Balancing Your Play in Poker

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Once you evolve as a poker player by learning about and then understanding equity then your entire poker game becomes more balanced. As a rule then players tend to drift between being too weak as in weak-tight and being too spewy as in loose-aggressive (when done badly). I want to show an example here to show you what I mean. It is folded around to a player in the cut-off who raises and we have 10s-9s on the button and we fold.

In this instance then the raiser has been open raising liberally when folded to. Our hand is clearly more than good enough to at least call against their range and use our superior position post flop. We could even three bet as well which is also an option. However we chose the tight option and that is to fold. Any one hand in a vacuum can be the correct play but if the correct play in a vacuum is governed by an overall weak style then we will not make money. Let us look at another example of a player that has continued their poker education and now deciphers that “weak-tight” is never going to make much money.

So they decide to be loose-aggressive and it is folded around to them on the button and they open raise with Jc-7d. The big blind calls them and the flop is 9c-5h-3d and they check. We make a c-bet of 5.5bb and are called making the pot 18.5bb. The turn card is the 2h and our opponent checks again. We bet 14bb and are called making the pot 46.5bb. The river card is the 6c and the big blind checks again. We bet 45bb as a bluff and are called by a player holding pocket tens and we lose 68bb in the hand.

Neither player in either situation thought about equity because if they had then their entire game would neither have been weak-tight or chip spewy. The equity in a hand like J-7o is too low and so the hand shouldn’t have been played. You just get into too many unprofitable spots where you either have to give up which is weak or try and blast your way out of trouble which is chip spewy. In short then neither line is balanced and neither style is balanced either. Being too tight is probably a better style than being too loose and ragged as at least the tight style doesn’t really cost you anything.

However we have to start thinking about equity to advance our poker game. This means the hot and cold equity in our own hand, the probable equity given our projected range of our opponent and fold equity given certain types of boards. When we base our decisions on equity then we are almost automating them and so the decision is largely taken out of our hands. Gone are the days when you make plays that are too tight and defensive simply because you fear getting involved with hands that are not at the very top of your range.

Gone also are the days when you get yourself involved in some very hairy situations where you are multi-barrel bluffing in the wrong situations. You are now basing your decisions on equity and striding much further down the road to playing good solid poker. You can see this imbalance in all areas of poker. For example a player may sandbag and slow play too often because they perceive that this is deceptive.

While the strategy is very deceptive initially, it isn’t overall as your tactics become too obvious to your opponents and especially the ones that play with you on a regular basis. You are simply losing too much value on your big hands and if you try to compensate for that by launching big wacky bluffs then your strategy is incredibly unbalanced and warped. So it needs to be underlined how equity and the understanding of it help us to balance our entire play. I would recommend to any player that they start using PokerStove.

This excellent free piece of software is perfect for understanding equity in the same way that SNGwiz does for ICM calculations. Remember that when I say “equity” then I am not just referring to hot and cold equity. That is more important in limit hold’em than it is in no limit hold’em. For example a hand like A-3s when pitched against a range of 5% is going to be dominated if an ace flops. But an ace flopping is only one possible result out of many. Your ace out flops KK-99 and will not get stacked by AA and AK, AQ. You also get to move these big unpaired cards away from the pot as well when the board is really scary.

 

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