When I’m playing I’m always on the lookout for ways that my opponents are trying to exploit me. By looking for situations or areas where my opponents are trying to exploit me, I’m guarding against leaks in my game. If I identify one of these areas, I either make an adjustment to make myself less exploitable or look for a way to exploit them based on what they’re attempting with me.
For example, let say you’re playing heads up and notice your opponent is routinely check/raising paired boards on the flop after you’ve raised from the button. This is a common strategy and a good one because in heads up the ranges are so wide that it’s unlikely that you’ll hold a hand good enough to see a showdown on a paired board like TT4 or 992. So, what can you do to make yourself less exploitable or to exploit them? A good counter strategy is to be very liberal in calling their flop check raises and to make some outright bluff raises along with semi-bluff raises on the turn. A good way to make semi-bluff raises on the turn is to always call on the flop when you have a backdoor straight draw and/or backdoor flush draw. For example the flop is 8c 8h 5d and you hold Jc 6c. You can call the flop check-raise with the intention of raising any club turn along with any 7 and possibly even 4's and 9's depending on how wide you think your opponents flop check-raising range is. As for outright bluff raises, Aces are excellent turn cards to represent because they make up a significant part of your range and often make it incorrect for your opponent to call if you actually do hold one - some of the time you will hold one so your opponent can’t just blindly raise back or they will be spewing money the times you do.
Here’s an example of another situation that could come up. Let’s say I’ve raised UTG (first position) in a 6-handed game with 88 and maniacal big blind calls. The flop is AKT, I bet, he check-raises and I’m forced to fold. It can be frustrating to fold to an aggressive player in this spot. But, if we consider my UTG range is primarily big cards and medium and big pairs, there’s no way my opponent can exploit me by check-raise bluffing an AKT flop against my range. So even though it’s possible he’s making a successful bluff in this instance, he doesn’t know what I hold and if he were to do this every time the situation came up, it would be a hugely unprofitable play. I’m no longer frustrated and move on.
In the second example, there’s a psychological benefit to assess the situation and realize that my strategy is fine and it’s likely my opponent’s strategy that is bad. There’s a lot of value in this when playing. I can remember many times being so frustrated with what I perceived my opponents were doing to me and the fact that I couldn’t do anything back to them. The reality of situation was that often times my opponents were making incorrect plays against my range but were lucky that I continually held some of the worst hands in my range. So, it’s important to differentiate between these two situations and to always keep your overall range in my mind when trying to determine whether you’re being exploited or not.