How good are you at thinking about poker

Without meaning this to sound in any way disrespectful, it is just a process that all players go through and me included. There are three types of poker thinkers in online poker. These are novice poker thinkers, average poker thinkers and advanced poker thinkers. We can see these three strata’s of thinking when we consider certain types of hands and how each thinker plays in each. Let us take a hand like K-7o on the button. It is folded around to a poor poker thinker and they limp in because they simply want to play their hand.

A more advanced beginner may have done some research on hand values and folded it but whatever the reason there will be very little thinking process behind it. An average poker thinker would take different (or the same) actions. They would fully understand the weakness of K-7o and would more than likely fold for that reason. However a more advanced average thinker would determine that the K-7o was ahead of random hands in the blinds and raise to capture the “dead money” that is in those blinds.

The advanced poker thinker on the other hand understands about equity. They know that the equity of a hand like K-7o is quite low. They also understand how pre-flop play links with post flop play and select only the best suitable hands in which to play. If an advanced thinker does raise with the K-7o then it is because they have identified that the blinds are very tight. So a large part of their strategy is pre-flop aggression. If the blinds are folding 80% of their range then eight out of every ten blind steals will win the pot.

This is 12bb but if the raise was to 3.5bb then only 7bb is lost back when their opponent calls or re-raises. Even then our hero will flop a big hand some of the time and so the entire 7bb will not be lost back. There is not much wrong with having aggressive stabs at the blinds with low equity holdings if you are prepared to give up rapidly. This may seem weak but against very tight blinds then there can be profit pre-flop. Let us look at another example here from a NL50 full ring cash game. It is folded around to a player in middle position who raises to 3.5bb with a 100bb stack.

We have the As-3s on the button with a 100bb stack also and a poor poker thinker simply makes the call because he has an ace and his hand is suited. Apart from this then they have no further consideration. An average poker thinker understands that his ace is dominated and folds and looks for greener pastures. He figures that a large part of his opponents range will include an ace and he does not want to give reverse implied odds. However an advanced thinker makes the same play as the novice and calls but for more sophisticated reasons.

They understand how them merely holding an ace reduces their opponents combinations that involve aces massively. Even if the raiser came from early position and only had a 5% range then the A-3s stacks up well against many hands in that range. The raiser will have AA-99, AJs+, AQo+ but the number of ace combinations are halved as a result of us having an ace and so A-A is far less likely. If we flop an ace then we overtake KK-99 pairs as long as they don’t make their set.

If we flop two pair then we could stack hands like A-K on boards like A-9-3 or at least win more than one street of value. If we make a flush then we can stack premium pairs and we can even make the wheel straight as well. However our opponent has hands like AJs+ and AQ+ in their range also! While we may have to pay off against these hands when an ace flops for perhaps one or two streets of value, we win pots by playing aggressively when they miss.

This means calling on small boards that have missed all of our non-pair hands. On a board like 9-5-4 then we have the ace overcard and the gutshot draw and so a flop raise would blow off all their non-pair high card hands. All this is even assuming that the raiser came from early position which in this instance they didn’t. So their range was even wider than 5% from middle position and so we can call more profitably.

These are part of the thinking processes of an advanced poker thinker. The difference between an advanced poker thinker and a lesser thinker is that an advanced thinker is looking to win the pot in several different ways and plans for that from the very outset of the hand.

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