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Poker Strategy For The Rest Of Us -- Jon Van Fleet

Van Fleet Explains How To Understand An Opponent's Thought Process


Jon Van FleetIn an effort to provide valuable tools and tips that are relevant to even the smallest games, Card Player is pleased to unveil the brand new series Poker Strategy For The Rest Of Us, which will focus on everyday situations that occur against the poker world’s most casual players.

ProJon Van Fleet

Concept – Reshove Math and Understanding Your Opponent’s Thought Process

Jon Van Fleet may be more well known to those in the poker world by his online name, “Apestyles.” The Texas native has accumulated just over $269,000 in live tournament earnings, but has earned several million online. Before Black Friday, the 31-year-old online pro was consistently in the running for the Card Player Online Player of the Year award.

Van Fleet relocated to Vancouver after Black Friday to continue his online grind. He is currently an instructor for Pocket Fives and has co-authored both volumes of Winning Poker Tournaments One Hand at a Time.

Card Player caught up with Van Fleet during some down time he had from his recent FTOPS play, to break down a live tournament hand.

The Hand

In a six-handed no-limit hold’em tournament, our hero (46,450) is in the cutoff with pocket nines. An older gentleman (25,100) raises in the hijack to 3,000 with blinds at 500-1,000 with a 100 ante.

Our hero calls and the flop is 4Club Suit 4Spade Suit 2Diamond Suit. The older gentleman then moves all in for his remaining 22,000 into a pot of almost 8,000. Our hero thinks for a little while before folding and the older gentleman reveals pocket sevens.

The Interview

Steve Schult: With the blinds at 500-1,000 with a 100 ante, an older man in the hijack raises to 3,000 and our hero has 9Diamond Suit 9Spade Suit. Are you flatting, three-betting, or folding?

Jon Van Fleet: Are there any reads on how active the villain has been?

SS: He has been pretty tight and this is only the third hand he has raised.

JVF: I think this situation is pretty unique. Against a regular or someone who I thought had a light four-bet range, this would be an easy three-bet, call because I would expect them to pile lower pairs.

I think a major mistake a lot of internet players make is thinking in absolutes. For example, I have 25 big blinds cutoff vs. hijack, I have to three-bet, call pocket nines.

How has he been playing post flop? Has he been continuation betting? What size are his continuation bets?

SS: He’s played two hands post flop. He opened pocket sevens, flopped sevens full and checked it to the river before making a big bet. He also raised A-K, didn’t flop a pair and checked it down.

JVF: Oh, okay. Well, its a fairly easy call preflop if we know that he plays face up or passively post-flop. We do not have the odds to set-mine, but if we’ll often be able to see the river when we have the best hand its worth a call.

I still think I’d fold worse than 6-6 or maybe 7-7 because we definitely don’t have odds to set mine. Even though he’s a very tight player, we should still be ahead of his opening range.

Let me do some math quickly on re-raising though. What do you think his opening range looks like? Do you think he limps hands like 22-55?

SS: If I had to guess, it would probably be something around pocket sixes and better, A-J suited and up, A-Q off suit and up, and possibly K-Q suited. He had limped some hands, so we can assign him a very tight opening range.

JVF: Okay, so he’s limping pocket deuces and stuff. So there is just no way getting it in preflop is going to be profitable. It’s not even worth looking at.

If he is opening eight percent and calling five percent, that just isn’t going to work out for you.

SS: What kind of range would we want a player to be opening and calling in order to make 9-9 a profitable three-bet, call?

JVF: Well, there are two different scenarios we’re talking about. The first is three-bet, calling against someone who we think has a light enough four-bet range to where we are flipping or ahead a decent amount.

For instance, if someone is four-betting 5-5 or better and A-J or better we don’t care how much they are opening because we have 50 percent against this range. So if they ever fold, we’re making money.

If we want to find out how often someone needs to be opening for a re-shove to be profitable, we can work through it backwards. I’d also like to note that re-shoving is usually not the best play since we will also want to induce action from worse pairs.

So let’s say that his call range is 8-8 or better, A-J suited or better and A-Q offsuit or better. That is roughly six percent of hands and there is 4,800 in the pot. Pocket nines have 38.4 percent equity against this range. This is where the math can get a little complicated.

Let X = Villain’s folding percentage.

EV = X (What’s in the pot) + (1-X) [(What you stand to lose) * (Your opponent’s equity) + (What you stand to gain) * (Your equity)]

If you look at this equation closely, it represents all of the different scenarios that can happen once you re-shove (not including over callers behind).

So to break this equation down into steps, it would look like this:

Step 1. 4,800X + (1-X) (-15,436.5 + 10,356.6)

Step 2. Multiply Everything Out (Going to round all numbers just for ease) 4,800X -15,437 + 10,357 + 15,437X – 10,357X

Step 3. Collect Terms (4,800 + 15,437 – 10,357)X – 15,437 + 10,357

Step 4. Simplify and Set to Zero (EV is set to equal 0 for break even) 9,880X – 5,080 = 0

Step 5. Place all terms with X on Left Hand Side 9880X = 5080

Step 6. X = 5080/9880 = .514.

So this means that he needs to be folding 51 percent of the time to make it profitable. If we know he’s calling with six percent of hands, that means he has to be opening roughly more than 12-13 percent.

SS: I always thought I had a good grasp on poker math until that.

JVF: Nobody does these math problems on the spot, but doing them a reasonable amount of times has helped me formulate good intuitions.

I’d like to point out that in poker we are not trying to break-even. We’re trying to win chips and in tournaments, we are trying to win chips with the least amount of risk.

SS: Well, let’s move to the flop. The flop comes 4-4-2 and the villain in question moves all in for approximately 22,000. What is your plan here?

JVF: Well, its hard to get inside the mind of someone who plays like this since I don’t have any hands in my range that would play like this pre or post-flop. Since he previously checked down A-K, I’d imagine the prudent play is just to fold.

However, almost everyone who plays poker is trying to win. They usually have some line of logic, however faulty it might be, in their plays.

SS: So what kind of range are you putting him on?

JVF: I think we can probably take pocket queens through aces out of his range. Because even a beginner knows that this is a really good board for these hands. Pocket sixes through jacks is what I would expect a lot here. We can’t definitively take out queens through aces, but they do seem unlikely to me.

SS: If this player had checked, I’m assuming we can value bet here.

JVF: Yeah, I think a small bet for value would be good.

SS: I know live tells are pretty subjective, but the player said he would show his opponent folded. Does that sway your decision at all?

JVF: Did he offer or did his opponent ask?

SS: He was asked.

JVF: Then there is not much for me to read into there.

I want to say that I think this shove is weighted towards the bottom end of sixes through jacks, but I am often a victim of optimistic ranging since I don’t like to fold. Even so, pocket nines has 57.7 percent equity on this board against that range. It might actually be a call.

I can sort of picture his thought process with a hand like pocket sevens in this spot. He thinks ‘Well, I have an overpair, and I don’t really want a face card to come, so I’m all in.’

That’s what I think is going on here pretty often.

SS: That’s exactly what was going on here. Thanks for your time Jon.