Ace Minus Performance

With some determination after an unscheduled night of gastronomic and alcoholic debauchery, triggered by having realized I left the crock pot on while driving in a lethargic rush hour, I made it to the little card room. The fog had well settled- it was time to do the dark things humans do and this was a gathering place for many of them.

I’m preparing for the coming big games, yes, but the truth was I was also too tired to write and no company was around to evade myself. My interior plan? Not lose too much.

Not exactly the recipe for an A+ performance. Suitably then, I was dealt that ever so depressing grade of a hand, the Ace- Jack. The B+ of king-queen feels so much better than this A- holding. I was always a bad student but good performer and saw a lot of these grades – maybe a hidden reason I am always trying to make use of second place ribbons.

One table of NL was running when I arrived. For the first time, the floor recognized what game I wanted, if not my person, and I was seated immediately. I iso’d my first hand, and so like a firm handshake at an introduction, immediately set the tone.

Nevertheless, it was not to be an easy evening and running over the table with my rather questionable “holdings” proved a challenge.

Part of my problem was fundamental: once I establish a rhythm of raising, I tend to break strategy and start raising everything that is in my limping range – lack of discipline or adjustment? Only this morning do I fully realize that this was part of the spew I created with my companion for the evening, Ax Jx. Great as a great limp for various reasons and planned as such, I didn’t work this into my game a single time of the course of nine or ten iterations of the hand. Most of my successes were of the raise and take it variety, which was fine, but I lost money unnecessarily, never hit a pair, and folded to nits’ three bets.

I also burned up money trying to fight for pots. Since I generally don’t fold to three bets, assuming reasonable stack sizes and good pot odds, I ended up scandalously defending ks5s, kcqd, and 5c2c to admittedly poor reraise sizings.

However, my opponents were so scared in each case they potted the flop and allowed me no room to wriggle. In the five-deuce spot, a familiar villain, so worried about a suckout or something, 4x’ed the pot whereas I would otherwise would have continued with a pair and backdoors.

Related, I was again let off the hook when I iso’d 4h2h and picked up my main target for the evening, an erratic player who would later spew off 150 bbs to 4x pot guy and take off: a bad night’s work. Here the flop came 4d6d7s. She checked to me, and although this is a situation I am going to win a lot in position against overcard heavy fish, it’s not a board to cbet. The turn 2d improved me to likely winning equity and would likely have been good facing two checks… but that’s not what happened. She led out for 2.5x pot, leaving a little less than 80 bbs behind.

I mulled it over, as obviously I was beating many hands.  Ultimately I decided she was not capable of a big move here, even with the ad, and so surrendered my hidden two pair. She proudly showed Ad5d- the nuts and the nut redraw. I had dodged another bullet but was rapidly getting stuck.

In the next hand I flatted a min raise with fives and on a great runout for blockers, 2x3x9xjx6x, I potted over a weak river lead. However, no sooner had I dropped my raise onto the felt than my opponent pointed imperiously to the little pile for a count, didn’t wait for the answer,  and called, shoving the chips forward like quarters into a laundry machine . He had rivered two pair with 6d3c. I briefly considered that I could have gone bigger, but given the speed of his call, the issue was moot: he was never going to get him to surrender. The move should have been made earlier, if at all.

Too many bluffs? Too light? Getting out of hand? What happened to the “not lose too much” plan? Perhaps all that and more, but I was working and finding my groove. I got top pair to show and fold. I 3 bet Acqc large, saw a flop, and got a likely Ace-King to let go regretfully against my impossible to play against bet size on 5s7c7d.

I then got what must have been my 8th ace-jack- but this time made something good happen.

After opening from the high jack, the cutoff, the button, and one blind called. On kc9c8d I declined to cbet, knowing the button, a sedate young tech professional liked flatting every good king: he never three bet me, even with Ace-King. The board was also against me, with numerous draws that could make the turn hard, despite top pair in my range and a key blocker. 4xer dude was in the cutoff, and since he tended to play face up, I would see what he would do.

Checked through, which would add complexity to the hand. The turn brought the purest blank, the 2d. It’s not a good card to represent, so I checked again. The cutoff checked, and now at last, the guys began to come out of the woodwork. The button bet small into the $100 pot – thirty.

I went over what this meant. Generally for him, it was thin value or a draw. I wondered at why he had not bet in position when checked to, and concluded it meant thin value. Now my next action doesn’t make the most sense, but because I am not a monkey cbettor, I definitely have some value hands here, unlike many players – I recall writing up the double check of top set out of position which so effectively stacked poor Fausto – so now I check raise to $100, threatening stacks with a half pot bet left over. This raise should get rid of the cutoff and work against the button’s perceived thin value range rather well – far, far better than a delayed cbet. If the button is drawing in position, I will know which cards I can shove on the river.

To my surprise, it was 4xer in the cutoff who seemed really unhappy with this development. He evidently had a hand that wanted to see the next card. Rubbing his face in frustration, I watched him vacillate between all options before pitching his cards at the dealer. He was in the strange area where he was very close to shoving while simultaneously it was never really a possibility.

Interestingly, I observed his difficulty seemed to rub off on the button, who had been observing 4xer as well. Now it was his turn to go into the tank. We were playing for stacks and he had a better hand than his bet represented. I was particularly placid this evening, perhaps too worn out to register nervousness. Freed of the button and heads up, he talked to me, trying to feel me out and name my hand. He kept thinking, focused on the board – then suddenly shooting a glance at me, hoping to catch something informative. Mostly he didn’t like how much I had back: he was up, the night was growing late, and his profit was now under threat.

Disappointed in this futile effort at reading me, he tossed in his cards, which he later revealed in conversation with 4xer to be kxqx, announcing that I must have played axkx as a trap. The cutoff was a little surprised at this analysis, because he claimed kxjx, and so it seemed unlikely that I had ace-king. A draw, he surmised.


What do you call with when facing adverse action and now holding a bluffcatcher? This is the theme of Yosh’s postulation, although the circumstances are obviously different and somewhat simplified in the classic river situation with bluffcatcher versus polarized bet. It’s a key part of a hold’em player’s arsenal of understanding- although I can’t get my mind around suddenly calling with 100% of SDV when a bluffing frequency upticks 1% – not anymore. Nor does ignoring the percentages tell you where to draw the line – my jack high calls have all been correct but the ten high ones failures. I used to be able to see the logic of “nuts or air” but now it seems disproportional and further, puts one in danger of calling with hands that don’t even beat bluffs. Worse, one of the great illusions hold’em players treat themselves to is the fantasy of knowing their opponent’s range perfectly – this one is a striking presumption.

Ultimately, all this might not be that important except where one must make repeated generalized decisions. Stock answers are the undoing of the poker player in a game of adjustments. When one reduces calling frequencies to toy game analogies, a player ends up ignoring the fact that his holdings (including their suggestive blockers), board texture, and all the other action (generally more important than any of these factors) that led up to the final bet can guide a calling range better than the bet/(pot +bet) + bet formulation. Especially in live poker, with its problem being the overabundance of information rather than the reverse, it’s key to make a more precise deduction. At one point, I had a long and winding conversation with good sir Joe Offsuit – possibly the best screen name ever – about a related topic – calling against that theorized perfectly balanced range (so many tightrope walkers in our imagination). While we were able to agree on many things, the quality of bluffcatcher and thus the danger of overcalling was our central point of conflict, as it is in the Torelli inspired thread, and could not be resolved.

For this fellow holding kxqx it should seem rather obvious, that on the surface, he has a bluffcatcher he should defend. While it’s true that I will have him beat sometimes, this plays into the simplified version of the formula rather well. Assuming neither of us are ever folding, he is up against only eight possible combinations of Axkx and maybe two top two pair – both unlikely to always be played this way – but a greater number of flush draws, worse kings turned into a bluff or raised for protection, and other weak holdings. I wonder if he held the qc which would make his call harder, as now I cannot have AcQc. His small bet with such a powerful hand as TP2K means his holding is elevated in his range, not downgraded- he should be more inclined, in other words, to call. Further, it’s possible if you don’t have a clue as to how I play to interpret my bet as repping nothing, in which case he should be shoving over me for value and protection – especially minus that tell-tale club.

However, maybe it’s harder than that. It’s true that if he had turned his hand face up I would not have tried to move him off his hand. However, the power of the check raise is great, especially when seemingly committing. If he assumes I am not capable of a single check raise with air but do have some semi-bluffs and a few kings he beats, such as AKs,KTs,AcQc,AcJc,Ac9c,Ac8c,Ac7c,Ac6c,Ac5c,AKo, then he is worse than a 40/60 dog and will break even by a meager $2 given stacks – maybe I even made a rounding error. It’s possible, also, that to him my range is even tighter than that, and that I have been looking to check raise three nines or an unlikely top set as my lead value hands, in which case he is likely dead and losing piles. All this also makes the cutoff’s fold of Kxjx more reasonable- he has to deal with both the button and me.

It’s for all these reasons that my instinct is to not show the bluff. If I am making an “error” or exploitative play here, I don’t want these guys in particular to know it – unlike the situation from my latest post with 10s9c. Is there a discernible difference in the two situations? I think so, and have hinted at it here, but I will let you figure out what it is.

Soon afterward I won my sole big pot of the evening, evaluating a paired board on the river against 4xer. I had arrived on the river with the ad3d from the small blind. This was interesting because it is not normally a hand I would want to play like this and from this spot, preferring to attack the late position first in raiser – especially with 4xer behind me who seemed to have a rivalry going with the LP opener. However, I think I correctly deduced both that LP was not folding, based on prior behavior and generally strong range, but that I also wanted to play hands post as much as possible with both these guys.

To make a long story short, 4xer had led into a backdoor flush draw that had emerged and also paired the board. It was something like kd7c6s7d. I had floated to take it away from the monkey cbetting PFR, but now had real equity. The river was the 8d, filling many hands including mine. I checked out of position, and now 4xer led for half pot, the preflop raiser called, and I was left with a raise or call decision. From the BB, 4xer really did have a lot of full houses here – Kx7s and all of them, in fact. This was not guesswork, I had seen enough showdowns and face-up folds to know that every face-rag was in his range against his enemy.

However I thought deeply about the situation and concluded that his turn action was a semi-bluff, using the seven to freeze the PFR, which 4xer knew it was impossible for him to have. Given this, I put 4xer on a weak flush or all the naked trips such a player has. It was highly probable that 4xer would check raise or bet bigger on the turn with a nut hand – the bet sizing tell helped me. Further, I simply wanted to be shoving more than full houses here – I actually couldn’t get past that idea and probably could’ve spared everyone a little tanking.

I shoved for my remaining 100 bbs and 4xer snapped me off with the jack-high flush – the lost PFR found a fold. I now had gone from a slow losing session to a solid winner, claiming a 275 bb pot.

However, I could not hold on, first making a bad hero call, and then getting cooled off holding kxkx in my final hand for three way stacks against twin ace-queens who both found the magic ad in the window.

The final tally? I lost twenty-five dollars.

All according to plan, I suppose. Even in a game of adjustments, too much improvisation tonight, not enough strategy. Do better next time, and talk to me after class if you have questions.

A minus.



Giant Head’s Laments


  1. Any table with people snapping 100 BBs with a J high flush on a paired board, is a table I want to be playing on. And/or, you had cultivated a wild LAG image to get that call.

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The OOP Lexicon is a user-developed poker glossary.

Absolute Position
Being last to act (e.g. closest to the button) postflop.

Advancing Leverage
Aggressive actions intended to shift the leverage point closer to the current street.

A bluff or value hand which is a natural candidate for balancing another hand because of their shared qualities, such as AA and AK; usually helps planning range splitting and line construction.

Auto profit threshold (APT)
A bluff made with positive expectation resulting from the opponent under defending vis-a-vis bet sizing. The inverse of MDF.

Choosing to support either value bets or bluffs with their converse.

A bet is a proposition.  It’s the first offer on the pot with regard to the outcome of the game. Each player, in turn, has the opportunity to lay or change the price on the pot to the rest of the players. “The language of poker.” The bet, as opposed to the raise, is most often and most easily allied to the merged pricing construction.

To remove combinations of hands from a range based on cards in your hand or on the board.

Cards which influence our combinatorial assumptions. Ex: We face resistance on T76ss while we hold As7d. Both our cards act as blockers. Our ace of spades blocks (limits) a number of flush draws our opponent could hold, while our seven blocks a number of two pair and sets our opponent could hold. *See also Block and Unblock

Blocker Bet
A small bet made by an out-of-position player.

Board Texture
The available community cards and the set of conditions which inform its relationship to a logical range.

The worst hands in a betting range.  Depending on context this could be the worst hand in a value bet range or the bluffing section of polarized range.

A range descriptor indicating a range shape with a specific high or low boundary.  A range bounded high won't contain some number of the best linear hands ranked from the top down.  This is equivalent to a "capped" range.  A range bounded low won't contain some number of the worst linear hands ranked from the bottom up.  This is often useful to describe a range that doesn't include any air or very weak hands.

A strategic mode in which a player is attempting to deny their opponent(s) equity share of the pot through aggression. Often referred to as “denying equity” or “buying up equity”.

A range is capped when it represents little to no nutted combinations as confirmed by prior action.

A continuation bet. A bet made by the player with initiative as a continuation of their initiative on a prior street.

The ability to accurately range an opponent based on all available information at a decision point.  An understanding of your hands exact equity.

Closing Action
Acting last where no subsequent action is possible behind you.  For example calling a UTG raise in the BB or calling in position postflop with no players behind.

Cold Call/Cold Bet
An action is considered “cold” when it comes from a player entering into the pot has not previously put chips voluntarily in the pot. Ex: the UTG opens, the BTN 3bets. If the SB were to call or raise, it would be a cold-call or a cold-4bet.

The branch of mathematics the deals with finite number sets. Used in poker in determining the amount of combinations of certain hands in a range.

When a blind that is not the biggest blind calls the amount of the biggest blind. Ex: At $2/$5, action folds around to the SB and the SB completes. Meaning they just call. The BB can complete when there is a straddle.

A capped range that contains only middling value hands. A range without the polarized portion.

Logical advancement of combinations across streets.

Dark Side of the Deck
The large swath of hands, often off-suit, that fall outside of conventional playable recommendations. Counter-equity hands.

Dead Money
Money in the pot that is not being fought for.  A passive player creates dead money when they call a bet preflop and looking to play fit-or-fold postflop. Dead Money is often confused with the money in the pot.

Delayed Cbet
A cbet made on the turn by the preflop raiser when the flop checked through.

Delaying Leverage
Passive actions intended to maintain a likely late street leverage point, or possibly to avoid a leverage point entirely.

A strategic break from one’s standard construction as an exploit of a particular player’s profile or construction.

Diminishing Medium Value Category
A Seidman concept in which when one’s middling value hand range is too small and transparent to our opponent and thus either that range should be shifted into the top of a polarized range or the nutted portion should be shifted into the medium value range. Ex: AQo or TT being 3bet preflop.

A cbet that is less than the preflop raise. Ex: BTN opens to $25, we 3bet to $90 from the SB, BTN calls. On the flop we cbet $70.

Dry Board
A board texture that yields relatively few logical hands value. Often containing one medium or high card and disconnected low cards. Ex: Q53r, T622r.

Dual Mentalities
A Seidman concept in which when we decide to go postflop with a weak hand against a nutted range, we should either be looking to out flop it or steal the pot away. We base our decision against the player type we are up against and never go post with both mentalities at once.

Dynamic Board
A flop texture in which the runout is very likely to change the order of top ranking hands. Ex: 954tt, 742r.

Effective Stack
The smallest stack to VPIP in a given hand. Their stack decides the amount of money that can be played for or threatened before an all-in.

Effective nuts
A value hand that can be played for stacks as if it were the actual nuts.  This is a relative hand ranking based on range assumptions and opponent type.

A measure of how well the equity of a hand is deployed. Efficiency can also be used as a measure of what is risked vs what is gained for a given bet size.

Either/Or Philosophy
A Seidman concept in which a particular street can be a very good spot for value, meaning our opponent is never folding, or a very good spot to bluff, meaning our opponent is never calling, but that those spots cannot be concurrent.

Borrowed from economics, a measure of the sensitivity of a range or hand relative to the price offered.  Ranges (or hands) described as elastic will narrow, sometimes quickly, in response to increases in price.  Those described as inelastic will not.

The percent pot share of a holding or range on any given street if the hand were to go to showdown with no further betting action.

Equity Pusher
A analytic approach to the game in which a player views the correct actions only through the lens of their hands equity vs. their opponent’s range. Often this player type has a lack of understanding of overall strategy and plays their range face up with few bluffs.

Expected Value
The mathematical formula for how much a player’s action is expected to make with their hand vs. their opponent’s range. EV = ($towin * %ofwin) - ($tolose * %ofloss)

Face Up
A player is playing their range “face up” when their actions directly correspond with their desired outcome. Ex: A player bets half-pot three streets with a range that has no bluffs. A player 3bets to 7x with JJ.

False Polarization
Otherwise known as Faux-Po; a polarizing action taken with a merged range.

The result of losing your entire table stakes. All the way down to the felt.

A call of a cbet with a weak holding with the likely intention of taking the pot away when the opponent shuts down. Often done by an in position preflop caller.

The convergence of positions, stack depths, and preceding actions at a given decision point.

A mathematical formula developed by Phil Galfond for calculating the expected value of one’s range construction vs. an opponent’s holding.

A computer programming term that means "garbage in, garbage out" which also applies to poker forums when a poster seeks an in-depth conversation about a hand, but fail to provide pertinent information such as stack sizes, bets sizes, table dynamics and player tendencies.

Game Theory
The applied science of combining mathematical models with logic to craft winning poker strategies.

Game Theory Optimal
A set of strategies is GTO if no player can unilaterally deviate and increase his average profit. ~ Will Tipton.  GTO does not mean best possible response, highest EV, or maximally exploitative play.

Implied Odds
Additional value likely to be accrued if you make your hand on a later street.

Sometimes referred to as the betting lead, a common situation in which the passive player yields to the aggressive player postflop, or the last aggressor continues betting on subsequent streets.

A bet or raise intended to force out the rest of the field in order to play heads up against a weaker opponent who has entered the pot through limping, raising, or posting the blinds.

Loose aggressive player type. Generally overused and inaccurate.

A bet made from out of position after a passive action. Often referred to as a donk bet on the flop.

He knows that I know that he knows I know.

A bet or raise that signals the hand will be played for stacks.  Within reason, it is accomplished by betting with a sizing that will create RSP equal to 1 on the following street.

Limp First In

A consecutive range of hands decreasing in strength from top to bottom; generally meaning value hands. Equivalent to "merged."

Lockdown Board
A board on which the nuts have often already been made.  More prevalent in PLO but sometimes useful in no-limit, for example on monotone flops and boards with available common straights e.g. JT9, T98, 987, etc.

1) A range of hands that includes both strong and medium value; 2) in reference to medium value; 3) the merged construction describes the natural representation of a wide range through a bet.

Mini Stop-N-Go
A Seidman concept, a line taken by a OOP PFR where flop is check/called and turn is lead.

Minimum Defense Frequency (MDF)
The necessary defending (calling/raising) frequency to prevent an opponent from auto-profiting.  The inverse of APT.

Natural Action
A check, bet, or raise which is exactly suited to a player's range and situation (e.g. a pfr's continuation bet on AK2r).

A player who will not put chips into the pot without a very strong and sometimes only nutted hand.

The best possible hand.

Nuts-To-Air Ratio (NAR)
In a polarized betting line, the ratio of value to bluff.  As used by Seidman, not limited to polarization but sometimes used to label general opponent tendency of value to bluff.

Old Man Coffee. Typically an older, retired player that likes to play bingo with ATC, but will only continue with the nuts.

The first voluntary action. The first action or bet to voluntarily enter the pot.

A bet that is more than the size of the pot.

Perceived Range
Refers to the range of hands that your opponent thinks you could have in a certain playing situation. This can be interpreted and thus misinterpreted from your playing style and position at the table.

A range consisting of very strong and very weak hands.

Post Oak Bluff
A small bluff on a late street that has little chance of winning the pot.  Generally interpreted as “gutless” in the past but now fulfilling certain functions as betting efficiencies are understood.

Positional Protection
When the strength of a range is perceived to be capped or uncapped based on which position an action is taken from.

When an action or player is perceived to have strong hands in its range.

Protection Bet
A wager which denies equity to hands which will only give action if they significantly improve; "a value bet which does not want a call."

The rejection of the offered price and the laying of a new higher price.  Raises represent a more narrow range of hands and trend towards polarization.

Range Advantage
Implementation or study tool that refers to 1) most basically, equity measurement of one range against another; 2) or also including a combination of further factors including availability of nutted hands, the nuances of the runout, and positional protection.

Range Manipulation
Deliberate line work/bet sizing made to narrow a range or keep a range wide.

Range Switch
A deliberate change in range composition made to thwart a player who is reading our range too accurately in any spot.  Reduces transparency, fights assumptions, and wins the leveling war if implemented correctly.

Ratio of Stack To Pot
RSP. The stack to pot ratio at any point in a hand, generally used post-flop as opposed to Stack to Pot Ratio.

Taking a hand to showdown and realizing its full equity.  Generally used with regard to passive actions.

The mutual exchange of chips resulting from similar play and ideas.  Reciprocity is a common bi-product of group-think.  A true edge by definition cannot be reciprocal.

Relative Position
A player’s position measured against the aggressor's position.  Generally this is used going to the flop.  For example, if UTG raises and several players call behind, calling in the big blind would give you the best relative position.  You will act after seeing how the field responds to a likely continuation from the preflop aggressor.  In the same scenario calling immediately after the preflop aggressor results in the worst relative position.  You will have to act immediately after a continuation without seeing how the remaining players will respond.  Strong relative position confers an information edge.

The ability of hand to maintain equity across streets against a betting range or as part of a betting range.

Reverse Implied Odds (RIO)
Hands that often win small pots or lose large pots suffer from reverse implied odds.

Popularized by Mathew Janda, a descriptor for how well a hand retains equity over streets of play.  Hands described as robust have equity that does not suffer as an opponent's range becomes stronger.  Often these hands are currently both strong and invulnerable, or have the ability to become very strong by the river, relative to the opponent's range.

Fourth and Fifth Street cards following a given flop texture.

Scale of Protection
Poker theorem which states that the more protected or strong an opponent's range is, the higher the degree of denial or retention a counter will require.

Sklansky Bucks
Dollars won (or lost) in expected value regardless of actual hand result.

Any one of many possible poker archetypes found at low stakes games.

A reraise made after a player has raised and one or more players has called in-between.

Static Board
A flop texture in which the runout is unlikely to change the order of top ranking hands. Ex: AK7r, KK4r.

A passive action followed by an aggressive action, out of position.  For example, a call followed by a lead on the next street.

Streets of Value
A crude shorthand measurement for how much betting a hand can tolerate and still be best at showdown more often than not.

Tight aggressive opponent type. Generally overused and misapplied.

TAG's Dilemma
The paradox created by having a top-heavy range played so aggressively that it misuses equity vis-à-vis position and holding.

The Great Range Fantasy
The common idea that we know our opponent’s range and frequencies precisely; most commonly seen in post-hoc analysis to justify microedge decisions.

Thin Value
A bet that is only slightly more likely to be called by worse than by better. Associated with the merged pricing construction and bet-fold lines.

Three Fundamentals
The most fundamental variables for decision making: position, stack size, and community cards.

The best hands in a given range.

Two-Way Bet
A bet that expects calls from worse hands and incorrect folds at the same time, a simultaneous value bet and bluff line.

The psychological effect of feeling like you’re losing because your stack size isn’t as large as it once was during a session, even though it’s more than what you’re in the game for.

(e.g. You bought in for $100, ran it up $450, but now only have $175 in front of you.)

A hand that has no negative card removal effects on the target range.  Bottom set, for example, unblocks top pair top kicker.

A range that is perceived to contain the nuts in any given line.  Capped ranges may become uncapped during transitions for example from preflop to flop, or flop to turn.

A turned nut straight after raising flop with a gutter.

Value Owning
Making value bets with a hand that has less than 50% equity when called.

Voluntarily Put Money In Pot (VPIP)
The frequency at which a player limps, calls, or raises preflop.

Volatile Board
A flop texture where equities will often shift on the turn and river.  See “dynamic”.

An illusory cooler where one player makes a massive mistake equity mistake and loses his stack with a strong but second best hand; also known as a Jam Basket.

Wet Board
A board texture that allows for a lot of logical hands to continue. Often made up of medium rank connected cards. Ex: KT9tt, Tc8c6s-7c-Ac.

“Walk In, Fuck Shit Up, Walk Out” a hashtag used by instagram poker players.

Winning Player
A forum poster who offers reciprocal advice under the guise of questionable positive low stakes results. A weak player or fish, in general.

Young Man Coffee. Is very much an OMC, but younger.  They usually only continue with the nuts, often under the illusion of playing a GTO style.