Everyone is going to go through a bad run at poker. It’s just an inevitable truth. How you curb and shorten those bad runs depends on how good you are at picking up those small pots. You know, those orphan ones that most people don’t fight for, and those smallish pots that are easy to steal, if you look for them.
I bring this up because I watch student after student miss so many of these opportunities, and then when they start running really bad, blame it purely on the cards. Yes, your opponents are hitting some 1 and 2 outers, and that sucks. That’s just part of poker. But most people have a bigger role in shortening that variance with what I like to call “in-between play” if they stay aware and capitalize on the right spots. I’ll bet you’re missing you’re fair share, and I want to demonstrate a couple of common spots from a session I just played last night at 200NL mostly 6-max cash games.
Below is my actual session. In my session, I ended up losing $110 in a 1.5-hour session. All of that loss was from hands where I got it in as a dominate favorite and lost, like KK 110bbs deep all-in pre-flop vs AKs, and losing to a straight. That’s a $440 swing. But I was able to mitigate my losses in this session by just picking up a few small spots I notice most micro/small stakes players miss.
Now, I’m not trying to outplay my opponents every single hand when I’m multi-tabling online. There’s nothing wrong w/ doing that, but it’s very hard to sustain across multiple tables. I do try to find a good balance and pick just a couple of prime spots a session for stealing smallish pots and really small pots I always attack. Doing that within a good balance consistently keeps most of my sessions to winning sessions, or my losses pretty minimal. So here are some hands from last night’s session so you can see some of the spots I pick:
==== Blind Limps ====
NL Holdem $2(BB)
Dealt to Hero 3♣ 6♠
HJ Folds, CO Folds, BTN Folds, SB Calls $(2), HERO Checks
Well, you almost never get blind limps in these games anymore, and if it did happen, I’m usually raising 90%+ of my hands, but I decide to check. Opponent was 35/15, so a little fishy.
Flop ($4) 5♥ 6♥ 9♣
SB Bets $6, HERO Calls $6
I get an overbet here which is usually a weak hand trying to protect itself or bluff. It’s not a hand I’d tend to call with on a flop like this, but I have position and there’s a lot of outs I can rep here to steal it later.
Turn ($16) 5♥ 6♥ 9♣ K♥
SB Bets $10, HERO Calls $10
And here comes one of those cards now. Kh, perfect scare card, I’m obviously calling to turn my hand into a bluff. I expect that if my opponent had a heart draw, he’s probably not over betting the flop, so I’m pretty confident I can push him off his hand whether he checks or bets the river. But I’m hoping for a check of course.
River ($36) 5♥ 6♥ 9♣ K♥ J♣
SB Checks, HERO Bets $34, SB Folds
And there we have it, a check. Now I need to bet enough to get 9x and strong 6x, and any spiked Jx to fold. I can probably only get Kx to fold to an over bet, but I don’t think he’ll check Kx often enough on the river if he’s betting the turn w/ it. You’ll usually get 1/2 pot type bet/fold lines from a Kx hand against someone who likely isn’t a reg in these games. Even so, there’s a larger range of hands that I can get to fold for cheaper rather than trying to cover the entire range of hands and risk more. It’s just not needed here.
This is just one of those spots that should start to become obvious and will help take chunks out of that beat you take when you’re a dominate favorite. Here’s another blind battle spot
Blind Battle 2 ====================
NL Holdem $2(BB)
Dealt to Hero 8♦ J♣
CO Folds, BTN Folds, SB Raises To $(6), HERO Calls $(6)
Pretty standard. I defend against a regular opening in the SB.
Flop ($12) 2♥ 5♠ 8♠
SB Checks, HERO Checks
I decided to try and extract value on the turn and river as I’d expect him to bet most draws and air, and c/c with middle, bottom, and a lot of Ax hands. If the turn is checked and any kind of blank, I’m betting big.
Turn ($12) 2♥ 5♠ 8♠ 3♦
SB Checks, HERO Bets $11, SB Calls $11
Yeah… blank turn, now execute plan. I bet almost pot, wtf could I possibly be betting here? I plan to make another large river bet to induce some hero calls.
River ($34) 2♥ 5♠ 8♠ 3♦ K♠
SB Checks, HERO Bets $21, SB Calls $21
Not the perfect card, I’d rather rep a busted draw that checked the flop (but I can also rep trying to bluff the king). So I size down my bet a bit to get value from 2x, 5x, smaller pairs like 77/66/44 and AQ/AJ hero calls.
Villain hero called with AQ and lost.
=== Blind Defense ===
Nothing super special about this hand other than I attack from the get-go in small pots where I have good backdoor equity and my opponent won’t have a big hand often enough.
NL Holdem $2(BB)
Dealt to Hero T♦ K♣
UTG Folds, HJ Folds, CO Folds, BTN Raises To $(5), SB Folds, HERO Calls $(5)
I defend my blind w/ a reasonable hand, but not a great one.
Flop ($11) 9♠ 3♣ 7♣
HERO Bets $10, BTN Calls $10
I lead out on a lot of BB defense flops when I have good back door equity and it’s reasonable that I wouldn’t check a 9, 7, or a big draw in this spot. I want to just pick it up right there, but I’m called.
Turn ($31) 9♠ 3♣ 7♣ Q♥
HERO Checks, BTN Checks
Now I pick up a gutshot and it’s a card that doesn’t hit my opponent’s range. I expect it to go check/check a lot, but if it doesn’t I’m calling to either rep a 9 or spike a straight or flush card and bomb the river.
River ($31) 9♠ 3♣ 7♣ Q♥ 6♠
HERO Bets $22, BTN Folds
I hit one of my straight cards, but again I have to bet enough to push 9x and 7x off w/o looking overly suspicious w/ my bet sizing. So 70% is usually ideal. My opponent also has some busted draws in his range, so I have to hope he’s not aggressive enough to re-bluff of course.
A long with an orphan pot that no one liked and I bet and won, 3-4 hands like these in a 1.5-hour session add up. The key IMHO is that you’re not trying to outplay everyone 100% of the time. Just pick the most ideal spots. There’s nothing wrong with trying to outplay your opponents every single hand, but in long multi-tabling sessions, it can and will get mentally draining for most people. Just stay focused on a look for those smallish pots that people won’t want to fight for. Good luck!
Read Part 2 of this article HERE.
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