How do I calculate my pot odds?

3: How do I calculate my pot odds? (An extract from Your Poker Mastermind Vol 5)

Additional Information from the student:

I recently played a hand where it was $150 to call and there was $400 in the middle.

In this spot, do I divide 150/550 (27%) or 150/400 (38%) to get my pot odds.? I need to know what’s right as I thought I would win around 1 in 3 times.

One of the first things I recommend to anyone trying to learn about pot odds is to try and express them as a percentage. This is simply because we express equity as a percentage and we should be comparing our pot odds with our equity. It makes sense to use the same format to avoid constant translation.

You can practice calculating pot odds with any situation. You just need 2 numbers:

1: The Amount to Call

2: The Total Effective Pot Size

If you have these numbers you can calculate pot odds. Whether you play live or online, you need to make sure you know these 2 numbers. Before you do any calculations, simply practice knowing these 2 numbers.

There are 2 reasons why pot odds cause confusion. 

1: There are different ways of expressing and calculating them

2: They get confused with fold equity (question 2)

In question 1, I offered a simple method for calculating pot odds. I used slightly different words than I am using here, but the method is the same. Simply multiply by 100 to get the percentage:

Amount To Call/

Total Effective Pot Size + Amount To Call

If you are already in the habit of using traditional bookmakers odds, decimals or fractions to express pot odds, then I would encourage you to switch to percentage, so that you are able to compare your pot odds with your equity more easily.

⅖ = 40/100 = 0.4 = 3:2 = 40%

If you struggle to convert to percentage from fraction, decimal or ratio, you need to practice it. 

Now the second reason for confusion is because the way we calculate our required fold equity is very similar to the way we calculate pot odds. If we are laying the bet, we calculate our fold equity, whereas if we are calling the bet, we calculate our pot odds. I have witnessed arguments between players both with the right answers, but expressing answers to two different questions. 

Let me expand the matrix from question 2, so you can see how this all fits together:

Bet 200% - needs FE of 67% - opponent has pot odds of 40% (equity needed to call)

Bet 150% - needs FE of 60% - opponent has pot odds of 37.5% (equity needed to call) 

Bet 100% - needs FE of 50% - opponent has pot odds of 33% (equity needed to call)

Bet 75%   - needs FE of 43% - opponent has pot odds of 30% (equity needed to call)

Bet 66%   - needs FE of 40% - opponent has pot odds of 28% (equity needed to call)

Bet 50%   - needs FE of 33% - opponent has pot odds of 25% (equity needed to call)

Bet 40%   - needs FE of 29% - opponent has pot odds of 22% (equity needed to call)

Bet 33%   - needs FE of 25% - opponent has pot odds of 20% (equity needed to call)

Bet 25%   - needs FE of 20% - opponent has pot odds of 17% (equity needed to call)        

Now this is one of the most important bits of mathematics in the game of poker. It does not take long to learn it.

Top Tip: Learn it 

Coming back to the details of the question, if the bettor bets $150 into a pot of $250, creating a total pot of $400, the bettor bets 60% of the pot, which requires 38% Fold Equity and presents pot odds to our hero of 27%.

You ought to be able to grasp these numbers and use the matrix as a helpful tool.


When should I make a C-bet (Continuation Bet)?

The process for breaking up your range into categories is the same for making a flop C-bet as it is for any other type of bet, so this answer ought to have a wider benefit than merely helping with C-bets.

Categories and Frequencies - get to grips with these and you will find it easier to break up your range.

Now before GTO came into force, I used to focus mainly on categories. I used to consider my hand strength, the board texture, my villain etc and I would come up with a solution that would be the same for all similar situations. So, if I flopped top pair against a passive opponent, I would C-bet always, without considering frequencies.

To be honest, I still do this quite a lot and for the most part it doesn’t matter, but I am learning to take into consideration frequencies, especially against stronger opponents or against opponents with whom I play regularly.

The problem with always taking the same action (e.g. C-betting top pair) is that you become predictable and readable and this hands a big advantage over to your thinking opponent. There is also the added problem that you can easily become unbalanced in your overall strategy. A lot of players will bet when they are strong and check when they are weak. This is going to allow your opponent to make very accurate decisions, when the aim is to make your opponent make mistakes.

To make your opponent make mistakes, you need to be C-betting with a mixture of very strong, strong, mid-strength, weak and very weak hands. Then you need to think about how you are going to weight your frequencies for betting within each category.

Overall, you are looking to have a C-bet frequency of around 70%. If you C-bet more than half the pot, this could be a bit lower and if you C-bet less than half the pot, this could be a bit higher. You can then look to adjust for your opponents. Add more bluffing hands in against those who fold too much and add more value hands in against those who call too much.

Let’s consider the categories:

1: Very strong made hands - here, board texture will play a huge role in how likely you should be to C-bet. If you hold KQ on a AJT board, you are likely to get action and can consider C-betting some of the time. If you hold TT on a TT3 board, you are very unlikely to get action and should check almost always. This category will have an overall C-bet frequency that is quite low. These are ideal hands to trap with and by doing so, you gain natural balance to your range. They make up a very small, but significant part of your range. You should always be mindful of how you would play a “nut” hand. If you take the same betting line but wind up with nothing at all, you have a credible bluffing spot, whereas if you take a different line, you might find it hard to represent a very strong hand.

2: Sets, Trips & Two Pairs - these are going to play very similarly to made hands, except that in really deep spots, you should be aware of how likely it is for an opponent to either hold a stronger hand or make a stronger hand at showdown. In practice, I usually combine categories 1 & 2 and only mentally separate them when an opponent starts playing back at me.

3: Overpairs - any one pair hand is vulnerable in deep-stacked spots. Pay attention to the SPR (stack to pot ratio) at the flop stage. If the SPR is less than 4, you are frequently going to feel committed to your overpair and there is less sense in keeping the pot smaller. In these spots, you can quite often C-bet a very high frequency. Board texture, range advantage and nut advantage all play a role. Very often you need a mixed strategy of sometimes C-betting and sometimes checking. When this is the case tend to C-bet with your strongest overpairs and check with your weaker ones. If the board is dry, choose a smaller bet size; if the board is wet, choose a slightly larger sizing. You should normally be value-betting either immediately or on the turn, but watch out for skilled opponents with a nut advantage, capable of bluffing you off your one pair hand.

4: Top Pair - much of what is true of overpairs is also true for top pair hands. If the SPR is less than 3, it’s often hard to justify folding, so as long as you have value, you can C-bet a really high frequency. In higher SPR spots, you want to have some balance in your strategy. I like C-betting with top pair top kicker 100% of the time, but mixing things up with weaker kickers. It’s often very useful to have some of these hands in your checking range.

5: Weaker Pairs - pairs below top pair are often great candidates for checking. You can check out my video series on how to play middle pair here. You do need to C-bet with them sometimes though. If both players have wide ranges or if the board is dry, a weak pair can be a good value betting situation. If you have a piece of a draw as well as your pair, that might be a good reason for C-betting too. If your C-betting range doesn’t have enough hands in it, you need to come up with combinations to add to the range and weaker pairs are sometimes good candidates, though I usually look to my drawing hands first.

6: Strong Draws - these are usually excellent hands to C-bet with, especially if you are drawing to a nut hand. Always think about your overall C-betting frequency and try ensure you are not betting too often or not enough. There will be times where you don’t need too many drawing hands in your C-betting range and times when you want most or all of the drawing hands in it. Adjust for your opponent after you’ve considered your optimal range. Often you’re going to want to include more of these hands against opponents who overfold either immediately or on later streets.

7: Weak Draws - you need to be aware of your odds and outs. Some weak draws are obviously better than others, so you need to be cautious of C-betting too often with very weak and vulnerable holdings. If you have a pair as well or a combo draw, that certainly makes C-betting more attractive. A lot of the time your choice is going to come down to how often you think you can make your opponent(s) fold. Otherwise I would be less inclined to bloat pots with weak draws.

8: Two Overcards - again you need to think about your equity and do some range vs range analysis. Holding two overcards can be much stronger than it looks. If you have a draw as well, even just a backdoor draw, think about whether it is a nut draw or a weak draw. Both probably justify a C-bet, but certainly the strong backdoor draws, such as an ace high flush draw, needing two more. You definitely want to be C-betting with 2 overcards a good percentage of the time, as it is one of the strongest types of hands you have ih your “missed flop” batch of hands. Look at the board texture and consider your entire range.

9: Ace High - interestingly these are some of the hands that players fail to C-bet as frequently as they ought to. By doing study in a range tool such as Flopzilla, you will see that ace high is sometimes quite a reasonable holding, especially in a headsup pot. If you think about all of the hands in your range where you missed the flop, you need a decent percentage in your C-betting range and ace high hands can be great candidates, especially on dry boards where it is hard to find 70% of your hands to C-bet. That said, you want your opponent to be calling with worse or folding better hands. When neither of these are likely, you are better off checking.

10: Air - most of your junk you can check with, but once again consider your entire range and think about C-betting some air some of the time. Consider which hands have some backdoor potential. You want to be continuing to the turn with enough weak hands to give your range balance. On really dry boards you are going to need to grab a chunk of these hands and get brave with them. Most players do too much checking and folding with their air, at least on some types of flop. Against calling stations, though, don’t even think about it!

Do yourself a favour and spend some time with Flopzilla!

Happy C-betting :-)

Is online poker rigged?

I have been asked this question countless times during the past 15 years and my answer has not changed much during that time. This week a student asked me the same question and I refered him to Your Poker Mastermind Vol 4: Software and Statistics. I thought I would include the relevant question and answer here:

9: Do you ever get the feeling that online sites are rigged to generate more action for the purposes of rake?

This question still comes up quite regularly, especially after bad beat stories.

My answer is definitely not.

All companies with licenses to operate online poker software are subject to independent auditors. It is a straightforward test. The RNG software of all the sites is not complicated and is 100% safe and trustworthy in my opinion. They always pass the audits.

I’ve played on scores of different sites over nearly 20 years, have a database of over 25 million hands and I have never encountered any reason to believe that the cards are not being generated randomly.

The game of poker will always involve seemingly incredible stories of bad beats and outrageous one in a million spots. Frankly, if I did not find 25 amazing one in a million spots in my database, I would be surprised.

There are several reasons why players still believe that manipulation may be taking place:

1: Natural human cynicism and a glass half empty attitude.

2: Over millions of hands, outrageous and hugely unlikely occurrences become not only likely, but eventually almost inevitable. People are too easily shocked by events such as losing 10 coin flips in a row.

3: There have been poker scandals (not to do with RNG software). People believe because x happened, then y must also happen, but this is flawed logic.

The only scandal I can recall that was in any way related to the software itself was the one at Absolute and Ultimate Bet - read here.

The companies that own the poker client software have absolutely nothing to gain in rigging games and everything to gain in providing fair games.

What we have seen in recent years is a move from companies like The Stars Group Inc (formally known as Amaya Inc) towards encouraging faster games and games with higher variance. There are many things they can do to try an increase their profits without resorting to a suicidal attempt at rigging their own software.

So really, honestly, no.


Title My Book Competition & Launch News

Volume 1 will launch on Friday 15th June and I'll release another volume every 2 weeks, so I have enough time to finish the content. Each volume will be available for $2.99 in my store and at Amazon. Single volumes will also be available for $9.99 as a hard copies. 

For those of you wanting a free copy, you can simply email me and ask for one. I'll just want you to help spread the word in the social media, write a review, discuss the books in poker forums such as 2+2, or support the Postflop Poker Podcast.

I wanted to write a short note to thank everyone who sent in ideas for titles for my new book series. It was an overwhelming response and you all showed a great deal of creativity. Let me share a few of the ideas that I considered:

1: Poker FAQs (Merv Harvey)

2: Position, Power, Poker (Grant Thomas)

3: Poker Genesis (Owen Mullan)

4: Poker Questions? Answered (Richard Brundell)

5: Interview with Poker (Ray Belanger)

6: Cutting Edge No Limit Holdem (Mike Lynch)

7: Where is Your Poker At? (Jorge Blanch)

8: Crushing Poker (Martin Sayer)

9: Poker Missions (Martin Sayer)

10: Poker Today (Steven Serle)

11: My Poker Transformed (Richard Dunham)

12: Elevate Your Poker (Mary Beth Hayes)

13: Important Poker Questions Answered (Dan Bushfield)

14: The Pursuit of Perfect Poker (Brannen Hough)

There were plenty more that I haven't published here. The title/subtitle that I decided upon Your Poker Mastermind / Answers Your Questions was my own idea. From a marketing perspective I know that some of your ideas would probably sell more copies, but in the end I felt a strong connection with "Your Poker Mastermind" and I hope you like it too.

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Is there any formula for value betting?

This is a great question, as so many players make mistakes when value betting.

First of all, let’s separate value betting on the river from the other streets.

Value betting on the flop and turn has to take into consideration the future streets, which complicates the mathematics and makes a simple formula less useful.

On the river, however, there is a process I find useful.

Count the number of hands in your opponent’s continuance range that you are beating (this is not his entire range, but the range with which he is going to flat-call or raise your bet). Next, count the number of hands in his calling and raising range that have you beaten. Which category has more hands in it?

If it is clearly category 1, then you should normally be value betting. If it is clearly category 2, then you should not be value betting.

This is about as close to a formula as you can get.

Top Tip: Try and learn to think in combinations. Using Flopzilla or another range tool can help with this

You also need to consider your position. If you are out of position, sometimes check-calling can be smarter if there are lots of hands your opponent will bluff with. So, even if value betting has positive expectation, check-calling might make more money.

Okay, so far so good?

If you are considering value betting on the flop or turn, you also need to think about the future streets and how things are likely to play out.

This makes life really tough. In general, if you consider your range to be stronger than your opponent’s range, value betting is often the right strategy.

Nevertheless, marginal hands such as one pair hands need to be played carefully, so you are not building huge pots, especially if out of position.

A final thing to consider is your opponent and how fishy he is. It is easier to get value from weak opponents, so you can value bet more often. You can also choose larger bet sizes!

Bet sizing is another important consideration. Try and divide your opponent's hands into categories and think about how he will behave with different hand types against different bet sizes (for more on bet sizing strategy, check out the Ultimate Guide to Bet Sizing Strategy by Alec Torelli at Conscious Poker.

Remember too that you are not just playing your specific hand. Try and make sure your bet size choice is logical both as a value bet and also as a bluff, so you present a genuine problem to your opponent.

Volume 1 - Coming soon (Summer 2018)

Volume 1 - Coming soon (Summer 2018)

What is 3-betting and 4-betting?

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1: What is 3-betting and 4-betting?

This is one of those questions that everyone thinks they know the answer to, but is frequently misunderstood.

The numbers refer to the level or tier of the betting. It has nothing to do with the size of the bets chosen, nor the number of players involved.

The first tier preflop is the posting of the blinds - the 1-bet if you like. Then, as soon as someone raises, this bet is known as a raise - the 2-bet, or second tier. If another player re-raises, that is commonly referred to as a 3-bet, as the betting has reached its third tier. The same is then true for 4-betting and 5-betting. Any calls in between raises do not increase the betting tier.

Blinds - 1-bet

Raise - 2-bet

Reraise - 3bet

Rereraise - 4bet

Rerereraise - 5bet

Note that the size of the bets has no bearing on the tiers, so if a player simply pushes all in preflop as his open raise, this bet is at the “2” level.

Postflop, no blinds are posted, so the betting tiers start from scratch. Often, I hear players refer to a postflop bet as a raise, or a raise as a 3-bet, when in fact it follows the same simple structure:

Bet/Raise/Reraise = 1-bet/2-bet/3-bet

Learning to use this terminology correctly will enable you to communicate accurately about poker with others and avoid misunderstandings.

Your Poker Mastermind Book News

Over the past 2 years, I have been asked over a hundred different poker questions that I thought would make a wonderful book series. As many of the questions have come in through my work with Transform My Poker I initially wanted to title the books after Nick Wealthall's training site. To avoid confusion over brands, I have renamed the books Your Poker Mastermind. These are going to be inexpensive and you will be able to read large chunks of the content for free. Volume 1 will be released first and will be priced at $2.99, though you will be able to pick up a free copy simply by contacting me. In return, I'd I like your support in the social media and by writing helpful reviews. I'll replace the images below soon to reflect the new title.

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My answers to the questions are concise and I often provide links to further resources. I have organised them into 10 volumes:

1: General FAQs

Volume 1 is a reference book, featuring many of poker’s most frequently asked questions. Poker terms and concepts are defined and explained concisely. This book will help plug any gaps in your understanding of poker’s fundamentals.

2: Planning & Bankroll

Volume 2 deals with the essential and often misunderstood topics of planning and bankroll management. If you want to avoid some of the most costly mistakes a poker player can make, you should read this book.

3: The Mental Game

Volume 3 answers all your questions on the psychology of poker, including tilt, emotional control, active thinking and bad beats. In addition, there are many useful links to other resources that can help you conquer this crucial aspect of poker.

4: Software & Statistics

Volume 4 covers off all your questions on poker software and statistics. It is aimed squarely at the online player and can help you choose which software to use and also how to get the most out of that software. Also included are answers to your questions about HUD statistics and how to get the most out of your HUD.

5: Mathematics

Volume 5 is dedicated to poker mathematics. Whether you struggle with simple arithmetic or complex calculations, this book will build your confidence, teach you what you need to know and show you what and how to practice.

6: Cash Games

Volume 6 answers some of the most common questions about cash game play. If you are setting out on your journey as a cash game player, this book will serve as a useful starting point.

7: Tournaments

Volume 7 answers some of the most common questions about all types of tournament play, including SNGs and turbos. If you are setting out on your journey as a tournament player, this book will serve as a useful starting point.

8: Live Games

Volume 8 tackles questions on live poker games and includes a few more in-depth questions on specific hands from live play. If you are looking to become a more profitable live poker player, this book contains plenty of tips to help you.

9: Cash Game Hands

Volume 9 is a collection of in-depth cash game hand questions. Consider each question yourself,  compare your answers with mine and uncover any gaps in your thought processes.

10: Tournament Hands

Volume 10 is a collection of in-depth tournament hand questions. Consider each question yourself,  compare your answers with mine and uncover any gaps in your thought processes.

Over the forthcoming weeks  and months, I intend to release excerpts from the books and post them here on my blog, so keep your eye out for more in 2018!

The Final Tables Workbook

There are 2 weeks to go until the release of The Final Tables Workbook and I thought I'd tell you the story of how this all happened...

I got a tweet a few months ago from James "Splitsuit" Sweeney, co-founder of Red Chip Poker, author and prolfic poker content creator (type splitsuit into youtube and cancel the plans for the rest of your day). He wanted me to write a book with him. 

James had a very clear vision from the very start what he wanted and I was immediately impressed with how he operates. I knew pretty much straight away that this was a project that captured my imagination and that I could deliver what James wanted.

Essentially, this is his third Hand Reading Workbook. His first two are for live players and 6-max cash, so it was only logical that he came to a tournament specialist for help writing this one. If you're interested in his first two workbooks, you can check them out here:  

So, I set about composing 40 Workbook questions for range analysis. The hands usually progress to at least the turn card, but there are a few short-stacked situations where preflop all-ins are analysed in depth. Every hand is from a final table situation and the book is divided into 3 sections:

Section 1: Hands 1-10 which focus on your range

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So in this section, there are questions which probe you to think about what your range is for each situation. You have to define the boundaries, but there are always leading questions to guide you in the right direction. 

Section 2: Hands 11-30 which focus on the villain's range

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In this section, your hole cards are displayed, but the villain's are not. You have to consider what range of hands the villain would be choosing for each situation. Often you are given information as to the playing style of the villian to help you. You have to remember to assign a range based on what you think he/she would do, not what you would do. 

Section3: Hands 31-40 which focus on range vs range analysis

FTWB-section3.jpg

Finally, the most challenging part of the workbook asks you to assign ranges for both players, enabling you to see which player has the "range advantage" at each stage of the hand. This can be very revealing and can help you to see leaks in both your own game and in others'. 

By the end of June, the hands were written and James set to work putting the book together, which happened fast, even with WSOP distractions! He's a super-efficient guy.

In August, I spent time producing 8 x 30 minute video answers to some of the questions in the workbook, which can be purchased as part of the "Titan package" (more details to follow soon). I use HRC (Holdem Resources Calculator) and Flopzilla in the videos. Pokercruncher is also a good choice for Mac users.

Now, we're 2 weeks from release of the book (Sep 5th) and I'm thinking about that part of the process which comes least naturally to me: sales and marketing. The book will be available to purchase here at postfloppoker and also through Splitsuit's website here:

Want to have a look at it? Ok here's the cover:

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Podcast Transcript: Episode 20 - Top Pair Top Kicker

Scott:  It’s episode #20 of, “The Postflop Poker Podcast.” The show for serious recreational player, who is looking to improve their game. And since it is a milestone episode, the big 2-0, we’ve got a great show lined up for you. The hand that is sure to bust more people, than an ‘80’s cop movie. I am of course talking about flopping top pair, top kicker, or TP-TK as the kids like to say these days.

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