In this episode, I review ‘Waiting for Straighters’ by Tommy Angelo. I give you 3 powerful action steps that I took away from this book (but all 9 are listed below).
In case you missed episode 228, I answered questions about learning the HUD, playing on non-HUD sites, Bovada and how statistical %’s equate to ranges.
This is the first episode of April: The Month of Poker Books.
Get Waiting for Straighters free by signing up for Tommy's newsletter at TommyAngelo.com.
Waiting for Straighters Review (4:15)
I totally enjoyed this book. It’s a quick read so you might think to yourself, “Meh, I’ll learn 1 or 2 things here.” But, as long as you’re paying attention, taking notes and thinking of ways to apply Tommy’s teachings to your game, you’ll find multiple ways to use this book to improve your game on and off-the-felt (I found 9!).
The tone of this book is perfect for my learning style. It’s like he’s a knowledgeable coach speaking to me, one of his students. I like when he speaks about how he came up with some of the ideas, how they evolved over time and how they came from points of pain in his poker play.
The strategies he teaches come from his desire to simplify poker for himself and his students, and the desire to lessen that pain that comes from poor poker decisions.
There are 3 parts to this book…
Part 1: Discovery
This section is all about how he came up with the idea for “straighters”.
A straighter in NLHE is a hand that can flop a straight. This means that it has 3 or fewer gaps. For example, AT is a straighter whereas A9 is not. Straighters are so much more valuable, especially in NLHE, than non-straighters.
He also discusses a straighter in PLO. A straighter here is an unpaired Ace-less hand with no more than 2 gaps. An example of a straighter in PLO is J986 but J983 is not a straighter (that 3 is a “dangler”).
He goes into stories about how for years he would play straighters and fold non-straighters, but never realized he was doing this. It's interesting when some kind of truth comes to light as you're playing or studying poker. I liked how he realized that there are times when you can play AT but not A9. But, there are never times when you can play A9 but not A8.
So, he asked himself why. He reasoned that the answer is probably due to the straight potential that straighters have.
Part 2: Application
Tommy explains the importance of playing with straighters and ditching all non-straighter hands. He also goes into a great explanation about the importance of position and acting last in every hand. If you don’t understand how important it is to play in position post-flop, this part will open up your eyes to what you’ve been doing wrong all this time.
Part 3: Using WFS to Tame Tilt, Plug Leaks and Reduce Fear of Self
He discusses how playing a WFS style of poker makes poker easier. It reduces the pain that comes with playing OOP and with crappy cards. This helps to reduce the fear and anger in poker, which means you experience less tilt and you actually plug some leaks due to your better preflop hand choices.
Tommy says that with WFS poker, you are “lopping off your C-game” because you are folding hands that don’t play well and you’re last to act more often. This goes to my whole idea of putting yourself in more Bread & Butter situations, which is something I first learned from Tommy Angelo’s other book called Elements of Poker.
I really like how he ended the book with an unspoken challenge to the reader:
“WFS isn't about making straights. It's about winning more big pots than you lose. It's about acting last more often than they do. And it's about maintaining power over the people, and control over yourself. WFS is not a strategy, it's an experiment. Will it yield positive results? There's only one way to find out.”
Favorite strategy ideas (8:25)
In this section he introduced his Universal Starting Hand Chart (click to download with instructions from Tommy's site).
This chart has 6 columns and each column is a preflop action you commonly face. From left to right they are:
- No one in
- 1 caller
- 2 callers
- 3 callers
- 1 raiser
- 2 raisers
There are 7 rows and each corresponds to a position:
- Big Blind
- Small Blind
- Post Behind
So, there are 42 cells in total to fill out.
Tommy has his students fill out this chart because it forces them to examine dozens of common preflop situations and to be honest about the hands they choose to play. It also helps to raise their positional awareness and it’s the beginning step to lopping off C-game habits.
The idea is that you fill out all 42 of these cells with the worst hand that you would play given the situation and your position.
Tommy does a deep dive into being last to act post-flop. Playing in position makes poker easier and more comfortable because you have more information to act with.
He gives a very simple example of how when you flop a flush draw with two overcards, you have so many more options when last to act. You can get aggressive or passively call, or you can check behind to see the next street for free. You feel like you have control over the situation, unlike when you hit that same hand OOP.
If Tommy’s explanation of the benefits of being last to act does NOT convince you to strive for more IP play, then I don’t know what will.
My favorite strategy discussed in part 3 is about how playing a WFS style helps you lop off parts of your C-game because you’re not playing hands that get you into trouble anymore. You’re gonna end up playing the worst hands less often or possibly altogether. You’ll experience less anger, frustration and tilt because you’ll see the flop with stronger hands and you’ll be last to act more often.
Every poker player MUST read Waiting for Straighters. There isn’t a single person that wouldn’t benefit from this book.
3 Action Steps from Waiting for Straighters (14:15)
1. Study with Purpose: Fill out the Universal Starting Hand Chart
Go box by box and fill out the worst hand that you would play in each position given the action you are facing. You must take your time and think critically about each situation before you enter your hands. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst hand I would play here?” Then enter your answer by hand category. For example, you might write AT if that’s the worst Ace, 77 if that’s the worst pair, T9s if that’s the worst sc and so on.
What kind of patterns can you spot from this? Does the straighter line, the gap between 3-gap hands and 4-gap hands, appear in your boxes?
2. Play with Purpose: Play IP as much as possible
In your next 5 play sessions, strive to be last to act as much as possible. Do not play any non-straighter hands. Limit the hands that you call with out of the blinds, and also tighten up your EP and MP open-raising ranges. Choose to fold all non-straighter hands and play a tighter, WFS style of poker. Review your USHC and determine which hands you MUST remove to begin lopping off your C-game and to put yourself in more profitable situations.
3. Play with Purpose: Play WFS
Over your next 10,000 hands, choose to play a strictly WFS style of poker. Stay tight in the earliest positions and in the blinds. Work to lop off those C-game hands. Gauge how well this works out for you. Are you getting angry and tilting less often? Does poker seem a bit easier and are you less frustrated at the tables? You're going to see the flop less often with poor cards and without position. And this should be a good thing, because it will make poker much easier and profitable for you.
Six Additional Action Steps (not discussed within the podcast)
4. Study with Purpose: Check your profitability with common non-straighters
You know the types of hands that you play that are non-straighters. Hands like K7s and A8s are examples. In PokerTracker 4 (affiliate link), filter for these hands and VPIP'ing with them preflop to see your profitability. Are you winning when VPIP'ing? Make a list of all the non-straighter's that you play profitably, and the ones that you don't play profitably. Spend some time thinking about these hands and whether or not they deserve to be played.
Watch me take action:
5. Play with Purpose: Fold non-straighters
For the next 5 sessions, do not play any non-straighter hand. Not even an A8s when it's folded to you on the BTN or K6s in the SB. If somebody min-raises and you have the opportunity to call 1bb in the Big Blind with T2s, just fold instead. See how much easier and more comfortable you are playing poker without these non-straighter hands.
6. Study with Purpose: Filter for positional play
Filter in your database for the following:
- Saw Flop
- In Position on the flop
- 3-10 players dealt into the hand
Record the number of hands that results from this filter and your win rate in bb/100 hands.
Now edit the filter by selecting In Position on the flop and then selecting NOT. This will show you the hands where you saw the flop when you were NOT last to act. Again, record the number of hands and the results for comparison.
Most likely, your IP play will have a higher win rate than your OOP play. Let these results spur you to strive for more IP play.
7. Study with Purpose:
Filter or RFI hands from EP. Write down all of the non-straighter hands (4-gap or worse hands).
Now filter for RFI in the EP with all of these hands combined. What is your total win rate? Next, add NOT to these hands in the filter so that when you run the filter, it will come back for all EP hands that were not these non-straighter hands where you raised first in. What is your new win rate? Most likely, your win rate here will be much better than the non-straighter win rate. Use these results to spur you to make more selective EP and potentially MP open-raises.
8. Play with Purpose: PLO Waiting for Straighters style
In your next 5 PLO sessions, DO NOT play a single hand unless it fits into the straighter definition (ditch any danglers).
Get a feel for how this works for you. You might end up folding so much more than ever before, but you may also feel much more comfortable at the PLO tables this way. Plus, you'll get to the flop with stronger hands than your average opponent will.
Use a tick sheet to keep track of how often you flop a wrap now that you’re only a straighter player. Make a tick mark under “Wrap” when you flop one, and make a tick mark under “non—wrap” when you miss.
9. Study with Purpose: Fill out the USHC again
After playing 10,000 hands, fill out the Universal Starting Hand Chart again. Compare your new answers with your old. There's a high likelihood that your preflop hand choices have changed as a direct result of playing more WFS poker. Review your answers, and try to see if there are any areas where you should constrict your ranges even more than you are now. Make any adjustments to your game starting with your next play session.
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 Tommy Angelo’s book, Waiting for Straighters, read it then do the other 8 action steps above.
Now it’s your turn to pull the trigger and do something positive for your poker game.
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