Using Poker Stats To Create Big Advantages At The Table
Guide To Winning Poker (10)
- Winning poker is really about applying math and statistics to your play
- It's not as difficult as you may think to become good at this
- Sometimes opponents simply give up on too many hands too easily
Playing Our Opponents Is The Key To Poker Success
I'm going to introduce to you the two main ways that you can use poker stats to your advantage at the table. Now you may be thinking, he sure is spending a lot of time talking about stats so early on in the series, shouldn't we be taking first about more basic stuff, like what hands to play, when to bet them, etc? Well every move we make at the table has to be done with the frequencies of our opponents in mind, and without this we're pretty much playing blind. Even if you're fairly new to the game and just learning it, I still don't want you to be thinking about your own cards too much, as is always the case with newer players really. So if we're going to need to look at our opponents, which we do need, it's important to understand at least the basics of what the best way to do it is.
As I've mentioned, the tendency among players is to use stats to try to make some general characterizations of opponents, as in he plays tightly, and so on, and then to make some general adjustments to our play to take this into account. This is not what we're after here though, as it's much more preferable to focus on specifics; and the more specific our information, the more accurate it is, and the more valuable it is. So instead of saying that an opponent is tight, we want to know how tight, and in particular, how tightly he plays in the given situation that we are facing, for instance when out of position on the flop. We also want this not expressed vaguely, as in tight or very tight, but instead quantified by way of a concrete number.
Poker Is Really About Math
Poker is in essence a mathematically based game, and even if you only have the slightest idea of what you're doing, you're using math to make your decisions. You may not even be aware that this is the case, for instance you may raise pre-flop with pocket aces, and throw away a garbage hand; but the reason you're doing so is that the odds favor you in the first case and not in the second. So when it comes to using math at the table, information is power, and the goal is to be as correct as we can with our decisions, which means both having the right information and using it properly.
Now if you remember back, we talked about players using the chances of a given hand winning against random hands, which they then use as their default, and then look to make adjustments based upon whatever information they have. So what we're looking to do here is to replace that default with our opponents' default tendencies, provided that we have enough of a sample of them to be significant, and to the degree that we do we will be moving toward using that as our starting point. Then as we gain and consider further information, we can further refine this starting point. So I don't want you thinking that frequencies alone is the end of the story and the analysis here, but they are certainly the central part, or at least should be.
Poker Information Is More Than Just Past Play Statistics Though
It's true that you could play very well just using stats, but there is other information out there that we can use as well. The tendencies that we will be looking at are general tendencies, and we always want to get things as specific as possible, so there will be some other things that we will need to look at as well. One example is a player looking to adjust to our exploiting them. So we may need to modify our reads in certain cases, but a player's general tendencies are going to form the bedrock of our strategies against him.
We'll also be looking to use stats more in combination, meaning not just looking at a given tendency but how a player tends to play throughout the hand. So if he bets on a given street, we can look to future streets for instance and look at both what sort of hands he's betting now and what he might do in the future given his tendencies there. A simple example of this would be the concept of floating, where we look to a future betting round and determine that he can be bluffed out of his hand later at a high enough probability that we can just call now and gain extra money from our bluff that way.
Two Main Ways To Make Money At Poker
So now let's move on to the two main ways that you can use this information. To put this into perspective, let's look at the two ways that we make money at the table. The first is by getting our opponents to fold, and we'll start with that one. The tighter a player is in a given situation, meaning the more times he tends to fold, the more we can take advantage of this by taking pots down. The player need not even be tight for us to do this. For instance we might be up against a loose aggressive player who will fire off pretty indiscriminately up to the river, where he may have a tendency to chicken out too much if we're still in the hand. So that's a great situation to look to bluff him out of the pot, and the rewards are higher then just getting a tightwad to give up their hand on the flop for instance.
Most players don't really take advantage of fold equity properly. As I mentioned, good play is a matter of having the right information and then using it properly. Without knowing the percentages here, you simply won't have the right information. If I know that in a certain situation a player will fold a certain percentage of the time, and that percentage is high enough to be profitable, then I may be able to bet or raise every time and not even worry about my cards. In fact, one of the main reasons why it's correct generally to be aggressive is that it allows you to take more pots down, although we don't just want to just fire out without having a good idea of what we are doing, as this can be exploited pretty easily. However, as a rule players tend to fold too much, and there isn't anything easier to exploit than that.
Exploiting Opponents' Tendency To Fold Too Much
I want to throw out a simple example to give you a taste of what I'm talking about, and we'll be going into this in a lot more depth of course in future sessions. So let's say that we're playing a hand together, and we're on the flop. You will continue with a pair or better, or a good draw. This means that you are folding more than half the time when I bet. From this information alone, I know I can take you in this situation, because I can bet anytime I want profitably and not even have to worry or count in the times you don't fold. I don't even have to look at my cards to gain this advantage in fact. Now this doesn't mean that I will do this, but I could, and then I take this information and look at your other tendencies and see if I can find a more profitable approach to take even more money from you, although I do know that it is a winning situation for me regardless.
The other way we make money is of course to show down the best hand, in other words, looking to play for value. So the idea is to fold when we don't have either fold equity or value, and when we do have value, to look to extract as much money from the hand as we can. This doesn't necessarily mean betting the most that we can expect you to call, and there's some math involved in this part of the game as well, but we'll leave that for another time. What we're after here though is to look to determine what range, or average hand strength, that you are playing on with here, whether that be your betting, raising, or calling, and then take that information and put it in perspective of what we have and then decide what to do.
Working With Average Hand Strength
So the concept I want to introduce you to at this point is in fact average hand strength, and to my knowledge no one really uses this concept properly. By the way, this doesn't replace the normal way people put opponents on ranges, by looking at what cards they might have had pre-flop and then looking at the board and so on, and we will be doing some of that as well. Average hand strength though is a starting point to all of this and to use it we don't even have to look at anything else. Similar to the way we use frequencies to look to get fold equity, where what they have in a particular instance doesn't matter, we can use frequencies to determine what their average holding in a given situation likely is, and use that to our advantage as well.
For example, if you are betting a certain amount of the time in a given spot, I can simply look at how often you're doing this and determine what, on average, you have here. So let's say I determine that it's second pair. So if I have top pair, I will know that I am ahead of you on average, and it's the "on average" that is the important element here. Poker is a game of getting edges on average in fact, and we're always looking to make moves where the probabilities are in our favor and avoid those where they are not. So without even getting to the point where I'm worried what you have in this specific instance, I can look to find the mean or average hand that you're doing something with, and this will be a big advantage to know, if I use that information properly.
So if you wanted to, you could just use game theory to beat the crap out of a lot of people, just using their frequencies against them, and making the appropriate adjustments if and when they adjust to you. We do have more weapons than that, but it's not hard to imagine how this is a big one indeed. So as I proceed with the sessions, I'll be referencing this tool quite a bit, and we'll be looking to explore its potential along with the other ways that we can take advantage of people.
Ken's Guide To Winning Poker - Index
Starting With A Solid Foundation
- What Are We Looking To Accomplish At The Poker Table?
- Ensuring That You're Setting Yourself Up For Success
- The Proper Way To Build Your Bankroll With Free Money
- The Keys To Effective Bankroll Management
- Managing Your Overall Poker Time Effectively
- Getting A Good Grasp On The Mental Side Of Poker
- The Importance Of Playing Your Opponents
- An Introduction To Using Poker Statistics
- Further Considerations To Finding The Right Path With Stats
- Using Poker Stats To Create Big Advantages At The Table
- Exploiting Players' Specific Weaknesses
- Exploiting People's Tendencies To Fold Too Often
- Exploiting People's Tendencies To Not Fold Enough
- Looking To Show Down Better Cards Than Our Opponents
- The True Nature and Importance of Aggression - Part 1
- The True Nature and Importance of Aggression - Part 2
- The True Nature and Importance of Aggression - Part 3
- The True Nature and Importance of Aggression - Part 4
- The Importance Of Position - Part 1
- The Importance Of Position - Part 2
- The Importance Of Position - Part 3
- The Misconceptions Of Playing Out Of Position
- Tactics For Playing Out Of Position
- Combating Aggression Out Of Position
Various Poker Strategies
- Considerations In Game Selection
- Balancing Your Playing And Learning At The Table
- Continuation Betting
- Introduction To Hand Planning
- Looking For Chinks In Your Opponents' Armor
- Seeking Our The Most Profitable Moves
- Using Position To Manipulate Players