Know Your Villain!
In poker it pays to know who you’re up against.
In this era of GTO study and high stakes crushers endlessly poring over algorithmic solvers, you might be forgiven for forgetting that you should play exploitative poker wherever you possibly can.
Exploitative poker is simply taking advantage of weaknesses or patterns in your opponents’ play which you can adjust to and play back against with certain strategic adjustments.
Any exploit can be re-exploited by your opponent, if they notice the adjustments you are making, and most will not especially at the lower stakes. This is exactly why we should aim to play exploitatively rather than blindly following charts and sizings.
Hence in the toughest games running, the best against the best tend to play quite close to “balanced” solutions for poker strategy, “GTO” or Game Theory Optimal solutions which attempt to protect all ranges being used so as to make them unexploitable by their excellent and perceptive opponents.
It’s worth noting at this point that at the highest stakes of all, exploitative play is still a thing. The exploits are simply better chosen, more disguised, and more carefully selected.
Is it still worth studying GTO for the midstakes? Hell yeah. You just have to know you’ll have good reason to constantly deviate from it. You’ll also need to simplify your strategies to make them more executable in-game.
In the lower stakes, and even in some softer bigger buy-ins, there are just countless opportunities to play exploitative. Let’s look at some of the classic villains you’ll encounter, and some good simple adjustments worth making against them, which lead us quite far from GTO or balanced play.
The Passive Fish
Anyone doing much open-limping preflop would automatically fall into this category. Superficially this beginner’s strategy appears logical - invest the least to see the flop often. However these players haven’t grasped the significance of aggressive play in poker - we can thin the field to the flop, demand our opponents make equity decisions and possibly mistakes, take initiative and take down the flop pre if we raise, but not if we limp.
You want to raise versus these guys with a wide range especially in position, and try to get them heads-up to the flop. This is known as isolation raising. Postflop you can play straightforwardly aggressive versus them, but bear in mind that passives tend to fall into two broad categories: those who want to see a flop but then play “fit or fold” to the flop (meaning they either hit or give up frequently), and those who are just passive postflop too and don’t have much of a fold button.
Versus type A a simple adjustment is to fire every flop small and then evaluate turn (except the wettest boards perhaps), and versus type B the deviation from GTO is very major - we go big for value, thin for value (betting hands which would be marginal for value versus better opponents - even 3rd or 4th pair can be good for value versus very passive players), and we rarely bluff them except in very scary scenarios for their range.
These guys are fewer on the ground than they used to be in poker, but they’re around. They simply play way too tight. The default deviation versus these opponents is to pressure them with a much wider range preflop (BTN vs. Blinds for example), and to also put the pressure on postflop but bearing in mind that their continuing range on each street will be stronger than that of the average player.
This will mean, for example, that we expect our flop bets with air to get through more often but we also expect our third barrels in a triple barrel bluff to probably work a good bit less often as they will have already folded so many mid-strength hands by the river. So in principle we should keep our bluffs active and aggro versus nits but to expect them to get to later streets (and even to flop) relatively strong.
The Mediocre TAG
Players who are basically competent but just uninspired middle-of-the-road regulars will tend to play reasonably well, and fairly tight-aggressive but they will make mistakes such as failing to raise flop with high enough frequencies OOP heads-up to the flop, and overfolding to pressure across multiple streets on certain runouts. This is straying into tougher territory but you will tend to find that they reveal their hand strength is capped on certain board runouts where they merely call down (especially on wetter flops) and you can pile pressure on here, especially with the right blocker combos of your own. These guys will often overfold to second barrels or judiciously chosen triple barrel bluffs.
The Spewy LAG
Not all loose aggressive players are good at poker. In fact, the loose aggressive mode is probably the hardest (and potentially the most profitable) to play in poker. It’s also in vogue. The past few years, you’ve definitely seen an increase in players who don’t have strong fundamentals but nevertheless play loose and aggro. These guys are admittedly more difficult to play against than passives or nits. Variance will be higher against them, but so will value if you muster a good set of adjustments. Of course, one of these is picking spots simply not to open into them, since you know they’re 3betting wide, or alternatively, finding spots to 4bet or 5bet them light. Part of it is also being willing to look them up postflop with a weaker value hand than usual, if you’ve seen them continue their loose aggro tendencies postflop with some consistency.
This is the subject of much of Chris' analysis in our weekly spins grinds, tailoring his plays to specific villain reads. Check out the latest Spins Highlights video for more on knowing your opponent!
How do you play versus these opponents? Can you think of any I’ve missed?
Drop into our brand new Discord to let us know!
Good luck out there, and Season’s Greetings!
by Lucky Luke
Ever feel overwhelmed by choice? The modern online poker player really does suffer from an embarrassment of riches when it comes to game choice in the online scene, and we're here to help you narrow down your options (as well as your opponent's range). In this instalment in the guide series we'll walk you through all of the most popular forms of poker being played today, and indicate which of these are available across multiple types of poker beyond No Limit Hold'em. We'll also dip into some variants within each format, where applicable. Our aim in this piece is to give you the very best start in choosing which formats to settle on for your own grind, so in each case we'll try to give you a thorough sense of the pros and cons of each one for your average grinder. Cash Game Poker Let's start as simple as it comes with cash games. These are the original deal, games where you can sit down and stand up as you wish, there's a minimum and maximum buy-in, blinds are fixed and chips is chips, what you sit down with is what you play with. Typically players will sit with 100bbs, so for a $1/$2 blinds cash game, you'd usually sit with $200. This is the max at many cash game tables. The minimum buy-in for cash tables tends to range from 20-50bbs, and short stackers are often frowned upon as they will often "hit and run” a table by doubling up and then leaving. Deepstack cash game (200bb+) is the most complex form of poker out there, and is available on some sites, as are capped tables where only short-stacks may play. A popular format within cash is zoom, or fast-fold poker, in which players are entered into pools and reseated on a new table with players from that pool as soon as they've folded their hand. This makes for much faster play and many more hands per hour. Zoom tables are often capped at 4 maximum, but grinders of regular speed cash tables have been known to play anywhere between 6-24 cash games at a time. Rake is an important consideration in cash game poker, and rakeback is a big component of regulars' income at the tougher games (rake is also generally higher in the lowest stakes). See our poker sites review page for more info on how we can help secure the best rakeback deals. Six-max is now surely the most popular form of cash game online, although you will also find games running Heads-up (2-handed), 8-handed, and 9-handed. Cash games available online span a huge range of buy-ins, from $0.01/$0.02 games where you would sit with $2 for 100bbs, up to $5/$10 where you'd sit with $1,000 for 100bbs and even higher stakes running at times on certain sites. Cash games are available on certain sites in almost any format including 8-game, but the most popular by far is NLHE, followed by PLO. You can also find various variants, in particular Omaha Hi-Lo and NL 6+ are somewhat popular on certain sites. Another twist you might find on certain apps is a straddle, which is a third blind (twice the size of the big blind), or certain games running with antes of different sizes. This tends to boost the aggression of the action in-game, since there's more to be won in the middle. Cash game play is well-suited to anyone who likes to study the intricacies of postflop poker, who wants to work with a bankroll of around 50 buy-ins, who likes the prospect of putting in hundreds of thousands of hands of play as they progress up the stakes, who wants to play against tougher opponents as they progress and who prefers to play poker in instalments of a few hours at a time. The main benefits of cash game poker are the low variance relative to other formats, the significance of rakeback for your bottom line, and the convenience of the flexible hours it offers. The main downside is that it is relatively tough compared to some other formats, and that some players find it less engaging due to always playing at the same stack depth. Tournament Poker Tournament poker subdivides into several formats, but first a word about the overall grouping. Tournaments are essentially any game into which you enter with a fixed buy-in amount for which you receive chips, and then cannot exchange these chips for real money again until you place in the tournament. The blinds go up in fixed increments at fixed time intervals, forcing players to elimination as stacks become shorter in big blinds. outs usually go to roughly the top 12-18% of finishers, or up to 30% in the case of small sit and go tournaments (SNGs) of 6-9 players. In big field multi-table tournaments (MTTs), the lion's share of the payouts goes to the top three finishers, making for a game format with extremely high variance but potentially life-changing reward. Multi-table Tournaments (MTTs) Because of the huge prize money on offer tournament poker, particularly big field MTTs, have remained one of the softest poker formats in existence online, and will likely be the softest remaining format in the future, aside from new formats which may emerge which no-one yet knows how to play or study. ICM is a model used to estimate the relative value of different stack sizes in terms of their potential to cash for different amounts in the payout structure. Multi-table tournament (MTT) poker is well-suited to anyone who loves the thrill of a deep run and attempting to come out on top despite the long odds, who is interested in studying different ranges needed for different stack depths, is interested in how the payouts affect ranges, who is prepared to play for long sessions of 8-10 hours or more and who is able to stand the psychological pressure of huge variance and big down and up swings. The main benefits of MTT poker are the softness of the games, the interest value of the dynamic nature, with stack depths changing often, and the sheer fun of taking a big title in a headline event. Naturally the big payouts on offer for the top spots are a major draw as well. The main downsides of MTT poker are the crushing swings possible in a format with very high variance, and the sheer time outlay required. MTTs tend to run for NLHE and PLO, but rarely for other formats except during major series. Some MTTs are freezeouts, meaning you cannot re-enter if you bust out. Some are re-entry, and allow either a fixed or unlimited number of re-entries within the late registration period. Others are rebuys, meaning usually that you can buy in for multiple stacks at the start, and at several points during the late registration period, as well as adding on chips at the end of that period, for an additional fee. Now you're well equipped to play almost anything, what will you choose? Let us know over at our PokerDeals Discord ! by Lucky Luke
If you missed the premiere, you've got to catch this awesome podcast we put together with champ and gentleman Greg Raymer . With some serious wins under his belt including shipping the WSOP Main Event back in 2004 for a sweet $5 million first prize , the Fossilman (as Raymer is better known) has crushed the tournament circuit for decades as well as being a very successful cash game player, specialising in Limit Hold'em and HORSE (a mixed game format). In this special extended 100-minute podcast, Raymer talks us through his experience in cash game play, and how he got started in the beautiful game. He also goes into a fascinating account of how he gathers live reads in poker, and how to avoid tilt . Raymer explores some very interesting areas of poker strategy in this podcast, including how to use randomness to improve your game, as well as his views on poker intuition . Of course, we round out the interview as usual with our fun quickfire round of questions, bringing to a conclusion this excellent installment of the PokerDeals Podcast! For those of you who prefer to listen in without video, you can also catch the show on Apple or Spotify at the click of a button! Be sure to hop in our Discord to let us know what you thought of the show, and tune in next time to catch us chatting with poker legend Jeff Gross ! By Lucky Luke
Crack out the popcorn and settle in for this one because this much-anticipated face-off did not disappoint. Unexpectedly, often chill and relaxed podcast host Doug Polk , though obviously enjoying some moments of the pod, found himself on the back foot for others. A pumped-up and caffeinated Bilzerian fired back somewhat coherently with accusations of misrepresentation by Polk . To be fair, Blitz ap peared to have a point , as it emerged Polk had clipped quotes of him to essentially state the opposite of what Bilzerian had said about his own sources of funds in poker. This, Blitz maintained, went beyond Polk 's pretty arguably weak defense of it having been " a joke ”. No stranger to controversy, many might view Bilzerian's social media offenses as far more egregious (his own favourite word in this podcast!). He has a history of outspoken misogyny , having referred to Vanessa Kade as a " hoe ” in response to her own innocuous Tweet, and being outspokenly sexist in multiple other high-profile interactions online on the daily. Whether this behaviour could possibly be defended as being merely an " online persona ” or not was another facet to a fascinating debate between these two larger-than-life characters. Hate to love or love to hate him, Blitz did argue his corner pretty well at times in debate with Polk , and at other times merely bewildered him with his bizarre attitudes, for one reason or the other leaving the usually cheery host a little lost for words at times. On the money front, who will ever know for sure, but Bilzerian's claim that he had action in some top players in extremely soft private games over the years, as well as his acknowledgement that his wealthy background, whilst not propping up his bankroll directly did help to get him in some amazing High Stakes games by dint of reputation , combine to go some way to explaining his explosive claim that he is up over $70 million from poker. This nosebleed-stakes live cash account is more believable than his claim to have been one of the best players online in his day (2005 upwards), but Bilzerian did invite Polk to check his online results, so perhaps we'll see a follow-up on this one. Other highlights include Bilzerian's claim that he once wagered $3.5 million by flipping a quarter . Come tell us what you made of it all in the PokerDeals Discord , where you can get the best on poker news, deals and entertainment every day. by Lucky Luke Original image from Doug Polk's podcast
Pokerstars Deposit Bonus
- OFFER -
Partypoker First Deposit Bonus
- OFFER -
Red Star Deposit Bonus!
- OFFER -
Bwin Deposit Bonus
- OFFER -
Subscribe to Pokerdeals.comPoker Deals
Join the PokerDeals community and take advantage of exclusive content and giveaways!