Thursday, July 25, 2013

Vanessa Selbst's response from Card Player - Information you can extrapolate about an opponent to use for maximum value

I wanted to create a post to capture Vanessa Sebst's poignant response to Card Player Magazine's July 24th issue (page 26) interview about "How to Formulate A Plan and Extrapolating Maximum Intel From Every Hand During Tournament Play."  The quote below applies to cash games as well, and is perhaps something that I don't consciously think about, though it is something I keep in the back of my mind.

The reality is that unless you're playing at an online poker room like Carbon Poker, which allows the use of HUDs and other poker tracking software, you're going to have a tough time getting the scientific and exact reads.  You need to make interpretations for yourself on what you visually see at the table.  The quote:

Craig Tapscott asks: "Please share examples of information that you can extrapolate about an opponent and how you can use it to maximize value or make hero calls?"

Vanessa Selbst answers: "In live poker, we don't have online stats we can use, so it's important to get as much information as possible as quickly as possible.  A great skill to have is to be able to see one hand happen and extrapolate to information from that hand to use other similar (or sometimes completely different) situations.  One example I always give is, let's say someone has three-bet a lot but never shown down, so we don't know what they are three-betting.  But then they get to showdown in a spot where they flat called A-Q preflop.  Well, we can use that information to figure out that if they are not three-betting hands as strong as A-Q all the time, then their three-betting range is probably bluff-heavy (because it is hard to get 10-10 plus and A-K!), and therefore consists of a whole lot of hands that can't stand more pressure, so we should four-bet bluff them with a wide range.  Another good example is if I see someone betting a lot of rivers when checked to, but then I see them missing relatively easy value bets, I'm more likely to hero call them because once again, their frequency is too high to justify the fact that they're unwilling to value bet thin, so their range of monster or bluff means that they're usually just bluffing."

I believe this translates not only to tournament poker, but all poker.  If you pay attention to prior tendencies and follow hands to show down, you gain a TON of information about a player - from what their 3bet ranges are to how often they bluff the river when they're checked to.  In other words, if you see a player 3bet a ton but show down modestly premium hands without 3betting, they're mostly 3bet bluffing their suited connectors, making in-position 3bets, etc.  The counter for that action is the 4bet.  On the contrary, if you see a lot of overpairs checked through on the river, for example, vs. obvious top / top or top / mid hands, you know they're cautiously playing that river - so much so that when they do bet through the river, they're mostly doing it with the 2 pair+ or missed draws; they're not going to bet big on the river with 1 pair hands.  You can also extrapolate their play to different lines they take: call / call / bet when the draw has missed usually indicates missed draw while bet / bet / check usually indicates overpair or 1 pair hands.

I think the point is: watch your players.  Take note when you get to see show down hands.  Record the action of how the show down happened so that you can apply their lines to other similar situations.


  1. An observation from a recent game at Chuck:

    Seat 1 and 2 are constantly talking stratergy in between hands. During their "advanced" discussion seat 2 says to seat 1, if you knew that he is playing a big pair and there is an Ace/Flush on the board, why didn't you raise your bets exponentially (with air) to make them fold their big pairs.

    Seat 2 has the idea of betting big with air at 1/2 where this might backfire as no one usually folds big pairs. In addition he declares that he will show his hand anytime an opponent open folds their hand to his bets.

    Coming to the hand I was going to discuss:
    Seat 2 raises to 15 from MP. I call with A7s.

    F: 89Q with two of my suit. He fires 30, I call.
    T: 7os. He fires 90 (pot sized bet!).

    I have $315 and V got me covered before the start of the hand.

    Two thoughts were going through my mind, he never bet this big in the past with made hands, would he call another 180 if I shove here (which is highly possible as the pot is 270 before my call and would be another 180 to win 450 giving him more than 2:1).

    I chicken out on the shove and make the call (!@#$%). I promise I only do this kind of thing at Chuck!

    R: 8os. He shoves as expected!

    I almost pulled the trigger as I felt my 7 was good (going by the earlier discussion). As the hand was playing exactly the way he was discussing the stratergy. I open fold my A7. true to his word, he showed the bluff A10os.

    The turn gave him an open ender and he said would have called my Turn shove.

    So, my point is to pay attention to the high level discussions around the table and act on them if a similar situation arises.


    1. Golf Pro,

      Think you thought through the hand pretty well in terms of the bet sizing tells. In so far as the hand, I think shoving the turn would be a disaster. If he has bluffs/semi-bluffs in his range we want to keep those hands in. You have a flush draw to fall back on so you really shouldn't be worried about a ton of hands and have easy folds for the rivers that make sense; obv a 6, T or a J puts a 4 liner to a straight.

      Shoving in that spot serves very little purpose in my opinion.

      PM-Vanessa is the nuts. I really like her thought processes. I wish she would be a little less biting at the table because it is very off putting. I think she could be an interesting face to poker. Young, female, aggressive, super smart, etc. I actually played with her deep in the $1,500 PLO event that she won in '08. She had heaps of chips and was running well. She literally steamrolled the table. Was impressive to watch.

    2. I know. I'm a big Selbst fan. It's funny - I was debating whether to put "Bumping Fuzzies" as a tag line for this post... but I wasn't sure whether people would be insulted or find it funny.

      She's a good live player but I think she's an even better online player - amazingly. She's super smart as well.

      Golf Pro - like my hand w/ 99 vs. J high board in a prior post (except this was a bit more money), you have to go with your reads and instincts. Good job for having the thought process, but take the action to back it up and reinforce your reads. On the reverse, I'm usually getting looked up because no one ever believes my lines in this kind of situation (I've made this guy's play a few times and more or less stopped doing it at Ctown because most players there would rather burn money than be bluffed off a pair hand; makes it much easier to get value from your good hands, but also says to bluff less frequently).

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  2. Thanks Brian and PM for the responses. I know I have invested $135/$315 in that pot. I had the right reads, but, I couldn't pull the trigger with the bottom pair on that board. Oh well! next time.

    After a few minutes comes a friend of Seat 2. Seat 2 moves to 3 and his friend occupies the Seat 2. He is the epitome of the bluffing game. Now we have three people to exploit and I am seated nicely in Seat 5. Seat 8 is a guy who bought in for $150 and started berating Seat 2 (the new guy). He says I know you bluff a lot and you three guys (1,2 and 3) like to talk stratergy at the table. You guys think you are good players, but, you are not.

    --- "OK! if you know so much then STFU and keep stacking their chips you DOLT!"

    I am not sure where he was going with this discussion. I sat there for two hours not uttering a single word, but, I wanted to punch this guy as he started berating +EV's at the table.

    I should probably ask Vanessa to talk some sense into this guy to shutup Or a more easier solution, ask the floor for a table change for this guy.



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