Most poker players don’t put enough thought into their decisions.
Basically, all they do is look down at their cards, compare them to the board, gauge the strength of their hand, then simply make their plays based on this. This is first level thinking.
Players fail to take into account the plethora of information available to them, such as:
- Villain’s range of potential hands and prior actions taken
- Villain’s tendencies
- Stack and pot sizes
- Table position and relative position
- What cards can come on the next street to help or hurt Hero’s chances in the hand
- How Villain may respond and what Hero will do in return
As a rule, the more information you take into account, the better your decisions will be.
The best way to train yourself to consider more information is to ask and answer questions before every decision.
- Before you 3-bet with AA pre-flop, ask and answer: “What’s the best sizing to use vs. this loose-aggressive open-raiser to convince them to come over the top?”
- Before shoving the river with your nut straight, ask and answer: “Do they have any hands they think would be good enough to call my shove with?”
- Before calling their raise after your flop continuation bet, ask and answer: “What hands are they raising that I beat?”
Thoughtful answers to the useful questions above will guide you to the correct action to take.
Developing the Right Poker Habits
You must work to develop a habit of asking and answering questions before every decision, and this begins with your off-the-felt poker study sessions.
While analyzing hands, force yourself to ask and answer a question with every decision you review. Focus on doing this same thing during your play sessions. It’s going to be tough at first, but eventually it’ll become a beneficial habit and your poker decisions and results will be improved for it.
You might be wondering “what are the best questions to ask?” Well, this knowledge comes with putting in the reps. Asking and answering questions repeatedly will develop an intuition for the best questions to ask and the information you need to answer it properly.
If you’re ever in doubt of a question to ask, fall back on Poker’s Ultimate Question: “What are they doing this with?”
You can ask this question in just about any situation and the answer is going to be helpful.
Working Through a Real-Life Example
Susan called your open-raise in the big blind. “What are they doing this with?” The answer will force you to think about Susan’s pre-flop range of hands, and you’ll be forced to remove hands that she would normally fold along with the hands she’d normally re-raise. This will help you play against her post-flop.
On the flop, you hit top pair with KJ on the K92 rainbow board. Susan check-raised your continuation bet. “What are they doing this with?” To answer this question, you must compare her pre-flop range to the board, but also take into account what you know about her tendencies. You also have to consider the bet sizing she used and her remaining stack to see how “pot committed” she may be.
Let’s say you called her flop check-raise, making the pot on the turn 30BB. The turn bricks with an off-suit 4. Susan now bets 25BB, leaving only 60BB behind and if you call, the pot will grow to 80BB. She seems pot committed with this bet and with the prior street’s aggressive check-raising play. “What are they doing this with?” If the answer contains hands worse than your top pair, then you can call or raise as you feel is correct, but if she’s only doing it with better than your top pair, it’s an easy fold.
Your answer to Poker’s Ultimate Question on every street has led to the realization that your lovely top pair hand is beat. Your best option now is to fold, so you fold and Susan shows 22 for the flopped set. Good fold.
If you simply relied on the strength of your hand, KJ on the King-high board, it’s possible you would’ve called the turn and then lost it all on the river. However, as illustrated, asking and answering questions forced you to consider everything Susan was telling you and you made a better decision for it.
Now get out there and take action to develop asking and answering questions as a beneficial habit before every poker decision you make!
For more great coaching, strategies and tips from Sky Matsuhashi, check out his poker training site, The Poker Forge. Here’s our review.