Gargamel session


On the night of my return to the local games after nearly three weeks on the road, I look for a soft landing at the Village.  I have not played much poker in months.  My games on the road were mostly short, breezy sessions accomplished as a sampling.  Between travels, writing, and family, the coming months will be my first clear schedule since summer.

Even in the short time, things have changed.  There’s a new floor manager who greets me blankly.  I haven’t been missed by anyone, and only one dealer gives me a surprised hello. I am, however, given the usual Smurf greeting when a player I can only describe as hyper backraise four bets me all in.  I make the snap call with AK, only to be felted by a very optimistic A10.  Welcome back, me.

I get it back from him, and eventually move to a bigger $5 game, where Hyper Smurf and I quickly spar again.  This time he really has it in a three bet pot, felting me with KK vs my QQ. Despite the uphill climb that my job has continued to be for months of runbad, I feel fine.  The break has been good for my mental state.

Part of it is there is nothing I can do; I tilt mostly when I blame myself.  I am always going to the mat with queens versus this guy.  I watch him bluff over and over again while the fishcakes fold.  One miserably whines about folding out her own queens to a single bet on a king high flop.  She’s a weak player I’ve written about before, and doesn’t realize, even after years together and probably a lifetime of poker, who we are dealing with.  Her fold then allows Hyper Smurf to bluff out the Banker, so that in the end, everyone folds the best hand.  It’s great poker from Hyper in a one sided way, but any serious player would have sniffed it out after he donk led the river in suspicious spots multiple times.

Well, the soft games don’t look like they want to give me a soft landing, but what about soft play?  It’s often confusing when Gargamel and I get into pots.  The truth is, because full ring NLHE is correctly played on the tight side, and because both of us understand the game, we simply don’t get involved.  This will often be the case for skilled players who are not pushing every edge, and there is certainly no motivation to do so in this marshmallow pit.  Gargamel has a range from a certain position, as do I, and one of us folds or raises; pretty straightforward.  It’s true that I don’t test him or go after him much.  However, fate intervened last night, and revealed some of the limitations of unspoken, quasi-agreements.

In the first hand, the usual bunnies limp in and I make it $45 with AKo from the button.  Gargamel, who runs better against me than anyone else, unfortunately, now raises to a suspiciously clean $145.  The bunnies fold, and now I have a decision.  He knows I can have any two cards here, meaning he can be very wide as well.  However, he laughs a little, which is an oblique reference to how well he runs against me.  My standard operating procedure is to four bet here.  That means I am turning my hand into a bluff and I am not sure if that is part of our understanding.  In fact, I begin to realize, that when pushed to the limits, softplay can get just as confusing as the regular combat in a game of low information.

I decide I am going to play a pot with this villainous pain in the ass.  He can’t always get the best of me.  The other thing is, we’re on the edge of deep, with effective stacks at about 150 bb: folding is almost silly. I know he knows that I don’t flat AK that much, so I decide to disguise my hand and call.

So with about $310 in the pot, we see Qxx, and he bizarrely checks.  I expect him to bet if he has value, but suddenly our softplay routine seems confusing.  I should bet here…but I don’t.  I am out of the game and we’re back to friends.  Now a ten of diamonds falls, bringing in a backdoor flush draw and the gutter for me.  Gargamel leads a rather large $200.  Now we’re not friends.  I think he doesn’t have value after all or has flopped the nuts.  Again, this is my moment to rip it in and win against another AK, which is looming in my mind.

However, I decide he’s not really my target.  I fold.  Later he, turns out to have AKdd, put me on nines (the flatting part worked) and was freerolling me.  The flop was my chance to win the pot, as I suspected before letting the hand die.

Nevertheless, this result sticks with me, and when we clash again, I do not soft play him, but treat him as any other villain.  In this hand, I open 67dd from EP, pick up a goofy software whale, and Gargamel overcalls.  As it stands, he does get involved against me a little too much.  I don’t set mine him generally, but he doesn’t fold out his equity even when I am establishing a pot.  So he owes me.

It’s time to get my $145 dollars back.

The rest fold and we see J64cc.  I expect the software whale to play face up, so I check to see what he is going to do.  He checks, and Gargamel now snap bets 45 into the 60 or so.

This is a good spot for me.  I have a blocker to middle set, and he can’t have top set so I am only worried about bottom set.  I can get him to fold out all his jacks, and he will be forced to call with his draws or surrender, having no perceived fold equity.  Secondly, he has given off information.  Instead of his straightforward, normal betting, he directs the chips toward me, most likely subconsciously.  He is weighted toward a draw or a steal attempt.  It is very likely I have, in fact, the best hand, with middle pair no kicker.

So I check raise Gargamel to $200.  It’s the right play, and am well balanced here. I would play QQ-AA, AJ, and all my draws this way in a multiway pot; the 67 fits nicely into my overall plan, a junior member of my continuing hands.

Gargamel was not expecting this.  He takes his time, not entirely convinced of my representation or even understanding what I am up to.  Because we don’t actually play against me much, I have not put him in a spot for a long, long time.  In any case, he doesn’t look like he wants to fold, and does make the call.

The turn is a very interesting card, another jack.  I have full houses in my range, and top pair, overpairs, and draws, and should continue, but again, our soft play routine has confused me.  My other thought was, if I am wrong, and he has the jack, he is never folding.  He is supposed to have the jack, in game theory sense, quite a bit: it’s what he represented.  Facing contradictory indications, I check, to see what he is going to do.  I can double check raise some of my range. Things are getting weird.

Gargamel hesitates.  He looks a little lost.  It’s his moment to take down the pot… but not after such a long time and that expression.  Now I’m calling him or ripping it in over his bet.  Wisely he checks behind.  I have the best hand, but now I have to accept that I have not protected against the draw and he has a flyer on the pot, and position.

Fortunately, the final card is a blank.  There is no hand he is calling me with, and if he rips it in it would be gross, so I check to induce his bluff, which he has to do with missed clubs or lose.  Unfortunately, he knows I’m not someone to take a crappy line with, that I make more calls with Ace high than is healthy, and checks behind again. I show my hand and the pair is good.

Trading chips with Gargamel is not why I am here, however.  Yet nothing truly goes my way, even though the game is weak.  The Banker just folds to my value bets and my bluffs; I’d rather he give me action and even try to pick me off, but at some point this year, he just started rolling over on his back for me, preferring tonight and almost always to get involved with the more profitable Smurfs.  The sharp edges of our former rivalry seems to have dulled and now we, too, have a softer dynamic- but unlike my tacit understanding with Gargamel, it’s one I don’t at all want.

My last big chance for a good day comes when I flop a royal flush draw as the preflop aggressor, facing three callers.  However the board is paired with a card the banker and the weak QQ folder both love to play.  If I bet it, I can get check raised for my entire stack drawing slim.  I decide to see a turn card, which has to be okay multiway with most of my range.  Certainly heads up I would bet it.  (The result is going to be irritating, as you can foresee.)  Fourth street does give me the nut flush.  I bet a strong three quarter pot, looking to get paid by trips, straights, and worse flushes.  The Banker folds, but I get check raised by Ms. QQ.  Unfortunately, she is simply not a player and is always full here.  I snap fold without even a sigh, such is the power of knowing your opposition.  She shows the underfull binked on the turn, lamenting that I didn’t have a flush to pay her off with.  Lady, I mean…  Obviously, it’s the right play by me, but I’m just saving money, not making it.

Eventually, Gargamel and I quit.  He’s very frustrated.  I’ve been there very recently and don’t blame him. He’s been coolered, AA vs. the Banker’s AKs for less than a full stack, having played the small SPR to grilled edge perfection by flatting the three bet and letting his opponent value own a wide range on the flop.  He got stuck in a questionable but understandable move.

It’s just not our day, no matter how soft the game.  Somehow Ms. QQ, despite playing very face up and poorly, is gifted all the money when Mr. Hyper and a pure mark decide to punt sky high spirals into her stack. Must be nice.

Yet for a bum day of poker, I feel good.  I’ve quit smoking again, preparing for my winter push and the new life I must plan.  I allow myself a salt rimmed cocktail, which goes down smooth, cold, and beautiful.  I’ve played well.  I have the grind and everything else ahead of me.

I’m back.  Here we go.

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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.