Poker on TV became really big and teenagers and young pretenders would soon enter casinos in hoodies, flicking their chips in nonchalantly while staring at one spot just like their hero Tom Dwan did. Over the last ten years online players have been very dismissive of live players but the one common thing they share is the imitation of their idols from TV. Whenever I see new trends of things I try to find counter-adjustments and ways to exploit the new strategy.

For example, it became standard to min-raise on the button in no-limit cash games. For one year people still called the same range in the big blind that they did versus a 3xBB raise. Eventually people realised that if it’s cheaper to call it means they get a better price and can defend a wider range – it is a very simple and easy counter-adjustment.

I think we can exploit people’s willingness to ‘be Phil Galfond’ and as the term quite descriptively says ‘hero’ call. Here are some tips which take into account modern day tendencies.

Attacking a missed c-bet

In no-limit one of the main weaknesses regulars have is they have a very high continuation bet percentage. Generally, if they hit the flop big with top pair, flush draw, straight draw, or an overpair they will bet. If they miss it completely they will try to represent and if they kind of hit with a hand such as middle pair they will check back and bluff catch.
Here is how to exploit this. In a $1/$2 cash game the Villain raises the button to $4. We call in the big blind with J-9 offsuit. The flop is Q♠-8♠–2♥, we check and the Villain checks back. The turn is the 3♣, a total brick. Here are some potential ways for us to proceed…

Plan A: It’s likely the Villain would always bet if he had a Queen, always bet if he had a flush draw and always bet if he had a set or an overpair – this means that he doesn’t have many ‘nut’ hands in his range. The standard ABC attack here would be to bet three quarters of the pot and hope he folds.
However, this move would be a mistake. It’s likely that the Villain would bet this flop with lots of his air hands that perhaps have a backdoor flush draw or a gutshot. We have just called from the big blind showing little strength so he may bet all of his bluffs on the flop. We can probably assign the Villain a range of 8-x. He hit second pair and doesn’t want to see a check-raise on the flop with his weak hand on a drawy board so he pot controls. Other hands that would go into a similar category would be 9-9,T-T, J-J, some underpairs and perhaps A-K that he thinks is good.

Plan B: A superior plan now would be to overbet the turn, putting maximum pressure on a weak range. It’s likely that the Villain auto-checked the flop and would auto-call the turn. But he’s probably playing eight tables, has a weak range and will likely fold when facing an overbet in a pot where he has invested little money. The con is that we risk more than the size of the pot meaning it has to work a high percentage of the time. The pros are he will have a weak range and we can expect to pick up dead money a lot of the time.

Plan C: Another good line of attack in this situation would be to bet the turn with the intention of bluffing every river. The Villain will usually call us on the turn and fold to the river bet. The pros are that the Villain will call the turn and fold the river a lot, meaning we pick up some value from his weak play. However, the con is that he will potentially improve his hand to two pair.
You may ask which option is the best? But that’s actually not important. What is important is that you are thinking about ways to adjust to the way your opponents are playing. Think about your player pool and common things that are happening that didn’t happen six months ago.
It’s likely you won’t be the first to spot a population tendency in the player pool you’re in but it’s very plausible that you can be the one making the adjustments first.

Adjustment bureau
When poker first became big with training sites such as PokerStrategy.com and CardRunners the coaches would often tell their players to three-bet with a ‘polarised range’, meaning very good and weak hands. Players eventually made the adjustment to four-bet more as they realised their opponents were often bluffing. The counter-adjustment to this was that the three-bettor scrapped very bad hands from his range and added in hands such as 2-2 to 9-9 and suited A-x, and then went all-in after their opponent made a suspicious four-bet. Perhaps this is because they always saw on TV that A-x suited had 30% equity whenever it was all-in.
Here’s an example of an adjustment I made a few years ago. I raise on the button to 3xBB. The Villain three-bets to 12xBB from the big blind. I four-bet to 26xBB and they go all-in for a total of 100BB to win the 36BB pot. It’s a pretty attractive spot to go all-in and fight for a decent sized pot. The counter adjustment I tried to make would be to make my four-bet sizing a lot smaller to make it unattractive for my opponent to go all-in – he would now be risking a lot to win so little.
For example, I raise on the button to 2xBB, they three-bet to 6xBB, I four-bet to 14xBB and it is now their turn. They now had to go all in for 100BB to win 20BB (instead of 36 previously). This now makes their five-bet all-in very unattractive. Eventually this became ‘standard’ but for a long time I was ahead of the regulars in my games because I was worrying more about me versus him rather than how Tom Dwan played in a sit-and-go against the best six players in the world.

22 thoughts on "Don’t play like your TV heroes!"

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