In this poker Q&A, I answer 3 listener Q’s about getting aggressive, how to begin analyzing your game and how to improve hand reading skills.
Getting Aggressive, Poker Game Analysis and Hand Reading
Question #1 from Al (2:35):
The areas I need help include:
1) poker math – I purchased the book by Doug Hall and am working on the assignments. I am working hard to understand which plays may be profitable, how to use my position with opening bets, when to consider raising, when is it best to fold etc.
Lots to learn obviously.
2) I am also working on getting more aggressive and a little looser. Changing things up as my usual play is too predictable and tight. I also am working on not getting attached to big pocket pairs post flop when the board texture suggests I may be behind. I think these things just require practice and breaking old patterns.
With these two issues you’ve really got your work cut out for you.
It’s cliche, but for math, practice totally makes perfect. You’ve gotta practice working out the break-even math for every bet/call/raise you make. For every hand and every street you play, you can look at the break-even math and compare it with your opp’s stats or the 4/2 rule if you’re on a draw. Even if a bet isn’t made, you can imagine one was and figure out how often and how likely that bet would work. All you need is the correct formulas and constant practice. Check out this post if you haven’t seen it yet: https://www.smartpokerstudy.com/poker-math-break-even/.
Yep, you’ve got the right idea about getting more aggressive. By learning how to play more aggressively, you’ll learn plays and skills that will win you more pots than by just winning with the best hand. As a bonus, lots of the opp’s you deal with nowadays are very aggressive. So, becoming an aggressive player will give you insights into how they think, which in turn will lead you to ways of exploiting their LAG tendencies.
The first thing to do to start upping your aggression is finding spots to 3bet and to iso-raise pre-flop. This begins with creating 3bet ranges and understanding which types of opponents you want to get involved with. Target LP players and iso them in position. The second thing you need to do is to start firing on the flop and turn more often. Lots of players call the flop but fold to the double-barrel b/c they’ve been conditioned that cbets are weak.
Force yourself to get more aggressive in your post-flop game and barrel when their range isn’t really helped much by the board. Also, I’ve got to recommend a great Red Chip Poker podcast about how/why to play more aggressively. I know this is exactly what you need to learn to increase your aggression.
Married to pp’s
You need to constantly reinforce the idea that no hand deserves to win. 65s can beat AA about 22% of the time. Tell yourself this before each session you play and work on not “counting your chickens before they hatch” when you’re dealt a lovely pp. Push yourself to play one street at a time, and make good decisions one at a time. If signs point to fold, you’ve got to train yourself to do it.
Question #2 from Taaryn (8:45):
I am quite sure that I really need to analyze my games and I would like to do it as effective as possible, therefore some tips are vital.
Using PokerTracker 4 and tagging trouble spots
I want you to take notes or tag hands where you had a difficult choice. It doesn’t have to be hands where you won/lost a lot of money. Look for ones where you were confused and just didn’t know what the right play was. If you use PT4, you should create a tag called “Trouble Spots” or something. As you play, you need to mark hands with this tag and review them the next day. It’s your goal to figure out what made the spot difficult. Think about these considerations; the hand range of your opponents, how likely he has a strong hand in relation to the board, bet sizings that could’ve confused you and strange lines the opponent took. Ask yourself, “What’s this opponent thinking?
Get Flopzilla (www.flopzilla.com) and practice with it 30 minutes per day. Use it to breakdown the hands you tag in step #1. You’re looking to get a feel for ranges and hand vs range equities, as well as how hands/ranges hit flops. Here’s a great Flopzilla video that Splitsuit put out. This is where I learned to use Flopzilla. Watch the video, see how he uses it then copy what he does with your own hands.
You should start recording your own poker game tape to review the next day. There’s just a few steps and lots of good resources to help you set this up. Listen to podcast #11 for details about this. I recommend getting a free software called Open Broadcaster Software (OBS). Get the Studio (not the Classic) version for the system you have.
Here’s a very good video that shows you how to setup OBS for recording your sessions:
Get yourself a good headset with mic if you don’t already have one. Once everything is setup, start by recording just 30 minutes of your session then review it the next day. You should be speaking through each decision you make. You want all of your decisions to have a logical and valid reason behind each. Watching game tape will allow you to spot instances where your focus wonders or you click buttons without thinking or where you tilt and now you can dissect the reason for it.
Question #3 from Brian (15:15):
Hand reading is a very important skill, and one that isn’t learned easily. I’m constantly working on it both off the tables and on. What you’ve got to do is go through a few hands every day and just practice, practice, practice. Make sure you’re assigning a pre-flop range to the opponent first, then narrow that range based on actions and bet sizings on each street. Use Flopzilla to do this narrowing. You’ve probably heard me discuss a lot of hand reading already in the podcast. But, listening to that podcast series is just a start. It’s going to take tons of work to improve this skill. No shortcuts here!
Hand Reading Focus Sessions
You should also actively work on hand reading within the sessions you play, either LIVE or online. Don’t keep your hand reading practice to just off-the-table work. If you play online I recommend a FOCUS session every few days where you concentrate on actively hand reading on one table (of course you can do this LIVE as well seeing as how it’s only one table already).
Here are some resources for hand reading strategies:
- My Hand Reading podcast series starting on episode 62
- The Hand Reading Lab by Splitsuit (use offer code “smart”)
- Splitsuit’s ‘Poker Workbook: Hand Reading for LIVE Players’
- My podcast about Andrew Brokos’ style of hand reading
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In podcast 96, I’ll discuss stealing the blinds in cash games as well as tournaments, and why it’s vital that you do so.
Until next time, study smart, play much and make your next session the best one yet.