More On The Costs Of Mistakes

Guide To Winning Poker (34)

  • Avoiding mistakes is something that is very integral to our poker success
  • The more money we put in, the more sure of ourselves we need to be
  • We need to think our plans through to make sure they make sense

The Bigger The Pots, The More Expensive The Mistakes

One of the nice things about calculating simple odds with fold equity is that we can just look at the particular bet to see if it is profitable or not. For instance if I bet half the size of the pot and I know that you will fold half the time, I know I can make an immediate profit here.

Although it’s a good idea to look at future streets here as well, for instance with your calling two streets and then having a high probability of folding on the river to a third barrel, it’s still pretty simple as all we need is enough folds at some point in the hand to make the play work.

When we’re going after hand equity though, meaning that we are accounting for how our hand stacks up at showdown, and generally prefer this to happen, things become more complicated. The pots become a lot larger here of course and often times our whole stack is going in. So we need to be more sure of ourselves and need to spend the time necessary to think things through, as mistakes here can really become magnified.

More Streets Mean More Money On The Line

This is the case with both bluffing and going for value, although things are simpler with bluffing, as all we need to know is how often an opponent will fold. As opposed to just looking at the street we are on and seeing if it is profitable to bluff, in this case our target street will be the turn or river, as the case may be, where we know an opponent folds too often there.

The cost of a multi street bluff is higher when we lose, but the profits are higher as well, so it’s just a matter of finding a profitable street to take advantage of this on. For example, some players chase too many hands only to fold on the river when they miss, and given that they will miss more often than not and let us just take the pot when they do, it can be good for us to look to build the pot on earlier streets so that our reward when we take it down will be higher.

So the same principle applies on these earlier streets, where if we can stab at the pot and they fold enough then nothing else matters, and as long as they are playing this way, we can manipulate them. Whenever we spot a profitable situation down stream though, on a future street, it’s also wise to look to get our opponents to magnify this mistake by getting him or her to put more money in the pot. So the bigger the pot, the more our fold equity wins over time.

Looking At The Loose Fish For Clues

The best way to learn how money is lost from multi street mistakes is to look at the way loose fish play. Now it doesn’t really matter if we’re talking passive or aggressive fish, although the passive ones don’t enjoy fold equity here. Both commit too much money too often though, and that’s what gets them into trouble.

So if players are willing to lose a significant portion of their stack with inferior hands, especially if they just call you down with them, then these players are going to be very easy to beat out of a lot of money. These are the perfect opponents, although you see far less of them than you used to in the earlier days of online poker. When you do see one though, all you need to do is play tighter than they do in order to cream them.

So where do these players go wrong? Well we could say that they play too many cards, and that would be true, but it is more accurate to say that they put money in the pot with lesser cards, and in this case a whole lot of money. So while we want to play against these players, we must be careful to avoid making the same mistakes.

Looking At The Two Ways To Win The Hand

There are exactly two ways that we can win a hand, which are of course by taking the pot down prior to showdown and showing down the best hand. Less experienced players tend to think of these separately, although most hands will have both elements in it. However, we always want to at least assess our chances of winning at showdown whenever we put money into the pot which isn’t just a pure bluff.

If we have no showdown equity, or very little, then we’re going to have to rely on our fold equity to decide whether we want to stay in hands or not. Often though we are playing a real hand and need to decide whether it’s worth putting in a certain amount of money in with it.

This might seem like a fairly simple concept and you might be thinking that all you need to do is play tighter than the opponent does and you’ll have this covered. However, the real mistakes here involve our not thinking things through enough and not having a good enough plan or not following through with it properly, where we end up either going to showdown with a hand we should not have, putting too much money in the pot with these losing hands, or putting money in the pot and then ending up folding later prior to showdown.

Integrating Your Thinking Can Help You A Lot

Deciding the relative value of your hand is a dynamic process. This is not something that should ever be done off the cuff, bet by bet. We really need to look at the tendencies of opponents and their actions in the hand to be able to get a good enough picture of what they may have.

So for instance a player may do a certain thing, like raise, and while based upon everything we know so far we may have felt that we have been ahead, but this may change things to the point where we may have to fold. So while we aren’t psychic and can’t really anticipate the hands he’ll be raising with in a certain spot, we definitely need to look ahead to not only be prepared, but to anticipate it and factor it into our strategy.

So in other words we have to look to integrate these various possibilities into our thinking so that we are less likely to do something we may regret. A simple example of this is betting when we know that it is more likely than not that we are behind if we are called, and if we are ahead the opponent will check back and show down. So if we are thinking, we are going to definitely be checking here.

This Is Something Even Top Players Need To Work On A Lot

If there’s one thing that can separate you from your typical opponents, it’s integrating your thinking this way to not only cut down on the amount of money you lose with your mistakes, as well as better taking advantage of the mistakes of your opponents.

Another example would be in the case of a hand such as top pair top kicker, where you hear players say that it’s not worth three streets of standard betting, so they then tend to back off on the river. I’ve heard this comment many times in videos from respected online players and it always leaves me shaking my head.

On the plus side, at least they are recognizing how changing dynamics affect your relative hand value, where three calls is seen as too much relative strength on the part of an opponent, which is often the case. However, an even better approach is to look at this in terms of what is actually happening here, meaning that if an opponent commits so much money to a hand we are probably behind, and then construct your strategy around that, instead of just backing off on the river and then not being comfortable putting more money in the pot.

This approach makes two major mistakes, with one being putting more money in the pot prior to the river, and then looking to fold to what seems to likely be a better hand, with the second one being making yourself too subject to bluffs. If you only fire two barrels like this and make a habit of it, anyone paying attention will fire at your check on the river and will play you like a chump. So this can’t be the best way to proceed as it leaves you with an empty gun on the final street.

We Need To Always Be Able To Follow Through

In this case we know a certain hand has a certain amount of power, and we do need to always guard against overplaying it. At the same time though we can’t be putting ourselves in positions like this where we have limited our options at some point in the hand. So what we need to be doing instead is to start with step 1, which is coming up with a plan and then assessing what would be likely to be the case with it, and then look to move on to the second step, which is coming up with the best alternative when it doesn’t seem to make sense.

So in our example, we recognize that three standard sized bets won’t leave us in a good position, as being called down for that much money would have us behind too much. Where this all goes wrong is to look at this and say well I can only make two standard sized bets. That really leaves us without a plan for the whole hand, and all plans must take the whole hand into account, especially with hands we are planning on showing down. So it’s better to simply plan your hand to put a comfortable and profitable amount of money in over the three streets.

Better Planning Makes The Money

So the better our planning, the more money we will make in profitable situations, and the less we will lose in unprofitable ones. So if you remember back in the statistics articles where I spoke of assessing an opponents’ overall tendencies, one of the most important uses of this is assessing relative strength when they don’t fold.

So if they fold a certain amount on the flop, turn, and river, this often involves ever increasing hand strengths, and if we want to show down the hand, in other words not hope for a fold, we need to be aware of these changing strengths.

There will always be times where our plan will go awry, and our opponent may do something unexpected, changing the dynamics enough to make us fold what we thought was ahead. So we need to pay attention to the likelihood of this and act accordingly to look to either limit our losses here or even look to take advantage of this.

The more aggressive an opponent is, the stronger the hand we need, although we need to be careful not to become too meek and play too tight against them. What this does mean though is that the more money that it will likely cost to show a hand down, the better hand we need generally.

The Real Secret Is To Always Consider What If

The real lesson that I want you to take away from this article is to always be thinking of what happens to your hand value should your plan carry through. So going back to our examples, if I bet into you and if you call I am behind, or if I bet three streets into you and if you call me down I am likely behind, I’m going to need another plan.

This is called overplaying your hand which means you’ve put more money into the pot than it is worth, and done it in the name of value. So you’ve bet the better hand with the expectation that it is better, but the manner or amount that you bet has painted yourself in a corner where you no longer have the equity that you need if it plays out the way you want. So that’s always a bad thing.

So always be thinking in terms of what if when it comes to formulating your poker plans and strive to be in situations where your plans lead to something profitable rather than something unprofitable.

Ken’s Guide To Winning Poker – Index

Starting With A Solid Foundation

Aggression Series

Position Series

Various Poker Strategies

Mistakes Series