I was having a conversation with another poker player the other day when he asked me if I balanced my ranges and how hard I tried to balance my play. While I think being balanced is very important, I do feel that a strong poker player is quite balanced anyway. For example let us say that you are playing Rush poker where you change table line ups all the time. This is an environment where it will be very difficult to take meaningful notes on your opponents and is also an environment where balancing is of less importance.
Whenever you are playing in a poker environment where your opponents are not observing your play closely for whatever reason then balancing is of lesser importance. Remember that you are balancing for a key strategic reason and that is so your opponents cannot exploit your play. However if this is not happening then there is less need to balance and in fact balancing can be harmful in this instance. The key priority is to play the most effective poker strategy whatever that is. For example if you played in a game with a table full of calling stations then you would be making a big mistake balancing your play.
The strategy to beat this game would be simple and straight forward. You simply fold the majority of your range and only play when you have a huge overlay or your opponents poor bet sizing is offering you good pot odds and implied odds. The average pot size is going to be far larger than it normally would be under normal circumstances and so you can afford to lose a lot of tiny pots because the pay-offs in the big pots will be substantial and more than compensate for that.
So just when should you balance and when should you not bother? In my opinion then you need to balance when your opponents are observing your play more closely and have more time to do so. This happens when you play higher stake levels and it is no longer possible for your opponents to play multiple tables or loads of tables. For example a very big winner at say NL50 who was playing ten tables wouldn’t be able to watch you very closely and would be taking broad notes on you but nothing too specific.
However if we changed that to one where the stake levels were NL400 and this was the only active table then the chances are that nearly all of your opponents would not only have a far stronger poker game but would also be watching you very closely. In my view then NL200 cash games is the level where opponents are really dissecting your game although this can change from site to site. When the player pools shrink because of decreasing stake levels then players observe you more. As a rule then there will be fewer games at NL200 than there is at NL100 and the players will be better on average…….hence the need to balance more.
Carl Sampson is an online poker pro and 888poker ambassador