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2+2 Theory A collection of theory and strategy posts collected across the twoplustwo.com forums arranged

2+2 Theory

A collection of theory and strategy posts collected across the twoplustwo.com forums


and edited with little care and attention to order, with as

little effort and thought put into the project as possible

Table of Contents

3bet shoving 25bb 8-11 End Game 3betting Behavior 12-16 20bb to Push-Fold Play 17-18 22 Flawed Reasonings 19-27 Limpers and MinBetters 28-33 Overbet Nash 34-38 Preflop Ranges in HU SnG 39-40 Push-Fold Poker 41-51 Learnin’ Dem SnGs Good 52-55 MTT: Stack Size Theory 61-64 Blind Stealing 65-72 Cold Calling 73-76 Exploiting Short Stacks 77-83 Facing a 3bet 84-91 FoldEquity 92-100 HandReading1 101-113 Hand Reading 2 114-118 Playing Deep 119-125 Playing Limpers 126-134 Playing OOP 135-147 Polarization 148-160 Reacting to 3bets 161-173 Reasons to Bet 174-183 Playing Small PPs 184-192 Stack to Pot Ratio 193-200 Playing Suited Connectors 201-206 The Blocker Bet 207-211 The Check-Raise 212-221 The Double Barrel 222-230 The Squeeze 231-234 List of 2+2 Theorums 235-237 Thin Value Betting 238-245 Turning Hands into Bluffs 246-249 Value Betting 250-260 Combinatorics 261-269 3betting 270-273

2+2 Dictionary


Here’s a list of common terms and abbreviations used in the NL forums.

AKQJT - Ace, King, Queen, Jack, Ten

UTG - Under the Gun, first player to act preflop UTG+1 - Under the Gun plus one, second player to act preflop EP - early position MP - middle position LP - late position OTB - On The Button CO - Cut off, player one seat to the right of button HJ - Hijack, player two seats to the right of button SB - small blind BB - big blind

c/c - check/call c/f - check/fold c/r - check/raise b/f - bet and fold to a raise 3-bet - a bet, a raise, and then another raise. The third action is a 3-bet. b3b - Hero’s plan is to bet, and then 3-bet if raised. reraise - raising the PFR

VB - value bet CB - continuation bet PSB - pot-sized bet PSR - pot-sized raise PFR - preflop raise or preflop raiser

overbet - a bet amount larger than the current pot check behind - to check when it’s been checked to you, usually after betting action on previous street donkbet - either to lead into the PFR on the flop, or a tiny bet made in relation to the pot thin value bet - usually a river bet made when it’s unclear if you are ahead or not

Monotone - a flop of all the same suit Rainbow - a flop of all different suits Overpair - having a pair in your hand higher than the biggest card on the board gutshot - an inside straight draw

TPTK - top pair top kicker TPWK - top pair weak kicker TPGK - top pair good kicker TP2K - top pair 2nd best kicker--You have KQ, flop K72, you have top pair, 2nd best kicker (the Q) TPCK - top pair crap kicker TPBK - top pair bad kicker

9To - Nine Ten offsuit KJs - King Jack suited Ax - An Ace with any second card Kxx - refers to a King high flop Q73r - r = rainbow flop

OESD - open ended straight draw OESFD - open ended straight flush draw pp - pocket pair sc - suited connector EV - Expected Value OOP - out of position FE - fold equity AI - all-in ATC - any two cards UI - unimproved

TAG - tight aggressive LAG - loose aggressive LAP - loose passive sLAG - slightly loose aggressive

MHIG - my hand is good MHING - my hand is no good WA/WB - way ahead, way behind

IMO - In my opinion IMHO - In my humble opinion JMO - Just my opinion FYP - fixed your post OP - original post or poster

tl;dr - too long; didn’t read QFT - quoted for truth

x-post - post made in more than one forum at one time OT - off topic

lc - low content

nc - no content

goot - good moran - moron nh - nice hand meh - the sound you make when you shrug your shoulders signaling indifference; not great, not terrible. pwned - owned or pawned. Usually means you got outplayed.

BB/100 - # of bb’s won per 100 hands played

PTBB/100 - poker tracker big blinds won per 100 hands played.

A PTBB is 2xBB.

~$7 - around $7 or about $7 FPS - fancy play syndrome aggro - aggressive

SSNL - small stakes no limit MSNL - mid stakes no limit HSNL - high stakes no limit NLHE - no limit hold ‘em LHE - limit hold ‘em BBV - the Beats, Brags, and Variance forum

PT - Pokertracker VPIP - voluntarily put money in the pot AF - aggression factor Villian is 24/10/3(98)- Pokertracker stats indicating VPIP/PFR%/ AF (with preflop aggression taken out) over 98 hands

GT+ - Gametime Plus PA - PokerAce PAHUD - PokerAce Heads Up Display PP - Party Poker PS, Stars - PokerStars FT - Full Tilt UB - Ultimate Bet

PL - pot limit PF - pre-flop HH - hand history HU - heads up FR - full ring FT - full table 6m - 6-max NL100 - number indicates the buy-in; this is No Limit, with $1 BB’s

Stop-n-Go - You bet, get raised, you call closing the action on that street, then lead out on the next street. Float - You call a bet with a marginal hand or draw, usually on the flop while in position, with the intent of stealing the pot on a later street. Semi-bluff - betting/raising when you have a draw. Stealing blinds - openraising in late position with less than premium hands. blocking bet - often a river bet made OOP when an obvious draw hits on the end, where you bet and fold to a raise effective stack - the smallest stack amongst the players remaining in the hand.

trips - flop is JJ8, you hold KJ, you have trips set - flop is K42, you hold 44, you have a set pot control - attempting to keep the pot small with a marginal holding minraise - raising the lowest amount possible

3bet Shoving 25bb


Situation: You are playing a hypothetical aggressive opponent who is raising his button 2/3rd of the time. Blinds are 25/50, effective stacks 1250 (25 BB).

Villain makes his raise. You have:

1) 2

2 2 T 5 2

2) A

3) J

4) 7

5) 3

(for ****s and giggles)

Which of these hands are good to shove over his raise? Depends on what he’s calling with:

Scenario 1: Villain is a solid (but a bit too tight) player, this is your first three bet shove, and he’s going to respect your first raise. He’s calling with 66+, ATo+, A9s, KQ.

This is 10.4% of hands. He’s folding 1 - 10.4/66.7 = 84.4% of the time. You get 150 chips for free when this happens, so add 126.61 to your cEV for this move.

What if he calls, though? Here’s the equity for each of those hands agaisnt this tight range:

1) 2

2 2 T

2) A

3) J

37.94% win, 61.31% lose 29.59% win, 66.68% lose 36.52% win, 62.67% lose

4) 7

5 2

32.29% win, 67.07% lose

5) 3

25.46% win, 73.82% lose

So the 15.6% of the time you are called, you’re obviously

a dog. Here’s the loss in cEV for each scenario (equals 15.6%*1250 chips lost * (%lose -%win)):

1) 2

2 2 T 5 2

2) A

3) J

4) 7

5) 3





-94.30 (!)

What have we learned from this? Well, if your opponent is opening wide and calling this tight, 3-bet shoving ANY TWO is +cEV. Also, against a tight calling range, the suited connector hands play better than the weak ace, but the pair is of course the best hand to shove against a tighter calling range. This is also why raising to 3x at 25 BB effective is generally a leak -- if you raise to 100 or 125, the P(fold) chip expectation falls to 84.4 and 105.5 respectively. As you can see, in the former case shoving 32o is now bad (lol). Of course, minraises will get called a bit more often, but this post will not deal with post-flop play for now. It’s already going to be long enough.

Of course, you can’t just keep shoving over this raise, because

a smart villain is going to adjust, and a dumb villain is going

to get pissed off that you’re shoving so much and call lighter anyways.

Scenario 2: Either you’ve shoved a couple times over the villain in scenario 1, or you’re playing someone who doesn’t respect you as much. Villain is now calling 44+, A8o+, A5s+, KJo+, KTs.

We repeat the calculations. Villain is now calling with top 15.8% of his hands. You still get a fold 1 - 15.8/66.7 = 76.3% of the time, for a P(fold) chip EV of 114.47. Wooooo. Let’s see how your shoving hands are holding up now if called.

1) 2

2 2 T

2) A

3) J

win 40.38%, lose 58.74%, cEV = -54.39 win 31.40%, lose 62.13%, cEV = -91.04 win 39.05%, lose 60.06%, cEV = -62.24

4) 7

5 2

win 34.51%, lose 64.75%, cEV = -89.59

5) 3

win 27.62%, lose 72.44%, cEV = -132.78

Everything but that 32o is still +EV here. The most surprising find is that A2o fares worse than the low suited connecter here, and that JTs isn’t too far off the pair in equity. This is because A2o is crushed by all your opponent’s range but the Kx hands, while JTs is still doing OK against the weak aces and low pairs. Moving on

Scenario 3: Villain is tilting or just likes to gamble. He’s calling your shove with any pair, any ace, KTo+, K9s+, QJ, QTs, JTs.

You know the drill: This is top 26.1%, so

P(fold) = 1 - (26.1/66.7) = 60.9%. cEV for folds is 91.3. Your shoving ranges will fare as follows:

1) 2

2 2 T 5 2

2) A

3) J

4) 7

5) 3

win 43.8%, lose 54.97%, cEV = - 54.59 win 32.1%, lose 53.3%, cEV = -103.615 win 31.12%, lose 53.09%, cEV = -107.38 win 37.08%, lose 62.05%, cEV = -122.04 win 27.95%, lose 71.06%, cEV = - 210.70

Yikes, now only the pocket pair is profitable against this range. Let’s add a stronger but not amazing Ax hand to this mix:

6) A

add a stronger but not amazing Ax hand to this mix: 6) A 8 win 41.98%,


win 41.98%, lose 47.75%, cEV = -28.2add a stronger but not amazing Ax hand to this mix: 6) A 8 A ha!

A ha! Against a wide calling range, a middling A-rag hand fares

pretty well. Better even than that low pair. Let’s do two more examples before I get to the point:

Scenario 4: Villain is a drunk monkey. He’s calling that shove with any pair, any ace, K7o+, any suited king, Q8o+, Q6s+, J9o+, J7s+, T7s+, 97s+, 87s, 76s.

This is a whopping 39.7% of hands! You only get a fold 1 -

(39.7/66.7) = 40.8% of the time, and only have 60.72 in +cEV

in folding. Let’s see how your hands fare. I think I’ve convinced

you that connector hands are bad against a wide call range, so I’ll throw out 75s and 32o, and show 22, A2, A8, and JTs, along with a slightly better pair (55):

1) 2

2 2 T 8 5

2) A

3) J

6) A

7) 5

win 45.71%, lose 53.04%, cEV = -54.242 win 41.24%, lose 49.54%, cEV = -61.42 win 43.56%, lose 53.39%, cEV = -72.74 win 48.88%, lose 44.41%, cEV = +33.078 (!) win 51.81%, lose 47.26%, cEV = +33.67 (!)

You can now 3-bet shove A8 and 55 type hands for VALUE here, never mind the small chance you have of a fold! The difference between A8 and A2 and 55 and 22 is HUGE if villain is calling you mega-wide! One more example:

Scenario 5: Villain is tight from the button. He’s only raising 25%, and calling the same range as the villain in scenario 1.

The equity calcs are the same, but your fold EV drops a lot:

P(fold) = 1 - (10.4/25) = 58.4%, cEV of a fold is 87.6.

Against this villain it is wrong to 3-bet shove A2, but not JTs. Hmmmmmm. Your edge against this opponent comes from him playing mega-passive on the button, of course.

What have we learned from this example?

1) Against an opponent you suspect is not calling your 3-bet very often, your edge in 3-bet shoving comes from FOLD EQUITY. On the off-chance you are called, it is best to have a pair or a middling suited connecting hand than a bad ace. 2) Against an opponent you suspect will call your 3-bet shove somewhat wide but not a lot, your edge is still in your fold equity, but suited connector hands drop a bit in value, and marginal aces increase in values. 3) Against an opponent you suspect will call with a lot of his raising range, your EV in shoving comes from the fact that a middling Ax hand or a low-ish pair is a FAVORITE against whatever trash he’s calling with. Suited connectors should not be shoved against these opponents. 4) 3-bet shoving any pocket pair over a 3x raise with 25 BB effective is almost never a mistake.

end game 3betting behavior


Preface: Hi everyone! Here is a sample article from the manual about 15-30BB play I was intending to write. I would appreciate if you kept any chatter in this thread strictly about the article and not about the manual that is no longer happening. If you are reading this and missed out on the debate, check out the HUSNG Regs thread for more info. Here, I discuss, in-depth, something that happens between 10-20BB for most players, and give an outline of something that happens between 20- 30BB for almost all players. X-Posted from HUSNG.com, without further ado

all players. X-Posted from HUSNG.com, without further ado Skates Points: Critical Points of Villain’s 3-Betting

Skates Points: Critical Points of Villain’s 3-Betting Behavior

These are the critical effective stack depths at which your villain makes dramatic adjustments to their preflop ranges when facing a minraise. A good, balanced player should not have these, but most do. Before explaining why, I should define them. There are two:

1) Skates Calling Point (SCP) - This is the effective stack depth at which your villain switches from an all-in or fold strategy to one that incorporates calling. When facing a minraise at 2BB, your villain can only go all-in or fold. At 5BB, nearly all villains will either go all-in or fold. At 10BB, some will mix in calling with some hands. The effective stack depth where the calling frequency becomes significant is the SCP.

2) Skates 3-Betting Point (S3BP) - This is the effective stack depth at which your villain switches their 3-bet sizing from

always being all-in (or committing) to having a significant fraction of their 3-bets being non-committing. At 15BB, if a villain 3-bets when facing a minraise, they will almost certainly go all-in with the majority of their range. At 22BB, some villains will keep going all-in, but others might switch to smaller 3-bets. The effective stack depth where the frequency of the non- committing 3-bet size becomes significant is the S3BP.

When I say “majority” and “significant”, I am referring to a range that does not incorporate AA and KK. Many players play in unbalanced ways with those two hands, and in this case, we would like to remove them from consideration. Some people, when you minraise at 10BB, will flat or min-3-bet with AA or KK and only those hands. This is not what we are looking to isolate.

When talking about SCPs and S3BPs, it might be helpful to refer to them as “hard” and “soft”. A “hard” SCP is what most players have. If Mr. StandardVillain has been reading 2+2 for the past year, he might have learned that when facing a minraise at less than 20BB, he should either go all-in or fold. At 20BB though, he should start to call with most hands because he does not want to risk more than 19BB to pick up 2BB. This means that StandardVillain has a hard-SCP of 20. This is a very common behavior among weaker players and mediocre regs at this point in time. Historically, I think this is because the average hero often had a very wide open % (say, 80%), and a very tight call % (say, 12%). Playing the way the StandardVillain played was incredibly profitable. Now, the average hero at higher stakes might still open very wide, but has often adjusted to having a wider calling range, neglecting the primary source of equity won by StandardVillain. As such, many of the stronger players today do not have SCPs at 20, but rather closer to 15. If instead of having a hard-SCP, StandardVillain were to start gradually incorporating hands into a calling range at 18BB, he would have a soft-SCP at 18. Very strong players have soft- SCPs that are very hard to define because they adopt mixed- strategies (they do not always play a given hand the same way).

S3BPs are almost always extremely hard (non-gradual), and are usually in the range of 22-25BB. Sure, StandardVillain might always jam 33 if hero limps into him, but the rest of StandardVillain’s 3-bet range is likely to have a 3-bet size

between the range of 4BB to 6BB. Most people have a fixed 3-bet size that they switch to when the first incorporate non- committing 3-bets. I can not think of one villain I have come across who does not. Of course, we ignore behavior with AA and KK.

Now that we’ve defined these

members or coaches that have well-defined SCPs or S3BPs? Are they hard or soft? How many of them that have easily recognized hard-SCPs play high-stakes? The answer is probably close to zero, and here’s why:

can you think of any forum

If I can notch you into a box, I can read your frequencies and exploit you.

Over the course of a match or series of matches, a good hero attempts to best understand the frequencies with which their villain takes each possible action on each street, then utilizes that information to make estimations of villain’s range on each street, then utilizes that information to come up with a maximally exploitive strategy to combat those ranges. Although I would be happier putting a lot of caveats and footnotes in there, that is some very rudimentary poker theory. As a consequence, anything that allows the hero to get a better estimation of those frequencies enables the hero to make more precise adjustments to better exploit their villain.

************************************************* Stop here, take a breather. You should be able to extrapolate the rest of this article from what I’ve said already. I will walk you through it, but I strongly encourage you to step back and not continue reading until you try to figure it out on your own. ***************************************************

Hello again!

If you play within a well-constructed set of rules, or box, your easily observed frequencies no longer tell a part of the story; they tell the whole story. If after one game with you, I observe what I think to be a hard-SCP at 20, I am immediately estimating a 3-bet frequency I think you have at each depth below that. If I’ve played many games with you, I can just look at my database and pull the information directly. Then, what do you think my adjustments look like? Fix a stack depth and

consider a range of villain 3-bet frequencies. Take a moment to try to come up with my opening range with respect to those frequencies on your own.


And here you go: If your frequency is lower than 50%, I will

raise any two cards. I’m not going to spell that one out for you. If you don’t see why that is the case, you need to step back and think about it more. If your frequency is higher than 50%,

I will raise any hand that I am also calling a jam with, and fold all hands I would fold to a jam with.

So what is the result? I have a raise/fold range if and only if I think your 3-bet frequency is less than 50%.



the simplicity of the topic. Notice that my adjustment is not continuous; I don’t gradually add hands into my opening range. Since you are playing within this box that you have defined for yourself, my adjustments are effectively in the binary. I either raise everything, or I raise my calling range, and which strategy I adopt is dependent solely on your 3-bet frequency. (Of course, the size of my raise-calling range will vary based on your 3-bet frequency and the effective stack depth).

here is where things really get interesting, despite

If I think you 3-bet all-in with 50% of all hands at 15BB, then my raising frequency at 16BB is likely to be 100%, but my raising frequency at 14BB might be something like 40% (and

raise-calling my J9s

from 14-16BB, they might see my raising range at something like 70%. Do you see why their adjustments might be mistaken or flawed? Do you see where I might be able to pick up an edge from this? Do you see how difficult it is for someone with a hard-SCP to compete with me?

it is for someone with a hard-SCP to compete with me? ). If someone were to

). If someone were to isolate my hands

So what about S3BPs? These are much more interesting because this part of the game is not wel-evolved. At this time, most strong high-stakes HUSNG players have soft-SCPs that are extremely hard to discover. On the other hand, hard-S3BPs are still found in virtually everyone; I’m currently thinking of only a few exceptions. When thinking about a hard-S3BP and the adjustments you can make relating to it, consider how

a villain views your calling frequency and 4-bet frequency

when facing a non-committing 3-bet. When they 3-bet non- committing, are they polarized? Are they merged? What does their 3-bet frequency look like below the S3BP (when they are only going all-in). Does it increase or decrease on the other side of the S3BP? What does that say about their calling range around the S3BP? What does that mean your opening range

should look like? What kind of tricks can you pull? I’m not going

to spoon-feed this one to you

figure it out

20bb to push-fold play


At 20 bbs down to which ever stack depth you think pure push- or-fold* should start (whether it’s 10/9/8/7/6 BBs -- villain dependent, ideally):

Typically, you should try a mixture of limps and min-raises on the BTN. The earlier phases of the match should give you some clues about how villain will respond. Any of these BTN pf strategies can be appropriate against the right villain:

1) Min-raise ~70%+ of hands, fold the rest -- because villain rarely 3-bet shoves, folds many of his big blinds, and/or plays fit-or-fold on the flop when you c-bet. 2) Min-raise ~40% of hands, limp a whole bunch more, and fold trash -- because villain is a bit more active in raised pots, so you want your range to be stronger, and to be able to call a 3-bet shove pf more often than a 70% range can; but villain will let you limp without punishing you, and lets you take down limped pots reasonably often with a simple stab on the flop. 3) Similar to the above, but mix in some strong hands into your limping range -- because villain perceives it as weak and has begun attacking limps pf pretty often. 4) Raise very few hands, because villain is very aggro spewy in raised pots due to drug use or whatever reason, and he will shove 52s when you make your first min-raise with AQo after limping the last gazillion hands 18 BBs deep.

OOP: Tighten up your flat-calling range from the BB. Playing fit-or-fold is way too expensive and unsustainable at this stage. You want to enter pots OOP armed with significant flopping power and/or an ability to handle villain when he has position post-flop. Maybe he has some exploitable traits you’ve spotted,

like only c-betting if he hits, or c-betting very often but folding non-strong hands to smallish check-raises, or three barrel spewing too often when you take a check-call line, such that hitting a pair will net you his bluffed off stack.

Also, monitor his BTN raising frequency as you get shallow, and review all of the hands that are +EV 3-bet shoves against someone who opens too often when stacks are short.

You can also mix in some small 3-bets against against semi- thinking, nit-at-heart players who aren’t very comfortable lagging it up (in this case, opening more BTNs than they’d like), and are doing so half-heartedly because they think they should as blinds go up. (That was a retardedly specific villain profile; small 3-bets when shallow can work against a number of opponent-types, especially if you balance them, but this is not my area of expertise. More of a growth area for me.)

Post-flop: Keep a very close eye on stack-to-pot ratios if you and villain start putting bets in on the flop or beyond. It is very easy to cross commitment thresholds inadvertently, and to be priced in to make correct calls with one over and a gutshot, or other weak draws/hands, as the pot grows relative to remaining stacks. In short, constantly look ahead before putting chips into the pot and adjust your future continuing/folding plans accordingly. Try to avoid taking lines that involve calling a bet (or two) on earlier streets and folding to further pressure on later ones. Such lines are sometimes inevitable, but stacking off sooner when you feel more certain of your equity becomes more correct as the stack-to-pot ratio shrinks, especially since you can still get called by worse (or draws) as pot odds become better for villain. Compare this to taking a more inducing/pot- control/way-ahead-way-behind type check-call line earlier in the match when stacks are deeper against a barreling villain.

22 Flawed Reasonings


When I give poker advice, either on the 2+2 strategy forums or privately, I ask players to include the reasoning behind their decisions. After all, the point of asking about a situation is not to learn how to play it if ever occurred exactly the same way, but to figure out the concepts that really matter so that they can be applied to a wide variety of difficult spots. Perhaps most informative is when people give me explanations that are largely irrelevant to the situation, or demonstrate serious flaws in their broader understanding of the game. These are opportunities to produce the “aha!” type moments that can lead to significant improvements.

This article chronicles 22 different reasonings HUSNG students have given me when explaining their actions, along with why they each suggest the chance to get better. Some of them are misapplied to far too many situations, and some of them should never be applied at all. Most are about in-game decisions, and a few have to do with a broader approach to the game. Throughout, the common theme is that each incorrect rationale focuses too little on calculating EV, relying instead on emotional heuristics or misconceptions about theory. Do you understand the error in each?

1. “When bluffcatching, if I call the turn, I have to call the river.” This is only true when playing against a maniac who always

triple barrels after betting twice, not against the vast majority of the population. The river decision is its own independent equity calculation based on your assessment of how often your opponent gives up on bluffs and what percentage of his range that gets to the river are value hands. It is quite often optimal with a bluffcatcher to call the turn and fold to a river bet.

The error tends to come from people’s irrational desire to either say they lost the minimum, or say they won the maximum. If I’m folding on the river, they think, “dang, I’d have been better off folding on the turn”. That’s a results-oriented fallacy that takes away from your EV, both in folding to too many turn bets and in making crying calls on too many river bets.

2. “If I get caught bluffing, I’ll be down to 300 chips.”

While I will concede there are sometimes very small differences where a stack of t1000 might not be worth exactly twice as much as a stack of t500 in a HUSNG, in practice, cEV very closely mirrors $EV. The difference is almost never going to be enough to correctly stop you from making an otherwise +EV bluff. The elements of the equity calculation here are the pot size, your bluff size, and your fold equity. If you should be giving up, the math from those three numbers is going to be why, not your shortstack if you get caught.

3. “I’ll fold and wait for a better spot.”

Similarly, especially in the era of the rematch button, you’re looking for a +EV spot. Hourly rate is a much better stat to be proud of than your ROI. The question you should be asking yourself is whether the play is +EV. When you’re folding, “waiting for a better spot” isn’t generally going to be why except in more extreme scenarios, like passing up on 52%

equity against an opponent open-shoving 75bb deep. In general though, making the play that gives you the best equity in the hand is going to be what wins you the most money overall.

4. “So I raised to define his hand ”

When arguing that he should check/raise an A

with Q

hand ” When arguing that he should check/raise an A with Q K Q flop 4


” When arguing that he should check/raise an A with Q K Q flop 4 in


” When arguing that he should check/raise an A with Q K Q flop 4 in


” When arguing that he should check/raise an A with Q K Q flop 4 in


” When arguing that he should check/raise an A with Q K Q flop 4 in

in a limped pot 20bb deep instead of check/calling,

a winning $100 player remarked to me that by raising, he was

able to define his opponent’s range more, eliminating all the junky hands. As if we had anything to fear from seven high! Knowing what our opponent is likely to have is not a benefit in and of itself. Raising for information is a play that always should be grounded in equity, not out of unwarranted fear of playing against a wide range.

5. “Readless, I like to play fairly nitty, not wanting to

get into a marginal spot against a player I don’t know anything about.” Generally, this is said by people who go on to pass up against highly +EV spots because they are not sure of your opponent’s tendencies. It’s poker, and when Oreos aren’t involved, we’re

never sure about any of your reads. It’s always a probabilistic guess. When you know nothing, go by the population tendencies of how likely villains in general are to have each hand in his range. Don’t fail to four-bet shove 77 just because you don’t know whether your opponent’s three-betting range

is too tight for that to be profitable. Do a calculation. Based on

range of villains I generally face, how often is it profitable, and how often is it not? That’s a better approach that will lead to a +EV decision.

6. “If I’m facing a minraise or a limp in the BB, I can use

the NASH chart to help make my decision.” NASH, the more technically correct cousin of SAGE, details the push/fold and call/fold equilibrium strategies for the small blind and the big blind respectively. It guarantees at least a certain amount of equity. However, it is best used as a solely general guideline for <10bb poker, and exploiting players with 2x raises, openshoves, folds, and limps generally leads to superior results better than what NASH provides.

While it is suboptimal >10bb, NASH is at least relevant. Unfortunately, many players use the NASH chart to dictate decisions like shoving over limps. You might as well use Phil Hellmuth’s hand rankings to decide. When people limp, they have a completely different range than “Any Two Cards”. Do the

math of how much fold equity you have, what your equity is when called, and what your equity is from checking behind or making a smaller raise. Don’t get lazy and try to use a chart for everything.

7. “All-in luck graphs are for whiners who like wasting

their time feeling bad about themselves.” While some HUSNG players get all of the action they could ever want at a buy-in and speed they’re positive is their most profitable, most people will not have that experience. There are deepstacks, reg speeds, turbos, and superturbos, all at the stake you’re at, the level above, and the level below. Because EV-adjusted winnings have much better predictive value than your actual results, if you’re not positive which stake level or game you should playing at, you hate money for not taking a quick look at all the information available to you.

8. “Let’s not inflate the pot out of position.”

This is another reason that bypasses the correct rationale for taking an action and becomes quite hollow when the real reason doesn’t apply. There are plenty of times when you want to inflate the pot out of position, with great hands, poor hands, and everything in between. If you’re using this logic, make sure you identify WHY it would be such a bad thing if the pot is bigger: Is it that you’re not getting value out of enough hands? Is it that too much of your opponent’s range can play well against your hand and decrease your equity? Focus on the math, not the often misleading generality.

9. “I don’t want to build a pot with a marginal hand.”

Similarly, there are plenty of times when you should be making thin value bets on the flop and turn with hands that can’t stand up to further aggression. In fact, sometimes with a marginal

hand, your best play is to be aggressive and get the money in while there is still at least some value to be had. Progressing as a poker player means winning pots with more than just your monsters and your bluffs, it means making the most in EV on every single value hand you are dealt, even if that means playing it safe less often.


“If I have Q6 on a 642 board, I hate all turn cards

that aren’t queens or sixes.” Thinking like this often leads people to over-protect their hand and be too scared of what cards can come. For example, if you had the Q6 in position on this hand and your opponent check/ called a bet, a Jack on the turn would improve your equity in the hand against his range. Just because a jack increases the amount of hands that beat you doesn’t mean that the card increases that percentage in your opponent’s range of hands. Don’t be scared, make a real value bet, and don’t try too much to push people out on these type of flops. The reason for doing so is emotional, not mathematical.

11a. “Let’s bet big, I have a big hand!” 11b. “Let’s bet small, I don’t want to scare him off.” Different types of players tend to have one of these two instincts when learning the game. Each seems immediately justifiable, but neither is well thought out when applied globally. Whether to bet big, small, or anywhere in between with your monsters depends on your opponent, the board texture, your opponent’s range, your image, your perceived range, and a host of other factors. Often, players will quickly bet big or small without thinking about any of these details, just out of instinct.

The first half of this article introduced how there are dozens of common flawed ways of thinking about HUSNG poker that are pervasive amongst average midstakes players. In general, they tend to make use of heuristics that end up distracting from an accurate equity calculation at the core of the decision. We’ll now broaden this understanding towards your poker career and out-of-game poker choices, with a few more examples of specific common in-game situations interspersed along the way.

12. “I haven’t really thought about how much I’ll play

poker and when I’ll move on from the game, or applied that to any of my decisions.” Buried at #12, this is perhaps the biggest large-scale leak you

can fix if you have it.

When you decide how much to study poker, whether to invest in

a coach or a training site, whether to move up, how many buy-

ins to carry, what game selection to employ, and so many other decisions, you are making choices that are drastically affected by how much you’ll play in your life.

If you pick one stat to focus on maximizing in your poker

career, it shouldn’t be ROI, your current hourly rate, or even your lifetime profit. For most people, the best goal is maximizing your lifetime hourly rate. Make the most from the time you put in, both in fun and in money.

If you think you might give up poker in a couple of months, a

subscription to a training site is far less valuable than if you know you are in it for the long haul. If you have no ambitions of moving up, focusing on bumhunting to maximize your current hourly rate is better, but otherwise, you’re holding yourself back from the skills that will allow you to succeed at the next level. Start thinking about where you see yourself in poker in a few years and how to give yourself the best possible career path.

13. “There isn’t much of a point in studying how to beat

fish; I want to learn how to beat regs.” Do you think you’re beating fish as badly as Phil Ivey would? That you’re playing perfect poker? If you’re sane and don’t think this, money is a continuum, and the extra 2% of EV ROI you pick up against a regular fish is just as important as the extra 2% of EV ROI you pick up against a decent reg in an individual match. Learning how to beat good players is important as you move up, but complacency about how you play against fish is lighting money on fire. Maximally exploiting bad players is an exceedingly complicated concept and one that deserves to be treated as such. If you think you should “just

play ABC”, you’re missing out on a lot of money.

14. “I know this strategy is unexploitable, so it’s what I

choose to use.” This attitude falls back on the crutch of knowing a play is +EV, afraid to search for lines that have even better equity.

For example, many players want to ease themselves of the emotional swings of playing shortstacked poker by strictly adhering to NASH and consoling themselves about how they had positive expectation, never mind the boatloads of EV they threw away to be convinced of that.

15a. “Deepstacked poker is pretty simple, I don’t have much to learn there.” 15b. “Shortstacked poker is pretty simple, I don’t have much to learn there.” I would get absolutely crushed against the best shortstacked HUSNG player in the world, and similarly dominated against the best deepstacked player. There’s always plenty to learn. Heads- up players have notoriously big egos, and defense mechanisms that get in the way of improvement. Always be excited to learn when someone says you’re not playing well. Take it as an opportunity to get better and win even more money in the future, or learn more about why your play was actually correct. Don’t close yourself off from chances to improve just because you want to feel confident in your game.

16. “So I checked to be deceptive

This is in the “tell me more” family of errors, where too often, people think this is reason enough to trap. Why is checking the best option, equity-wise? What does your opponent’s range look like? How do you know it’s worth being deceptive against? Learn what are and aren’t sufficient reasons to take a particular line.

17. “I like to mix up my play and take different lines, with or without reads.” Translation: I like to take suboptimal lines just for fun. If you’re not going to have a long history with your opponent, don’t play them like it. Take the most profitable line.

18. “When I hit the turn after check/calling the flop, I should almost always check the turn to give villain a chance to bet again.” Check/call the flop, and insta-check the turn when you hit:

along with looking away from the computer screen right after you see that you hit, it’s an instinctual reaction. However, when that card is an overcard to the board against a player who does not double barrel wide for value or for bluff, leading the turn often does far, far better on average than checking. Take into account your opponent’s range, how much of that range is now marginal showdown value that is likely to check, and consider leading rather than just mechanically checking to the aggressor.

19. “If villain calls flop bets light, he’s a station, and I

shouldn’t bother bluffing against him very much on any street.” When people call flop bets light, they have a significantly weaker range for the rest of the hand, a range that produces much more fold equity than against players who call the flop in fit-or-fold fashion. True, some players will call down all the way no matter what they have, but it’s a mistake to shut down on bluffing just because you find out your opponent likely has a weak range.

20. “I don’t know how I’d be exploitable if someone

analyzed my database.” In thinking about balance and exploiting the tendencies of other winning regs, the best thing to do is know yourself. You know how you feel in different spots, you know how you play, and you know where you can be exploited. Or, at least, you should. Take a while to think about it. Here are a couple common tendencies for winning low-mid stakes husng players.

1. When you raise a healthy-sized river bet, it’s almost always for value.

2. When you three-bet and readlessly check a 987ss flop

with two times the pot left in your stack, your range is pretty weak. Sound familiar? Do this type of analysis on your own play, knowing everything that you know about it, and it will help you understand how to exploit others.

21. “If I have a suited hand in the BB and flop a pair

and a flush draw, I’m pretty much always check/raising because I know I have great equity.” This is just to hammer home the point with an example a lot of mid-high stakes players can make errors on. Just because you know you have great equity and a non-monster does not mean it’s best to check/raise. When you have a pair and a two-card flush draw on the flop, you’re in good shape. Anything besides folding is going to be +EV. Break down your opponent’s range and what actions make the most against different hands. While check/raising is often best, a good percentage of the time, check/calling or leading is preferable.

22. “If I make this play, I might make money in the short run, but I’ll soon become exploitable.” This reasoning serves as a crutch for people who are afraid to deviate from their moderately winning strategies, and is not grounded in equity. It’s okay to be exploitable. You play most people only for a game or two and should be trying to maximize your value from their tendencies. If you think your opponent might be catching on, keep being a moving target, and continue to exploit. Having a strategy that is willing to be dynamic takes more effort, but it gets rewarded when you click the withdrawal button.

To take your game to the next level, you have to figure out what aspects of your thought process about the game are distracting you from what really matters: Your EV, both in-game and in your lifetime poker career. Talk with your friends about this list, defend ones you think you might disagree with, come up with more that I’ve forgotten, and work hard to rid your mind of the flawed understandings that keep you from making the most from the hands you’re dealt and the games you play.

Limpers and Minbetters


I posted these on my blog in the last few months ago. I should have x-posted them here sooner, but I kind of forgot about them.

Feel free to comment/question them, that’s what they are here for, discussion and learning.

Dealing With Min Bettors

The first question in the Q and A is from Marchy in Germany.

Question: How do you handle players who minbet (1/4 to 1/3 of the pot about) 90% of the flops? At the moment i play the 33s on FullTilt and there are lots of these guys. I just cant stand them because i really dont know what the best strategy is against them.

Response: This is a very good question. This is something I struggled with early on in my husng progression and I’m sure many others have or do struggle with as well.

There are a few things I like to keep in mind when dealing with min bettors:

1) We’re usually dealing with a very wide range of hands, so we should not try to narrow their hand range down based on actions that do not warrant it.

2) Our odds of calling a min bet on the flop are much greater

than on the turn, therefore we’ll probably be calling a lot more often on the flop and we shouldn’t be worried about folding turns.

3) We want to be careful about getting overzealous about raising them too often in small pots and folding to the min bet too often in bigger pots.

Keeping those points in mind, here are a few things I like to do against min bettors:

- Figuring out if they will min bet 3 streets with strong hands

(top pairs+), good draws (flush draws, OESDs, weaker pair combo draws), weak draws (low flush draws, gutshot straights, overcards) and outright “bluffs” (weak hands that need runner runner to beat most hands that will play a big pot).

If they are not following the same betting pattern with all of these hands, then I want to try to find out which hands that they are deviating from their min bet strategy with and what they are doing instead.

- I want to also figure out how they react to a raise. I generally

want to raise a stronger hand first, because most min bettors are going to be too loose and call with a lot of hands they should not on the flop, at least in the early portion of our match. If I notice a fold I’ll try again, perhaps with an outright bluff or semi bluff, if they fold again I start to see they are weak and will throw in a good amount of bluff raises along with semi bluff and strong hands and wait until they adjust.

While I may not always get action on my strong hands, the raises are most likely going to frustrate the player.

- It might not be too difficult to win when you are hitting cards/ boards vs these players, but what about when you are card dead and the boards just aren’t hitting your starting hands?

In these cases, you really have to pay attention to how you are playing your high cards, how often you are chasing without the correct odds and other decisions you make in marginal/close spots.

If a player is going to min bet every street with any hand, it’s

going to be correct to call down with a hand like A high. If you notice he is starting to check hands that are really weak or that have no showdown value, you’re going to want to adjust and starting folding high cards to his bets.

A few things you’ll want to avoid are bluffing off a lot of chips

because “I haven’t bet big in awhile, he has to respect me here” or “he bets every street, he can’t call a few raises from me.”

Be careful on taking raises too far. If you bluff raise his min bet on the flop and he calls, be weary about following through on the turn. Don’t blindly spew chips against these players, that is how they are going to win because they usually don’t get enough value out of their bigger hands and end up letting you build pots when you want with stronger hands.

A few other lesser points that I want to make about playing min


- Don’t over or under raise them. For example, if they bet 30

into a 200 pot on the turn, raising your weak top pair to 400 is going to be an over raise. On the flip side, raising 3x to 90 is going to probably be an under raise. Often times against

constant min bettors, I almost “ignore” their small bet and just raise them to what I would bet if they had checked. In this case

it would be a 130-160 type turn bet (raise) that I would make.

- Like I said earlier, be aware of the odds you are being offered

compared to their presumably very wide range of hands. You also want to be aware of the odds you are offering them. If their drawing hands are 20-25% likely to hit the river, you don’t want to “keep them in the pot” with an under raise that offers them the correct odds to draw. They will likely make the mistake of calling without odds, so don’t be too worried about pushing them out of the pot with a 4-5x raise. In fact, your

raises will often be over 4x the bet against min bettors.

In conclusion, since this is a player and situations you’re probably not dealing with on a regular basis, you might have to think a little longer/harder when facing the min bettor. While I gave a lot of general advice, you should find enough above to effectively combat the min bettor and to get you thinking in the right direction against almost all of them.

I’d say above all, awareness is key against these players, and the most common mistake is a lack of discipline and emotional control when dealing with these players. The same can go for the opposite end of the spectrum, the aggro-maniacs, though it is not just a simple “take this advice but apply it in the opposite direction.” That, however, is another day and another blog post.”


Facing A Limp

(Or why you should resist the temptation of raising limps over and over and over again)

You probably get what I’m going to advocate in this post.

First, the following is a response to another question from Spacko about “when you should raise limpers.” It’s a very general question but I notice that even good players often have a general problem with how they approach this area of the game.

Lets begin by looking at reasons why people raise limps.

**We’ll assume that effective stacks are a relatively deep 40- 75bb, unless otherwise noted.

1. Our hand is better than the range of hands villain will call


2. We think villain will fold a tremendous amount of time and

we will raise for the fold equity. You could call this a bluff-raise.

3. We have a great read on villain and have found an exploit in

their game (fairly rare early on). For example, a player that calls almost ATC preflop but is very weak/tight postflop. You would want to get chips in the pot preflop to steal postflop.

There are no doubt other reasons you can raise a limp, but the most common will be similar to the 3 above.

We’ll start with raising for pure hand value. A common reply to “why did you raise his limp with that hand (we’ll say a hand like QTo)?” is “he’ll call with worse hands.” That is probably true, a lot of villains will limp and then call a 3-5x raise with a lot of

worse hands. But unfortunately, many people don’t consider other factors of the hand besides the hand values.

The first factor of the hand that a lot of people ignore is position. You’re out of position, so you’re at a disadvantage (the deeper you are the more this is true). This will weaken your holding/value somewhat.

Another factor is postflop play. How does your opponent play

postflop? What is his calling range? What is his limping range?

If you’re having trouble answering any of those questions,

raising a medium-strong hand like QTo OOP for around 4x the bb is probably not going to put you in good spots postflop.

As an example of how crucial it is to know most if not all of these things about your opponent, I’ll point you to a recent thread in 2+2: http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/



In this thread, Skates (a 220-550 regular) raised Heir Apparent’s (a very solid 200/220 regular) limp with what you could call a “medium-strong” hand. He assumed that Heir would raise any ace preflop, so therefore an ace could not be in his calling range. Based on that assumption, it would be a pretty easy call based on Heir’s line (call, c/c, c/bet). However, Skates even admitted that he was pretty confused about the hand/line and it turns out Heir had a weak ace. Throw aces into Heir’s range and it would be a pretty clear fold on this river.

Moving on, the other big reason people will give when raising a limp is “he’s only limping weak hands, he’ll probably fold.”

While this is fine reasoning, this is generally not worth doing until effective stacks (in bbs) are pretty small (think like <

30bbs deep). Most players will adjust after you raise their limps

a few times, so you’re not going to want to pick up their 20 or

30 chips once or twice when you have 1500 chips and then have to figure out how they are adjusting later on. Knowing they are limping weak and/or folding often is going to be much more valuable when you can pick up 50-100 chips each time or more appropriately, 5-15% of their stack a pop.

I’ll touch on one other point about limp raising before I conclude, and that would be to think about what it means to

face a limp. Are you really worried about a player limping his button when stacks are deep? You shouldn’t be. Most players are losing value by constantly limping their button when stacks are deep, so why should you abuse that leak early on and force them to raise more often in position and generally play more aggressively throughout the game? It is my belief that you should not.

Now lets quickly touch on when you should raise limps.

-The blinds are a big % of the effective stacks. 5-15% is probably a good rule of thumb for when you really want to be paying attention and looking for spot to raise limps for fold equity.

-You really have a good grasp on this villain and his calling range as well as his postflop play.

-Your hand is very strong. I would never suggest checking a hand like 99 or AK in the big blind when a player limps. With a hand like this, your hand is just too strong to not want to build a pot, position or not, good reads or not.

Building off of that, my default raising range for low-mid stakes husngs would be 55+, A9s, ATo+, KJs+, KQo+.

That range would change as effective stacks, game flow and reads developed and changed, but on the first hand of a 22 dollar husng that would be my suggest raising range facing a limp from a random player.

To conclude, in general I would suggest letting players limp early but especially paying attention to limp ranges, reactions to aggression and postflop play of villains so that you can take advantage of poor play as effective big blinds get shallow and leaks grow tremendously. A good way to gain this information is to mainly only raise strong hands early on when facing a limp, and to deviate from that strategy as the conditions above warrant.”

Overbet NASH


For those of you expecting “Everything I know about Poker” as promised in the Regs thread, that’ll come eventually when I have more time. As for now, here’s a formal explanation of why you see (and should see more) overbetting in matches between good players, especially when they have a history together.

Take the following hand that occured early on at a 10k HU Event I just made up:

MersennearyPoker.com $10000.00 No Limit Hold’em Tournament - 2 players - Blinds t5/t10 - The Official Reddit. com Hand History Converter

Hero (BB): t3500 BTN/SB: t2500

com Hand History Converter Hero (BB): t3500 BTN/SB: t2500 Pre Flop: (t15) Hero is BB with

Pre Flop: (t15) Hero is BB with A BTN/SB raises to t20, Hero calls t10


Hero is BB with A BTN/SB raises to t20 , Hero calls t10 5 Flop: (t40)

Flop: (t40) 5

Hero checks, BTN/SB bets t40, Hero raises to t160, BTN/SB calls t120

BTN/SB bets t40 , Hero raises to t160 , BTN/SB calls t120 A Q (2 players)


BTN/SB bets t40 , Hero raises to t160 , BTN/SB calls t120 A Q (2 players)


bets t40 , Hero raises to t160 , BTN/SB calls t120 A Q (2 players) Turn:

(2 players)

Turn: (t360) 7

Hero bets t320.00, BTN/SB calls t320

Turn: (t360) 7 Hero bets t320.00 , BTN/SB calls t320 (2 players) River: (t1000) Q Hero

(2 players)

River: (t1000) Q

Hero checks, BTN/SB bets ?

(t360) 7 Hero bets t320.00 , BTN/SB calls t320 (2 players) River: (t1000) Q Hero checks,

(2 players)

Suppose, further, that both players know that the BB has Ax here always (this isn’t the best hand to demonstrate this, as BB has plenty of busted draws, but whatever, pretend it’s a

standard ace high board with no draws and it’s gone c/c c/c c/b

if you’re hung up on that), and that BTN has 50% Qx+, and

50% air. This is, naturally, an idealized situation, but we’ll get to the practical applications at the end. For now, you should all know what the Nash Equilibrium of this situation is (Equilibrium isn’t just an endgame thing). Do you? If not, let’s calculate it.

For demonstration purposes: Let’s assume as the button, we have three choices on some site with crummy software:

Betting t500, betting t1000, or betting t2000 all-in to the pot of t1000. Let’s say we decide to bet t2000, or not at all.

In Nash Equilibrium, after you make your river bet, your opponent should be indifferent between calling and folding. Hence, as the button, along with betting t2000 for all of our value hands, we want to bet t2000 with the percentage of our air that makes it so folding and calling have the same EV for our opponent. The math on that:


-500 = (2500)x - (2500)(1-x)

-500 = 5000x - 2500

2000 = 5000x

x = 2/5

Thus, at Nash Equilibrium, BTN shoves what makes a BB call correct 2/5 of the time. So, BTN shoves 100% of her value and shoves 2/3 of her air. This makes BB indifferent between calling and folding, meaning that 5/6 of the time, BTN has an expectation of +t500, and 1/6 of the time, BTN concedes the

pot for an expectation of -t500. Hence, EV playing this strategy

is +t333.

Let’s note what happens if we try to make our bets only in 1000, or only in 500:

If we’re betting 1000, again, we should be doing so with 100% of our Qx+, and some % of our air. BB should be indifferent between calling and folding in equilibrium.


-500 = (1500)x - (1500)(1-x)

-500 = 3000x - 1500

1000 = 3000x

x = 1/3

Thus, we want to bet what makes BB call correctly 1/3 of the time. So, we shove 100% of our value hands and 50% of our air. This makes BB indifferent between calling and folding, meaning that 3/4 of the time, we have an expectation of +t500, and 1/4 of the time, we concede the pot for an expectation -t500. This means our expectation playing this strategy is +t250.

At equilibrium, betting pot is inferior to overbetting 2x pot.

If we’re betting 500, you know the drill


-500 = (1000)x - (1000)(1-x)

-500 = 2000x - 1000

500 = 2000x

x = 1/4

So we bet what makes BB call correctly 1/4 of the time, which means betting 100% of value and 33.3% of air. 2/3 of the time we have an expectation of +t500, 1/3 of the time it’s -t500. Expectation playing this strategy is +t167. The bigger the bet, the bigger the EV.

Let’s take it to the extreme, though. Say we’re really deep- stacked, perhaps at a cash game with 10k behind and this river decision. This is also applicable in smaller HUSNG pots. If we make a big overbet shove (crazy, reckless stuff, right?), what’s our EV?


-500 =(10500)x - (10500)(1-x)

-500 = 21000x - 10500

10000 = 21000x

x = 47.6%

Which means we bet 100% of our value and 90.8% of our air, giving us an expectation of +453, the best yet.

The general theme: When it’s clear your opponent is highly

unlikely to have anything other than bluffcatcher, your chipstack

is a weapon. You want to use your chips to allow you to remain

unexploitable as you bluff with a bigger percentage of your air hands.

Two quick points to make, which I won’t bother to show the math on:

1. At equilibrium, overbetting is better than any combination of

small/large bets with different types of hands.

2. Shoving is still a Nash Equilibrium regardless of what

percentages BTN has air and value; it doesn’t have to be 50/50.

OK, you get it. But you read 2+2 strat so you can take more maney. When does this help me take maney?

The downside: I am a strong advocate that in the vast majority of games, Nash Equilibria are going to be useless. Nash relies on both players having perfect information about each other’s

strategies. This is ridiculous. If a Nash Equilibrium calls for you to do something 90% of the time, you might as well do it 100% of the time - nobody’s going to know. Mediocre players who have no history, aren’t attempting to balance ranges, and do not respond appropriately when you unbalance yours, make it

a critical error to not go for MORE than the +t300 expectation

that t2000 overbet shoving guarantees you in this hand. There also will be concerns about variance and putting your stack at risk for too slight of edges. All these are legitimate concerns:

There’s simply no reason to play any Nash, be it end-game or early-game, if deviating from it affords you a better winrate because of the incompetence of your opponent.

However, as you move up in stakes and get more and more history between common opponents, who tend to understand

and react appropriately to your frequencies, you need to start playing more equilibrium strategies. The Nash Equilibrium here

is overbetting, and that’s a significant part of why you see it at

higher stakes, taking advantage of players who would never, ever check the river with a big hand in the example above. Stop thinking about Nash in poker as only relevant to the endgame and start thinking more about it in early-game decisions when you’re up against a tough opponent, especially one you have history with. I would argue that the “you only have a bluffcatcher” situation is pretty commonplace, but regardless, there are numerous other spots that make thinking about equilibrium and how its occasionally counterintuitive conclusions more than mental masturbation, but hookers and blow from all

of the bing blang blaow you’re going to be singing.

Preflop Ranges in HU SnG


I think one way of looking at it is:

You want to raise as many BTNs as you can get away with before/unless villain adjusts. So theoretically you can start off by opening 100% and seeing how villain responds. Some people will start off at 85-90%, because opening 100% has a certain feel to it that causes some villains to play back faster (‘omg he’s blindly clicking raise every time he has the BTN’) than if you occasionally fold your BTN (‘oh he has some standards, even if they’re minimal.’)

You may want to start reducing your BTN opens if villain starts 3-betting a lot and is hyper-aggro in 3-bet pots / doesn’t fold easily to positional pressure and is generally hyper-aggro OOP / will pay you off lightly but will not go away often enough when you have air unless you put stacks into play every time. In such cases, opening super-wide might still be profitable if you’re skilled post-flop, but the match becomes much easier to play if you reduce your opens to like 60%-75%, especially since most villains of the type I described won’t adjust well. (For example, there are hugely losing villains whose basic approach is to try to win every pot, literally, no matter how many chips they risk and almost no matter what kind of resistance you put up. Opening super-wide against them can get really tough if you’re not running hot or sick good, because you basically have to show them a hand or bluff for stacks or fold and bleed off chips every time you enter a pot.)

As far as raise-sizing pf goes, I recommend HokieGreg’s advice (which I presume is standard) when getting started, until you

design a scheme of your own that you prefer for whatever reason. The key is that your pf raise-sizing should take effective stack size into account. You don’t want to be opening 3x when too shallow, because it’s pretty easy to exploit by 3-bet shoving, unless you open a ridiculously low percentage of hands. There are posts about this on this forum; search for “3-bet shoving 25 bbs deep” by Insane_Steve. Anyway, HokieGreg’s advice: raise 3x between 75-51 bbs deep, raise 2.5x between 50-30 bbs deep, and raise 2x between 30-13 bbs deep. Below that, a lot of people start playing push-or-fold preflop, using the Nash Equilibrium tables as a guide.

As far as limping is concerned, some people never/rarely do it, and stick to raise-or-fold pf, and do just fine. Others will limp anything they’re not raising, until villain starts attacking their limps, and then they’ll mix in some strong hands into their limps and fold the very worst of their limping hands, in order to make life harder for villain. I typically don’t limp until the effective stack is less than 23bbs, then I start doing it with many weakish and some strong hands. So there’s a lot of flexibility in this arena.

Finally, you say OOP you call anything remotely decent and raise all decent hands to 3 bb. I’m not sure exactly what ranges you mean here, but I strongly recommend starting out by playing very tight OOP. You can call min-raises a little wider than 3x raises, but the key is to play OOP pots much less frequently than pots in position. Look for hands that flop well, where both cards can make a decent pair, so K9s > A2o. Also watch how frequently your opponent raises; you don’t want to be calling with dominated hands against a nitty BTN-raiser (they do show up.) Your OOP play is of course conditioned but how well or poorly villain plays post-flop. Some guys will give you free turns when they miss and check/fold when they don’t connect and you fire turn or river. Others will c-bet 100% but play very weakly against frequent check-raises. But please, please start off by playing tightly OOP. And if someone limps into your BB, don’t raise their limp with a wide range until you know exactly what you’re doing. Start off by only raising limps with something like 88+, QJ+, KT+, AT+, and taking free flops with the rest of your hands.

Push-Fold Poker


Some people asked me to write this for a belgian pokerforum

and I figured I could just post it here as well because there’s

a question about this pretty much twice every week in the

beginner’s thread and I think this is a decent guide for beginning players to play the really shallow endgame of a sng without too much errors or misinformation (or generally lack of information). Nothing really groundbreaking in here for more experienced players I think.

Stuff in advance:

If you have t2700 and villain t300 and blinds are 15/30, you

are indeed the chipleader but this shouldn’t adjust your play AT ALL. You’re still only 10bb’s and should treat it like you both have t300 in chips. Obviously if you make an ev- shove or call here you’re going to lose less $$$ in ev than if stacks would be t2000 and t1000 and blinds 50/100 but you’re still 10bb’s deep and ev- decisions stay ev-! Don’t think about “I can gamble, if he doubles up, I’m still big chipleader!” make sure your moves are ev+.

Maybe I’ve been a bit to harsh about “it shouldn’t affect your play” because sometimes it can. However, this will not be because of your play, but because of villain’s play. Some people will shove ATC when they have the chiplead with the 2.7k in chips because they indeed want to finish you quickly, so your callingrange should get wider by a decent percentage. Also if you just won a big pot from villain one way or another this will affect metagame and he may be tilted so you should try and add these into the equation when you calculate ranges and odds and stuff. Just keep in mind that in the end you should

only look at the amount of bb’s you have.

Even if you play a big mtt, there won’t come any ICM into play. Suppose first prize is €2k and second prize is €1k, then you already have won the €1k and can just look at the end-game as being a €500 hu sng. Doesn’t matter how big the difference between first and second place is really.


Most people have probably heard about this already, you can find a lot of links about it if you google for a bit.

(See attached)

Sage works with a chart and a power-index which is really easy to memorize. You just have to know how shallow effective stacks are and calculate the power index for your hand and see whether you push or fold. Power index is easy to calculate, just take the value of your highest card (ace is 15, not 14, face cards are 11,12,13 obv) and double it; add the value of the other card to it and if it’s suited add an additional 2. If you have a pocket pair you add 22 to the number. Then you look in the chart and see if you can push/fold from your button and if you can call if villain openshoves.

Note that this becomes slightly ev- for the sb to push starting from 7bb’s. Small negative ev, but still ev-. So you should only adapt this when really shallow imo.

Also note that this is far from optimal play. If you think villain shoves tight your calling range should be a little tighter but you can shove wider. Basically (since it only works for 6bb’s or shallower) this is just a crapshoot and it’s almost a “push any two cards” and hope villain folds. 6bb’s is really nothing, and you barely need fold equity preflop to make shoving ATC ev+ because there’s already 1.5bb’s in the pot. Some higher stakes winning players actually DO shove ATC in these spots because villain will often have a way too tight callingrange.

Nash equilibrum:

Something a little more worked out and interesting is the nash equilibrum:

(See attached)

problem is you just see a chart there and while the chart itself

is still pretty easy to figure out, you still need some info to go

with it to know what you’re doing. Why are we shoving 54s for 20+bb’s for example, but not J8o?

Let’s just say we’re playing headsup, we’re 100bb’s deep and I’m on the button. You know 100% sure I only openshove AA on the button. If I openshove what’s your callingrange? Obv only the other two aces. When I openshove KK+ what’s your callingrange? Still, only AA. When I openshove QQ+ your callingrange is KK+ (although KK only has 49.995% equity vs QQ+ it’s still an ev+ call due to the sb + bb in the pot). Okay that’s for strong hands, now let’s look at a range of {AA,54s}. What’s your callingrange now? You call with KK?

equity win tie pots won pots tied

Hand 0: 58.174% 57.94% 00.23% 59530656 236778.00 { AA, 54s } Hand 1: 41.826% 41.60% 00.23% 42734028 236778.00 { KK


Appearantly calling with KK will lose you money in the long run.

A lot of people think that in the nash pushing chart shoving a

hand like 54s is 20bb’s+ and 54o for 2.1bb’s is because 54s has more equity because of the possibility to hit a flush. This BARELY has anything to do with it. In the small example I gave here the only reason why KK is not an ev+ call is because there’s 6 combo’s of AA and only 4 combo’s of 54s. There’s 12 combo’s of 54o, so

equity win tie pots won pots tied Hand 0: 39.788% 39.56% 00.23% 73162224 417762.00 { AA, 54o } Hand 1: 60.212% 59.99% 00.23% 110931084 417762.00 { KK


this makes KK a snapcall if your range would be {AA,54o}.

So they started like this and in the end they came up with an entire chart of all hands you can openshove which is unexploitable for 20bb’s or shallower. There’s a decent amount of hands which say 20bb’s+ but the maker of the chart just

assumed that you shouldn’t play push/fold deeper. Openshoving A2o for 200bb’s would be very likely ev- if villain has a different callingrange than the “nash equilibrum” calling chart.

So this is an equilibrum, which means a stalemate position: if both hero and villain use the pushing and callingrange you’re gonna be ev0 against each other. If one of the two deviates from one of the charts, he’s gonna be ev- against the other. What does this mean? Do NOT use the CALLING chart against

a random opponent. Actually, it’s better not to use it vs ANY

opponent unless you know 100% sure he uses the nash pushing chart, which is a really rare occassion. Just forget about the callingrange and you’ll be better off imo. It only is ev0 if villain uses the pushing chart and will be ev- in pretty much all other cases.

Another important thing you have to remember: don’t deviate from it if you want to use it. Suppose you’re 11bb’s shallow and you have Q7o. Nash says you can openshove this and it will be ev0 at worst. HOWEVER, what would you do with QQ+ in this spot? Would you also openshove it? Or limp or minraise in order to induce a shove from villain? If you would also openshove these hands, you can indeed openshove the Q7o as well. If you would play any other hand differently from the chart it becomes totally worthless and would have to be recalculated entirely before the equilibrum can be reached. Can you still openshove this? Hard to determine a new equilibrum so you should go to Chubukov instead.

I wouldn’t really recommend using this above 12bb’s, where

there’s still room to manoeuvre a bit preflop. Usually 10-12bb’s

is the part where I start openshoving a lot of my buttons,

because minraise/folding becomes too expensive and you need some specific gameflow for your opponent to allow limping (however, if villain allows you to limp, do it as much as possible and try to just stab at it postflop; i sometimes limp some

hands which i could shove ev+ for sure but i just don’t want to change the dynamics of the match and let villain see some flops because it keeps him passive and happy).

One last thing is that you have to take the bb and sb posted with the effective stacks in the chart (so looking for push/fold BEFORE blinds are posted actually).


Okay, let’s just say you’re in a spot now with K3s, there’s an aggro push/fold dynamic already and you are on the button with 12bb’s effective stacks. Nash says this is a push, but let’s just face it, you’re probably not gonna openshove QQ+ vs this aggrotard who has attacked all your limps preflop already and will just limp in most of the time. Can you still openshove the K3s? Look at Chubukov imo:

(See attached)

What is this? This is a chart which says how deep you can be EXPRESSED IN SMALL BLINDS to openshove a hand and be still ev0 at worst when villain has a perfect callingrange due to flipping over your cards (the amount of small blinds is shown in the right column, so just cut in half for bb’s obv). Obv AA you can shove for infinite bb’s as you chop in worst case. KK will only get called by KK+ so that’s a tiny fraction of a random hand and you still have equity when called (like you always do). So you look up K3s and see that you can openshove it for 14.2bb’s! That’s a whole lot, even though nash gives us almost 20bb’s, we can still openshove a ton here without openshoving the top of our range. Basically his callingrange will be any pocket pair, any Ax and K3s+/K4o+ hands.

What are the important things to remember from this chart? The fact you can openshove K2o for 10bb’s preflop imo. So shoving a pocket pair, Ax or Kx hand for 10bb’s or less is always gonna be ev0 at worst, irregardless of villain’s callingrange. Again, don’t overdo this, even with aggro dynamics there’s a lot of play left from 12-20bb’s and you can limp/openshove/ minraise/fold instead of just openshoving. Given, this will take some time to master because it depends a lot on villain and gameflow but if you get some experience in it it shouldn’t be THAT hard to quickly see how villain plays and adapt to it.


1) Sage is a bit outdated. Just use nash for 6bb’s or shallower because you will probably openshove QQ+ anyway with these stacksizes. 2) Use nash only if you use it correctly, and preferably 12bb’s or shallower.

3) Use Chubukov if you dislike minraise/calling a shove, or limp/folding, or folding in general, but openshoving is appearantly ev+, also don’t use it over - say - 14bb’s imo. Openshoving 33 or K3s for 13bb’s is something I do from time to time, against certain opponents it’s going to be the easiest way to play these hands. 4) When your opponent openshoves his button for x bb’s, don’t use any chart, but estimate a shoving range and see if you have odds to call with the dead money in the pot.


Sage 46


Nash 47


N_call and N_fold are the number of hands that will call/fold given that you move in with the maximum stack that you will do so with. P|call is the probability of winning given that you are called (plus 1/2 the probability of tieing). The last number

is the original question.





Max Stack for EV > 0














































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































Learnin’ Dem SnGs Good


I’m reformatting this post from my blog. It may be easier to read over there than here (see link in profile ldo)

As I’ve said many times before, getting good at SNGs is _


poker, but we also need to learn many additional sub-games:

mid-level, bubble, and heads up. The games are tough now, and you need to be knowledgeable at every stage of the SNG to squeeze out your profit.

Not only do we have to play competent FR or 6-max

When I played SNGs, I went through many iterations of game review using HEM and SNG Wizard to try to hone by general game and my ICM-based decisions. Here I’m going to outline my final method I used, which allowed me to review a very wide range of hands I played in a methodolical, systematic way. I was playing 50-80 SNGs a day, so it was impossible to review all hands. But at the same time, it is important - as you add on more tables and play more hours a day - to be confident you are not leaving unseen holes in your game.

The main tools I used were HEM and SNG Wizard. I’m sure PT3 will do most - if not all - of what I lay out below (except where my own custom tools come in to play).

Along with these 2 main programs, I developed various AHK scripts. Any mention of a script can be found in the “tools section”: http://www.sickread.com/blog/tools/ of this blog. I’m not here to pimp them out - I wrote them specifically for my own use as the needs arose, and have since made them available publicly. All the scripts are free (with the exception of

a ‘pro’ version of WizHUD, but that’s an optional extra).

I am splitting this in to two distinct sections:

* The daily review

* Systematically learning ICM from real hands

This might seem like a lot of work. But in practice it’s much simpler than it sounds. Normally I would study an hour or two before playing each morning, then play for 5-6 hours. At the weekend, I would do the weekly ‘systematic’ review for a few hours. I think at least 20% studying time is the least you should be doing if you want to continue moving forward. Put in place your own strict study session and, using some of the techniques I outline below, you should be getting through a review session much quicker, and making much better use of your time.

much quicker, and making much better use of your time. I don’t play SNGs much any

I don’t play SNGs much any more. And I was not that hot at

them. I think by the end I was playing the mid-stakes 6-max games on stars and beating them for some, but I was far from the best at the tables. A lot of my problems came from concentration issues playing multiple tables. I was never great at that. But what I was damn good at was my ICM. Gimme a situation and the stack sizes and reasonable calling ranges I could nail the correct range of hands to be shoving. I could give

a pretty close approximation for nash for shover, SB and BB in

most standard 2-4 situations, and this information was internalised through many hours of study. I’m sure many regulars on the forum can do the same, but for the new player, the task seems daunting. I’ve read many posts from players

saying, “How exactly am i meant to remember this?”. Hopefully this post will help with that.

The Daily Review.

Marking hands and tournaments.

The Daily Review. Marking hands and tournaments. To be prepared for daily review, I would make

To be prepared for daily review, I would make extensive use of the ‘mark hand’ facility in hold’em manager whilst playing. I don’t just mark hands I feel I might have played incorrectly, but also hypothetical situations such as “well here this is an easy shove with A4o, but what if I make my hand J4o?”. I have a notepad by the laptop to make these additional notes. Using a hotkey (which is one of many I have in my “HEM Shortcuts” AHK script), I can mark the currently playing hand in HEM.

I would also irregularly ‘mark’ entire tournaments. Again I had

a small script to do this (which isn’t publicly available at the

moment - but you can just jot down the last 3 #s of the tournament ID in your notepad for now). I would do this for when there was a string of interesting hands, say a long fought- out bubble with interesting stack sizes, or a long set of BvB situations vs. a reg.

The Review Session

I would review in the morning, reviewing yesterday’s hands. I

preferred this so that it would get my brain working before I started playing my first set of SNGs. You may work better reviewing at the end of the day, whilst the hands are still fresh

in your mind. But it’s important to get in to your regime and stick with it.

I will mention something now that will come up a lot in this: I

never use the SNG Wiz ‘game view’ (the list of hands in one tournament with tick marks) at any point of the review. I think

many players do their reviews by just firing up some HHs in wiz, quickly scanning for any red X marks, checking a few

hands, and calling it a day. I found this a very ineffective method, and potentially destructive way to learn. I’ll go in to this a bit later in part 2.

Reviewing marked hands.

So in HEM, set the date filter to ‘yesterday’, go to the tourney ‘hands’ tab, clear any filters, and check the ‘only show marked hands’. Click twice on the ‘date’ column to sort in chronological order (oldest first). Then right click and ‘Review all hands in replayer’.

There’s no science to the next part - step through the hands, have your notebook ready, and check out those problem spots. This post isn’t about actually ‘how’ to improve, rather the methods I used to do a review, so I won’t go in to what exactly you should do at this stage - but a few pointers: if you want to get outside help on a hand, do it now when the hand is up in the replayer and you have stats. Post it on 2p2 (don’t use the ‘2p2’ format that HEM provides, it’s barely readable. Copy the ‘txt’ format, and paste that in to the 2p2 converter). Share it with a friend (I paste that same text in to weaktight.com). Paste it in an IM to a friend. Make use of HEM’s mini-hand history, that gives you your equity vs known hole cards on each street.

If you have an ICM decision, send this hand to SNG Wizard. Locate the hand back in the HEM hand list. If you have WizHUD, you can middle click on a hand and it will be send to wiz for you. Otherwise, right click, copy hand to clipboard, then over on SNG Wizard, use the ‘paste’ button on the toolbar.

Once I’ve been through marked hands, I do the same process but for marked tournaments. If I have no marked tournaments, I may just pick a couple at random, or maybe the last ones I played. Find the hands in Tourney > Results > Data View, find the tourney based on the # you wrote down, then sort the hands in chronological order, right click and replay all hands.

Using all my shortcuts in HEM Shortcuts for the replayer, I can review a tourney _very_ fast. I could go through one and review/post important hands, check ICM spots in wiz, in 5 minutes.

Daily hand filters.

The second part of my daily ritual was running specific filters across the day’s hands. This would be a 4 or 5 filters saved in HEM to check common trouble spots. Often these would be checks to ensure I’m not making any misclicks or board misreads due to multitabling. For example, one time during a random tournament review, I missed an easy cbet on the flop. This was probably due to my focus on another table, and missing the action. So I set up a “missed flop cbet” filter, and ran it daily. Of course, some times I wanted to check back a flop, so I would have some ‘false positives’ in the filter, but having these filters, and knowing I would check them daily, gave me confidence to ignore these issues ingame because I knew they would surface in the review later.

Similarly, at various times I made some changes to my default preflop decisions (for example, to open fold small PPs UTG in 6max). Because a lot of my preflop play is done automatically at a sub-conscious level, I was concerned I might not apply the changes. So I created a filter “vpipped 22-55 UTG/HJ with >20BB eff stack 4 players+”. The HEM filter system is pretty powerful once you get the hang of it, so many scenarios can be modelled and saved as filters to be run daily.

can be modelled and saved as filters to be run daily. Systematically learning ICM from real

Systematically learning ICM from real hands

The problem with using SNG Wizard for review.

As I touched on earlier, I never use the wiz ‘game view’ when reviewing games or when trying to learn ICM. I think there are two inherent problems with the ‘scan the game view and look at the checkmarks, or step through the hands’ process.

One is that simply the ticks and crosses are not accurate

enough to use as a guide for whether a hand should be

reviewed or not. There are too many X’s that are obviously fine and, much worse, many ticks for shoves that were clearly wrong. There are some specific situations (such as when there

is a shorty all in) where ranges are way off that the ticks are

meaningless. This is no criticism of SNG Wizard, it’s just the nature of the game.

But more importantly, this method is very ineffective at internalising the information in order to learn ICM and make the right play at the table. Clicking through hand after hand, looking at constantly changing dynamics and stack sizes and # of players, does no good to try and learn one certain spot. First, you see a hand where you shoved too loose in the cut-off. It should have been only top 40%, wiz says. Then you see a hand where you folded when you should have called out of the big blind. Any ace, broadway or pair, wiz says. How are you supposed to remember this for next time?

It’s not really relevant whether you played that hand correctly or not. Patting ourselves on the back for getting a sea of green ticks, or chastising ourselves for getting lots of red X’s does little to further our actual understanding of the game. What’s important is that we can learn something from that hand to further our internal knowledge of the game and make a better, more informed decision next time it occurs.

A Systematic Approach with HEM filtering

Using the power of HEM filtering, and a little extra I built in to wizhud, we can turn our review process from looking at hands in a one-dimensional, linear fashion (stepping through hands in

a tournament), to a dynamic and methodical process, using our real hands.

Each week, I would pick one ICM situation and create a specific filter through HEM. For example, I may feel I’ve been making some mistakes on the button with 8-12 big blinds when 4 and 5 handed.

Fairly complex filters can be created. You can look at 3bet situations with deeper stacks,

Fairly complex filters can be created. You can look at 3bet situations with deeper stacks, setups with limpers, etc. Using the effective stack, you can also in some situations control the opponents stack size within certain bounds(this works only in blind vs blind situations). I then set the date filter (all hands that week or, if it’s a very specific filter, I may look at all hands that month or even wider) and we get our list of similar hands.

month or even wider) and we get our list of similar hands. Using the ctrl-middle click

Using the ctrl-middle click feature in wizhud, i can then send all these hand histories in one batch over to SNG Wizard. The result is that we now have a pretend tournament in the ‘game view’ of sng wizard, just showing all hands in a specific context.

The benefits of this should hopefully be obvious. We can now easily see how well we are playing in this situation, whether there are common errors (maybe over-valuing A-x type hands, generally shoving too wide, over-estimating our fold equity, etc). By seeing one specific situation, we are cutting down on the number of variables (our position, our stack size, blind level, etc) and limiting it to a few uncontrolled variables (out hand, opponents stack sizes, etc).

The result is really like a SNG Wiz quiz, except you have more control over

The result is really like a SNG Wiz quiz, except you have more control over the hands, you have real situations vs. real opponents, and you can review your play at the same time as internalizing the scenario.

The missing context.

One problem with this method is that it lacks the context of the situation. When going through hands linearly, you see how the SNG progresses, build up reads on the players, etc.

how the SNG progresses, build up reads on the players, etc. This was one of the

This was one of the reasons I created wizhud - it allows you to get some sort of read when reviewing the hands with various stats. In the pro version, you can also add blind steal stats and HEM note text and icon.

But when doing this contextual approach, the main goal isn’t to

see how well you’ve played vs. that specific opponent at that time; we use this approach to have a body of example hands

in similar contexts to see how changing variables effect correct push/fold/call ranges. One such variable is the read on the opponent. It’s not that useful to conclude, “Well this was a bad shove because this guy calls super loose.”. Much more useful

is to note how exactly our profitable shove range changes

based on that player type, so next time we can make the right decision for all player types.

Cliff Notes At The Bottom

* Have a regular daily process for reviewing your hands. Mark hands and tournaments as you play, and review these first,

using the HEM replayer to step through the hands, only sending

a hand off to SNGW when needed. Next, apply specific daily

filters to review certain trouble areas in your game.

* When trying to learn ICM, use filters in HEM to create specific

scenarios, then send this batch over to SNGW. With hands in groups, it’s easier to try to internalise specific ICM situations. You can do this exercise as part of a regular review, applying a set of 2-4 filters a week to review and learn, or irregularly when you have the time to study.

MTT: Stack size theory


Ok, boys and girls, this here may be the most -ev post I have ever written. The Q3 push thread received quite a few responses from players who were confused about the validity of it, while I thought that it was a fairly standard play for most of us here(read independent.) Even if the players do not know why they do it, I thought that at least they would understand intuitively the value from plays such as these. Before I get into the actual dynamics of that individual hand, let me see if I can explain the “Gigabet Dilemma.”

For those that do not know, there was a very long and controversial thread(in the MTT forum) about another hand that I had played. Basically, I had made a -ev call because I had felt that the positive ev I would gain later in the game, if I win the hand, outweighs the negative ev of the specific hand. Because you cannot mathematically prove the positive equity of future happenings with any certainty, this is all theory. The controversy surrounding the argument of whether or not to take the immediate negative expected value or make the “correct” play has been coined the Gigabet Dilemma.

If you are on my side, and agree with my reasoning, then you have to take these negative situations and use them to your advantage. But the real question is, how do you recognize when you can get on the negative side of the situation and know that if you lose that individual hand, your stack will still be able to contend with the fields? Understanding that every situation is one long stream of events, and the results of any single hand mean nothing in the long run isn’t enough. Because of Gamblers Ruin(cannot recover from zero) you are forced to

recognize that each situation is independent, and have to be

results oriented for that hand. It is counter-intuitive to make

a move based on one situation, rather than 100s of thousands

similar situations, but because you cannot recover from zero, there has to be a plateau in each situation that you can recover from. Since each situation will involve different stacks, you have to depend on your results from the texture of that individual setting to decide whether to make that -ev move. You cannot create hard and fast guidelines to make that decision, rather, you have to go by your feel for the situation at hand.

Here is where it gets interesting. Although you cannot make guidelines, you can create one “model” that you can look at, and decide what the best decision would be in that model. If you decide that your model calls for avoiding the -ev situation, then adjust the sizes of the stacks until you find a model that calls for embracing the negative situation.

If you think you would have troubles actually finding a correct

model, here are some things that may help you. Put everyone at near the same stack size, except for one player, who has around 1/3 the rest of the field, and gradually increase the blinds, if you still cannot get it, gradually increase your stack, while leaving everyones the same, including the small stack.

Once you get your model, use it as a relative comparison to some past stts you have played, and see if you cannot see actual game situations that are relatively close to that situation that is represented by your model. Read through enough hand histories, and you will start to intuitively see the situations as they arise.

In my mind, I see each stack as a “block” that fits into a complete mold that encompasses all of the chips in play. I cannot comprehend what “one” chip is, because that is too small of a unit for my mold. Here is a very loose description of what I mean. At the beginning of a tourney, everyone has a block that is the same size, imagine 10 blocks sitting next to each other, with a bold face line running across the top of all of the blocks. I actually envision a pie type mold, with the blocks pieced in the pie evenly, however that is too difficult to put into words, so I will try and analagize it. Ok, so your bold face line

is just a guideline that represents the saturation point of the

chips in play, basically, the average stack, but the line could go

above or below avg, if one of the stack gets excessively larger or smaller than the fields. As the tourney goes on for a time, and the blinds get to a certain point, your line will get very erratic, and there will be times, when the size of the blinds will equal, or nearly equal the size of a “block” that is near the level of your line. When situations like these occur, and your stack hovers above the line, then any part of your stack over the line is essentially meaningless. However, because the line is erratic at that level of play, using those meaningless chips to capture a “block” will make your stack a real force that controls the level of that line. Basically, capturing a block is nearly equivalent to doubling up.

Here is a kicker, if your stack is flush with the line, and the size of the pot is nearly flush with the line, then you have an ideal situation to take alot of negative ev to call an all in from another player. If you can understand that statement, then you will understand alot more than just what I have written so far.

There will be situations where math tells you to push with any two cards to pick up the pot(preflop, of course), however, if you are using my model, you will see that because the “line” is relatively stable, and your stack hovers above the line, than taking down that pot is very nearly always wrong. This is working on the opposite side of the coin, and recognizing when +ev situations should actually be avoided, because it would be more positive to wait until either the line moves, or your stack moves closer to the line.

Now that you have read this, go back and look at the hand history, and see if you can see why I pushed all in with Q3, knowing I was going to take the worst of it in a showdown. If need be, I will go through and explain that hand in detail, and try and put together a more easily identifiable model that represents the stacks at that table.

I have never put this theory into words before, however, I have put them in use enough times to know that there is no doubt in my mind that they are true. I hope that this isn’t too disjointed to read, and while I know that understanding it may be difficult, please read through it a few times before asking questions that may have an obvious answer. Obviously newer players will benefit from this more, since they have less “preconceived” notions of how to play. More experienced players may actually

intuitively understand it more, but find it hard to believe that this is any kind of poker, and never really incorporate it into their game.

Blind Stealing


Concept of the Week #4: Blind Stealing

Blind stealing is a topic very close to my heart, being the

LAGtard nitbox that I am

I’m going to focus on stealing rather than defending and restealing, since I play pretty terribly from the blinds, but I also think that (especially for new players), working on stealing is going to be much easier and much more profitable than blind defence.

so here’s my advice on blind steals.

So what is blind stealing?

Blind stealing is making a preflop raise (usually from late position), in an unopened pot, to attempt to win the blinds. Hold’em Manager calculates this stat based on CO, BTN and SB raises in unopened pots, although you can still steal from other positions, depending on table dynamics.

Why should I steal blinds?

It’s only 1.5BBs, why should I get involved?

Because 1.5BBs is a LOT OF ****ING MONEY!!!

For performing a single blind steal, you can win 1.5BBs (a successful steal equates to 75PTBB/100 which is a silly amount). Of course it won’t work every time (nor should you steal at every single opportunity), but even when the blinds defend, you still get to play a pot postflop with:

- Position (this is huge)

- Initiative

- Postflop value

So you can often take down an even bigger pot on the flop with

a cbet (more on that later).

Stealing adds a TON to your bottom line.

Know your blinds

It helps a lot to know who the blinds are. Useful things to know (most of these should be pretty obvious) are:


- 3bet% (in particular, 3bet% from the blinds or 3bet% facing a steal)

- Fold to cbet%

- Additional history

VPIP tells us how loose the blinds are in general. This should be our main indicator of whether we can profitably steal in a given situation.

Obviously if the blinds are really loose, we can’t expect our steal to take it down as often preflop. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t steal from loose players: we steal with a different range which we can play very profitably, in position, postflop. Instead of bluffing or semi-bluffing with our steal, we are actually value-raising.

On the other hand if we have two nits in the blinds we can steal with a huge range.

3bet% tells us how often we’re going to get

either of the blinds tend to resteal a lot, it’s probably time to

tighten up your stealing range. That’s the easiest way to adjust to this - however, you can also adjust by 4betting light, or by widening your value 4betting range (intending to call a shove

ofc, please don’t turn value hands into bluffs intending to 4b/f)

if they are aggro enough to bluff shove over your 4bet. But at

micros, this normally isn’t a huge consideration.

3bet (duh). If

I ought to say something on that note, about “stealing” with a

huge hand. Suppose we are on the button with AA, and we have a fairly aggro reg in the SB, who 3bets 8% facing a steal, over a decent sample. We have a bit of history, and he’s 3bet our steals a few times. We’ve 4bet his resteal with A4s once, and he snap-folded. So now we raise and he 3bets. What should we do?

Well, 4betting is bad. I know a lot of you are stuck in auto- 4bet-get-it-in mode, but this is a spot where we should be flatting. His 3bet range here is really wide, and he’s not prone to shoving over 4bets. Of course he’s getting it in with QQ+ and AK here, but 4betting is also folding out a ton of worse hands which we want to keep in the pot. We have position and can play the hand much more profitably postflop than preflop. We can induce huge mistakes postflop, whereas by 4betting preflop we allow him to play much closer to optimally. Range manipulation ftw. Here’s an example to illustrate:

Poker Stars $0.25/$0.50 No Limit Hold’em - 8 players The Official 2+2 Hand Converter Powered By DeucesCracked. com

Hero (CO): $49.75 BTN: $35.10 SB: $28.15 BB: $72.90 UTG: $50.60 UTG+1: $78.75 MP1: $50.00 MP2: $28.45

Pre Flop: ($0.75) Hero is CO with K

4 folds, Hero raises to $1.50, 1 fold, SB calls $1.25, BB raises to $8, Hero calls $6.50, SB calls $6.50

$1.25, BB raises to $8 , Hero calls $6.50, SB calls $6.50 K Flop: ($24.00) 3


$1.25, BB raises to $8 , Hero calls $6.50, SB calls $6.50 K Flop: ($24.00) 3

Flop: ($24.00) 3