Here's your FREE Ultimate Guide to Micro Stakes Cash Game Online Poker Training.
There are 6 parts are below, with 3 more on the way in the coming weeks. Take notes and take action with everything you learn for true poker training.
Micro Stakes Poker Training
I discuss 3 important poker training strategies that micro stakes players must do to improve their skills and ready themselves for moving up.
Listen to episode #449 as you follow along below:
If you’ve read any of my books or listened to this podcast, you’ve heard me discuss tons of ways to study and practice your poker skills.
Today I'm giving you the 3 poker training strategies that every micro stakes player MUST do to train yourself to become a better poker player.
Yep, I’m purposefully using the word “training”. One definition for the word “training” is:
“A series of parts or elements that together constitute a system for producing a result and especially for carrying on a process automatically.”
We are training necessary skills into our game at the micro stakes for the result of becoming a better, longer-lasting, more successful and profitable poker player.
These 3 poker training strategies are important at any level, and by using them NOW in the micro stakes, you are setting yourself up for lifetime poker success.
#1: Study and Application
The only way you're going to ingrain new skills into your game is by studying some form of poker training content then applying what you learn on-the-felt. The item you study might be listening to a podcast, watching a training video or reading an article or a chapter from a book.
By studying this content, you’re doing only the first part which is exposing yourself to new strategy insights. But, that's not really where skill building takes place. First you learn the strategy, then you practice it over and over again, through on-the-felt application.
Let's say you want to learn how to make effective value cbets. Well, you can listen to one of my cbet-related episodes, like #133: Cbet Principles. In this episode, I discussed the difference between value and bluff cbets, important HUD stats to look at, bet sizing, the type of player you’re up against and I even gave you a cbetting checklist.
After you listen to the podcast and read the show notes, you must decide on your own how you’ll apply what you learned:
- Are you going to focus on the HUD stats I discussed and use them to make good cbetting decisions?
- Are you going to use the checklists I gave you as you practice your cbetting?
- Will you follow the bet sizing recommendations I gave you?
- Will you focus on position to help you make better cbets?
There are so many ways to apply what I taught in the episode, and it’s your job to choose how you’ll apply what you learned.
Poker Training Example
At the 12:50 point in the Cbet Principles episode (linked above), I give you a value cbetting checklist. The first item on the list is: “You must be able to name the weaker hands they can call you with.”
You realize that you’ve never actually done this. Every time you value cbet, it’s simply based on the strength of your holding, not really thinking about what your opponent can call you with.
So, you decide in your next session that for every value cbet you make, you will say aloud the hands that they can give you value. It might take you multiple sessions to get comfortable with this strategy, so you apply it over the next 4 sessions.
Bam! Now, you’ve learned a little something about value cbets and you’ve applied it multiple times.
You’ve trained yourself to become a better value cbettor. This skill will be useful for the rest of your time at the micros and beyond.
If we distill the prior example to its basic steps, here’s what happened:
Step 1. You learned new strategies for value cbetting by listening to the podcast and reading the show notes.
Step 2. You applied one of the strategies on-the-felt repeatedly over 4 sessions.
From these 2 steps of Study and Application the result was you improved your cbetting skills.
From this point forward, it’s going to be up to you to do this over and over again… study and application, study and application, study and application. Do this to turn yourself into the poker player you want to be.
But, how do you know what to study next?
#2: Know Yourself and Target Un-Comfortability
How many times have you opened the pot preflop with A9s, somebody makes a 3bet, and then you thought to yourself, “Crap, what do I do now?”. Or, how many times have you made the cbet IP and then your opponent check-raised you? “Crap, not again!” Or, here's another one: how many times have you been dealt JJ in the SB with a 3bet squeeze opportunity, and you didn't know whether to squeeze or just call?
We are often not as “present” or “tuned-in” to our play session as we should be. We encounter a ton of these uncomfortable spots, sometimes over and over again. But, we don’t recognize it as an area that needs work. We don’t tag or take note of the spot to help us remember to study it later on off-the-felt.
That’s what this 2nd training strategy is all about.
By knowing yourself and knowing what situations cause you problems, you can work to remove these areas of un-comfortability one at a time. By doing so, you’re building your skills, adding to your confidence and making poker easier. All of these things will make your sessions more profitable and will eventually propel you beyond the micro stakes.
Know Yourself Example
Let’s say you worked on your cbetting skills as mentioned previously, but as you practiced your cbetting you realized that every donk bet you faced gave you a tough decision.
Sometimes they would donk bet 1bb, sometimes ½ pot, and other times full-pot or bigger. What do these bets mean? Why are they donk betting and not check-raising me? Why not just check and fold? Are they betting for value or bluffing me, or are they blocking bets to get me to not charge them more to see the next street?
Now that you realize you don’t know what donk bets represent nor how to respond to them, you take the opportunity to study them. You’re going to go back to the first poker training strategy of Study then Application.
You find that I did an episode on donk betting called The Donk Bet episode #146. You decide to listen to the episode and follow along with the show notes.
In this one, I taught you all about the donk bet: what they mean, what different sizes mean, making them, facing them, how to study them… I basically covered the donk betting gamut.
So, you decide to apply what you learned in two ways:
1. You’re going to practice making donk bets as well as practice calling and raising donk bets you face.
2. You’re going to filter in your database for donk bets you faced that went to showdown. This way you can work to learn what hand strengths different player types donk bet with, and you’ll pay attention to the bet sizing they use for donk bets.
Bam! You’ve taken your un-comfortability with donk bets and pursued a new avenue of study and application. Now, you’re an even better player when it comes to being the preflop raiser.
PokerTracker 4 will show you your “areas of opportunity”:
#3: Daily Hand Reading Exercises
Yes, even at the micro stakes, hand reading is a great skill to develop.
I know you do not want to stay at the micro stakes forever. You’re working in the micro stakes to train yourself to be a great poker player, and the most important poker skill to have is hand reading.
Here’s the biggest incentive to develop the skill of hand reading: it forces you to think through the logic that your opponents use as they make their decisions.
This off-the-felt attention to their logic will naturally bleed into your on-the-felt game.
Just imagine: you’ve been doing one full hand reading exercise every day over the past 30 days. In each of these exercises, you constantly ask yourself on each street:
“Which hands does my opponent make this play with?”
By asking and answering this question over and over again, you’re training this into a mental game habit.
Naturally, when you play, you’ll ask and answer this same question.
- Villain called your preflop open-raise from the BB; What hands do they call with?
- They check-called your cbet; What hands do they call with on this board that also called preflop?
- They donk bet into you on the turn when the 3rd spade hit; What hands do they bet, out of position, on this very wet board that called preflop and called on the flop?
Hand Reading is a Critical Skill for EVERY Player to Develop
Hand reading (click here to learn poker's #1 skill) is so important because within poker, we are dealing with imperfect information. We don't know the cards our opponent is holding, but we can use what we know about their play style and their actions to put them on a range of hands. Then, we make our plays based on this range in an effort to make them fold or gain value from them.
A lot of people think that you can’t do micro stakes hand reading because people play too many hands and play them erratically. And while that can be true, that's not always the case. And, even if they are playing tons of hands, they’re still using some form of logic to make their decisions. They aren’t just flipping a coin or rolling a die.
To help you learn hand reading successfully, I recommend you do it with ranges that are tighter in general. Don’t do hand reading with limping ranges or limp-calling ranges or being the 5th caller in the BB. Those are way too wide.
Keep your hand reading exercises to these 4 common and more narrow ranges:
- Preflop open-raising range. Depending on the position and the player, it might be as narrow as 10% or as wide as 30%.
- The preflop caller vs an open-raise. 10% up to 40% range.
- Preflop 3bettor. Maybe 3% up to a 15% range (player and position dependent).
- The 3bet caller. They opened the pot, faced your 3bet and chose to call instead of folding or 4betting. This is often somewhere from 5% up to 25% range.
So, you can see these four situations are not dealing with crazy wide ranges. Plus, they’re the most common ranges you’ll be up against.
You've learned the 3… now DO the 3:
1. Study and Application. You learn new strategies then you apply them on-the-felt in order to build skills.
2. Know Yourself and Target Un-Comfortability. If you focus on those uncomfortable spots by using them to select your studies and applying what you learn, you’ll make poker easier on yourself.
3. Daily Hand Reading Exercises. As you study and apply what you learn, do daily hand reading exercises in relation to the strategies you’re studying. This will build a beneficial habit of working through your opponent’s ranges and the logic they use in their decisions.
Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.
Play a Tight-Aggressive Preflop Style
A tight-aggressive style (TAG) makes money in online cash games, especially in the microstakes (up through 50nl or $50 buy-ins) and in lower stakes live games as well. A TAG style means you play few hands preflop, and when you do, you generally play them aggressively.
Listen to this episode #450 as you follow along below:
TAG For The Win
It’s tough for many players to adopt a TAG style for many reasons. Do any of these apply to you?
- You’ve been playing for years and you just can’t help but limp into a pot or overcall with AK on the BTN.
- Everyone else calls with JJ to see the flop and hope for no Aces, Kings or Queens… why not you?
- Everyone seems to catch their flopped gut shot on the river by calling flops and turns, so you should as well.
- You see the pros on poker streams defend the BB with J4o and stack their opponent. If they can do it, you can too!
The easy way to play TAG poker: The KISS Cash Game Ranges
If you understand player types and HUD statistics, you’ll know that TAG players have VPIP/PFR statistics at around the 15/12 mark. This means they’re voluntarily playing 15% of their hands and raising 12% of their hands. So, playing 15% of hands means they’re folding 85% of the time. If “Folding 85% of the time!!!” is screaming through your brain right now, you may find it tough to adopt a TAG style.
However, a TAG style is the best way for you to be a winning player at the microstakes. Let me prove it to you with Flopzilla Pro (Learn to use FP here!). If you have this program, follow along and run the calculations below for yourself.
Flopzilla Pro Range versus Range Analysis
As a TAG player, you play on average 15% of hands. Your microstakes and low-level cash game opponents might play on average 30% of hands across all positions (some play even more, way more). Pit these two ranges against each other in Flopzilla Pro:
Your tight 15% range has a +12.4% preflop equity advantage. Casinos make millions per year with a +1-3% advantage! Your loose opponents will have a difficult time overcoming this.
Let’s go a little further and look at a specific spot: You open on the BTN and they call in the BB. Let’s give you the 31% open-raising range from the KISS Cash Game Ranges (discussed below) and they defend with a 40% calling range:
You still have a mathematical advantage with a large 31% open-raising range: +7.6% and you’re in position.
Lastly, let’s reverse the players in the prior scenario. Your looser opponent is open-raising with an even larger 41% BTN range, and you follow the KISS Cash Game Ranges and only call with an 11.8% range:
The wider range above contains the strongest pocket pairs and Broadway hands, but the tighter range still has an advantage of 4.6% (however, you are out of position in this scenario).
You might still be on the fence about playing a TAG game, but your answers to these two questions will let you know if TAG is right for you.
Is Tight-Aggressive Right for You?
Question #1: Are You a Losing Player?
Take a look at your recent 12-month results. Maybe you only turned 1-2 profitable months out of 12. If so, these ranges are right up your alley.
Maybe you’re profitable in only half the months. Cumulatively, is your win rate greater than 0? Have you successfully added anything to your bankroll? Or is your win rate negative and your bankroll is worse off now than it was 12 months ago? If so, a TAG style is the right move for you.
Question #2: Do you find yourself getting into too many tough post-flop situations?
Good preflop choices set you up for post-flop and overall poker success. If you constantly find yourself in tough spots and you catch yourself saying, “I shouldn’t have called that preflop” or “Why do I keep limping with these hands?” then you probably need to learn and play a TAG style.
With better preflop decisions (playing a TAG style), you’ll find yourself in less uncomfortable, confusing and frustrating post-flop spots. Plus, you’ll find poker more fun and profitable.
Become a TAG Player with the KISS Cash Game Ranges
The ranges (download them through the form above) contain open-raising, 2bet calling, 3betting, 3bet calling and 4betting ranges by position. The first page of the ranges gives you directions on how to use them. I’m not going to cover all the directions here, but I want to give you 3 key pieces of advice in using the ranges.
- There are only 5 positions included: EP, CO, BTN, SB and BB. In a 6max game, use the EP ranges for the first two positions (UTG and MP). In full-ring games, use the EP ranges for the first 5 positions (UTG through the HJ). I called them the KISS ranges for a reason: Keep it simple, stupid. Less positions = simpler decisions.
- Play the player and choose +EV situations to enter. If a situation seems like a losing one, or you don’t like the opponents involved, fold the hand even if it’s included in the ranges. Noticing and avoiding tough spots is a part of winning poker.
- If in doubt, fold. And tag the hand for later review to remove all doubt. You risk nothing by folding preflop, but risk everything by making poor calling, raising and re-raising decisions.
I recommend you download the KISS Cash Game Ranges right now, read the directions on page 1, then play your first TAG session of just 1 or 2 tables.
For additional insights into using the ranges, I created a 4-part series of videos on YouTube showing how I use them (video #1 below). Watch the videos and take notes, then play your own TAG sessions using the ranges.
Download and play with the ranges for the next 5K hands. I would recommend to do nothing else for at least the next 5 days. Just play as often as possible with the KISS Cash Game Ranges. Tag interesting/doubtful hands for review. After the 5 days, resume your studies but continue playing with the KISS ranges through 5K hands.
Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.
How to Use Preflop HUD Statistics to Visualize Ranges
One of the benefits of playing online poker is that many sites allow you to use a heads-up display, or HUD, with statistics that tell you a player's tendencies.
A HUD is like your friend Sam at the cardroom. He comes up as you’re observing a game and says, “That’s Bob in seat 5. He plays every single hand preflop.” This is the same thing as your HUD showing a 100% VPIP for Bob (voluntarily put money in the pot).
Once you wrap your mind around the idea that a HUD simply tells you how often a player makes an action, it’s very easy to understand and use.
If your friend also says, “Bob also only ever 3bets with AA and KK”, this is the same as a 1% 3bet in the HUD.
Let’s learn to use preflop HUD statistics to understand the hands our opponents play preflop.
Listen to episode #451 as you follow along below:
Learn the Statistical Details
Pokertracker 4 tells you the exact definition and the formula for every statistic it uses. Go to the Configure tab and click on “Statistics”. In the search bar type in “Raise”. Scroll through the list and click on “Raise First In” (RFI) to learn the definition and formula:
RFI Definition: Percentage of the time that a player opened the pot by raising, given that he had the chance to do so.
RFI Formula: Number of Times Player Raised First in / Number of Times Player Could Raise First in
Take the time to learn the definition and formula for every preflop statistics in your HUD. Knowing these two items will help you wrap your mind around what the statistic tells you and how you can use it to visualize their preflop range of hands.
The Smart HUD for PokerTracker 4 with 9 Preflop Statistics
The Smart HUD above (get it here) contains these preflop statistical percentages (with instances/opportunities):
- VPIP 25% (234/931)
- PFR 19% (176/925)
- Fold to Steal 71% (70/98)
- BB Fold vs SB Steal 70% (16/23)
- RFI 27% (132/484)
- Raise/Fold to 3bet 80% (12/15)
- 4bet 8% (1/13)
- Call PF 2bet 13% (36/288)
- 3bet 6% (17/282)
The percentages for all preflop statistics can equate to a range of hands. That's what makes these statistics so critical to learn, on top of the fact that they accumulate quickly because every hand sees the preflop stage. So even at just 100 hands on an opponent (we have 960 hands on Villain 33 above), you can start to get a read on all preflop statistics.
RFI Range Building Example
Follow along in Flopzilla Pro as we go through an example of ranging a player based on their RFI statistic. The steps here help you visualize ranges for VPIP, PFR, RFI, 4bet and 3bet.
Villain 33’s HUD above shows a total RFI of 27%. This means that across all positions, when it’s folded to him, he open-raises 27% of the time. We can use this percentage to build the range of hands we believe he raises first in:
We can’t know his exact range because building it forces us to make some presumptions about what he values in the hands he plays. It’s very possible he would NOT open the weakest off-suit Aces nor KTo, and instead, open-raise with more suited-connectors and gappers than the range above. But we just do the best we can to get inside his mind and build the range we think he would play.
Let me throw a curveball at you: This 27% range isn’t the full story on Villain’s RFI range. For that, we need to look deeper into his RFI tendencies by position in a Smart HUD popup:
Yep, just like most players (you and I included), he open-raises with different ranges depending on his position. He’s tightest in the EP at 15% and loosest on the BTN at 38%. Let’s compare these two positional ranges side-by-side:
We can see quite a difference in his positional RFI tendencies. 15% RFI equates to 202 hands and 38% equates to 506 hands.
Now we can visualize his open-raising hands in these two positions. This insight will help us find ways to exploit his open-raises when we choose to combat them.
Raise/Fold to 3bet Range Building Example
How can we exploit wide open-raising ranges like Villain's 38% on the BTN? One way is to 3bet bluff them in the positions where they RFI the most. Here are Villain’s Raise/Fold to 3bet statistics by position:
He's folded a total of 12 times versus 3bets after raising preflop, and he's had the opportunity to fold (faced 3bets) 15 times.
Let’s build this player’s continuance range versus a 3bet when he’s on the BTN.
His RFI of 38% equates to 506 combos (pictured above). So far, he's folded 75% of the time (6/8). This means he’s folding 380 combos (506 x 75%) and continuing with 126 combos (506 – 380).
So, let’s use that 38% range in Flopzilla Pro then remove the weakest hands we think he would fold versus the 3bet (380 total combos of weak hands) and we’re left with the 126 combos we believe he would call or 4bet versus the 3bet:
It’s great that he’s folding 75% versus 3bets as this gives us a profitable way to exploit him and earn preflop pots with good 3bet bluffing opportunities.
This also helps us to exploit him further should he choose to NOT fold by calling or 4betting. If he 4bets us with a 4bet of only 1/13 at 8%, we’re pretty sure it’s AA or KK, in which case we have an easy fold. However, should he call our 3bet, we can gauge how well the flop interacts with the range and play against it accordingly.
Calling Range Building Example
The key to building calling ranges is to exclude the strongest hands he would re-raise and also exclude the weakest hands he would fold. Let’s do this with Villain’s total Call PF 2bet stat of 13%.
It helps to build ranges with a scenario in mind:
- Hero open-raises in the EP.
- Villain calls in the CO with a 13% range. Everyone else folds.
- What hands does Villain call with?
We know Villain 3bets at 6%. This means his most likely 3betting hands, other than bluffs, are JJ+ and AK. Let’s build a 13% calling range that excludes these strongest hands:
This range presumes that Villain would 3bet the strongest hands but call with the next strongest 13.1% of hands. Visualizing this range will help you exploit him on the flop and beyond.
Use Flopzilla Pro to create 8 ranges for visualization as you play:
Take screen shots of each range (like the pictures in this post above) and put them together as your own preflop ranges cheat sheet. Use the cheat sheet as you play to help you visualize the range of hands your opponents are on.
Position Is King In Poker
Learn why position is such a huge advantage, how you can put yourself in position more often and review 3 hands where position helped Hero win non-showdown pots.
Listen or download the podcast episode #452 (taken from video above):
Build Your Bankroll by Targeting the Weak
Weak players are your #1 source of profits due to all the mistakes they make. Targeting the weak is great poker training and will help you build your micro stakes bankroll.
Listen to episode #453 and follow along below for Fish targeting strategies:
Weak Players Make Many Mistakes
Bottom line, weak players make mistakes, and loads of them. The only way for us to profit from their mistakes, thereby building our bankroll, is by playing hands against them as often as possible.
And let me tell you something else, taking chips from weak players makes poker so much more fun.
Here’s an example hand against a weak player. I cover this hand in my latest workshop in detail, but I’m going to hit it quickly here so we can count the number of mistakes my weak opponent made.
- Preflop: Hero opens to 3bb with Ad9d, Weak Villain defends in SB with Kh8d, BB folds.
- Flop: 7bb pot, Kd Jd 2d on flop. Weak Villain check-raises to 7bb then calls for 12bb total.
- Turn: 31bb pot, 5c on turn. Weak Villain check-calls Hero’s 17bb value cbet.
- River: 65bb pot, Qs on river. Weak Villain check-calls all-in for 37.4bb with a weak TP hand.
Number of plays Villain made: 8
Number of mistakes that cost him 69.4bb stack: 4 mistakes
In the How to Win Online Poker Workshop (signup here) I break down why these 4 plays were mistakes.
Two key takeaways from this hand:
- Weak Villain’s 4 mistakes earned me his 69.4bb stack.
- I profited from these mistakes because I was the one in the hand with him.
10x Weak Player Indicators
- Fish play too many hands. They love seeing flops with anything suited, anything connected and any high card hand. Their goal in life is to hit sets, straights and flushes. VPIP will be 30% or greater.
- Fish can be too passive. Re-raising without the nuts is something Fish rarely do. Instead, they’re happy calling all 3 streets with an underpair hand, or calling preflop on the BTN with QQ. They want to see no Ace or King on the flop before they start betting or raising.
- Fish can be too aggressive. Some Fish, who I call Maniacs, play way too many hands and they can’t take the foot of the peddle. They spew too chips to get you to fold and don’t recognize the sign that they’re beat and you’re just letting them hang themselves with bet after bet.
- Fish limp and over-limp into pots.
- Fish make bet sizing mistakes. Could you imagine 3bet squeezing after 2 players call to only 6bb’s when you hold AA? No? Well, Fish make sizing mistakes like this all the time.
- Fish play from any position with any hand. They’re not positionally aware like we discussed you need to be in last week’s episode #452, “Position Is King In Poker”.
- Fish defend their blinds too often. “Hey, that’s my money! You’re not taking it without a fight” is the Fish mentality.
- Fish only play their cards and the board. They don’t care about your range, future streets, stack sizes, player tendencies or even other players still in the pot.
- FISH play against anybody. They don’t care if the 3bettor is in position or is the best player at the table. They open-raised with KJs and there’s no way they’re folding and giving up on those 3bb’s.
- Fish are calling stations. They call too often preflop to see a flop. They overpay on flops and turns with weak draws to catch their hand. And, they can’t fold any TP hand on the river in case you were bluffing the entire way.
Weak players, or Fish, have many of the same characteristics. This isn’t a comprehensive list, and not every Fish has all of these tendencies. But, if you encounter a player with 3+ of these, it’s a good chance he’s a weak Fish worth targeting.
Find the Weak Players
First, always tag any Fish as you play with them. I tag weak players by:
- Color coding their HUD panel green with the Note Editor in PokerTracker 4. This helps me quickly identify them without me having to look at their name or statistics.
- Assign a Fish symbol to them. Americas Cardroom allows this and it’s just another quick indication of their fishy tendencies I’ve spotted in the past.
Second, if the poker software allows it, color code their player name and stack size box to signify a Fish.
Third, you need to table select for Fish. I discussed this in detail in episode #445, “Play with Fish! Table Selection is Key for Fun and Profits”. But pretty quickly, when you hop on a new table, you need to find the Fish right away. If you’ve tagged players before, it’s quick and easy to find them.
Now, if you’re on an anonymous site or haven’t played a ton against these players, you have to pay attention in the first 3 rounds of play. Use the list of 10 Fish indicators above and look for players who fit the fishy bill. If after 3 rounds you can’t find any Fish, get up and sit on a new table.
And remember this saying:
“If you can't identify the mark at the table, then YOU are the mark.”
Leave and find a new table. Don't be the Fish that everyone is going after at the table.
Target the Weak Players
Now that we know who the weak players are and we’ve tagged them, how do we actively target them?
We intentionally try to get involved in hands against them.
The most common ways to target the Fish:
- We open-raise when they’re in the blinds. They love to defend blinds, so they’re very likely to call you.
- We iso-raise their limps. They’ve already shown interest in the pot by limping, there’s a great chance they’ll call your raise because folding that 1bb limp is the same as folding the 1bb in the blinds, they hate doing it!
- We 3bet versus their open-raise. Again, Fish hate folding with anything playable so there’s a good chance they’re calling.
- Raise to a size that will get only the Fish to call. If you’re in the EP with QQ and a juicy Fish is on the BTN, they can easily call your 4bb or 5bb open. You don’t have to go with your standard 2.5bb open when a Fish has position on you.
Expect the Fish to call when you target them. This means you should choose hands you’re happy seeing the flop with against this Fish. This means that hands like JTs, A8s and KTs are much preferred over J9o, A6o, and K7o.
Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:
Target the Fish! Write down all 10 weak player indications from this episode on a sticky note. Look for these indicators in each of your opponents. And, as soon as you’ve found a Fish, tag ‘em so you know exactly who to target. Then, target them with any playable hand so you can be the one profiting from their mistakes.
Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.
Use Poker’s Ultimate Question to Make Reads and Profitable Exploits
Listen to episode #454 and then do the Mission below:
Your Poker Training Mission for This Week (next 7 play sessions):
- Write Poker's Ultimate Question on a sticky note and attach it to your monitor: “What are they doing this with?”
- At every opportunity this week, ask and answer the Ultimate Question to build a read on your opponent. Use all the information available to you:
:: Villain’s range of potential hands and prior actions taken.
:: Villain’s tendencies.
:: Stack and pot sizes.
:: Table position and relative position.
:: Any other bits of useful information you pick up on.
- Take action on your read and make an exploitative play with the read you made based on your answer to the question.
“If you fail to make the exploitative plays, you're wasting the potential in that hand.”
Why Are You Calling? “It's suited!” Just Ain't Good Enough
I got a crazy idea for you… call less often! Let's accomplish this by asking and answering a simple question before every call we make: “Why?”
Listen to podcast episode #455 as you follow along below:
When you call, you're doing more than just passively putting some chips into the pot. You are purposefully choosing to go to the next street against this opponent in this position.
To illustrate this, if you call in the BB versus a BTN raiser, you are telling the poker gods, “I want to see the flop against the BTN player from out of position with this hand.” We can also look at this statement within the confines of the 3 Advantages:
Positional Advantage: “I'm happy giving the BTN a positional advantage over me in this hand.”
Range Advantage: “I'm happy calling here with a weaker range than my opponent's raising range which contains the strongest hands.”
Skill Advantage: “I'm making this call because I have a post-flop plan for exploiting the open-raiser regardless of me hitting the flop or not.”
Now, let's imagine we called and the flop hits. If you check then call their flop cbet, you’re now telling the poker gods, “I want to see the turn against this player from out of position with this hand.”
This is something that people don't give enough thought to. Most of the time, a player just looks down at JTs and thinks, “I want to see the flop with this hand because it can make straights and flushes. I call.” Or, “this hand is good enough to see the next street, I call.”
But this is just 1st-level thinking in poker; just caring about your hand and taking nothing else into account.
In order to become a better player, we have to start 2nd-level thinking. That requires we answer the question “Why?” and have a great reason behind every play that we make, especially calling.
Situation 1 : You called in the BB with JsTs against a BTN open raiser.
Question 1: Why did you call?
Choose the 2nd-level answer:
A) I like JTs
B) I can't fold my big blind. I have to defend.
C) My opponent cbet bluffs a lot on the flop and I can easily bluff check-raise him.
D) It's soooted, yo! Flush here I come!
Situation 2: You called and the flop comes down As7c8c. The pot is 6bb. You check and the BTN cbets 4bb (67% pot). You're considering a call.
Question 2: Why are you considering a call?
Choose the 2nd-level answer:
A) He's turn honest and I can bluff river if he checks and I don't improve on the turn.
B) Because I have a gs + bdfd. I can't fold just yet!
C) He might be bluffing.
D) Only weak fools fold flops.
The 2nd-level answers are C for question 1 and A for question 2. These answers have you putting more thought into the situation to improve your calling decisions.
How To Improve Your Calls In-game
Before every decision, imagine your coach is over your shoulder. You tell him, “I'm going to call here” and he asks you “Why?”
It's your job to explain your reason using logic and as much information as possible.
Invalid preflop reasons your coach WON'T accept (but we're all guilty of):
- I hate folding!
- This hand is too pretty.
- But it's soooted… in spades! How could I ever fold this?
Invalid post-flop reasons:
- I can only win if I stay in!
- It's only 33% pot, it's not that expensive.
- Maybe he'll check on the next street, then I can… um, I don't know.
Here are valid 2nd-level preflop reasons for calling your coach WILL accept (that require you to consider more than just your hand and the board):
- I know the raiser and there are 3 ways I can exploit him post-flop. #1… #2… #3…
- My hand is good enough to re-raise, but this guy spews chips. I'm going to let him think I'm weak so he'll spew his chips at me through the flop, turn and river.
- I have greater than 20x implied odds to set mine here, so it's totally worth it to call with 33. If I hit my set, I can get max value versus this tight player.
Valid post-flop reasons your coach will love hearing:
- He's laying me a great price to call on my draw.
- I know exactly how to bluff him on the next street. And there are so many “bad” cards for his range, that if one hits, I'm willing to bet big enough to rep a strong hand and get him to fold.
- My TP is way ahead of his range, and calling will just let him spew more chips at me later. Plus, I have position and can call, raise or even check based on the turn and river cards.
Before every call, ask and answer, “Why?” Imagine it's your coach, looking over your shoulder, asking you this question. Voice a valid, logical, 2nd-level reason.
Use a “Why?” tick sheet. Write “Why?” at the top of the sheet. Each time you ask/answer the question, quickly jot down the reason. Each time you use the same reason, make a tick mark next to it.
He folds versus check-raises on turns |||
Great price on a draw ||
There are a lot of turn scare cards, and I’ll bluff on them ||||
He’s flop honest, so I’ll bet when he checks ||||\ ||
Next week, I’ll discuss how YOU are your own worst enemy at the micro stakes.
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