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Beginner’s Plan, Increasing Ranges and Big Pocket Pairs | Q&A Podcast #109


Sky Matsuhashi

on December 2, 2016

I answer 3 listener Q’s about how to begin an online poker journey, justifications for increasing your range as position gets later and ditching big pocket pairs post-flop.

Download and listen to this episode as you follow along below.


Question #1 from Dennis: A Beginner's Plan (1:55)

Hey Sky! I just wanted to say thank you so much for your podcasts.
I started regularly playing 1/2 cash games a few months ago.  They have really helped me to improve as a player and learn to think on higher levels when playing.
Unfortunately I am a college student who is currently trying to find the funds to play their way through college.  I do not have an excess of money to afford a poker coach or purchase memberships on any websites.
As a future educator and a college student seeking a degree in education, I really value learning and know the importance of it. I know I need to do more than just play poker to become better, I need to study it and learn how to act in the various situations I am put in while playing.

The issue is that I am not quite sure how to go about learning the skills I need to in order to become a consistently winning poker player. I know there are a lot of websites that I could pay for and join to learn about poker such as RedChipPoker and flottheturn by Jonathan Little, but those all cost money and I'm not sure I will receive a return on my investment and really don't have the funds to afford to pay for those if I won't profit from it in the long run.
From listening to your podcasts, I know that you understand the value of learning and studying the game. I was wondering if you could help me develop a study plan that I could do to learn more about poker and make me a better player.
Thanks! – Dennis Livingston

The Plan: Step 1

Start playing on an online site like PokerStars, Americas Cardroom or 888 Poker. Most sites have games as low as 2NL ($.01/.02).  This is where your poker journey will begin and you’ll be working on your poker skills.  DON’T THINK OF THIS AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE MONEY.  You need to treat this as an opportunity to LEARN AND IMPROVE YOUR GAME.  You can skip the 2NL games and start at 5NL.  I recommend having at least 40 buy-ins in your bankroll, so 40 buy-ins at 5NL is $200.

Cost so far: $200 – but you don’t lose this money, it’s yours to play with.



Step 2

Get PokerTracker 4 (click here to support the show) so you can start learning from your hand histories.  I recommend to just buy the small stakes hold’em package for $59.99, because you can always upgrade later as you move up in stakes.  You need this software to get the most out of your online play. 

If you purchase thru my affiliate, I’ll send you my Smart HUD for free so you can use it at the tables, and I’ll send you links on how to start using it.  Once you have the software, the day following every session you play, I want you to spend one hour with PT4 reviewing the biggest winning/losing pots and any difficult spots.  Your goal here is to learn from your mistakes and take notes as you go.

Cost so far: $260



Step 3

Get Flopzilla.  This is the best software for learning ranges, range vs hand and range vs range equities.  You also learn how ranges/hands interact with boards, and using this program will naturally train your mind to start visualizing ranges as you play.  The cost is only $35 and worth every penny.

Cost so far: $295 (less than 2 bi’s at $1/2 in the casino)

Step 4

Follow the MED series, starting with episode 90.  If you take one full week to study each MED episode, you’ll be a complete player by the time I finish out the series with MED #10 on the poker mindset.  And I’m serious about spending one episode per week.  Episode 90 was about creating opening ranges.  If you spend a full week studying this by creating your own ranges by position, you’ll be way stronger than most other players you play with.  And by a week of study, I recommend one hour per day, every day.

Total cost: one-time $295 and one hour per day of study.

Click here for a simple weekly study plan.


Question #2 from Clay: Increasing Ranges by Position (13:00)

Good podcasts, I have listened to almost all of them. Just starting to play with Flopzilla, how do you make decisions about increasing range size by position? Is there a mathematical justification for increasing by certain amounts per position? Thanks

When I first came up with my ranges, I used %'s I found online from various coaches.  Then I read Ed Miller's book ‘The Course' and I tailored my ranges to fit his recommended %'s.

My Open Raise %'s:

  • EP: 14%
  • CO: 24%
  • BTN: 36%
  • Blinds: ROL about 7%, but raising first in about 30% or more based on who the BB is

Here are a few reasons why we should increase our ranges by position:

  • There are less players left to act after you, which means less potential for callers or facing a 3bet
  • Stealing the blinds and antes is key, so opening wider ranges allows you to steal more.  This is also good because your opponents can put you on a steal when you've got a great value hand.
  • It makes you unpredictable, especially vs players who don't understand that your range is increasing by position.
  • If you just stick to a nitty, value-oriented range in every position, you'll be too easy to exploit by good players.



Mathematical Justification

You want to defend vs 3bets enough to make your opponent indifferent to 3bet bluffing you.  That means that from their perspective, a 3bet bluff doesn’t appear to be automatically profitable.

So, if your opening range is 300 combos of hands then you need to defend with 200 hands to make your opponent indifferent to bluffing you.

The reason why is a standard 3x 3bet bluff (you make it 3bb’s and he makes it 9bb), that 9bb bluff needs to work 67% of the time.  If you’re defending less than 200 hands, then you’re folding more often than 67%, making any 3bet bluff automatically profitable.

So, as your position gets later, you’ll be able to defend more b/c there’s less players who can 3bet you IP.  With wider defending ranges, you can increase your opening range so that you’re defending at that magical 67%.

Question #3 from Robert: Ditching Big Pocket Pairs Post-flop (17:45)

One of the situations I’m struggling with recently is big wired pairs before the flop. These hands are getting beat routinely lately. How do I know they aren’t good anymore post-flop, and how do I get away from them as cheaply as possible?
That's why it makes it more difficult in capped buy-in games because by the time you put in a sizable raise or re-raise a lot of your stack is already in the pot.

Any input would be greatly appreciated. Maybe I’m wrong but it seems these situations with big pairs after the flop are some of the most difficult to read, especially out of position.
I don't know how you find the time to answer all of your mail much less respond considering what you have on your plate.
Sincerely, Robert Anderson

Indications our big pocket pairs are beat:

  • Know the player you're up against.  If you're up against a calling station and he suddenly raises, donk leads or bets when you check, then you might be up against a good hand.
  • Pay attention to the board and your opp’s likely range. Certain boards are great for AA, and others not so much.  You raised pre-flop, so, what kinds of hands call raises?  Ax hands, but you’ve got some of those blocked.  Broadways call a lot, small-medium pp’s and suited connectors as well.  Broadway heavy boards spell danger for you, as do medium heavy boards b/c of all the possible 2p’s and draws that hit.  Pairs could've hit sets which are tough to spot, so you’ll have to know the player you’re up against for that one.
  • The more players in the hand, the more dangerous it is. In multi-way pots, there are many more chances for one of them to hit a set, 2p or straights and flushes.  Be more careful when playing in multi-way pots.  If someone’s willing to put in lots of money in multi-way pots, they’ve often got one pair beat.
  • Don't get married to big hands. This isn’t an indication that you’re beat, it’s just a general mindset thing you want to avoid.  We often look down and see AA and think to ourselves, “Alright, gonna win a big pot, baby.”  This kind of thinking can blind us to clues that we’re beat.  We're so caught up in the idea of winning that we miss the signs that we're going to lose (board texture, uncharacteristic aggression from opp's, their willingness to passively commit lots of $$$ to the pot).

Pot Control

Also, when you've got the overpair, you can pot control.  When you're IP, you can put out the flop cbet, and if you think the turn card either helped your opponent or you’re not really worried that too many rivers can come to ruin your equity, then check behind the turn.  Many players lose so much money with overpairs b/c they feel the need to bet it strong on every street.  It's just one pair after all, so it might not be worth a full 3 streets of value.


Sky Matsuhashi

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