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Welcome to my new series Dissecting The Lab where I’ll be looking at specific videos from the Upswing Poker Lab and highlighting some of their interesting moments.
Today we kick things off with the first half of Ryan Fee’s 2-part live action series of 100 & 200 NL “Zone Poker” (aka zoom-poker, aka speed-poker, aka poker-crack) on the Ignition network.
In these videos Ryan 2-tables 6-max cash games, with much of the action at 200nl played in HU and short handed situations.
1. Stay Aware of Your Range
Included with the Poker Lab membership is a comprehensive set of hand charts for cash-games, MTTs and live poker.
Although these charts are intended primarily for preflop play, in the first part of his Zone Poker series, Fees inadvertently displays a valuable additional use for them when he reviews one on the flop as he attempts to decide how to continue in a 3bet pot.
Rather than automatically c-betting as many players do in this situation, Ryan returns to the chart outlining his 3-betting range and considers it in its entirety in relation to that specific flop texture.
Essentially, Ryan transforms his range chart from this:
By reviewing his preflop range on the flop in this way, Fees is practicing a variation of congruent ranging, a strategy that ensures he considers his range in a linear fashion.
In other words, he only takes actions that make sense for his range from start to finish.
One of the key weaknesses that most recreational players have is that they take actions at certain points of the hand that are not congruent with the story they began telling on earlier streets. For example:
$200 Live Poker Tournament, Blinds 500/1,000. 45k Chip Effective Stacks
We are in the Cutoff and raise to 2,200 with
The Big Blind, a recreational player, 3-bets to 6,200. We call.
The Flop is
Big Blind checks, We decide to check back
The Turn is the
Big Blind checks again, We bet 6,500 and the Big Blind calls
The River is the
Big Blind checks, We bet 10,000 and the Big Blind jams all in for 32,000
Our opponent is trying to represent a rivered straight or a slow played full house.
Would our opponent 3-bet a hand with a 5 in it and then not c-bet the flop with an open ended straight draw? It doesn’t seem likely.
Would they slow play a set on such a coordinated flop? Probably not.
Would they even 3-bet middle pocket pairs like 66, 77 and 44? Almost certainly not.
In this situation, our opponent’s previous action all but eliminates those hands from their range. We can comfortably call with our trips and expect him to turn over a spazzy bluff most of the time.
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Reviewing the entire collection of hands contained within our “story” throughout each hand ensures we can quickly envision the most logical and congruent way to proceed in each specific situation and prevents our opponent from reaching the point of asking themselves “wtf is he repping?”, which takes us to the second valuable concept from this video…
2. What is my opponent representing?
Recreational players (and weak regs) often play hands in an in-congruent manner that fails to take into consideration their entire range and thus leads them into situations that make it difficult to represent any sort of top-tier hand-strength, as demonstrated by Ryan in the following hand:
Playing HU against a weak recreational player at 200nl, Ryan elects to check his option in the big-blind with 26o following the rec’s limp (which is the only time you should play a limped pot.)
With the flop bringing about as bad of a board as Ryan could hope for, he checks with the intention of folding. Fortunately, his opponent checks back, giving him a free turn.
The turn gives Ryan a gutshot. His hand has no showdown value and his opponent has now shown passivity on two streets. For these reasons, Fees decides to probe $3, approximately 80% pot.
Suddenly, his opponent springs to life and elects to click it back to $6, representing a stronger holding.
It is important to try to deduce the possible value-hands our opponent could be holding by reviewing the previous action. We can begin doing so by asking ourselves:
“What value-hands does our opponent limp and check-back on this flop?”
As far as strong value:
- Turned sets with
- Turned two pairs with hands like
Would any of those really just minraise on such a wet board? Seems pretty unlikely, doesn’t it? Therefore, holding this zero-showdown-equity hand and a lack of a good answer to the “WTF is he repping?” question, Ryan elects to include this hand in his turn bluffing range and comes back over the top.
The results? A quick fold from our in-congruent opponent and a self-congratulatory easy-game pat on the back.
So the next time you’re thinking about making a move against a thinking opponent, make sure you’re not only considering their range, but also don’t put yourself in an impossible wtf is he repping spot.
3. Shifting hand values
Continuing with a much simpler but no less important concept, Fees makes it a point to stress that just because you check down a board does not mean you can’t value bet it on the river.
In this particular hand, Fees raises 55 HU on the Button and, after checking-back the flop and turn, decides to bet the river for value.
As he explains it, although our hand is a clear Category 2 hand (see below) on the first two streets, by the river the hand has been transformed into a Category 1 hand and is primed for a thin value-bet.
From the UpswingPoker PostFlop Engine:
Category 2 (Our middle pair and middle strength hands):
These hands are not strong enough to bet with, yet.
- On the current street (oftentimes the flop), many middle pairs or even weak top pair hands just don’t make sense as a bet.
- The idea here is to just make it to the next street as cheaply as possible, then reevaluate your situation.
- In some situations, if your opponent checks back or checks to you on the next street your hand will now be good enough to be re-categorized as a Category 1 value bet.
Even though the absolute value of the hand has not changed, by function of being checked-down to the river by both players, the relative value of the hand has in fact increased substantially.
Let’s consider the types of hands in our opponent’s preflop range that have us beat on the river.
- Higher pocket pairs, such as , likely bet river
- Turned top pairs, like , probably bet turn.
- Flopped top pairs, such as , will often bet turn, if not river.
- Flopped middle pairs, like , often bets river.
We’d expect our opponent to probe either the turn or river with most hands that beat us. They may occasionally check down with a weak 6x hand, but that will be on the rare side.
On the river, we find ourselves in a situation where we hold a relatively “weak” hand that is actually ahead of our opponent’s range and, thus, should not miss the opportunity to value bet in the hopes of getting called by a 4x hand or even Ace-high.
Spots like these are where poker professionals add a significant number of bbs/100 compared to their recreational counterparts and is an important concept for aspiring professionals to internalize and utilize.
The Qui Nguyen Principle
And finally, comes a timely concept that recent WSOP Main Event runner up Gordon Vayo would have been wise to heed in this crazy hand from the HU portion of the 2016 Main Event.
After catching his opponent bluffing a couple of times with hands he likely shouldn’t be bluffing, Fees takes a moment to remind us all of the (should be) obvious:
“When you’ve got a live one don’t let him off the hook by making big folds.”
You hear that Gordon? DO YOU HEAR THAT?
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