The Ropadope Game

By | Heads Up, Theory | No Comments

After mastering the basic strategy, the next thing you want to focus on is becoming unexploitable. Mastering an unexploitable strategy is great for several reasons. First, if you feel like your opponent is getting the best of you, you can always revert to an unexploitable strategy where you’ll at least break even. Second, if you decide to play many tables at once (I can play eight at once), you’ll depend almost entirely on your unexploitable strategy. Read More

Pushing Around Your Stack

By | Theory, Tournaments | One Comment

Harrington's Zone Concept

The Zone Theory presented by Harrington in his classic book "Harrington On Hold'em" identified inflection points where your play in a tournament needs to change gears.

Dealing with limpers

Whenever a player limps in front of you, it destroys your chances of going all in to pick up the blinds with weaker-than-average hands. If you've got a strong hand, you can still go all in, but with a weak hand, you have to bluff out more players and that really hurts your chances.

The 3-Bet Jam Range

Typically, your prime 3-bet value is when you have 4-5 times raiser's raise value. If a player on the button raises to 300 and you've got about 1200, you're in a good position to reraise. It's too big for your opponent to call with weak hands but you're not risking too much to pick up the blinds and the raise. You typically want to start looking for three-bet jams when you're between 6 and 14 big blinds, as this will closely align with the 4-5x range.

Betting, Checking, Folding, Calling and Jamming

By | Beginner, Theory | One Comment

This article discusses the different actions we can take at a poker table and their impact on the rest of the hand.

Value betting

A value bet is a bet you make with the best hand intending to be called by a second-best hand. You make value bets when you're ahead. When you have a hand like on a board, you'll be betting for value, because you expect that a player with a ten will call. When you have a strong hand like this, you want to be sure to value bet all three streets in order to extract maximum value from a hand that is second-best. Typically a value bet is sized between two-thirds and three-fourths of the pot, though you can bet more. The question to always ask with value bets is whether or not they will call with a second best hand. If your opponent folds any hand that you beat, you're not actually making a value bet.

Blocking Bets

A blocking bet is a bet you make on the river with what might be the best hand intended to prevent bluffs from worse hands but may be called by third-best or fourth-best hands. You make blocking bets when you want to see a showdown cheaply. While value bets are more effective when you're in position, blocking bets are more effective when you're out of position.

Way ahead, way behind

Way ahead, way behind situations occur when you are either way ahead OR way behind, but you're not sure which yet. A good example of a WA/WB hand is the following: on a board. If your opponent has a range of hands, in some cases, he'll have an ace, and in other cases, he won't. If he does have an ace, we need a king to win, which gives us just two outs, or about an 8% chance to win the hand. If he doesn't have an ace, we're likely significantly ahead, probably 92% to win the hand. To learn how to deal with WA/WB strategy, watch our video on Playing Kings when an Ace Flops.

Playing Positionally in Poker

By | Beginner, Theory, Videos | 2 Comments
Position is defined as the place you sit at on the table, relative to the button. Position progresses left around the table from the small blind to the big blind to early position, middle position, late position, and finally, the button. Playing positionally means adjusting your play based on your position at the table.

Understanding positional play is simple: early position is bad, late position is good. The later you are, the more options you have for playing your hand. For example, when you're on the button, you know that you're going to be in position throughout the entire hand, and this allows you to control the size of the pot. As a result, the closer you are to the button, the more hands you can play, the more you can raise, the more often you can raise, and the more options you have for reraising or calling before the flop. It lets you set the pace of the hand after the flop, too: will you play slow for a small pot or fast for a big pot?

When you're in a position like the small blind, the worst position on the table, you can't really dictate that. When someone else bets, you have to decide whether or not you want to play, and let them control the hand, or fold.

In the blinds, you're going to be in the worst position, but you already have some money invested. If you're allowed to check (from the BB) or simply call (from the SB) to complete the blinds, that's usually the right play. So you will play some hands from the blinds that you wouldn't play from any other position, simply because you have a little money invested.

On the button, you're going to be playing a lot of hands, especially hands with two high cards or hands that make straights or flushes. So while you'd be happy to play a hand like , a hand like is really not good enough to even call with.

The reason we would fold this hand is that, if we catch our king, anybody with a better king has us dominated with a better kicker. But you can play more hands on the button than in any other position. I tend to play about 40% of my hands from the button, whereas from early position, I only play about 10% of my hands. As my position moves around the table, I play more and more hands.

That's the basic strategy that every poker professional uses. No poker pro plays more hands from early position than they do from late position and makes money doing it. That's a losing strategy and you won't survive very long if you do that, because position is so important on the table.

If you fail to take your position into account, you're going to be playing hands you shouldn't. One of the first things I look at before deciding whether or not to play a hand is the position I'm in. That's going to dictate whether I'm going to raise or fold and how much I'm going to raise. For example, in early position in a cash game, you typically want to raise four to five times the blind. (This isn't the case in tournaments. More on that in our Tournament series.) Because you're going to be playing such a strong range of hands but have to deal with being out of position for the rest of the hand, you probably want to raise a little stronger from early position. From late position, though, I might raise two or three times the big blind. If I have a hand like , I might want to raise two times the big blind (a minraise) as a pot sweetener.

One important thing to note is that other players in the hand are considering these things too. Where a player is positioned when he raises can help you determine whether or not you're going to play a hand. If an under the gun player raises, and I've got something like , I'm most likely going to fold it. Raising under the gun, the player has indicated he has a very strong hand, and absent further reads, I have to take him at his word that he does. I'm most likely just going to fold and wait for a better hand to play.

A lot of players use a starting hand chart to help them get an idea what hands they should be playing from different positions. I don't want you to follow this chart for very long, just until you get used to the game, because it does change depending on a lot of different factors. Depending on the players at your table, you can play more or fewer hands than the starting hand chart dictates. Nonetheless, you will always play more hands in late position than in early position because it lets you control the pot.

Controlling the pot from late position

When I'm in late position, I can choose how many "bets" I want to put in the pot. I can bet the flop, turn, and river and force a player to call me each street to continue playing. I can bet the flop and then sneakily check the turn if I want to limit the size of the pot or induce a bluff on the river. Or I can bet the flop and the turn to show strength, and if I don't want to put in a river bet, I have the option of checking behind. That's really what it comes down to. The river bet is such a significant bet in a poker hand. It's the largest bet that's going to go in. The option to make or decline that bet is a huge advantage, and that is why we take care to notice our position when we're playing poker.


The “It Depends” Rule

By | Beginner, Theory, Videos | 2 Comments

How should you play this hand? Well, that depends on a lot of factors, from the players at the table to the cards that you hold. When all variables are in alignment, the opportunity to play a hand will be obvious to you. A bad player has raised, I am in position, and I have a decent hand. It's not hard to decide how to play this hand.

It depends on your cards.

When we said "your cards don't matter," it doesn't mean to play any two cards. Your cards are just one variable of five that can help you determine whether or not to play a hand. The strength of your cards is obvious from the first time you look at them. Even strong cards, when the other variables are against you, are an easy fold.

It depends on their cards.

It's important to understand that their cards can be anything. People play bad hands, and that's okay. We love people who play bad hands. We make more money off them. You don't need to know their cards to decide whether to play against them, but you should know whether or not you have the skill and information to deduce their cards by the end of the hand.

It depends on the community cards.

This is where poker gets very, very complicated. The game here introduces tons of variables we can't predict or control. All we can do is make estimations. Because our opponents can have anything, you should respond, not react. Listen, don't talk. Think, don't assume. Your opponents will react. They will telegraph their hands. Any action or non-action they make will narrow their range. The more they narrow their range, the clearer the decision of whether or not you should play becomes.

It depends on your stack size.

It depends on the opponent.

What is your opponent's goal? Why is he playing poker? Is he here to make money, to blow off steam, to gamble, to be the "alpha" at the table? If we start to understand these things about our opponents, we can start to intuit how to play against them. The important thing here is that you should avoid playing hands against opponents who "win" by taking your chips. These opponents are often tricky. Try to play against someone who "wins" when he has a night of running over the table, because you can let him run over you and still win more chips than you lose. You both win.

It depends on the table.

The table is a two-variable combination: the location of the button and the seating arrangement of the players. Do you have good players to your left, bad players to your right, bad players in the blinds? Are you in early position or late position? These things come together to form the "table."

Dealing With a Habitual Continuation Better

By | Beginner, Theory | One Comment

As the dealer shuffles the cards and flings two to each player around the table, we each in turn look down at our hand and assess our chances to win the hand. The first several players fold, but the lady sitting directly to my right makes a large raise. I look down at my hand and like my chances, so I call. After the first three cards are dealt, she bets again. I look at the table, reach down to grab chips, and raise. She thinks for a second and discards her hand.

“How did you know I was bluffing?” she asks.

I respond, “From watching your past play, I knew that when you raised before the flop, you had two face cards or a pocket pair. On the flop, there was just one face card, an Ace. I calculated that of the 18 possible hands you might hold, you had only made a pair with 4 of them, so my raise makes you fold 77% of the time. From there I calculated that with what I stood to risk and what I stood to win, I would earn, in the long run, $4 by raising. To bet there, you would have to expect me to fold at least 35% of the time, but since I would have raised your bet no matter what my two cards were, you made a mistake by betting.”

“I wouldn’t even know where to start,” she responds.

Playing Draws

By | Beginner, Theory | One Comment

Heads up games are the most aggressive form of poker out there. So, when you flop a hand with high equity, there's no point in playing it passively. If our opponents are loose and aggressive, this means that they will not often have strong hands. It also means that they might be capable of two-barrelling us on the flop and the turn. Finally, by playing draws aggressively, it leaves us balanced to play our monsters aggressively and still get action.

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