The Tsunami

Strategize. Optimize. Pulverize.


Exploiting Players Who Don’t Play Pot-Proportional No-Limit Hold’em

Last week, I hit the Aria poker room with some friends of mine for some no-limit hold’em (NLHE) action. At some point, I took a break with my friend Dan to get some food. After eating, we decided that we wanted to hit up the Fun Dungeon at Excalibur. My friend, Craig, was still playing, and we waited for him to finish his orbit before leaving.

I watched Craig’s last few hands, and one really noteworthy hand occurred. Pardon me if I don’t recall all the specifics, but there’s a huge point to be made here even without all the specifics. The table was a $2-$5 NLHE table. Preflop, there was a raise to $25 and five callers (I know – if you’ve been playing almost exclusively online, a 6-way raised pot in even a $0.01-$0.02 NLHE game is almost unheard of). The flop is monotone QXY. I don’t remember X and Y, but the flop was something like Qd8d3d. Action checks to somebody in middle position who bets $70 into the $146 pot ($150 preflop minus 10% rake capped at $4). I have no good recollection of what happened after – except for one thing. At the conclusion of the hand, a lady with maybe about $300-$400 in front of her commented that she had check-folded A(non-diamond)Q on the flop to the single $70 bet (after flatting AQ from the blinds preflop), saying that $70 was a lot of money to pay with top-pair-top-kicker (TPTK) in a 6-way pot with a monotone flop.

Is A(non-diamond)Q vulnerable here? Of course! However, winning poker isn’t about getting money in as a sure thing. Winning poker is about getting involved in situations where you’re getting a good price. Given this player’s stack relative to the pot, flatting the flop with the intention of shoving a non-diamond on the turn is an extremely attractive option. One of the only ways the remaining $300-$400 shouldn’t get in is if, after flatting, there’s a raise and a caller.

Players who think in terms of absolute dollar amounts – rather than in terms of amount relative to the pot – pass up on profitable situations repeatedly. But that’s not the only reason they’re profitable to play against. These players potentially do any number of the following:

- Fold to “large” bets that they’re actually getting a good price to call

- Call “small” bets that they’re actually not getting a good price to call

- Make small bets that give you a better price to call than you’d normally get

- Make large bets with hands that are better off playing in smaller pots

Suppose you’re playing in a $2-$5 NLHE game against a player who considers $50 to be a “big bet.” You raise to $20 preflop and get called by this player (pot about $40). You bet $25 on the flop and get called, making the pot about $90. Where you might normally fire $60 or $65 at the turn, you’re now in a position where you can fire a second barrel for only $50. Of course, this means that you might possibly get less value from your made hands. However, against players who think simply in terms of absolute dollar amounts, your edge isn’t always going to come from going to value town. Against some players (like Ms. AQ), your edge is going to come from getting better prices on your bluffs and by being allowed to draw to hands that you normally aren’t allowed to draw to.

Having knowledge of how to exploit such a player is different from having knowledge that you’re facing such a player. To identify a player who thinks in terms of absolute dollar amounts, look for information from table-talk and your opponents’ bet sizing. When it comes to table talk, look particularly at how players comment about your bets into small pots. For example, when I play live $1-$3 NLHE, I often get comments when I bet $3 or $4 into a heads-up unraised pot on the flop. When it comes to opponent bet sizing, identify players who routinely make round-looking bets that are either underbets or overbets

May Your EV Always be Positive!

The Tsunami

P.S. For those with your minds in the gutter, the Fun Dungeon at Excalibur isn’t an S&M palace on the Strip – it’s an arcade that happens to have a bunch of Dynamo air hockey tables (my friends and I are big air hockey fans).


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