At some point in every poker player’s career, there will be a point where you need to throw common sense out the window and really trust your gut. That’s especially hard in today’s online poker games, where ranges and game theory math have really driven the direction of poker.

Online poker players don’t have the advantage of being able to look your opponent in the eye and “soul read” what their hand is. We have to construct hand ranges, and weight the strength of our hand and perceived hand, versus our opponent’s hand range. And when it makes mathematical sense to do so based on that range, we’re getting the money in. Sometimes our opponent will be at the top of their range, and we’ll be behind, sometimes they’ll be at the bottom, and we’ll be far ahead. Over time, if we’re assigning ranges correctly, and understanding our equity in these spots, we’ll come out ahead. Well, there are some times you’re going to have to throw that shit out the window and really listen to your gut.

I played such a hand just a couple of days ago, and it brought up a lot of important points I think are invaluable to share with you guys. It’s a spot where I narrowed my opponent’s hand to only ONE hand and folded a top set of Aces. The great thing about this hand isn’t whether I made a good fold or not, even though I think I made a great fucking fold :). But what it takes to get yourself in a place to make that read and trust what you’re seeing. I’ll show you exactly what I mean from a $200nl 5 handed NL Holdem game played on bovada poker the other day.

iPoker – $2 NL (6 max) – Holdem – 5 players
Hand converted by PokerTracker 4

SB: 162.2 BB (VPIP: 25.88, PFR: 18.82, 3Bet Preflop: 0.00, Hands: 87)
BB: 113.63 BB (VPIP: 29.51, PFR: 22.95, 3Bet Preflop: 8.00, Hands: 63)
Hero (UTG): 160.91 BB
CO: 104.05 BB (VPIP: 0.00, PFR: 0.00, 3Bet Preflop: 0.00, Hands: 4)
BTN: 77.69 BB (VPIP: 58.06, PFR: 13.98, 3Bet Preflop: 0.00, Hands: 96)

SB posts SB 0.5 BB, BB posts BB 1 BB

Pre Flop: (pot: 1.5 BB) Hero has A A

Hero raises to 3.5 BB, fold, BTN calls 3.5 BB, fold, fold

Flop: (8.5 BB, 2 players) A K Q
Hero bets 6.25 BB, BTN calls 6.25 BB

My opponent is a fish, as you can see by his stats. He was playing 58% of his hands, no 3-bets, and was extremely passive w/ 22% Agg%. That basically means he made a continuation bet every so often, but nothing more than that. On top of that, only playing 4 tables of cash games (because that’s bovada poker’s max tables you can have open), I could make some good reads. One of my reads was that this opponent didn’t raise w/ 2 pair twice. Two times he had 2 pair and didn’t raise when he should. He also missed value on a hand that he should have easily got more value by another bet or raise. I didn’t have the specifics of that, but I had a MOV note – which is a quick note abbreviation I add in my games.

So important points in beginning to construct my read: My opponent plays too many hands, and he’s super super passive. He didn’t raise w/ 2 pair when he could have.

On the flop, I make a standard continuation bet w/ top set. There’s zero reason to check to a passive opponent, and either he’s calling here on the flop or nothing else is happening in the hand. My opponent calls.

Turn: (21 BB, 2 players) 6
Hero bets 15 BB, BTN raises to 30 BB, Hero calls 15 BB

Now here’s the moment of truth where the reads need to be applied, or I need to justify the fact that my opponent can still have X range in this spot and I should just get it in. My super passive opponent min raises. Not only is that totally out of character for him, but there’s really not a lot of second-best hands he’ll have here. He’s playing so many hands. It’s unlikely he has KK/QQ, even though he hasn’t 3-bet because he’s playing so many hands. It’s much more likely he has something else. AQ/KQ could make sense. But it’s still going to be a small part of his pre-flop range and the fact he never raised w/ 2 pair before, why would he do it now. Also for AQ/AK I obviously have a lot of blockers.

So is he now suddenly min-raising KQ? I really didn’t think so, and that’s when I put him on likely only one hand – TJ. It’s the only thing that makes sense considering the info I do have. But if I’m wrong about that, I’m making a pretty big mistake and throwing away a big hand. So big in fact, that if I add even one other hand to his range other than TJ, I should be shoving here. Take a look:

Ace Poker Drills – Poker Equity Calculator
Board: As Kh Qc 6c

Equity            Win               Tie               Hand Range
46.2451%          46.2451%          0%                [ AcAh ]
53.7549%          53.7549%          0%                [ JTs(100), JTo(100), KQo(100) ]

Just one hand of KQ, not even KQs, and this would be a huge mistake to fold. Let alone a range we’d normally be putting in against most opponents here. This is what I’d typically assign to someone w/ even decent aggression:

Ace Poker Drills – Poker Equity Calculator
Board: As Kh Qc 6c

Equity            Win               Tie               Hand Range
62.6623%          62.6623%          0%                [ AcAh ]
37.3377%          37.3377%          0%                [ JTs(100), JTo(100), KQo(100), AQs+(100), AQo+(100), KQs(100),QQ(75) ]

I think that’s typically a reasonable range to assign to someone. So it’s clear, I really need to right on about my read. Versus TJ, I’m only 22% to boat up by the river. So I call, heavily contemplating what I’m going to do on a blank river, leaning mostly towards a c/f, which is normally ridiculously bad to do versus a fish who might check behind a lot of worse hands.
River: (81 BB, 2 players) T
Hero checks, BTN bets 37.94 BB and is all-in, fold

So the river doesn’t brick and it brings a 4th card to a straight. Now I feel at ease c/fing. If my opponent gets it in here, then I know I was correct the whole time. He shoves, I want to make a crying call, but I fold. Here’s another great side point about this hand. I told him I had AA and folded. He’s a fish, I don’t care what info I give him. I could almost feel him get mad through my monitor, as he said – “Well I had AK and knew you were bluffing.” And that’s when I knew I made a really great read and folded. If he’s telling me a hand that doesn’t make sense but was worse than what I told him, I made a good fold. In my experience, poker players will always lie if they fold and don’t show and tell you some hand that you would have beat. That’s a lie about 99.78% of the time, statistically speaking. 🙂

BTN wins 79 BB

BTN shows T J (Straight, Ace High)
(Pre 0%, Flop 0%, Turn 0%)

Hero mucks A A (Three of a Kind, Aces)
(Pre 0%, Flop 0%, Turn 0%)

And the great thing about Bovada poker is I get to actually see his hand 24 hours later. Since I use my handy dandy bovada hand converter, I get to replay the hand and pat myself on the back for using the information I had at hand and making a great fold.

The moral of this story though is learn to trust your gut, based on the info you have. If you really silence yourself as best you can, and try and listen to your body and learn what that feels like in your body, you’ll be able to combine the use of subconscious information at a feeling state, and reason/math to work through tough poker situations. It’s that balance of the two that will make you the best player that you can be. Learning to understand how your body and “gut” react to information in the moment is a science. It’s not as intelligible and easy to understand as math, but it is an important part of your experience I’d urge you not to ignore.


================================ BOVADA POKER PRODUCTS ===========================

If you play on bovada/bodog, there are options so you can either run a HUD or track your stats.

Bovada poker HUD catcher – Neither Holdem Manager nor Poker Tracker supports HUDs for Bovada poker rooms. Without a HUD it can be difficult to track passive or tricky players effectively and maximize your EV per hand. The Bovada Card Catcher solves this problem and allows you to run a customizable HUD with your Holdem Manager or Poker Tracker database. Now you’ll be able to review your hands, stats, track your progress, and run your favorite HUD setup with any stats you want.

Bovada hand converter – Neither Holdem Manager nor Poker Tracker supports the importing of Bovada poker hand histories into their databases. Without this information, you’ll never be able to review your hands, stats, or track your progress. The Bovada Poker Hand History converter solves this problem by converting hand histories directly from Bovada or Bodog into an easily importable format for use with your Holdem Manager 1/2, Poker Tracker 3/4, or Poker Office database.



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