Tapping into what your opponents are doing and the patterns that they have is, without a doubt, one of your biggest money earners in poker, if not the biggest. The player pools are usually quite small in the games that I play and I use Poker Office 5 to assist me in locating exploitable patterns of behaviour with my opponents.
I play mainly full-ring cash games as they suit my individual style. Here I would like to show you one such pattern that I spotted a few weeks ago on a player before he apparently left the site. His pre-flop raising frequency was higher than what it normally should be but this statistic coupled with the fact that he nearly always fired a continuation bet made this pattern very exploitable.
The details of the hand:
STAKES: $3-$6 No-limit full-ring
MY STACK: $631
OPP STACK: $761
ACTION: It was folded to him in middle position (one to the right of the hijack) and he made it $21, it was then folded around to me on the button with the 10c-9c and I called the bet.
As a rule I don’t like calling raises but when you see patterns like this then it is difficult not to act on them. Calling tells my opponent absolutely nothing about the strength of my hand and they cannot rule out any flop from having hit me. My opponents range was wide enough and their chances of connecting were slim enough in order for me to try to take this pot away from them.
In the right situations against the right players then the ratio of success with regards to stealing in this way can be very high. Being on the button makes the play even more powerful as this gives me position on him as well which is going to make him feel a tad uncomfortable, especially if he doesn’t have much of an hand. The only thing that can get in the way of my plan is if one or both of the blinds get involved or if the original raiser actually connects with something on the flop.
In this instance both blinds folded just leaving the two of us with a pot of $51 so far.
The flop came Jd-6c-3s giving me nothing but some backdoor drawing hands and six outs to a pair that may be the best hand. My opponent led out with a continuation bet of $35, as I expected. Here I have three options and they are to call, fold or raise.
On this type of board against this type of player with this type of playing pattern, folding really isn’t an option. In fact I would not fold on a very high percentage of board types and just try to exploit the pattern rather than worry about the board texture as much as I might against a more selective opponent. So the choice is between calling and raising.
I prefer calling as a decent hand or a strong hand would more than likely allow their opponent to keep the lead and bet some more money off on the turn. Calling allows you to represent a strong hand that is setting a trap, a medium-strength hand or a drawing hand that is looking to improve … that ambiguity is something you can really exploit when you bet or raise the turn.
So I called the $35 making the pot now $121, the turn card was the 7d, giving me an inside straight draw. My opponent fired another barrel of $85 and I waited a few seconds and then raised to $290. These are obviously risky plays but if you desire to make decent money playing poker then these are some of the plays that you are going to have to make.
Against the right opponents in the right situations then the play is definitely +EV and this is all that you need to worry about. Your job as a poker player is to seek out and then exploit as many positive expectation situations as you possibly can. This is a big difference in how I am now playing compared to last year. My game selection processes are far more professional now and I already know that a certain game will have value before I sit down to play in it.
If you are not used to making risky plays of this nature then it will certainly make you feel uncomfortable the first time that you do it. You will sit there dreading the call and you will be thinking “is this the time when they really have a hand?” And sometimes, they will. All you need to remember is that you are in this for the long run and do not be put off by the results of individual hands as they are essentially meaningless in the long term. As long as you are properly bankrolled to accept a little more variance then you will be fine.
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