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.”
Kicking off the second half of this series is perhaps the biggest large-scale leak you can fix if you happen 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 and at what level.
If you pick one stat to focus on maximising in your poker career, it shouldn’t be your ROI, your current hourly rate, or even your lifetime profit. For most people, the best goal is maximising 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’re in it for the long haul. If you have no ambitions of moving up, focusing on game selecting to maximise 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, depending on what ABC means to you.
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, nevermind the boatloads of EV they threw away in order 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 just because marginal showdown value liable to check, and consider leading rather than just mechanically checking to the aggressor.
19. “If villain calls flop bets light, he’s a calling 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- to-mid stakes husng players: When you raise a healthy-sized river bet, it’s almost always for value. When you 3-bet and readlessly check a 987ss flop with two times the size of 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.”
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 have a great hand, 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 OK 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.