Poker Coverage:

The Three Most Common Exploits In Live Tournament Poker

by Matt Affleck |  Published: Jul 14, 2021


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Here we are going to discuss three areas where I feel weak live players are easily exploited. This article will hopefully give you three areas to explore for leaks in your own game, as well as ways to take advantage of leaks in your opponents.

Never Call With Your Bluff Catchers

For the most part, players severely under bluff later streets, especially for large sizing. The exploit to be made here is to never call with your bluff catchers.

A bluff catcher is any hand that can only beat a bluff and never beat a value hand. Another way to phrase this would be to say, “The player is never value betting a worse hand, thus my hand is a bluff catcher.”

In general, when a player on the river makes a large, polarizing bet (often a very strong hand or bluff), they do not have enough bluff combinations in their range to make us indifferent with our bluff catchers.

The goal of a polarizing bet is to make your opponent indifferent of calling or folding with bluff catchers. If they fold too many bluff catchers, they are giving away too much and the bettor makes money. If they call with too many bluff catchers, they also lose money.

Almost every opponent you will face does not include enough bluffs in their polarizing sizing to make us indifferent between call and fold. Thus, the max exploit is to fold all bluff catchers and only call with hands that can beat value bets. Until an opponent shows you that they can include enough bluffs in their polarized range, you are incentivized to overfold to these bets. 

Check-Raise Like A Pro

The next exploit we will look at involves flop continuation betting (c-bet). In general, your average player c-bets way too often. Your average player does not check-raise nearly enough to optimal. These two exploits go together because one leads to the other. Players over c-bet because players don’t check-raise enough.

The problem is that most players don’t adjust their ranges correctly when they face opponents who properly check-raise.

In general, you should be looking to increase your check-raising frequency against most players. Many players would be blown away that optimal check-raise frequencies on certain board textures can be upwards up 20% by the out-of-position player. You almost never see someone check-raise that often.

Learn to punish aggressive c-betters by check-raising like a mad man and make them uncomfortable.

Three-Bet A More Linear Range

The final exploit we will look at involves the three-bet and four-bet ranges of our opponents. In general, players do not four-bet nearly often enough compared to what is optimal.

The adjustment we make is to three-bet a more linear range instead of the polarized range that many players use.

Against a 20% middle position opening range, we may simply three-bet the top 10% of hands in position as a linear range, and flat call the rest of our playable hands. Since players under four-bet, we are not concerned about folding out the equity of our non-premium, but still good hands that we three-bet because they will be heavily dominated.

For example, 9-9 or K-Q suited become great hands to three-bet in a linear range against a player who under four-bets. Players often over-call to these four-bets and thus we get extra value from our range that we forego when we flat-call instead of three-betting. When they four-bet, however, 9-9 and K-Q suited are often in bad shape due to being against A-A, K-K, Q-Q, J-J or A-K.

In summary, we need to be folding our bluff catchers on turns and rivers, check-raising more, and three-betting with a more linear range to exploit population tendencies. Take extra care in looking for these spots in your next few sessions. Watch how opponents react and how the exploits can be made. ♠

For years, Matt Affleck has been a force to be reckoned with both live and online. The Washington state native has more than $4.5 million in combined tournament earnings, including a chop of the SCOOP main event for $470,000, and a 15th-place finish in the WSOP main event for $500,000. Nowadays, you can find him hosting live webinars for where he provides hand analysis and top-level poker strategy content to thousands of students. Find him on Twitter @mcmatto.