‘Exploiting Aggression’ | ‘The Course’ Skill #8 | Podcast #33

Exploiting aggression is super important in today’s poker games.  You can take advantage of many predictable betting spots your opponents put themselves in.

In case you missed it, in episode #32 I showed you how to control your emotions at the tables through skill #7 in Ed Miller’s book ‘The Course.’

‘Exploiting Aggression’ | Podcast #33

Podcast Mission

My mission for today is to teach you how to recognize when your opponent is making predictable and exploitable aggressive plays and give you some ways to take advantage of this.

7 Step Process for getting the most from Skill #8: ‘Exploiting Aggression’

Skim

  • Title: Skill #8. Exploiting Aggression.  Some great stuff here. We’re always playing against aggressive opponents, and learning how to spot and exploit this will really improve our game
  • 13 pages long – Great stuff and he recommends reading another of his books, “Poker’s 1%.”
  •  Headers:
    • Bloated Betting Frequencies
    • The Give Up
    • The Last-Ditch Effort
    • The Bully

Set a Goal

Now that we have a basic understanding of the chapter, we want to read productively and effectively.  To do this, I’ve devised 3 questions, and finding the answers to these is our goal while reading.

  • What skills can I learn from this chapter? We’ll learn how we can practice exploiting aggression.
  • Why are these skills important or relevant to my game? We’re constantly facing aggression or using aggression in our games, and learning more of the nuances behind aggression will help us in both regards.
  • How can I implement these skills in my game? Let’s read and find out how exploiting aggression will help us at the tables.

Read

One thing that Ed Miller said that I’d like to focus on for the rest of this episode is:

  • Certain bets you can easily predict. He’s betting the flop because he raised pre-flop.  He’s betting the button because everyone checked to him.  He’s betting the turn because she just called the flop.  Whenever your opponents make predictable bets, they’re also exploitable.

That’s a great point.  Let’s see what we can get out of this.

Summarize and Analyze

Summarize:
  • “Predictable bets are exploitable bets.” (taken directly from the book)
Analyze:

This makes total sense.  Let’s analyze this with the idea of the predictable cbet that we and our opp’s often make.

How often does a 20% opening range hit something on the flop that’s worth making a cbet for value?  How often does it hit at least a good draw or better?

Let’s choose a standard 20% opening range.  Using Flopzilla, this range hits the flop for value only 27.5% of the time.  Hitting the flop “for value” consists of any TP+ hand.   That’s not so often at all with this normal opening range:

20% range hitting the flop for value

And, it hits with a good draw or better only 35.6% of the time:

hitting a flop with a good draw or better

Predictable = Exploitable

So, getting back to the idea of predictable bets are exploitable bets.  A lot of our opp’s are cbetting 65-85% of the time, this means that upwards of 50% of the time a cbet is just a complete bluff or something not exactly good enough to stand up to some push-back.  This is such an exploitable part of our opp’s game that we need to make sure we’re using a HUD and that we have Cbet as one of our stats.

So, we know that our opp’s high cbetting frequencies are simple, predictable bluffs.  Then the next question is, how can we exploit this?  There’s a few ways that we can fight back against these bluffs:

  • Check-Raise (or raise if IP)
  • Check/call (or Call if IP) then get aggressive on the next street
  • Donk lead on any street to stymie his bluffing efforts, showing strength can get lots of marginal hands to fold

In that quote I read from Ed Miller, there are many more predictable betting spots that you can take advantage of and it’s up to you to start analyzing these spots individually. Tackle one at a time and make a plan for each.

Besides the ones that I’ve already mentioned, you can find these predictable betting spots by just examining your own play and being present in the moment in each session.  Whenever the action is on you and you have the thought, “I should bet or raise here b/c everyone will likely fold”, then you’ve found one of these predictable betting spots.  Note these situations then take time to study and analyze each of them later when away from the tables.

Take Action

Step #5 is the most important part, taking action on what we’ve learned.

In the next session you play, pay individual attention to whichever predictable bet you’d like to practice exploiting.  If it’s the cbet, then get super familiar with your cbet stats and try the c/r, c/c then get aggressive, or donk leads to exploit his aggression with weak ranges.

If it’s battling against the pf steal, get familiar with these stats in your HUD then fight back when appropriate with 3bets or flop donk leads and check/raises

If it’s an opp betting when everyone  checks to him, get familiar with the AFq and street by street betting stats in your HUD then practice your c/r or calling then leading or c/r the turn.

There are so many instances where your opp’s will make predictable bets, and it’s your goal to find ‘em and exploit ‘em.

At the end of your session, answer the following Q’s:

  • How do I feel about the session played?
  • How did I like employing the skills learned? (in this case it’s your skill of folding when likely beat)
  • Do I think this skill has some value and does it merit further review before fully integrating it into my repertoire?

Assessment

The next day you’ll do an assessment of your session in a HH review.  Filter for the applicable hands and determine how well you played them.  Did you do a good job interpreting your opp’s stats?  Were the spots you chose to fight back good and well-reasoned?  Was your bet sizing good enough to get these likely bluffs to lay down?  How did your IP play differ from your OOP play, and was one more successful than the other?

Send any questionable hands to friends or post them in forums, or even send them to me for my opinion and maybe I’ll use it in a future Q&A.  Take notes on all you learned in your session and in the assessment so you can refine your skills and continue to work on exploiting aggression in future sessions.

Rinse, Repeat, Review

Now that you’ve taken action and made this initial assessment, it’s time to take action again in another session and work on exploiting aggression.  Just repeat steps 5-7 here for as long as it takes until you feel you’ve got a great grasp on this concept.

Challenge

Here’s my challenge to you for this episode:  Figure out on your own how to filter your poker database for instances where you faced a predictable bet of your choice.  Also, figure out exactly where within your HUD you can find the stats that help you exploit this predictable bet, and color code the stat font so it stands out to you, so it’s easier or quicker to find while in-game.  Preparing now will allow for better exploits in your sessions.

Purchase your own copy of ‘The Course’.

Check out the rest of the episodes in this 11-part series:

  1. How to Learn from Poker Strategy Books
  2. Play a Simple and Effective Preflop Strategy | Skill #1
  3. Don’t Pay People Off | Skill #2
  4. Assess Your Hand Value | Skill #3
  5. Barreling | Skill #4
  6. Evaluating Board Texture | Skill #5
  7. Making LIVE Reads | Skill #6
  8. Emotional Numbing | Skill #7
  9. Exploiting Aggression | Skill #8
  10. Playing Deep | Skill #9
  11. Taking on the Pros | Skill #10
Sky Matsuhashi