Playing the mediocre hands

Brendan RBrendan R Red Chipper Posts: 101 ✭✭
How do you personally play mediocre made hands?

Playing strong hands or air is generally somewhat easy or straightforward, but how do you play your hands like middle or bottom pair on the flop/turn/river?

Considering we often end up with a made hand that is not a monster, I really think the ability to play these hands well is what separates the decent players from the great players. Depending on the variables the correct line varies quite a bit yet I see recommendations from players or training sites to take a specific line with these types of hands without regard to specific situations.

For example, I’ve talked to multiple players who don’t “believe” in the concept of protection or equity denial (or whatever you want to call it) who claim you should usually check/call these hands. They often have some arbitrary rule like middle pair is worth 2 streets and bottom pair is worth 1 or whatever.

They argue that you’re unlikely to get called by worse hands, checking with these hands balances your checking range and it keeps your opponent’s range wide giving them the opportunity to bluff at you.

On the other hand I’ve talked to players who are deathly afraid of getting sucked out on when they pair up and want to take it down immediately.

They argue that you often have the best hand because it’s hard to hit the flop and it’s better to cash out your equity - especially if the hand is vulnerable. Betting these hands also keep your C-bet frequency up in the healthy 60-65% range, which keeps your opponents indifferent. Checking can also cap your range quite a bit.

Obviously the answer is somewhere in between and I can see where both schools of thought are coming from.

I’m hoping this will turn into a good discussion and the question I’d like to pose is how do you guys find yourself playing these hands most often and why?

Ideally you should be considering things like position, fold equity vs your opponent, vulnerability, stack size etc in each situation and tayloring your line to these factors but it can be difficult to consider these in real time. So IN GENERAL which way do you lean and why?

Personally I used to bet them for equity denial more often than I would check them. However recently I’ve switched to taking a more passive line and I’ve seen slightly better results. I find that solvers and PokerSnowie also like a healthy amount of checking these types of hands too.

Comments

  • AustinAustin Red Chipper Posts: 5,483 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Too vague to turn into a discussion. Post some hand examples with player profile, stack sizes, position etc and you will get better feed back. Each situation is unique in itself.
  • kageykagey Red Chipper, KINGOFTAGS Posts: 2,241 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Brendan R wrote: »
    For example, I’ve talked to multiple players who don’t “believe” in the concept of protection or equity denial (or whatever you want to call it) who claim you should usually check/call these hands. They often have some arbitrary rule like middle pair is worth 2 streets and bottom pair is worth 1 or whatever.

    They argue that you’re unlikely to get called by worse hands, checking with these hands balances your checking range and it keeps your opponent’s range wide giving them the opportunity to bluff at you.

    On the other hand I’ve talked to players who are deathly afraid of getting sucked out on when they pair up and want to take it down immediately.

    you've just outlined a couple of different ways in which your player pool can be exploited. my answer to your question is to use their tendencies against them.
    i'd play my hand the opposite as they would expect.
    Brendan R wrote: »
    I find that solvers and PokerSnowie also like a healthy amount of checking these types of hands too.
    when solvers and PokerSnowie can show us the max exploitative lines - then I will start paying them to coach me. in the meantime - they're more passive than aggressive in ALL their suggestions.... demonstrating that they're not the cure-all for poker.
  • star681star681 Red Chipper Posts: 399 ✭✭
  • Brendan RBrendan R Red Chipper Posts: 101 ✭✭
    edited February 2018
    when solvers and PokerSnowie can show us the max exploitative lines - then I will start paying them to coach me. in the meantime - they're more passive than aggressive in ALL their suggestions.... demonstrating that they're not the cure-all for poker.

    Solvers were made to find GTO solutions to particular spots. Their aim is not to find exploits but rather to be unexploitable themselves in a situation so it makes sense they'd often be passive or defensive.

    I think it's pretty valuable information to know for when you don't have a read/frequency exploit in a spot. I totally agree that exploitative lines are more profitable poker in general but you don't always have that.

    I don't know anyone that thinks they're a cure all but interesting observation regarding their apparent passivity.

  • Brendan RBrendan R Red Chipper Posts: 101 ✭✭
    Austin wrote: »
    Too vague to turn into a discussion. Post some hand examples with player profile, stack sizes, position etc and you will get better feed back. Each situation is unique in itself.

    Well aware each situation in poker is unique...lol.

    Which is exactly why I didn't post hand examples. I was hoping for a discussion of strategy on a higher level - not simply the most +EV line in a given spot.

    Wasn't super hopeful it would happen but I figured it was worth a shot. Just not the venue for it I guess
  • persuadeopersuadeo Red Chipper Posts: 4,308 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Brendan R wrote: »
    Wasn't super hopeful it would happen but I figured it was worth a shot. Just not the venue for it I guess
    You just dropped the question, what 15 hours ago?
    Obviously the answer is somewhere in between and I can see where both schools of thought are coming from.
    And you apparently already know the answer, so...
  • Cereal KillerCereal Killer Red Chipper Posts: 76 ✭✭
    Brendan R wrote: »
    Austin wrote: »
    Too vague to turn into a discussion. Post some hand examples with player profile, stack sizes, position etc and you will get better feed back. Each situation is unique in itself.

    Well aware each situation in poker is unique...lol.

    Which is exactly why I didn't post hand examples. I was hoping for a discussion of strategy on a higher level - not simply the most +EV line in a given spot.

    Wasn't super hopeful it would happen but I figured it was worth a shot. Just not the venue for it I guess

    This seems like the most appropriate venue to discuss this. Limiting yourself to two schools of thought and finding the sweet middle ground between those won't lead you to the promised land though. I find myself in these situations mostly when I have opened to 5X the BB with a small to middle pair. How I proceed depends on how my opponents responded, who they are, how I'm perceived, etc. I give up a large % of the time versus multiple callers, c-bet and barrel when it's heads up, and get very sticky with these hands versus maniacs. I think the ultimate answer is "it depends" and that defining your pool of possible correct responses as if they are each a point on a straight line between two schools of thought probably excludes the likely "most correct" solution.
  • kenaceskenaces Red Chipper Posts: 1,503 ✭✭✭✭
    Brendan R wrote: »
    So IN GENERAL which way do you lean and why?

    Personally I used to bet them for equity denial more often than I would check them. However recently I’ve switched to taking a more passive line and I’ve seen slightly better results. I find that solvers and PokerSnowie also like a healthy amount of checking these types of hands too.

    You question is very broad so hard to give good answer. You just have to look at lots of spot(consider your range v their range on given flop) AND also consider your bet sizing. If you are going to CB 1/4 pot on given texture as a strategy you will mostly bet these middling hands. Conversley if you are going to CB with PSB many of these middling hands will become checks.
  • kenaceskenaces Red Chipper Posts: 1,503 ✭✭✭✭
    kagey wrote: »
    when solvers and PokerSnowie can show us the max exploitative lines - then I will start paying them to coach me. in the meantime - they're more passive than aggressive in ALL their suggestions.... demonstrating that they're not the cure-all for poker.

    HUH

    I use PIO all the time to look for exploits, and I used to use run CREV sims with max exploit feature for same reason.

    PIO is way more aggressive(flop check raise/ 3B / triple barrel bluffs) than any player pool I have ever played in!
  • Brendan RBrendan R Red Chipper Posts: 101 ✭✭
    This seems like the most appropriate venue to discuss this. Limiting yourself to two schools of thought and finding the sweet middle ground between those won't lead you to the promised land though. I find myself in these situations mostly when I have opened to 5X the BB with a small to middle pair. How I proceed depends on how my opponents responded, who they are, how I'm perceived, etc. I give up a large % of the time versus multiple callers, c-bet and barrel when it's heads up, and get very sticky with these hands versus maniacs. I think the ultimate answer is "it depends" and that defining your pool of possible correct responses as if they are each a point on a straight line between two schools of thought probably excludes the likely "most correct" solution.

    I meant that it's probably a better topic to be discussed in person because it can be exhausting to type up all the variables that go into decision making on a forums board.

    The answer is most definitely it depends. What I'm trying to get at is WHAT do you think it depends on?

    For example, when I flop a mediocre hand (which again is most of the made hands you'll make in NLH) my thought process is something like the following:

    1. Is it vulnerable? (I.E. is there a possibility of more overcards coming, flushes completing, straights completing)

    If no check, if yes...

    2. Did the flop crush Villain's range?

    If yes check, if no....

    3. Do you have position, a low SPR or fold equity/reads vs said Villain? (any of the 3 will do)

    If yes bet for protection

    I also try to consider multiwayness, whether an A is on the board and other opponent tendencies.

    Ultimately what I was hoping to accomplish is to get a discussion going about how people think about these spots. What variables are you considering? How do you know when you should bet for protection or just take showdown?

    We know every spot is different but what makes it different?

    The topic of equity denial/protection comes up all the time but most of the discussions revolves around either what it is or whether or not it's a legitimate concept because as I said in the original post, some people just think that bets should either be for value or for a bluff and that if a hand is too strong to bluff with but too weak to get value from, well you should just check. What's not often talked about is HOW and WHEN you should bet to deny equity. From what I can tell, after spending some time searching forum posts on both here and other forums, most people don't really know when or if they should do either. Training videos/articles/books also spend most of their time just discussing what it is and whether it's a concept that has merit.

    Personally I do believe that you should "cash out your equity" in certain spots but I also believe that some people overdo it. It's an area of my game that I have recently realized needed attention because I was betting too much and thus losing EV because of it.
  • Brendan RBrendan R Red Chipper Posts: 101 ✭✭

    HUH

    I use PIO all the time to look for exploits, and I used to use run CREV sims with max exploit feature for same reason.

    PIO is way more aggressive(flop check raise/ 3B / triple barrel bluffs) than any player pool I have ever played in!

    Really? Interesting. Do you find that to be in general or specifically when you run that feature?
  • kageykagey Red Chipper, KINGOFTAGS Posts: 2,241 ✭✭✭✭✭
    kenaces wrote: »
    PIO is way more aggressive(flop check raise/ 3B / triple barrel bluffs) than any player pool I have ever played in!
    you must play in Vegas....

  • kenaceskenaces Red Chipper Posts: 1,503 ✭✭✭✭
    kagey wrote: »
    kenaces wrote: »
    PIO is way more aggressive(flop check raise/ 3B / triple barrel bluffs) than any player pool I have ever played in!
    you must play in Vegas....

    No I don't live in LV but I have been there many times around WSOP.

    I was also including 6m online were players are always more aggressive than in live poker(at least up to 5/10NL)
  • kenaceskenaces Red Chipper Posts: 1,503 ✭✭✭✭
    Brendan R wrote: »

    HUH

    I use PIO all the time to look for exploits, and I used to use run CREV sims with max exploit feature for same reason.

    PIO is way more aggressive(flop check raise/ 3B / triple barrel bluffs) than any player pool I have ever played in!

    Really? Interesting. Do you find that to be in general or specifically when you run that feature?

    not sure what you mean by - "run that feature" but the 3 spots I mentioned above are for sure more aggro than almost all player pools I have seen.
  • Brendan RBrendan R Red Chipper Posts: 101 ✭✭
    Gotcha. I misunderstood what you meant
  • AustinAustin Red Chipper Posts: 5,483 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Player is tight \ passive = over bet your medium hands vs him

    Player is loose passive = over bet your strong hands and bet thin with your medium hands

    Player is tight \ aggro. Donk bet vs his range on wet boards when you have a gutter or better.

    Playing medium hands depends on the player your against. Your see players likr garrett on latb downbet vs tight players and psb vs weak players.

    Don't need exact hands but a mix of marginal hands and flop texture to really develop a solid discussion.

    For example
    Hero has top 20% of hands

    Flop ($47) 9c8d7h
    What hands and sizing do you bet this flop with as the caller in a heads up pot (stacks $750) playing $2\$5?

    Loose passive?
    Tight \ weak?
    Tight \ aggressive?
    Loose \ aggressive?
  • moishetreatsmoishetreats Red Chipper Posts: 1,819 ✭✭✭✭
    @Brendan R: Thank you for raising this! I'm exploring this right now in my game.

    IMO, many players look to maximize their monster hands, win some bluffs with their missed hands, and get as cheaply as possible to showdown with their middling hands. I think that third category offers tremendous missed value.

    Let me oversimplify my thought process. Say your that you're playing against a regular player. Say that you have a middling hand. Odds are that you hope that it checks down. You win about half, you lose about half.

    Now, say that you bet. When V calls, you win about half (or maybe slightly less since V will call with his "better" middling hands), you lose about half (or maybe slightly more).

    But, when you bet, V will also fold a healthy percentage of the time because he only has a middling hand. And if you double-barrel or even triple-barrel, that fold equity goes up.

    Eventually, V will likely adjust (but V will likely adjust no matter what your play is). In the meantime, I think that there is tremendous opportunity playing your middling hand vs. V's middling hand more aggressively.
  • AustinAustin Red Chipper Posts: 5,483 ✭✭✭✭✭


    Ending applies
  • Brendan RBrendan R Red Chipper Posts: 101 ✭✭
    Austin regarding your post before moishetreats:

    I like those lines vs specific opponents. Based on the way you responded it seems like your opponents’ tendencies are the most important factor(s) you consider when deciding to bet with marginal/mediocre hands. Am I correct in saying this or is something like flop texture just as important to you?

    Also to clarify regarding your question, are you asking which hands I would donk with on that flop? Or did you mean as the PFR?

    Also just curious do you play mostly live or online?

    And Garrett from LATB is an animal.

    Then regarding the video you posted:

    They brought up the issues of getting value own d and the typical definition of a value bet being one where your hand is good at least 50% of the time when called. The caller had top top in the example.

    Top top is an interesting hand imo because I think it often gets overplayed a bit. It’s certainly a good hand but it’s one that is often not best when called all the way down to the river- at least against opponents that aren’t overly sticky. When that’s the case, I often find it’s not good at least 50% of the time when called for a 3rd street. I often find myself taking a bet/bet/check line with it when I don’t have a good read.
  • Brendan RBrendan R Red Chipper Posts: 101 ✭✭
    @Brendan R: Thank you for raising this! I'm exploring this right now in my game.

    IMO, many players look to maximize their monster hands, win some bluffs with their missed hands, and get as cheaply as possible to showdown with their middling hands. I think that third category offers tremendous missed value.

    Let me oversimplify my thought process. Say your that you're playing against a regular player. Say that you have a middling hand. Odds are that you hope that it checks down. You win about half, you lose about half.

    Now, say that you bet. When V calls, you win about half (or maybe slightly less since V will call with his "better" middling hands), you lose about half (or maybe slightly more).

    But, when you bet, V will also fold a healthy percentage of the time because he only has a middling hand. And if you double-barrel or even triple-barrel, that fold equity goes up.

    Eventually, V will likely adjust (but V will likely adjust no matter what your play is). In the meantime, I think that there is tremendous opportunity playing your middling hand vs. V's middling hand more aggressively.

    I’m having somewhat of a hard time tracking you but I feel like you’re saying you bet your mediocre hands aggressively until you notice your opponent adjusting. Is that what you mean?

    I think that is a reasonable exploit versus weaker competition but versus more solid players I think you’d probably want to be a little bit more concerned about balance.

    I think you’re also trying to get at the concept of fat value or maximizing your value. That can be very tricky with marginal hands. The question of whether or not it’s more profitable to bet vs check depends on whether your opponent can call you with worse so it would follow that it would depend on their playing style as well as the board. You might also consider whether or not it’s likely your opponent is capable of firing probe/float bluffs at you when checked to. You have to figure out which is more likely in a given situation.
  • AustinAustin Red Chipper Posts: 5,483 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Brendan R wrote: »
    Austin regarding your post before moishetreats:

    I like those lines vs specific opponents. Based on the way you responded it seems like your opponents’ tendencies are the most important factor(s) you consider when deciding to bet with marginal/mediocre hands. Am I correct in saying this or is something like flop texture just as important to you?

    Also to clarify regarding your question, are you asking which hands I would donk with on that flop? Or did you mean as the PFR?

    Also just curious do you play mostly live or online?

    And Garrett from LATB is an animal.

    Then regarding the video you posted:

    They brought up the issues of getting value own d and the typical definition of a value bet being one where your hand is good at least 50% of the time when called. The caller had top top in the example.

    Top top is an interesting hand imo because I think it often gets overplayed a bit. It’s certainly a good hand but it’s one that is often not best when called all the way down to the river- at least against opponents that aren’t overly sticky. When that’s the case, I often find it’s not good at least 50% of the time when called for a 3rd street. I often find myself taking a bet/bet/check line with it when I don’t have a good read.

    In the video i posted
    Vs a loose passive station im shoving the river
    Vs a nit im betting like $80 (1\3 pot)
    Vs a tag half pot? Not sure...
    Vs a lag im shoving as well

    In low stakes i don't consider having a lot of fold equity
    1) my hand
    2) texture
    3) position
    4) opponent
    5) opponents range
    6) effective stacks

    Not necessarily in that order but i consider all those things when playing. I play live 95% of the time with a pretty high win rate this year. Last year not so high.

    My weakness is not having enough time to play \ study. I wish i could study 4 hrs a day and play 6 hrs.
  • sumoswimsumoswim Red Chipper Posts: 148 ✭✭
    Look for spots when you can value thinner and when you can technically turn this hands into effective bluffs.
    Go to showdown with the other category.
    Is it make sense?
  • moishetreatsmoishetreats Red Chipper Posts: 1,819 ✭✭✭✭
    Brendan R wrote: »
    @Brendan R: Thank you for raising this! I'm exploring this right now in my game.

    IMO, many players look to maximize their monster hands, win some bluffs with their missed hands, and get as cheaply as possible to showdown with their middling hands. I think that third category offers tremendous missed value.

    Let me oversimplify my thought process. Say your that you're playing against a regular player. Say that you have a middling hand. Odds are that you hope that it checks down. You win about half, you lose about half.

    Now, say that you bet. When V calls, you win about half (or maybe slightly less since V will call with his "better" middling hands), you lose about half (or maybe slightly more).

    But, when you bet, V will also fold a healthy percentage of the time because he only has a middling hand. And if you double-barrel or even triple-barrel, that fold equity goes up.

    Eventually, V will likely adjust (but V will likely adjust no matter what your play is). In the meantime, I think that there is tremendous opportunity playing your middling hand vs. V's middling hand more aggressively.

    I’m having somewhat of a hard time tracking you but I feel like you’re saying you bet your mediocre hands aggressively until you notice your opponent adjusting. Is that what you mean?

    I think that is a reasonable exploit versus weaker competition but versus more solid players I think you’d probably want to be a little bit more concerned about balance.

    I think you’re also trying to get at the concept of fat value or maximizing your value. That can be very tricky with marginal hands. The question of whether or not it’s more profitable to bet vs check depends on whether your opponent can call you with worse so it would follow that it would depend on their playing style as well as the board. You might also consider whether or not it’s likely your opponent is capable of firing probe/float bluffs at you when checked to. You have to figure out which is more likely in a given situation.

    Obviously, we agree: there isn't a general approach that works. Everything in poker is ultimately V and table dependent.

    That being said, I am trying to be more attentive to a mindset that I see in poker -- and this is not limited to "weaker competition": with mediocre hands, players tend to want to get to showdown cheaply. No, not all players. But, a heck of a lot. If their goal is to get to showdown as cheaply as possible, then why play into it? Why not charge them to get to showdown?

    This is predicated, of course, on having an idea of how a particular V plays a strong hand, a semi-bluff, and a missed hand. When you sense that that V is in the middle of his or her range, though, I'd look to bet, not get to showdown. You'll win some and you'll lose some at showdown; you'll also win all the ones that V folds.

    In addition, if others at your table see that you'll play your mediocre range this way (again, purposefully and against certain Vs), then you're more likely to get paid off when you have nutted hands.

    That's what I'm working on now in my game, and I think that it's a fascinating topic for exploration.

    I'll put it another way: everyone gets big hands sometimes and gets paid off. Everyone misses hands much of the time and mucks. Some players are FAR better than others at maximizing the former and minimizing the latter; they are often consistent winners. Now, imagine that you can also learn to maximize winnings and minimize losings in the untapped middle part of your range: wouldn't that be an incredible boon to your game?
  • NYCRyNYCRy Red Chipper Posts: 336 ✭✭✭
    edited February 2018
    @moishetreats good stuff. I'm going to experiment with that. Should work well at 1/2 where you often don't have to worry about being super balanced
  • Brendan RBrendan R Red Chipper Posts: 101 ✭✭
    Brendan R wrote: »
    @Brendan R: Thank you for raising this! I'm exploring this right now in my game.

    IMO, many players look to maximize their monster hands, win some bluffs with their missed hands, and get as cheaply as possible to showdown with their middling hands. I think that third category offers tremendous missed value.

    Let me oversimplify my thought process. Say your that you're playing against a regular player. Say that you have a middling hand. Odds are that you hope that it checks down. You win about half, you lose about half.

    Now, say that you bet. When V calls, you win about half (or maybe slightly less since V will call with his "better" middling hands), you lose about half (or maybe slightly more).

    But, when you bet, V will also fold a healthy percentage of the time because he only has a middling hand. And if you double-barrel or even triple-barrel, that fold equity goes up.

    Eventually, V will likely adjust (but V will likely adjust no matter what your play is). In the meantime, I think that there is tremendous opportunity playing your middling hand vs. V's middling hand more aggressively.

    I’m having somewhat of a hard time tracking you but I feel like you’re saying you bet your mediocre hands aggressively until you notice your opponent adjusting. Is that what you mean?

    I think that is a reasonable exploit versus weaker competition but versus more solid players I think you’d probably want to be a little bit more concerned about balance.

    I think you’re also trying to get at the concept of fat value or maximizing your value. That can be very tricky with marginal hands. The question of whether or not it’s more profitable to bet vs check depends on whether your opponent can call you with worse so it would follow that it would depend on their playing style as well as the board. You might also consider whether or not it’s likely your opponent is capable of firing probe/float bluffs at you when checked to. You have to figure out which is more likely in a given situation.

    Obviously, we agree: there isn't a general approach that works. Everything in poker is ultimately V and table dependent.

    That being said, I am trying to be more attentive to a mindset that I see in poker -- and this is not limited to "weaker competition": with mediocre hands, players tend to want to get to showdown cheaply. No, not all players. But, a heck of a lot. If their goal is to get to showdown as cheaply as possible, then why play into it? Why not charge them to get to showdown?

    This is predicated, of course, on having an idea of how a particular V plays a strong hand, a semi-bluff, and a missed hand. When you sense that that V is in the middle of his or her range, though, I'd look to bet, not get to showdown. You'll win some and you'll lose some at showdown; you'll also win all the ones that V folds.

    In addition, if others at your table see that you'll play your mediocre range this way (again, purposefully and against certain Vs), then you're more likely to get paid off when you have nutted hands.

    That's what I'm working on now in my game, and I think that it's a fascinating topic for exploration.

    I'll put it another way: everyone gets big hands sometimes and gets paid off. Everyone misses hands much of the time and mucks. Some players are FAR better than others at maximizing the former and minimizing the latter; they are often consistent winners. Now, imagine that you can also learn to maximize winnings and minimize losings in the untapped middle part of your range: wouldn't that be an incredible boon to your game?

    Gotcha.

    I think that's a good point. If other players at the table see you showdown some middle pair after firing three barrels they'll be more inclined to pay you off later. However, once you show down one of these hands it would probably behoove you to tighten up a bit. The meta-game comes into play. They'll be more inclined to call you down light for 3 streets so you should try to stay one step ahead of them. It's a little bit of advertising if you will.

    Players often say that you have to be willing to bluff in order to get paid off later but you could also take an overly aggressive line with a mediocre hand.

    So add one more "pro" to the list for playing these hands aggressively.

    As said above tho, balance will be important against better players.

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