Sign Up For Card Player's Newsletter And Free Bi-Monthly Online Magazine


Poker Training

Newsletter and Magazine

Sign Up

Find Your Local

Card Room


Having a Plan

by Gavin Griffin |  Published: Apr 17, 2013


Gavin GriffinMy wife is an engineer. This means she’s good at math, a very logical thinker, and very organized. She is also a planner. If we go on vacation, she plans out all the things she wants to do while we are there and puts all the research she did into a little binder to go over once we are at our final destination. Every week, we have a family meeting during which we schedule our week. Everything from our work schedules to errands to dinner schedule is set up in advance. Sometimes things change, but overall, we stick to our schedule somewhat religiously.

I am a poker player. I am also good at (some) math and am a very logical thinker. I am not, however, very organized. Nor am I much of a planner. I’m pretty happy going on vacation without an itinerary and when I look at a day on the calendar that doesn’t have several appointments, it relaxes me instead of stressing me out.

When I’m playing poker, however, I do my best to have a plan. It’s important to think of all of the possible permutations in how a hand plays out so you can accurately decide what the best course of action is throughout the hand. Obviously, some outcomes are more likely than others so you can get thrown for a loop occasionally, but if you go into a hand with a well thought out plan, you have a nice guideline of how things will go and hopefully there won’t be too many surprises. Of course, plans can change and, if you feel that they need to, you must be able to adjust accordingly.

Let me give you an example of a hand I played recently where I had a pretty solid plan going in and how that plan could have or should have changed over the course of the hand. I was playing in my regular $5-$5 no-limit game. The buy-in range is $300-$1,500 and I had somewhere between $2,500 and $3,000 on the table. Villain in the hand is a good player, will call light on the river and makes good value bets. We have played quite a few hours together and he respects my game. We don’t intentionally stay out of each other’s way, but the game usually has some soft spots so it doesn’t make sense for us to butt heads on a regular basis. I haven’t seen him four-bet light too often in our time playing together and he very rarely folds to three-bets. On this particular night, there was someone in the game doing quite a bit of three-betting, especially when there was a raise and a caller or two (which was also happening often). So, villain makes it $30 with a stack of between $2,000 and $2,500. I’m next to act with ASpade Suit AHeart Suit and call. I flat raises in this game more often than I would in an online six-max game so I felt the need to balance my flatting range and there was also the little issue of our frequent three-bettor acting after me. My plan was to wait until at least the turn to raise for value against this player. I know he won’t get in for stacks light so I would need a cooler flop to get all of the money in. However, he would be willing to call a raise on a later street with his weaker holdings, especially if my hand is underrepped. I also thought I might be able to induce a three-bet behind me. Unfortunately, I didn’t get an assist and we took the JHeart Suit 7Diamond Suit 5Heart Suit flop heads up.

He bet $50 and I called. The turn was the 3Spade Suit and he bet $115. I again called. I have the AHeart Suit which will make it nearly impossible for him to three-bet on the river if a heart peels off, especially with the way I have played the hand. Also, I think he’ll pay off a raise on blanks with 9-9 plus and almost any jack that he would play under-the-gun (UTG). I found myself asking for a 2Spade Suit on the river and that’s what I received. I wanted a blank because he has seen me bluff raise the river with missed draws on a couple occasions and my hand looks exactly like the nut flush-draw. It was time to put my well thought out plan into play. My opponent bet $250 and all of a sudden, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. My instinct was that this sizing was for value, but not just a normal value bet, one that implied extreme strength. I have no real reason other than my gut feeling to believe that this was a set or better and I let the logical, planning side of my brain take over on this decision. I knew that this opponent was capable of value betting three streets with quite a few hands and bluffing three streets with quite a few hands as well. So, I continued with my plan and made it $600. I felt weird doing it and it for sure went against my instincts, but I followed through. He thought for a bit and just called me with a set of jacks.

I ended up doing quite well for myself on this hand because I most certainly would have lost more if I had three-bet preflop or raised at a different point in the hand. However, I was so close to listening to my instincts and just flat calling the river. I had made a plan and I stuck with that plan against my gut feeling and while I usually trust logic and math when playing poker, my instincts have proven to be quite good overall throughout my career and I could have found one more time to trust them, ditching my plan, and saving myself a little money in the process. ♠

Gavin Griffin was the first poker player to capture a World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour and World Poker Tour title and has amassed nearly $5 million in lifetime tournament winnings. Griffin is sponsored by You can follow him on Twitter @NHGG