Poker is easy...and I think I figured it out (joking, but semi-serious)

DeadliftsDeadlifts Red Chipper Posts: 120 ✭✭
edited February 18 in General Concepts

First, the title itself is ignorant, and this entire post may be as well..something I'm fully willing to accept so long as I learn something right? I've been playing for 8 months now...before 8 months ago I knew which hands beat which...and what the name of each position at the table was, and only played a rec home game once every 3 years or so. 8 months ago is when I decided to actually learn about poker. Since then, I've only played live once, with the rest being online. I also started with 6max...jumping stakes quickly (essentially doing everything I should not have when starting out). However, I knew clearly that I was not following proper BRM rules, I knew I had an infinite of time to go before I could count myself even as a "thinking player". Since I was (and am still) obsessing over poker, I ignored all of that an continued to learn the hard way as I do with everything....over all I ran the numbers and by a strict avg for the first 5 months I was averaging 7 hours of play and 4 hours of study per day.

This is all significant (I feel), to really define my personal perspective when it comes to learning this game. I'm embarrassed to admit this, but up until this past weekend...I only paid 47% of attention to the table...I was't paying close attention to who raised pre, did not understand board textures or hit frequencies to help guide my postflop decisions, and I barely paid attention to any hand I was not in (up until last weekend). However, I STILL understood what I was NOT doing...more importantly I fully understood specifically why the lines I chose were -EV. Still, I did not apply what I knew...I instead let my ego take too much control...which resulted in me punting stacks away left & right while clearly knowing I should not be making these calls, or placing these bets etc. The silver lining is again, I would at least analyze my hands and identify to the street, where I went wrong and why it was the wrong move (my logic is, if I'm lighting money on fire, I want to at least learn something from it).

Fast forward to this weekend, where I had been learning and studying about range/nut advantages...I had this epiphany when I actually spent the entire weekend paying closer to 90%+ to the table...this wave of "Holy shit this is easy" type emotion consumed me as a result..something that's very dangerous for new players to adopt. It happened when I opted to 3b :8h :9h , from the BB to CO's open. Flop comes :As :Ks :9c . Given this was Zone, I play to the population vs the player. So in my mind, this flop is GREAT for me to cbet, I can have tons of spade combos, over pairs, and a potential nut advantage here as well. Turn comes :Kd , chose to go with it and continue repping my range...which worked out for me. This is just one example, with one result of course. However it's the same moment where I put everything together..almost like understanding board textures/hit frequencies paired with range advantage was the last piece of the puzzle I needed for where I'm currently at in poker, below is what I feel should be analyzed every single hand:

-Stack depths
-Range/Nut advantages
-Preflop ranges/Capped ranges
-OOP/IP (When it's better to check vs. bluff)
-Player profiles/Table dynamics
-Board textures
-How many streets of value is this hand?

From a conceptual standpoint poker is easy imo. You construct your ranges based on what's logical from each position. You then use all information available to try and identify the range your opponent(s) have...and "play from there".

The thing that sparked this post, was the fact that I semi-challenged a higher stakes online pro on another forum. On this forum, this individual whom is quite good based on his general presence on the forum..posted a HH of his. This hand was a typical "V and I have played thousands of hands together, and he is one of the closest to theoretically possible balanced players, I've tangled with". Stakes were 10/20 online, Hero was in the CO with :9c :Tc , opens and gets 3b by SB. H turns 2p, and the river brings a nut flush, H is faced with a river jam by V in this hand.

So I asked a simple question of "Does V do this pre with anything outside of over pairs, with hands like 86s, 56s, 78s, 57s etc." His response was a condescending "I just said this was one of the closest to balanced players I every played with, so no he is not JUST opening 5% of hands here". To which I thought for a while...and it hit me after this guy posted his own responses to everyone else. He basically broke down V's range by hand (as we all do no matter what stakes we are at)...and said "raising the flop just because we have TP/Nut FD, at this level turns our hand face up"...and that was I read the post and the first thought was " what's so different about this hand from everyone else? Because it's higher stakes? So? This guy didn't do anything differently than I do when I analyze my own hands...the only difference is he's most likely using a solver for this exact scenario"

So this is what led to me to poker really difficult conceptually, and at the higher stakes are they really doing crazy mysterious things that us lower stakes individuals can't understand? I think the answer is a resounding no....thoughts?

DISCLAIMER: I am not claiming to have solved poker, I am claiming to have hit a spot where I now find poker to be much easier and also "easy" in concept, and I am looking for either validation to this line of thought...OR...for someone to tear this part...either way I learn.


  • Doug HullDoug Hull RCP Coach Posts: 1,743 -

    Is there a question here?
    Co-founder Red Chip Poker,
    Author Poker Plays You Can Use
    Author Poker Workbook for Math Geeks
  • DeadliftsDeadlifts Red Chipper Posts: 120 ✭✭
    @Doug Hull

    Good question lol, admittedly I posted this while at work, so looking back on it, definitely could have been structured differently. The main question I have (based on my interaction that I listed with a reputable high stakes online player); is "are high stakes players doing anything different conceptually, that low-stakes players are not..based on the elements I personally listed that I feel are significant during each session".

    Sure over time we recognize smaller leaks as we progress, over time we become quicker at parsing large amounts of information...but conceptually, from what I've seen...higher stakes don't differ in strategy..they differ in the adaptations players make (e.g. how wide their ranges become, merged/polarized etc.).
  • jfarrow13jfarrow13 Red Chipper Posts: 1,253 ✭✭✭✭
    So....the difference between a pro basketball player and a bad D-1 player is...the pro is better at shooting, dribbling, passing, ect. You know, the thing's that make you good at the game? Like...the foundations of poker, being good at those things makes you a good poker player. Sure, having crafty or clever "moves" add's an extra layer to your game, but every poker player that consistently wins at high levels has really solid foundations, or does the "fundamentals" better than lower stakes players.

    Now getting good at those thing's is the hard part. Good luck.
  • DeadliftsDeadlifts Red Chipper Posts: 120 ✭✭

    I agree with everything you said...but I'm looking for something specific...perhaps I may be looking for nothing...but nonetheless as a new player this is my perspective (which is tainted with ignorance)...I fully presumed before even writing this, that higher stakes players have more experience under their belt; because of this, they are naturally going to be much faster at processing information, their leaks at 1/2 when they first began, are no no longer as time passed etc. etc. So, this I get...I guess I was left with such an impression after the high stakes individual in my post, that I had to find out if there was a "smoking gun" that I was missing based on what this high stakes individual said regarding his thought process specifically.

    After reading his feedback regarding how he analyzed his hand...I immediately had that internal response of "'re doing exactly what I already presumed we're all doing?"...which is again, what led me to post this..looking for that "smoking gun" something that maybe I'm just not seeing as a new player outside of both the elements I listed; as well as the natural benefit that time and experience brings to us...
  • DeadliftsDeadlifts Red Chipper Posts: 120 ✭✭
    The fact that I personally have eons to go before I can count myself as a winning player yadda yadda, is not what I'm questioning, nor is it what I'm concerned with. I already know full and well how long and brutal this journey is and can be, I'm just analyzing what I've seen and most importantly, making sure that my analysis are accurate before I mistakenly move forward
  • jfarrow13jfarrow13 Red Chipper Posts: 1,253 ✭✭✭✭
    No, your correct in that the thought process of a highly skilled player shares many commonalities of lower stakes players who are trying to improve on the game. However, as you continue and move forward, this game will constantly challenge your assumptions about this game, and you'll continuously see that you were "wrong". It's funny, the "right" thing to do in certain games will be the "wrong" thing to do in other games. At it's foundation, there are certain principles that will always remain true, the math and equity of certain hands never changes. The math around SPR and ranges doesn't change. But each player, based of what they will do, what hands they will play, and how they will bet drastically changes aspects of the game. As people get higher in the ranks of poker, there becomes a "settling", or a player pool standard of what is "good". For example, many people notice when they move from 1-2 to 2-5, people by and large have stopped limping weak hands trying to see a flop. However, does that mean "limping" is bad? No, but the move of "im limping a weak hand to try to hit a flop" is. So limping might go from 1-2 people limp weak hands to try to see a flop, to 2-5 where there is very little limping, to higher stakes were there is a well thought out balanced limping strategy.

    That's why this game is so great, and really all games are so great. Just when people think they know what to do, someone comes along and challenges the status quo of the game, and the game changes and evolves.
  • persuadeopersuadeo Red Chipper, Table Captain Posts: 3,966 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited February 19
    So this is what led to me to poker really difficult conceptually, and at the higher stakes are they really doing crazy mysterious things that us lower stakes individuals can't understand? I think the answer is a resounding no....thoughts?

    The answer is no, but the application of the principles can be so far more nuanced that an analogy would be a primitive considering modern technology as practically magical.
  • MichaelBMichaelB Red Chipper Posts: 211 ✭✭✭
    I'd say most thinking players at the beginning of their poker journey actively look for the same 'smoking gun' you're thinking of, but in reality, you're better off visualising it more like one of those professional sound boards you'd find in a recording studio. There are literally thousands of tiny to large adjustments you can make, and every time you change one thing, that will have flow on effects to one or several other elements, so while it may appear to a novice that the pros are just doing pretty much the same thing (which they are on the surface), there's actually a multitude of unseen parts to the machine, so to speak.

    Personally, I like to think of playing poker as going to war, and all these ways to win a pot (such as the way you discovered) are just weapons in your arsenal. You pick them up as you go along, perfecting and sharpening them through experience, but the real skill, the difference between those who get stuck at $1-2, and those who are able to progress and succeed in the higher stakes are the ones who understand when, why and how to bring out which weapons at which exact moment in order to win the greater war.
  • DeadliftsDeadlifts Red Chipper Posts: 120 ✭✭

    Again, I could not agree more with your statement, especially regarding the change in player disposition as we move up in stakes. So much so, that in the first month of me playing poker, I automatically assumed (based on what I was seeing on staged TV..), that players at higher stakes contrive this sort of "guessing game" for total lack of better terms. What I mean by that, is once players reach a certain level, I assumed that the standard open from EP with 6.5% of hands in FR, drastically changes as it NEEDS didn't make any logical sense to me, that players are highs takes are playing in the same manner from when they first if I assumed that during my first month of playing this game, you can rest assured, that I still have that belief today..however, I as a new player, do now want to make the mistake of, checking off this box of "Are the concepts still the same?" before I get validation.

    Does this mean I'm going to now assume that I can beat this game because I know how to execute the aforementioned elements I listed above? Absolutely not, BUT for my own edification, and my thought really helps to know at least, that the concepts remain the makes it easier for me to personally adapt as I move up.


    Also agreed, especially with minor leaks that can become catastrophic at the higher levels


    Awesome analogy!
  • DeadliftsDeadlifts Red Chipper Posts: 120 ✭✭

    I think a better way to redefine this as I'm currently playing and realized this. The mindset I'm transitioning into when it comes to poker, is something along the lines of "Now that I am piecing together a strong foundation, with nothing left but the intricacies of the human condition, as well as the lack of time under my belt; there really shouldn't be a mystery regarding when I lose pots or sessions. Instead, it should be there are two specific reasons that can cause a loss now: 1. players being players (e.g. choosing to 3b 64o pre and get there by the river, and 2. Purposefully walking myself into bad situation..or gambling."

    There shouldn't really be any spots that are a complete "What do I do in this spot?".....reason being is because I'm looking at this from a 20k foot purview. If I run into spots where I'm second guessing myself...I should run it through equilab/pio (at higher stakes I believe with solvers)..memorize these exact spots for when they come up in the future....and that's it nothing more to it right?

    I'm new as mentioned above, so I'm looking at this through my lens, and I'm petrified of adopting new mindsets that might be flirting with danger as a new poker player. Does that make sense?
  • TheGameKatTheGameKat Posts: 2,017 -
    You're missing the most important reason for a losing session which is the order the cards get mixed in the shuffle machine.

    What you can achieve is greater clarity as you suggest. That is, in a given session you should have fewer occasions in the "wtf do I do now?" category. But they're never eliminated. Poker is too interesting for that.
    Moderation In Moderation
  • DeadliftsDeadlifts Red Chipper Posts: 120 ✭✭

    Your opening line was awesome haha. Your ending to the statement was also very well put, thanks for responding!
  • persuadeopersuadeo Red Chipper, Table Captain Posts: 3,966 ✭✭✭✭✭
    There shouldn't really be any spots that are a complete "What do I do in this spot?".....reason being is because I'm looking at this from a 20k foot purview. If I run into spots where I'm second guessing myself...I should run it through equilab/pio (at higher stakes I believe with solvers)..memorize these exact spots for when they come up in the future....and that's it nothing more to it right?

    No, that's too simplistic and not reflective of the diversity of formations, ranges, and sizings you will face. Some spots are standard, sure.
  • DeadliftsDeadlifts Red Chipper Posts: 120 ✭✭

    This is why I come here. Already in agreement with the diversity of ranges and formations..but the sizing aspect is something I was not considering until now, it's smaller elements like this, that I am looking for regarding this post. Thank you.
  • jeffncjeffnc Red Chipper Posts: 4,639 ✭✭✭✭✭
    The basic concepts aren't too hard, assuming you're willing to put in a standard amount of time to study, as with any activity. But people are sometimes inconsistent, messy, complicated things. Figuring out ranges, for example, would work well against a computer opponent. But for one thing, to paraphrase something I read on a different forum, "it's not enough to know what your opponent has, what's important is what he'll do with that hand." Considering the fact that some players will do different things in the same situation over time (on purpose) and some players will do different things in the same situation over time depending on whims, moods, alcohol level, life situation, or tilt level, things get messy.

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