It is a winning poker players job to maximize their hourly win rate. There are many ways to do this, by playing at a set time to maintaining your A-game in soft games.
There are also a number of tactics and strategic concepts that winning players need to implement during their sessions in order to beat the game. In this post I cover 3 advanced concepts that winning players should consider when playing in games full of fishy players.
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One of the best ways to generate more profit in poker is to determine the calling elasticity of your opponents. Calling elasticity is the likelihood in a given poker hand that your opponent will call a large bet vs. a small bet. Let’s look at an example to help explain this concept.
Let’s say you are in a hand versus a very bad player who can’t seem to fold a hand. You know going into a hand with this player that he has a very elastic calling range versus raises. Let’s say you raise with AK and this weak opponent calls. The flop comes A 5 9 rainbow. A great flop for our hand. How much should we bet? The standard play is around 60% of pot but since we know this player is very elastic then we can make a bigger bet, say to 80 or 90% of pot. If he has a piece of it and will call anyway, why not make more money off of him?
The concept of calling elasticity is very powerful for a thinking player since it will make all the difference in the value you make from your very strong hands, especially when your opponent perceives his hand as very strong but in reality is behind your hand.
The next time you are in a hand versus a bad player and you have the nuts or close to it, and you think your opponent may have a very strong hand, over bet the pot or shove all-in and see your profit grow exponentially.
I touch on the concept of calling elasticity in the hand analysis video below:
Adapting to the weaknesses of the fish
Another important concept that winning poker players need to understand is that every now and then they will find themselves in a game full of fish which don’t behave like standard poker players. This is usually a dream situation but there are certain dynamics which can turn it into a nightmare situation for a winning player.
They might be fishy but they have money and like to gamble
Some fishy games are filled with players that are willing to invest far more money in the game than is advisable. These players can force the action and put even the most seasoned professional to the knife over and over again. If these games aren’t capped to some extent they can get completely out of control. It might sound like a dream to have such a game but the variance is so insane that it can be difficult to beat unless you are rolled correctly for the game, and make the necessary adjustments to the out of control tilt and pressure being applied by these crazy players.
They don’t like to fold
Most high rolled fish come to games to play and enjoy themselves. Part of this enjoyment is catching that 3 outer and stacking the pro. The tricky part is that these players will chase these spots all night long and even though they have a mathematical disadvantage in doing so, they will hit and hit often enough (depending on the dynamics of the game and how loose they really are) that you will have a swingy and emotional session.
The correct way to play against this style is to bet and bet and bet. If you are observant then you will be able to pick up some tells which will help you throw away that top pair top kicker when they turn their two pair but expect to take a few bad beats in the session when playing against these types of players. I also advise over betting more often against such players in order to price them out of their draws and to get maximum value with your strong hands. You should be 4-betting and getting it all in more often with decent pairs (10 10+).
You will also need to adjust your c-betting range against such players since they will call so wide on flops that it becomes a major leak to c-bet when you have little to no equity in the hand.
One last adjustment that you should make if you are in such games is to bet lighter for value. For example, on a board of A J 9 4 2 you should be betting a minimum of 2 streets with hands like KK, QQ, big jacks and any ace, since these weaker players struggle to fold.
Playing with an edge
If you are a winning poker player who has managed to make good money from poker than well done, you are part of the minority. It is important that you realize that the reason for getting to this point is thanks to the fact that you have a skill advantage over your opponents which you have been able to leverage during thousands of hands. Too often winning players (I’m also guilty of this) end up making plays and/or implement a strategy which reduces their statistical edge significantly.
Let’s look at an example. Let’s say you are dealt pocket 9s in a full-ring cash game and you are in the big blind. Say the action is folded to the cut off who shoves all in for 50 big blinds. The small blind thinks about it and re-shoves for 150 big blinds.
You are invested 1 big blind and have to put 150 big blinds into a pot of 200 big blinds. This means that to make this call and break even you need to have 43% equity. Let’s look at some possible situations.
Situation #1 – Pocket 9s vs. two under pairs
In this situation you have a whopping 66% equity, much higher than the 43% we need. So far so good but let’s look at a few other possible situations.
Situation #2 – Pocket 9s vs. one overpair and 2 live cards
Another possible scenario is to be up against an overpair and 2 live cards. Our equity now falls significantly to only 18%, less than half of what we need to break even.
Other common scenarios you will find yourself up against in such a spot:
- Pocket 9s vs. 4 live overcards = 31% equity
- Pocket 9s vs. one under pair and 2 live cards = 42% equity
- Pocket 9s vs 5 outs (AK and A6 for example) = 55% equity
- Pocket 9s vs 2 overcards and suited connector = 42% equity
We can continue to look at a dozen more possible combos of hands but you will find when you calculate two shoving ranges versus a hand like 99 you will be more or less breaking even.
In this specific scenario there are a number of factors which I didn’t cover like the looseness of the player who is shoving 150 big blinds. If this player is very loose and a losing player than I would make the call since I expect to be crushing his range in the long-run. If the short stack is shoving any two since he wants to gamble it up then I can expect the bigger stack to be shoving wider than usual, this will also affect my likelihood to call.
The main point I want to get across is to avoid taking gambles where you will be around the breakeven mark because you are diminishing your edge. By taking such gambles, especially in games where you aren’t correctly rolled, you will be increasing your variance and preventing yourself from maximizing your winnings in the long-run. One of the best things about cash game poker is that you can always fold your hand and wait for a better spot.
Another important reason why you want to avoid such spots is because when you lose them (and you will around half the time) your stack is now diminished which will result in you making less money when you do flop that set vs. top two, or cooler someone with AA vs. KK.