Seeking Out The Most Profitable Moves

Guide To Winning Poker (30)

  • Most poker players don’t even seek to find the most profitable lines
  • Much of online poker strategy is highly oversimplified these days
  • We can conquer these mundane strategies as long as we strive hard enough

A Move That You Find Is Profitable May Still Not Be The Best Move

A huge part of mastering poker is being able to seek out and identify moves at the table which will be profitable for us over time. Less experienced or skilled players will tend to start out looking at shorter term results which can easily lead them astray, but once we have gained more knowledge and experience we will better understand the absolute necessity of focusing our attention on long term expected value.

This can be challenging at times though, and the tendency often is to find something profitable and go with it. A lot of very accomplished players can make this mistake as well. A good example of where people can go wrong is with the use of so called non exploitable ranges to push or fold in heads up sit and go’s.

You may have heard of Nash or Sage shoving ranges. The Nash ranges in particular are very well known and popular in the poker world. Nash in fact was one of the most famous mathematicians of all time, and his work has been modified to apply to poker.

The idea here is to determine what range of hands we can shove profitably, and in particular, what range cannot be exploited. This is all fine and good, and it does have its place in the game of poker, but it commits the classic error of not looking to find more profitable lines.

Followers Of This Thinking Risk Making A Big Mistake

So if I can shove against a certain player with a certain hand and I am guaranteed to show a profit over time with this move, this does not mean that it is the most profitable move. Against an opponent playing perfectly, it will be the best move. However, opponents don’t play perfectly, and even the best players don’t.

The more mistakes an opponent tends to make, and the bigger the mistakes they make, the more potential there is for more profit by playing these hands differently. If, for instance, an opponent plays way too weakly out of position, which most decent or better players do, then there very often is more profit involved in playing the hand differently and looking for them to commit more money to the pot prior to our looking to run them out of the hand.

So in a case like this, we very often are going to be better served by just putting in a normal sized raise pre flop, and then looking to take the pot down on the flop. If we see that the opponent has a high tendency to fold later in the hand, on the turn or the river, then we can make even more money by looking to increase the pot size even more prior to our shove.

We do need to make sure that when we do commit to these hands, we are shoving enough to accomplish what we seek, which is to fold out our opponents most of the time, and not price them in with too small of a bet to get them off their normal routine of folding. Of course, there will be times when they do have something and won’t be folding, but once again, we are after gains over time and we really can’t afford to care at all about particular instances within these patterns.

Looking To Oversimplify Comes With A Price

It takes quite a bit of skill and experience to reach this level where we indeed maintain our long term view without wavering very much, where we cast aside regret and in cases where we question our play, we continue to focus on the long term expected value here, only making adjustments whenever we feel this has been affected or we may have miscalculated on those terms.

Poker is far from a simple game, and it can never be properly quantified in a manner such as Nash or Sage attempts. In reality, it is much more complicated then just looking to not be exploited. These formulations do have their place, but only as part of the greater picture, which always is much more complex than that, mainly due to the differences in our opponents, where we must always seek to customize our approaches to best take full advantages of the opportunities that are presented to us.

There are many other instances of this, and they pretty much all arise from attempts to look to standardize play, without proper regard to the variables that different opponents present. A lot of so called standard poker strategy is centered around this, and there is a great deal of misplaced thought that results.

Much Of The Poker You See These Days Is Pretty Standardized, Thankfully

As the game continues to evolve, popular play has taken on more and more of a standard context, and aside from it being partly due to a lack of real imagination among the vast majority of online players, what has influenced this the most is the culture of multi tabling that has gripped the online world, which does not really allow for the kind of thought and manipulation that playing a single table at a time does.

So when you watch high level tournament poker, especially with players who are more accustomed to playing one table at a time live poker, you tend to see the play evolve quite a bit differently than you tend to see online. The better of these players will take lines that online coaches would be horrified by, especially when they look to build pots and increase deception by taking more passive lines.

In comparison, the online approach tends to be much more shoot first and ask questions later. There is a lot to be said about playing aggressively against many opponents, but this does not mean that you treat everyone that way. Especially if your opponent is highly skilled, you will need more than your run of the mill bet raise or fold approaches.

So in this case you are looking to create real advantages against good players rather than behaving more predictably and therefore leaving yourself open to become exploited by them, should they have the skill to do it. Most often though their attention is so divided that they are playing so called standard lines against you as well.

Regulars Struggle Against Regulars Since They Are Way Too Unimaginative

This is where the idea that regulars really can’t beat regulars comes from, and they therefore assume that these battles will be stands off over time and often just look to stay out of each other’s way. This is nonsense though as in reality this highly predictable play can be exploited pretty easily, provided that we cast aside these misguided notions and put more thought into it.

Thinking more is pretty challenging when you are playing 16 or 24 tables at once though, or even a few. If we are only playing one, then we can put our opponents at a big disadvantage provided that we have at least a good idea about what we are doing. We then will put them to the task of outmaneuvering us, where we take whatever adjustments they make to us and re-adjust more effectively because we are paying a lot closer attention.

As we are doing this, the goal once again is to look for the most profitable lines. While this is of high importance against very skilled opponents, once again, the more mistakes that our opponents make, and the bigger mistakes they make, the more they can be exploited, and the more opportunities for better alternative lines there will be.

This Is Nowhere Near As Difficult As You May Think

Although the task of finding the most profitable approach may seem overwhelming, the trick here is to look to find the biggest weaknesses that an opponent may have, and then look to exploit these weaknesses. There often are several weaknesses that we have to choose from, so the task then becomes to look to take advantage of the one that will likely give us the most profit.

This will often take us away from the beaten path that is preached. It is wise to question everything though, at least from the perspective of what may be better. A simple example is whether to raise the blinds or not. Most players do so automatically, as a matter of course, but it’s generally a mistake to raise players who will fold to a raise but will play too loosely, paying too much for draws post flop and showing down weak hands where they will pay on all three streets post flop.

So in a case like this, it can even be a big mistake to raise your button. It also can be a mistake anytime we cause an opponent to fold whenever it is more profitable over time to keep them in the hand. By the same token, it’s a mistake to not get them to fold when it would be more profitable to do so, for instance when we’re bluffing.

So to get on the right track here, it’s necessary for us always to look to what we are doing here and keep both hands on the wheel and both of our eyes on the road, which requires not just a passing glance every now and then, but our full attention.

Ken’s Guide To Winning Poker – Index

Starting With A Solid Foundation

Aggression Series

Position Series

Various Poker Strategies

Mistakes Series