you. What a lot of people tend to not consider is that there are a ton of small pairs that you will typically fold out when playing with effective stacks around 100 BBs. This ends up improving your equity when your opponent calls versus your opponents open raising range by about 34%.

AQo versus calling a CO open of 29.5% of hands

AQo versus CO 3-bet calling range

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Let's contrast this with a hand like JJ that you'd typically 3-bet for value in most spots. Sometimes you might look to flat. The exact opposite becomes true with a hand like JJ. You crush your opponents equity pre-flop versus the exact same range as above, but your pre-flop equity decreases versus their calling range, and doesn't increase like in the AQo example.

JJ versus CO open of 29.5% of hands

JJ versus CO 3-bet calling range

Removing a lot of your opponents small pairs and marginal hands increases your equity with a high un-paired hand like AQo, but decreases it with a big pair. So really the argument should be that you should be 3-betting AQo more, and flatting JJ pre-flop more often. Of course poker isn't this simple. The flopability of your hand and how many streets of value you can get with a particular hand matter. Not to mention that 3-betting decreases your effective stack to pot ratio so that you can comfortably play a slightly bigger pot with a big pair, and reduces your opponents hands that can create big pots, like 87s. The point here though is that certain hands actually gain equity when you 3-bet them versus lose equity. But there are other things to consider besides just equity. There's fold equity, decreasing the stack to pot ratio, and initiative. All of these will factor into whether 3-betting for value or calling is better. A baseline for a value 3-bet range is 4.2% of hands, which looks something like this: JJ+, AQs+, AQo+. Now clearly if you only 3-bet about 4% of your hands, you're not going to get much action when you 3-bet, and you're going to be leaving money on the table. You'll want to add in some more hands as bluffs, and also find ways to add more value hands against certain opponents.

Bluffing Range
You may have heard some of your poker friends talk about 3-betting a polarized range. This is where you 3-bet hands that are more towards the bottom of your hand range that you wouldn't find profitable to call as a bluff, and at the very high end of your range

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(top 4.2%) for value. Then some of the remaining hands you leave in your range to call with. So a typical polarized 3-bet range would look something like this: For Value: JJ+, AQs+, AQo+ Bluffing: A2sA8s,A2oA8o, K2sK9s, K5oK9o, Q5sQ9s, J5sJ7s, Q8oQ9o, J7oJ8o Calling Range: KJo+, KTs+, ATsAJs, AToAJo, QTs+, QJo, JTs, 22TT These are some example ranges, and while of course you can 3-bet bluff some other hands, these are more profitable on average to do so. You can also call with a wider range as well, and include suited and unsuited connectors, as well as gapped connectors. Using an example from above, you call with a hand like AJs instead of 3-bet with it because your equity versus your opponents opening range is good, and you keep in dominated hands like KJ, JQ, AT, A9, etc. If you 3-bet AJs your equity drops, and you keep in more hands that will dominate your range like AQ, JJ, etc.

AJs versus CO open of 29.5% of hands

AJs versus CO 3-bet calling range

So if you add some of these bluffing hands to your 3-bet value range, you'll increase your 3-bet range to a percentage that will properly polarize your total 3-bet range. This means that if you get your total 3-bet percentage to around 8%, your opponent won't know when you're 3-betting for value, or when you're 3-bet bluffing. They'll have to risk calling and playing a re-raised pot without initiative against you, folding their hand and giving up their equity, or 4-betting you.

Quasi Range
There will be times when you will want to turn some of your range you might normally call with, like AJs in the example above, into a 3-bet quasi-value range. You might do this against opponents who don't like to fold to 3-bets, or when you want to 3-bet isolate a weak player to keep other regulars out of the pot. It's quasi because sometimes it can be for value, and sometimes it will be a bluff. An example of a 3-bet quasi range is many of our calling hands from the previous examples.

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Quasi 3-bet Range: KQo+, KJs+, A9sAJs, AToAJo, QJs+, 99TT Against players who are opening fairly wide, and don't fold to 3-bets, re-raising a hand like AJs or KQs has a lot of value. You'll have your opponent calling with a lot of suited and unsuited connectors, dominated hands, and small pairs that don't have good flopability. There are a lot of hands where you'll put your opponent in a defensive position with an inferior range often enough.

3-Bet Sizing
Standard 3-bet sizing tends to be 34 times your opponents opening raise, and sometimes slightly more out of position. In position you'll tend to want to 3-bet slightly smaller (33.5x), to keep your opponent in with a weaker range out of position against you, and slightly larger out of position (3.754.5x) to cut down your stack to pot ratio and increase your fold equity. What you size your 3-bet to heavily depends on your opponent, your actual hand, and whether you're looking to increase or decrease your opponents fold percentage.

Standard 3-bet Strategy


Against most regulars you should create a standard 3-bet sizing range for being in and out of position. 3-betting 3.5x your opponents opening size in position, and 4x out of position. Against fish or really weak players, you should deviate from your standard raise sizing and focus on a max size you think your opponent will call when you have a big hand. Typically speaking you're going to depolarize most of your range against a fish, so a bulk of your raises will be for value, or to isolate with a quasi range. And you can deviate and change those sizes until you have some history with other regulars at your table who may begin to seize on your changed sizing. Then you'll have to keep it more consistent, or occasionally flip-flop your value and quasi range sizing.

Applied Pressure 3-bet Strategy


For several years now players haven't really adjusted well to their opponents opening ranges. When 3-betting became more popular, it was one of the first major

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adjustments to counter how wide a lot of opponents were opening from certain positions, and especially in 6-max cash games. It makes sense to try and fold out some of your opponents range and take down a pot without seeing a flop. There are rarely situations where you're so much of a favorite pre-flop, so any time you can get your opponent to completely abandon the equity in their hand without further play is good. Now of course you'd prefer to keep them in the pot when you have some equity advantage, but having initiative in a hand is a difficult thing for most opponents to overcome. It's less difficult to overcome in limit holdem, but in no-limit when a player can make any sized bet, it's not as easy to call down versus someone's range until you know their bluffing frequencies at least a little bit. It's one thing to put an opponent on a range of hands; it's another to understand their weighted frequency distribution of each hand. That's when reads, notes, and other statistics about an opponent can help sway a fold to a call or vice versa. That's when applied pressure pre-flop can drastically alter the dynamics of how your opponents respond to your 3-betting game. Most players still don't respond well to 3-bets, so creating a table dynamic that keeps the pressure on, builds more pots in position against your better opponents, takes initiative in the hand, creates a lower stack to pot ratio, and allows you to isolate weaker players more often can be a very profitable strategy. Instead of 3-betting 3.54x your opponents open raise sizing, you 3-bet 2.67x your opponents open size in position, and 3.54x out of position. To keep it simple, if your opponent opens 3x the big blind, then you'd 3-bet to 8 BBs. If your opponent opens 2.5x the big blind, then 3-bet to 6.7 BBs. The sizing will take some getting used to depending on the stakes you play, but you can easily work that out and make a cheat sheet if you need to. This means that all of your value range and quasi range you're going to be 3-betting 2.67x your opponents opening amount. The reason you're going to do this is because it's going to keep a bulk of your opponents range still in the pot against you. Additionally it's going to place your opponent in a situation where they're going to have to make a lot of moves against you post flop to make up for situations when they call with the weaker part of their range and whiff the flop. They're going to have to do this out of position without initiative. There are very few opponents capable of doing this consistently at micro and small stakes games. If you are playing against one you think is capable, then just don't use this strategy against them. Let's take a simple example with 100 BB effective stacks. Your opponent open raises 3x the big blind from MP and is currently opening 21.6% of hands from that position. You are on the button with KJs and you 3-bet your opponent to 8 BBs. Your opponent calls and you see a flop heads up. First of all, let's look at the pre-flop equity versus your opponents opening range and calling range.

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KJs versus MP open of 21.6% of hands

KJs versus MP 3-bet calling range

First thing is your pre-flop equity doesn't really change that much. Yet now you have a re-raised pot, in position against your opponents 3-bet calling range, and you have initiative. Combine that with the fact that with two unpaired hole cards, your opponent is whiffing the flop 68% of the time, you've put them in a tough spot. Of course your opponent isn't going to have two unpaired hole cards all the time, but between draws, and hands that can continue, you're going to win the pot with a continuation bet more than half the time. Most opponents fold to continuation bets in 3-bet pots between 50%60% of the time. If you make a slightly over 1/2 pot sized bet, it's printing money in this situation. Of course the total expected value of this play also depends on how often you're folding to a 4-bet. Let's take a look plugging in some expected percentages: F = (4.5(.20) / B = (8(.20) / C = (9.5(.60) + (10(.40) F + B + C = EV F = How often your opponent folds to your 3-bet. We're saying conservatively 20%. A good number is between 2030% depending on your opponent. B = How often your opponent is 4-betting and you'll have to fold. 1525% is a fair number and against better players who will start 4-betting as their adjustment this will get to ~30%. C = How often a slightly over half pot sized continuation bet will be called. 60% is a rough fair number, but against some opponents this will be lower or slightly higher. .9 -1.6 + 1.7 = 1 / EV = +1 This isn't even accounting for the equity you have in your hand when your continuation bet is called, which will jump this number up quite a bit. This is just the raw EV of a play until the continuation bet on the flop. Consider when you continue to do this against an opponent, and they decide to adjust at the incorrect time and you have a big hand (either a big pair pre-flop, or you flopped a big hand). Having position is huge in this situation and you can control the size of the pot post flop.

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To be fair, let's compare this against the EV of calling KJs in position. That's a fine hand to call with and take a flop in position against most opponents. So let's take a look at the hand against the same range, and same situation. EV = (5.5(.47) = (3(.53) = +1 Looks like it's just about the same EV if we take the hand to the flop, but this time our opponent has initiative, and they are continuation betting. We're also saying we're only folding to a continuation bet in position 47% of the time to a roughly 3/4ths pot sized bet (5.5). Again, this doesn't take into account equity when you call versus your opponents range. Everything is the same, except that it's a single raised pot, and now you don't have initiative and you're not continuation betting. You're also not applying much pressure to your opponent beyond calling and perhaps floating a decent amount of flops against them. Both plays are pretty close in EV, and exact in the case of using our numbers, but the goals are slightly different. The primary reason you'd employ this 3-betting strategy over flatting a hand like KJs is to apply pressure, keep your opponent on the defensive and in re-raised pots out of position against you. You're not going to be 3-betting this same hand nearly as often out of position. This is purely an in position strategy to use against certain opponents, and in certain games.

Applied Pressure vs Standard 3-bet Strategy


Either the applied pressure or the standard 3-bet strategy will be the optimal approach to take based on the specific table you're at. If you fall in love with an applied pressure 3-betting strategy, employing it every time you sit down at a table will generally be a mistake. The kinds of players you have to your immediate right and left should be the primary determining factor as to which kind of strategy will yield the highest EV. For example, if you have a bad loose aggressive player on your immediate right, and a bad fishy player on your immediate left, employing an applied pressure strategy won't be ideal. You'll end up pushing the fish out of the pot far too often if they keep seeing re-raises in front of them. Having the bad loose aggressive player on your right is ideal, but the weak fishy player on your immediate left trumps the bad LAG player. If the fishy player wasn't on your immediate left, and you had decent regulars to your immediate left, then the applied pressure 3-betting strategy would work great. Some better regulars might start to adjust after awhile, but in general it's a great approach to take to isolate the bad LAG player. In general, it's best to use a standard 3-betting strategy until you have players at your table identified. Your goal with an applied pressure 3-betting strategy should be to isolate

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the weaker players, and force your better opponents into making mistakes, or reacting poorly against your 3-bets. If you do this effectively you'll have a wider 3-betting range in these situations and at the tables where it makes the most sense. An ideal 3-betting percentage when employing a standard 3-betting strategy with a polarized range should be somewhere between 79%. When using an applied pressure 3-betting strategy, your 3-bet percentage can be anywhere from 1015% on average.

3-Bet Calling Ranges


As I'm sure you know, defending against 3bets can be quite difficult in a lot of situations. It's especially true when you hold a hand that would be in a quasi 3-betting range itself. Calling, folding, or 4-betting can all be close decisions at times. How you properly vet out which decision will the highest EV line can be the difference between being a marginal winner/loser, and crushing the games. Typically speaking, we'd all prefer to play in a re-raised pot, or any pot, when we have position. In a re-raised pot with marginal hands it's not as simple as saying to fold most of your hands out of position, and call in position. Typically most opponents will have a wider 3-betting range in position, and quite a bit tighter out of position. So like most poker decisions, where you open from (and how often), and where your opponent 3-bets from (and how often) will be of the upmost importance in determining a 3-bet calling range.

Easy Folds to 3-bets


There are some very obvious spots to dump a hand, and some obvious spots to continue. There aren't static rules to defending against a 3-bet, but some situations are clear cut folds. Here are a few of them assuming roughly 100 BB effective stacks: You open a normal range UTG, action is folded to the small blind who 3-bets you and has a normal to tight 3-betting range. Comments: If you open say 15% UTG, and your opponent has an overall 3-bet percentage of 6%, then you're folding almost all of your hands except for: QQ+, AKs, AKo. QQ may even be a fold if your opponents overall 3-bet percentage is

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smaller than 6%. Your opponents 3-bet percentage from the small blind is irrelevant, and it's unlikely you'll have an adequate sample to have stats for 3-bet from SB vs UTG. On average you'll be looking at an opponent with a 4% 3-bet range or less. So you should be proceeding only with the very top of your range. You open a normal range UTG, action is folded to the big blind who 3-bets you and has a normal to tight 3-betting range. Comments: Similar thing as in the small blind, except you can call with slightly more of your range. Since the big blind is last to act, the 3-betting range will be slightly wider on average, but not by much. That just means you can call with TT+, AKo, AKs and sometimes AQs. You open a normal range UTG, and your opponent on your immediate left 3-bets you, who has a normal 3-betting range. Comments: You should be folding most of your range except for JJ+, AKo, AKs. Against some opponents, TT and AQs can be called. In general though they should be dumped unless they are somewhat on the looser 3-betting side of a normal 3betting range.

"Easy" Calls to 3-bets


Defending your opening range is a must in today's games. You just want to make sure you're consistently doing it in the highest EV situations obviously. Some spots that come up often that are "easy" calls to a 3-bet with 100 BB effective stacks are as follows: You open on the button, a normal open button range, and get 3-bet by the big blind who has a fairly wide 3-betting range. Comments: You both know your range is going to be wider and lighter than normal. This should be one of the spots you defend against most aggressively since you'll have position and you have options between calling or 4-betting light. Assuming your opponent is 3-betting about 15% of his range, you should look to call with roughly an equal percentage of your range, or slightly more depending on how confident you are in outplaying your opponent. All things being equal, having position is your biggest advantage. If you assume a somewhat polarized range from your opponent, then you should be calling with a range similar to this (assuming

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you'll 4-bet JJ+, AK most of the time): 88JJ, A9s+, AToAQo, KJo+, KTs+, QTs+, J9s+, QTo+, T9s, 98s, T9o, 87s. You'll have anywhere from 47%52% equity depending on how polarized your opponents range is. You open on the button, a normal open button range, and get 3-bet by the small blind who has a fairly wide 3-betting range. Comments: Very similar to the above. You will both have wider ranges, but the small blind will have a slightly tighter 3-betting range on average with the big blind still left to act. You should still defend liberally, unless your opponent is on the tight side of a normal 3-betting range for this situation. So assume a roughly 13% 3betting range, your defense range should look similar to defend the blind with a few more hands cut out: 88JJ, ATs+, AToAQo, KJo+, KTs+, QTs+, JTs, T9s, 98s, T9o. The goal is to have yourself around the 47%52% equity range against your opponents 3-bet range. You open in cut-off, a normal cut-off range. The action folds to the big blind who 3-bets a fairly wide range. Comments: Despite the fact that your range will be significantly tighter in the cutoff, your opponents 3-betting range will be almost as wide as if you had opened from the button. Somewhere between 1013% on average for normal aggressive regulars. So assuming a 3-bet range of about 11.5%, then a good defending range would be: 88JJ, ATs+, AJoAQo, KQo, KJs+, QJs, JTs, T9s. Again, the goal is to get between 4752% equity versus your opponents range. In this case you'd be pretty close to 50% equity. You open in cut-off, a normal cut-off range. The action folds to the small blind who 3bets a fairly wide range for this situation. Comments: Same as above, and your opponents 3-bet range should be slightly tighter as opposed to 3-betting from the big blind, but not by much. A range of 8.512% would be average for this situation. So assuming a 3-bet range of 10%, a good defense calling range would be: 88JJ, ATs+, AJoAQo, KQo, KQs. This would be slightly over 48% equity versus your opponents 3-bet range.

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Marginal Spots vs 3-bets


As you well know, you're going to be in a lot of marginal spots when facing a 3-bet. How you react and play those situations is going to make a significant difference in your winrate. Many of the decisions will be super close, so stat ranges and reads will be critical in helping you to make the best decision possible. Some of the common marginal spots with roughly 100 BB effective stacks are: You open raise in MP (or late MP in full ring) with a normal MP opening range of about 20%, and your opponent on the button 3-bets you who has a normal button 3-betting range of about 12%. Comments: You aren't opening super wide, but your opponent is going to be 3betting from the button pretty wide and will have position on you post flop. If your opponent is betting a normal polarized range, then you're going to be a slight dog to neutral equity with your opening range versus their 3-betting range. You would be looking at somewhere between 4650% on average. Your opponent is going to have a positional equity advantage bump on anywhere from 1.11.3x of their real equity. So you'll need to fold enough of your range, turn some of those into 4-bluffs occasionally, and call with a range where you can make up your positional disadvantage. A good baseline starting range would be: 99+, ATs+, AJo+, KJs+, KQo. This would give you anywhere between 5760% equity versus their range. If you cut out a few more of these hands like KJs, ATs, KQo, you'll jump your equity a couple of more points. So something like: 99+, AJs+, AJo+, KQs for most players who may struggle with out of position play a bit. You're going to want to turn some of the bottom of your folding range into 4-bet bluffs so that you can make up for the times you're being 3-bet and have to fold. Calling with this range, you're going to be folding roughly 70% of the time, so you'll need to mix in some 4-bet bluffs to make up for the times you're abandoning your equity. The other options are that you call with some of your suited connectors a higher percentage of the time, and bluff shove when you hit some piece of the flop, which is going to be a much higher variance strategy, but can still be effective. You open raise in MP (or late MP in full ring) with a normal MP opening range of about 20%, and your opponent in the cut-off 3-bets you who has a normal cut-off 3-betting range of about 8%.

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Comments: Very similar situation, except now your opponent has a tighter 3-betting range. It's a bit more difficult to profitably turn some of your range into 4-bet bluffs, but you still can turn a few. You might think your calling range would need to be tightened up a bit in comparison to the previous example, but it's actually not the case. A lot more of your opponents quasi range will turn into a flatting range, and their 3bet bluff to value distribution will be more evenly distributed. So a calling range of: 99+, AJs+, AQo+, KQs is a good baseline and will give you between 5860% equity on average versus your opponents range Depending on your comfort level with out of position play, eliminating KQs and/or AJs will jump your equity a few more points and eliminate some "trouble hands." Most of the time you'll be 4-betting KK+, AK, but flatting for deception in these situations adds a lot of value to your hand versus your opponents range. Again, you will have to mix in a couple of 4-bet bluffs, and you'll have to turn some of your weaker hands into post flop bluffs to make this situation profitable overall. It's a marginal spot for good reason. You open raise a normal range in the cut-off of about 28%, and an opponent on the button with a normal polarized 3-betting range of 13% 3-bets you. Comments: Similar spot to the first example except our opponents 3-betting range will tend to be slightly larger in this situation on average, and our opening range is going to be wider. You'll be a slight dog versus his 3-betting range, so folding some of the range without being exploitable, and turning enough hands into 4-bet bluffs is a fine line since your opponent will know that you'll have a wider 4-betting range on average. A baseline calling range would be: 88+, ATs+, AJo+, KJs+, KQo. This would give you between 5860% equity again, and keep you slightly under 70% folding percent. Assuming you always 4-bet KK+, AK in this spot, with the remaining hands you'll still have between 5557% equity versus your opponents 3betting range. In general, if you're not comfortable calling in a re-raised pot out of position, then you need to be tightening up your opening range when you have reasonably aggressive 3bettors who have position on you. If you're normally opening say 28%, like in the above example, but you have a player on the button who 3-bets 14% in that dynamic, you need to considerably reduce your opening range. You'd need to cut off anywhere from 610% from your open raising range to play the situation profitably. Make sure you're adjusting your range, based on the opponents that have position on you.

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Being 3-bet by a short stack


There are a lot more short stackers in today's games, and ones that are slightly more competent then they were in the past. We'll define a short stack as anyone with a stack between 1535 BBs. On most online poker sites the minimum buy-in is 2030 BBs, so most short stackers will be around this range. One of the most important things when facing a short stacker is knowing what kind of short stacker they are, because your calling ranges are going to vary depending on this. The leaking my stack short stacker: This guy is slowing losing his stack and not playing well. Their shoving ranges are not going to be optimal on average, so your calling range needs to widen and adjust accordingly. The just lost a big pot short stacker: If he looks to be aggressive at all, he can easily be tilting, so your range really needs to widen if their stack is 25 BBs or less. The buy-in short bad player: This guy is looking to keep it conservative, but likely doesn't know exactly what he's doing. If you haven't seen him do anything yet, then assume he's conservative and will have tight shoving ranges of: 77+,AQo+,AQs+. If he's limped into some pots, or called some pots and been at all active, then he's likely bad and you can assume a somewhat wider shoving range. The pro short stacker: You'll have your hands full as this person is looking to play some fun break-even poker. Depending on your stakes, and if he's good at all, he might make some money. You'll have to keep somewhat tight calling ranges against him though. If you are playing a competent short stacker, a general rule is that if you call about 4548% of your opening range against a shove of 20 BBs, then you'll generally squeak out a small profit. So for example, if you open 20.4% of your range from late middle position, and a 20 BB short stacker shoves on you from the cut-off, then you should be calling 9% 10.5% of your opening range. That would look something like this: You open: 22+, A3s+, A9o+, KTs+, KTo+, QTs+, JTs, QJo, T9s, JTo. Your calling range would roughly be: 66+, A9s+, KJs+, AJo+. This is assuming of course they are competent and they aren't just shoving big hands like 99+, AQs+, AQo+. In that case you're just going to call with an almost similar range with a few more hands added like AJs, KQs, 88. The bottom line is you want to keep your

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calling range slightly under 50% of your opening range, unless they are just shoving big hands only and not adjusting to your opening ranges by position.

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Chapter 8: 4-Bet Bluffing

ike I've said earlier, the games are increasingly aggressive pre-flop and post flop. To some degree at certain higher stakes, the 3-betting and 4-betting has mellowed out a little, but micro and small stake players are still seeing effects of increased aggression. In order to properly combat this increased aggression, you need to have a solid 4-bet bluffing plan. 4-betting for value is pretty simple. You have a big hand against someone who you think will stack off with worse and you 4-bet. Finding profitable 4betting spots is a little trickier, but possible to do if you are staying cognizant of the opportunities that present themselves.

Why 4-bet Bluff?


There are several reasons to 4-bet bluff in today's games. In general, people at micro and small stakes games will 3-bet a bit too wide in certain situations, and not re-defend their 3-bets often enough. Some people think it's a strategy that carries with it higher variance, but if you pick your spots well, that's simply not the case. In some volume, of course, there's going to be more variance, but in any reasonable sample you'll show profit if you're picking your spots correctly. Some of the reasons to 4-bet bluff are: 1. Defend your opening raise. If you're opening a somewhat wider range, then you should expect to get 3-bet more. If you simply fold only the highest end of your range, you're going to get exploited pretty badly by even bad regulars. 2. Add depth to your 4-bet range. So when you do 4-bet, you may get your opponents to react poorly and 5-bet shove with the wrong ranges against you. If you're only 4-betting 2% of your range, then opponents can play near perfect against you if they are at all competent. 3. Push people off better hand. If you pick your spots and hands well, you can get people to fold hands like AQo, TTJJ for example or even better depending on how badly they adjust to your 4-bet range.

Good 4-bet bluffing hands


The primary goal with your 4-bet bluffing hands is to have some hands that have decent showdown value if called, and can outflop your opponents 3-bet calling range. You

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also don't want hands that are going to commit you to the pot, and that you can dump if your opponent 5-bet jams on you. So some good 4-bet bluffing hands are:
4-bet Hands A2sA9s A2oA9o K2sKTs K6oKTo Q6sQTs Equity 2930% 2526% 2527% 2223% 2629% Reasons Good if you happen to get called. Can out flop some hands, and also easy fold. You have some Kx blockers, and easy fold. Very easy fold. Reasonable equity when called.

Hands with Ax and Kx contain blockers against your opponents range. So it cuts down on the possible big ace and king combos your opponent will have. Additionally the Ax and Kx hands can outflop or out turn your opponents 4-bet calling range since a lot of these hands will be JJ+ depending on your opponent and their position. Some hands like KTs and QTs can be profitable 3-bet calling hands, but in certain situations out of position, they also make good 4-bet bluffing hands. Small pairs like 2255, for example, are not hands that you can 4-bet bluff and fold with 100 BB effective stacks. You'll have anywhere from 35.737.3% equity versus your opponents shoving range so you'll be committed to calling. As a rough rule, any hand that has about 3132% equity versus your opponents 5-bet jamming range, you cannot fold once you 4-bet. The bottom line with profitable 4-bet bluffing is that you want to ideally look for opponents that 3-bet too wide, and don't re-defend their 3-bets enough. Once you start getting over an 8% 3-betting range, you can find a lot of profitable 4-bet bluffing opportunities. As your opponents get better, they will of course understand your 4-bet bluffing range is going to widen and jam slightly wider or call accordingly. However, most opponents at micro and small stakes don't adjust to this well. At micro stakes, you won't have as many aggressive 3-bettors, but they are still there, and those are the people you need to target.

4-bet Bluff Sizing


When effective stacks are close to 100 BBs, then between 2225% of your stack size is an ideal 3-bet bluff sizing. This will allow you to get away from most hands if you are jammed on. When effective stacks are over 100 BBs to about 150 BBs, then 4-bet to roughly 2.83.7x your opponents 3-bet sizing. When stack sizes get over that size, don't look to 4-bet bluff very often since your opponents 4-bet calling range will begin to widen. You should instead be widening your 4-bet value range, preferably in position of course.

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Also you can look to 4-bet ISO in position more to apply maximum pressure versus your opponents range.

In the above example, in a full ring cash game with effective stacks of 100 BBs, it's folded to you in late middle position (MP2) with QdTd and you raise 3 BBs. The action folds to the button who 3-bets 10% of his hands from the button and he 3-bets to 10 BBs. The action folds back to you, and you 4-bet to 23 BBs. Is this a profitable 4-bet bluff? 1. He's 3-betting over 8% of his hands, so whether it's profitable or not is going to come down to 4-bet sizing and how wide he will 5-bet jam or call. Most opponents at micro and small stakes are going to play 5-bet jam or fold poker. 2. What your opponents 3-betting range is in a spot like this is actually irrelevant, unless your opponent is calling a lot of 4-bets. Since this isn't the case a majority of the time, you can take any range, polarized or depolarized with quasi ranges in it, and just plug in what you think a reasonable 5-bet jam range is for your opponent. We'll say something like roughly 3% of his hands or slightly less which equates to: QQ+, AQs+, AKo. Swap JJ for AQs, and it won't make much difference since you are not calling a jam. It will just slightly alter the fold percentages. 3. If your opponent is opening 10% of his range, and jamming only 3%, then they'll be folding roughly 70% of the time to a 4-bet. 14.5(.70) - 23(.3) = + 3.3 BBs 4. 4-bet bluffing in this situation has a net profit of +6.3 BBs, since if you fold you're losing 3 BBs 100% of the time.

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Is folding the correct play versus your opponents range if you are jammed on? 1. If we keep the above 5-bet jamming range of our opponent, and plug in the numbers you'll end up having slightly under 30% equity versus your opponents range: (100(.3)) - (77(.7)) = (30 - 54) = -24 BBs. 2. If you 4-bet to 23 BBs and fold, you're losing 23 BBs 100% of the time. (-24) - (-23) = -1 BBs. So it's narrow but it would be a - 1 BB EV play.

Ideal 4-bet Bluffing Spots


Once you know what kinds of hands you want to 4-bet, and you have a good grasp of the kind of sizing you want to keep, then finding the most profitable spots will become fairly easy. Some of the criteria you'll want to have in place to make the most profitable 4bet bluffs are: 1. Your opponent 3-bets too much, and won't 5-bet shove or call wide enough to redefend. Typically speaking, most opponents 3-bet range will get wider in certain spots, but their 5-bet jamming range or calling range won't widen. So this can become extremely exploitable. 2. You have no significant recent 4-bet history. You haven't been 3-betting or 4-betting your opponent a lot lately in a way that will get them to over react to a situation and decide to 5-bet jam lighter than normal. Everyone has their breaking point, and when 4-bet shoving you really depend on fold equity to make it a profitable opportunity. 3. You haven't been super active for long stretches. You haven't been active in a lot of pots, 3-betting and 4-betting other players a decent amount recently. Playing and calling some pots or an occasional 3-bet is fine, but either because of a run of good cards or as bluffs, if you've been pushing the table around a bit then this can create a reaction by other players, even if they haven't' been involved with you. 4. You haven't 4-bet folded recently. If you 4-bet folded to an opponent, then there's a much higher chance that they will play back at your lighter, even if they aren't a very good player. Keep your 4-bet bluff contained to the most optimal spots and you should be able to easily get your 4-bet range over 3% and close to 4%. Something between 34.5% is optimal without getting into an area where you may begin spewing chips.

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Chapter 9: Perceived Range

ost of everything in poker really comes down to two things. What your opponent thinks your range is, and what you think your opponent's range is. Based on those two things, it's a matter of properly selling or deceiving what your range is to your opponents, and properly reading what their range is without getting deceived. Becoming a master of convincing your opponent that you have a heavily weighted strong range when you are bluffing, and a weak range or bluff when you are strong can become quite the art in no-limit poker. With some practice and thoughtful execution, it's an aspect of poker that can separate you from the other regulars in the games you're playing. A big part of your perceived range is going to depend on how you'd play a given range of hands in a particular situation. When you're first playing someone at your stakes, there's going to be a given "normal" way to play a range hands for the board that's in play. There will be some general assumptions made about your opponent until you can glean what their likely skill level is, and what level they are thinking about poker on. Then, based on the history that you build with that opponent, and how you've seen them play past situations, you'll start to alter what their likely range will be in a particular spot. That's where making reads and taking good notes on your opponents really comes into play. For example, if you've seen your opponent call two streets on a dry board, and then turn a small pair or bottom pair into a bluff on the river, then you're going to know that when you reach the river you're going to want to check/call a good portion of your medium strength hands to your opponent on the river, or bet small on the turn and river to induce a bluff.

Balancing Your Range


When you can play a variety of different hand ranges in roughly the same ratios, and in the same manner, then you've balanced your hand range. You're doing this in order to make it difficult for your opponent to narrow down your hand range. The wider and more balanced your range is, the more likelihood that your opponent will make a mistake versus your play.

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If you have an unbalanced range, then your opponent will be able to narrow your hand range down easier, and consequently make the more optimal decision versus your play. So, for example, if you only check-raise flops when you hold an open ended straight draw or flush, then you'd have an unbalanced range. Your opponent will be able to narrow down your range well enough to make good decisions. Now if you added in sets to your check-raising range, and roughly 50% of the time you check-raised with a draw, and 50% of the time you check-raised with a set, it will make your opponents decision more difficult. But now let's say 25% of the time you check-raise in a given spot with top pair, 25% of the time you check-raised with two pair, 25% of the time you check-raised with a set, and 25% of the time you check-raised with a draw. Your opponent is going to have a lot of hands they'll have to consider before continuing.

In the example above, in a full ring cash game with 100 BB effective stacks, you open 88 for 3 BBs from early middle position (MP1), and the table folds to the small blind who calls. The big blind folds and you see the flop heads-up. The flop comes: Td9c4d. Your opponent checks, and you bet 2/3rds of the pot and your opponent check-raises. Let's take a look at how an unbalanced range to a more progressively balanced range affects equity, and should in turn affect your opponents decision if they understand your range. 1. Your opponent only check-raises open ended straight draws and flush draws. Your equity versus this range is going to be roughly 55%. With the money already in the pot, you should either look to get it in, or call and shove a blank turn card when your opponents equity will really drop.

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2. Now your opponent check-raises OESD's / flush draws 50% of the time, and two pair 50% of the time. Your equity is going to drop all the way down to 45.5% versus your opponents range. With the money already in the pot, this will typically be a very narrow +EV spot to get your money in against that kind of range. 3. Let's now add top pair to your opponents range, and say that 33% of the time they are check-raising top pair, draws, and two pair. Your equity is going to drop all the way down to 38.3% against your opponents range, making it a clear fold. 4. And finally, just to round it out, let's add that 25% of the time your opponent is checkraising sets, draws, two pair, and top pair equally. Your equity is going to drop down to 33.9% against your opponents range. The wider and more diverse the range gets, the more difficult the decision is going to be for your opponent. So the bottom line is that the more competent your opponent is, the more diverse and balanced your range needs to be in an array of situations. The weaker your opponent is, the more unbalanced your range can be simply because they won't be placing you on a range of hands well enough to make good decisions to begin with. This consequently means that if your opponent isn't thinking much beyond their own hand strength, you won't need to worry about balancing your range. Most players in small stakes games and above today will be thinking about ranges, but may not know how to properly balance their own ranges. Micro stake players mostly won't understand either concept, except for the most competent of regulars in your games. For that reason you can keep a mostly unbalanced range against those kinds of opponents, and play as exploitative as possible.

Balancing Flop Textures


When you look to balance your hand range, there are two primary concepts you're using in order to fool your opponents into making the worst possible decision. You're

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playing a range of different strength hands in the same way, and that consequently means you'll have to play the same strength hand in various different ways in order to properly add that balance. That means if you flop a set, you're not always check / calling. Some percentage of the time you're leading at the flop (donking into the pre-flop raiser). Another percent of the time you'll be check-raising. When you're first learning to balance your range, you're going to be focusing on board texture, and your opponents likely equity versus your hand in order to take the highest initial EV line. It's something you assume you'd always want to do of course, but what the highest EV line is begins to change the more sophisticated your opponents become. There will be a variety of board textures where it will make more sense to have a slightly narrower, but balanced, range for that situation. Against fairly competent opponents, this is the approach you'll want to employ a majority of the time. However, like I alluded to, the more sophisticated your opponents become, the more hand ranges for each situation you'll want to add to your range distribution. It's easy on a really dry board to play a number of hands in the same manner. As the board texture gets more draw heavy, and paired, it's not quite as simple.

Balancing on Dry Boards


Balancing your hand range on a dry board is the easiest to do. You won't have a lot of threats of bad cards on future streets, and with your stronger range hands you'll have tons of equity that often can't be out run by your opponents hand. This allows for a bit more freedom and creativity with the lines you can take. There are two types of dry boards in general. Low to mid dry boards, and broadway dry boards. If you take an opponent who is opening 23.4% of his range and compare it against a common calling range for you where you whiff the board and don't have a pocket pair in your hand, you'll see how much your equity rises as you add more hands to your range. We'll say your opponent continuation bets the board almost 100% of the time, and we'll use a flop of: 2c5d9s as an example. Dry Low Board Check/Call with Gutshot: ~39% equity versus your opponents range. (76s, 76o, 87o, 87s, 86s, A3oA4o, A3sA4s) Check/Call with Air: ~40% equity versus your opponents range. (ATsAJs, AToAQo, KTs+, KJo+, QJo, QJs, JTs) Check/Call with small pair: ~54% equity versus your opponents range. (3344, 6688)

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Check/Call with Top Pair: ~68% equity versus your opponents range. (A9o, A9s, T9o, T9s, J9s, 97s+, 98o, J9o) Check/Call with a Set: ~94% equity versus your opponents range. (22, 55, 99) Combined equity of all ranges: ~42% equity versus your opponents range. Combined equity of made hands: ~73% equity versus your opponents range. Check/calling with your made hands in this spot is fairly easy. You'll have high equity versus your opponents continuation bet range, and you won't have a ton of bad board run outs. You'll have a decent chance of some broadways hitting on later streets, but not much beyond that. The question will become, can you add another range or two of hands in this situation so that your opponent isn't giving up when he misses against you, and only continuing when he has a big hand. If you were out of position with a set in this spot, you'd want your opponent to continue firing on the turn. So the question becomes, what will be the highest EV line for you to take with a range of hands in a dry board situation against most opponents. Keep in mind, the line you take with each range should also change based on your opponent, mainly how good and aggressive they are versus how average or bad they are. Most opponents will expect you to check/call with your sets, top pair, and small pairs in this spot. They know that you'll expect them to continuation bet with almost their entire range, so you'll want to give them that opportunity knowing that they won't have a strong range often enough to handle much more pressure than a call. What you'll want to answer for yourself is, in a situation where youre out of position to a pre-flop raiser, how do you ideally want to play each of these range of hands? Your pre-flop hand distribution is going to be comprised mostly of unpaired hands that will whiff the flop 68% of the time. You'll flop some gut-shots with suited and unsuited connectors about 16% of the time. The bulk of your range, as you know, will be with air. Your opponent will know this as well, so the line you take will need to take that into heavy consideration. If your opponent doesn't react well to aggression, then donking into them with your air range that has over cards, gutshots, and sets can be a good line. You're not going to flop a set often, and when you do, they usually won't expect you to lead into them until they've seen you do it. If they have a hand, they're going to call or even raise. You just have to make sure that if you're consistently donking into them, that when you do have a set you lead into them as well. Mix in doing it with top pair occasionally as well. If your opponent is aggressive and tricky, then check/calling and leading the turn, or check-raising with gutshots and sets can be effective. Note that, again, because of hand distribution it wouldn't be very balanced to check-raise with over cards and sets since most of the time you'll have over cards. Your opponent still will be able to weight your range

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well enough to make good decisions. It's still more effective to have a hand in your range versus not having it at all, but the frequency of distribution of the hands you do something with is nearly as important as the range itself. Let's take a similar situation to the above scenario except now we're looking at a flop of: Qd7c3s with the same opponent opening range of 23.4%. Dry Broadway Board Check/Call with Gutshot: ~30% equity versus your opponents range. (54s, 54o, 65o, 65s) Check/Call with Air: ~36% equity versus your opponents range. (A9sAJs, AToAJo, KJs, KToKJo, JTs) Check/Call with small pair: ~47% equity versus your opponents range. (22, 4466, 88) Check/Call with Top Pair: ~78% equity versus your opponents range. (AQo, KQo, KQs, QTs+, QTo+) Check/Call with a Set: ~94% equity versus your opponents range. (77, 33) Combined equity of all ranges: ~49% equity versus your opponents range. Combined equity of made hands: ~67% equity versus your opponents range.
Dry Low Board Check/Call with Gutshot Check/Call with Air Check/Call with Small Pair Check/Call with Top Pair Check/Call with Set Combined Equity of All Ranges Combines Equity of Made Hands Dry Broadway Board ~30% ~36% ~47%

~39% ~40% ~54%


~68% ~94% ~42%

~78%
~94%

~49%
~67%

~73%

On a single broadway dry board your equity is going to drop a bit with your air range, small pairs, and combined made hands. It's not significant, but it's a drop, so when you're playing these boards check/calling with gutshots and air isn't going to be as profitable as it will be on lower dry boards. You're going to have to turn those hands into bluffs a higher percentage of the time to make them profitable. Check-raising on these kinds of board textures with your air, gutshots, strong top pair, and sets can be a profitable line since most of the time you're going to have air or top pair. Check-raising on a dry board like this is going to look suspect for a lot of decent opponents, but it's still going to put them in a tough spot on later streets with a lot of their hands. Typically against regulars you can try making this play with your gutshots and air and see how they react. If they are calling you down or re-floating you, then it's not going to

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be a good strategy out of position. A lot of mediocre regulars will just fold if they don't have a strong hand here, and against those opponents it's a highly profitable play. When you can get your opponent to fold some better hands and when they have the better equity, it's a very big +EV play for you. Let's take a look at an example where your opponent is opening 23.4% of their hands. In a 6-max cash game, your opponent in middle position open raises to 3 BBs and the action folds to you in the big blind and you call the raise with AsTs. The flop comes Qs7c3s. You check to your opponent who bets 5 BBs into a 7.5 BB pot. You check-raise to 14 BBs.

First off, we know most good opponents will continue in this situation with a wider range than mediocre regulars or weak players in general. Still, they'd have to re-float with a significantly wide range for this play not to be +EV for you. If you're balancing your range properly in these spots, your better opponents will begin to know that you can do this with top pair, sets, and so on. Even before your opponents have a better idea of what your range will be here, they'd have to continue with such a large portion of their range and call 48% of the time or more for it not to be a profitable play. As it stands, if we say that roughly 8% of the time they'll re-bluff you with their air range and you'll have to fold, the math would look like this: (-14(.43) + (12.5(.57) = -6 + 7.1 = 1.1 EV

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This isn't taking into consideration when you are called, and the equity you still have in your hand with the two backdoor draws and possibly at least one over card. Compare this line to when you'd check/call where you're a 42/58 equity dog against your opponents continuation betting range, and it's a reasonable line to take in situations like this.

Balancing on Coordinated Boards


On coordinated or draw heavy boards, your hand range is going to automatically expand in your opponents mind. How you play each hand range on a coordinated board is going to be vital in getting paid off when you have a big hand, and increasing your fold equity when you have a big draw. Check-raising generally increases fold equity. However, it's not necessarily the most profitable line when you flop a big hand. Finding a proper balance on coordinated boards can be a little tricky simply because there are lots of scare cards for you and the perceived range by your opponent of your hand. Let's run through the exact same scenarios as above for comparative purposes. Your opponent opens a standard 23.4% opening range, and you call and see a flop of: 6h5h3d. Coordinated Low Board Check/Call with Gutshot: ~41% equity versus your opponents range. (97s+, 98o, A2s, A2o) Check/Call with Air: ~47% equity versus your opponents range. (ATsAQs, AToAQo, KJs+, KJo+) Check/Call with small pair: ~62% equity versus your opponents range. (22, 44, 7788) Check/Call with Top Pair: ~63% equity versus your opponents range. (A6s, A6o, K6s) Check/Call with Over Pair: ~66% equity versus your opponents range. (77JJ) Check/Call with Two Pair: ~83% equity versus your opponents range. (65o, 65s, 53s) Check/Call with Pair + Draw: ~68% equity versus your opponents range. (A3s, 54s, 54o, 64s, 76s, 76o, 44) Check/Call with a Set: ~90% equity versus your opponents range. (33, 5566) Check/Call with a Big Draw: ~53% equity versus your opponent's range. (A8sAQs, KTs+, 87s, 87o, A4s, A4o, QJs) Combined equity of all ranges: ~51% equity versus your opponents range. Combined Equity of made hands: ~72% equity versus your opponents range.

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Your equity with each hand range group in a situation like this won't be too bad in general. This kind of board texture will allow for a bit more creativity in how you want to balance your ranges. You will have a good amount of bluff cards on later streets if you decided to check/call with some of the higher end of your air range. There's a lot of opportunity to turn some of the weaker part of your made range into bluffs as well, and have them be believable by your opponent if the turn and/or river bring some more coordinated cards. Let's now take a look at the exact same example, except this time on a broadway coordinated board. Your opponent open a standard 23.4% opening range, and you call and see a flop of: 6h5h3d. Coordinated Broadway Board Check/Call with Gutshot: ~28% equity versus your opponents range. (A8sA9s, A9o, 97s+, 98o, 87s, 87o) Check/Call with Air: ~17% equity versus your opponents range. (76s, 76o, 86s, A8s, 65s) Check/Call with small pair: ~26% equity versus your opponents range. (2288) Check/Call with Top Pair: ~63% equity versus your opponents range. (AKo, K8sK9s) Check/Call with Over Pair: ~70% equity versus your opponents range. (AA) Check/Call with Two Pair: ~67% equity versus your opponents range. (KTsKJs, KToKJo, JTs, JTo) Check/Call with pair + draw: ~64% equity versus your opponent's range. (KQs, KQo, QTs+, QTo+, QQ, ATs, T9s) Check/Call with a Set: ~80% equity versus your opponents range. (TTJJ, KK) Check/Call with a big draw: ~61% equity versus your opponent's range. (A8sA9s, QQ, 98s, 87s) Combined equity of all ranges: ~42% equity versus your opponents range. Combined Equity of made hands: ~68% equity versus your opponents range.

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Coordinated Low Board Check/Call with Gutshot Check/Call with Air Check/Call with Small Pair Check/Call with Top Pair Check/Call with Over Pair Check/Call with Two Pair Check/Call with Pair + Draw Check/Call with Set Check/Call with Big Draw Combined Equity of All Ranges Combines Equity of Made Hands

~41% ~47% ~62%


~63% ~66%

Coordinated Broadway Board ~28% ~17% ~26% ~63%

~70%
~67% ~64% ~80%

~83% ~68% ~90%


~53%

~61%
~42% ~68%

~51% ~72%

There will generally be more hand range groupings on a board like this that you'll want to balance out and play differently depending on your opponent. Gutshots, air, and small pairs will usually not have much equity versus your opponents continuation betting range. Turning this portion of your range into bluffs is going to take a considerable amount of fold equity to do profitably. It's going to generally be better to lead with some of these hands, give up, or plan to make some big bluffs against the right opponents. Some more viable lines on these kinds of boards are to lead with top pair+, and gutshots. Sometimes mixing in some check/calling and leading the turn as well. Checkraising generally isn't going to be a very profitable line against most decent opponents because it's going to narrow down your range too much. If you look at the above table, and make any kind of similar range of hands on a similar board, you're always going to be a significant dog with anything but your top pair+ hands. Most opponents will narrow down your range to two pair+ and big combo draws. It's still a decently wide range, and at micro and a lot of small stakes games you can do this. As your opponents get better, check/raising these kinds of boards won't be as viable.

Balancing on Paired Boards


Paired boards have increasingly become a game of "chicken" for no-limit players. When players started figuring out there were very few combinations of an opponents hand that could withstand a lot of pressure, paired boards became more heavily contested situations. A lot of pressure applied to an

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opponent on a good paired board can cause a lot of opponents to fold out an incorrect range simply because it's difficult to know someone's bluffing frequency in a given situation until you know their game pretty well. An example of equity on a low paired boards using the exact same opening hand ranges for our opponent of 23.4%. Your opponent open raises, and you call and see a flop of: 7c7d3h. Paired Low Board Check/Call with Gutshot: ~34% equity versus your opponents range. (54s, 54o, 65o, 64s+) Check/Call with Air: ~47% equity versus your opponents range. (A9sAJs, A9oAQo, KTs+, KJo, QJs) Check/Call with small pair: ~58% equity versus your opponents range. (22, 4477) Check/Call with two pair (bottom): ~62% equity versus your opponents range. (A3s, A3o, 43s, K3s) Check/Call with Over Pair (two pair): ~71% equity versus your opponents range. (88JJ) Check/Call with Trips: ~95% equity versus your opponents range. (A7s, A7o, 87s, 87o, 75s+, 76o, 97s, K7s, 97o) Combined equity of all ranges: ~51% equity versus your opponents range. Combined Equity of made hands: ~72% equity versus your opponents range. Since your equity for each hand range will be much better on a low paired board, there are several profitable lines you can take. Check/calling with your air, small pairs, over pairs, trips, etc., is a viable line. You can turn some of your air range into bluffs on later streets. Leading at the pot is also a good line if you are against an opponent whom you don't think will play back at you very often. Check-raising tends to polarize your range a bit too much in spots like this, so in general it's not the best line to take unless you actually have a hand against an opponent who cannot fold. This is generally a way ahead or way behind situation. So unless you have a really aggressive game, most of the time you're going to keep the pot somewhat smaller, or allow your opponent to bluff when you do have a big hand. At the same time, you'll want to fight for these boards, so in general, check/calling and then leading the turn is a very good line. In situations where you are the pre-flop raiser, betting small on the flop with your entire range, and then betting close to pot or slightly over betting the pot can be a very profitable line that will apply maximum pressure to your opponents hand range.

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In the above example, you are the pre-flop raiser from late middle position with KdQd. You have one caller in the cut-off. The flop comes: 8c8d4h. Generally as the preflop raiser you're going to want to continuation bet here, but it's opponent dependent. If you do decide to continuation bet, you should generally continuation bet less than you normally would. About 1/2 the pot or less would be a good size. If you are raised, you can 3-bet the flop at a cheaper cost or call and lead the turn. If your opponent just calls your continuation bet, you can make a large bet on the turn, forcing them to fold out their Ax hands and small pairs. If you pick up a card that helps your hand such as any diamond, a king or queen, you can continue with a normal sized turn bet. There are several viable and profitable lines to take in a common spot like this, but most of your decisions should rely on how aggressive and tricky your opponent is. The less tricky and aggressive they are, a standard continuation bet and double barrel on improved turns will generally be profitable. Against trickier opponents, betting small, over betting the turn, and check/calling can all be profitable lines as well. Let's take a look at general equity on a broadway paired board using the exact same opening hand ranges for our opponent of 23.4%. Your opponent open raises, and you call and see a flop of: QcQh8d. Paired Broadway Board Check/Call with Gutshot: ~32% equity versus your opponents range. (T9s, T9o, J9o+, J9s+) Check/Call with Air: ~42% equity versus your opponents range. (AKs, AKo, A9sAJs, A9oAJo, KJs, KJo)

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Check/Call with Small Pair: ~42% equity versus your opponents range. (22, 4477) Check/Call with Two Pair (bottom): ~58% equity versus your opponents range. (86s+, 87o, 98o, 98s, T8s, J8s) Check/Call with Over Pair (two pair): ~77% equity versus your opponents range. (AAKK) Check/Call with Trips: ~91% equity versus your opponents range. (AQs, AQo, KQo, KQs, QTs+, QTo+) Combined equity of all ranges: ~51% equity versus your opponents range. Combined Equity of made hands: ~65% equity versus your opponents range

Check/Call with Gutshot Check/Call with Air Check/Call with Small Pair Check/Call with Two Pair (bottom) Check/Call with Over Pair (two pair) Check/Call with Trips Combined Equity of All Ranges Combines Equity of Made Hands

Paired Low Flop ~34% ~47% ~58% ~62% ~71% ~95% ~51% ~72%

Paired Broadway Flop ~32% ~42% ~42% ~58% ~77% ~91% ~51% ~65%

Again you can see that the overall average equity in each hand range grouping is slightly lower on a broadway paired board versus a low paired board. If you check/called with your air range and small pairs as your primary line, you'd have to turn these hands into bluffs a good percentage of the time on later streets. So fold out a lot of your gutshot, air, and small pair range when you're out of position, or look to lead with some percentage of those hands. Check-raising generally won't be a good line because your equity isn't as good, and your opponent believing you have a strong enough hand to check-raise won't work often enough. In general you're going to have slightly more equity on lower flops than on broadway flops for most flop textures. This will allow for slightly more creativity if you choose lines and balance them well with the style of poker that fits your game best. If you prefer playing a more passive and trappy game, then you should have a better idea of which boards to check/call with, and which ranges are best suited for this. If you have a much more aggressive game, you can see which textures are best for check-raises and leading at the pot. Just keep in mind that your approximate flop equity versus your opponents continuation bet range will be much different versus their turn betting range. Your flop equity versus their range is not your realized equity until you can get to showdown. Having an idea of where your hand grouping stands versus a typical opening range will allow you to see profitable lines better, and balance your range accordingly. You should go through each

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of these flop textures and make sure you understand what kinds of lines you will take on average against most opponents. Once you're comfortable with your plan, and you've practiced it a bit, you can add more and more deception into your hand ranges as your opponents get more sophisticated.

Balanced Deception
One way of balancing your range is playing a board and texture situation the same way with the widest range of hand groups. Another way of achieving balance with your range is playing the same hand differently on the same board texture. So one time you check-raise with a set on a draw heavy board, and another time you check/call with it. If you get to showdown against the same villain with each hand, they are going to havea more difficult time knowing your range the next time you check/call on a draw heavy board. In a similar vein, there are slightly more ideal lines to take with particular hands on certain board textures. Even as you're balancing your range, you'll note based on the previous pages, there may be some lines you will take rarely. You'll take a particular line with lots of different hand groupings, but rarely or almost never with some that won't make for very profitable lines long term, especially against opponents you don't have much history with. As you begin to build history with an opponent, or you think you have an idea of how your opponent is likely thinking about the game, you can begin to take some lines that add deeper balance and deception to your hand strength. This will typically involve taking lines on the flop and/or turn that against unknown opponents wouldn't typically be the highest EV line to take. However, you're looking to make up this EV with large bets, checkraises, or over shoves on the turn or river. Your opponent is so confused by how you played your hand that they call bigger bets lighter than they would on average because they can't put you on enough hands that would take this line and beat them. Again, keep in mind that you need to have history or some sort of insight about how your opponent likely plays. In online games this can be as simple as recognizing someone as a regular who will likely open raise X range of hands from each position, and has some grasp of hand ranges and common lines that opponents, especially other regulars in the game, would take. Let's take a look at an example:

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In the above example, we have 100 BB effective stacks in a 6-max cash game. An opponent UTG opens to 3 BBs. Everyone folds to the small blind who calls, and we have KhKs in the big blind. We squeeze to 14 BBs. The UTG player folds, and the small blind calls. The flop comes 6s9sJc. The small blind checks, and we check the flop. This is where balanced deception comes in, and normally in most situations you'd bet this flop. We're trying to make it look like a botched squeeze play, or whiffed AQ, AK giving up. The plan is to make all of the money by the river against a range that on average couldn't handle more than one street of value. It can also be used as a pot control line against hands like 99, JJ, where you can call the turn and river if your opponent bets, or induce weaker hands to bet on the turn like TT, Jx. Neither of those hands will typically call more than a street for value in a 3-bet pot unless there's some history.

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Poker by the Book: Polished Poker Volume I

There's 31 BBs in the pot and the turn brings the 4c. Your opponent bets 15.5 BBs, and you just call. Lots of draws on the board now, and your opponents range won't contain very many draws having flat called from the small blind against an UTG raise, and calling a squeeze out of position. His hand is going to contain mostly middle and big pairs and a couple of big broadway hands like AQs. Your hand however can very well look like a turned draw, top pair, or botched squeeze that has middle pair.

There are 62 BBs in the pot, and your opponent has 71 BBs left. The river brings the 2h, your opponent checks, and you over shove. Your opponent thinks for a bit, and then calls with TcTd, and you have successfully stacked him. If you had bet the flop, your opponent likely would have called your flop bet. It's unlikely they would have called the turn if you bet again since they would have been committed at that point. In a re-raised pot they would have had to check-raise shove at that point. Depending on your opponent and history, it's possible they would do this a percentage of the time. However, if you think through their entire hand range, this was a fairly safe line to take even though the board is fairly coordinated. We know a bulk of their range is weighted towards hands you'd be crushing because it contains a lot of mid and high pairs. In the event that they did flop a big hand, like a set, and they bet the turn and river you can call. It's unlikely they would bet the turn and river with a hand like Jx or TT. When you're contemplating taking a deceptive line to balance your range, in this case, your flop checking range, you want to make sure you have enough insight into your opponents game. If you don't, then it's going to be a very minus EV approach to take. You're much better off just betting the flop and turn, or betting flop, checking turn and betting the river.

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Poker by the Book: Polished Poker Volume I

This was an actual hand taken from a recent online 6-max cash game. Using balanced deception can be an effective tool to use against the better regulars in your game. You shouldn't be implementing it until you're confident in reading your opponents range, and you know your opponent is a thinking player. One of my personal favorite balanced deception lines to take is when I flop a set out of position against a pre-flop raiser on a coordinated board. I will check/call the flop, and then check-raise all-in on any blank turn. Sometimes even check/call both streets, which of course is extremely risky, and if both streets brick reasonably enough, over shove the river. Again, I'm only taking those lines against the better regulars. Even against average regulars, I wouldn't advocate taking those lines very often, if ever. You have to get creative though against the better regulars in your games if you want to get paid off consistently.

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Poker by the Book: Polished Poker Volume I

108 2013 Ace Poker Solutions LLC. All rights reserved.

Poker by the Book: Polished Poker Volume I

Putting It All Together


My goal in this first volume wasn't to tell you always do X in Y situation. If you've played poker enough, you know this isn't going to serve you well. There are definitely some plays and lines you'd want to take more often than others, but having me, or anyone else who writes about poker, telling you static lines of thought isn't really going to cut it. Learning how to think through situations, and understand why you're taking the line you're taking, and why you've formulated plan X over plan Y is much more powerful. Continuing to add more tools to your poker tool box, sharpening them, and using them with surgeon-like precision is the path to long term poker success. My hope is that youve added some tools to your repertoire, or that you've sharpened some that already existed, and added more clarity to your poker game. I wish you much success at the tables and in life, my friends!

Much Love, John Anhalt

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Poker by the Book: Polished Poker Volume I

More Tools of the Trade


There's lots of good poker software and training material out in the market today. Much more than there has been in the past 910 years. I don't want to convince you that one is better than the other. You should check them all out, and if you think they'll add value to your game, then it's rarely a bad investment. Especially if the companies you purchase from back up their products. I do want to introduce you to some of the products Ace Poker Solutions has created, because I believe they offer real value to most players poker games. LEAK BUSTER: I don't care how good you think you are, or how much game you have, it's a must have for any serious poker player. If you're just learning the game, or you've crushed the stakes you've played like I have over the years, you're going to learn something valuable from this software. Super easy to use, and works with the leading poker databases out there. Recommended For: ALL SKILL LEVELS Price: $49.99+ Website: Click HERE __________________________________________________________________________ ACE POKER DRILLS: Having difficulty understanding your equity on the turn? No other product exists that lets you drill yourself on your equity versus your opponents equity in a quiz style format. Work on your pre-flop game, odds, outs, and more. Also includes a FREE equity calculator and odds and outs trainer. It's an ideal format for beginners and micro stake players to improve their play quickly. Recommended For: BEGINNER/MICRO Price: $24.99+ Website: Click HERE __________________________________________________________________________ POKERZION.COM: Lots of training sites are out there, but not any that deliver a structured course right to your inbox every week for 6 months. You'll have plenty of new lessons, plus lots of additional content directly on the site for you to view and learn from at any time. Youll find a small community that's big on supporting your poker growth and youll learn from top online pros who are proven long-term winners. Recommended For: MICROMID STAKES Price: $14.99+/mo Website: Click HERE __________________________________________________________________________

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Poker by the Book: Polished Poker Volume I

111 2013 Ace Poker Solutions LLC. All rights reserved.