Fast Track To Success - Lesson 7
Micro Stakes Poker (7)
- It is critical that we see things strategically and not just based on a few outcomes
- If we outthink our opponents we can gain a significant advantage
- I provide you with some good rules of thumb for doing this pretty effectively
It's Essential That We Take The Overall View Of Our Actions
Before I get back into our discussion of pot odds and how they affect our decisions at the table, I want to give you a heads up on a huge mistake that most players of lesser experience and ability make. When evaluating any poker decision, we need to always look at the long range view in terms of deriving and adjusting our strategies.
For example, if we're looking to take a pot down against a player who folds half of the time, and we're using a bluff, half the time we will win the pot and half the time we will not. Now, in the normal distribution of probability, there will be cases where we will lose several bets in a row this way. Some players may then question the wisdom of such a tactic in the face of these short term results. This is always a mistake by the way and a big one at that.
Always Look To See If Our Strategy Is Correct, Not Just A Few Outcomes
What we need to do instead is ask ourselves first of all if our characterization of an opponent's play is accurate or not. If we see him fold once for instance in a given spot, and this is the first hand we've seen him in this situation, we may want to say he's tight. However if he calls three times in a row after that in that spot, then obviously our initial read may be off. So we want to look at what we know about this player overall, and go with that, and not necessarily how he may have played the last hand or last few hands.
I do say not necessarily though because we do want to be on the lookout for players adjusting, but this will most likely be in response to our own play against him or her. Say he looks like he's tight but seems to be calling us a lot. So maybe he's starting to figure out that we're just looking to run him out of too many hands and has correctly decided to loosen up.
You see this a lot more from better players than the types you're bound to see at the micro stakes, but it's still something you need to be aware of. Don't look to re-adjust though until you're fairly sure it's a real adjustment on his or her part and not just them getting a good run of cards that are better than normal, therefore having their better hands be the reason for their folding less and not their looking to figure us out.
It's Easy To Lose Focus Here When You Lose A Few Hands In A Row
This all makes sense, but the enemy here can be a sense of regret that can come when you bluff and it doesn't work. Many newer players overestimate the amount of times a bluff has to work to be profitable, and they even may have a sense of regret whenever one doesn't. This is another aspect of the game that must be looked at with a long term view and not just a short one.
So in this case we need to both look at what we expect will happen in the long run, and then look at the pot odds to see whether the move is profitable enough, as we did with the examples in the previous lesson. So let's go back to that and take an example where we need to look at both value and fold equity to see if we should bet or not.
Let's Look At Playing Against A Looser Player
I'm going to change the example to a looser player who only folds a quarter of the time, and we'll say that this player is a calling station and calls that often on all three streets, to keep the example fairly simple. If they end up being a loose aggressive player who will raise our bets a lot, this will change things, but we'll look at that later.
We know that we have some fold equity here and what we want to decide, which will be the case whenever we don't have enough fold equity alone, is what range of hands we can profitably bet. With enough fold equity the answer will be the entire range, since it doesn't matter what we have in that case. However, whenever our fold equity alone isn't enough, we need to be more selective with what we bet with since we can't just fire out with anything anymore.
Don't Neglect Fold Equity Even Against Looser Players
So we know that 25% of the time we'll be taking the pot down, so we do need to account for that. We'll say we're betting half the pot again, and if we do bet on further streets, we'll bet half the pot in those betting rounds too. Our opponent will also call at the same frequency on further streets, however as you will see, by doing this, he's refining his hands at least somewhat and in other words will be calling with a better hand range on successive rounds.
So what we're really after here with this exercise is what winning percentage we're going to need here to break even, and then we'd be looking to play hands with this winning percentage or higher. Now you aren't going to know what your winning percentage is exactly, but based upon what you have you will learn to get a rough idea at least, and that's all you actually need.
If you think it's close, the better thing is not to pursue the line, or to look for alternative ways to proceed, as we'll talk about later. What I'm going to end up doing for you to keep things simple is to take that winning percentage that we need and then translate it into how often we should be betting, with a good margin of safety added in, so the rule of thumb that we come up with will be applicable to all loose passive players.
Sometimes It's Wise To Check For Information
So with at least some of these hands, the ones that are close, what we'd be looking to do instead of betting would be to check a round and then see how the opponent reacts to that, and we can also use that as information as far as planning how we want to play the rest of the hand. For instance, if we check the flop and in his next action he only bets with a strong hand, we can then re-evaluate our chances of winning based upon that. I'm throwing this in just so you know what I'm talking about when I say we may go after alternate lines than just betting, and the fact that we don't bet doesn't mean we're necessarily done with the hand.
It's also the case that we need to re-evaluate our chances of winning with every move, but for now we're just going to look at this one decision, which is whether or not we want to bet on the flop with a given hand, and what sort of hands we can profitably bet here. Now I do want to point out that just because a decision is profitable doesn't mean that there isn't one that's even more profitable, and as we get better at this we'll be able to compare different lines to get an idea of which one would be better in a given situation against a given opponent.
Working Out What We Need
So we're on the flop in this spot and we k now he calls .75X.75X.75 = roughly 42% of the time. Keep the way we've worked this out in mind, as it doesn't matter in this example but it does matter with some more complex ones. However, we're only interested in two things here, which are the times he calls versus the times he folds. In this case we're going to be looking to either commit ourselves to betting all three streets or not at all, although in a lot of cases the decision isn't quite that simple, but we want to keep this example that way.
So the first step is to look at our total fold equity. We're going to make 2 a quarter of the time on the flop. On the turn, the pot size is 4, but we're not making 4 here by his folding, we're only making 3, and we can only count the initial pot size plus his contributions, and not ours as well. So it's 3 on the turn, and 5 on the river. So that's a total of 10, and the rule of thumb here with half pot sized bets against a single opponent is 5 times the initial pot size in total. So that's a total fold equity of 10 x 0.25 or $2.50.
If we get called down and lose, our contributions will be $1, $2, and $4, which adds up to $7. So the rule here is 3.5 times the initial pot size. So we have $2.50 in fold equity, so we need at least $4.50 in value to break even. If we win though, we win the $2 in the pot now plus the $7 more he will be contributing to it, which is a total of $9. So this all cashes out to if we have at least a 1 in 3 chance of winning, we should bet.
It's Good To Err On The Side Of Caution Though
We want over that though to show a profit, so to err on the side of caution we can limit ourselves to where we win 1 out of 2, which ends up showing a good profit, and leave the more marginal hands to our looking to getting our opponent to refine their hand by seeing if they are willing to bet it or not later on. So this actually works out to be a nice rule of thumb against loose passive players, which is to bet with the top half of your range, or half the time, against these players.
I know you don't want to do the math here every time and I did say I was going to look to keep things simple for you, and it doesn't' get any simpler than this, but at the same time I want you to have an idea of how to figure out this stuff so you can start doing it yourself as you get better at the game of poker.
A Good Rule Of Thumb For You
So now we know that against tight players, whether aggressive or passive, we can bet out as often as we like, and against loose passive players or calling stations we can bet half the time and be profitable. By the way they don't have to call the 75% for this to work, it could be less, and that's why we're not going with the betting 2 times out of 3 here and only needing to win a third of the time, as I've got this set up so it will work against all loose passive players.
So that's three of our major 4 player types covered, and we've also covered a lot of ground as far as how we figure out what our total equity is. So this leaves the loose aggressive player. This player is the toughest to bluff against so as a general rule we'll be looking to bet the least amount of times into, since they will make us pay more by raising us more often. So I'm going to go into this in the next lesson, and also talk about alternative lines we may want to use against the major player types.