Mother’s Day Q&A with Smart Poker Study

In celebration of the upcoming Mother’s Day holiday, here’s a 4-part Q&A series in which I answer four listener questions as your “poker mom” with the goal of preparing you for a more profitable poker journey.

You know how your mom looked you up and down before sending you off to school each day? She made sure you had your lunch, your jacket, your books, etc. If you didn’t have what you needed, she’d get it for you and then send you on your way, knowing that you were prepared for the day.

Well, I’m going to be your ‘poker mom’ for your first 10 days in the Poker Forge!

Once you join as a 10 Days for $10 Member, I’ll review your stats and win rates to find your areas of opportunity. Then I’ll give you two video and action step recommendations from the Poker Forge that address exactly what you need to work on.
As your ‘poker mom’, I won’t allow you to spend your first 10 days in the Forge willy-nilly. You’ll be working with purpose to address your areas of opportunity, so you’ll get the biggest bang out of your 10 days in the Forge.

Mother’s Day Q&A #1: “What skills should I drill into my game?”

This question comes from Lars:

“What skills should I drill into my game?”

Great question! The reason to drill skills is so that they become a beneficial habit, so you’re on the right track.

Here are four great skills to drill into your game:

Skill #1: Asking and answering, “What are they doing this with?” before every button click

This question is what I call Poker’s Ultimate Question because it forces you to think about your opponent’s range, how it interacts with the board, their tendencies and all other information at the time. Your answer to this question, “What are they doing this with?” will guide your button click.

This is #1 on the list because it’s the most impactful habit you can develop.

To drill this into a habit, force yourself to ask and answer this question before every decision every day for the next 30 days. Trust me, you’re going to love having this habit.

Skill #2: Playing tight and aggressive preflop

What does tight and aggressive mean? It means you play fewer hands than your opponents and you raise or bet more than you call.

That means you’re not limping, you’re not calling that often, you 3-bet more, you don’t defend weak hands from the blinds, you c-bet and double-barrel, you think twice and answer Poker’s Ultimate Question before calling and you have a great reason to call on the river.

Skill #3: Folding when you know you’re beat

NOT folding when you know you’re beat is the #1 bankroll killer. You drill the skill of folding by drilling the first two skills I just mentioned and you make a commitment to yourself that when you know you’re beat, no matter what you have, you click FOLD.

You train this off-the-felt by reviewing losing hands where you called the flop, turn or river and trying to figure out why you didn’t fold.

Skill #4: Hand reading off and on-the-felt

This is such an important skill that it MUST be learned as soon as possible. Most players wait too long or just never build this skill. You need to train yourself starting NOW doing at least one full hand reading every day off-the-felt. I have a full course in the Poker Forge that teaches you how to do hand reading.

Mother’s Day Q&A #2: “Why should I record my stats and win rates?”

This question comes from baalbaki1986:

“Why should I record my stats and win rates?” And he thinks that recording your stats isn’t useful if you don’t already know what you’re looking for.

Presumably, you want to improve your skills. The only way to know you’re improving is to measure your results.

Learning “good” or “bad” numbers simply comes with time and experience.

Let’s imagine you measured three statistics:

  • VPIP = 70%
  • Preflop Limp = 20%
  • Fold to Flop C-bet = 15%

You don’t need a coach explaining to you that 70% VPIP means you play 7/10 hands. Doesn’t that seem a bit fishy, like you play too many hands?

A Preflop Limp at 20% is another fishy sign. You know that limping isn’t as good as raising, so limping 20% = 1/5 hands. Again, a sign of a fishy player.

And Folding on the Flop only 15% after playing 70% of hands means you’re a mega fishy calling station. It’s easy to never bluff you but go for max value instead at every opportunity.

So, knowing these stats, what should you do? VPIP less, so be more selective in the hands you play. Limp less as well, and, fold to more c-bets when you neither have a pair nor a good draw. After the next 5,000 hands, measure these stats again to see if you’ve improved.

Mother’s Day Q&A #3: “How do I play against all these non-folding limpers in my games?”

This question comes from Massimo:

“How do I play against all these non-folding limpers in my games?”

Here are the four pieces of strategy I want you to keep in mind when facing limpers:

  1. Expect a call versus your raise. Remember, they want to see the flop, so they’re less likely to fold versus your iso-raise. Choose hands that you’re happy seeing the flop with against this limper because, again, you’re expecting a call. Don’t bluff them with 85s if they’re not going to fold. So, the hands you play with need to be ahead of their limp/calling range.
  2. Iso-raise big for max value. If they’re calling when you hold AA, they make a bigger mistake calling 8BBs versus calling 4BBs. Go for max value with your best hands.
  3. C-bet most flops. Enter in any limp/calling range in Flopzilla and you’ll see that they hit 3rd pair or better and all draws 52% of the time (see screenshots below). If you c-bet just ½ pot, it needs to work 33% of the time to break even, but they’re folding 48% of the time. It’s a profitable c-bet bluff. Your c-bet bluff is even more profitable on dry boards. On the 963r board, the limp/calling range only hits 3rd pair or better and all draws 31% of the time. They’re folding 69%. What a great c-bet bluff!
  4. Iso-raise more often IP than OOP in the blinds. Because you expect a call, going post-flop with 3 streets of positional advantage will make it easier for you to exploit your limp/calling foes. And with your stronger range and ability to continue the post-flop aggression, it’s going to be hard for limpers to remain in the pot for long and you’ll win a lot of easy post-flop pots.
31% limp calling range

31% limp calling range

31% limp calling range on 963 board

31% limp calling range on 963 board

Take Action: Start isolating limpers and c-bet plenty!

Mother’s Day Q&A #4: ” What’s the best thing I can do to improve my post-flop game?”

This question comes from Rodney:

“What’s the best thing I can do to improve my post-flop game?”

This really depends on your current stats and win rates. If I saw your numbers, I could help you out more and give you specific direction, like being your poker mom, right? But, for most of my students, there are two major areas of post-flop weakness that most players have:

  1. Calling too much post-flop
  2. Not considering range/board interaction

Here are the two things you need to do to get beyond these weaknesses:

1. Have a Great Reason to Call

There are only 3 reasons to call any bet on the flop or the turn:

  1. Value Call – your hand is ahead of their betting range and you don’t feel like raising.
  2. Bluff Later – you see a potential way to bluff on a future street and earn the pot then.
  3. Good Drawing Price – you can mathematically make a profitable call to try and hit your draw on the next street.

If your call doesn’t fit any of these reasons, then bluff raising or folding is better than calling.

On the river, there’s only one reason to call, and that is if your hand is ahead of their betting range. You must be able to name worse hands they’re betting on the river. Don’t just call because you hope your hand is ahead. If you can name a few reasonable betting hands that you beat, calling is often fine on the river.

2. Learn to Gauge Range/Board Interaction

This is tough and it takes a lot of hand reading practice. But, it’s your job to play the player and a part of that is putting them on a preflop range of hands and gauging how well it interacts with the board.

There are some boards, like the KK5 board that are hard to hit and almost no range interacts well with this board.

On the other hand, there are wet boards like QJ9 with two hearts or 876 with two spades that interact well with many ranges.

By “interacting well” I mean that the range hits lots of pairs and draws and pair+draw hands. For example, you open-raised and your opponent 3-bets you. You call his 3-bet with a broadway-heavy range like AK, AQ, AJ, AT, KQ, KJ, KT, QJ and JT. With that broadway-heavy range, you interact very well on the QJ9 board. You hit lots of pairs, 2 pairs, pairs + draws and even some made straights. Your range loves this board.

But, on the 876 board with two  spades, you neither hit any pairs nor good draws other than a few flush draws. You’re more likely to continue on the QJ9 board and not on the 876 board.

To help you develop your understanding of range/board interaction, I recommend you listen to and take action with my podcast episode 134 called “C-betting Board Texture”. In this episode, I discuss the ins and outs of putting your opponents on ranges and using Flopzilla to gauge how they interact with various boards. I even give you a handy spreadsheet to fill out with your research and you can use it in-game to help you exploit your opponents.

I hope you enjoyed these four questions and answers.

Happy Mother’s Day!



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Sky Matsuhashi poker author
Written By.

Sky Matsuhashi

Sky Matsuhashi is the creator of the Smart Poker Study Podcast. He has authored 4 poker books including ‘How to Study Poker Volumes 1 & 2’, ‘Preflop Online Poker’ and ‘Post-flop Online Poker’. As a poker coach, Sky is dedicated to helping his students play more effectively, earn more money and be 1% better every […]

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