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The Learning Process

I wanted to post a couple hands today that display some of the weird plays that I've seen from some of my opponents over the past couple weeks. We've all heard that online poker games are getting harder but I think playing winning poker is just a matter of adjusting your game to changing table conditions. If you've read the same books and watched the same videos as your opponents, all you need to do is change up your game to exploit all that your opponents perceive as gospel.

Sometimes this is easier said then done. Many of your opponents will be quite good and that's all there is to it. But they're not the ones you want to focus your attention on: you want those Villains who believe that reading a few books and watching a few videos has given them a huge edge over their opponents (like me, for example). They see the true meaning behind their opponents' checks, calls, and raises. They know that they're ahead in the hand and they're not afraid to stack off to prove it!

Let's take a look at some hands where I ran into some pretty inexplicable plays on the parts of my opponents. I can only begin to guess what they were thinking at the time. If I can figure which books or videos preach the moves seen below, I'd love to get my hands on those quality pieces of instructional gold.

No Limit Holdem Ring game
Blinds: $0.50/$1
6 players

Stack sizes:
UTG (Villain): $23.30
UTG+1: $36.60
CO: $284.60
Hero (Button): $98.50
SB: $104.50
BB: $16.60

Pre-flop: (6 players) Hero is Button with 8♦ 8♥
Villain calls, 2 folds, Hero raises to $5, 2 folds, Villain calls.

(Villain was loose and weak. SPR was less than 2 after Villain called so I was going to push the flop no matter what.)

Flop: J♥ J♦ T♣ ($11.5, 2 players)
Villain bets $8, Hero raises all-in $93.5, Villain calls all-in $10.3.
Uncalled bets: $75.2 returned to Hero.

(Villain donk-bet into me. But the flop was paired so I only had to dodge a Jack or a Ten to be ahead here. I jammed and Villain insta-called.)

Turn: 2♣ ($48.1, 0 player + 2 all-in - Main pot: $48.1)

River: K♦ ($48.1, 0 player + 2 all-in - Main pot: $48.1)

(I was not a big fan of the King on the river. If only PokerStars showed the hole cards as soon as all the money was in the pot.)

Final pot: $48.1
Hero showed 8d 8h
Villain showed 6d 5d

(I don't get it. Villain's stack was only 20 BB pre-flop. That's not enough to warrant playing 65s from UTG; it's certainly not enough to justify playing this hand in a raised pot while OOP. What's most surpising is the Villain's flop bet. He wan't committed to the pot post-flop. He could have check-folded. But instead, he bluffed at the pot getting zero fold equity though he probably felt (quite mistakenly) that he had a shot of getting me to fold). Even more surprising was that he instantly called of the last half of his stack with no pairs and no draws. I guess he felt that I was bluffing...?)

No Limit Holdem Ring game
Blinds: $0.50/$1
6 players

Stack sizes:
UTG: $295.65
UTG+1: $71.30
CO: $244.40
Villain (Button): $76.75
Hero (SB): $100
BB: $103.50

Pre-flop: (6 players) Hero is SB with K♣ Q♣
UTG raises to $4, 2 folds, Villain calls, Hero calls, BB folds.

(UTG and Villain were both loose and weak. UTG liked to raise and Villain liked to call. My KQs played very well against their ATC (any two card) hand ranges.)

Flop: 5♥ 3♦ K♠ ($13, 3 players)
Hero checks, UTG bets $8, Villain calls, Hero raises to $20, UTG folds, Villain calls.

(UTG liked to bet so I decided to try for the check-raise. It's a play I rarely use but I liked it in this situation. My primary purpose for the check-raise was to try and get the pot heads-up, preferably against the Villain. My SPR against Villain was 5.5: good enough to play for stacks.

If only UTG had called my bet, I would have let UTG be the aggressor for the rest of the hand given the dry nature of the flop. But heads-up against the short-stacked Villain, my plan was to bet for value on the turn and river.)

Turn: Q♥ ($61, 2 players)
Hero bets $30, Villain calls.

(Having improved to two pair, I was still looking to build the pot. I wanted to bet enough on the turn so that Villain could call off the rest of his chips on the river. My $30 bet would leave Villain with about $23 in his stack. If the Villain had paired the King, Queen, or held a pocket pair, would he be able to call off his last $23 to win a $140 pot? Most certainly.)

River: 4♣ ($121, 2 players)
Hero is all-in $46, Villain calls all-in $22.75.
Uncalled bets: $23.25 returned to Hero.

(Unless Villain had played an unlikely A3 or 67, the river card was safe. I pushed and Villain call instantly.)

Final pot: $166.5
Hero showed Kc Qc
Villain showed Ah 4s (Interesting...)

(I'm not sure what Villain was thinking throughout this hand. I can't think of a single street that he played well. His pre-flop call was a little ugly though not bad given UTG's raising range. Villain's call of UTG's bet and my check-raise on the flop were brutal; the calls on the turn and river were even worse. I'm not sure what range the Villain put me on when he called the river bet. It's one thing to make some loose calls earlier in the hand; it's quite another thing to throw away 23 BB in a situation where you can't possibly be ahead.)

Most of my profit in poker comes from playing pots against weak players. I tend to avoid mixing it up with the better players at the table - especially when out of position. And though it might seem a little mean-spirited to single out the Villains in the hands above for their poor play, every hand played is a part of the poker learning process.

I would hope that the Villains in question would alter their strategies the next time they find themselves in similar situations at the tables. In turn, they'll become better players and perhaps find themselves winning more often than losing. The lessons learned may have cost a little more than a book or a training video but I think they'll find that their money was well-spent when they look back and review these hands.

Then again, it's also likely that both Villains are busto and looking for new hobbies. Either way, I got paid and in the end, that's what matters most to my selfish self.

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