I discuss the strategies you can employ to help you pull the trigger on +EV aggressive plays and ditch the fear surrounding them.
In episode 194, I discussed the leak of skipping +EV aggressive plays because you’re afraid of losing money, making a mistake or looking like a fool.
Calculate Costs (3:05)
I said in the prior podcast that there isn’t a good way to calculate the cost of this leak. But, I’ve given it more thought and I’ve found a good way to do so. Granted, it’s still an estimate because who knows if your bluff would’ve earned the pot or if your value bet would’ve been called, but this will give you some numbers to work from and hands to review at the same time.
The first step is to determine which type of aggressive play you often fail to make. Let’s say you’ve got an issue with making +EV 3bet bluffs preflop.
Cost Calculation for 3bet Bluff Abstinence
In your database, filter for the opportunity to 3bet (facing a 2bet) and “NOT (Raised Preflop Any 3bet)”.
Add to the filter your normal bluffing hands. If your BTN 3bet bluffing range includes A5s-A2s and 87s-76s, your filter will look like this:
Record the number of hands you failed to 3bet with from a specific position that results from this filter. For example, 30 hands on the BTN. Next, change the “not 3bet” to “did 3bet” with these cards. Record your win rate. For example, over 28 hands your win rate is at +118bb/100 hands. This equates to +1.18bb/hand played.
So, by abstaining from these 30 3bet bluffing hands, you’ve missed out on 35.4bb’s of profit (30 x 1.18bb).
Remember that this is just an estimate. But, it’s an eye-opening estimate designed to spur you to do more 3bet bluffing with hands and in situations that you know are +EV.
General Leak Plugging (5:35)
1. Practice your leak plugging skills
You’ve got to put in the time practicing what you want to improve. No practice = no improvement.
2. Get Gutsy
During your pre-session warm-ups, make a commitment to getting gutsy and pulling the trigger on the +EV aggressive opportunities you spot. By focusing on it in your warm-up, you’ll be more likely to pull the trigger. Put a sticky note on your computer that says “Make the gutsy, +EV play.” Don’t hang it below your monitor, stick it on top so it hangs over the screen so it’s more likely to draw your attention as you play.
3. Tag each of these “GetGutsy” hands for later review
As you play a session, your focus must be on making the best decisions with the information available to you. You should not try to learn from mistakes in-the-moment. Tag each hand with a “GetGutsy” tag so you can put it out of your mind because you know you’ll have the chance to review and learn from it later.
4. Change your attitude
If fear is compelling you to skip +EV aggressive plays, consider what you’re telling yourself as you play. You may find yourself thinking “I don’t want to risk 50bb’s” or “I don’t want to screw up here” or “I don’t want them to think I’m a donk.”
Instead of those thoughts, try this one:
“This is a great opportunity to exploit my opponent. I’m going to take it, tag the hand, and learn from it.”
With this attitude in place, you’ll be more likely to pull the trigger when you spot +EV aggressive opportunities.
5. Hand history review sessions
Review each tagged hand the next day. As you review the hand figure out if the gutsy action was actually correct. Whip out Flopzilla and enter your opponent’s preflop range, your hand and the board. Narrow your opponent’s range through the streets and determine if your suspected bet or raise was or would’ve been +EV. Would your opponent have folded often enough to make for a good bluff? Would they have given value enough of the time to make for a good value bet or raise? What sizing would’ve been the best for your chosen play?
Plugging Each Manifestation of Fear (12:05)
1. Fear of losing money
You must drop down in stakes or add enough to your bankroll to put it between 40 and 100 buy-ins. The closer you are to 100 the better (for SNG and MTT players, I recommend 100-200 buy-ins). I know that you know this, but pride often gets in the way.
What’s more important? Appeasing your pride and playing at higher buy-ins with scared money, or playing at the right level, feeling confident with your decisions and not letting the money on the line screw with your game?
Be honest with yourself and assess the quality of your decisions at the level you play. If your play does not change between 5 NL, 10NL, 25NL or 50NL, that’s great. But, if there’s a decline in your level of play at 100NL, then you must stick with 50 NL with occasional shots at the bigger game when you’re feeling good and making great decisions.
Drop down in stakes as necessary until you build up your bankroll to comfortably play at the next level.
Try not to think in terms of money, but think in terms of big blinds instead. You’re not opening to $1.50, you’re making it 3bb’s. You’re not 3betting to $5. Instead it’s 10 big blinds that you’re raising it to.
Lastly, dropping down in stakes can also help with the other two fears of making mistakes and looking like a fool.
2. Fear of making mistakes
This is easier said than done. When you believe mistakes should never happen, this puts undue pressure on yourself to perform flawlessly. This pressure will create anxiety in your play and cause you to question every play you make. A good bit of thought in every decision is important, but second-guessing yourself will cause you to make more mistakes.
You are going to make mistakes, everybody makes mistakes. Accept them. If we never make mistakes we’re never going to learn.
I’ve only become a decent poker player, because I’ve made a lot of mistakes, I’ve tagged those hands and I’ve tried to learn from them.
Develop this attitude:
Mistakes are my opportunity to learn.
So, get to practicing. Drop down in stakes like already mentioned so that money is NOT a factor. Choose one aggressive skill to work on and find every opportunity to profitably employ that skill. Or, just be present in every table you play and seek out every opportunity to get aggressive to earn more value or to take down pots.
3. Fear of looking like a fool
You may have high expectations of yourself, and this has translated into a desire for others to think highly of you. Here’s a universal truth, a life lesson that I’ve believed for many years now:
Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and they all stink
What do you care if the other players at the table think you’re a bad player? Why would you care if they think you’re donk or a fish? The worse your image is in their eyes the better it is for you.
If you get caught bluffing off your full stack 2 times, you’re going to learn from those mistakes. But, your opponents don’t know this. To them, a tiger never changes its stripes. But you’re no ordinary tiger.
Change Your Stripes
You tag hands and study them. You make mistakes, research them to figure out what you did wrong, and you vow to not make that mistake again.
So, the next time you make a similar play but you’ve got a better hand than they do, you’ll be stacking those fools that think you’re an idiot. You’ve now turned your prior mistake into a profit-making situation.
I think it’s human nature to care what other people think. But if we consider this logically, you can’t control what they think nor should you try. Like I already said, you’ve got control of two things in life: your actions and your attitudes.
Acting with the intent of not looking like a fool or in an effort to appease other people is not going to benefit you in life nor is it going to benefit you in poker.
Here’s my two-fold challenge to you for this episode:
1. Preflop Task: 3bet bluff more often when in position
In your next 3 play sessions, practice 3bet bluffing in position. Make the play against players whose positional RFI is 20% or greater (and definitely over 25%). Drop down in stakes if necessary so the money you put at risk isn’t worrisome. Utilize hands that have good post-flop playability in case they call you. Try suited connectors, small-medium pocket pairs, suited Aces and suited broadway Kings like KQs, KJs and KTs.
Tag each of these hands for later review.
2. Post-flop Task: Bet when checked to in HU pots.
In the following 3 play sessions, when you have position post-flop, bet every time they check it to you. They’ve shown weakness, so now you show strength and put them to the test. If they call, fire on the next street when they check again. If you face a check-raise on the flop or a donk bet on the turn, consider what they could be making this play with and react according. Raise or re-raise as a bluff if you determine it’s +EV and they’re likely to fold, or do it for value if they can pay you off with worse hands.
Tag each of these hands for later review.
Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.
Support the Show
CK supported the show by purchasing my PokerTracker 4 Smart HUD. I hope CK is utilizing the HUD to crush their opponent’s faces into the felt.
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In episode 196, I’ll give you a 3-question Q&A.
Until next time, study smart, play much and make your next session the best one yet.
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