The Tsunami

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How a True Poker Player Evaluates a Line of Play

The key to effectively evaluating a line of play is to ask the following three questions:

Question #1: What’s the entire range of hands that I’m taking this line of play with?

Question #2: What are the alternative lines in this situation?

Question #3: How tough would it be for my opponent to beat me if I were to tell him exactly how I’m playing?

Example: You’re playing in a no-limit hold’em cash game. Everyone at the table has 100bb. You open to 3bb on the button with 88. The small blind folds; the big blind calls; the flop comes Q85 rainbow; your opponent leads 4bb into a 6.5bb pot. You’re thinking of raising to 12bb in an attempt to extract value out of your big hand. The big question: what other hands are you raising to 12bb with in this situation?

If you’re only raising sets, overpairs, and AQ here, then you’re effectively turning AQ into a bluff against an opponent who knows your approximate strategy (unless your opponent is 3-bet bluffing the flop or calling the flop with the intention of bluffing a later betting round at least a certain percentage of the time in order to get you to fold AQ).

Meanwhile, if you’ve introduced naked bluffs into your raising range here, then there becomes a point where AQ has no longer been turned into a bluff (i.e. when your raise-bluff percentage reaches a certain point, you’ve committed your entire stack with AQ).

Instead of raising to 12bb, an alternative line is never to raise the flop and, instead, to flat with sets, Q8, overpairs, top pair, JJ, TT, 99, A8, K8, AK, and AJ with the intention of raising the turn with some percentage of sets, two pair, and AK, and with the intention of calling some percentage of sets and two pair as well as calling with overpairs and top pair.

Determining which line is better (or if there’s an even better line) requires a lot of analysis. Because so many possibilities exist, it’s practically impossible to exhaust all possible lines. Despite this, getting into this mode of thinking is an essential part of playing high quality poker. Furthermore…

Do the authors of the books you’re reading evaluate lines like this? Do the people making the poker videos you’re watching evaluate lines like this? If no, then you should go elsewhere for your poker education.

Does your group of poker playing friends evaluate lines like this when talking strategy? If not, then you should train them to. Doing so will dramatically improve the effectiveness of your discussions.

May Your EV Always Be Positive!

Tony Guerrera


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One Response to “How a True Poker Player Evaluates a Line of Play”

  1. rekawice ochronne says:

    I like the valuable info you provide in your articles. I will bookmark your blog and check again here regularly. I’m quite sure I will learn plenty of new stuff right here! Best of luck for the next!

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