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OTB #001: Stop Line Checking!

Updated: Jan 22


Today I'm going to show you a better way to analyse poker hands.

By implementing this system into your study routine, you'll drastically improve your understanding of many different spots. This will improve your intuition and decision making at the table.


Unfortunately, many poker players, especially recreational poker players, fail because they focus on checking the line of their exact hand rather than zooming out.


Line checking is a waste of time!


The process that we're going to set up today is what I call the "Run Once, Learn Lots" or "R.O.L.L." model of study.

By using this system, you're going to learn more about an individual spot, such as:


  • How equity realisation and risk premium go hand in hand

  • Why blocking calls and unblocking folds is good (and vice-versa)

  • How to identify where your bluff jams should come from

  • Why it's important to call with some strong hands preflop


Now, let's dive in.


Let me set the scene


Your online screen name is URIEL_ROCK and you've made the final table of the SCOOP $109 Main Event 2023. The chip leader opens to 2.3bb and you're in the big blind with TT. You are currently 5 of 7 with ~38bb, there is one stack a bit shorter than you and another with only 11.6bb.


The HJ opens to 2.3bb and you have TT in the BB

You marked this hand because you called preflop and then check folded on a QJ7r board and want to know if that's ok.


That's your first mistake. Let me explain why...


Let's say you ran the hand overnight to avoid wasting too much time (because you were sleeping) and the next morning you have the finished solution ready to analyse.


BB strategy facing HJ open

You look at TT and it says call 68.4%, 3-bet 9.2% and 3-bet jam 22.4%.


OK great, calling looks fine!


Let's find another hand to analyse...


STOP!


Absolutely not!


If you're running a preflop solution to a decent accuracy, it can take quite a long time to solve. The last thing you want to do is wait hours for a sim to finish just to see if your call with TT preflop was ok, even if you were sleeping while the sim was running.


There's so much you can learn from this one sim that you'll form a better understanding of many spots by digging a little deeper.


I'm going to go through a few things you could look at to form a better understanding of final table play. Remember: run once, learn lots!


Quick note: I don't know URIEL_ROCK personally, so I have no idea if he or she did mark this hand or run it. I just found the hand interesting when I went through every single hand of this final table for my new video series coming soon.


From looking at this sim for 5 seconds, here are just a few questions I would like to answer:


  • Why are we folding so many suited hands?

  • Why are we 3-bet jamming KK, QQ and A2s for 38bb?

  • Why does the chip leader get to open 49% of hands here?

  • Why do JJ and TT flat so much?

Let's see if we can discover the answers together...


Why are so many suited hands folding?


Suited hands do a better job at realising equity, which is why you'll often see a hand like 72s call in the big blind, but its offsuit counterpart 72o will fold. In this example, there are two things going on:


  1. The raise size is 2.3bb rather than 2bb so that gives us worse odds to call in the first place

  2. Our risk premium against the chip leader is 17.1%

Bubble factors and risk premiums

These two reasons force us to fold more because so many hands will not be able to realise enough equity. Hands like Q2s, J6s and 85s together with A2o, K9o and 98o. The bottom of our calling range comes from suited gappers and Q4s+ on the suited side and the off suit broadways on the other.


So when your risk premium is high and the raise size is somewhat larger, you should fold more and focus on hands that can realise enough equity postflop, out of position. You want to avoid getting into unprofitable situations postflop, out of position against the chip leader.


By understanding the effect of raise size and risk premium on our calling range, you can be more selective in the hands you continue with preflop. This in turn should lead to easier decisions postflop.


Why are we 3-bet jamming KK, QQ and A2s for 38bb?


38bb is a lot of big blinds to just stuff in the chip leader's face here. And yet the solver wants us to do it with really strong hands like KK and QQ and not-so-good hands like A4o and A2s!


Let's try and figure out why...


Earlier on we discovered that our risk premium against the chip leader is 17.1%. If we 3-bet, the chip leader can 4-bet jam and we are going to need a hand that has enough raw equity plus the extra 17.1% equity from our risk premium.


This is a dicey situation.


While KK and QQ have enough equity to 3-bet/call against a 4-bet jamming range of AKo and lots of suited Ax, we're also making the pot bigger out of position if the chip leader decides to just call. The bigger the pot gets preflop, the easier it is for the chip leader to apply pressure postflop because the SPR will be lower.


So the solver wants us to jam because we can get called by worse hands (88+ and AQs are calling) and this will outperform 3-betting non-all-in or calling and playing the pot out of position postflop.


But why does it want to jam A2s and A4o too?


In my new book, 'The Final Table', I talk about the importance of logical thought processes and introduce the questions:


If you're jamming as a bluff...

  • can you get better hands to fold?

  • do you block hands that can call?

  • do you unblock hands that will fold?


If you jam A2s or A4o you can get better hands to fold since AJo and ATs (and all the other Ax hands) are supposed to fold together with 22-77, not to mention denying equity to hands like KQs.


We know that the chip leader can call 88+,AQs+ (and AJs sometimes) so A2s and A4o block AA, AK and AQ.


With the final question, we need to dig a little deeper. Look at the edges of the chip leader's opening range - K5o,Q8o+,J8o+,T8o+ and J3s,T5s,96s and 85s!


Chip leader opening range

It makes sense that our other card (the 2 or the 4) do not interact with this range much at all. So the 2 and the 4 unblock a lot of the hands that will fold. Now you could argue that the Ace blocks a lot of folds as well, but there are more raise/folds wit


h non Ax hands so I think we're good.


The final thought is balance...


You can't just rip AK, KK and QQ, otherwise the chip leader would just fold a lot and you wouldn't make enough $EV from jamming. By adding some 3-bet jam 'bluffs' you incentivise the chip leader to continue more frequently and make more money when have a big hand, while still having ok-ish equity against their calling range (~30%).


When you are out of position and your risk premium against the opener is so big, you can't 3-bet induce too wide and you don't want to play a bloated pot out of position. You want to 3-bet jam and remove their ability to apply more pressure. This is because there is no added risk premium if you jam because there's nothing left behind to call.


Why does the chip leader get to open 49% of hands?


If you ever find yourself in the enviable position of huge chip leader at a big final table like the SCOOP Main Event, it's important that you know when to ramp up the aggression.


Enter this hand where the chip leader gets to open ~49% of hands.


That's something similar to a BTN opening range in cEV and yet the chip leader is sitting in the HiJack.


So why do they get to open so wide?


All the other players have huge risk premiums against the chip leader so can't go out of their way to 3-bet in case they get 4-bet jammed on or have to play a bigger pot where it's easier to get all in postflop.


And the biggest reason for the big risk premiums is the presence of the ~11.7bb stack UTG. So make sure you keep an eye out for similar spots on your next final table.


Once you know you can open much wider, it's important to choose the right hands. The shape of this opening range seems to form a somewhat fattened arrow pointing towards AA. The big mistake here would be to start opening tough to play hands like 92s and 73s. Focus on playable suited connectors/gappers and widening the range with hands that block continues like Ax, then Kx, then Qx, then Jx and so on.


When there's a significant shortstack at the table, you need to ramp up the aggression as the chip leader because it's a disaster for any of the bigger stacks to bust before the shortie.


Why do JJ and TT flat so much?

You might have noticed that strong hands like JJ and TT flat a lot preflop. Why is that?


Let's revisit our logical thought process questions from before, but change them a little bit:


If you jam for value:


  • Do you get called by enough worse hands?

  • Do you unblock hands that will raise/fold?


JJ has 51.9% equity and TT has 44.89% equity against the chip leader's calling range of 88+,AQ+. In the case of TT, you're crushing 88 and 99, crushed by JJ+ and flipping against AQ+. While you have a huge amount of fold equity, risking ~38bb to win 4.6bb is a pretty lousy risk/reward ratio.


By calling hands like JJ and TT you'll be able to continue on more boards facing a c-bet. It will also be harder for the chip leader to apply pressure on a variety of boards if they know you could have a very strong hand like a set on a JT6 board, where you might otherwise not.


Did you find 2 or 3 takeaways to share?


The main goal of this process is to come up with 2 or 3 takeaways that you could share with someone else to show you understand the spot and could apply the concepts you've learned in future hands.


How do you think you did with this hand?


You can apply the "Run Once, Learn Lots" system for postflop hands too and honestly we only scratched the surface with this preflop spot. We could, and probably should, explore everyone else's raise first in strategies and the BB responses to those. That would be the minimum to get from this sim. Remember, the last thing you want to do is wait hours for a sim to finish just to see if your call or your 3-bet was ok.


What does OK mean anyway?


Good luck at your next final table. I trust that you'll be applying this system to your next study session.


Let's R.O.L.L.!


 

Whenever you're ready, here's how I can help you:


The Final Table: Play your best poker when the most is at stake. Detailed analysis of over 100 hand examples at different stages of play. Learn how to make great decisions every time and set yourself up for daily progress.


Poker On The Mind: Listen to my podcast with Dr Tricia Cardner as we discuss peak poker performance and tournament poker strategy.


Train & Play Like The Pros: Join the next cohort of my flagship program that will take you from amateur to training and playing like the pros in the next 8 weeks. There are only 12 spots for each cohort, and when they're gone, they're gone and I close enrolment until the next one.


Purposeful Practice for Poker: Gain a clear theoretical understanding of the science of purposeful practice and how you can apply it to your poker study & training. Includes specific exercises designed to create an infallible plan for poker improvement.

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