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What’s Your Strategy? Overbetting Fiend Results

by Andrew Brokos |  Published: Sep 07, '13


Thanks for all the comments on What’s Your Strategy? Overbetting Fiend. This is an extreme example of how important it is to adapt to your opponents. Although your “normal” game will surely have a positive expectation against this player, there is potential to do much much better if you take the time to understand what he is doing wrong and how you can exploit it. Preston begins by asking the right question:

The first thing I do when trying to exploit opponents is make sure I understand why the mistakes they are making are mistakes. This usually points us to a reasonable starting point.

Him bombing flop with weak holdings is a mistake because A) he doesn’t get value from our marginal hands, and B) he makes our range much stronger, putting him in terrible shape when we continue.

Obviously we’re trying to set up good flop situations, so I make it a priority to keep him in the hand as often is possible. I slowplay AJo preflop if I can keep him in. I think it should be our number one priority to get as many favorable flop spots against this villain as possible, even if it means limp/calling when he’s in the blinds, or other semi-weak plays.

I don’t mean to pick on Preston, because he’s doing the right thing by advocating so-called “weak plays”, but I think that terminology itself is really not helpful. Being “weak” doesn’t have any meaning for me. Sometimes people will tell me they don’t like a certain play because it “seems weak”, and I never know what that means. You should be concerned about exploitation: if you make a “weak” fold, presumably meaning a hand towards the top of your range, is your opponent actually capable of exploiting it? If not, then go ahead and do it.

That’s a bit of an aside, but my point is that Preston is right: this Villain calls for some play that some might consider weak. I think that raising preflop at all when this guy is still in the pot is a mistake. He’s making his big mistakes postflop, and they are so big that whatever preflop mistakes raising might cause him (or others) to make pale in comparison. What a shame it would be to miss the opportunity to induce a 600 BB mistake post-flop in order to induce a 3BB mistake preflop.

Mwalsh makes the very good point that it’s important to know “how much confidence we can put into the reads we have so far, and thus how much we should be deviating from our normal strategy in a very soft field.” Indeed, the degree of confidence you have in a read should determine the extent to which you should deviate from game theoretically optimal play (“normal strategy in a very soft field” being already itself a significant deviation from whatever GTO play would look like).

In this case, I meant to stipulate it in the hypothetical. In reality, I didn’t have a lot of hard evidence that Villain would overbet more than just the flop; it was simply the impression that I got. He had a wild and impatient air about him, and it wasn’t just the overbetting. Given how hard he was fighting for 8 BB pots, it was hard for me to imagine having the discipline to give up on 50 BB pots with a pretty hand just because his first overbet had been called.

All of that said, I think raising at all pre-flop with this guy still to act would be a mistake. There are two things we don’t want: for him to fold preflop, and for him to make a huge reraise that we can’t call. The hands he’s most likely to lose his mind postflop with are also the ones he’s most likely to bomb pre. If you make it 150 with 88 and he raises to 2000, well, you might actually be able to justify calling that and setmining, but it’s much less profitable to do so than if you limped and called a raise to 800. Again, we’re less concerned about protecting what is currently the best hand in a small pot and more concerned about setting up a situation where we can get our entire stack in very good.

Because of how deep we currently are, virtually any hand can have decent implied odds. Any two cards will flop two-pair about 2% of the time, so if you expect an EV of more than 50 times whatever it costs you to see the flop when you flop two-pair, then you could justifiably limp and call a small raise with anything. If someone other than this guy raises, you’ll probably fold a lot of your limps, but it’s a loose and passive game so that shouldn’t be a huge problem. Also it’s only four-handed at the moment. So I think the best pre-flop strategy is to open limp most if not all hands (including big pairs and AK) if the maniac hasn’t acted yet, and then to just call his raises.

Post-flop, the plan should be to let him drive the betting and call him down, shoving once you’re confident that he won’t fold, with anything that can beat top pair, good kicker. I’m reluctant to raise when he seems likely to overbet again on the next street, because a raise might cause him to question his hand in a way that calling wouldn’t. But on certain boards with a lot of potential action killers, you might be better off raising.

I like that some of you thought deeply enough into the implications of his play to realize that you may also be able to steal pots easily from him if he doesn’t overbet. This is further justification for seeing flops against him with almost anything.


I didn’t adapt as well as I could have against him, and I got a bit lucky (and then extremely unlucky). Villain was on the button, and the blinds were both dead stacks. I opened to 150 with A5s, got one caller, and then the maniac threw out a 1K chip. He was dismayed when the dealer told him this was a call, which demonstrates why I shouldn’t have been raising in the first place. I couldn’t call the reraise, but it’s possible that had I limped he would have raised an amount that I could have justified calling. Anyway, I got lucky that he accidentally called when he meant to raise.

The flop came A53, we checked to him on the button, he bet 3K, I called, and the other player folded. The turn was a 7, I checked, he shrugged and said “I’m all in”, and I called. He tabled AQ and rivered a Q.

I re-entered but drew a seat at a different table, where there was some discussion about the poor turnout for the tournament. “Only 44 people so far,” lamented a player.

“And that’s counting re-entries,” added the dealer.

“Yeah but it’s only been half an hour, and we start with 30K.”

“I think there has been a re-entry already.”

“Wow. How bad do you have to be to lose 30K in half an hour?”


Andrew Brokos is a professional poker player, writer, and teacher. He is also an avid hiker and traveler and a passionate advocate for urban public education. You can find dozens of his poker strategy articles at and more information about group seminars and one-on-one coaching at

Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of


over 8 years ago

Does it seem ironic that you lost playing an ace with a bad kicker? ;-)


over 8 years ago

I'm sure there's a joke at my expense buried in here, but I'm afraid I'm too dull to get it :-(


over 8 years ago

You're not the only one Andrew. lol

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