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‘Taking on the Pros’ | ‘The Course’ Skill #10 | Podcast #35


Sky Matsuhashi

on February 16, 2016

Poker pros (and poker regs) have weaknesses and leaks like any other players, and it's our duty to find and exploit these for maximum profits.  This also strengthens our game and prepares us for higher stakes.

In case you missed it, in episode #34 I discussed fear in poker and how you can work to get beyond your fear through skill #9 in Ed Miller’s book ‘The Course.’

‘Taking on the Pros' and Poker Regs

Podcast Mission

My mission for today is to teach you how to go about exploiting the weaknesses of the regs you encounter at your stakes which will better prepare you when you move up in stakes.

7 Step Process for getting the most from Skill #10: ‘Taking on the Pros'


  • Title: Skill #10. Taking on the Pros
  • Good chapter; 10 pages long. Says that at the $5/$10 level you’ll always have some pros at the table.  Mentions there’s two ways to get an edge on the pros.
  • Headers:
    • Reversing Live Reads
    • Finding Their Leaks
    • Game-Theory Optimal Play

Set a Goal

Now that we have a basic understanding of the chapter, we want to read productively and effectively.  To do this, I’ve devised 3 questions, and finding the answers to these is our goal while reading.

  • What skills can I learn from this chapter? We’ll learn how we can try to outplay and take advantage of some of the leaks that pros have.
  • Why are these skills important or relevant to my game?  Anything that helps me beat the pros and the regs in my games will only serve to make me a better player.
  • How can I implement these skills in my game? Let’s read and find out how we can exploit the pros.


Another great chapter.  Ed Miller gives one simple way to give off fake live reads to the pros.  He also gives some ideas into dissecting the leaks that pros have.

The ideas presented in this chapter feel quite beyond me and this podcast, chiefly the idea that I’ll be playing against pros any time soon.  But, what we all encounter, no matter the level, are reg players.  Poker regs are the ones like us, that are at the tables looking to exploit the fish, they have stats like 21/16 and 18/14 and play a mostly TAG game.  Like us, they try to avoid other regs and zone in on isolating the fish that limp into pots or try to iso the fish in the blinds.

With the idea of regs in mind, I’d like to focus on one thing that Ed Miller said (and I quote):

  • Ultimately, if you want to maximize your potential at 5-10, and give yourself the chance to move even higher, you must learn to take on the pros.

Summarize and Analyze

  • For us to be winners at any stake and to move up with greater skills, we’ve got to take on the poker regs, and not just take them on. We need to be able to figure out how to exploit the regs at our stakes.

Why should we learn how to play against poker regs?

  1. By learning to beat the poker regs at our stakes, we’re learning how we can be beaten b/c we’re regs ourselves. Figuring out the common leaks of regs will give us insights into our own game and will spur us into creating defenses for these exploitations we’ll be making against the regs.
  2. Learning to beat the regs will force us to add skills and fix leaks, which will only serve to make our overall game even stronger and better prepare us for moving up in levels.
  3. Regs are just like any other player in that everyone is exploitable, and if we view them as something to totally stay away from, we’re just missing an opportunity to make $.
  4. As we know from that question from LTUMaximus I answered back in episode #31, sometimes the tables are full of regs and we don’t want to always avoid playing these situations. We occasionally want to challenge them to see if we can take their money.  And there are some regs who will take on you just as soon as they’d take on any fish, so we’ve got to be ready to fight back.
How do we exploit poker regs?
  1. Take a look at your leaks, label them, and figure out ways to exploit that leak. When you encounter a reg with that leak, use your list of exploitations on them one at a time.
  • For example, let’s say they have a one and done leak: they only fire cbets when bluffing on the flop and shut down on the turn. Well, if you’re IP, then just call w/ATC and when they check the turn fire that half pot bet.  If you’re OOP, c/c the flop and when they ckb the turn, fire at any river card that likely didn’t help their range.  And, whether IP or OOP, when you’ve got a marginal hand like mid-pp or 2nd pair or TPWK, you can call any flop and if he fires the turn, just fold your hand.  Yes, folding is an exploitative play when you know that your opp is only firing with a strong hand.
  • So an entry in your poker journal might look like this:
    • Leak: One and done
    • Exploitation: IP call the flop, fire on checked turns
    • Exploitation: OOP check/call the flop, fire on blank rivers after checked turns
    • Exploitation: Marginal hand, fold to a double-barrel

2. Dedicated study into the hands you have on one opponent.

  • If you’ve got a big sample size on an opponent, you can look at all the hands this guy has played and try to find leaks in his game and his stats. Go back to episode 18 where I gave you a list of common poker leaks and see if your opponent is suffering from any of these.  Take the list of your own weaknesses/leaks that I helped you make back in episode 16 and see if this reg opponent is likely suffering these same weaknesses.
  • Now that you’ve figured out his particular leaks/weaknesses, make a plan to exploit them.
  • This entire approach is great b/c now you’ve got a list of exploits to make based on lots of different weaknesses that you can use over and over against other regs.
How much time to devote to exploiting poker regs?
  • I’ve said before that we want to stay away from poker regs and target the fish at the tables, and I still believe this is true. The fish are your easiest source of income, so most of your study time should be dedicated to this.  But, you can incorporate some reg study time into your own time fixing leaks and tackling your weaknesses.
  • If for every leak or weakness you’re working on, you dedicated 30 minutes to finding ways to exploit that leak, you’d be a reg killer.
  • So if you’re tackling one leak or weakness of your own per week, then 30 minutes per week should be put into exploiting that same leak in your opp’s.

Take Action

Now that we’ve done some analyzing, it’s time for step 5, the most important step: taking action on what we’ve learned.

I want you to take whatever leak you’re working on, and figuring out three ways to exploit that leak.  Review these in your next warm-up before you play, and as you play try to spot this leak in others, both poker regs and fish.  Try your list of exploitations when you find this leak, and make sure you’re taking notes on all instances and marking hands for later assessment.

At the end of your session, answer the following Q’s:

  • How do I feel about the session played?
  • How did I like employing the skills learned?
  • Do I think this skill has some value and does it merit further review before fully integrating it into my repertoire?


The next day you’ll do an assessment of your session in a HH review.  Filter for the applicable hands and determine how well you played them.  Whip out your notes and review them.

Did your exploits work against both poker regs and fish?  Did you make any mistakes in your assessment of your opponents?  Were the spots you chose to use the exploits profitable and well-reasoned?  How did your IP play differ from your OOP play, and was one more successful than the other?

Send any questionable hands to friends or post them in forums, or even send them to me for my opinion and maybe I’ll use it in a future Q&A.  Take notes on all you learned in your session and in the assessment so you can refine your skills and continue to work on exploiting regs in future sessions.

Rinse, Repeat, Review

Now that you’ve taken action and made this initial assessment, it’s time to take action again in another session and work on exploiting aggression.  Just repeat steps 5-7 here for as long as it takes until you feel you’ve got a great grasp on this concept.


Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:  Take the current leak you’re working on and write out three different ways to exploit it.  Use those exploits in the next session you play against anyone with the same leak.  Review any applicable hands in your assessment of the session, refine your exploitations, and put ‘em to work again in the next session.

Purchase your own copy of ‘The Course'.

Check out the rest of the episodes in this 11-part series:

  1. How to Learn from Poker Strategy Books
  2. Play a Simple and Effective Preflop Strategy | Skill #1
  3. Don't Pay People Off | Skill #2
  4. Assess Your Hand Value | Skill #3
  5. Barreling | Skill #4
  6. Evaluating Board Texture | Skill #5
  7. Making LIVE Reads | Skill #6
  8. Emotional Numbing | Skill #7
  9. Exploiting Aggression | Skill #8
  10. Playing Deep | Skill #9
  11. Taking on the Pros | Skill #10


Sky Matsuhashi

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