Have you ever thought about when poker is the most fun and profitable for you?
When it comes to fun, there’s a good chance poker is the most fun when you’re playing a home game with your friends, having some brews and listening to some good tunes.
And when it comes to profitability, it’s probably when you’re sitting at a table full of absolute fish.
Now, those are the overall situations where it’s most fun and profitable. But have you ever thought about the specific spots that are the most fun and profitable to be in?
For my money, it’s when I have the three advantages in a hand:
- Positional Advantage
- Range Advantage
- Skill Advantage
Let’s dive into each of these a bit further and see how we can give ourselves these advantages more often in order to make poker extra fun and profitable.
1. Positional Advantage
As Tommy Angelo says, “don’t say position is important at poker. It’s more important than that… Here is everything you will ever need to know about position: The player who acts last has an advantage.”
Position is the #1 advantage in poker because you have more information to work with and it gives you more options:
- You get to see what they do before you have to act.
- You get more time to consider ranges, player tendencies, HUD statistics, the board, pot and stack sizes, etc. because you get to think while they’re thinking.
- You can bet, check, fold or raise accordingly with more information than your opponent had to work with.
Being on the Button is the most valuable position because you’re guaranteed to act last on 3 out of 4 streets in every hand (preflop, the blinds act after you).
In order gain the Positional Advantage more often, do these 4 things:
- Play most of your hands from the HJ, CO and BTN.
- Call less often in the blinds, so fold or 3bet resteal more frequently.
- DO NOT LIMP! If a hand is worth playing, it’s worth coming in for a raise.
- Refrain from calling in the EP and MP to limit the options for others to enter the pot with position against you. 3bet more frequently or fold instead of calling here.
2. Range Advantage
Range advantage means you have the strongest preflop hands in your range. To put this simply, you were the last raiser preflop.
As the last raiser, you have AA-QQ and AK in your range. Normally, the callers don’t. Of course, callers could slowplay with the strongest hands, but most players 3bet these hands. So post-flop, your opponents have to contend with the possibility that you hold these preflop monsters.
This is often why flop cbetting and barreling turns are so often effective at earning pots. Your opponents don’t hit great hands all that often, and you might not have even hit the flop. However, as the preflop raiser, you possibly have those strong hands. Many of your opponents recognize this and fold a majority of their hands on flops and turns versus your cbets.
In order gain the Range Advantage more often, do these 4 things:
- Open-raise and iso-raise (again, DO NOT LIMP).
- Fold more instead of calling the initial raiser.
- 3bet more often instead of calling.
- Fold more often out of the blinds.
These first two advantages combined are critical to the idea of Bread & Butter spots: seeing the flop in position as the preflop raiser versus 1 or 2 opponents. Bread & Butter is great, but they’re even better when they include the third advantage: Skill Advantage over a weaker player.
3. Skill Advantage
You’re reading this article, so I’m sure you work to improve your skills to give yourself this advantage. Your higher skills will allow you to make superior decisions than your opponents. You’ll earn greater value with your best hands, make more effective bluffs and cost yourself less chips when you’re beat. Studying and playing with purpose widens the skill gap between you and your opponents.
Another great thing that comes with a Skill Advantage is that you’re more likely to capitalize on their mistakes. You know not to limp (I’ve mentioned it twice already) because it’s a weak play that gives the first 2 advantages to your opponents. So, what happens when your opponent limps and you raise in position? You’re capitalizing on their mistake and giving yourself all 3 advantages… YES! Fun and profits, here I come!
In order gain the Skill Advantage more often, do these 4 things:
- Play on tables with plenty of fish. No fish on the table? Get up and find a new one.
- Know who the weakest players are at your table.
- Target the weak and play hands against them.
- Study poker off-the-felt to improve your skills and plug your leaks.
When to Play a Hand
Anytime you spot an opportunity to enter a hand and have all three advantages, do it. The same with 2 advantages in any combination; play that hand.
However, if you recognize entering this hand will give you only one or zero advantages, you’re probably better off avoiding it.
Here are three plays that will get you all three advantages more often. Making these plays are easiest when you’re sitting at tables with plenty of fish, so table selection is an important skill to develop.
- Open-raise when a weak fish is in the blinds, especially if you know how to exploit them and you don’t think any of the remaining players will 3bet bluff you off your hand.
- Raise over limpers when in position. Be sure to make it big enough to get everyone to fold and only the limper(s) to call from out of position.
- 3bet versus weaker players who open-raise when you have position.