Gargamel, part I

It’s not exactly The Professor, the Banker and friends, but the Village does have its scions, the upstanding winners who funnel money from the dollar store bad, software good games.  There aren’t many.  The Smurfs love, to speak technically, to realize their equity, and so they trade chips back and forth in a kind of raked pyramid scheme, a game of poker hot potato where winning might not seem like the goal to a scientific observer.  Speaking of that, it takes some serious observation to figure out if anyone is actually winning at a significant rate at a casino, and at some point I’ll tell you how it’s done, but at this point, I’ve identified a few primary sharks in the pool, each with a different style. (And if there’s someone winning a bundle that I haven’t figured out, all the more power to stealthy him.)

There is, in fact, a Banker- who is not a banker- but has earned the appellation from his willingness to loan to other players their losses back. There’s your humble servant Persuadeo – growing on you, hopefully, these Latin present active indicatives.  There’s a few outliers, as well: thoughtful Osiris hovers in obliquely for a couple days a week, filling a few foot long coffins, and the Angry Asian Foster Child paddles the daytime shift.  However, looming darkly above all of us is the man the Village was meant for, its yang, its nemesis; the scourge of the Smurfs, the mushroom smasher, hater of all that is blue, cute and calls too much, Gargamel himself.

These other winners are good players, and I will go into all of them at some point. The Banker, for instance, is a contented man, analytical but a tad casual in poker, unparalleled in good winning attitude, relaxed, indifferent, no doubt a grand success in his professional field- I never ask what.  He plays a loose, quasi-tournament style game.  He never saw a pocket pair he didn’t at least try to felt reasonably.  If the price is break even, he’ll go for it: his bankroll is infinite, and you will never get free, surrendered dollars out of him.  This was a development, a refinement really, of his game, because for the longest time, he was a breakeven mark.  He called every three bet, and snap folded when he missed.  He was loose in front, tight from the back.  He couldn’t win unless the cards dictated his results.  For a long stretch of my poker development, he was one of my primary bluffing victims as I dabbled with a very loose aggressive game to counter the senile slow dawn of a bad TAG’s win rate.  So I started attacking, and I mean a lot.  I made the pots, I stole the pots.  Call me Pot.  Easy from someone like the Banker before he took up the corner office of the firm, because something definitely funny and unexpected happened on the way to the cage.  It might be more correlation than causation, but I remember a specific moment in between his poker career as Clerk and then Banker, an inflection point in the grand Infinite Stacks tournament, around level 48754, I believe.

I had three bet the Banker’s obviously loose EP open with J8ss, gotten a cold call from one of those hopeless Chinese degens who got lost on the way to Baccarat, a cigarette, and a divorce; the Banker had meekly surrendered his investment, knowing what was coming.  Later on in the hand, I made a big call with third pair to felt the bluffing Baccarateer, but the image that stuck with me was the Banker’s face.  He knew he had bamboozled, had laid down the best of it, and was sharp enough to recognize it must have been happening a lot.  People never change, Dr. House tells us, but the Banker did, and he has not been much of source of profit for me since that day, and might even be up on me thanks to some retaliatory run good.

However, as much as the amiable Banker beats the game, he is a beloved figure.  Revered for his play, healthy attitude, belly laugh, and the big stacks he runs up without agony or much more than an occasional puzzled frown, the players lionize him.  It baffled me for the longest time, but for the Smurfs, he is truly the non plus ultra of Village poker.  At one point, it miffed me, as everyone takes pride in their work, but I have passed over this immature feeling.  In any case, as much as I beat that game, the Village does not belong merely to me or the Banker, but to a true blackguard, fiend, and poker antihero.

Dastardly Gargamel pillages the Village.  Dressed in a black leather coat, dark hair slithered in gel, snipped into a curious cross of a bowl cut with an 80’s tennis star, this guy might actually have some of the cartoon villain’s DNA.  The trace of upstate New York that colors his clipped insults postindustrial grey gives him serious jerk cred.  More importantly, it’s not really an act or a self-caricature.  He hates the Smurfs, and lets them know.  I have lines in my face from all the wincing I’ve done from when he tapped the tank.  You’re lucky not to be berated, your intelligence apprised, and your game torn to shreds if you’ve spent time with Gargamel.  He’s not a pleasant type at the table.  (Certianly no one would ever think to ask this misanthrope for money!)

Don’t think I haven’t tried to something about this.  We’ve known each other for years- back to learning at home games in fact- and he is reformed in some senses.  However, and I in fact somewhat sympathize, when he is in the Village, Gargamel cannot control himself.  Whereas he takes beats calmly and plays like a pro on the road, when he’s in the Village he is ready to explode.  He’s a brute.  A nightmare.  The dealers call him Bruce Banner.

However I digress.  Hate him or dislike him, Gargamel storms the village for a thunderous hourly. Let’s discuss how, without giving away the important state secrets, since you’re probably curious.

  • Like me, Gargamel is capable of exercising inscrutably good preflop discipline. He has nearly no limping range, 3 bets based on his opponent’s range, and declines to play out of position much.  He does not lie to himself about making bad decisions pre because he’s going to (lol) “outplay them postflop.” He may be evil, but the recipe in his brew is still Whole Foods organic: start from scratch with high quality ingredients, in the right doses, at the right time.
  • Unlike me, Gargamel is a value bet machine. To balance his underdone bluffing range, he uses combinations to bet aggressively and thinly, especially vs. fish.  He’s not afraid of value owning himself a bit, one of the signs that he is in fact among the last of the true TAGs.  (Not one of those guys we know all too well from the forums: “I’m playing TAG and call out of the SB with 97ss…”)
  • While he has certain tells that only I know about, Gargamel always acts deliberately, which drives the other players insane and leads them to make crazy plays they would not normally make. The Gargamel spell explains calls and spazzes he seems to always get, which drives me bonkers.
  • Like me, Gargamel knows his players, and plays completely exploitatively. He makes no “standard” stackoffs that look ok in a 2D forum hand history but in real life are not the way to create a sick hourly.  As part of these studies of player tendencies, he’s contributed heavily to one of my most powerful tools for coping with the Village at the height of my interest in playing there: the mighty Database.  It’s now in disuse, but its principles and data will create stacks of red and green for Christmasses to come.
  • He is diabolically driven. Whereas I have come to espouse a game of comfort, objectivity, and mental stability, Gargamel, when in the Village, is out for little Smurf heads.  His staff is waving, he’s torn his Wizard’s robe off and is howling at the gods of war for strength and bodypaint.  It’s quite possible someone in his family was severely handicapped by a weak poker player at some point in a limp/calling accident.  If you somehow stack him, he will wait all night- I am not using exaggeration here- to get you back, and then he will insult you, having remembered every detail of whatever you did wrong twelve hours ago.  Gargamel has now beaten all my records for longest sessions and biggest swings, because like a rabid raccoon, he will not let go and he will not let a session be a losing one.  He happens to be on a frightening twenty session win streak at the moment, and takes it like it is religiously owed to him, sweetmeats and offal from the bewildered Villagers at the volcano base.  When he does lose- and the coming one is going to be particularly tough- the next day is one of personal recriminations, mourning, and beating Azrael. (Take that whatever way you prefer.)

So that’s not all of it, but enough.  Gargamel by coincidence recently pointed out that one fact of life in the Village is its inequality.  The gap between the 1% and the rest of us, in life, as they are whinging on about these days, and in the Village, is high.  There are few winners, even with so much money going around.  How is this possible? In the next installment, I’ll be exploring poker inequality, as well as narrating the unexpected and epic showdown between the dark scourge of the Village… and Papa Smurf himself.


  1. I started to make a hind history database for various players at my local cardroom. Thank you for encouraging me to pursue that again.

    To add to my game… 3 bet based on player’s ranges. Usually I just wait for JJ, AK+ and ship it, expecting that one of the local calling stations to call.

    I should also add playing deliberately to my actions. Usually I try to act quickly so fish aren’t bored and to get more hands in.

  2. Glad to help. I wonder how G’s game has changed in this year? In any case, he is posting a strategy bit this Sunday. Good luck and thanks.

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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.