Thursday, January 21, 2010

Avoiding Auto Pilot

I’ve written a few blog posts about avoiding predictability and staying away from auto-pilot but it’s worth another. I haven’t really gone into specifics of what you can do but here are a few examples. I should mention that these aren’t necessarily things you should always be doing but things you should be doing at least some of the time.

Checking back some flops particularly multi-way. When on auto-pilot we auto-bet every flop regardless of number of opponents, board texture, or opponent tendencies. Here are a couple spots it might be worth checking back:

-In a pot with 2 or more opponents where the board texture is very likely to have hit at least one of them. Example, you raise AQ, get 2 callers and the flop comes 987 with two of a suit.

-In a heads up pot against a player who goes to showdown often where the board texture is such that you’re opponent is unlikely to ever fold to a flop bet. Let’s say you raised with KQ and the flop is 235 or 346, or 457, etc.

Check-raise bluffing the river is another way to keep your opponents off balance and avoid being predictable. A lot of very good players rarely, if ever, check-raise bluff the river. And the vast majority of players who do check/raise bluff on the river don’t do it enough. You don’t want to be one of these players or your opponents, particularly good ones, will safely fold any time you check-raise the river and they hold a medium strength hand. If you don’t think you’re one of those players, filter your HEM for Filter By Actions/Filter by River Actions/Check Raise. Then look through all of those hands and see how many you were bluffing. I’d be willing to bet it’s not many. If you consider the average pot size might be 6 big bets or so when your opponent has to decide whether to call one more bet, you can see that you should be bluffing a lot more against observant opponents. I’d recommend making a mental note to yourself before a session to look for at least one hand per session where you can check-raise bluff the river. Here’s an example of a river check-raise bluff I made:

I raised 99 in the cutoff and was 3-bet by an aggressive player on the button and called. The flop was AK5, my opponent bet and I called. Folding the flop would have been fine but this opponent plays pretty straightforward against me postflop so I figured if he didn’t have an A or K, he’d check the turn and give up on the river assuming he didn’t improve. The turn was a King, I checked and my opponent checked. The king pairing and my opponent checking behind changed my plan a bit. My opponent’s turn check now didn’t necessarily represent weakness as I initially thought it would since my opponent would often check back an Ace here. I still thought I could pick up the pot but I thought I’d have a better chance of it by check-raising and representing a king. My check-raise would be very credible because my play in the hand is completely consistent with having a king. My opponent would have a tough time calling with a hand like QQ or JJ and could fold an ace. I should mention my opponent is someone I have a lot of history with an d is capable of making lay-downs on the river with made hands. The river was a 3, I checked my opponent bet, I check-raised and unfortunately my opponent called showing AQ.

Capping a variety of hands in multiway pots is another good way to keep your opponents off balance. It’s never a huge loss to put extra bets in preflop in a multiway pot particularly when you hold a speculative hand like a suited connector. If you’re only capping with hands like AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, AK, and AQ, you have way too narrow of a range and your opponents can easily play against your range postflop. So add some hands to your capping range, suited connectors work best. A benefit to capping especially when on the button is that the flop will be checked around to you and you always have the option to check and see the turn. Contrast this to the times where you just call and the preflop 3-bettor bets the flop and you’re forced to fold a hand with outs because you have the big blind to act after you. Or to hands where the 3-bettor leads the flop, gets raised, and you're forced to fold some outs facing 2 bets. They’ll be some hands where you cap preflop and are led into on the flop but this happens less frequently than the hands where it’s checked around. One last benefit of capping is that the flop might come something like A52, you decide to continuation bet the flop with 78s, and all your opponents fold. This happens a lot more often than it should.


  1. Hey, i'm a big fan of your blog. Good Job.

    Also, i just want to compliment the way you stand up to the other regs/macho speaking guys like neverwin. They were asking you to leave so that they could bumhunt this one guy, but you stood your ground.

    Keep up the good work


  2. Thanks Distajo. I normally don't get involved in chat but I'll look at it when two guys are playing heads up to make sure they both don't want heads up. NeverWin was out of line but that's typical of him.

  3. Heh, I think if I folded every river you've checkraised against me I'd be a richer man. But good to know all those crying calls weren't completely in vain!

    - Llama