It’s Getting Late, We Are Going to Gamble

So said Mr. Farha in one of those early, most magical years of High Stakes Poker.  The combination of personalities, the dynamic of the hosts, and most critically, the lack of overproduction, which made the game seem real, accessible, full of people, and thus, fun, made those initial seasons of the now legendary show ripe for repeated, enjoyable viewing.

It’s getting late for me, too, this month, and this year, to turn things around, and some gambling has been in order for quite some time.  It’s late tonight, too.  Already this session I have lost four straight flips versus short stackers; hard to swallow but I plowed on, stuck again.  However, one player’s gamble is another’s loose wire, apparently, and I was soon to be berated for taking two close spots in a smaller game with The Village’s weekday regs.  The catch (besides the cards I would need) was that no one, even the second player, a regular in bigger games, apparently knew the math, and I had to hear the kind of insults I try to reserve for the padded wall of my mind, the drunken symposiums of the Coven, or this obscure outlet.

Both spots were created by preflop errors by my opponents.  In the first I attacked a weak looking iso with a blocker hand, A5o, and ended up facing not the raiser, but a back raise limper.  I knew his hand was weaker than a normal limp raise range, and that it was a response to my relentless attacking.  He had witnessed me get a player to lay down AQ pre, whereupon I showed A9, which might as well have been two jokers as far as these guys were concerned, ruffling the nitty daytime cluckers’ remaining feathers.  (Which was the point:  Games where people fold AQ pre, even if “soft,” just aren’t that good.  If you are waiting for coolers not only are you doing it wrong, you are restraining action.)  As I pondered the situation, I realized I was getting about 2.1 to 1, really all I needed vs what was very likely a low pair now monkey shipped.  I thought his range and the spot looked like precisely like this:

Equity   Win        Tie

MP2       33.54%  33.21%  0.33%    { Ad5h }

MP3       66.46%  66.14%  0.33%    { 99-44 }

I made the call and won, but the table and my opponent was flabbergasted that I would take such a weak holding against a fairly tight player whom I was just teasing about playing too tight.  However, recognizing the spot and knowing the equities made for the right kind of gamble, one where I don’t just surrender my pot share because of monsters under the bed, even in an innocuous spot against a short stacker looking for annoying amounts of leverage.  His error was subtle, because he did recognize that he possibly had the best hand.  However, by knowing what his range looked like at the moment and what my image was, I was able to dismiss the dominating aces he would fearfully raise, and this imbalance kept me from seeing a more regular limp raise, short stack ninja range where calling is foolish:

Equity   Win        Tie

MP2       28.20%  27.14%  1.07%    { Ad5h }

MP3       71.80%  70.73%  1.07%    { 77+, AQs+, AQo+ }

That set the stage for a slightly clearer call, although the hand itself was more complicated.  I opened a pot late with Q2cc, just stealing the button if not the blinds, and got min raised.  This fishy raise, reeking strength from a player who can beat this level but is pretty much toast (delicious, buttered sourdough) in higher games, had me concerned.  However, combined with a ridiculous overcall from the same shortstacker in the blinds, I was left with no choice but to call, getting 5:1 and full stacks in front of the button.

The flop was a pretty gross 789cc, smashing the blind’s range and perhaps mine, but certainly not the min raiser’s, who was in position.  The blind, a nice man who makes the game pleasant and light, led out with his stub, four inches of steel, leaving me with an opportunity.  I can raise this board, not with impunity, but with some conviction, in an effort to get an overpair to fold, and at very least, shut out AK’s equity.  The only hand I truly fear is Akcc.  However, after some thought I consider it unlikely that button villain has this hand, as he would more likely bet larger pre.  I think he has AA or KK.

So I represent this nasty board and raise the donk lead to clean up my equity and still be dominating the shortie.  However, button villain is not having any of it, to his credit, and now puts in a cold flop 3 bet for the rest of the 110 bb or so effective stacks.  With the short stacker all in, now I have to call 360 to win 820.  This takes some time to piece together. I have to reflect on the button’s confidence and consider AKcc again, which I had initially dismissed.  While I am doing the math- everyone is talking and the moment is stressful- he calls clock on me.  At first I am worried that some of my outs are blocked.  If button has the ace of clubs, now my equity drops from a clean thirty five percent to thirty two or so.  As I complete the calculation and realize he has one type of hand here- AA/KK- I decide I am absolutely priced in to sticking in the money, whether he has the Ace of clubs or not.

We all watch the runout with anxiety- it’s an early weekday and this is a bigger pot for a small room with not much money, depressingly, spread between the tables. (Winners love to hit and run here, worsening the effect.) The turn brings an offsuit ten- probably good for the blinds player, and no good for the bigger stack- but the river is a low club.  Button villain turns over aces and I table the winner, scooping a big pot and erasing another potentially painful loss.

However, villain is unhappy and tells us all what a dumb play I made, repeatedly.  However, even if he has one blocker, I am still priced in.  The only real disaster scenario that looks relatively likely is if button has the Ace of clubs and the shortstacker blocks me out with two clubs of his own, leaving me in fairly brutal shape and actually priced out with only six outs and a bit of RIO.

However, looking at the hand from his perspective, it’s not entirely such a wonderful spot for him.  He’s never going to be more than a marginal favorite, and has run into the bottom third of my range here.  In fact, he does not have to go broke, as my hand looks like it will hit this board more than him, and I have many sets, straights, and two pairs would be played exactly like this.

Nonetheless, his preflop raise sizing is the real story if he cares to look in the mirror.  It’s a giant mathematical and strategic error, the real author of this spot, and exactly the kind of stuff I just wrote about.  However, I understand his other important decision.  In truth, both of us acted correctly on the flop, where others may not.

I faced, continuing the theme, a very similar spot later in the evening against a woman who has just held over me for most of our pots this year- the same one where I detected a rare semi-bluff from her.

Again, it was a close situation.  Holding KJss on Kc9s10s, the poor shortstacker again put his head into the saw with a poorly reasoned lead.  (This man is so nice that now both Gargamel and I have tapped the tank and offered to help him out at some point, but he is too stubborn to win, in a sort of inversion of the American paradigm.) Villain is more than tight- she is a nit- and has hit this board quite a bit of the time.  Naturally, she raises him, and I am left with another in-game math spot.  Fortunately, I know her so well that I can take AK out of her range, and put her on exactly Aces.  Her preflop sizing is so unbalanced that even the one blind difference allows me to sift out her range beautifully, and the flop raise confirms it, even though it has no poker logic on her part. This means all my outs are live and I have a touch more equity (such is the nature of domination).  With the overlay from our friend the self-flagellator, and I having about 55% of the main pot share, maybe more, I can gamble in good conscience and again try to break another player (oh please let it be both) satisfyingly.  I ship it in, thinking maybe she can even fold aces every now and then- more of a wish than a plan, but it only makes the spot better.  She takes her time, but I can see it’s mostly an act combined with the feeling of desperate confusion, and another big pot goes down.  However, there was no reciprocity for our earlier clash, where my great read was punished, along with all other good deeds, keeping me from a big night.

With all the months of painful runbad, though, even this minor win is cause for deep relief.  It’s been so hard to make it out of the casino with my investment lately, I am almost bewildered to be reclining in victory.  The five figure months and cash storage problems seem like a lifetime ago.

At the bar, a new employee takes my order.  I watch in amazement as she tops off the pint glass with ice properly, then delivers a perfect salt rim.  I’m in love.

It’s late and I’ve gambled. Things are looking up.

(Now wasn’t there a spot where Elezra laid down Q2 incorrectly… haha.)

Happy Thanksgiving.


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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.