by Ashley Adams
A lot of poker theorists, players, and writers talk about “range”—that is finding an opponent’s playing range. This refers to the range of hands that an opponent may be playing. It’s considered helpful in devising your playing strategy to consider what range of hands your opponent is likely to be playing. So, for example, if you have a tight opponent who raises from early position, you might not be able to pinpoint the exact hand he has, but you might put him on a “range” of hands—anywhere from AK, JJ, QQ, KK, or AA. This concept works for limit, no limit, hold’em, stud, Omaha, or indeed any type of poker.
I find this exercise of putting opponents on a range of hands to be useful. And, to be sure, I do it regularly—almost automatically—when I play. But I find another concept to be even more useful. I call it ANTI-RANGE. That is, figuring out the hands that my opponent is NOT likely to have. From my experience, I find that by deducing what my opponent doesn’t have, I can take advantage of many bluffing opportunities that I might not normally consider.
I teach that you usually should make your actions at the poker table swift and certain. Swift. And certain. I call this playing crisp—which is today’s word. Now I’ll explain why playing crisp can bring you mountains of profit. And I’ll point out some exceptions.
Let me ask you a question? What do you fear most about your poker opponents? That they’ll draw out and beat you when you have a great hand? That they’ll cheat you? That they’re superior to you? Sure, you should be concerned about that and more.
Fine. But psychologically, there are two thing players fear most about their opponents—good luck and strong confidence.
Fear of good luck
by David “The Maven” Chicotsky
One of the things I’ve always liked about poker is it’s a one-man team. I grew up playing competitive tennis in and around Texas. When things didn’t go my way, it was one person’s fault - mine. Don’t get me wrong, team sports have positive attributes as well. There’s just something beautiful about being in control of your own destiny.
If there’s one observation I’ve made over the more than half decade I’ve been knee-deep in poker - very few poker players treat poker like a job or a serious business. Bankroll management is one of the most widely used terms in the industry and one of the least implemented. Especially with the overall demise of online poker in the USA, many tournament poker players are forced to play live tournaments. Instead of being able to buy into 10 different $50 tournaments at once, the same player might be in one $500 tournament. Instead of being able to distribute their risk (similar to buying into a mutual fund that has many stocks in its portfolio), they end up essentially taking shot after shot in every tournament they play (akin to buying an individual stock) - exponentially increasing their risk of ruin.
by Barbara Connors
To play quality poker, you must get a good read on your opponents, and to read your opponents, you must be able to see them clearly. There’s the rub. Reading opponents requires objectivity, something which is frequently in short supply at the poker table. With so much at stake, with egos on the line and emotions running rampant, it’s often difficult, if not downright impossible, to keep an objective viewpoint in the middle of a poker session.
But there’s something else that can cloud our vision, something subtle and in a way, more insidious, because we’re usually not even aware of its influence on our thinking. It’s a psychological phenomenon known as the false consensus effect. This describes our natural tendency to assume that other people around us think and feel the same way that we do.
Thinking “outside the box” sometimes provides a great advantage. But it can also lead to poker disaster. Here’s why.
The concept of outside-the-box thinking means that you can stray from traditional step-by-step logic and find innovative solutions that aren’t otherwise apparent. Fine. I do that routinely. Many truly great advances have happened because someone thought “outside the box.”
Poker is no different. When you’re faced with a routine decision about calling or folding, you should often think, “Wait! What happens if I raise?” Raise? Well, you can’t raise. Nobody raises in this situation. Hmm… but what if I do?
by David “The Maven” Chicotsky
In many ways, poker is an investment game. We are investing with a certain strength of cards, from different positions, against opponents with various chip stacks. Each component in the equation will change how we approach and play each hand. Overall, we are looking to ride the tide of the tournament until the end - with only us left with all of the chips.
One of the finer points of successfully navigating the tournament trails is figuring out which players to go after and which to avoid. Think of it in terms of investing. Would you invest against an investor like Warren Buffett (let’s say, selling a stock that he just bought)? Likewise, would you want to play hands against Phil Ivey if you can help it? All of that said, given the cards we’re holding, we’re sometimes forced to enter pots, even if it is against a player we might not prefer playing against.
It’s important to prioritize who we want to enter pots against and who we don’t want to play against. If we create a sliding scale in our mind, it’s possible to gauge our chances of winning a given hand by increasing the perceived value or devaluing any given situation. For example, we can devalue an ace-ten or ace-nine suited type hand if we’re going up against a quality opponent. At the same time, a hand like 7-9 suited might be more than enough to raise into (or re-raise) a weaker player - taking control and willingly entering what we view as a positive expected value spot.
Thursday night. Another in a long history of horrible football decisions made by coaches. It’s time for me to speak about it, because it has much to do with poker.
Warning: Sometimes my moods fluctuate, causing me to project different personalities. If you’re expecting the Mike Caro who is patient, kind to everyone, diplomatic, and semi-modest, you probably shouldn’t read this one. It could destroy our relationship.
By Shari Geller
The television show Breaking Bad and its story of a milquetoast high school teacher’s transformation into a cold-blooded killer has become a cultural touchstone for a good segment of America. As the show wraps up its five-season run, many are looking at the main character’s arc in all its Shakespearean glory and ignominy. As with any great tragedy, there are lessons to be learned from the main character’s rise and fall, including some that can help you - not to build a meth empire, but to become a more successful poker player.
by David “The Maven” Chicotsky
When we’re playing tournaments, we’re forced to make plays that conflict with our interest of not busting out of the tournament. The age old discussion of whether to play to survive or play to win leaves many players with questions as to the best way to proceed towards the final table. The truth is, both are wrong. If you’re playing to survive, the more aggressive players—as well as the blinds and antes will slowly erode your stack. If you’re playing to win, you’re very likely making too many negative expected value plays—costing you overall tournament equity.
A real world comparison to a typical poker player’s dilemma as to playing to survive or playing to win can be seen in the stock market. If an investor puts all of their money in low-yielding bonds and money-market accounts, they won’t be able to keep up with the cost of inflation. If an investor puts all their money in highrisk funds, they’re likely to suffer a catastrophic loss of their funds over time.
Even playing a “balanced game” can create issues, as it can be viewed as far from unpredictable. Even when playing a balanced game, we’re forced to find times to make plays and times to make tough folds. One of the keys to successfully navigating the tournament poker waters is not allowing your opponents to pick up on your playing style (and preferences).
by Ashley Adams
In the first part of this article we explained how “betting on the come” was a useful tool in making profitable the tougher no limit games that we are facing today. Let’s look at the sample hand we started to examine.
You raised to $12 with Ac Jc and the flop was Kc 9c 2d. You got two callers, and then came out betting $25 on the flop. Your sole loose opponent called you on the button. Maybe he had a 9 or a weak King and figured you were just making a continuation bet with nothing—and that he was probably ahead. Or maybe he had a flush draw (but a lower one than yours) and figured he’d see if he could connect on the turn.