I think it's easy and normal to fall into the trap of automatic poker. You get used to a certain process or style of play in your head, and you stick to that plan. If you're not actively seeking new and alternate approaches to hands, it becomes very easy to fall into the trap of reaching a plateau for your skills, or even worse, watching your skills decline. I have been in this situation for the past 3 months; I am unwilling to deposit fresh funds into a new online account, and am patiently waiting [hoping?] that I get my money back from Full Tilt.
My poker play has been in a state of limbo, even though I still 4 table at Bodog 25 or 50NL. I have adjusted to the monkeys at the Bodog tables; they are generally at either end of the extremes - i.e. the regs are generally 12/8, and the tourists are a healthy 45/2 or 25/2, with a sprinkling of 90/2 's or 90/60 's. There are very few who are in between, like myself; on Bodog, I run around a 30/20 (very LAGgy for Full Tilt, but given that most players don't have a HUD at Bodog, I likely fit into the mid-tight very aggro camp). Regardless, I play 25 or 50NL because of bankroll constraints; I want to keep no more than $400 on Bodog at any given time, with the assumption that if the Feds rush in and seize my funds, I have a stop loss of no more than $400.
To come full circle with the first paragraph, I realize that I have settled into a routine. My CardRunners subscription expired with my Full Tilt account "closure," and I haven't been reading strategy articles other than what is in my subscription to Card Player magazine (which is close to running out as well). Needless to say, I have not been expanding on my game, and it is only a matter of time until the Bodog fish die out and the regs get smarter. Therefore, I have started watching old, archived videos that I have found here and there.
Yesterday, I watched the first 2 segments of Phil Galfond's Poker Philosophy, from Bluefire Poker. I was immediately able to implement the key points that he expressed - scare cards and checking the river when you put your opponent on a bluff.
The scare cards point explains that a aggro LAG will continue to barrel and try to push you off of your hand. He will see over cards to the board as scare cards, and continue to pot bet until you end up folding. I could instantly relate; my strategy is based upon the opponent that he was talking about - I barrel those supposed "scare cards," and usually force my opponent into folding the best hand - a strategy that works out very well for me (I wind up winning a TON of money without show down, but my W$SD is typically at or below $0).
I don't know why I hadn't considered the opposite effect, though. I have an incredibly tough time playing against those 40/30 honey badgers who "just don't give a shit," and keep barrelling pot sized bets at the board regardless their holdings. In effect, they are my mirror image. In response, I need to stop check raising my strong hands to scary boards and watch them wriggle free (fold), but rather allow them to continue to hang themselves. I need to start check / raising my semi-bluffs with modest frequency. I also need to check / call my mid-strength hands more often, instead of weakly folding to the stack-threatening second barrel.
The other point, checking the river to induce, is a GREAT strategy, that is easy to implement. Phil points out that this is a leak that is very difficult to detect; since no money is "lost," the play can easily be overlooked. Instead of bet bet bet with showdown-worthy hands against a drawing opponent, implementing a bet bet check strategy works more effectively. Numerous times last night, I took the line of bet bet check, and had my drawing opponents bet river money that I would never have gotten had I led the river myself. Profitville, booyah! Having those clear reads on opponents, I was able to take my JTs on a T 9 3 6 2 board and turn it into river profit when I lead the flop, bet the turn and check / call the river. Nothing new as far as the reverse; I have long since implemented the strategy of forcing a fold with a river bet when I too hold air or a draw and know I have no showdown value; a simple bet of 8BB into a 24BB pot will get a ton of folds against my drawing opponent with my KQ / QJ / etc. on the above board. Now, I'm making money on the reverse strategy - checking my showdown-worthy hands to my mirror image who was on a draw in the first place.
Anyway, it feels good to write about poker strategy again. Unfortunately, there haven't been too many instances of hands which I've felt worthy of posting. I'm not playing all that often, so the interesting hand histories have been few & far between; most decisions come down to polarizing ranges - total LAGtards repping sets, etc., which are overwhelmingly easy decisions (it's funny to watch the reactions / comments when I'm showing down a pair of 3's against dude's randoms and the other players are wow'ed). I'm hoping I'll have the time to watch more of Phil's Poker Philosophy and write another entry soon.
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