Organizing Your Mind Around a Hand

Stu PidassoStu Pidasso Red Chipper Posts: 50
edited February 2017 in General Concepts
I'm am beginning to teach someone else how to play poker. So far we really haven't covered anything about the game itself, just the concept of EV.

My question is this. How do you go about organizing your mind around a hand of poker? When playing a hand, what do you consider and in what order? For instance:

1. What is my Position?
2. What is the prior action and from whom?
3. How strong are my cards and are they playable given 1 and 2?

How do you guys organize your thoughts going into a hand?


  • Rello242Rello242 Red Chipper Posts: 595 ✭✭
    When i think about a hand the first thing i need to do is organize a goal and plan.

    The goal revolve around some basic concept:

    - I have the best hand majority of the time vs his range
    - I don't have the best hand majority of the time but implied odds are excellent here.
    - I don't have the best hand majority of the time but i can get him to fold better postflop.

    Once my mind is set on how i perceived my hand versus his range i look into playing poker.
    Now of course there are going to be a good chunk of the time where i would think my hand is at best but have to play it like its the worse hand and vice versa. By always knowing how i look at my hand i am formulating basically the goal plan here because if we think our hand is at best then we focus on value, if we don't think so we focus on fold equity and the special occasion where we don't think we are at best but we can get paid off if we hit the right board. (Implied Odds)

    So now i put my goal into actions and create a plan.

    Now before i go on lets highlight the edges you can have:

    Card Advantage: Where you are playing a tighter range than the villain in general
    Postflop Advantage: Where your postflop plan and experience is greater than your villain
    Positional Advantage: Where you get to see what he does first and where you can control the pot majority of the time.

    Card Advantage & Positional Advantage is something that can be done almost instantly. Card Advantage focuses on folding out weaker cards in your range and thus putting an emphasis on exploiting your villains just by folding. Positional Advantage just gives you a bit more flexible options and makes it harder for your villain to correctly guess what you are trying to do in the hand at general. Probably a pro on here could break this advantage down to be even more clearer than i have.

    Postflop advantage is a great advantage but one that comes over time as you learn certain spots postflop where your villain hand becomes "face-up", the combination of notes and frequency & all those little things that helps define his range where you can play almost perfectly against.

    By understanding this you can now decide when to get involve and put a plan into motion. For eg. In the blinds you might lose in the Positional advantage but if you have card advantage against his wide range + postflop advantage where you he cbets 80% of his range then you know you can raise a ton on the flop in general and create a large amount of fold equity or let him barrel off when you hit a hand.

    Just then we define a spot where we can exercise some edges and defined a plan based on when we have the best hand and when we don't. That's the basic of putting a plan together.

    A more defined plan would involve:

    - How you react to certain board textures
    - How you continue with certain hand strengths
    - When do you fold
    - How often you cbet, Double barrel, etc.
    - When do you check-raise
    - Shaping ranges in certain spots and knowing which kind of range you are representing in certain spots

    I think there are a few more but you get what i am saying. The more better your plan is the more edge you create postflop. Always make sure to proof everything you try to do so you don't find yourself making -EV plays based on your plan.


    "Its better to give than to receive, so bet more and call less"
    Check out my HUSNG Graph: Chips-Results
    Follow All the Action On My Blog:
  • Doug HullDoug Hull RCP Coach Posts: 1,862 -

    Simplify the game.

    You can't throw someone into a game with 100BB and hope to teach them cheaply. Too many skills to learn at once. I start (or restart) people playing short-stacked. It forces them into a tight opening range and simplifies all their decisions. When you are only playing a very tight range and trying to get as much money in pre-flop as possible, it makes the game a lot easier. This will get them plenty of table time to get calibrated.
    Co-founder Red Chip Poker,
    Author Poker Plays You Can Use
    Author Poker Workbook for Math Geeks
  • persuadeopersuadeo Red Chipper Posts: 4,300 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Yeah, +1 to Doug if the throat-clearing preamble to the question is what really matters. Otherwise strong answer from Rello.
  • Stu PidassoStu Pidasso Red Chipper Posts: 50
    persuadeo wrote:
    Yeah, +1 to Doug if the throat-clearing preamble to the question is what really matters. Otherwise strong answer from Rello.

    Well, Once I believe my student understands EV I think we will next move on to the ranking of poker hands. Doug gave some excellent advice about starting short stacked but I think we are a ways away from actually playing. My background is limit poker so that is where I will start.

    A lot of what experienced players do to organize their minds around a hand is at an unconscious level. You know something so well you don't even need to think about it. Kinda like driving a car....most experienced drivers can drive a car without even thinking about the steps required to drive a car. An inexperienced driver is going to have to consciously think about each and every step.

    What I am asking here is for people to list the things they think about....both consciously and unconsciously when organizing their mind around a hand. Pretend you are programming a bot to play poker. What would it need to know/consider and in what order?
  • persuadeopersuadeo Red Chipper Posts: 4,300 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Well if that is the case, the very first thing I think about consciously is stack sizes. Everything in live NL flows from this.

    A close second is position. It's second because the stack sizes can inform what players cannot do and do from their position. Hence, when stacks are close to even, or getting deep, position moves up the ladder of priority.

    However-- I'm not sure if any of this matters so much in limit/spread if that is what you are preparing this fellow for.

    The interesting part of your question is what I am thinking about unconsciously. Have to dodge that one- for now.

Leave a Comment

BoldItalicStrikethroughOrdered listUnordered list
Align leftAlign centerAlign rightToggle HTML viewToggle full pageToggle lights
Drop image/file