In this common mistakes series, we’ll cover some of the most frequently made mistakes by beginner and even intermediate players. We’ll discuss what they are, why they’re so detrimental to your win-rate and, most importantly, how to avoid making them.
This week we’re going to take an in-depth look at the erroneous logic behind failing to adapt to board mutations. When the board changes the strength of your hand down the streets, you need be able to reassess your plan. This can be frustrating or taxing for beginner players.
How many times have you heard recreational players at the table say something like, “every time I flop a good hand I either get no action or I get outdrawn,” or, “with aces you either win a small one or lose a big one.”
They are basically admitting, whether they realise it or not, that they are unable to adapt to changes in board texture. Picture yourself in this situation:
£1/1 Live Cash Game; £200~ effective stack
Hero is dealt on the button.
Folds to Cutoff who, raises to £5. Hero calls.
Cutoff bets £8. Hero ??
Besides flopping the straight flush itself, this is about as well as our hand could have possibly flopped! We have the nut straight and a redraw to a flush. Now, what a lot of players tend to do here is give up applying logic because, on the surface, there are no more decisions to make.
“I’ve flopped the joint, let’s just get the money in.”
Great, bang the lot in against and fade the pair-up. Easy game, right? Unfortunately, we can’t all be Phil Ivey on Poker After Dark; most of us should be prepared for an unfavourable runout.
As it stands, our plan should clearly be to find a way to get all-in by the river. Raise flop, bet turn and shove river would be the most obvious way to do this. However, let’s not overlook the texture of the flop. Dynamic boards are prone to all sorts of mutations and, if that happens, we need to be willing to change our plan.
What’s the New Plan?
Beginners have a tendency to panic and want to “shut down” the hand by bombing it when scary-looking cards come out on the turn or river. All that does is force all the stuff we want value from to fold and only better hands to call. Obviously we have the nuts now, but what if the turn is one of the following:
| This turn increases the absolute strength of our hand from a straight to a flush, but decreases the relative strength from the nuts to the fourth-nuts. We now lose to all #xs, #xs, and #xs, all of which are quite plausible. This is no reason to slam the brakes on by any means, as there are still plenty of hands we can get value from, but we are no longer high-fiving the dealer should we choose to shove it all in.
| This turn card means KT has completed a straight, which we lose to. We now also chop versus AT, QT, JT and T8. Furthermore, as there is now four-to-a-straight on the board, our opponent will no longer find sets and two pair hands as attractive. Suddenly our plan of bet-bet-jam will only really be called down by hands that beat us or chop with us. As such, we can realistically only get two streets of value now.
| The dreaded pair-up. Our opponent can conceivably have all the full house combos here: QQ, QJ, J8 and 88, all of which have us drawing to one out (obviously we are dead versus JJ as that blocks the straight flush.) Not only that, but now flush draws have way less incentive to call us as they might be drawing dead. Again, we’re now looking for two streets of value at most.
Sometimes you’re the player that flops the straight here, and sometimes you’re the player who turns the flush, so make sure you don’t live or die based on the outcome of one hand. Always look to play your spots as profitably as possible by extracting as much value as you can versus your opponent’s overall range.
Yes: Give your opponent a bad price to draw.
No: Don’t shove them off the hand to avoid having to manoeuvre turns and rivers, and especially don’t do this once a bad turn card has already come down!
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