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‘The Course’ Skill #2 ‘Don’t Pay People Off’ Episode #23


Sky Matsuhashi

on February 4, 2016

Big turn and river bets are signs of strength, so lower limit players ain't bluffing when they bet big.  That's what I learned from Ed Miller's second skill in ‘The Course.'

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


‘The Course' Skill #2 | Podcast #23

Podcast Mission

My mission for today:  I will demonstrate my 7 Steps to Poker Book Learning and show you how to use it to get the most out of every chapter you read.

7 Step Process for getting the most from Skill #2


We're looking for the main ideas of a text; for key words and important details that stick out to us.  The goal isn’t to read everything, but to internalize the major concepts we are about to apply to our game.

  • Title: Skill #2. Don’t Pay People Off; Here’s the short version: if someone makes a big bet or raise, fold; Example, then I’d fold in a millisecond. There’s absolutely no question about it.  Fold. Fold; Good example about ranging; Talking about big opp bets on later streets, what they mean; Players unwilling to believe their opp drew out on them and they just call to see it; Gives another example, talks about calling turns and folding rivers; Multi-way Pots & Loose Games; 11 pages long

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?
  • Why are they important or relevant to my game?
  • How can I implement them in my game?


Some good stuff in this chapter, but one thing that really stuck out to me that I think we can analyze is:

  • If a $1/$2 opp makes a large, or stack committing, bet on the turn or river, assume it’s not a bluff.

That makes sense, so let’s analyze this in step 4.

Summarize and Analyze

So, let’s continue the rest of the 7 steps with the idea of learning more about the CO opening range that Ed Miller recommends.


  • Ed Miller says that players at the lower stakes just don’t bluff often enough
  • Therefore, big bets = strength more often than bluffs.
  • We’ve got to find a way to filter our database to learn what we can about big bets by opp’s on later streets.


Let’s start by looking at instances where we faced a large river bet by our opp’s in PokerTracker 4.

  • Choose the date range you want to look at.
  • Choose “Player is Hero”
  • Choose “Hand went to SD”
  • Under river opportunities, choose “Raise opportunity” >> this will ensure you get hands where your opp bet and you still had chips to raise him
  • Under river bet sizing, choose a range of 66% to 200% as this covers Ed Miller’s requirements for larger river bet sizing.
  • Go through and review all the hands that get filtered.  Being showdown hands, we get to see what our opp’s hole cards were when he made the river bet.
    • What % of the hands were prolly value bets from your opp’s perspective?
    • What % of the hands were prolly just bluffs?
    • What % of hands were blocking bets or the guy just had no idea what he was doing?

Now, run the filter again but make the bet sizing 10% to 65% of the pot.

  • What did you find?

Now, run another filter, this time instead of “Raise opportunity” choose “Bet opportunity” at both bet sizing filters, one at 10% to 65% and the other at 66% to 200%.

  • Do you find any correlations here between the bet sizing you make and the bet sizing your opp’s make?

Take Action

Now for the most important part in this whole process – taking action on what we’ve learned.

We don’t want to purposely get to rivers and showdowns by stubbornly calling or betting every street just to see what our opp does.  To test this in-game, we want to just make sure it’s top of mind as we play.  Pay attention to bet sizing on each street, and any hand that gets to SD you should be watching and tag any important hands for further review.

If you ever catch opp’s making big bets on the turn and river as bluffs, make a note of this b/c it’s maybe out of the norm so you can take advantage of it later.

And, pay attention to your own bet sizing.  Test out different river and turn bet sizing and make sure you tag all hands in which you do so.  You’ll want to analyze them in tomorrow’s HH review.

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? (in this case it’s the 22% opening range)
  • 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.  This step is doing a hand history review of the entire thing, with major emphasis on any hands that pertain directly to the skill you tested.  Make sure you look at the session as a whole and not just the specific hands you tagged.  A play you made or your opp observed 15 minutes ago could’ve lead to the bet sizing he used on the river 25 hands later.

Use the tools at your disposal (tracking software, analysis software, calculator, pencil/paper) to determine if you made good plays and great decisions.  Take out any notes from the night before and consider them.

Seek out opinions from your peers through the poker forums, your study group or a poker coach. See what they say and if they jive with your own opinions.  If so, great, you’re on the right path.  If not, then why?  You may have to go back to the drawing board.

Take notes on what worked and what didn’t, what you learned or questions you may have and things to follow up on for more study.  Make changes to your summary based on any relevant info.

Rinse, Repeat, Review

Now that you’ve made the initial assessment, it’s time to take action again in another session with this idea of turn/river bet sizing at top of mind.  Use this new skill and make any adjustments you want to make, and then assess again afterwards.  We’re just going to repeat steps 5-7 until we decide to fully commit to this new skill of folding.


Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:  Once again, follow my 7 steps for the current chapter you’re reading.  Just give it a shot as you’ve got nothing to lose.  You bought that book to learn and put things to the test, and I’ve given you  a great way to do so.  Learn, analyze, act, assess, repeat.

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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