The Pooflingers Ride at Dusk

Short term results spread over months are hard enough to take, but a single evening of negative convergence can be terrible on the mind, especially when every hand is a buy in.  The image of Mason Malmuth in lotus position and a loin cloth, floating on a deck of cards, is probably not going to keep you as emotionally stable as you might think it would.

In other words, we do our best strategically and must play on even without perfect knowledge or ability.  What can we improve on when the Friday night shitstorm leaves us soaked?  If I know anything about poker, it’s that there’s always something.

The all in per hand situation I mention occurs most often in low buy in cap games, where few players are actually observing a coherent strategy.  The classic example that explodes the mind of forum-level type players, who basically know enough to be dangerous to themselves and others, all the way up to the vicious value betting mindset that keeps Gargamel on cruise ships, goes as such:

Taggy 4 Lyfe, sitting on about 480 in a max buy game of 500, opens from UTG and gets four callers.  There is now 100 in the pot and the flop is (His Card) (Theirs) (Theirs) or (Theirs) (Theirs) (Theirs).  Overall in this simplified example, in an SPR 5 or less pot, it will be very hard to get away from situation one and sometimes two, depending on the holding.  In pots involving four or more players, one of the field callers will have flopped significant equity.  Taggy 4 Lyfe’s expectation for the session may not change, but his short term swings will sky rocket, since every hand of TPTK or higher will felt itself at SPR 4.

To defeat the Pooflingers, who really do want you to come down to their level (and I’m not speaking figuratively here, it is their strategy conscious or not, and they will verbally cajole you into softer tactics), two related concepts are going to save your session.  This is important since you do need to actually think partially in sessions, being a mortal human being and not a poker machine with an endless horizon of play.

Number one, you need to increase your equity share.  Number two, you need to barrel correctly.

How do we increase our equity share?   One, we play less hands from up front.  Easily done but more easily not done.  I’m talking about folding KQ/AJ,Axs and small pairs from EP; actual painful, positional discipline.  On the flop you also need to fold more often because every raised pot trends toward a protected limped pot in disguise.

Then, when we do bet, open, or raise, it’s got to be bigger.  Much bigger.

If you are opening to 4x in these kinds of games, you are at fault, because you are playing their game.  They want this.  I find myself doing it all the time, so you’re in company, but it’s lazy.  I’m lazy.  On a Friday eve with the monkeys restless in their seats, have the will to open your entire range to 5, 6, 7x until you find playable spots. This is especially true in straddled pots, which even shortstackers will foolishly proffer. They will still call with mostly the same hands but fewer of them will call, and poker can be played in what is now a perceptibly non-limped pot.

In the illusory world of perfect play, it would not matter how many call or how much you raised.  The constant canard is that if we have aces and see a flop four way, that’s great, more money is in the pot and we win more. Someone then trots out a tiresome EV equation and shows how awesome it is when we have aces and the entire state of Delaware flats our bet.

However, the failure of this example is that for the most part we only have a range of hands which are a substitute for aces, aces being the universal threat the UTG raiser brings to the table- and his only positional advantage.  The equity of KK, QQ, JJ, and TT versus the field is lower than AA, dropping off at significant standard intervals as they are not equivalent versus wide ranges that are Ax etc heavy. Yet no one is going to suggest folding these premiums from UTG; never mind AK which is exactly what we get most often and they “put us on” most often and which leaves us in the impossible (theirs) (theirs) (theirs) situation most often.

So assuming we are not surrendering these hands out of position and must leave behind the canard of wanting as many callers as possible, we then need to follow maxim two: barreling correctly.

The first step to doing this is deducing from a cbetting matrix if we are going to be able to even put one profitable bet in.  Against four opponents the situation, if not always the odds, are stacked against less than aces.  If I had a blind for every post in the forum where someone continued into three people+ on a caller’s board then got lost, I would likely have a couple complimentary buy ins for the 3/5 game tonight. Your buy-in, sir…

However, it doesn’t stop there.  Without the right number of barrels for your holding, disaster awaits.  For every holding and situation there is a correct number.  I witnessed the following error which left a friend in frustration.  Maybe he saved money, maybe not, but it wasn’t the best plan to maximize wins and minimize losses overall.

Taggy 4 Lyfe (since this could be anyone of you earnest poker students) opens AQcc and picks up a couple Pooflingers. We see 967cc. How to approach this?

For one, there is a real decision. The check raise is optimal on board that yields pairs and gutters that incentivize the button to bet, but barreling has a way forward, too, which might be an option in position.

However, it’s highly polarized to bet into a board which favors the caller, a fact that seems to overlook mostplayers from 5/10 down.  So if you are going to represent a nutted hand with a bet, how many barrels do you have to fire to manage this holding correctly?

Yes, you answered it already, three; and you knew it because the interaction of the board, your opponent’s range, and your hand dawned on you.  Three barrels is the correct way forward, once you start.  In this spot, our Taggy 4 Lyfe friends love to two barrel and depolarize their line at the end, not realizing that it was polarized from the start vis a vis the board.  In other words, the hands that can fade this board are not middling or merged, and you want bluffs with significant equity. Since Pooflinger ranges are weak, the decision, barring certain runouts, has to trend toward finishing what we started.  It’s check/raise if you are interested in balance, or three shells versus weak ranges if you want to play exploitatively.

Horse_Rider_SmurfIn this example, the Pooflinger held on with second pair twice and was not tested on the river.  That’s a crushing loss of big blinds.  Just as importantly, it’s mentally taxing to see Q7 take the pot from you, escaping from domination without a scratch.  Think about naked Mason Malmuth.  Oh, you’re not feeling better?

We want to 1) punish weak ranges with a bigger raise and so make weak calls even more painful and then 2) zero in on what our holding must do with the board we are given.

Note that barreling decisions can mean not barreling at all, and that’s a lot of the time, more than you are likely doing.  At a Friday night game, not only do they not care what you are “repping” (yeah I’ve got some Xmas presents to rep, too, bro), but they actually kind of hope you have a big hand to crack. That’s the fun of poker on a Friday night, right?

Burning up dollars with optimistic bet/folds, whether they happen on this street or the next, isn’t really much different from what they are doing.  Someone has to be sage: don’t think you’re a badass ‘cause you like to stick your hand in the saw.

That just makes you the unhappy clown.  And boy, the Pooflingers love that shit.


  1. This is a great post.

    Been thinking a lot about these very same things. On the opening bet size, I finally realized ( and I mean recently) that the pain threshold discussion on bet sizing in late position when raising limpers is germane on upfront opens. I open my entire range to 4x at 2-5. From now on I start to see the 5-6 caller routine, it’s moving up fast and big.

    Thanks and keep posting

  2. Obviously I agree about larger opening raises and just bigger sizing in general. Too many multiway pots cuts into our equity too much.

    On the nut flush draw hand, the river card paired the bottom card. I didn’t think he would fold. It’s just not what he’s known for or how he plays against me. He makes enough light flop peels that I thought the 2nd barrel was worth it.

    I couldn’t cr to begin with since I had position, but it’s an interesting play. It can look somewhat like a draw to that poo flinger so it would be best if he’s observed me do it with an op or a set first.

    1. Well, that’s a detail, and as I said, he might still call because that’s what he does, but the principle stands, over and over. You only have to win the pot x% of the time, remember, when you fire the three. The thing is that river is a good barrel card fundamentally, as it improves overpairs and he shouldn’t have it, whereas middle cards are tougher to barrel. You’re looking for low cards and A,K,Q to fire, and he should be looking for everything else.

      So if you put in a bet into that board, when you have the option to check back, you are polarized to value. It’s not really a spot to cbet KQ etc, so that means you need to fire three times as you would with TT+. I know you are never checking AA there.

      But, if you want to play the board in a more balanced way, that flop is a check behind a good amount of the time. This also protects you when the flush comes in, because he is going to expect you to bluff spades on the flop (whereas if you barrelled TT on the flop and flush came in, how can you bet a card that which belongs to him?). So when a spade falls on the turn after you checked, you can have Askc, and he can hero you, so that is a great spot to have the flush and to protect your range with the flop check some strong portion of the time.

      So in position or out of position, the flop is either a check or three shells, and that makes sense because the board is the same no matter from either spot. Having the button doesn’t change his calling range much.

  3. That bit about “standard intervals” seems very misleadingly worded and I’ve never liked it. Equities drop off significantly but at decreasing distances as the middle of the deck is reached. For example the difference between 99 and TT against a reasonable range is minimal – my point was meant to include this effect but it seems unclear as written.

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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.