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‘Exploitative Play in LIVE Poker’ by Alexander Fitzgerald | Podcast #231


Sky Matsuhashi

on April 15, 2019

I review ‘Exploitative Play in LIVE Poker’ by Alex Fitzgerald, and I give 3 of my favorite action steps that I took away from this book.

In case you missed episode 230, I reviewed Tommy Angelo’s book ‘Waiting for Straighters’.

This is the second episode of April: The Month of Poker Books.

Get Exploitative Play in LIVE Poker.

Exploitative Play in LIVE Poker Review (3:50)

What a great book! Alex delivers on the promise of this book’s title, Exploitative Play in LIVE Poker.

Breaking down the title. The first part is “Exploitative Play”. This is basically all Alex discusses in the book. You won’t find any kind of GTO discussions or theoretical poker strategies here.

The only GTO I’ve ever discussed on the podcast has been with Peter Clark in a couple interviews. So, I am a total proponent of exploitative poker.

Every strategy Alex discusses revolves around plays that he makes or that his students make.

He uses tons of examples throughout the book of where plays work and where they don’t work. He discusses the types of players to tackle with your different plays, bet sizes to use and the types of cards you should be holding when you’re attempting various exploits.

This book is like a football coach’s playbook. They have all their plays listed that they use against different defensive or offensive formations in an effort to exploit their weaknesses. Alex presents the strategies here in basically the same way. He’s kind of like a poker coach yelling at his students and telling them what to do to play profitable tournament poker against different types of opponents.

Tournament Play

This book is centered around tournament play, not cash games. But, all the strategies he discusses are built around exploiting your opponents. This means that if he tells you how to exploit a super aggressive player with 3bets, these plays work in cash games as well.

LIVE Poker

The next part of the title is “LIVE”. I know that Alex does a lot of traveling and playing in LIVE tournaments, and I’m sure he has a lot of students that do as well. So, he has tons of LIVE poker experience to draw upon. All of the hand quizzes in the book are based one LIVE tournament play situations that everyone reading will quickly recognize.


Hand Quiz #11 in chapter 6.

The situation is a WSOP, $565 buy-in event. You are dealt T6o, in the BB with 8 players at the table.  Blinds/Antes are 125/250/25. Here’s what he says to help you visualize the situation, “Your playing day one in the Antes just kicked in. The cutoff is a studious man, mid 40s, wearing a cardigan.” He open raises to 500.

Because this book revolves around LIVE play, it’s probably difficult to experiment with a lot of the plays he discusses. So, for anybody who chooses this book to improve their LIVE poker play, I totally recommend playing online to supplement your learning so that you can practice this stuff over and over again very cheap in a short amount of time.

Especially if you play a lot of sit and go tournaments. You can experiment with 3bets over and over all day long, value bets, isolating limpers and practicing your double barrel and triple barrel bluffs on the types of boards and against the players that he recommends you do it against.


He mentions the word “database” a lot. From my experience, LIVE poker players are pretty terrible at keeping track of the plays they make and the plays they face. So, I think a lot of the database examples that he mentions in the book are taken from online player databases. Like the fact that most river cbets are called 70 to 80% of the time, so it’s easy to get river value.

I’m fine with a lot of this LIVE poker strategy being taken from online databases though. The reason for this, as he mentions at the beginning of the book, is because people play poker to feel good about themselves. And I think this is true either online or LIVE. And because this holds true both ways, I think most player's tendencies are the same either way, especially when it comes to tournament play at your average player’s stakes.

I don’t doubt that a lot of his students are good about keeping track of the plays they make in various situations. He actually has a chapter dedicated to paying attention and explains how to take notes on your phone as opposed to a notepad so they don’t know what you’re doing.

No Limit Hold’em

The final part of the title of the book is “Poker”. He’s only talking about no limit hold ‘em here. I would imagine that a lot of these plays could work for Omaha or other community board type games because the whole book is about manipulating your opponents into making mistakes. That’s actually the subtitle for the book as well.

My Recommendation

I recommend this book for any player who wants to learn how to exploit their opponents. You can be live or online, tournaments or cash games. As long as you’re down with finding your opponent’s weaknesses and executing plays that target these weaknesses, this book is for you.

7 Favorite Quotes (10:00)

Chapter 2: How Homo Sapiens Play Poker

“The reason 95% of people lose at No Limit Hold ‘em is they play too many hands, and they play them poorly.”

A little bit later in the chapter:

“You will not succeed at poker until everyone at the table is making fun of you.”

Chapter 4: The 3bet

I really like the mindset behind this quote:

“A 3bet is no different than you doubling down on a good blackjack hand. We are simply playing the game. To say we are doing anything aggressive when we 3bet is to say we are doing something untoward to the player who opened, which is just not the case. A 3bet is like Final Jeopardy when you know the topic inside and out. You place a larger wager down because you want to play for more money while the game is in your wheelhouse.”

Chapter 9: The Three-Barrel

“If you’re in a cash game that requires you to triple barrel bluff, then you are in a bad game.”

Love this one.

Chapter 11: Boards to Attack

“Most of the time when someone calls you on the flop, they have a pair that matches one of the cards on the board. You should really only continue bluffing if you think they’ll fold those pairs.”

Chapter 13: Passive Games

I love this quote in relation to how “tough” games are nowadays:

“As long as there are games with limpers and four players going to a flop then there is a ton of money in poker.”

Chapter 14: Folding

“Show me a guy who can’t fold a pair and I’ll show you a broke player.”

Chapter 19: Pay Attention!

Taking notes is a huge edge and most players don’t do it.

“Most note takers do not take incredible notes. They just take any note. The idea is to pay attention to the game. Every time there is a hand, you must write something down. If you can’t write anything down, then you didn’t see the hand.”

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My 3 Favorite Strategies and Action Steps (14:30)

1. Play with Purpose: Profile the 2 Players on Your Left (14:30)

Taken from chapter 3: Preflop Play

For the next 5 play sessions, use a piece of paper and write down everything know about the 2 players on your left at each table.

What are their preflop tendencies and their post-flop tendencies? Do they 3bet a lot or call a lot? How do they approach their blinds? What do they do against cbets?

You really want to pay attention to whether or not they call or 3bet from the CO and BTN. These players can choose to play hands in position against you every time you open in the CO/hijack or earlier, so it only helps you to understand how they play the game.  Plus, they’re in the blinds when you’re stealing on the BTN.

This is great practice because too often, we simply open a table or sit down at a table and start playing our cards. But as Alex teaches in this book the most profitable poker comes from exploiting your opponent’s tendencies. The only way to do this is to pay attention to our opponents at the table. If we know that Bob789 never 3bets out of the blinds, we know to fold if he 3bets against our BTN open-raise. And if Susie456 loves bluff 3betting out of the SB, we can choose to open only a range that can defend against her 3bets.

Critical point: We’re only going to know these exploits and be able to utilize them if we’re paying attention to the way Bob and Susie both play.

2. Study with Purpose: River Calls and Losing with TP (16:20)

Taken from chapter 14: Folding

Filter in your database for River Calls. Review 30 losing hands where you called with top pair. Determine whether or not the call was justified.

Take the time to do full hand reading exercises with at least 10 of these hands (using Flopzilla to assign a preflop range then narrowing it through the streets).

What was your opponent’s final betting or raising range? How well did your top pair hand fair against that range?

Record any mistakes made so you can work to not repeat them in the future and seek to save money when it’s evident your top pair is beat.

This action step goes right along with one of my favorite quotes that I shared earlier: “Show me a guy who can’t fold a pair and I’ll show you a broke player.”

Once you learn that TP isn’t always worth 3 streets of value, you’re going to start saving yourself loads of money. You’ll start folding to that third barrel or the river raise or the big donk bet because you’ll finally realize they’re only making this play with hands that beat TP.

3. Play with Purpose: Take One Note for Every Hand Dealt (17:45)

Taken from Chapter 19: Pay Attention!

Play 5 focus sessions this week at 30 minutes each (or do this over your next 5 LIVE games). Have just one table open, and force yourself to speak through the action as if you were a commentator.

Keep a piece of paper in front of you to record at least one note, however small, from every hand dealt. If playing LIVE, take notes in your smart phone in Evernote.

The goal behind this exercise is to train yourself to observe hands that you are not involved in and to pay attention to the action so you can learn a little something about each of your opponents.

I really like this action step because it’s so easy to zone out or become distracted and fail to pay attention. In the book, Alex says that if you fail to make a note from the hand you basically didn’t even watch it. So, by completing this action step for 5 days in a row, we’re working to develop the habit of constantly paying attention to the action and trying to learn from the way our opponents play their hands and from their showdown hands.

Challenge (19:00)

Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:  Choose one of the 3 action steps I gave you today and take action with it. If you find it helpful to your game, pickup Alex Fitzgerald’s book, Exploitative Play in LIVE Poker, read it then do the other 9 action steps from this episode’s free PDF download.

Now it’s your turn to pull the trigger and do something positive for your poker game.

Support the Show

Fredric Hammar decided to improve his online poker play by getting the #1 software: PokerTracker 4 through my affiliate link (at no additional cost to him and he supported the show).  In appreciation of his support, I sent him the Smart HUD to aid in exploiting every opponent he faces and in making more +EV decisions.  Plus, that database of hands to study is pretty nifty.

Dan Cooper and Eric Santiago purchased my Smart HUD for PokerTracker 4.  The HUD comes with 16 stats and 6 custom popups along with specialized color coding for the most useful stats.  It's perfect for getting the most from PokerTracker 4 and your online play.

Andy Bannister has continued his webinar study awesomeness by picking up the Getting Aggressive Webinar ($5 off) and the Opponent Destruction Webinar ($5 off).  Man, he's got his work cut out for him with these informative and value-packed webinars.

The Poker Mathematics Webinar ($5 off) was a joint venture between myself and Mark Warner of, and it was a hit!  Mike Dumas just purchased it and he's learning all the poker math he needs from this one.


Sky Matsuhashi

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