Looking for ways to improve your edge

As a poker player, something that I am constantly working on is improving my game. I spend hours a week going over educational material, discussing concepts with my peers, and trying my best to understand game theory and how it can apply to the games that I play. There are tools that I use to assist me in learning poker theory. Studies are useful and can sometimes provide me with a new perspective about the game of poker that I had not thought of before. Other times it just reinforces the knowledge that I have already and makes me more confident at the tables.  

This hand comes from one of my sessions when I first returned to playing live. When this hand took place, the tables still had plexiglass dividers, masks were still mandatory, and games were 8 max. The stakes that I was playing were $1/$3. I was the high jack in seat 8 with $325 and the button was in seat 2, we had been playing 6 handed. The table overall was passive and there was a lot of limping. Often, I found myself picking up pots by just betting. It was starting to get late, and I had started to think about calling it a night when I looked down at pocket Kings!

The under the gun player had folded and I opened the betting by raising it to $10. I honestly did not expect to get any action, but I was hoping to get a caller to make a little money on the hand. The cut off and big blind folded and the button and small blind called, both with about $150. The player on the button was a little new to the table but so far, I had gotten the impression that they were passive and a bit of a call station. Then the player in the small blind, they were extremely loose aggressive and showing up with some crazy hands. We were going to see the flop with three players with a pot of $34.

The flop came and it was Ace of hearts, Four of hearts, and the Five of spades. I did not like that the flop came out with an Ace. Both players that had called me were very loose and capable of calling me with any Ace. I thought about what I could do as I waited to see what the player in the small blind would do. They checked and I paused for a moment. Should I bet my hand? If I do bet, how much should I bet? Is there a reasonable sizing that I could bet that would get at least one of these players to fold? I did not think so. I thought if I made a bet that I would get called by both players and doubted that either one of them would make a play at the pot to let me know where I was in the hand. I decided to check, and the button checked behind me. I was going to see a turn for free.

The turn card was an Eight of hearts. Not really the card that I wanted to see but on the bright side I was blocking the nut flush. Unfortunately, I still did not have a good idea of where I was in the hand and now a hand that was behind me on the flop could easily be ahead of me now. The small blind checked to me as I thought about all this trying to decide what I should do again. I decided to check. This time the button did not check and decided to bet $15. This was an interesting development, could the button have an Ace or just be betting because the small blind and I had checked twice. I decided I would be calling down the button since there was still a chance that I could have the best hand.

This is when things started to get more interesting. The small blind started to reach for some chips and then turned to look directly at the button completely ignoring me and said, “I don’t think you got it”. The small blind raised to $40. What was going on?!? Did both players have a hand and were waiting in the weeds? Were my pocket Kings even any good here? As I sat there processing what was happening, the button started to put chips out to call the raise. The dealer corrected the action letting the button know that I still had to act. Now I had some information that I could use to help me make my decision. Did one of them have a stronger hand than mine? I sat there thinking about the action that I was facing. Could I raise to make one or both fold? The button had led out and then seemed eager to call the raise. Then there was the small blind who had check raised. These players could have a pair, two pairs, sets, or still be drawing to a hand. It just did not make any sense to bet with weaker hands on such a dynamic board. There is a straight on the board but that hand to make the straight made even less sense. The only hand that made sense was a flush but which player had it. The button? No, could the button really be that passive? It was the small blind, why else would they make a raise the way they did. Their body language and raise showed strength. What to do? What to do?

Pocket kings equity graph

Let us see what I can figure out about this hand and if I can learn something. The equity graph is comparing two ranges against my hand. The players involved in this hand each have a capped range. This means that they cannot have hands like pocket Aces, pocket Kings, or pocket Queens because neither of the players involved had raised me pre-flop. Even though I have a strong hand, by the time we get to the turn there is not much that I think these players would be willing to bet with so we can significantly narrow down their ranges. The graph shows that when compared to the reduced ranges that I think would continue in the spot, my hand only has 39% equity. The interesting thing about this is when I compare the ranges in an equity calculator against my hand, I have 50% equity. When compared to a third piece of software that I have, it shows that I have up to 71% equity.

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Equity of hand show when in position (left) and out of position (right)

When I compare my hand to the small blind’s range. I see that in a heads-up scenario, I should be checking back most of the time. When I compare my hand to the button’s range. The only difference is that my hand now has more equity, but I see that in a heads-up scenario, I should still be checking often. While this information may not be accurate because I am not comparing my hand against two ranges at the same time. I think there is a lesson to learn here. How I interpret this is that on an Ace high board with a flush draw when we hold the King of the same suit that we do not mind continuing, but we continue very cautiously. The key here is having the King of the same suit to block the nuts.

How does this compare when we know exactly what our opponents’ hand is? Does this influence our decision at all? One of the easiest things about poker is criticizing a hand after the fact. The reason for this is because you are no longer in the moment under the pressure to decide what to do. Therefore, it is important to review hands after the fact when you can try to look at the entire hand as a whole and find possible alternative decisions that you could have made.

The small blind hand was the Five and Six of hearts. The button had pocket Jacks with a heart. When you put this into an equity calculator you find out that pocket kings are not in good shape. When comparing my hand to the small blind, I only have about 14% equity to win the hand. When the button is added it takes away another out, leaving my hand with only 5 outs to make a better flush. When compared with both the small blind and button, pocket Kings only has about 12% equity to win the hand. When you have this information presented to you, what do you think you would do in this situation?

Heads-up equity (left) vs 3-way equity (right)

Bizzy’s 2021 Gains: $179.81

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click on image to enlarge

6 thoughts on “Looking for ways to improve your edge

  1. Brock Wall says:

    Shove it in his face on the river, or get stacked by the 7h miracle card.
    Call it a night either way afterwards most likely~

  2. Aussie Dan says:

    Always very interesting to hear the thoughts of a poker pro. Glad you are back in the Green for 2021. Hopefully you can get over that +$200 plateau soon- Your Biggest Aussie Fan

  3. 42lugnut says:

    Bizzy this was truly inspiring how you thought about each decision in the hand. I didn’t know that poker players thought this hard about each decision. I usually use my gut when making decisions. Thank you for showing that there is math in the game! I honestly had no idea that these sorts of thoughts were a part of the game. It is good to see that you are up almost $200 this year! Maybe you’ll get to $300 by August. Happy Grinding!

    1. Bizzy says:

      Sometimes a gut check is all you need but remember it doesn’t hurt to take a second to think things through and figure out if it makes sense. Thanks for the support! I think I will blow past $300 in no time at all.

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