Robotic grinders make good players, but we’re mostly interested in what makes great poker players. From what I’ve observed, I think it’s mostly openness to new ideas, which translates into intelligence. Combined with hard, deliberate practice of course – too much practice for a normal person to handle! Nobody ever played great chess without considering all the 64 squares of the board, as any one of those might offer the most advantageous move. So is the case in poker: 95/100 of hands might be played with standard lines by both good and great players, but in those 5/100 hands great players will find a higher EV live to maximally exploit their opponents. Am I going to prove this? Its prolly better that you try it out yourself like I did last night – poker is a game where you don’t find what you can get away with unless you’re sometimes willing to push it to the edge. You can quote me on that one!
Background on the session: I hit the tables at 5.00 PM sharp and played for 2 hours, then hit the gym and dinner, then hit the tables again playing until 2:00 AM. I very much enjoyed playing the whole time and actually managed to play some decent poker in some hands. But, as poker is a zero sum game, you should not give yourself the credit of being a god-like player even if you win – the following pictures just sums up how profit is usually derived in poker (Sklansky would approve!)
Hand number 1: Realize your equity, prevent them from doing the same
Starting point: Play has been quite passive
NLHE 2.5/2.5€ blinds, effective stacks around 500eur with villain.
Hero SB: A♣ 3♥
UTG+1 limps, BTN limps, Hero checks, BB checks (actually UTG+3 might have limped as well, the pot is at least 4 way)
Flop: 4♠ 3♣ 2♦
Hero bets 10€, folds, BTN calls
Hero bets 15€, BTN calls
Hero checks, BTN bets 30€, Hero looks at the 64 squares and raises to 140€, BTN tanks for 1 minute already lifting his cards before mucking for a long moment, open-folds 4♦ 3♦
On the flop we could go for a check-call or a lead, and as we prefer to be able to rep all strong hands, we go for the lead. BTN should call us with hands like A2, K2, any 3, any 5x and obviously some stronger hands than ours. On the turn our lead is quite thin, but we still want to prevent 5x from realizing their equity for free and against this particular villain who has played quite tight we don’t expect to get raised too often here. On the river we can’t go for value and we have a blocker to the straight, check should be our best option. Villain bets quite quickly which seem to be some type of value hand, but he would certainly think for a bit longer with nutted hands. What to do?
We’re most likely not getting the right odds to bluff-catch with this hand and we have some better hands to do that with, so making a big check-raise seemed like the best option when you really ‘consider all the squares’ as deciding which one offers the best move here. If we just take a standard line here like check-calling flop and folding turn, we never get to realize our equity cheaply – in a weak NLHE game we can just put on an overdrive mode and maximize our fold equity. It’s definitely not solver-approved way for playing, but on good live tables it seems to work fine.
Next update will be about the 3 archetypes of people in poker: The Players, The Grinders & The Pussies.