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Poker Strategy With Roy Cooke: Thinking About Thinking

Cooke Continues With His Learning No-Limit From Scratch Series

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Discerning how your opponent thinks is an important component of play selection. If your opponent can read your intentions, he or she will be able to exploit your strategy. Conversely, if you can read your opponent’s intentions, you’ll be able to select optimum strategies and that’s going to translate into money in your pocket.

Since the emotional state, knowledge and awareness level of each opponent are different and constantly changing, you must always be aware of and adjust to their thoughts. That’s easier to say than to do, and requires a lot of mental focus.

I was playing in a mostly tight $2-$5 no-limit hold’em game. On the button I picked up the KHeart Suit KClub Suit. Sadly, nobody opened. The small blind was an overly tight player whom I felt would provide me with little action, but the big blind, an ABC player only around $280 deep, was the only player in the game providing loose action. I contemplated my bet sizing. I wanted to build a pot, but also wanted to keep the big blind’s calling range wide, knowing he would make lots of post flop errors.

I weighed my best play. Obviously, if I flatted, Mr. Loose-ABC would play 100 percent of his range. That would give him an opportunity to make many weak hands that would give me action. But he might also smash the flop and cost me. I didn’t want to give him that opportunity for free. Additionally, it would start the pot off very small and slow the geometric progression of the pot.

I considered Mr. Loose-ABC’s thought process. He seemed to love a bargain. I theorized that, if I bet small, he might welcome the cheap opportunity to play and call with a very wide range. Because I had a post-flop reading hand and strategy edge, my implied odds scenarios were of greater value than any potential reverse implied odds losses. Therefore, I wasn’t too concerned about his implied odds pricing. I thought about making it $10, a non-standard amount for me, to keep his calling-range wide. Instead, I made it $15, reasoning that the extra $5 made little, if any, difference in his calling range. The small blind folded, and Mr. Loose-ABC called.

The dealer flopped the 8Club Suit 8Diamond Suit 2Spade Suit, not an action flop. He quickly checked, and I decided to size my bet at a level that I thought he would call with any holding, most of which would be drawing mighty thin. I tossed in $10 and he followed suit. The turn was the 10Spade Suit, and Mr. Loose-ABC quickly checked again. His quick check indicated to me that he wasn’t enthralled with the 10Spade Suit. Since he was unaware that he might be telegraphing his hand, his actions were honest. He checked quickly because he didn’t have much of a decision. Wanting to keep his calling range wide, I bet $15 into the $50 pot, he pondered for a moment and called.

The river came the 4Heart Suit. Mr. Loose-ABC quickly checked again. I was virtually certain I had the best hand, read him for being very weak and wanted to maximize any potential value. Once again, I fired small, $20 into the $80 pot. He showed the JHeart Suit 7Spade Suit to me and folded.

I made $40 on the hand, but felt I had maximized my holding’s potential. Getting the maximum out of low value situations isn’t exciting, but the acquired EV adds up and making the effort to maximize these types of situations is very important over time. Maybe I could have gotten slightly more on the turn, but I didn’t know he’d picked up a gut shot, and I wanted him to call with A-X textured hands, possibly even non-ace overcards.

The reason I could milk my kings for the amount I did was that my opponent played transparently. Because he telegraphed his thoughts, his hand was an easy read that made him easy to exploit. Equally, he wouldn’t read my small-bet milking plays as milking plays. Had I been playing an opponent who would read me for doing exactly what I was doing, I wouldn’t have made the play I did. In that case I would have sized my bet bigger knowing that a better reader would be getting higher implied odds and would read me for a wide range raising from the button anyway. I wouldn’t get called by as wide a range as with Mr. Loose-ABC, but since the risks were higher, I needed to reduce a good-playing opponent’s price further.

The hand also speaks to making sure your opponents are not reading your thoughts. If you’re telegraphing how you think, your opponents will be able to play correctly against you. Even if you are strategically sound, you’ll struggle to win. Many studious, knowledgeable players believe they’re unlucky because they’re playing strategically sound and losing. But in reality, unbeknownst to them, their losing is because they are being effectively read by their opponents.

So adjust your play to how your opponent thinks and widen your range against players you can read well. You’ll make more optimum plays against them that will translate into increased value. Conversely, be aware which opponents can read you. Mix things up against them, don’t let them read you and you’ll increase your value at the poker table! ♠

Roy CookeRoy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years prior to becoming a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman. Should you wish any information about Real Estate matters-including purchase, sale or mortgage his office number is 702-376-1515 or Roy’s e-mail is RealtyAce@aol.com. His website is www.RoyCooke.com. Roy’s blogs and poker tips are at www.RoyCookePokerlv.com. You can also find him on Facebook or Twitter @RealRoyCooke