Earning value from your best hands and making players fold with big bluffs are important aspects of profitable poker.
But the old adage of “a penny saved is a penny earned” is also essential.
How long can your $2,000 bankroll survive winning lots of $20 pots, but losing many $40 pots? Yeah, not long at all.
Perennial losing players aren’t able to “find the fold” when they know they’re beat. They keep paying off their opponent’s small and big bets because they just don’t want to believe their top pair hand is beat, or that their flopped set is beat by a flush on the four-spade board. Winners, though, they read the situation and take in all available information. When they realize they’re not likely to win this one through showdown or bluffing, they quickly make the necessary fold. It doesn’t matter the strength or the beauty of their hole cards (I’m looking at you, pocket Aces).
So, how can you start folding more to avoid giving value and simultaneously grow your bottom line? Here are four skills I recommend you work on.
1. Develop Hand Reading Skills
Hand reading is the most important skill in all of poker.
Hand reading is the process of assigning your opponent a range of hands based on how they entered the pot, then you narrow that range through the streets based on their actions and the board cards. As you narrow a player’s range, you get a sense of how strong or weak they are and you can make exploitative plays based on your read.
This skill requires a lot of time off-the-felt to develop, but it’s absolutely worth it. As you become a better hand reader, you’ll improve your intuition for the strength of your opponent’s range of hands. This improved intuition will result in better folding and calling decisions, which have a direct and positive effect on your bottom line.
If you’d like to see how to do hand reading exercises off-the-felt, check out my 66 Days of Hand Reading Videos on YouTube.
2. Notice Uncharacteristic Aggression
If your opponent has a tendency to check-call or check behind with weak pairs and all draws, what does it mean when he comes out firing on the flop or raises your continuation bet? Yep, he likes his hand and wants value from you. If a different player only fires the turn double-barrel when his draw completes, and the third spade or fourth straight card just hit, go ahead and believe his bet. Don’t stick around hoping that this is the time he’s making an uncharacteristic bluff against your one pair hand.
3. Remember How You Got Here
Have you ever hit top pair with AJ on the A92 board, called 3 streets then were surprised when your opponent turned over AK on the final A923K board? “How did he have that?!” you exclaim. Then you remember he 3-bet pre-flop and you called. Of course AK is in his range. But you, when you hit that top pair decent kicker on the flop, didn’t even consider this. You didn’t realize there are few 3-betting hands that are willing to bet three streets on an Ace high board. And guess what? Your AJ is ahead of none of them.
If you had remembered on the turn or river how the pre-flop action went down, you may have found the necessary fold and saved yourself a lot of money.
4. Utilize Bet Sizing Tells
Many players aren’t great at hiding the strength of their hand. When they hit their set, they bet full pot because they want your chips. When they whiff and want you to fold, they don’t go for the same full pot-sized bet.
They size their bets down in an effort to save chips in case their bluff doesn’t work or maybe they’re just scared.
It’s up to you to pay attention to the size of the pot and calculate the size of your opponent’s bet in relation to it. Generally speaking, the smaller the bet the weaker the hand. A half pot bet is a common bluffing amount nowadays. As bet sizes get larger, from two-third to three-quarters pot and beyond, it’s a bit more likely they hold a strong hand.
Make sure you’re paying attention to showdown hands and replay the street-by-street action in your head. Take player notes when you see bet sizing tells so you can exploit these in the future.
Good luck putting these four skills into play to find more folds and grow your bankroll.