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Learning During The Pandemic: Part 2

by Steve Zolotow |  Published: Aug 26, 2020

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This is the second in a series of columns that focus on websites for learning about poker during the pandemic. In this series, I will try to give you an overview of the website, with emphasis on its strengths. I will pick a specific hand or idea from that site’s content, and then elaborate about my thinking process when analyzing this specific hand.

I pick free content. This content is usually available if you sign-up with the site or it’s even on YouTube. But if you find a source is valuable, buy some of their products. This benefits you and keeps the sites in business.

Today, I want to look at PokerCoaching.com, a training site from two-time World Poker Tour champion Jonathan Little. This is one of my favorite spots. Jonathan is a successful player, both in cash games and tournaments. He is also a fellow Card Player columnist. His site includes a variety of content from a variety of sources, including such top players as Jonathan Jaffe, Faraz Jaka, Matt Affleck, and Alex Fitzgerald. They all have different personalities, teaching styles and ideas of what is most important, so you get a variety of viewpoints. Another friend of mine, Justin Saliba, a GTO expert, provides behind the scenes analysis for Little and the group.

Before I get to a specific hand, I also want to mention some other types of content that are available there. There are Challenges, which are courses that emphasize one specific aspect of poker, like tournaments, cash games, or something specific like three-bets. There is Homework, which is an extremely valuable way to analyze, use and balance ranges.

Jonathan also has a large number of books available. As an old-school guy, I still love the convenience of a printed text. You can make notes in the margins or highlight tactics to integrate into your game. (It is interesting to return to a book I haven’t looked at in years, and seeing how both my thinking and the game have changed.) There are also tools such as GTO opening charts for various stack sizes.

Lastly, I want to mention that he often streams himself playing multiple tournaments. I have never found watching good players stream multi-tabling a particularly good learning method, although it can be entertaining. There are too many random situations that occur too quickly to pick up things that you can carry over to your own play.

His stream did, however, give me a wonderful idea that I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t think of before. When you are playing multiple online tournaments, those with high buy-ins and those that are deep in the money are more important than the others. Depending on the site(s) you are playing, you can re-size or re-color those important tables. For example, make your key tables large and red, while keeping the less crucial ones smaller and green. Simple, but effective.

Please watch Weekly Poker Hand 312 before reading on if you can. You can find it on YouTube by searching $25/$50 Live Cash Game – Jennifer Tilly Bluffs on the River, or by visiting www.cardplayer.com/link/ZolotowLearns.

I don’t have enough space to analyze the whole hand, but I will try to highlight two bluffs. This hand is interesting for several reasons. The four players involved in the pot are Alec Torelli, Jennifer Tilly, Dan Zack, and Jonathan Little, three pros and one strong amateur.

Since both Jonathan and Alec are content providers, playing in a televised episode of Poker Night In America, the success or accuracy of their play may also be seen by potential customers, who will be more inclined to get content from providers who do the right thing in their own play. This gives them an extra incentive to play well. On the other hand, televised games are like great home games, super-tight nits don’t get invited back. Players tend to be a bit splashier than usual.

Little raised preflop, and was called by Torelli on the button, Jennifer in the small blind, and Dan in the big blind. The flop was QClub Suit 6Diamond Suit 3Diamond Suit, and Jonathan checked. Alec, who was holding 10Spade Suit 7Spade Suit, bet from the button, and both blinds called.

I probably wouldn’t have made it to the flop with Alec’s hand, nor, would I have tried to bluff the flop into three people. He has no hand, and not even a backdoor draw. The only upside to this bluff, is that if you are raised, you can fold without losing much equity. Unfortunately, lack of any kind of draw leaves you in terrible shape when you are called, quite likely in this type of game. Jonathan folded, but Jennifer and Dan stuck around.

The turn was the 9Club Suit, everyone checked. The river was the 10Diamond Suit, making both a straight and flush possible. It also gave Alec a pair of tens, which was actually the best hand. Jennifer’s hand was ADiamond Suit JSpade Suit, and I have to admit that I wouldn’t have made it past the flop with her hand either. But I want to compliment Jennifer on an excellent river bluff. As much as I hated Alec’s flop bluff, I loved her river bluff. She had the ADiamond Suit, which is a flush blocker, and the JSpade Suit, which is a straight blocker. The players had all shown weakness by checking the turn.

Assuming you decide to bluff into the $1,500 pot, how much should you bet? The math is simple. A half-pot bet has to work one-third of the time to break even. A full-pot bet has to work half the time, and a bet of 1.5 the pot has to work 60 percent of the time.

The psychology is difficult. A small bet might be made to induce a call from a very mediocre hand. This was her choice, betting $700, slightly less than half-pot. When it got to Alec, to his credit, he thought a long time with his lowly pair of tens. Part of the cleverness of Jennifer’s bluff is that it is hard to imagine a hand with which she could have arrived at the river and which wouldn’t beat tens. Note that even a hand like J-10, which Jonathan had folded earlier, or a hand including the 10Club Suit like KClub Suit 10Club Suit also beat him. These are hands that might have attempted a very thin value bet.

My quick take away, make your river bluffs into weakness and do so with blockers. ♠

Steve ZolotowSteve ‘Zee’ Zolotow, aka The Bald Eagle, is a successful gamesplayer. He has been a full-time gambler for over 35 years. With two WSOP bracelets and few million in tournament cashes, he is easing into retirement. He currently devotes most of his time to poker. He can be found at some major tournaments and playing in cash games in Vegas. When escaping from poker, he hangs out in his bars on Avenue A in New York City -The Library near Houston and Doc Holliday’s on 9th St. are his favorites.