Putting It All Together

Over the past fifty-one chapters, we’ve covered basically everything that I use to beat high stakes. However, the most difficult part of poker is bridging the gap between understanding and application. Sometimes, the best way to learn how to apply knowledge is to see someone else apply it first. That’s what I had in mind when I decided to make this chapter what it is—a running review of the hands that I play in my games, using the theory concepts available to you in this book. I’ve never made a video of myself playing any higher than $5/$10. All of these hands were played at $10/$20 or $25/$50. This is the one and only peek into my game as it’s regularly played. Consider this chapter as an introduction into full application of the material. Now, we’re going to put it all together.

While the hand histories are real and the action is unadulterated, many of these players are regular players against whom I play often. In order to prevent specific reads from being publicized in this book (or the way I play hands given specific relationships), I have changed their names to reflect my perception of them and their skill level. None of the players are repeated (Thus, Average Reg 3 is the same player regardless of which hand is being discussed).

1. Full Tilt Poker $10/$20 No Limit Hold’em $3 Ante – 6 players

Strong Reg (BTN): $4053.00

Average Reg (SB): $3863.00

balugawhale (BB): $6349.00

Average Reg 2 (UTG): $9357.80 Unknown-Bad (MP): $3892.00 Average Reg 3 (CO): $3043.00

Pre Flop: ($48.00) balugawhale is BB with T♠ A♦
3 folds, Strong Reg raises to $88, 1 fold, balugawhale calls $68 Flop: ($204.00) T♦ 8♣ 9♣ (2 players)
balugawhale checks, Strong Reg checks
Turn: ($204.00) 4♣ (2 players)
balugawhale bets $170, Strong Reg calls $170
River: ($544.00) 4♥ (2 players)
balugawhale bets $450, Strong Reg folds
Final Pot: $544.00
balugawhale wins $541.00

Despite being OOP against a strong regular (almost certainly the best player at the table), the combination of deep stacks and his skill level lead me to believe that he’s probably opening absurdly widely preflop. Thus, despite lacking positional advantage and perhaps a little skill advantage, my card advantage is actually significant with ATo here. It’s important to note, too, that given stack sizes, this hand is generally not particularly valuable in a big pot. The other thing to note preflop is the ability of ATo to flop equity. Because I’ll be able to check-raise bluff a lot of flops with this hand, it should barely sneak its way into the medium value category.

So, I called, and flopped TPTK. The board comes down particularly coordinated. Not knowing my opponents general plan on this type of board, I stick with my general assumption about c-betting— most people will c-bet, even on this board, extremely often, so check-calling or check-raising are both most likely better than leading. He checks back; this interests me. First, though I would only do this if I was giving up with my hand, it’s possible that he’s doing it with a hand like A8 or 78. Secondly, it lets me know that donking on this type of board might become a reasonable strategy against this opponent. I decide to bet the turn for value. If he gives up, I’ll assume he’s thinking similarly to me about

these situations. If not, I’ll assume he’s taking the other side of “The Great Debate”. This means that I can comfortably value bet him on both the turn and river (especially as I really doubt he’s going to check behind with anything stronger than AT here, making him quite unbalanced). The river pairs the bottom 4. Once again, my hand is clearly best, the value is not thin, and given the action I think he’s likely to call with a lot of worse hands, so I make a large value bet. He’s quite good, though, and makes a good fold. Perhaps, in the future, I’ll have to treat my hand as pseudo-thin value against this particular opponent.

2. Full Tilt Poker $10/$20 No Limit Hold’em $3 Ante – 6 players

Strong Reg (CO): $4000.00

Average Reg (BTN): $3850.00

balugawhale (SB): $6629.00

Average Reg 2 (BB): $9354.80 Unknown-Bad (UTG): $3889.00 Average Reg 3 (MP): $3040.00

Pre Flop: ($48.00) balugawhale is SB with K♣ T♦
2 folds, Strong Reg raises to $88, 1 fold, balugawhale calls $78, 1 fold Flop: ($214.00) 3♠ A♣ Q♣ (2 players)
balugawhale checks, Strong Reg bets $160, balugawhale calls $160 Turn: ($534.00) Q♦ (2 players)
balugawhale bets $420, Strong Reg calls $420
River: ($1374.00) 3♣ (2 players)
balugawhale bets $1250, Strong Reg folds
Final Pot: $1374.00
balugawhale wins $1371.00

This is another interesting hand against the same opponent as before. Preflop follows the same reasoning as with ATo. On the flop, I considered check-raising his c-bet. However, I rarely pure-bluff A- high boards (as it’s difficult to have equity), and my value range here can only consist of AQ, A3, 33, or an unlikely AA or QQ. Therefore, I was concerned that my range would shift too unbalanced towards weak draws if I check-raised, and thus decided to check-call. Essentially, this has most of the same advantages of floating in position—I see a cheaper turn card in case he has a monster like AA, and he’s at least somewhat unlikely to double barrel on such a strong, coordinated board when it’s likely that I have a strong pair.

My plan in general was to c/f the turn if he bet, and bet the river if he checked (representing an A and usually causing him to fold every non A hand in his range. However, the turned Q changed my plan. Now, if I lead out, I can represent the Q (this is a line I would almost certainly take with a Q here.) This has a few benefits—it makes him fold his equity share, including a lot of better hands (like JJ, for example). It also gives me an opportunity to consider a river bluff when called. As it happened, I decided that I had sufficient fold equity against a weak A to make an effective bluff. While river bluffing isn’t always recommended (given that we need a combination of both fold equity and pot equity to make a profitable bluff, it’s very hard to have enough fold equity when you have 0 pot equity), sometimes we can venture to guess how often our opponent will fold and bet accordingly. Plus, there is the possibility that I was accidentally value-betting him on the turn when he has a weak flush draw, thus creating more dead money for my attempts to bluff him off a weak A.

3. Full Tilt Poker $10/$20 No Limit Hold’em $3 Ante – 6 players

Strong Reg (BTN): $4000.00

Average Reg (SB): $4245.00

balugawhale (BB): $7317.00

Average Reg 2 (UTG): $9289.80 Unknown-Bad (MP): $3957.00 Average Reg 3 (CO): $2658.00

Pre Flop: ($48.00) Balugawhale is BB with 9♥ 8♥
3 folds, Strong Reg raises to $88, 1 fold, balugawhale calls $68
Flop: ($204.00) 3♠ 7♥ 9♦ (2 players)
balugawhale checks, Strong Reg bets $160, balugawhale calls $160
Turn: ($524.00) 6♣ (2 players)
balugawhale checks, Strong Reg checks
River: ($524.00) T♥ (2 players)
balugawhale requests TIME, Balugawhale bets $380, Strong Reg calls $380 Final Pot: $1284.00
Strong Reg shows 6♦ 8♠ (a straight, Ten high)
balugawhale shows 9♥ 8♥ (a straight, Ten high)
balugawhale wins $640.50
Strong Reg wins $640.50

“Strong Reg” is back at it again. I briefly considered c/r the flop, but considered the value to be too thin. So, not being able to c/r, I c/c. The turn coordinates the board, and I again consider going for a c/c-donk line for thin value. However, I decided that the value is probably too thin, and that I don’t mind seeing a free river card when he checks behind (which I expect him to do often). The river straightens out the board, and I make a value-bet. The other significant aspect of this hand is that he doesn’t raise the river. The fact that my range is wide enough to include J8s here prevents him from making a raise that might put me in a really tough spot if I had T9s here instead of 98s. In terms of total game strategy and playing from the blinds, having a wide range makes you very difficult to play against and often forces our opponents to give us credit in spots where they probably shouldn’t (he really should make a thin value raise on the river here).

4. Full Tilt Poker $10/$20 No Limit Hold’em $3 Ante – 6 players Strong Reg (MP): $4006.50
Average Reg (CO): $4229.00
balugawhale (BTN): $7313.50

Average Reg 2 (SB): $9311.80

Bad-Unknown (BB): $3951.00 Average Reg 3 (UTG): $2652.00

Pre Flop: ($48.00) balugawhale is BTN with A♣ 3♣
2 folds, Average Reg raises to $60, balugawhale raises to $228, Average Reg 2 raises to $680, 2 folds, Balugawhale calls $452
Flop: ($1458.00) J♠ 4♠ T♣ (2 players)
Average Reg 2 bets $820, balugawhale requests TIME, balugawhale raises to $2100, Average Reg 2 folds

To start, I 3-bet “Average Reg 3” because we are deep and my hand has increased value in deep- stacked situations. Not only do Aces play well in general in 3-bet pots, but big flushes and flush draws play extremely well in deepstacked situations. To my surprise, “Average Reg 2” in the small blind makes a cold 4-bet. Normally, this would be a snap-fold. However, we’re over 350bb deep and, again, I have a hand that plays well in this type of scenario. So, I decide to call and see what happens. This has several advantages: 1) an A is often the best hand against QQ or KK, two likely hands, 2) if I flop two-pair or better I often win a lot of money (good implied odds) and 3) I can often use position to make him fold on particularly scary boards.

As soon as the flop came down, I realized it was basically perfect for me to bluff-raise. Not only are JJ and TT two extremely likely hands in my range, they can’t really exist in his range unless he was going for some incredibly thin value preflop (which I was confident that he wasn’t). He makes a c-bet, which I’d imagine he’d also make with AK and AQ given their strong pot equity. So, my hand is clearly in the low value category. However, with an overcard and a backdoor flush draw, it’s definitely in the top end of the low value category, giving me the option to raise. Given position, depth, and board texture, this was a pretty great time to make a raise and take down a huge pot.

5. Full Tilt Poker $10/$20 No Limit Hold’em $3 Ante – 6 players Strong Reg (CO): $4089.00
Average Reg (BTN): $4172.00
balugawhale (SB): $8873.50

Average Reg 2 (BB): $7796.80

Bad-Unknown (UTG): $3954.00

Pre Flop: ($48.00) Hero is SB with K♦ Q♦
Bad-Unknown raises to $88, 2 folds, Hero calls $78, 1 fold Flop: ($214.00) 4♣ 6♥ K♠ (2 players)
Hero checks, Bad-Unknown bets $214, Hero calls $214 Turn: ($642.00) 4♦ (2 players)
Hero checks, Bad-Unknown checks
River: ($642.00) 6♠ (2 players)
Hero bets $420, Bad-Unknown calls $420
Final Pot: $1482.00
Hero shows K♦ Q♦ (two pair, Kings and Sixes) Bad-Unknown mucks (with JJ)

I might’ve played this hand badly in a number of spots. First, I possibly could’ve reraised preflop for value. However, I didn’t know much about this bad player and thus I assumed passivity and felt that the 3-bet could potentially be too thin. I probably should’ve reraised preflop for value.

But, I didn’t, and I hit a pretty good flop. I was totally prepared to check-raise the flop for value until he slightly overbet the pot on the flop. Here’s an important notice: most players are incapable of overbetting the pot EVER without an extremely strong hand. This confused and scared me enough to think that perhaps a check-raise for value would be too thin, and I called.

Then, I could’ve donked the turn for value. I should definitely have done this. Refer to previous hands and discussions for why that makes sense, but I basically can’t expect a passive player to double barrel lightly on a dry K644 board, and my hand is usually best, and he’ll often call with worse. If it wasn’t a 3-bet preflop, it should’ve probably been a check-raise on the flop, and if not, it definitely should’ve been a bet on the turn. So, having missed a lot of great opportunities, I went for a large, un-thin value bet on the river and was called by JJ. I included this hand mostly because I played it in a way that most everyone plays it in—and in a way that’s probably not best.

6. Full Tilt Poker $10/$20 No Limit Hold’em $3 Ante – 6 players Strong Reg (BTN): $4092.00
Average Reg (SB): $4137.00
balugawhale (BB): $9663.50

Average Reg 2 (UTG): $7751.80 Bad-Unknown (MP): $4030.00 Average Reg 3 (CO): $2498.00

Pre Flop: ($48.00) balugawhale is BB with K♠ J♦
2 folds, Average Reg 3 raises to $60, 2 folds, balugawhale calls $40
Flop: ($148.00) 3♠ 5♣ T♠ (2 players)
balugawhale checks, Average Reg 3 bets $120, balugawhale raises to $370, Average Reg 3 raises to $1175, balugawhale folds
Final Pot: $888.00
Average Reg 3 wins $885.00

Against a decent reg, we really can’t 3-bet KJo for value. However, it has a ton of value in that it either makes the best hand a lot or it flops enough equity to stay aggressive. So, I flop two overcards on a wet board. This is a pretty great time to check-raise as a bluff. He’s c-betting almost his entire range, when I’m called my outs are usually good, and I can have a wide value range here to balance my bluff range. Here, I could be value-raising all sets, all overpairs, and a variety of strong draws that would be happy to get the money in.

And, unfortunately, I run into what’s most likely a very strong hand. However, there is one important point to be made here. This hand actually made me feel good about playing against this opponent. In response to my c/r, he 3-bet to more than half his stack. That size cannot be balanced. He can never be bluffing there. This means that, most likely, a bluff reraise on the flop is not in his arsenal. So, my bluff check-raises are going to be extremely effective. I’d much rather have him float my c/r with QJ than reraise me. His raise size here demonstrates absolutely no knowledge of leverage. Since we understand leverage, we know that he should’ve instead raised small here with whatever he had—if I had a strong hand or a draw that’s looking to get it in, I’ll shove. If I’m bluffing, I’ll fold. Essentially, he should click-it-back here, or make a very small reraise. A massive one is simply limiting his game and wasting money.

7. Full Tilt Poker $10/$20 No Limit Hold’em $3 Ante – 4 players Average Reg (SB): $4137.00
balugawhale (BB): $9774.50
Average Reg 2 (CO): $7923.80

Bad-Unknown (BTN): $3737.00

Pre Flop: ($42.00) balugawhale is BB with 8♠ A♠
1 fold, Bad-Unknown raises to $82, 1 fold, balugawhale raises to $268, Bad-Unknown calls $186 Flop: ($558.00) 7♣ 6♦ J♥ (2 players)
balugawhale bets $360, Bad-Unknown calls $360
Turn: ($1278.00) Q♠ (2 players)
balugawhale bets $980, Bad-Unknown folds
Final Pot: $1278.00
balugawhale wins $1276.00

Again, I 3-bet a hand with strong value in both 3-bet pots and deepstacked situations, except this time it’s against a player who seems bad. This means that it’s far more for value than against a regular, where I might even be 3-betting it as a thin bluff intending to use equity to force some folds on later streets. Unfortunately, I totally brick the flop against this player. I figure there is enough dead money in the pot to warrant a thin bluff trying to get him to fold a hand like 33 or AT, so I make a c-bet. He calls, and I get all set to shut down and give up.

The turn card, though, brings a new idea. Let’s look back at the first volume’s discussion of evaluating fold equity. An overcard to the board increases my fold equity. A bad player decreases my fold equity. I have very little pot equity. However, we’re operating on some basic assumptions—we don’t think he can have a set or 76, as those would’ve likely raised the flop. We also do not expect him to fold a hand as strong as a Q or AJ. So, we’re trying to get him to fold 88-TT, KJ, JT, and J9. Against that range, I figured the overcard probably increases our fold equity just enough to try an exceedingly thin bluff. Luckily for me, it worked out. However, I make this bet expecting to get called and have to give up somewhat often. If called here, we should under NO circumstances bluff the river.

8. Full Tilt Poker $10/$20 No Limit Hold’em $3 Ante – 6 players

Average Reg 4(SB): $2000.00

Average Reg (BB): $4526.00

balugawhale (UTG): $10397.50

Average Reg 2 (MP): $7973.80

Bad-Unknown (CO): $2764.00

Unknown (BTN): $4000.00

Pre Flop: ($48.00) balugawhale is UTG with A♠ J♠
balugawhale raises to $80, 1 fold, Bad-Unknown calls $80, Unknown calls $80, Average Reg 4 raises to $400, 1 fold, balugawhale calls $320, Bad-Unknown calls $320, 1 fold
Flop: ($1318.00) J♣ A♦ Q♦ (3 players)
Average Reg 4 bets $1597 all in, balugawhale calls $1597, Bad-Unknown calls $1597
Turn: ($6109.00) 3h (3 players – 1 is all in)
balugawhale bets $8397.50 all in, Bad-Unknown calls $764 all in
River: ($7637.00) 6♣ (3 players – 3 are all in)
Final Pot: $7637.00
Average Reg 4 shows A♣ 7♥ (a pair of Aces)
balugawhale shows A♠ J♠ (two pair, Aces and Jacks)
Bad-Unknown shows J♥ Q♠ (two pair, Queens and Jacks)

Ante games create a lot more action. As we’ve discussed in the chapters about aggression and dead money, the extra money in the pot from the antes and blinds combined lead people to make bolder moves. One result of ante games is lighter squeezing. So, when I opened and got two callers, I was expecting a squeeze from one of the regs in the blinds. When it came, I’m put to a decision. Reflecting on the chapter about squeezing, one of our options is to call and evaluate our hand more strongly against a wider range for our opponents. Our other option would be to reraise and get it in with the squeezer (who only has 100bb in this scenario).

Now, let’s reintroduce table dynamics to the situation. If all of the players who’d called my initial raise were at least decent, I would probably opt to reraise preflop here.* However, given that the fish of the table had called preflop, I thought there was a decent chance of him coming along with a worse hand as well. So, I used table dynamics, game dynamics (understanding how ante games affect everyone’s mindsets in general), and understanding how squeezes work to play my hand theoretically perfectly and, on this lucky flop, triple up.

*I think this is wrong now. My hand is very strong against a squeezers range, I’m more inclined to flat and play poker with a dominating hand, even against regulars.

9. Full Tilt Poker $10/$20 No Limit Hold’em $3 Ante – 4 players

Average Reg 4 (CO): $2042.00

Average Reg (BTN): $4490.00

balugawhale (SB): $15244.50

Average Reg 2 (BB): $7967.80

Pre Flop: ($42.00) balugawhale is SB with K♥ Q♦
Average Reg 4 calls $20, Average Reg calls $20, balugawhale raises to $112, Average Reg 2 calls $92, Average Reg 4 calls $92, Average Reg calls $92
Flop: ($460.00) J♣ T♦ Q♠ (4 players)
balugawhale bets $320, Average Reg 2 folds, Average Reg 4 raises to $1200, Average Reg folds, balugawhale raises to $15129.50 all in, Average Reg 4 calls $727 all in
Turn: ($4314.00) A♥ (2 players – 2 are all in)
River: ($4314.00) 2♥ (2 players – 2 are all in)
Final Pot: $4314.00
Average Reg 4 shows Q♥ J♠ (two pair, Queens and Jacks)
balugawhale shows K♥ Q♦ (a straight, Ace high)
balugawhale wins $4312.00

This hand was incredibly close. I was extremely surprised to see two players who I assumed were decent regs limping in early position (?!). However, the limping helped me do something significant—eliminate AK and QQ-TT from his range.* Even people who do weird things like limping will pretty much always raise these hands. This limits his value range to probably only one straight (98s, though I suppose K9s is possible), and then a variety of two-pair hands (against which I’m priced in to shove). On this type of board, when you’re the preflop raiser, if you take heat it’s almost certainly coming from a value range. Looking at advanced hand-reading, we can pretty much eliminate a bluff range here. So, we look at his value range. Against a range of AK, K9, 98, QQ-TT, QJ, QT, and JT, we probably have to fold. Against a range of 98, QJ, QT, and JT, we probably have to go with our hand (though I’m sure somebody who is good at math can prove that one way definitively or the other.

The important concept is the range identification process we use in advanced hand-reading).

*A similar example is discussed in the chapter “The Diminishing Medium Value Category”. When my opponents limp, it allows me to narrow their ranges significantly.

10. Full Tilt Poker $10/$20 No Limit Hold’em $3 Ante – 6 players

Strong Reg (MP): $4000.00

Average Reg (CO): $4121.00

balugawhale (BTN): $9139.50

Average Reg 2 (SB): $7939.80

Bad-Unknown (BB): $4061.00

Average Reg 3 (UTG): $5855.00

Pre Flop: ($48.00) balugawhale is BTN with 5♥ 4♥
1 fold, Strong Reg raises to $88, 1 fold, balugawhale calls $88, 1 fold, Bad-Unknown calls $68
Flop: ($292.00) 6♠ 3♦ 7♣ (3 players)
Bad-Unknown checks, Strong Reg bets $220, balugawhale calls $220, Bad-Unknown calls $220
Turn: ($952.00) A♣ (3 players)
Bad-Unknown checks, Strong Reg checks, balugawhale bets $820, Bad-Unknown folds, Strong Reg folds Final Pot: $952.00
balugawhale wins $949.00

This hand is actually pretty simple. I flop the nuts in position and there’s a fish in the blinds. So, instead of raising the flop, I think back to table dynamics and flat call. Though we’re deepstacked, I’m somewhat confident that, if the PFR has a strong hand (which he often will when c-betting into two players, including a bad player), that he’ll keep being aggressive on later streets. We should be able to get a lot of value from him value-owning himself. We also should expect him to try to value bet the fish thinly on the turn, hoping that we didn’t slowplay a strong hand. I’d probably be inclined to call yet again, making sure to take my time as though to imply a weak hand trying to hero call. The point, though, is to emphasize how the fish’s presence influences both the mindset of the preflop raiser and the way we decide to play a premium value hand.

11. Full Tilt Poker $10/$20 No Limit Hold’em $3 Ante – 6 players Average Reg 4(CO): $2136.00
Average Reg (BTN): $4179.00
balugawhale (SB): $18218.50

Average Reg 2 (BB): $7651.80 Bad-Unknown 2 (UTG): $3471.00 Average Reg 3 (MP): $2880.00

Pre Flop: ($48.00) balugawhale is SB with Q♣ J♣
3 folds, Average Reg raises to $70, balugawhale raises to $260, 1 fold, Average Reg calls $190 Flop: ($558.00) 3♥ 2♠ 6♠ (2 players)
balugawhale checks, Average Reg bets $300, balugawhale folds
Final Pot: $558.00
Average Reg wins $555.00

Here’s a hand where image really shaped my decision. I’d been picking up a lot of hands that play well in deepstacked spots—high, suited cards especially—and I’d been 3-betting this particular player quite often. So, I picked up QJs and decided to continue the aggression. QJs plays great in both deepstacked and 3-bet pots. However, I totally whiff the flop and am left with the choice of when I should c-bet. The question actually ends up being quite simple—are my pot equity and fold equity significant enough to bet? In other words, does he fold often enough that, combined with my equity when he does call, that I can successfully execute a thin bluff? One of the critical factors in our evaluation of fold equity is history—here, I decided that history reduced my fold equity enough that I couldn’t profitably bet, so I decided to give up.* One thing that you absolutely cannot do is take a check/spazz line. Often, people check as the preflop raiser and then, when the opponent bets the flop, decide to get crazy with a check-raise to collect dead money. Don’t fall for this—you had a good plan for check- folding. You’re playing correctly. So stick with your plan and you’ll be fine.

*This hand, to me, demonstrates my thinking before I understood street projection. I probably have enough pot equity and fold equity to run a three-street bluff here a lot of the time. However, this hand happened a long time ago and it’s difficult to evaluate the influence of history on fold equity without being actively playing at the table.

12. Full Tilt Poker $10/$20 No Limit Hold’em $3 Ante – 6 players Average Reg 4 (MP): $2133.00
Average Reg (CO): $4471.00
balugawhale (BTN): $17955.50

Average Reg 2 (SB): $7628.80

Bad-Unknown 2 (BB): $3468.00 Average Reg 3 (UTG): $2877.00

Pre Flop: ($48.00) balugawhale is BTN with 2♦ A♦
3 folds, balugawhale raises to $88, Average Reg 2 calls $78, 1 fold
Flop: ($214.00) 3♦ T♠ T♦ (2 players)
Average Reg 2 checks, balugawhale bets $170, Average Reg 2 calls $170 Turn: ($554.00) 4♣ (2 players)
Average Reg 2 checks, balugawhale bets $520, Average Reg 2 folds Final Pot: $554.00
balugawhale wins $551.00

Half of this hand is simple—that’s the evaluation of pot equity and fold equity that we’ve done a million times. We pick up such tremendous pot equity on the turn that we should almost always be inclined to bet. That’s the easy part.

The more difficult part is often found in a common question—aren’t we afraid of being check- raised? Actually, in this spot, we’d almost welcome a check-raise. At first this seems funny; aren’t we afraid of losing our large equity share? Well, our equity is actually not so significant when a good opponent raises the turn. First, many T’s will have a hard time raising for thin value on the turn (T9, JT, even QT). This means that his value range for raising the turn looks more like KT, AT, 33, and 44.

Against that range, our equity with the NFD and a gutshot isn’t nearly as significant as it is against his calling range (hands like 88).

Sometimes, we want to check back the turn with strong equity. Essentially, our equity can’t be that strong on the turn with only one card left to come. So, our hand almost always finds itself in the medium value category. This is actually an interesting aside: when somebody checks to you, it is the equivalent of them betting zero. Checking back is the equivalent of calling zero. We want to call when our hand is in the medium value range, so by the same token, we feel inclined to check when our hand is in the medium value range. This idea, though, contrasts with the desire to stay aggressive with equity. The solution is simple: when our opponent is unlikely to call a bet, but is likely to play raise-or-fold, we should be inclined to check. When our opponent is unlikely to raise a bet, but is likely to play call-or- fold, we should be inclined to stay aggressive.

13. Poker Stars $25/$50 No Limit Hold’em – 6 players Average Reg (BTN): $6048.00
Very Tough Reg (SB): $4850.00
Good Reg (BB): $6420.00

Good Reg 2 (UTG): $5322.00

Bad-Unknown 3 (MP): $5853.00 bwhale28 (CO): $5000.00

Pre Flop: ($75.00) bwhale28 is CO with 9♥ A♥
Good Reg 2 raises to $150, Bad-Unknown 3 calls $150, bwhale28 calls $150, 3 folds Flop: ($525.00) 9♣ Q♠ Q♣ (3 players)
Good Reg 2 checks, Bad-Unknown 3 bets $325, bwhale28 calls $325, Good Reg 2 folds Turn: ($1175.00) 8♦ (2 players)
Bad-Unknown 3 bets $1000, bwhale28 folds
Final Pot: $1175.00
Bad-Unknown 3 wins $1172.00

The unknown-bad player bets into two opponents on a high, paired board with a flush draw. We obviously decide to call with 2nd pair-top kicker. Our hand is clearly in the medium value range. The turn card completes the only available straight draw, and yet the unknown-bad player stays aggressive. We were already wary of aggressive action on the flop given that he bet into two players, and when the board coordinates further, the combination of his reduced fold equity, the unlikelihood of him betting in the flop as a bluff, and our own hand’s lack of equity are clearly enough to make this a fold.

This hand is particularly interesting when we think about both player identification and the nature of c-betting. First, on the player identification front—we’re facing aggressive action from a player that we think is bad, but we don’t have enough information about them to determine whether they’re passive or aggressive. It turns out, in this case, that I assumed the player was passive to start (as usual), but that he ended up being aggressive. That’s okay though—we don’t mind making a small mistake now by folding a good hand when we consider the danger of making a big mistake by calling with a weak hand against a passive player. That said, this is still probably a fold given our understanding of multiway pots, even if we know this player is more aggressive.

14. Poker Stars $25/$50 No Limit Hold’em – 6 players Average Reg (BB): $6123.00
Very Tough Reg (UTG): $5425.00
Good Reg (MP): $5820.00

Good Reg 2 (CO): $5000.00

Bad-Aggressive (BTN): $6675.00 bwhale28 (SB): $5000.00

Pre Flop: ($75.00) bwhale28 is SB with T♥ K♠
3 folds, Bad-Aggressive raises to $150, bwhale28 raises to $650, 1 fold, Bad-Aggressive calls $500 Flop: ($1350.00) 5♦ 9♠ K♦ (2 players)
bwhale28 bets $820, Bad-Aggressive folds
Final Pot: $1350.00
bwhale28 wins $1347.00

Since the previous hand, I’ve determined that the unknown-bad player from before is actually aggressive-bad. So, my new plan is going to entail making a lot of big calls instead of big folds (I’m still going to value bet this player aggressively). So, with KTo, I can clearly get some value with a 3-bet.

Then, I flop top pair and I c-bet 820 into a pot of 1300. Some players would be concerned about the size of my bet, and would prefer a smaller bet. I can think of no reasons within the discourse of this hand to c- bet smaller. I can clearly get un-thin value here from mid-pairs and draws. The only argument for betting smaller is metagame/image and balancing, both of which are unnecessary against bad players.

15. Poker Stars $25/$50 No Limit Hold’em – 5 players Very Tough Reg (UTG): $5350.00
Good Reg (CO): $5000.00
Good Reg 2 (BTN): $5000.00

Bad-Aggressive (SB): $7197.00

bwhale28 (BB): $5697.00

Pre Flop: ($75.00) bwhale28 is BB with A♦ A♠
Very Tough Reg raises to $150, Good Reg calls $150, Good Reg 2 calls $150, 1 fold, bwhale28 raises to $800, 2 folds, Good Reg 2 raises to $5000 all in, bwhale28 calls $4200
Flop: ($10325.00) 7♦ 7♣ 9♥ (2 players – 1 is all in)
Turn: ($10325.00) J♣ (2 players – 1 is all in)
River: ($10325.00) T♦ (2 players – 1 is all in)
Final Pot: $10325.00
Good Reg 2 shows J♥ J♠ (a full house, Jacks full of Sevens)
bwhale28 shows A♦ A♠ (two pair, Aces and Sevens)
Good Reg 2 wins $10323.00

This hand is obviously somewhat uninteresting. A good regular player overcalls with JJ against two other good players with 100bb. That’s totally normal—JJ fits right at the top of the medium value range there in general. Then, I “squeeze” with AA, he responds by valuing his hand more strongly (correct), and we get it in. Standard.

However, this hand is interesting from a psychological point of view. Prior to this hand, I had spent a ton of time and money constructing a wild image preflop. I’d been 4-bet three times and had to fold each time. I was in the process of waiting for my big opportunity, and then boom—I got it. And then, despite all of my work, I get unlucky and lose a big pot.

Instead of getting upset in this spot, we need to take stock of our situation. We’ve created a great image for us to get paid off. We’re rolled for our game. We’re confident in our edge. A one buy-in swing is unimportant. One of the classic mistakes in poker is to think about things in terms of 10 and 20 buy-in swings. Guess what—those 10 and 20 buy-in swings are actually just made up of one buy-in swings. Take it one step at a time. Sometimes everyone loses pots they wish they won. Remember— nobody deserves to win a pot. Don’t worry about winning. Worry about learning. Worry about self- control. Then, winning is easy.

16. Full Tilt Poker $10/$20 No Limit Hold’em $3 Ante – 5 players Very Good Reg (SB): $4162.50
Bad-Unknown 4 (BB): $1709.50
Average Reg (UTG): $2057.00

balugawhale (CO): $2042.00

Good Reg (BTN): $2166.00

Pre Flop: ($45.00) balugawhale is CO with 4♥ 5♥
1 fold, balugawhale raises to $70, 2 folds, Bad-Unknown 4 calls $50
Flop: ($165.00) 4♣ 8♦ 8♥ (2 players)
Bad-Unknown 4 checks, balugawhale bets $120, Bad-Unknown 4 raises to $300, balugawhale calls $180 Turn: ($765.00) 8♠ (2 players)
Bad-Unknown 4 checks, balugawhale bets $250, Bad-Unknown 4 folds
Final Pot: $765.00
balugawhale wins $762.00

This hand reflects my general philosophy about how to approach our opponent’s check-raises. As we move up in stakes, we’ll find players who check-raise extremely lightly. People make two major

mistakes: they fold their weak hands on the flop too often, and they don’t fold their weak hands on the turn often enough. On the flop, folding a pair of fours here would be a mistake. But, seeing as 54s is the same as Ace-high here (in fact, A-high might even be better from an equity standpoint), doesn’t that mean we should be defending A-high? And, if his range is so wide that we can defend with A-high, shouldn’t we play back with other random pieces of air?

This actually connects us to the responses to 3-betting. Again, we can take one of the three approaches; the passive approach is, again, bad. If we call this c/r with 54s and try to get to showdown, we’re either going to pay off later bets or we’re going to let him suck out and win with a lucky turn or river card. The tight approach is, again, workable. However, the more we’re getting check-raised, the more that the tight approach loses effectiveness (this is just the same as preflop; we can play tightly to 3- bets up until we start getting 3-bet every hand). So, we have to go with the aggressive approach sometimes. This means that we play raise-or-fold with hands with no equity (clicking it back with T9s here, for example), or that we call the check-raise with a wide range of hands, from premium to medium (A8 or 54s).

17. Full Tilt Poker $10/$20 No Limit Hold’em $3 Ante – 6 players

Bad-Passive (BB): $974.00

Very Good Reg (UTG): $4253.50 Bad-Unknown 3 (MP): $1317.50 Average Reg (CO): $2063.00 balugawhale (BTN): $2392.00 Good Reg (SB): $2134.00

Pre Flop: ($48.00) balugawhale is BTN with 9♥ 4♣
3 folds, balugawhale raises to $60, 1 fold, Bad-Passive calls $40 Flop: ($148.00) 7♣ Q♣ J♥ (2 players)
Bad-Passive checks, balugawhale bets $110, Bad-Passive folds Final Pot: $148.00
balugawhale wins $145.00

This hand was included simply to demonstrate how widely we can feel comfortable raising to take advantage of a bad player. This bad player calls and check-folds often enough that I can feel comfortable isolating 94o on the button. It’s a combination of understanding skill advantage and knowing how to capitalize on passive dead money. When you see passive dead money at your table, start working on taking it. Sometimes you can cut some corners and play some really awful hands. If you get 3-bet by the regular, just imagine that you had JT (or another medium value hand that you’re going to have to fold) and fold it all the same. Just know that the money you might lose to the regular is more than compensated by the dead money from the fish.

18. Full Tilt Poker $10/$20 No Limit Hold’em $3 Ante – 6 players Average Reg 4(MP): $2092.00
Very Good Reg (CO): $4045.00
Bad-Unknown 4 (BTN): $2282.50

Average Reg (SB): $2070.00

balugawhale (BB): $2222.00 Good Reg (UTG): $2098.00

Pre Flop: ($48.00) balugawhale is BB with K♣ T♣
Good Reg raises to $60, 4 folds, balugawhale calls $40
Flop: ($148.00) 9♦ J♦ 9♠ (1 players)
balugawhale checks, Good Reg bets $120, balugawhale raises to $365, Good Reg folds Final Pot: $388.00
balugawhale wins $385.00

This hand offers the other perspective on the check-raising issue. Here, I have a hand with decent equity on a board where I can represent a number of value hands or strong draws, so I raise as a thin bluff and to collect dead money. Now, if he’s willing to simply click it back or float my check-raise, I’d be in tough shape. Instead, he does what most players do—folds his air, or calls with his medium/premium hands. This gives me a chance to play perfectly; I collect the dead money, I c/f often on the turn, or I value-bet him when I get lucky.*

*Of course, some players will float my check-raise with weak hands. Against them, I just keep barreling turn and river as a bluff. Or, if I think they won’t fold, I’ll just have to value bet them very thinly (this usually means check-raising and betting turn and river with a weak top-pair).

19. Full Tilt Poker $10/$20 No Limit Hold’em $3 Ante – 6 players

balugawhale (MP): $3838.00

Very Good Reg (CO): $7952.00 Average Reg (BTN): $3905.50
Very Good Reg 2 (SB): $4361.00 Unknown-Bad 4 (BB): $709.00 Bad-Aggressive 2 (UTG): $3896.00

Pre Flop: ($48.00) balugawhale is MP with 6♥ 7♥ Bad-Aggressive 2 raises to $60, balugawhale calls $60, 4 folds Flop: ($168.00) 4♠ 5♣ 6♣ (2 players)
Bad-Aggressive 2 bets $100, balugawhale calls $100
Turn: ($368.00) 8♥ (2 players)
Bad-Aggressive 2 bets $240, balugawhale calls $240
River: ($848.00) 2♥ (2 players)
Bad-Aggressive 2 bets $848, balugawhale calls $848
Final Pot: $2544.00
balugawhale shows 6♥ 7♥ (a straight, Eight high) Bad-Aggressive 2 shows 7♣ 7♦ (a straight, Eight high)

This hand is interesting on a few levels. Categorizing our hand on the flop is actually a little bit tricky. We want to be able to raise our strong, stack-off-worthy draws on the flop in order to balance with our bluffs. However, we’re not really worried about balancing against someone we perceive as a bad player. Also, we probably have reduced fold equity. If anything, we’d probably have to justify a raise as thin value against a hand like 75 or A7. In this hand, though, I ended up deciding to classify my hand as medium value and peel instead of raising the flop.

The only other interesting point in this hand occurs on the turn. Again, I could’ve considered raising for value here, but needless to say, I was surprised to see him potting the turn when the 4-straight hit. In fact, I was so surprised, that I thought it was likely that he also held a straight (possibly a larger one, or one with a flush draw), so I decided again to call. On the 2 river, I would’ve definitely raised for value (hoping to get paid off by a 3) if he hadn’t gone full-pot. It didn’t seem likely that he would full-pot the river with the low straight, so I ruled that out and made a call. Normally, I’d be inclined to raise on either turn or river, but given the bet sizing and player identification I couldn’t help but think that raising might be a little bit too thin, even against an aggressive-bad player.

20.Full Tilt Poker $10/$20 No Limit Hold’em $3 Ante – 6 players

balugawhale (CO): $4148.50

Very Good Reg (BTN): $7237.00 Average Reg (SB): $3925.00
Very Good Reg 2 (BB): $4336.00 Unknown-Bad 4 (UTG): $1037.00 Bad-Aggressive 2 (MP): $4168.50

Pre Flop: ($48.00) balugawhale is CO with A♦ Q♣
1 fold, Bad-Aggressive 2 raises to $60, balugawhale raises to $228, 3 folds, Bad-Aggressive 2calls $168 Flop: ($504.00) 5♠ 8♦ 7♣ (2 players)
Bad-Aggressive 2 checks, balugawhale checks
Turn: ($504.00) T♦ (2 players)
Bad-Aggressive 2 checks, balugawhale checks
River: ($504.00) A♣ (2 players)
Bad-Aggressive 2 bets $300, balugawhale requests TIME, balugawhale folds
Final Pot: $504.00
Bad-Aggressive 2 wins $501.00

Here’s a spot where a lot of people have difficulty with hand-reading. Let’s jump straight to our primary question of hand-reading: is he aggressive or passive?* Well, in this case, our opponent seems to be halfway between aggressive or passive. So, we’ll treat him with the advanced hand-reading protocol, but we’ll lean heavily towards his value range. Then, given the action, an Ace hits, almost certainly pairing us (how many other hands do we 3-bet preflop and check down?) So, when he’s aggressive into us here, we have to move into our next question: Is he value-betting us or bluffing us?

Given player type, board texture, and action, I’d have to lean very, very heavily towards value-betting.

So, if he’s value-betting, what is his range? Certainly all two-pairs and sets. However, there is one argument here that’s significant—when a player has enough value hands that are worse than our hand, it is a very compelling reason to call. So, if we have AK here instead of AQ, it pushes us that much closer to calling this river bet. In this case, though, I decided that there are probably too few value-owned hands (like AJ or A9) to justify a call. It was close though.
*I’m not sure why, but for some reason I originally labeled this player as passive when he is actually aggressive. More importantly, I labeled him as “good” when he really wasn’t. This hand should be a no-brainer call against any type of bad-aggressive player. The reason why it’s still included in this chapter, though, is that it’s a correct fold against most good-aggressive players. The reasoning I explain in this hand is spot-on against regulars, but is definitely misapplied against an aggressive fish.

21. Full Tilt Poker $25/$50 No Limit Hold’em – 5 players

balugawhale (SB): $5025.00
Very Good Reg (BB): $10000.00
Bad-Unknown (UTG): $12649.50
Excellent Reg (MP): $11930.50
All-Star (CO): $7185.75, is sitting out
Average Reg (BTN): $5393.00
Pre Flop: ($75.00) balugawhale is SB with 5♦ 5♣
3 folds, balugawhale raises to $200, Very Good Reg raises to $600, balugawhale raises to $5025 all in, Very Good Reg requests TIME, 1 fold
Final Pot: $1200.00
balugawhale wins $1200.00

Here’s a good example of how to deal with a player who 3-bets very lightly. The thought process goes as follows: 1) He’s raising as a bluff often enough to justify a 4-bet. 2) My hand plays well when the money in goes in preflop, as I’m only a slight underdog against the likely all-in range (JJ+, AK). So, I decide to 4-bet. The next question, then, is to choose my size. Normally, when I’m 4-betting, I’d either 4-bet and fold (thus wanting to 4-bet small), or 4-bet and call, hoping to induce a shove from worse hands (again, wanting to 4-bet small). Here, though, I’d want to 4-bet and call, but I don’t want to induce a shove from bad hands (because even bad hands do well against us). So, I shove, hoping to force out hands like AQ or AJ* that might be compelled to shove if I made a small 4-bet.

The common fears of adopting this practice are twofold. First, people are afraid that they’re risking too much to win too little ($5000 to win $600???) These people don’t understand dead money; we only have to win that $600 a few times to compensate for our slight equity deficit in all-in situations. The second fear is that people will adapt and start doing things like 3-betting 88 and calling our 5-bet shove. I’ve yet to see this happen. If it does, that’s fine—we’d prefer it if our opponents didn’t play a strong hand like 88 postflop, and we have no problem shoving TT preflop for un-thin value if our opponents are calling with lower pairs.
*In today’s game it’s too optimistic to hope that he’ll fold AQ, but AJ is definitely possible. More importantly, this move keeps him from bluff-shoving QJ or A7.

22. Full Tilt Poker $10/$20 No Limit Hold’em $3 Ante – 5 players

balugawhale (BTN): $8566.50
Very Good Reg (SB): $4000.00
Average Reg (BB): $2000.00
Solid Reg (UTG): $4076.00
Very Good Reg 2 (MP): $2000.00
Weird Tight-Passive Reg (CO): $2479.00

Pre Flop: ($48.00) balugawhale is BTN with 7♠ T♠
3 folds, balugawhale requests TIME, balugawhale raises to $50, Very Good Reg calls $40, Average Reg calls $30
Flop: ($168.00) J♠ 7♥ 3♣ (3 players)
Very Good Reg bets $140, Average Reg calls $140, balugawhale requests TIME, balugawhale raises to $440, Very Good Reg calls $300, Average Reg folds
Turn: ($1188.00) 8♦ (2 players)
Very Good Reg checks, balugawhale checks
River: ($1188.00) 7♣ (2 players)
Very Good Reg checks, balugawhale bets $540, Very Good Reg raises to $1750, balugawhale calls $1210 Final Pot: $4688.00
balugawhale shows 7♠ T♠ (three of a kind, Sevens)
Very Good Reg shows J♣ K♠ (two pair, Jacks and Sevens)
balugawhale wins $4685.00

This hand was fun to play. My opponent in this hand is one of the best players in the game. Let’s examine both of our thought processes.

I raise small on the button with T7s because my opponents are regulars and I’m going to need all the positional advantage I can get. They both call, and I flop middle pair with a backdoor flush-draw on a dry, J-high board. Then, it gets weird. First, the very good reg donks into two players (this almost certainly signifies value, anything from a set of threes to a weak top pair). Then, the second reg calls (this indicates a wider range, including sets, top pairs, mid pairs, and gutshots). So, due to card removal, I’m the only one that knows that a set of 3s is the only set available (other than an unlikely set of Jacks). My estimate was that I could make both regulars fold anything weaker than a set of 3s (or maybe AJ), and decided to raise.

Once he called my raise, I was forced to put him on a really strong range (a set of 3s or AJ), and planned on giving up. That decision was made easier once I picked up a gutshot on the turn. So, I checked it back, and rivered trips. When he checked the river instead of betting, I felt compelled to go for thin value on the river. Notice the bet-size: I only bet 1⁄2 pot here. This wasn’t to induce a bluff—I was hoping to get a call out of AJ. Then, when this very good regular check-raised me on the river, he’s quite clearly representing a set of 3’s. However, we can consider that the only hand that I’m losing to. So, against a player who’s incapable of turning a made hand into a bluff, this river is actually a fold. However, I thought it was too likely that the villain here was turning a hand like AJ into a bluff, trying to get me to fold a hand like QQ. This might be a good time to review the chapter on advanced showdown theory.

Additionally, it’s a good spot to talk again about game theory optimal vs. practically optimal. In theory, this check-raise is a pretty scary move. Against a perfectly-playing poker robot, he might actually get trips to fold occasionally here. However, he’s playing against a person. Despite the theory behind trying to get me to fold a strong hand here, it’s probably not practical. Now, it’s very hard for him to put me on a 7 here and not an overpair, so it’s a little unlucky for him that I made trips. Trying to fold out overpairs is still, though, a dangerous plan in general.

23. Full Tilt Poker $10/$20 No Limit Hold’em $3 Ante – 4 players

balugawhale (BB): $11110.50

Average Reg (CO): $2000.00

Solid Reg (BTN): $4017.00

Very Good Reg (SB): $2000.00

Pre Flop: ($45.00) balugawhale is BB with K♥ 3♥
2 folds, Solid Reg raises to $60, 1 fold, balugawhale raises to $250, Solid Reg calls $190 Flop: ($525.00) 6♦ T♥ A♥ (1 players)
balugawhale bets $360, Solid Reg calls $360
Turn: ($1245.00) J♦ (1 players)
balugawhale checks, Solid Reg checks
River: ($1245.00) 8♥ (1 players)
balugawhale checks, Solid Reg checks
Final Pot: $1245.00
balugawhale shows K♥ 3♥ (a flush, Ace high)
balugawhale wins $1242.00

I want to use this hand to talk about pseudo-thin value. This is a spot where I probably should’ve bet the river. If I do bet the river, I probably induce a raise out of most worse flushes, and could probably get called by a variety of two-pairs. Obviously, since I have the nuts, the value is not thin. However, it’s going to be hard to get called (ignoring the prospect of getting raised for the moment). So, I probably should’ve made a small, 1⁄2 pot bet with the intention of getting looked up by two-pair or a weak Ace. Going for a check-raise here almost certainly cost me money, as I should have no problem getting stacks in against a flush by betting if my opponent is even reasonably aggressive.

24. Full Tilt Poker $10/$20 No Limit Hold’em $3 Ante – 5 players Bad-Passive (SB): $1592.00
Very Good Reg (BB): $2765.00
Full Tilt Pro (UTG): $2301.00

balugawhale (CO): $2034.00

Bad-Aggressive 3 (BTN): $1863.10

Pre Flop: ($45.00) balugawhale is CO with 7♦ 9♦
1 fold, balugawhale raises to $80, 2 folds, Very Good Reg calls $60 Flop: ($185.00) 9♣ T♣ 6♥ (2 players)
Very Good Reg checks, balugawhale bets $160, Very Good Reg folds Final Pot: $185.00
balugawhale wins $182.00

This is one of those spots where people are often compelled to check it back. That’s a disaster.* Not only do we let him draw to a number of cards that could beat us (think AJ, any flush draw), but we lose value from a variety of hands like 88, 77, 67 that will call or raise us on the flop. Ramping up our flop aggression is going to be critical to taking advantage of dead money on all streets. This relates to the chapter, “The Great Debate”.

*It’s hardly a disaster. However, letting your opponent capitalize on his equity with a hand like AJ is bad (assuming that he won’t check-raise it on the flop, in which case betting is highly superior). Perhaps even more important than inducing action from worse hands, though, is the possibility of getting a hand like JT to fold by betting three streets. We lose a lot of options when we check the flop. As soon as I see this board, I immediately start street projecting his VBF and decide if I’m going all the way with my hand.

25. Full Tilt Poker $10/$20 No Limit Hold’em $3 Ante – 5 players Bad-Passive (CO): $1381.00
Very Good Reg (BTN): $2811.00
Full Tilt Pro (SB): $2170.00

balugawhale (BB): $2130.00 Bad-Aggressive 3 (UTG): $2054.10

Pre Flop: ($45.00) balugawhale is BB with J♠ T♥
1 fold, Bad-Aggressive 3 calls $20, Very Good Reg raises to $80, 1 fold, balugawhale calls $60, Bad- Aggressive 3 calls $60
Flop: ($265.00) J♦ 3♦ 4♦ (3 players)
balugawhale bets $180, Bad-Aggressive 3 folds, Very Good Reg folds
Final Pot: $265.00
balugawhale wins $262.00

Here’s a classic table dynamic situation. I call a raise from the blinds with JTo, hoping to play a multiway pot with the fish. I’m lucky, and the fish comes along. The flop is monotone, giving me top- pair weak-kicker. However, given relative position, I lead into the fish for thin value. This is literally the bottom of my value-range. The higher end includes better top-pairs, sets, and flushes. Because my range has this added strength, I can generally count on the very good reg to play straight-forward.*

This allows me to safely fold to a raise and go about value-betting the fish easily. Many players check this flop. This is a mistake. If you can bet for value against a fish, do it.
*I can even expect to make the reg fold better hands on later streets—again, we see street projection at work here.

26. Full Tilt Poker $10/$20 No Limit Hold’em $3 Ante – 6 players Bad-Passive (UTG): $2105.00
Very Good Reg (MP): $2443.00
Full Tilt Pro (CO): $2266.00

balugawhale (BTN): $2186.00

Average Reg 2 (SB): $3130.00 Bad-Aggressive 3 (BB): $2181.10

Pre Flop: ($48.00) balugawhale is BTN with 9♣ A♠
2 folds, Full Tilt Pro raises to $60, balugawhale raises to $200, 2 folds, Full Tilt Pro calls $140 Flop: ($448.00) 7♣ 3♠ 8♦ (2 players)
FULL TILT PRO checks, balugawhale bets $280, Full Tilt Pro folds
Final Pot: $448.00
balugawhale wins $445.00

Everyone needs to get very comfortable recognizing this as the passive response to 3-betting. As soon as I saw this Full Till Pro take this line, I knew that I could open up my thin-value 3-betting range significantly. The dead money created here makes pretty much everything I 3-bet profitable.

The other important element of this is my preflop 3-bet size. I raised small here without knowing which approach my opponent was going to take. My small raise indicates that I assumed he was likely to play raise-or-fold and not to call my 3-bet OOP. Now that he’s demonstrated the passive approach, I will increase my raise size against him and capitalize on even more dead money.

27. Full Tilt Poker $10/$20 No Limit Hold’em $3 Ante – 5 players

balugawhale (BB): $11774.50
Very Good Reg (UTG): $4138.00
Average Reg (MP): $2000.00
Solid Reg (CO): $5177.00
Very Good Reg 2 (BTN): $2081.00 Weird Tight-Passive Reg (SB): $2906.00

Pre Flop: ($48.00) balugawhale is BB with A♥ J♠
3 folds, Very Good Reg 2 raises to $60, 1 fold, balugawhale calls $40 Flop: ($148.00) 2♣ T♠ 4♠ (2 players)
balugawhale checks, Very Good Reg 2 bets $120, balugawhale calls $120 Turn: ($388.00) A♣ (2 players)
balugawhale checks, Very Good Reg 2 bets $320, balugawhale calls $320 River: ($1028.00) 8♦ (2 players)
balugawhale checks, Very Good Reg 2 checks
Final Pot: $1028.00
balugawhale shows A♥ J♠ (a pair of Aces)
Very Good Reg 2 shows 7♥ Q♥ (Ace Queen high)
balugawhale wins $1025.00

Preflop, the call is essentially standard. It’s difficult to get thin value from a very good reg, and so we prefer to retain the weakest end of his range and call preflop instead. The flop is where this decision gets particularly interesting—I considered check-raising here as a thin bluff and to collect dead money, but a couple things restrained me. First, I thought that there weren’t enough value hands in my range on this flop (only sets and some strong draws) to balance effectively against a player good enough to play back appropriately in this scenario. Secondly, I thought that this player was good enough to have an extremely wide range for isolating the small-blind, and that my A-high was good often enough to consider it to be in the medium value range. The last consideration, though, is exactly what happened— when you float flops with A-high, you’re almost guaranteed another bet if you turn an Ace, as aggressive players will almost always take advantage of their increased fold equity and make a move. There’s a good discussion of this concept in the chapter titled “Hand Categorization, True Hand Values, and Playing Postflop”.

Conclusion

When I was in high school, I used to play regularly in the $20 buy-in games that went on at my friends’ houses. I was awful. I lost all my money to Jason Cook, an annoying little kid. I couldn’t believe I could lose money to that guy. Every damn time. So, I became obsessed with learning the game. I wanted nothing more than to beat Jason at poker. I used every resource I could imagine—I read books, I talked poker with friends, and I hopped onto online forums. Quickly, I could differentiate between people who would improve at poker and people who wouldn’t. Interestingly, it was the people who were constantly giving out advice who usually didn’t get better. Instead, the people asking questions are the ones who play higher and higher stakes.

By the time I could beat micro stakes, Jason and I were friends. My motivation for learning poker changed—now I wanted to win money. So, I kept asking more and more questions. I questioned everything. This brought me to about $5/$10. However, every time I tried playing higher stakes, I got destroyed. For some reason, I’d hit a wall. So, instead of playing more poker, I stopped. Instead, I just coached people every day, sometimes twice per day. I did nothing but talk about poker. In time, I began to want to solve the puzzles just for the fun of problem-solving. Money wasn’t the motivation any more. Understanding was more important than success. Finally, I felt ready to try playing again. From that moment forward, I found even difficult high stakes games to be fun challenges that left me with a lot of extra money.

In reflecting on this experience, I realize that poker is about questioning everything. If you ask a question on a forum, and somebody says something you don’t understand, ask them why they said it. If they don’t answer, pester the hell out of them until they do. After you’ve asked the same question a hundred different ways, you’ll find yourself confidently answering the same question when others ask you.

This book was written accidentally, as a matter of fact. Over years of coaching, I’d developed a number of concrete theory concepts that I’d discussed repeatedly with students. I started to see their leaks as patterns that extended throughout all of poker. My students asked me difficult and intelligent questions, which I strove to answer as fully as possible. Eventually, I realized that I’d explored so many theory concepts that I should probably write them down. This is the beginning of this book. It’s also why the book’s format has taken to being a number of short essays.

Another interesting fact about this book—it was written almost entirely on airplanes. Portions of this book have been written on flights to and from Costa Rica, Tortola, Jamaica, Thailand, Malaysia, Spain, England, Morocco, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Greece, and the Grand Cayman Islands (recently Australia as well). All of these trips were paid for with the information captured in this book. For anyone who says that this book is too simple to be helpful or effective, this is literally all I use. There is nothing (as far as I can tell) that helps me beat high stakes that isn’t written in this book. If and when I think of more, I will add it.

I want you to have the same experiences that I have had. I want you to enjoy incredible freedoms, amazing experiences around the world, and most of all, a job that is both fun and profitable.

Poker is a crazy game, but it’s a pretty great way to make money once you get over its two main hurdles—knowledge and mental control. This book provides tangible new pieces of knowledge and tangible advice to help you control your game. Don’t play poker when you’re tired (I never play after midnight). Don’t play poker when there’s something else to do. Never ditch a friend for poker. It’s a job—you choose your own hours, your own working conditions. Use this information to make it a great job.

Poker and life are the same in a lot of ways. We only have limited control over both. In both, sometimes things are great, and sometimes things are terrible. But for both life and poker, we can get better. If we work at it, and for the right reasons, it’s a pretty easy game.

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