Hello to all, this article will help out novice to intermediate players that already have a strong understanding of the basics. I would not recommend practicing what I am about to go over too much if you are just learning the game! Anyways, what I want to talk about is getting creative and taking different lines. Any poker pro knows that every decision they make, should be based on if it will be profitable in the long run. While many have a set way of going about things, there are others who take a different approach. The only way to explore outside of the box, is to actually go ahead and do It. As long as you learn from your mistakes, taking a different line can always be profitable even if you lose that time. Just exploring other options and tactics to have in your arsenal can be way more +ev than taking a standard approach. If you are an observant player, you should be able to pick up on tendencies of how villains are playing. Once you recognize these said tendencies, you can either play the most consistently profitable way against them or try to exploit them further.
A quick example of this would be: Loose aggro player to our right keeps 3betting others in position and stealing our blinds from the btn/co. Some would advise to nit it up against this opponent since his range is so wide that if we tightened our range we would almost certainly be profitable because of the basic math of how our range plays vs his. While I don’t see this as a terrible method, as I do nit it up until I have a decent understanding of table dynamic, I see a lot of missed potential in not playing back at the villain (maybe im really aggro maybe im just crazy). However, If the loose aggro villain is actually a level headed thinking player, he’ll realize you’ve folded the past 50 hands and now just cold four bet him. Aces alert aces alert! If villain is any good he’ll simply muck and move on to the next hand. Moreover, he won’t slow down either until someone starts playing back at him. I think the game of poker has evolved so much and balancing your range may be the hardest thing to put into play. By balancing your range, I mean to 3bet and 4bet with hands that aren’t always standard 3bets or 4bets. When you do this you will become more unpredictable which is how we want to be viewed. Once you learn all the fundamentals, mixing it up from time to time will throw off your opponents and allow you to get paid off in spots where most nits never get paid off. For these main reasons, this is why I like to get involved in spots vs crazy villains. Im not recommending 3betting or 4betting super light a majority of the time, but if you choose your spots wisely it will show an extra profit for sure.
While that was in regards to preflop play, you obviously can get creative in more spots on the flop. Lets say our opponent cbets a high percentage of the time, 80% or higher if using a hud. We can profitably check raise air to marginal holdings vs villain or check call and float out of position. If you don’t do one or the other, most likely youre just playing abc poker. An example of this in a 200nl game: Folds to villain who opens the btn to $6, we have QJo in the sb, Sometimes its good to 3b since QJo is well ahead of his btn opening range, but I don’t always like bloating the pot out of position with such, so we elect a call and the BB folds, flops k25 and we check into his almost mandatory cbet of $8, if villain is cbetting 80% or higher he is doing this with all of his made hands but has air very often as well. We hold QJ which are blockers to hands like kq kj, this information plays of slight importance in our decision to check raise to $20. K25 type boards are very dry and very easy to pick off spots where many people try to cbet bluff. I think $20 is a fair check raise amount because we are risking $20 to win a pot of $22. Our decision roughly has to work half the time to show profit, and since our villain is cbetting 80% of his range, this play is certainly +ev. Once you start expanding your game and playing back at your opponents, you will realize that the cards you hold simply do not matter. Position, exploitation, and well timed aggression can take pots that shouldn’t be yours once you grasp the concept of getting creative. I hope you enjoyed this article and practice mixing it up!
-Steven Madara (@StevenMadara on twitter)
**Steve is a member of Team Heads Up Poker Gear (@HeadsUpGear) and an avid cash game player from the East Coast.