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Leak 5: Failing to Make the Aggressive +EV Play | Podcast #194


Sky Matsuhashi

on July 16, 2018

I discuss the leak of skipping +EV aggressive plays because you’re afraid of losing money, making a mistake or looking like a fool.

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


The Leak of Failing to Make the +EV Aggressive Play (2:10)

How many times have you thought to yourself, “The first person to bet is going to take this pot down”?  Then, when the action is folded to you, you end up checking right along with everyone else?

This is a failure to make the aggressive play that you know is +EV and will earn you the pot.  It’s calling when you know that raising is will earn you more profits or will earn the pot right now.  Or check/folding when you know a check-raise will end the hand and send the pot your way.  It’s checking behind on the river when you’re sure your TP hand is good, but you don’t want to fold to a check-raise.

Whether it’s gut instinct or carefully paying attention that tells you aggression will win the hand, something is hijacking your finger.  You’re not clicking on the +EV aggressive option and instead, you’re choosing the passive “money-saving” route of folding, checking or calling instead.  I’m going to help you plug this leak.

The Problem

Here’s the problem with skipping out on the aggressive plays you know are +EV: it makes you more exploitable.  If an opponent knows you only ever check-raise with 2p+, then they can cbet every hand and if you call, you’ve got less than 2p.  They’ll fold to every one of your check-raises unless they beat 2p, and they’ll cbet you at every opportunity.

If you only 3bet with QQ+ and AK, as soon as you call you don’t have those hands in your range.  Your opponents will open-raise every time you’re in a blind knowing that they can easily fold to your 3bet, and knowing that you’ve got a capped range post-flop if you decide to call.

Showing aggression only when you know you’re ahead means that you won’t gain as much value as possible.  If your opponents think you bluff here occasionally, they’re more willing to give you the value you want with your strongest hands.


Leak Diagnosis (4:15)

So why would a player pass up aggressive, pot-winning opportunities like these?  Let’s diagnose the true culprit behind your occasional inability to get aggro.

The true culprit is… Fear.  There are 3 things that you may be afraid of.

1. A fear of losing money

This is probably the most common reason for not making +EV aggressive plays.  You just don’t want to lose the money you’re playing with.

If you only have $100 in your bankroll and you're playing a $25 buy-in game, you are way under-rolled and are likely playing with scared money.  Your decisions will be negatively impacted by this, and it often leads to overly nitty play or overly passive play both pre and post-flop.

If you’re too nitty, you’re not putting yourself in enough money-making situations with weaker players.

If you’re too passive, you’re just relying on showdown to win the hand and you’re not utilizing a powerful weapon in your arsenal: fold equity.  Nor are you building the pot when you’re ahead in the hand.

2. A fear of making mistakes

Many of us have this idea that great poker players don’t make mistakes.  We think the greats know what they’re doing at all times.  They know the strategies and know when to employ them.

But, here’s what I know to be true:

Great players make mistakes every time they play.  They just try to learn from them.

I make mistakes every time I sit down at a poker table (incorrect bet size, misread the board, fail to notice my opponent’s stack, etc.). Poker is a game of imperfect information.  You never know exactly the hand that your opponent has.  You don’t know how they’ll play their TP hands or their draws.  You’re not always going to know when your opponent is bluffing, semi-bluffing or value betting.

Because of this imperfect information we’re constantly making assumptions. And I believe in the old saying, “When you assume, you make an ASS out of U and ME.”  Mistakes are built into poker.  It’s your view of the mistakes you make and what you decide to do about them that matters.

3. A fear of looking like a fool

Making a bluff on the flop, knowing that you can fold later without showing your hand, is one thing. But, it's another thing when you know that if Villain calls your all-in bluff shove, everyone will see what you did it with.  What goes through your head before you make the shove?

You may be scare of getting called and everyone seeing that you bluff shoved on the 3 flush board with a Jack high straight draw. In your head the other players at the table are going to say, “Man, what a terrible play. He should've known the other guy had the flush.”

Due to this fear of appearing foolish, sometimes we forego making the aggressive play we know will work most of the time.

Here’s the thing, why should you give a crap what they're thinking?  You shouldn’t!  It's a great opportunity to bluff your opponent off the pot, and you knew he could only call with a flush and he doesn’t have that many flushes in his range.  Your fear of what your opponents think of you hijacked your aggressive button clicking action in order to save face at the table.


Calculate Costs (11:30)

Normally for a poker leak, you can calculate the costs.  This is a bit tough to do and not anywhere near accurate.  You can choose to do this, you’ll just have to take a lot of time and make a lot of assumptions to see how much money you missed out on.

Example: failing to make +EV 3bet bluffs.  Filter for 3bet opportunities with bluffing hands.  Go through the hands and figure out which ones would've resulted in you taking down the pot.  Add-up how much you missed out on by not 3betting.  It takes a lot of work to do it this way.


Select Quantifiables (12:55)

You want to track your aggression related stats for this one, both preflop and post-flop with a special emphasis on the plays you think are tough for you to make.

Preflop (and record the win rate associated with each play):

  • RFI
  • 2bet Call (to see if it drops as your 3bet increases)
  • 3bet
  • 3bet Call (to see if it drops as your 4bet increases)
  • 4bet

Post-flop (and record the win rate associated with each play):

  • Cbet Flop
  • Check-raise
  • Flop Donk Bet
  • Raise Cbet
  • Flop Float (betting in position on the flop when the preflop raiser fails to cbet)
  • Turn Probe (betting out of position the turn when the preflop raiser fails to cbet the flop)
  • Double-barrel (Cbet Turn)
  • Triple-barrel (Cbet River)
  • Bet River
  • Fold to River Bet
  • 2bet (raise) River
  • AF
  • AFq



Challenge (15:05)

Play With Purpose

Find spots to get aggressive by asking yourself:

“Is betting/raising a +EV play here?”

Over your next 3 play sessions, with every post-flop decision, where betting or raising is a possibility, ask yourself the question above.  Try to consider all the variables (your hand, opponent’s range, the board, bet sizing, stack sizes, HUD stats and history).  If the answer is yes, that it is +EV, decide on the proper bet sizing and make the play.

Tag each of these +EV aggressive hands you play, regardless of making the play or not.

Study With Purpose

Review your tagged hands.

Do full hand reading exercises with each hand you tagged.  Utilize Flopzilla to put your opponent on a range and narrow it through the streets until you get to the play in question.  Judge the pot size, bet size, opponent’s range and board interaction to determine if the play in question is a +EV play or not.  Take notes on any mistakes you made and vow to not repeat them in your next sessions.  The mistakes might include not reviewing player stats or notes, failing to notice stack or bet size, not considering other plays, etc.

Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.

Support the Show

Toru-san became the latest person to purchase my PokerTracker 4 Smart HUD.   Watch out, poker people.  I dont' know their screen-name, but Toru-san is ready to take you down with all the great stats available in the HUD.  Along with the HUD (cash, MTT and SNG) they received access to some great video training on how to use the HUD and get more out of PT4.

Jason Vass purchased a copy of my webinar Rejamming Like a Boss.  If you want to earn more chips when you're short to mid-stacked in MTT's and SNG's, then this is the webinar for you.  Click the link for $5 off.


Sky Matsuhashi

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